One look at the boisterous, 10-month-old twins and it’s hard not to be captivated by their bright blue eyes. Their chunky legs and curious nature disguise that they were born seven weeks early. Although it’s not a cakewalk for new parents Jackie and Nate Monroe, the chaotic and loud life that Jude and Ava bring them is a breath of fresh air. The Monroes — longtime supporters of nonprofit organization March of Dimes, and one of this year’s signature families at the annual walk — have endured a painful journey to parenthood. “It was a long road,” says Nate. “And we didn’t know if it was going to happen.”
Moving to Evansville seven years ago, the Minnesota natives entertained the idea of having a family. Nate, an Army veteran, had just finished a tour in Iraq, and Jackie, now an anchor for 14 WFIE, landed a job with WTVW-Fox 7, bringing them to Indiana. They realized quickly that Evansville was the kind of community they wanted to call home, says Jackie. “We decided to get out of the rat race and put down some roots.” Before they knew it, Jackie was pregnant with their first son.
Harrison had spent 33 weeks in his mother’s womb before he was born. He was seven weeks from being full-term and had been thriving. On Nov. 11, 2009, the day they welcomed Harrison Crew Monroe into the world, Jackie and Nate did what all new parents do; they took countless photos, obsessed over his long, beautiful eyelashes, and cried as they told their baby boy how much they loved him. The only difference: their tears were of sadness rather than joy.
The day before, at a routine check-up, the nurse couldn’t find Harrison’s heartbeat. “It didn’t dawn on me until the nurse said, ‘I’m sorry,’ that he was gone,” says Jackie. “And then it was like time stood still.” Harrison had a condition called Velamentous Cord Insertion, which means the umbilical cord wasn’t attached properly. Jackie was induced the next day. “We didn’t see it coming,” she says.
About four months later, Jackie became pregnant with twins, but lost them early in her pregnancy. “It was a dark time when we lost the first set of twins,” Nate says. “Probably the darkest time in our lives.” Frustrated with Mother Nature, the couple took a step back to mourn. After another four months, they tried again.
Excitement set in when they learned of the third pregnancy, but so did the fear. At 20 weeks, Jackie went into early labor, spending the rest of her pregnancy in and out of the hospital. When she reached 33 weeks, on the exact day in her pregnancy that Harrison was born, Jackie gave birth to Jude and Ava, naming her son after the patron saint of hopeless causes, St. Jude. The twins spent a month in the NICU at Deaconess Women’s Hospital — and now are right on track with other children their age.
On April 28, the Monroes will share their story at the March of Dimes walk, advocating for an organization that gave hope to their hopeless cause. “Harrison is still very much a part of our lives,” Jackie says. “There’s a part of our heart that is forever missing and will never be replaced. But we approach things differently now. It inspired us to continue on with the March of Dimes.”