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.
A patient describes her experience at The Woman’s Hospital of Texas
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