Birthdays are such a special time, especially for kids. I have always loved backyard parties, and with Mark’s birthday in April and our quintuplets in October, we usually have good weather for them. With typically around 75-100 people at each party, Bill cooks a barbeque dinner, and we set up a bouncy house, a kids’ activity table with a craft, coloring pages and cookie decorating, and enjoy time with friends and family celebrating the day.
Every birthday is an exciting time to let someone know you are glad they were born; however with our quintuplets (and probably any high risk birth) there has been such a huge sense of blessing. We are aware that it is not the norm to have five healthy quintuplets and are grateful every day, but their birthday always brings that to the forefront of my mind. It is amazing to watch them run, play and interact together.
While we do one birthday party for all five (at least for now), we always try to celebrate each of them individually. We sing happy birthday to each one individually and let them blow out their candles. The looks on their faces are absolutely priceless! This year was their third birthday, and they “got it” much more than last year. They understood when it was their turn and were very excited! With them in pre-school this year, they each got to have a birthday celebration in their classrooms too. They selected a treat to take; some were the same and some were different. Mark, Becca and Ali all chose rice krispie treats, David and Kate picked yellow cupcakes with chocolate frosting, and John selected chocolate chip cookies. I love watching their personalities, both similarities and differences, emerge more and more each year. My favorite thing from this year’s birthday was listening to them sing happy birthday to each other for several weeks.
We have taken Mark to a Japanese hibachi restaurant for his past two birthdays, and this year we went as a whole family for our quintuplets’ birthday. We take up a whole hibachi table, and it is such a fun dinner! They had a great time watching the “silly chef” do tricks and the food was great. I think that may become an annual tradition for us.
Pictures are taken frequently in our house, but it is rare to have Bill or me in them. We have tried to be very deliberate in taking some pictures with parents. On Mother’s Day, each child gets a picture with me, on Father’s Day with Bill and on their birthday with both of us. That way everyone gets a picture with each parent and with both parents at least once per year.
Life has changed so much over the past few years. We are so grateful for all six of our children and incredibly blessed that they are healthy! We also feel so fortunate to be surrounded by family and friends who are involved in our lives. We look forward to many more birthday celebrations.
Potty training is a daunting task for any parent, but with six children all in diapers at the same time, it seemed particularly scary in our house! There are so many approaches to potty training, and I’m not sure there is any perfect or easy way to do it. We took the approach that we would wait until they were ready with the hope that would make it easier. When Mark was just over two and a half years old, he told me, “Mommy, I am too big for a diaper, and I am too big for this table” while I was changing him. I figured if he could communicate it that clearly, then he must be ready! It was still a challenge though.
We had two main things that seemed to help us with potty training. First we skipped pull-ups completely and went straight to underwear and never looked back. Our only exceptions were during long car rides or plane rides. There were lots of accidents, but we encouraged trying often and praised a lot. The second thing that made a world of difference for us was going out in public in underwear very soon and very often. After a day and a half at home in underwear with lots of accidents, we got up the next morning and went to a birthday party, did some shopping and made several stops the next day. We spent a lot of time in the bathroom, but he was accident free during the outing! Maybe kids don’t want to have accidents in front of their friends. With Mark, we just used the public restrooms. We tried M&Ms, sticker reward charts and other things that had been suggested without much impact. What really got Mark’s attention as a reward was that he got to use Mommy’s cell phone to call either Daddy or a grandparent at work to tell them when he had done something. He thought that was awesome!
Around 18 months old, some of our quintuplets were interested in using the potty, but I didn’t feel that I was ready yet at that point. The thought of training all five of them had me so nervous, I joked that I would send them to kindergarten in diapers hoping the teacher would train them! As it turned out, I think they were easier than Mark was, partially because I was more relaxed and had a feel for what to expect and partially because they learned from each other and from Mark. Shortly after their second birthday, we decided to let them start potty training. Ali had been asking to wear big girl panties for awhile, and around their birthday Becca and David started telling me that they were too big for diapers. Again I felt that if they could tell me using words, sentences and even paragraphs that they were too big for diapers, then they probably were. So the fun began! Shortly after that Kate decided that she wanted to join in. John was not interested yet, and we didn’t want to push anyone, although we praised him when he did try. A few months later, he decided he was ready and told me that he wanted his big boy underwear. John was by far the easiest! He had observed everyone else until he was totally ready and had way fewer accidents.
