Eighteen years ago this week I sat in a leather chair in the high-risk section of the NICU at Baylor Hospital in Dallas and watched the monitors.

The monitors never stopped.

They scrolled and rescrolled and scrolled again with beeps and sounds and blinking lights in the darkness of the room and surrounded two extra-small 2-pound little girls fighting for their lives with every breath. I watched those two tiny twins holding on tenuously to every minute.

And even though I watched, I was never exactly sure what all the numbers on the screens meant.

Just between us? I never really understood any of it.

But that didn’t matter.

Because I am a mother.

And my mother’s heart told me that if I sat in that still, dark room with the lights of the monitors blinking in the darkness and kept an ever-present watch.

Nothing bad could possibly happen.


Every day there was a new challenge.

The doctors warned us not to be too optimistic. The battle they were fighting was overwhelming. The mountain ahead was steep and full of treacherous roads ahead.

They were twins.

They were born almost three months early.

They only weighed two pounds and some change.

And the doctors talked to us in soft low tones with voices that said, “Brace yourself.”

And “Prepare.”

They told us there could be developmental delays and brain damage and retinopathy of prematurity and that they might have challenges walking. And they bandied about words like kidney issues and brain bleeds and vision problems and on and on and on….

….until I wanted to scream.


I wanted to scream from the frustration and worry and the pressure and the feeling like my heart was breaking in two and all the scary, frightening unknowns.

But I couldn’t.

I am a mother.

I was supposed to be strong and courageous and patient and full of faith.

But I wasn’t brave at all. I was scared and nervous and worried and overwhelmed.

So I did the only thing I could.

I sat.

And watched the numbers and the monitors and the oxygen stats and the endless beeping…..

….and silently screamed in my head.


And then one day something wonderful happened.

Something incredible.

As the nurse and I sat silently together in the NICU unit, one of the twins slowly raised her leg into the air and swirled it around.

Then she lowered it.

And raised it and swirled it again.

And at that moment—in that brief flash of a second—it felt like that tiny two-pound girl fighting for her life…..

….was trying to dance.


(the ballerinas from their NICU beds that the nurses made)

She didn’t know the odds.

She didn’t know about the beeping and monitors and the possible complications and the long journey ahead.

She didn’t listen.

She didn’t worry or fret or care.

She just danced.


They never looked back—those two dancers of mine.

They called them the “baby ballerinas” of the NICU.

The nurses cheered and encouraged and made these signs to hang on their incubators.

And week after week passed, bringing improvement after improvement.

Each day they grew stronger and bigger and bigger and breathed on their own and yawned and stretched and opened their eyes.

Until one day they defied all the odds and came home.

That was eighteen years ago.

And now?

Those two little tiny 2 pound babies are almost grown.

They defied the odds.

They are strong and intelligent and smart and funny and sweet and kind…

…I praise the Lord for the gift that he gave me all those years ago.

And yesterday?

Something amazing happened.

Something that I never ever could have imagined all those years ago when the monitors were blinking and I prayed for every minute and life seemed so uncertain.

I am so proud of you my wonderful incredible ballerinas.

I cannot wait to see all the amazing things you are going to accomplish.

I know you are going to TAKE on the world…

…dancing every step of the way. 🙂

I love you.


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    1. Image for Sumner Sumner

      You brought tears to my eyes! Being their mom sitting with them was exactly what your tiny infants needed, and I'm sure they felt your presence! As their mom , you now experience all the wonder and joy as they become the women they're meant to be! Enjoy! I too sat at the side if my daughter's incubator for many long day's just praying that my beautiful daughter, would experience the full life 'God had designed for her!

  1. Image for Julie Julie

    Beautiful KariAnne ~ I am a strong believer your babies are meant to serve some special purpose in life and time will tell..........call it renewed faith for you/family and again the awesome accomplishments, whatever they may be ahead in their lives..........it tis a miracle and not ever forgetting and thanking God because they are in your lives...........God bless you all!!

  2. Image for Jayne Jayne

    KariAnne, I am now crying! What am amazing story! What amazing sisters! Contratulations to your beautiful daugters - now I need to get some tissues!

  3. Image for Kim Wagner Kim Wagner

    That is the sweetest video EVER!!! I LOVE all the screaming, jumping and general excitement!!! HUGE congrats to Westleigh and Whitney!! YOU GO GIRLS!!!!

