Alyssa Gullickson knows who’s paying attention when she tells the story about her children’s births. She can tell if they’re following along when she shares that, even though they’re twins, her children were born in different months, in different hospitals, in different counties.
Evan and Brielle Gullickson are interval twins, born 17 days apart. Their births and few months after birth were a roller coaster for parents Alyssa and Scott Gullickson, of St. Joseph, Minn. The first part of Alyssa Gullickson’s pregnancy passed without incident, too, emphasizing the contrast.
“It’s a unique story,” Alyssa Gullickson said. “I’m excited they’ll have an ice breaker for the rest of their lives.” And they’ll never have to share a birthday (or birthday party) in their later years.
The world record for interval twins is a pair who were born 87 days apart. Alyssa Gullickson read up on interval twins while she was on bed rest waiting for Brielle’s birth, and she wanted to beat the record because that would have meant reaching her due date in November.
“But I made it 17 days, and I was pretty proud of that,” she said.
The twins, who will turn 2 this summer — him on July 19 and her on Aug. 5 — have been doing well lately after plenty of challenges early on. They spent their first four months in the neonatal intensive care unit at the University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital.
“The first four months seemed like four years in reality,” Scott Gullickson said.
The journey started when the Gullicksons found out they were pregnant in March 2014. They learned they were having twins at the 20-week ultrasound.
Alyssa Gullickson was a self-described extremely cautious mom-to-be, always making sure she was following every guideline. She said she was happy she was, or else she would have doubted herself when the twins came early.
Evan came first, with Alyssa Gullickson’s water breaking July 17; she delivered him 36 hours later with no pain medication. Alyssa Gullickson would try to keep from delivering Brielle for as long as possible to ensure she could develop more and get stronger.
“We made the call just to deliver him and whatever happened, we left in God’s hands,” Alyssa Gullickson said. Brielle was monitored to ensure she didn’t go into distress.
“All I kept saying to Scott was we can’t lose them. I refuse to lose them. I won’t lose them.”
Evan was born at 23 weeks, five days, weighing 1 pound, 7 ounces.
“You think 1 pound, 7 ounces, but he was perfect,” Alyssa Gullickson said. “All the parts were there. He was just really tiny. But he was perfect.”
The name Evan means “young warrior,” and he’s definitely that, his mom said.
“He beat every odd that they would tell us,” Alyssa Gullickson said. Because of some brain hemorrhaging, doctors weren’t sure at first if he would ever walk, something he’s still working on doing independently but is very close to accomplishing.
Move to Twin Cities
Doctors discovered a hole in Evan’s intestines, shifting the action to the Twin Cities (Minneapolis and Saint Paul, Minn.). The family of just three headed there for his surgery, with Brielle still unborn. Alyssa Gullickson credits his doctor with saving his life. A little bit of his intestines were outside his body, which stayed that way until he came home almost four months later. A scar on his belly remains.
At 26 weeks, Alyssa Gullickson started having contractions and spiked a fever. Doctors induced labor, and after 29 hours of labor (but with pain medication this time), Brielle was born.
The twins were able to go home exactly four months after Evan’s birth. The couple stayed at the Ronald McDonald House while the twins were being cared for.
“The NICU was very long four months,” Alyssa Gullickson said. “It felt like you were never going to get out.” Each day could be full of ups and downs. “They always told us don’t get caught in that. Try to just stay in the middle.”
When the twins came home, Evan was on oxygen. Brielle had to be re-hospitalized shortly afterward. They were on multiple medications. For a while they had to be relatively isolated. Alyssa Gullickson said she had “wash your hands” signs all over her house.
“We were both so proud of them and we wanted to show them off but we couldn’t,” she said.
Now they can. Evan has his occupational therapy and physical therapy regularly, but the twins are for the most part healthy and doing well. The Gullicksons, who are high school sweethearts, are getting ready for a move back to the Glenwood-Starbuck, Minn. area, and their second birthday should be relatively low key.
Despite their beginnings, “they’re just your average toddlers,” Scott Gullickson said. And that’s how doctors advised that they be treated, he said.
The Gullicksons served as an ambassador family for the March of Dimes during the organization’s walk earlier this year in Central Minnesota.
“We’re so blessed because our children are here and they’re healthy. … I wouldn’t change anything,” Alyssa Gullickson said.
And they’ll always have that great story of how their lives started.
“People don’t really believe it right away,” Alyssa Gullickson said.