Nancy Grace: I Thought of My Twins' Fight for Life as I Danced

10/05/2011 AT 05:25 PM EDT

A "Most Memorable Year of My Life" theme turned into a night of emotion on Monday's Dancing with the Stars, and Nancy Grace's performance was no exception.

As the HLN firebrand danced a waltz with partner Tristan MacManus, she had her eye on some very special faces: Her young twins, John David and Lucy Elizabeth, who turn 4 in November. Grace and the babies suffered complications surrounding the birth.

"I very rarely look back on those times because they were so difficult," Grace, who danced to "Moon River" – which is the very first lullaby she ever sang to the babies – told PEOPLE after her performance.

"It was really touch and go for a long time trying to keep Lucy alive. The joyful part is I looked over at them tonight … and it all seems like kind of an odyssey we went through."

She said it was some time before she was back to normal, and credits Dancing for bringing her forward even more.

"It went on and on and on," she recalls of that time. "It was months after that when I finally got out of a wheelchair. Even up until about a year ago I still couldn't walk correctly, much less run the way I used to."

She added, "It's only … been the last year and a half I could … walk correctly after the delivery. This is a huge, huge stride forward for me. I really owe the dance tonight to Tristan because he knows the twins, and they love him, and he choreographed the entire thing to tell the story."
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