  4. Image for Misty Misty

    Oh KariAnne, I have chills and tears. This is a beautiful tribute to your precious daughters and motherhood. I am praying for many blessings for Whitney and Westleigh in their next chapter. Sending you all the virtual hugs today. XOXOXO

  5. Image for Carol McKay Carol McKay

    KariAnne, The story of your Whitney and Westleigh makes my heart sing and dance with joy! Years ago, I was a NICU nurse, although not in DFW. Those victories with our littlest babies are the miracles that brought light, smiles and encouragement to our lives as well, as we prayerfully and tenderly took care of our patients and their parents. Bless you for sharing your life with us Carol

  6. Image for Debora Ann Rowe Debora Ann Rowe

    Thank you so much for sharing that video. It made my day to experience the excitement of their moment. I will likely watch it several more times today because it makes me happy inside.

  7. Image for Cathie Collins Cathie Collins

    What a wonderful story, it made me cry! Brava to your girls!!! Look at world here comes two more "tiny dancers".

  8. Image for Joy Joy

    That’s sooo exciting! They’re so adorable! I remember when they were little girls and you were writing stories about them! Congratulations, they will go far!! 🎉🎉

  9. Image for PJ PJ

    I love this story which is much like my own. I had a preemie too and the doctor told us all the things that could happen. The thing was, that doctor didn't know our God. Today my son is a mtn. biker with the most amazing lungs and none of the problems that doctor predicted. Your girls dancing is much the same. I'm so thankful for both of us moms with our miracle babes. Congratulations to your girls on their college acceptance.

  10. Image for Sheri Sheri

    Oh so sweet! As a retired nicu nurse this makes my heart burst! An as a grandma of preemie twin granddaughters, it makes it burst extra wide!! Oh how this made my day! What a wonderful job you are doing and oh how good is our God!! Can’t wait to ride along on the journey!

  11. Image for Sandi Sandi

    Congratulations to Whitney and Westleigh! Such an exciting time. I remember the mama feeling when my kids left for college, mixed in the joy and how proud I was of them it was hard to see them go. I hope they gain a wealth of knowledge, maturity, insight and skills and then come back to live close enough for you to hug them often!

  12. Image for Helen Helen

    Thanks for sharing such a sweet moment! Go ahead and start stock piling Kleenex! You’re going to need a stash when they move out!

  13. Image for Rita Joy Rita Joy

    Congratulations to you all! My son just recently got engaged (all the new feels for this Mamma’s heart!), and I wasn’t sure what kind of big announcement you were leading up to...😉 Beautifully written. Thank you...

  14. Image for Amy MacWilliams Schisler Amy MacWilliams Schisler

    Congratulations to you all! From a mama who just watched her oldest say I do on Saturday, I can only say, enjoy every minute. Those eighteen years will seem like they crawled by compared to the next several years as you watch them become the adults that you and God raised them to be.

  15. Image for Susan Johnston Susan Johnston

    Now that our grand baby twins are 18 months old, I really can relate to you and your worries and wonders and excitement! It's so good to hear this story 18 years out and know that our twins will grow up and be Just Fine! Thanks for sharing, And to your college-bound babies: Biggest Congratulations!!!

  16. Image for Marjorie Marjorie

    What a blessing, two beautiful and talented young ladies!! Happy Birthday to them. Mom and Dad you have done a fantastic job raising your children. May God continue to bless your family.

  17. Image for Jenn Jenn

    Chills! I love it! Family is the best gift from God! My oldest just turned 18 too! Gah! How does it all happen so fast! Congratulations girls! Watch out world!!

  18. Image for Cristina Cristina

    Congratulations!!!! Your post brought me to tears! How proud you are of your ballerinas!! They’re beautiful girls and are lucky to have you as their mom!!! You’re a beautiful family!

  19. Image for Debbie Debbie

    Oh, so happy for you all. Thank you for sharing this precious story with us and the wonderfully exciting video. So proud of you girls!

  20. Image for Rhonda Rhonda

    This is one of those stories that make me cry and laugh at the same time! Congratulations, Whitney and Westleigh!! And Karianne, on a job well-done! God is good. All the time! He knows what He's about!

