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.
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.
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!
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