My kids are all very good eaters! There are lots of theories on whether to make kids eat, let them refuse, give them alternatives, etc., and I think every family finds what works best for them and their situation. We try to offer a healthy variety at each meal. We don’t require that they eat anything, but to get seconds of anything, they have to finish all of the things on their plates. I purposefully don’t put a lot of things that I know are not favorites.
We have three meals per day plus one or two snacks. (Sometimes we miss the afternoon snack.) We do not offer food in between these, so the kids learned pretty early that they didn’t have to finish their dinner, but they would wait to eat again until breakfast.
Dinner could be 18 tacos, a 9×13 casserole, two pounds of meatballs along with spaghetti and sauce, two (or more) pounds of chicken (grilled or baked) with potatoes, 2 lbs of fish with rice, or many other options, and dinner always includes a fruit and vegetable, and I have started adding a bread side to fill them up! I am amazed how much they eat, and it kind of scares me to think of the teenage years!
I really enjoy getting to eat outside the home. From an early age, we went on lots of picnics, sometimes at a park and sometimes just in the backyard. While we go out to eat some, it is not a frequent activity. I think that actually makes it easier! Since it is a special treat, the kids are really good! We always pick kid friendly restaurants with our favorites serving pizza, Mexican food, or a variety of food where we get bread or chips early to give them something to snack on.
The kids love helping me cook, and I try to involve them as often as I can. I divide the ingredients into either six or 12 portions, so everyone gets to add something the same number of times. Sometimes that means I split one ingredient and two people add it (two half cups of flour instead of one cup). Everyone enjoys stirring! Their favorite two things to make are banana bread and “yogurt pops,” which are yogurt, almond milk and honey frozen as a popsicle.
Carrying the quintuplets to 33 weeks definitely took a toll on my body. After delivery, I had fluid in my lungs and my liver enzymes were off. After dozing in and out of consciousness in the recovery area as my blood pressure fluctuated, I was moved into ICU. With me in the ICU, quintuplets in the NICU, and Mark (18 months at the time) at home, Bill was busy, and we were very grateful to have family around us! I don’t remember any of recovery and very little of ICU, but the doctors were able to get me stabilized and back into my room in the antepartum wing on Monday. From that point forward, I just needed to recover from the c-section and rebuild strength from having been in bed so long.
As 33 week preemies, the quintuplets were not able to come home immediately. We were blessed to have minimal issues, but they still needed to learn to eat, grow bigger and get stronger before they could leave the hospital. They were put in the Level II Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) under round the clock care of a great team of doctors and nurses. The area we were in had four rooms off of a hallway within the NICU with two kids in each room. John and Becca were together, Ali had a roommate, and David and Kate were together. It gave us a lot of privacy when visiting to have that space. There were rockers and chairs in the rooms for sitting next to or for holding babies. The Woman’s Hospital of Texas has a great support system for families with babies in the NICU including groups for siblings, although Mark was not old enough to be allowed to visit in the NICU.
The babies were born on Saturday morning, and on Sunday evening I was able to go in a wheel chair to see them for the first time since delivery. While I was in the hospital, it was easy to visit them. We went several times each day and would stay as long as I could handle physically. We started learning how to feed them. Mark was exclusively breastfed and never had a bottle, so Bill had never bottle fed a baby, and I hadn’t done it much. Feeding preemies can be more challenging than full term babies. They are required to take a certain amount of formula or breastmilk within a set amount of time to make sure they are getting enough to grow without expending too much energy. The nurses were great and taught us techniques to keep them awake and get them to eat. I remember one of the doctors saying that a NICU nurse could feed 60 cc’s to a rock! By the end, I think Bill and I could have too. Because the NICU is staffed 24 / 7, I could call at any time to check on the babies and a nurse was always there to answer questions.