  21. Image for Nancy Nancy

    Oh KariAnne, such a beautiful summary of their birth story. And oh the fun in that video of receiving college acceptance. Already we say though, we will miss them right along with you. But for today, celebration for the dancing ballerinas!

  22. Image for Janice Byrd Janice Byrd

    I remember! So many sweet stories from your time in the hospital, the middle naming of the twins and the surprise during their delivery. Congratulations to all of you! So proud that we will all be a part of the same university family. I remember visiting you there and I anticipate I'll see the next generation "lighting the ways of time"(with our granddaughter there, as well) Janice

  23. Image for Leslie Watkins Leslie Watkins

    Oh, my gosh!! I celebrated with them last night. And I have read about their story. And the odds. But, today, reading this post—-I am sobbing. I love their story and their celebration and their new book. But, most of all friend, I can’t wait to see what God has in store for these two and can’t wait to watch it unfold. They are a big deal. Have a happy weekend of celebration!!

  24. Image for Barbara Moore Barbara Moore

    I couldn’t be happier for all of you!!! Congratulations and extra kudos to the girls for all the hard that lead to this moment! Well deserved and I’m just so dang tickled!

  25. Image for Lynn Mosher Lynn Mosher

    Oh, my gosh! What is it? My eyes are all full of tears and I can't see what they're so excited about! Soooo sweet, whatever it is. Happy birthday, miracle girls! I have a niece who is a miracle baby as well. They are truly special and God-massaged! ❤

  26. Image for Michele M. Michele M.

    I am completely ugly crying right now. Oh, KA. Just wow. WTG girls - keep swirling those amazing limbs and keep rockin on, you precious sweethearts. Happy belated birthday. God bless you both every step of the way to your amazing future. ♥♥

  27. Image for Kerry Kerry

    Oh my gosh....I cried yesterday when I watched your story and I’m crying again now! There is no limit to a mother’s love and a child’s resilience when the two work together. Congratulations to your beautiful girls!

  28. Image for Carrie Carrie

    Congratulations to your beautiful twins on their acceptances!!! Such a thrilling time for them, and melancholy one for the parents, trying to rewind the clock to those tiny feet and finger times. Praises to you and the village who helped take care of the boys so you could sit your vigil next to those beautiful ballerinas! I do love the stories you share of your life. And, I love the laughter and screams of the video. Best noises ever.

  29. Image for Karen Karen

    Such a beautiful, beautiful story! I cried. So much exuberance in the air hearing the news about your college acceptance. Congratulations girls; so proud of you! I think you're destined for greats things.

  30. Image for Kim T. Kim T.

    Thank you, Karianne, for the happy tears! This is an amazing and heartwarming MAMA story. I love the way you write and reading about your life experiences is uplifting. So sweet that you know from WHOM your blessings come. Look at what you and your "baby ballerinas" have already accomplished.....so wonderful!

  31. Image for Diane Ruebel Diane Ruebel

    Celebrating life with and your W daughters. They chose life by dancing, received the nurture of a loving 🥰 home, and through the steadfast love of God continued to dance with lively abandon. May our God who Works together as 3 in 1, continue to work within them with power snd grace. Love from Camano Island, Diney

  32. Image for Lily Lily

    This is why we believe in God and the miracle of life. He has a purpose for everyone and your girls purpose was to show you how to raise and nurture two beautiful girls to grow up to be two beautiful women and to tackle life headlong with the loving support of her parents and family....

  33. Image for Mary @ The Handcrafted Haven Mary @ The Handcrafted Haven

    This made me cry! I can't believe all that you went through! My nephew was born 3 months early. I can't remember his exact weight but I think it was 1 or 2 lbs. My sister-in-law sat in the NICU every day for 4 months, praying and praying. She had so many scary moments and conversations like you mentioned too. She lived at the Ronald McDonald house hours from their home and my brother traveled back and forth hours to work every day, barely sleeping. Now my nephew is turning 11 this Sunday :) I am so happy for you and especially for your twins!!

  34. Image for Anne Anne

    Congratulations to your beautiful girls! Oh what an adventure lies ahead for all of you! Your words and memories brought tears to my eyes. What a special bond your girls share and what a joy it was to experience all of your joy in that video! Congratulations!!

