Twenty-one years after Charity Lincoln Gutierrez-Vazquez and her twin sister were born attached from breastbone to pelvis, the conjoined twin survivor returned to the same hospital for a "full circle" moment to give birth to her own child.
Charity and her twin sister Kathleen were separated by a team of nearly 30 doctors, nurses and support staff in 2000 when they were 7 months old at the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle — the same hospital where Gutierrez-Vazquez recently gave birth to her own baby girl, Alora.
"It feels like full circle, since my mom had us here and everything," Gutierrez-Vazquez told Erin McLaughlin on TODAY Monday.
Charity and Kathleen made national headlines when they were born conjoined, each with one leg and a third fused leg while sharing several internal organs. "Dateline" cameras followed their journey, including the dangerous, 31-hour surgery to separate them and then put them back together.
"This is probably about as complex and as difficult as anything we do or have done," Dr. John Waldhausen said on "Dateline" at the time.
Waldhausen was one of Charity's first phone calls when she found out she was expecting a child.
"He's been with me through a lot," she told McLaughlin.
"When you're involved with an operation like that, you're really hoping that you can create a whole lifetime for somebody," Waldhausen said on TODAY. "And then to see this happening, this really comes full circle, so this is a great day for all of us."
Waldhausen admittedly had some concerns when he learned Gutierrez-Vazquez was pregnant.
"I didn't know if her uterus was going to allow her to carry a child," he said. "I didn't know if her abdominal wall reconstruction was going to allow her abdomen to expand in such a way that a baby could grow."
Waldhausen reached out to a colleague, Dr. Edith Cheng, to oversee Gutierrez-Vazquez's pregnancy and delivery. Alora was born at nearly 34 weeks via C-section and then taken to the NICU for supplemental oxygen, but doctors says the baby and her mother are healthy.
"I wouldn't call it a miracle," Waldhausen said. "I would call it a medical triumph."
"Charity's case really is the full obstetrical circle," Cheng told McLaughlin. "This howling girl this morning, at almost 34 weeks, that is a true triumph, to get this baby to almost term. This baby's healthy."
Gutierrez-Vazquez's twin sister, Kathleen, met baby Alora via Facetime and is looking forward to seeing her in person. Gutierrez-Vazquez has savored a moment that seemed improbable after her own survival was in jeopardy 21 years ago.
"God's really blessed me with all the doctors in my life and everything," she said. "I think it's important that people see that we're still doing good, and living the best life we can."