We were fortunate to have minimal issues and especially grateful that all of them were breathing on their own. All had jaundice and were under the billirubim lights for a short time. All of them required a feeding tube to supplement what they got from bottles as well as an IV to give additional nutrients as well. Becca had a Patent Ductus Arteriosus (PDA) which is a common heart problem, but it closed on its own without requiring medication or surgery. At about a week old, John developed a skin infection from an IV site and had to go on IV antibiotics, but it cleared without a problem. Other than those things, we just had to get them to be able to get enough food from bottle feeding. While I pumped to provide some breastmilk, they were primarily given formula. One of the high points for me was getting to breastfeed
Kate in the NICU. While everyone was able to do that at home, she was the only one who did while still in the hospital. To do that in the NICU, we had to have a lactation consultant meet us there at a scheduled feeding time. She weighed Kate prior to feeding then again after to estimate how much she had taken. The lactation consultant was very helpful, and we were glad the hospital had people on staff to assist with breastfeeding.
I was released from the hospital on a Thursday, five days after delivery. Mark had been sick prior to the quintuplets’ birth, so it had been almost two weeks since I had seen him and over a month since I had been at home. When I got home that night, he was ecstatic! Friday was Halloween, and I got to go trick-or-treating with him and Bill in our neighborhood. Because of the c-section, I was not allowed to drive, and we live about an hour from the hospital. That weekend, Bill and I went to visit the babies a lot. The following week, I had friends who gave me rides to the hospital so that I could see them. Before being released, each baby had an OCRG study. This is a six hour test where a computer takes data from the monitors every five seconds and provides an analysis which checks for immature breathing. They also did a carseat study where each baby sat in their own carseat for an hour to make sure there were no breathing difficulties. Bill and I were required to take infant CPR. We had taken it before Mark was born, but I was glad to have a refresher course.
On Monday, nine days after delivery, one of the doctors from the NICU called to tell me to prepare for babies to come home! I was shocked! I thought with quintuplets they would be in the NICU for awhile and that we would have time for me to build up strength, set up the house and spend some time with Mark. While nervous about logistics, we were so excited to have them coming home! Becca came home on Friday at 13 days old. They kept Ali, David and Kate through the weekend allowing us to adjust a little, and those three came home the following Monday at 16 days old. Because John had to finish the antibiotics, he had to wait to come home until that following Friday at 20 days old. We were thrilled to have everyone home! Next we set to work on figuring out what our new normal would be.
During my singleton pregnancy, my husband Bill and I took various classes: childbirth, infant care, etc. I felt prepared and ready to have a baby! However, I somehow came away thinking that all women experienced Braxton Hicks contractions at least once. (These are contractions that are not real labor.) So when I woke up in the wee hours of the morning one Thursday having contractions, I thought these were my Braxton Hicks. I didn’t even bother to wake my husband figuring that he had to go to work that day while I could take a nap later. So I sat on the couch and watched TV and somewhat tracked the contractions. Around 7 that morning, I noticed that they did seem like they were getting close together and decided to wake Bill up. Now I am normally a very organized, responsible person who is on top of things. However, at this point, my contractions were between 4 and 5 minutes apart, and I was still convinced that I was not in real labor; however, my husband was equally convinced that I was! We called the doctor’s office. Since I seemed calm and not in extreme pain, they said to come in when their office opened. That was fine with me because I wanted to have breakfast and clean the kitchen. Although Bill was nervous about taking extra time, he agreed and those things were accomplished. He did draw the line and said no when I wanted to vacuum the whole house though! So we left for the doctor’s office (house un-vacuumed!). I was still calm, walking fine and in relatively little pain. The nurse hooked me up to the monitor and said I would probably be awhile. When the doctor came to examine me, he determined that I was already 8 cm dilated and completely effaced! (Ten cm dilated is when they have you start pushing.)
We walked over to the hospital and got checked in. I was still doing well, but I was VERY scared that I would be too far along to get an epidural. They said we still had time, and the anesthesiologist came to the room and did the epidural. My parents came to the hospital to be with us. A little after 2 that afternoon, the doctor said it was time. I pushed for 12 minutes and out came our beautiful 8 pound blessing! Mark William was born on Thursday, April 26, 2007, perfect and healthy and we couldn’t have been happier!
