When Jill Richards went in for a routine ultrasound in 2016, she had no idea what kind of long, stressful journey she was about to embark on.
The procedure revealed she was pregnant with a pair of twin girls. Normally that's a cause for celebration, but her unborn children were conjoined twins.
Right away, Richards and her family - including her husband Michael and their two sons - relocated from their home in North Texas to Houston, to be close to her pediatric surgeon.
Already, a team of doctors at the Texas Children's Hospital were preparing for the birth.
Not just to care for the twins, but also for the dangerous surgery to separate them.
Anna and Hope
Richard gave birth to Anna Grace and Hope Richards in December of 2016.
The birth was a success, but the doctors could tell that dividing the twins with surgery would not be easy.
The girls, who weighed a combined 9 pounds, 12 ounces, shared a chest wall, heart lining, diaphragm, and liver.
Their bodies also posed a unique challenge for the doctors: the twin's hearts were connected by a blood vessel that would have to be severed.
As the twins and their family waited for the operation, a team of doctors spent more than a year rehearsing and preparing for the risky procedure.
Even compared to most conjoined twin cases, the hospital's head of surgery said dividing Anna and Hope would be "incredibly complex."
It took a team of 75 doctors, nurses, and specialists to carry out the marathon seven-hour surgery.
"More than a football team," as the lead surgeon Dr. Oluyinka Olutoye said.
But, in spite of all his concerns, the surgery was a success. Olutoye says that the Richards broke down in tears when they heard the girls had been separated.
“We’ve thought about and prayed for this day for almost two years,” their mother said.
“It’s an indescribable feeling to look at our girls in two separate beds.”
While the twins were separated in January, both of the girls - now one-year-olds - had to remain in the hospital while they recovered from surgery.
Last week, after 428 days in hospital and more than a month since the procedure, the Richards family got the good news that Anna Grace was able to return home.
While Hope will need more time in hospital, doctors are hopeful she will join her twin very soon.
“The Richards family will remain in Houston until Anna’s sister, Hope, is able to go home, anticipated to be in the near future,” the family said in a statement.
We're sending these adorable twins all our best wishes and prayers! Hopefully they will both be home soon!