  35. Image for Alice Hanson Alice Hanson

    Oh KariAnne! Such a precious story. Your girls are as delightful as you ! Big congratulations all around! Happy happy Day!

  36. Image for Marlene Stephenson Marlene Stephenson

    Congratulations to your girls, very exciting day! Glad for you too Karianne, i know it's a happy and sad day for you, but you have taught them well and they will be alright.

  37. Image for Dauphine Dauphine

    I wish I had known you then. I was a NICU Nurse and parent educator for 20 years. I know you received support from the. Nurses then but most of my job was to translate into terms parents could understand and to hook up parents with other parents who had been on the same journey. Your daughters obviously did well despite all the odds and I know you are extremely proud of them. Congratulations!

  38. Image for Kris Kris

    Congrats, girls! We are doing a college visit with my 17 year old son next weekend and I'm happy-sad about it. We moms just have to appreciate the moments given to us.

  39. Image for Calypso in the Country Calypso in the Country

    That video made me so happy! And wow, what a birth story... Congratulations on the next chapter! Cheers! Shelley

  40. Image for DeMarie Ingraham DeMarie Ingraham

    Congratulations to your two lovely ballerinas. Their exuberance is delightful to watch. It’s a whole new chapter in your family’s Book of Life. A big hug and pat on your back for being an awesome mom. And I’m singing to you “It’s a Wonderful World”!

  41. Image for Debbie Sowards Debbie Sowards

    Hearing them and watching them with their reaction to getting into college reminded me how I felt when my son opened his letter of acceptance into BYU. My heart was so full. I didn't scream, I cried I was so happy. Congrats to them and look forward to hearing about all the amazing things that will happen for them from here.

  42. Image for Mindy Mindy

    What wonderful miracles your daughters are. Congratulations to them on their college dreams coming true and to you parents for all your hard work as well. This story has left me teary , not only for your story, but for that of my niece as well. They have twins (a boy and a girl) that were almost the same weight and facing the same odds. I still refer to them as miracles and believe they are.. They just started kindergarten this year and have so many milestones ahead. Both are healthy and thriving beyond our wildest dreams. God is good.

  43. Image for Marilyn Marilyn

    What a moving and inspirational post. Congratulations to your beautiful daughters. I can relate as i am a twin. Marion and I were born on time. Marion was 6 1 at birth. I was only 4 8 so I was in an incubator for a while. Whitney and Westleigh are so lovely. They are young ladies that had a good upbringing. You have a right to be proud of your daughters. God Bless and continued success in the future. Marilyn

  44. Image for JC JC

    OH, CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL!!! This is incrediblely exciting! Great job girls and parents!!! I'm so glad you recorded thst moment to forever be remembered!!!!🎉🎉 I watched it on my phone, so I couldn't quite see what college are they heading to next year? There is so much to look foward to!! Keep up the happy dance!!

  45. Image for Kelly Tadlock Kelly Tadlock

    Thank you for sharing your beautiful journey with all of us! May the Lord continue to bless you and your beautiful family! Happy Birthday girls!!!!🥳🎂🎈🎉🎁😘

  46. Image for Kathy Kathy

    Congratulations to Westleigh and Whitney! How exciting! You are an amazing mother who has done an amazing job! I have a part time job stuffing acceptance letters for our local university. Even though they get online acceptances too, I imagine this happening as those envelopes are opened. It will be fun hearing what your tiny dancers accomplish!

  47. Image for NormaJean NormaJean

    Congratulations Girls!!! Loved the video and know just how proud this moment was for all of you. How special that you got it all on video, and how sweet to share the excitement with all of us!!!

  48. Image for Nancy Nancy

    They are a triumph of spirit! Thank God for the blessings you have all received, and congratulations to the girls on college acceptance. An inspiring post.

  49. Image for STC STC

    Ballerina Bears!!! That's SO exciting! Once again we see that God is truly great. Best of luck to the successful sisters and congratulations to great parents.

  50. Image for Donna Marie Donna Marie

    I don't cry, but this made me tear up--these girls were meant to be!!! Keep dancin' with your girls! Love this blog!!!