Fast forward 18 months. At 33 weeks pregnant with quintuplets, my body had given all it could give to carrying five precious babies. My OB, Dr. Kirshon, said we needed to deliver at this point, and Baby A’s water broke. Even though average delivery for quintuplets is 27 and a half weeks and we had been told that at 33 weeks odds were very good that the babies would all be healthy, I was still really nervous! It just didn’t feel like it should be time yet! They were still so small, but we trusted the doctors to take care of me and them. I had felt pretty bad the night before, but I didn’t want to tell Bill and have him come to the hospital because I was afraid that would make everyone around me push for delivery. When my contractions increased in intensity and quantity and then my water broke, the doctors were moving pretty fast. It was an hour drive from our house to the hospital without traffic, and I was concerned Bill wouldn’t make it in time. My parents went to our house to watch Mark, and Bill rushed to the hospital and made it before I went into the OR. A lot of the delivery day was a blur for me.
By this point in the pregnancy, the only clothing I fit in was the extra large hospital gown, so I was already dressed and ready to go. They moved me to the delivery area and prepped everything. Bill put on scrubs and met me in the OR. He stood by my head and talked with me and took pictures. The nurse anesthetist was awesome! He was also by my head and talked to us and explained things which was very calming. He also took our birth video!
The OB broke each water one at a time and handed each baby off to be taken to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) to be examined. There were at least 20 people involved in this process. All five babies were born in about a minute and a half! All were examined and found to be extremely healthy which meant that each baby could be brought back into the OR so that I could see them. I even got to hold John!
The NICU has different levels. Level 3 is what most people think of when they hear the term, and it is a high tech area where the doctors and nurses can deal very quickly with just about any problem that arises. Level 2 is often nicknamed “feed and grow.” In level 2, babies are monitored, they might need oxygen, and they probably need feeding help, but they don’t require as much attention as is needed in the higher level.
All five of our babies were immediately downgraded to level 2 after being examined! What an amazing blessing for us! Our quintuplets were born on Saturday, October 25, 2008, at 11:03 and 11:04 am. John Daniel was 3 lbs 3 oz, Rebecca Jenne was 4 lbs 1 oz, Alison Marie was 3 lbs 12 oz, David James was 4 lbs 12 oz, and Katelyn Elizabeth was 4 lbs. We were overjoyed to have them here and healthy! Our next concern would be getting me back into shape after spending so long in bed and getting them healthy and home.
On a Saturday morning, at 29 weeks, I started having a lot of contractions and they were much stronger. I had 21 contractions in an hour, and we couldn’t get them to stop with the tertbutaline, so Bill and I went to The Woman’s Hospital of Texas. During the 45 minute drive there, I really hoped that I would get to come home again but figured that was improbable. We prayed that the babies would not come yet!
When we arrived, the doctor examined me and put me on a medication called magnesium sulfate to stop the contractions. They decided that I should check into the hospital for the duration of the pregnancy. This drug had a much bigger impact on me, and I had to be hooked up to an IV all the time which was very limiting. The staff also monitored contractions three times per day and baby heart beats once each day. Within a few days, I was able to get off of the magnesium sulfate and go back to the terbutaline pump. This allowed me flexibility to shower more easily, go for “walks” in the wheelchair, etc.
Bill spent the night with me in the hospital the first night, and Mark stayed with my parents, who brought him to visit the next day. Leaving Mark was very hard. Everything happened so quickly that morning that I don’t think he knew what was going on and seemed very concerned. It helped a lot getting to see him again the next day. During my stay, Mark got sick and wasn’t able to come for a whole week. Because he wasn’t even 18 months old yet, he didn’t grasp what was happening and wasn’t able to talk on the phone. Bill, my parents and my friends would give me updates every day with what he did and would sometimes send pictures.
The staff at the hospital was awesome! The nurses were extremely helpful and really nice. They even brought me a cake and sang “Happy 32 weeks to you” when I reached 32 weeks! I met with a dietician, a physical therapist, a neonatal doctor who talked about what to expect when the babies were born, and of course the OB every morning. Everyone went out of their way to try to make things as comfortable as possible. I really missed being at home, but it was calming to know that if there were any issues at all, I was already at the hospital with a great team of doctors, nurses and other medical professionals.
Trying to fill the time on bedrest at home is hard, but it is even harder in a hospital! I watched TV, read books, did Sudoku puzzles, ate a lot, and really appreciated visitors, especially if they brought Mark with them! I think the biggest challenge, but one of the most important things, was trying to keep an upbeat and positive attitude. We were focused on keeping the babies inside as long as possible. There was a dry erase board in the room where Bill wrote all the babies names and made a calendar with a countdown to our target delivery date. One of the highlights of each day was lowering the numbers of days left until delivery! It gave me a sense of accomplishment, and just looking at their names reminded me how important it was to stay focused on the goal.