We did most of the same things we did with Mark. We got rid of diapers, skipped pull-ups and went straight to underwear. We took them out in public in underwear very quickly and as often as I could. The main difference for us was that we bought five little potties. If we were training one child again, we would totally skip the kids’ potties and just use the one that is in the house already. However, with all of them learning, we were concerned that too many people would need to go at the same time and felt that everyone needed a spot of their own. We did get rid of these as soon as we could. I always kept a potty in my vehicle (still do) and would even take one with us on walks in the stroller! For awhile, I would let the kids all potty in the back of my vehicle instead of trying to take them all in a public restroom. We brought back the phone call policy which the kids resonated with. They loved getting to be the one to make that call and looked so proud! I was much more patient and relaxed training our quints, and we even had some fun. We used the restroom so often that we even took a picture by one on an outing to the zoo. Mark didn’t really like hand driers when he was first learning, but the girls loved them and would giggle and run circles near them. I guess there can be fun in everything!
The hardest thing for me was when I was grocery shopping or running errands with all of them by myself. When I grocery shop, I get two carts, put three kids in each, push one and pull the other and load up groceries around, under and on them. They love getting to hold things and the bottoms of the carts can hold a lot. My fear was that I would have two carts packed full of children and groceries at the far end of the store when someone needed to go. Somehow we made it through potty training without that happening, and the kids can all hold it pretty well now.
Overall potty training was a lot of work, but it went fairly smoothly. I am really glad that we are through that and especially like the lower bills without buying all those diapers! We haven’t night trained yet, and I must say I am dreading that so for now that can wait.
Our quintuplets started pre-school this year. There is a lot of debate about splitting multiples or keeping them together, but we decided for our family it was best to split them up into separate classes as much as we could. They spend so much time together that we felt they would benefit from some individual time. John, Becca and Ali are each in their own classes, and David and Kate are in another. Plus Mark is in his own class. This creates some logistical challenges. For example, the school encourages the parents to bring a treat to celebrate a child’s birthday, and we have four classrooms to schedule this month. Keeping track of teachers, friends, paperwork, etc. is more work. It takes longer to drop them off and pick them up. However, we are very glad that we opted to separate them. They are really enjoying having their own independence, teachers, friends, and stories to tell! When they come home from school, they compare artwork and ask each other questions about how they made it.
Each of our quintuplets has a very unique personality. Some pop right up to answer questions. Others are more reserved and prefer to talk one-on-one and won’t fight for attention. When we ask questions about their day, they can’t answer for each other. The answers are different. “What color was your play dough today?” is met with various responses, and it is fun watching them interact and share whether theirs were different or the same. While they are in different classes, they see each other on the playground and get to play together some too.
Most of what I have written has been about the kids, and I want to write a little about being a mom as well. I adore my children and am so glad that I have been given the privilege to be home with them and raise them, but it is definitely challenging. When we enrolled the kids in pre-school, I was thinking about their social development, the chance to have a little independence and not be part of a group, all the fun they would have, etc. I had not thought about what pre-school would mean for me. The break has been a really nice bonus. Two days per week for 4 hours, I can run errands alone, get things done, clean the house, etc. My husband has encouraged me to take some time for myself as well, and I am doing that. I have enjoyed coffee with a friend, lunch dates with my husband (who works close to home and the school), quiet time alone, as well as being productive. I think sometimes as moms it is easy to get so focused on what needs to be done and if all of the kids are getting enough attention, love, and time that moms can forget to take a break. And sometimes even if the break is wanted, there just isn’t time for it.
This is a difficult stage in many ways. From what I hear, every stage will have challenges. However, I really enjoy this time. It is our last year before Mark starts kindergarten and is in school every day, and it is the first year where our quintuplets are in pre-school and really able to get out and do many activities. I am enjoying having breaks but having time to do all the outings and activities that we want to. The kids have all already opened up more from school, and I am sure that will continue as they grow older, but I am very grateful that they have each other as a support system to come home to.
One-on-one time is not easy to come by in our house. Over the past couple of months, I have gotten to take each of the kids on a one-on-one outing. They have had individual outings in the past to go to the grocery store or run errands occasionally, but for these, they got to pick something fun that they wanted to do. John, Becca and David all chose to ride the trolley, play at a local splash pad and have lunch at Grimaldi’s Pizza. Ali and Kate chose to eat at Crust Pizza then play at the local Children’s Museum. Mark picked to go to Incredible Pizza to have lunch, play games, bowl and race go carts. They all had a great time getting to have all of Mommy’s attention, and I got to play with them more since I wasn’t counting children!
