LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - The premature birthrate in Texas is improving year by year, which is important to a Lufkin mother whose twins were born roughly 16 weeks early. Jennifer Winston said giving birth to premature babies and then losing one shortly after has taught her more than she could imagine. Each year, she is proud to raise thousands for March of Dimes to help mothers have full term pregnancies and spread awareness.
Three months before their expected due date Evan and Elliott Winston were born weighing one pound and five ounces. Jennifer Winston knew in vitro fertilization could result in having more than one child but she never expected to give birth during her twenty-fourth week of pregnancy.
"I did not expect them to live and I ended up with what's called a placental abruption," Jennifer Winston said.
Elliott was born first and a minute later Evan was delivered. It was a scary moment for the Lufkin mother who had to travel to Houston to have her premature twins.
"I didn't really expect them to cry, I didn't expect them to breathe," Winston said.
The next several weeks they would recover in the NICU.
"I got to hold Elliott for the first time on mother's day in 2007 and she was four weeks old," Winston said.
But it wasn't until a month later when she was able to touch her son for the first time.
Winston was told her daughter may have some physical setbacks.
"She is such a miracle child," Winston said. "She had a hole in her heart that should've required surgery when she was about six or seven and it closed on its own."
Seven months after watching her preemies grow and progress Winston lost her son.
"He came home about a month after Elliott and they did fine. They were eating; everything seemed pretty normal," Winston said. "Evan just took a nap one day and didn't breathe. SIDS is pretty common amongst preemies and it's another one that's just not understood."
Evan died just a month after Winston's mother lost her battle to liver cancer. Six years later, Winston is continuing to count her blessings.
"I tend to not sweat the small stuff anymore but I just felt like every milestone they hit and Elliott continues to hit is bittersweet because she by herself," Winston said.
Watching Elliott walk and talk is enough to keep this mother smiling.
"Well, I do like painting and drawing and lots of good stuff," Elliot Winston said.
The six-year-old also enjoys helping her mother raise awareness about premature births.
"We help raise money for March of Dimes," Elliott Winston said.
Winston has a set of dolls that are replica preemies. She shows them to others as a visual reference.
"When you actually see and hold something like this it really means a little more," Winston said,
Over the years, Winston has learned to be more patient and appreciative.
"I think I have a lot more empathy for others and I think a lot more compassion for just knowing every human being has someone that loves them and thinks the world of them," Winston said. "I would never take that lightly."
This year during premature awareness month and the anniversary of Evan's death Winston was able to give back through different acts of kindness that included a note telling her son's story.