"It's a reminder that we made the right choice to fight for their lives," Matt Moore tells PEOPLE of his babies

By Rose Minutaglio
Updated October 05, 2016 06:19 PM
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Premature twins Jaxson and Cadence Moore are celebrating their first birthday on Friday – and their mother, Jourdan, says it’s “an absolute miracle” that they’re alive.

The babies were born 16 weeks early on September 23, 2015, and both weighed a little over 1 lb. Their organs were underdeveloped and their eyes were fused shut for the first two weeks of their lives. Jaxson and Cadence spent 98 days in a Portland, Oregon, NICU before they were allowed to go home.

“Doctors recommended we let nature take its course because the survival rate for 23 weekers on life support is very low,” Jourdan Moore, 32, tells PEOPLE. “But we weren’t going to give up. And we didn’t. And now look at them!”

Jourdan and her husband Matt – who live in Newberg, Oregon – say today marks a “huge milestone” for the twins.

“It’s a reminder that we made the right choice to fight for their lives,” Matt Moore, 33, tells PEOPLE. “When I see them now, so happy and healthy, I know the struggles of this last year were so incredibly worth it.”

Jourdan, who was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease when she was 16, is unable to conceive – so her best friend, Hollie Mentesana, volunteered to be a surrogate for Jourdan and Matt when they decided to start a family.

“Everything was great, Hollie was carrying the twins, until we found out Hollie had a placental abruption causing her placenta to detach from the womb. Doctors found a clot that would have essentially killed both her and the babies,” says Jourdan. “Her body pushed her into labor early to save her life.”

Jourdan watched as surgeons “pulled the babies out of Hollie in a sack of water.”

“They looked like marbles in a bag, they were so tiny,” recalls Jourdan. “They rushed them to the NICU and intubated them and put IV’s through their umbilical cords so they could be fed and receive medication.”

The babies were born with a long list of medical complications, including trouble breathing, abnormal heart developments and retinopathy – an eye disorder that affects premature infants.

“We were able to hold Jaxson when he was 5 days old and Cadence when she was 8 days old,” says Jourdan. “They were so tiny and weighed practically nothing that literally if I wasn’t looking at them I wouldn’t know I was holding them.

“I was holding my children, but couldn’t feel them.”

But every day, for the next 12 months, Jaxson and Cadence continued to grow and get stronger.

“When we first came home with oxygen and monitors, I was focused on their health one day at a time,” says Matt. “But they just kept blossoming.”

Cadence, who was diagnosed with chronic lung disease and pulmonary hypertension, uses a feeding tube – but will soon be able to eat on her own. Jaxson is near sighted and wears glasses.

“They’re both in the accurate and average weight percentile range for their adjusted age of 8 months old,” explains Jourdan. “With preemie babies, doctors measure height, weight and everything based on an adjusted scale.”

“Jaxson and I arm wrestle,” says Matt. “He’s always moving, so vocal, so active. Cadence and I snuggle and smile at each other. She’s quieter, loves books. I can’t wait to watch them grow up and take them fishing and camping and play sports together.”

On Saturday, Jourdan and Matt will throw a wild-west-themed party for the twins. Hollie, an “integral part of the family now,” will attend.

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“The majority of me has always known they would make it to 1, but you think with your heart not your mind,” says Jourdan. “Jaxson and Cadence won’t know what’s going on, but for us and our family it’s a celebration of life and survival.”

Adds Matt, “They are so loved and so wanted. They are our miracles.”