Their eyes lit up when it was their turn, and they would talk about it for days before and for weeks after! They do almost everything together, and we usually go on outings as a whole group. They fight some, but they are playing together more and more, and I love listening to the conversations they have with each other. While there are many ways that they are similar and that most of life so far has been lived as a group, they each have such distinct personalities, and it was really fun getting to spend extra time with them!
John can be reserved in a group and is excellent at independent play. He learns by observation and tends to wait to try something until he has watched someone else do it for awhile. When he does try new things, he usually masters them very quickly because he has observed. John was the last to potty train but by far the easiest. He waited until he was ready and then did it. He is confident to go into new situations, but he will hold back and isn’t usually the one to answer questions if we are talking as a whole family. When we went to lunch, he talked my ear off. It was great getting to hear everything he wanted to say!
Becca is very confident in what she wants. She is extremely loving and gives lots of hugs and kisses, but she will also tell her siblings exactly what she thinks they should be doing at any given moment. I joke that she is going to be a hoarder someday since she collects everything in a room, makes a big pile of stuff, and claims it as her own. She loves baby dolls and playing with the dollhouse and acts like a mommy, but she is also one of the first to play in the dirt and run around outside. She grinned from ear to ear the entire time we were out, but she was quieter.
Ali is very sweet. She is shy and can be a little overwhelmed with new places and people, but she always tries new things anyway even when she looks terrified. She is determined to master whatever she tries and has the patience to try something over and over until she gets it. We have a letter game on the refrigerator, and she was the first to learn all the letters and sounds. She would stand by the fridge with that game and repeat everything over and over. She liked going to the Children’s Museum for her outing because she got to do so many of the activities we don’t do with a whole group. She loves art, and we sat and colored, played with play dough and did crafts. While we do those things at home, it is hard to do that at the museum when I have all six kids with me.
David is rough and tumble in the way he plays but is a teddy bear at heart. He is so sweet and when siblings are upset, he will often find something that they want or give them a hug to try to cheer them up. David is super cuddly. He thinks (or maybe wishes!) that he is four and tries very hard to hang with Mark and his friends. He is often the first to try something new. He gets very frustrated when he can’t do something but will continue to work at it until he gets it and won’t let anyone help him. His smile can brighten any rough day for me.
Kate is a very contented child. I am not saying that she doesn’t throw any fits, and she can definitely throw good ones! However, she has a very gentle spirit. She loves to play with siblings and friends, but she will also play for a long time by herself. She has very good concentration and will sit and do puzzles or another activity for quite awhile. I think my favorite thing about Kate is that she is often singing. She frequently just bursts into song wherever she is. Kate seems to be very carefree and enjoys life.
Mark has been an amazing big brother. It can be hard for any child to adjust to a new sibling at home, and he had five new siblings when he was 18 months old! He has handled it so well right from the start. He is patient with them, plays with them, helps them and is my special helper. He especially likes getting to teach them new things.
I love how our family has melded together as one unit, and yet I really enjoy seeing how different each individual person is!
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.
Transitioning a baby from breastmilk and/or formula to “real food” can be exciting and sometimes a little intimidating. Mark started solids at six months, and our quintuplets started around five and a half months. We opted to make all of our own baby food instead of purchasing pre-made jars. Mark’s first food was banana which was really easy! I mashed it on his high chair tray and let him touch it and eat it on his fingers. For him, we added avocado, cereal, fruits and veggies, grains and eventually meats. With our quintuplets, we started with rice cereal and added applesauce very quickly. I had heard that cereal can cause constipation in infants, so we always mixed it with a fruit or vegetable. I would think that helped the taste too. Making baby food was much easier than I thought it would be. For soft fruits like pears and peaches, I pealed them and put them in a food processor.
For most veggies and harder fruits, I peeled them if necessary then cooked (usually steamed or baked) them and put them in a food processor. Doing it this way, I could control the texture. At the beginning, I blended it to be very smooth then increased the texture as they got older. When we started meats, I would add water or broth from cooking to get a good texture. Very shortly after adding meats, I would make meals and put those in the food processor too. The favorite two were pot roast with carrots and potatoes and chicken and rice with peas. When Mark was a baby, I would make big batches of different types of food then freeze them in ice cube trays. When frozen, I would put the cubes in labeled baggies or tupperware and just pull out what I needed for that day. Our quintuplets ate enough that I never froze any. I would use one big bowl of food and one spoon and go down the line.
I am a believer in the philosophy that kids learn by touching and trying things. We were never very neat! As soon as they were able to feed themselves, almost everything became a finger food. Around ten months old, they ate almost everything that we did and fed it to themselves. I knew I needed to scrub the table and mop after each feeding, but it was worth it to have them becoming
more independent and learning.