  51. Image for Anne Anne

    So touching. More so because I had a very similar experience. I worked in an NICU and knew way too much. My son was born 9 weeks early, barely 3 lbs. Listening to the physicians talking in the hall and watching the numbers on the boards and knowing what it could mean was not easy. After a crash c-section I didn't know when I would see him. The nurses I knew brought him to me saying I had five minutes! Oh they were a wondrous few minutes. 30 days later I brought him home. He will turn 40 this year. He is the best gift I have had in my life!!!

  52. Image for Rev. Suzanne Taylor Rev. Suzanne Taylor

    Congratulations Whitney and Westleigh. Job well done. You will both make a difference in this world. God bless you both and keep you safe as you move on, in Jesus' name, amen and amen.

  53. Image for Cynthia Cleary Cynthia Cleary

    Some of the sweetest and touching words I have ever read. I felt like I was right there with you in that dark beeping room .. heart pounding and every second a silent prayer for your beautiful ballerinas . God is so good .. may he continue to bless your daughters in all they do and pray all their dreams come true.. ...just like yours did. 💗

  54. Image for Teresa Snipes Teresa Snipes

    Congratulations! What a special time! We can all remember how ecstatic we felt when we were accepted to the college of our choice. Did she say, "We're going to Clemson?" or did I not interpret correctly? If so, congratulations multiplied, since I and my hubby and son and his wife are all Clemson grads. It's a very special place.


    KariAnne, you have brought us such a touching post about your precious twins! How thankful for the many answered prayers when they were born. God blessed them then and He continues to bless them now -- and will in the future. How wonderful that Whitney and Westleigh have been accepted to college! So happy for them! You and your dear hubby have done a wonderful job at raising your children. You have been blessed and we know that God will continue to bless you and your dear children. Thanks for sharing your wonderful family with us!

  56. Image for Kim Waldorf Kim Waldorf

    Thank you for sharing. What a beautiful story of God's grace and provision over their lives! Baylor better be ready....they already have a published book! Oh, the places they'll go and the things they will accomplish! Congrats and big blessings to them!


    What a sweet story. They are indeed ballerinas :)! My sister also had twins, Boys. They were born at 7 months and she was told the same thing. They are now 43 years old, one a fireman, the other a EMT.

  58. Image for Lois Van Leuven Lois Van Leuven

    I can relate to this as well, but you wrote it ever so much better than I. Our daughter was born at 1 lb 14 oz. She was ( and is ) a fighter. She is 30 now. Not so lucky to be able to go to college because of her challenges, but what she can do, she does well. I think of all the babies that grow up not to be because they were not going to be perfect, and what the parents, and the world, are missing. I wish your twins the best as they progress further in life.

  59. Image for Sue Sue

    Wish there was a way to read your happy story and not get teary-eyed! I did, though, and it was worth it. Congrats to your two tiny bundles of joy that would make any mother proud.

  60. Image for Detra Coley Detra Coley

    Way to go Westleigh and Whitney!!! Congratulations to you all! It’s so hard to believe that all our little girls are nearly grown and heading off to college!

  61. Image for Becky Becky

    Congratulations to the entire family, for it takes a village! There is no doubt in my mind that they are going to take the world by storm. Thank you for taking us along for the journey.

  62. Image for Alice Neal Alice Neal

    I know how you felt on those long days! Our twin boys were 10 weeks preemie, weighing in at 2#15 oz. and 3#8 oz. The smaller one had a collapsed lung three times, the other one had a complete blood exchange at four days old. With the hospital so far away & my husband working nights, and at that time, a new mom couldn't drive for 6 weeks, I didn't get to spend a lot of time at the hospital with them. Those boys recently had their 39th birthday. The "smaller" twin is 6 ft. 5 inches and a private contractor. The "larger" twin is 6 ft 1 inch, a Navy veteran who recently married. God is so good! He gave us children and then allowed us to raise them to become amazing men!

  63. Image for Jolyn Jolyn

    I could have used a few tear-jerker alerts, but this made my day. I cried discussing them in NICU, and cried again with their acceptance videos. I can only guess how many tears you cried typing this post. Thanks for your inspiring these awesome young ladies, and giving us a bright spot in these troubled times.

  64. Image for Sara Sara

    Congrats Karianne and love your sweet twins. This was a fascinating experience to me. I was amazed with the style you represented the whole situation. I would like to thank you for your positive thinking and yeah, we never think of any bad happening or expect ever. It's indeed encouraging and inspiring..

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