The last couple of weeks were very uncomfortable. I had gained over 90 pounds and 27 inches around, more than doubling my waist size. It took a lot of effort and sometimes some help even to roll over from one side to the other. I had to wedge myself into the shower literally touching my back and stomach to the walls. Honestly the last week or so is kind of a blur. I started not feeling as well and was so uncomfortable. I pretty much watched TV and slept, although I did walk to my last ultrasound three days before delivering! It was only three doors down from my room, but to me that was a big deal! Even with the difficulty of this pregnancy compared to the first, I still loved being pregnant. While I was excited about delivering soon, I felt sad that the pregnancy would be over. It is such an amazing thing watching a baby or many babies grow inside!
On Saturday, October 25, at 33 weeks, my body had given all it could give. My OB, Dr. Kirshon, said we needed to deliver at this point, and Baby A’s water broke. It was so exciting to hear that it was time, but it was terrifying too! I was certain that, like the pregnancy, this delivery was going to be different than when Mark was born!
Like many couples, when Bill and I got married 10 years ago, we looked forward to starting a family someday! We dreamt of kids in our future and talked about how many we wanted and what spacing we hoped for. We enjoyed early marriage just the two of us, traveled and had a lot of fun being together. After several years, we decided we were ready to add to our family. Neither of us ever imagined that would be difficult. Both of us assumed that when we were ready, we would have a baby. However, it turned out to be more of a challenge than we expected. After trying for awhile with no success, we consulted with a fertility specialist. I only knew one other person who had gone through fertility treatments and was so appreciative of her support. It was a very difficult time, and I felt very alone. It seemed like I was the only person who couldn’t have a baby. We weren’t comfortable sharing with people that we were having trouble conceiving, and many people would comment that we had been married a long time and might want to think about starting our family. I remember crying one night after someone informed me that “I wasn’t getting any younger” and should have children soon. While people were not trying to be mean, it was very hurtful. Life has had different challenges, but I think this stage was the most painful, difficult time I have been through.
The reproductive endocrinologist diagnosed me with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), and we talked through our options. The first month, I took Clomid which is an oral medication. I am usually a pretty optimistic person and was convinced I was pregnant that month! Getting the negative test result was devastating. Due to cysts from that cycle, we had to take a month off from trying which was even more discouraging. The next month we switched to an injectible medication called Follistem. It was a big change in treatment. I went to the doctor every other day for blood work and ultrasounds to monitor the number and size of follicles growing.
I gave myself shots in the stomach each day, and my mom gave me one shot mid-cycle that caused me to ovulate. Never in my wildest dreams did I think this was how I would have a baby! The first month of this was tiring and hard. Again, my hopes were high, and I was crushed with another negative test and another month off. After doing this several times, we decided to move to the next step. I continued with the same treatment, but we did Intrauterine Inseminations (IUIs). This was the first time where I was not optimistic. I really thought it was not in the cards for us to have kids. We started talking about what we would do, where we would want to live, and what life would be like if it was just the two of us. When I was feeling at my lowest, we got a positive test and were ecstatic! We decided shortly into the pregnancy to share what we had been through with some of our friends. I was amazed how many people had done fertility treatments! I think I had more friends who had assistance getting pregnant than friends who didn’t. I also found that people were grateful to be able to talk about it, and I was able to support other friends going through similar things. Looking back, I wish we would have shared earlier. Dealing with infertility is painful and lonely, and if you are going through it, know that you are not alone! Many people experience the same thing, but most are silent. It is a very private thing, and not everyone wants to share, but be encouraged that you are not the only one.
Our first child, Mark William, was born weighing 8 lbs and 20 inches long. We were thrilled! When he was approaching his first birthday, we decided we would like to have another baby. Since it took so long the first time, we wanted to start trying pretty early. We went back and did the exact same treatment and got pregnant on the first try! We were surprised and excited! My first ultrasound was on a Monday, and we saw one baby. When I went back on Wednesday, we saw three babies! Triplets! Friday, we saw five! Quintuplets! We were shocked! While knowing it would be a hard road, we were excited for what lay ahead.