Maria & Rachel LeBlanc Speak

OUR STORY

October 26, 2022 my husband and I found out we were expecting for the very first time and were filled with joy.
We had our first pregnancy confirmation appointment at 7 weeks and saw a little baby and heard a heartbeat. Our OB was having some difficulty during this appointment because she thought that she was seeing twins at first but only saw 1 heartbeat and one sac. But she said we would know more at a later time.
My nausea was extreme and I lost a lot of weight. But in my heart I knew that there was something else going on.
On December 11, 2022 my husband and I went to the ER because I was in a substantial amount of abdominal pain that did not cease with medication. They did an ultrasound and was measuring 10 weeks. The ER ultrasound tech ran to get my husband halfway through the ultrasound. I knew that something was wrong at this moment.
She said “I had to bring your husband in because I want to tell you some news. You are indeed pregnant with twins. However, you have special twins. Your twins are conjoined. And it looks like they are sharing a heart.”
My heart dropped and I began to cry. Austin was in complete shock. I cried because I knew, how could one heart beat for two people?
I was admitted to the hospital so they could monitor my pain and to do another in depth ultrasound. This ultrasound revealed that they shared 1 heart, 1 liver, 1 diaphragm, 1 set of bowels and 1 umbilical cord. They were connected from the neck to the pelvis and were classified as thorocopagus conjoined twins. The more organs they shared, the more rare it was.
The doctors pressured me to terminate but my husband and I remained firm that all human life is sacred and comes from God. The doctors told me that since they shared these vital organs, especially the heart, they would die shortly after birth but they would most likely miscarry or be stillborn. They also were not a candidate for separation. I was now deemed as a high risk pregnancy and the doctors then told me that my life could also be at risk but I still refused termination.
I was then transferred to The University of Michigan since they could handle my complex case. As time went on my belly grew bigger and bigger and had to go in for ultrasounds every two weeks to check for signs of heart failure for the babies.
It was then determined that the babies were growing appropriately and reaching all the benchmarks for their gestational age that — they could be born alive and I would need a c section. We also found out that our little babies were twin girls. We named them Maria Therese and Rachel Clare, after prominent Catholic women.
I gained a lot of support from my family and was on Catholic Radios and other various news articles. This was such a rare case, but we never imagined our story to be picked up like how it did. Even my own OB had never delivered conjoined twins! At 20 weeks, we underwent a fetal echocardiogram, and it was determined that the heart they share had four chambers, but two left aortas. It was also determined that I would most likely need a classical c section. This would affect subsequent pregnancies and I would need to have c sections for all deliveries in the future. But even with this information, we wanted to give our babies the best chance.
Kind strangers reached out to us and voiced their support for us. Austin and I run a small business from home and we had various appointments and we knew that we would have to put the business on hold when the time came for my c section. Kind friends and strangers donated financially to help us with our recurring hospital visits and help with the funeral and visitation expenses.
Some generous women in the opposite side of the state, MaryAnn and Kate, heard about our story and offered to make a custom baptismal gown for the babies. The baptism gown was made with so much love and these ladies are now good friends and I hold them very deeply in my heart.
The girls had an original due date to be delivered around 35 weeks, around the beginning of June. However when I went to one of our routine ultrasound appointments, we were informed that they had started to enter early stages of heart failure. The decision was made to move up the delivery date to the following Tuesday, May 16, 2023 for their chances to be born alive.
The day came for them to be born and I ended up having a classical c section. Maria Therese and Rachel Clare were born at 32 weeks weighing a combined 7 pounds 2 ounces. My husband, mother, priest and photographer were also in the operating room. My little girls received their sacraments and after an hour of life they breathed their last, holding each other — in the arms of their daddy. They passed as I was still being closed up.
They had a beautiful visitation and funeral just a couple weeks later. The day before the girls were born, my milk came in. I had decided to opt for bereavement pumping until I couldn’t anymore. I donated my breastmilk to local moms and to a milk bank in my state. I was able to donate my milk in honor of my girls for 6 months. My milk has gone all over the state and even back to the same hospital where they were born at to help the little babies who need it!
This was my first pregnancy and I was so ready to be a mom and all that entails with it. But I never imagined that I would be grieving over them and not having them in my arms instead. I know they are with the Lord now in heaven and are praying and interceding for us. Austin and I have been changed by this whole experience and we would do it all over again for them. To see their beautiful faces and to hear my little Maria cry — it was the most beautiful sound I had ever heard. We made a lifetime of memories in just an hour and the 8 months leading up.

PAYING IT FORWARD

After we received the girls diagnosis, I had many friends reach out and tell me that I should contact Abel Speaks. They were a resource for my husband and I to connect with other grieving families of infant loss. They were also very active on social media and I saw that I wasn’t alone on this journey. I wasn’t the first mom and I won’t be the last mom who has suffered infant loss.
Abel Speaks kindly gifted memorial boxes in honor of my daughters. We received wooden boxes with their names engraved on them and contained more gifts inside such as a blankets, necklaces and Bibles with their names on them, and candles. They also gifted us wall plaques with their names on them which we proudly display on our wall at home as well as mother and Father’s Day mementos.
These keepsake memories, connections and willingness to help parents with the most impossible task of carrying a terminally ill baby is why we support Abel Speaks. Their details made us feel like we are not forgotten. Though we do not carry our babies in our arms, we carry them in our hearts.
To donate in honor of Maria and Rachel to Abel Speaks means that our babies are not forgotten and that other babies will not be forgotten either. Abel Speaks is an organization dedicated to bring awareness that our children still speak and we are their voices. There was dignity in their short lives and because of that fact, we can build a network of families to support one another.
Maria and Rachel’s 1st birthday/ anniversary is May 16, 2024. We hope to have some donations come in honor of them to assist and support other families. Thank you and God Bless you all.

By faith, Maria and Rachel still speak!

-Austin & Nicole LeBlanc

SUPPORT ABEL SPEAKS IN HONOR OF MARIA & RACHEL

Your generous giving allows Abel Speaks to support families like ours. Thank you for your partnership as we seek to ensure that every family will cherish their child’s life and have hope in the midst of sorrow!

Abel Speaks is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization and all donations are tax-deductible.

2001 W Plano Pkwy, Suite 1909

Plano, TX 75075

(972) 688-6405