Brennan Brackbill knew from the start that he wanted to do skin-to-skin with his twin boys once they were born via C-section last month. It was what he did with his first child, Tori, who tragically passed away in 2016 at just 19 months old due to Krabbe disease, a rare genetic condition.
“I missed the entire first hour of Tori’s life and was so thankful that they let Brennan do skin-to-skin with her until I was in recovery,” says Lesa Brackbill, Brennan’s wife and the mother of Tori and the twins. “It means even more now that we cannot hold her in our arms any longer.”
Brennan knew it would difficult for Lesa to have skin-to-skin time with the twins — their rainbow babies — while she was being stitched up after the birth. So he made it his business to ensure the boys were delivered into the safe haven of his chest and arms.
“When we discussed what to do this time, with twins, Brennan expressed a passionate desire to hold them while I was being stitched up,” Lesa tells Babble. “It brought such peace and joy to me knowing that the boys would be able to bond with their amazing daddy after spending nine months inside of me.”
The incredible photo capturing the emotional moment Brennan first took one of the twins in his arms was shared on Facebook earlier this month by the Brackbill’s birth photographer Erin Fortney, who owns Erin Fortney Photography.
Fortney also shared the photos, as well as the couple’s story, with the Facebook page Birth Becomes Her, where it quickly went viral with over 6K likes and 1K shares to date. So far, the post has garnered attention from parents all over the world, who’ve shared just how moved they were by the photo in the comments section. Some dads are even posting their own post-birth skin-to-skin moments, all of which are as heartwarming as you’d imagine.
In the post, Fortney shared Brennan’s adorable passion for making sure this moment happened, and how he took matters into his own hands when the hospital staff doubted that he’d be able to handle skin-to-skin with twins — which honestly sounds like a bit much to juggle, when you think about it!
“Staff told him that it would be tough since he would have two babies and needed to be in a scrub suit over his clothes,” Fortney wrote. “So he promptly and without question explained that he had a large arm span that was ready and waiting to hold his two boys and then took his shirt off and zipped up his scrubs announcing, ‘Well then … problem solved!’”
Doesn’t this all just totally melt your heart?
But it’s not just about how much in love Brennan is with his two boys. You can see in his eyes just how tender and raw this moment is. After all, these are the boys he is meeting after suffering from the most unimaginable loss — and you can tell that this moment is as healing for him as it is emotionally overwhelming.
Lesa tells Babble that she and Brennan didn’t expect the picture to go as viral as it has.
“We have been stunned at the reaction to Erin’s amazing photo,” she shares, adding that she was surprised by the fact that so many people have told her how unusual it is to see the dad being the one to do skin-to-skin with a newborn.
“We had no idea that it’s so rare for the dad to do the first skin-to-skin and are so thankful that our story is resonating with others,” says Lesa.
Lesa also shares that she and Brennan definitely had to advocate for this skin-to-skin moment to happen since operating rooms often have very strict rules about things like this. But she says that as long as you make your needs known beforehand, it’s likely that the staff can prepare for skin-to-skin, and will comply.
“A C-section is not usually the first choice for a delivery plan, but you do have choices in what happens afterward,” says Lesa. “Express your wishes as soon as possible to as many of the staff as possible to ensure that your desires are heard. If Mom cannot do the skin-to-skin (something that is so important for babies!), let Dad do it. It will be unforgettable.”
Besides being an advocate for skin-to-skin in the operating room, Lesa and Brennan are also huge crusaders for babies affected by Krabbe disease, which cut their first child Tori’s life short. Lesa tells Babble that if caught early, the disease is actually more treatable, which is why she and Brennan are advocates for early detection of the disease.
“If caught at birth, it is treatable, but only six states screen for it (New York, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Illinois, Missouri),” Lesa explains. “In fact, we are fighting in our state for all babies to be screened equally because in PA only ten diseases are mandatory and the other 26 are left up to the hospital. Your zip code determines life or death in PA (and in the U.S., really, since each state screens for different things) if born with one of these genetic diseases.”
Sadly, the Brackbills are from Pennsylvania, which means their daughter was not tested for Krabbe disease. They feel strongly that if she had, she might still be with them today. You can learn more about this family’s effort to spread awareness and to share their own story on their Facebook page and website.
What an amazingly loving and strong family the Brackbills are. We wish them the best as they bond with their boys and continue to heal, keeping the memory of sweet Tori alive.