When they were little, the kids wore bibs, but they quickly learned how to take those off. I safety pinned them on for a short time, but the bibs tore from that. I tried feeding them in just a diaper, but we found that then we had to sponge bathe all the kids after meals too. What worked best for us was putting an old, stained, larger shirt on over their clothes. It didn’t matter if it got more stained, and we just threw them in the wash each day.
Bill and I really wanted to sit as a family for dinner as often and as early as we could. When Mark was old enough to “sit” in a bumbo, he sat in that on the table with a toy during meals. When he was in a high chair, we put it at the table with us and gave him toys or cheerios until he was old enough to actually eat with us. We used a four seater feeding table for our quintuplets with a booster seat pulled up next to it. When we were just feeding the kids, we put Mark’s booster at it too and fed them or let them eat. When Bill and I were eating with them, we set up a card table next to the feeding table where we would sit with Mark. When we outgrew the feeding table, we bought a utility table and all sat at that with the kids in booster seats.
We still sit at that only they don’t use booster seats any more. I know this table does not go with the decor of the house, but it is awesome with kids! They color, glue, use playdough, etc., and I am never worried about the furniture.
Traveling with children can always be a challenge, but traveling with 6 kids (within 18 months of age!) provides extra logistical challenges. We don’t travel a lot, but we have taken several trips. We have driven several hours, driven 17 and a half hours, and taken one trip by plane. I am going to highlight a few favorites from different ages.
My in-laws are about a 4 hour drive from us, and this distance is a very manageable one! Due to the quintuplets’ prematurity and flu / RSV season, we did not make this drive until they were about seven months old. They had been sleeping through the night for several months by then, so we opted to drive at night. We wanted to avoid stops, so we did their last feeding of the day, put them in jammies, and left in the evening. Our hope was that they would sleep in the car and then transfer to their beds when we arrived without messing with their schedule too much. They lost a little more sleep than I hoped for, but it worked pretty well. We were there well before midnight, so Bill and I didn’t lose much sleep either! I thought this was a great age to visit people! They weren’t very mobile yet, so baby proofing wasn’t a huge deal. They still primarily had formula, and we were able to pack very simple solids. We made all of our food, and we were able to pick easy things at this age. It was a huge help that my mother-in-law grocery shopped ahead of time with a list that I sent and was able to borrow some pack-n-plays so we didn’t have to pack six of them! As they have gotten older, we prefer to make this drive in the afternoon. If they take a nap, then they are extra rested for our visit; if not, it is no big deal. Now that they aren’t in cribs, it is easier to put them to bed if they have seen where they are sleeping first.
When our quintuplets were 20 months old and Mark was just over 3, my parents and I rented a passenger van and took everyone to visit some of my family.
This was a 17 and a half hour drive! We still didn’t let the kids watch any TV at this age; however, even if we allowed TV in the car, I think it would be tough. Those vans are long, so whoever is in the back wouldn’t be able to see or hear, and I can picture the complaints. This was a good age to travel too! They could eat anything and could do most things themselves. Mark was potty trained and could go for long periods, and the quints were not potty trained yet. We packed breakfast, snacks and lunch which we fed them in the car, then we stopped after eating to stretch our legs at rest stops.
Again, it was a huge help that my aunt grocery shopped ahead of time and had borrowed cribs and pack-n-plays for our visit. She even had a twin bed for Mark to sleep in. They didn’t nap well away from home. We tried to plan outings such that the kids would fall asleep in the car for a catnap to get them through the day and then do a slightly earlier bedtime. It worked pretty well. The kids had a lot of fun on this trip! They enjoyed meeting cousins, going to a family member’s farm, going out to eat at their first restaurant, etc. It was a lot of work, and I am not trying to downplay that, but it was fun at this age! This trip was very special to me. We had made this drive when Mark was a baby so that my grandmother could meet him. We were excited to see a lot of family there, but I was most excited about my grandmother meeting our quintuplets and seeing Mark again. We had debated waiting another year. She passed away last February, and it really reminds me not to wait to do things! I am so grateful that we made this trip and that we have the pictures of her with the kids!
This past June, my parents, Bill and I took the kids on our first airplane ride as a family!
I must say that this was a whole new world for me! I flew once with Mark when he was just over nine months old, but that was my only flight with a child let alone children! With my parents along, we had four adults and six children, which I thought was a great ratio! Getting through security was the part that I was most nervous about.
