For the first five months of identical twins Carter and Connor’s life, they were were conjoined – but on Thursday, the two boys in Jacksonville, Florida, were finally separated.
“We couldn’t have asked for a better outcome,” Dr. Daniel Robie of Nemours Children’s Specialty Care and Wolfson Children’s Hospital tells PEOPLE. “They’re doing very well now.”
When mother Michelle Brantley, 24, found out her babies were conjoined five months into her pregnancy, she was was shocked and scared but also determined.
“I wanted my children to have the best life possible,” she tells PEOPLE. “If that meant they had to be conjoined the rest of their life, then okay.”
When they were born on Dec. 12, 2014, they weighed a total of 10 pounds, two ounces. Conjoined twins are extremely rare with estimates ranging from one in every 200,000 births to one in every 400,000 births.
“They were so sweet and innocent. We soon realized they needed help and weren’t doing well,” she says. “A day after they were born they need surgery.”
On Dec. 13, the twins, who were the first known conjoined twins in Jacksonville, underwent emergency surgery to repair a potentially life-threatening condition called an omphalocele, in which their shared small intestine protruded through a weak area of the abdominal wall.
During another procedure on Jan. 2, pediatric surgeons discovered that the boys have two bile ducts which are fused.
Then, on Thursday, Michelle and fiancé, Bryan Mirabal, 26, were surrounded by family and friends wearing blue for Carter, green for Connor, and white for surgical support as the boys went into the final surgery which took nine-hours.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better family to do this with,” Dr. Robie says. “They were just amazing and I see a great future for their boys.”
Michelle can’t wait to hold her babies separately for the first time.
“They’re too fragile right now after their surgery but it’s going to be amazing,” she says. “Hopefully we can go home soon and start our lives. It made this Mother’s Day beyond special.”