Mom grinned from ear to ear as she cradled the young boy Friday afternoon at a New York hospital, mesmerized by the gaze of his deep brown eyes. The precious moment came shortly after doctors removed Jadon's breathing tube, and it came one week after the 27-hour surgery to separate Jadon and his brother Anias, 13-month-old twins who were born conjoined at the head.
Nicole clutched Jadon for two hours, cherishing every lasting second. She had told CNN before the surgery that holding her two boys was the thing she longed for most. "There's nothing harder than watching your child cry and not being able to pick them up," she had said. "To hear them cry and react to it in a motherly way is something I'm really excited for."
Nicole took to Facebook on Sunday morning, describing to friends and family what it was like to finally hold Jadon.
"For over 13 months, I've dreamed of this moment," she wrote. "I looked down at Jadon's angelic face and saw him in a way I'd never seen him before. He whimpered for almost the whole two hours I held him because he had just been extubated, had the area under his scalp washed out and had been weaned from the good pain meds.
"But instead of wrapping my body around him in his bed, I wrapped my arms around him and rocked. One of the most profound moments of my life."
Nicole's husband, Christian McDonald, was away from the hospital when Nicole first held Jadon, and he rushed back to join. However, once he got there, the father decided Jadon was too upset and fragile to be held again, with so many wires hooked up to his tiny body.
"I was just happy Nicole got to hold him. She's been longing to hold him since the day the twins were born," Christian said. "That's a very special moment for a mother to share."
The McDonalds have yet to share that same moment with Anias, who is progressing slower than Jadon, but still doing well. Anias had suffered breathing issues, seizures and heart problems prior to the surgery, and doctors expected his recovery to take more time. Anias has suffered seizures since the surgery, but they have been held in check with medicine since Wednesday, officials said.
Both boys underwent a touch-up procedure to clean out incisions on their heads on Wednesday. Jadon and Anias were described as doing well after that procedure.
Dr. James Goodrich, considered the world's leading neurosurgeon for what's known as craniopagus surgery, led the operaton at the Children's Hospital at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx. It marked the 59th craniopagus surgery in the world since 1952.