I wasn’t sure if the kids would want to walk by themselves or if they would be intimidated by all the people and gadgets. They were fine. They lined up behind me, and we played “follow the leader” right through. The people at security were great! They gave the kids high fives as they went through and were really friendly with them. I had packed notepads, crayons, stickers, books, baby dolls, stuffed animals and few other goodie type toys for them to play with. They enjoyed discovering everything in their back packs during the flight, although they might have been most entertained by going potty! In many ways, this trip was the easiest we have taken. The kids are all potty trained, will eat anything, are flexible with their schedule, and can do many things like dressing themselves. The only thing that was especially challenging this trip was sleep. The kids all shared a room with sleeping bags which was great!
We didn’t nap them at all on the trip hoping they would be tired and sleep at night, but sharing a room with six sleeping bags is really exciting! It took awhile to settle most nights, but they had a good time and seemed to play fine during the days even with less sleep. Again, my family made the trip so much easier grocery shopping ahead of time, borrowing carseats and a mini-van, and having lots of kids stuff like toys and play dough! We had a great time!
While traveling with a big family can present different logistical challenges, we are definitely looking forward to our next trip, wherever it may be!
Being home with an infant is definitely an adjustment for any family! Bringing home five brought even more changes to our home! The quintuplets were on a three hour feeding schedule when they came home from the hospital. It took us about an hour to change diapers, make bottles, feed them all, and get cleaned up, then two hours later we started again. Within about a week of being home, we stretched to a four hour feeding schedule which helped a lot! We put the babies in boppies in a semi-circle with Bill and me in the middle for feedings. We used blankets to help prop bottles at the beginning then bought bottle proppers to make it easier. Eventually I got to where I could burp three babies at a time putting them tummy down on the boppies and using my foot for one of them! We were fortunate to have friends and people from our church come to help with feedings during the day, and my parents helped with many of the evening feedings. Bill and I did nights by ourselves and were very happy when they started sleeping through the night around 3.5 months.
Schedule was not the only adjustment for us. We lived in a 3-bedroom, 2-story house, and our bedroom was downstairs. Mark had slept in a pack-n-play in our room for the first few months after he was born, but it was too noisy having all the babies in our room. We got rid of our dining room furniture and made it a downstairs nursery so we wouldn’t have to go up and down the stairs so much when they were little. We had 2 pack-n-plays, 3 swings, a changing table, and some storage in the dining room, and it was baby central! At a couple of months old, we moved them upstairs to their room. We were able to fit five cribs in one of the bedrooms, and Mark kept his own room for awhile. Our living room had 5 bouncy seats, several play gyms, and eventually three exersaucers and two jumperoos, and it was gated at all three entrances.
All five of the quintuplets came home on apnea monitors. These had two leads on their chests and monitored their breathing and heart rates and would sound an alarm if either were outside normal range. The alarms were loud! They sounds like smoke detectors blaring! When they were first home, the alarms went off a lot because the leads would come loose. We started taping the leads on, so they wouldn’t come off as frequently. A representative from the company would come out periodically, download the data from each of the monitors and send it to the pediatrician. At two months old, they no longer were connected when they were awake, so we kept the leads attached and tucked them into their clothes and would plug them into the monitors when we put them in bed. Within a few months of that, everyone was off them completely. The monitors gave a lot of peace of mind! I slept soundly knowing that everyone was breathing and doing ok. However, we were very happy to be done with them!
I had a 5-seater vehicle which would no longer hold our family. We bought an old Suburban after the babies were born to accommodate everyone. While the babies’ carseats were rearward facing, I would climb into the back and load three of them from there and then load Mark and two babies into the backseat. Shortly after the quintuplets turned two, we upgraded to a 12-passenger van which is definitely easier to load!
Getting out and about was more of a challenge with five as well. I took Mark everywhere I went when he was a baby, and I rarely used a stroller. He rode in a sling, front pack or back pack until he was old enough to walk. Obviously I couldn’t carry all five of the quintuplets! We had two triplet strollers as well as a six-seater stroller. The 6-seater was great and gave me the freedom to go out by myself! It does not collapse though and rides on a carrier that attaches to the hitch of the vehicle and then is tied down. While I have a cover for it, I usually took the two triplet strollers if it rained since those collapsed and fit in the back of the Suburban. I got used to pushing one stroller while pulling the other.
Because they were preemies born in October during flu / RSV season, we did not allow other kids around them and were very careful to not have anyone who might be sick near them. Our church was incredibly supportive and opened another room in the nursery that was only used for our kids! When the quintuplets were three months old, we were able to go back to church, and I rejoined some of the activities there during the week. Calling someone to babysit wasn’t really an option for us at that point, so it was really nice for me to be able to get out some and have those short breaks!
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.