BATH, N.Y. (WETM) — In celebration of International Women’s Month, 18 News is highlighting four local women who inspire, lead and forge the way for other women.

This week, we meet Megan Thompson.

Megan was born and raised in Elmira by loving, supportive parents. She received both her bachelor’s and master’s at Mansfield University and went on to work as an elementary school teacher at Holy Family Catholic School in Elmira for about six years.

Then she married her husband Ryan, who she credits as her biggest support system.

When she found out she was pregnant with twins, everything changed.

“Before we had our twin boys, my pregnancy was perfect,” Megan said. “We were nervous and excited to be having twins and everything went well. There were no warning signs that anything was going to happen. The babies looked good, everything was going well with me, I was feeling great and just really excited.”

Then came an unexpected turn of events: at 23 weeks, Megan’s water broke.

“Everything was happening so fast and just everything kind of came crashing down,” Megan said. “It was one minute at a time, hoping that the doctors would be able to help us.”

They were able to stop Megan’s labor for some time before having to perform an emergency C-section.

Colson and Kase Thompson were born about four months early—weighing just over a pound each. They were taken to Arnot Ogden Medical Center’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit before their mother could get the chance to hold them.

“Not knowing what was going to happen, and just the way that everything went down—it was just very traumatic,” Megan said. “I remember standing there outside of the hospital waiting for my husband to pull up with a car and I was just crying. There’s no way to explain how it feels to leave a hospital without your baby.”

Immediately following his birth, Colson was dealing with a number of severe health issues—complications doctors said he probably wouldn’t have survived.

“On my birthday, we spent most of our day with our boys. And then I finally went home with my husband after a long day and we were just going to have some dinner and go to bed,” Megan said. “As soon as we finished our dinner, we received the call that Colson had air in his belly, which meant that he had a hole somewhere in his intestines and they weren’t sure where, but it was not good. They made it very clear to us that it was going to be difficult and chances were very low that it would work and that he would make it through with how tiny he was and the issues that he’d had previously. So I think we both knew that we had to let him go so that he could be with us and not on a table, you know, surrounded by strangers.”

11 days after he took his first breath, Colson passed away.

Kase had a chronic lung disease that required oxygen, on and off, and tubes going into his lungs for about a month. Although Kase didn’t have as many complications as Colson, he fought in the NICU for 113 days—now with a guardian angel looking over him and his parents by his side.

“I remember just holding him and it was, you know, every emotion,” Megan said. “It was love, happiness that I had him, pain that I didn’t have his brother—that he didn’t have his brother. It was crazy. It was really emotional.”

After about four months, the Thompsons were finally able to bring Kase home.

Realizing their child would probably have several different needs, Megan became a stay-at-home mom. About a year later, Megan and Ryan welcomed a baby girl named Clara into their lives.

“My biggest blessing in my life is definitely my kids and being able to be home with them,” Megan said. “I’m really lucky to have such a supportive family and that my husband has been, you know, the rock of our family, working hard so that I’m able to do that.”

But staying home, taking care of her kids isn’t all she does.

Megan’s actively involved with Embrace the Journey—a NICU mother support group—and the Children’s Miracle Network. She also created a business called “Angels and Miracles Creations” where she creates clothing designs to bring light to other families going through similar experiences to her own.

Through raising funds, putting together gift baskets, providing support and so much more, Megan is a symbol of hope and strength for many.

“Once you go through something like that—whether you’ve had a miscarriage, or you’ve lost a baby or whatever your situation is—your eyes are open to the world of all of the things that could go wrong,” Megan said. “Every once in a while I’ll get a text message letting me know, ‘There’s a mom, maybe having a difficult time. Can she talk to you?’ And that means so much to me to be able to do that for somebody. They have my number, whether they use it or not. They know that I am there for them, that there is somebody who has gone through the trials that they are going through. I didn’t really have anything like that while I was in the NICU. So, once I was able to connect with other moms and other families, it made me feel so much better knowing that I wasn’t alone. It feels good and I know that it’s what I’m supposed to be doing. Being a part of the fundraisers and the radiothons and those support groups—it’s been very important to me.”

Megan is currently fundraising with Ally Payne of WINK 106 and the Children’s Miracle Network to get new equipment for Arnot that will help grieving families.

“Just knowing what we went through and the short hours that we had to say goodbye to Colson—just having a little bit more time would have been everything,” Megan said. “Being able to give back to the place that gave me my son, who gave me a chance to bring him home and see him dance and play and smile every day is really amazing. It’s giving other babies a chance, it’s giving other families a chance to take their babies home. That equipment is so needed and it’s so important. I play just a small, small part but I love being a part of it.”

As for the future, Megan is hoping to go back to teaching elementary education someday but knows she’s doing exactly what she needs to right now.

“I had one student, I had her for two years. She recently nominated me for being her most influential teacher,” Megan said. “It just brought me back and it was like, ‘Man!’ My husband asked, ‘Do you miss it?’ and said, ‘Yeah, I do.’ I know someday I’ll be back in the classroom and I look forward to that but for now I’m gonna keep loving on my babies.”

To any NICU families going through the journey she and her husband faced, Megan says you are not alone.

“You’re loved, you are still important, you are doing amazing. If you’re there, loving your baby, that is what matters,” Megan said. “It is such a hard thing to go through and it’s so easy to let the negatives take over. But just knowing that they are in a place that is going to take good care of them and their baby and that they’re not alone, that’s definitely what I would want them to know.”

Remarkable Women is a nationwide Nexstar Media initiative to honor the influence women have had on public policy, social progress and the quality of life.

One local winner will be selected to receive a $1,000 donation to a charity of her choice. They will then be considered for Nexstar’s nationwide 2021 Woman of the Year Award.

Our second local finalist will be announced March 16.