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!
I was so excited to finally be pregnant! After about a month on bed rest due to bleeding during the early part of my pregnancy with Mark, I was back on my feet and found that I loved being pregnant! I wanted to do everything I could to have a healthy baby, so I ate right, avoided all the foods on the no-no lists, stayed active and exercised, and read every book about pregnancy and babies I could find. I enjoyed several baby showers, and Bill and I loved watching my tummy grow bigger and seeing it jump when Mark had the hiccups or just seeing him move around! I gained 21 pounds during the pregnancy and was active to the very end.
My pregnancy with quintuplets was definitely different from that one! Because there were so many babies needing nutrients to grow, the diet was completely opposite this time around. I aimed for 5,000 calories every day and avoided too many fruits and vegetables because they took up too much tummy space without adding many calories. I ate a lot of cheeseburgers and drank a lot of milkshakes. Bill made me a special milkshake every night that had extra protein powder and totaled 1,000 calories. My activity level was limited from very early on. At 12 weeks into the pregnancy, the doctor did a cerclage, which is where he stitched my cervix shut to help prevent an early delivery. From that point forward, I couldn’t lift Mark any more, couldn’t do stairs and stopped driving. The hardest part was not being able to care for Mark the way I used to. We had a wonderful nanny that summer who came to our house every day. It was nice that I could get all the rest that I needed but that I could still see Mark and spend time with him every day too. He and I spent a lot of time cuddling on the couch reading books or doing puzzles. At 16 weeks, I had gained the same amount and measured the same size as when I delivered Mark!
I started feeling some minor occasional contractions at 18 weeks into the pregnancy. A nurse came to the house and set me up with a home monitor. This had a belt that went around my stomach and hooked to a machine where it measured the number of contractions. I used it for one hour per day and then it sent the data to a nurse who checked to make sure everything looked fine. This was great! It gave me a lot of peace of mind and was a way to check for contractions if I was nervous without having to go to the doctor’s office or the hospital. The nurse also set me up with a terbutaline pump which helped slow contractions. It had a small sub-cutaneous needle that inserted the tubing into my thigh and a tube that connected to the medicine in the pump which was about the size of a pager. My activity level was definitely restricted more at this point. It was hard being home and limited, but I was happy to do anything I could to keep the babies inside as long as possible. It is hard to be home all the time and / or to be on bedrest. When I felt down or lonely, I kept thinking about the babies and what they would be like. I read a lot of books, ate almost all the time, slept when I could, and really appreciated friends who came to visit! A couple of friends who had kids the same age as Mark made sure to include him on many of their outings and had him over to play frequently. While it was hard to miss out on those things with him, it made me feel so much better that he was still getting to be an active 1-year old and play with friends, and I am so grateful for those friends! When the summer ended, our nanny left, and Mark went to day care for a couple of months.
Hurricane Ike hit Houston when I was 26 weeks pregnant with the quintuplets. We stayed put at home and weathered the storm with very minimal damage. We were without electricity for 5 days and were grateful for the cooler weather. That being said, it was still September in Houston, Texas and being as huge as I was made me pretty hot! It was fun having Mark home for an extra week with Bill home to take care of both of us, and we enjoyed being outside and visiting with neighbors. I was large enough that I couldn’t sit up comfortably for very long, so I would go sit outside to cool off then come lie down inside to get comfortable, then rotate through those two spots again. I was able to stay at home until 29 weeks into the pregnancy when my scenery changed, and I checked into The Woman’s Hospital of Texas.
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.
A normal pregnancy with one baby is considered full term at 40 weeks, but average delivery for quintuplets is between 27 and 28 weeks. While we hoped to make it as long as possible, we knew the challenge that would be.
I was admitted to The Woman’s Hospital of Texas at 29 weeks pregnant due to pre-term labor. The medical staff was able to get the contractions under control, but I stayed in the hospital until the babies were delivered at 33 weeks. We were blessed with three girls and two boys: John, Becca, Ali, David and Kate. We are so grateful that, despite a few bumps along the way, they were born healthy and have continued to be so!
Today we have six active, healthy children who keep Bill and me on our toes every day! Mark turned 4 this week, and our quintuplets are 2 ½. Join me as we share our journey!