Liz Hodges is the mum at the centre of TLC’s forthcoming reality series Hodges Half Dozen. This is her story about giving birth to five — five! — babies in one go.
Like any birth story, this one starts with my path to pregnancy, which was not as straightforward as it is for some. I needed some help getting pregnant, and used Clomid when trying for my first son Rowan, who was born in 2015. But a year later, when we wanted to expand our family to four, Clomid didn’t work, and so we turned to hormone injections. After seven months, I was so excited to get a positive pregnancy test — and then my blood work seemed to indicate we were having twins. Two for the price of one! We knew there was a chance of multiples, but by the time we got to the six-week appointment for an ultrasound, we just wanted to make sure the baby (or two?) was healthy. There was a 0.1% chance of carrying quintuplets, so you can imagine our shock when the doctor counted two, then three, then four babies...and then a fifth!
I’m a nurse, and my husband, Daniel, is in medical school, so we are both well aware of the risks involved in a high order multiple birth, so our excitement was somewhat blunted with fear as the reality set in. But over time, the pregnancy went along smoothly, aside from the unbelievable number of jabs and pokes I felt with five active little ones bouncing around in there. My doctors and I had a goal: We wanted to get the babies to 32 weeks to ensure they’d be safe and healthy once delivered. Well, they had other plans.
At 26 weeks, I started having contractions, which felt like strong menstrual cramps, the same as when I went into labor with Rowan. This was incredibly concerning. It was too early, and we weren’t expecting the babies for at least another month. We rushed off to the hospital, where I was given an IV of magnesium sulphate, which is sometimes used to stop preterm labor. That may have slowed it, but after six days in the hospital, baby A’s water broke (some multiples develop each in their own amniotic sac, and others develop together in one sac). We had to schedule a C-section for the next day.
With our medical backgrounds, we knew that the babies’ prematurity was life-threatening with an incredibly high risk of infection and potentially devastating consequences. We were both anxious, emotional, and incredibly nervous going into my surgery. I made sure I had the chance to see Rowan, who gave me a big kiss to help calm my nerves before I headed into the OR with Daniel by my side.
Seton Medical Center Austin was not taking my case lightly. There were nearly 50 people involved in the birth of my quints, which the lead doctor described as a “fire brigade,” including a runner and nurse to bring each of the newborns from the OR to their pre-selected place. It was a massive and incredible team, with three people for each baby, and I’m so thankful for the dedication, skill, and the level of care they brought to this birth.
As I laid there feeling powerless and scared, I knew I would see my babies one by one over the drape, and Daniel was by my side, which of course helped.
I felt the pressure of the first incision, and then it was so incredibly quick. Baby A came out crying, and as they held up our only girl my first thought was, She is so frail and little. Teagan, as we named her, was 1 pound, 11 ounces. Baby B was breach and a little smaller, and I didn’t get to see him; he needed some help breathing and was rushed off to the neonatologist. I was so scared for my little guy but knew he was in good hands. Connell weighed in at 1 pound, 9 ounces.
Baby C, Liam, was an ounce smaller than Baby B but looked bigger to me. At this point, we were more than halfway through, and I could feel God’s presence as our miracle was unfolding. One of the babies was behind a couple of the others, and the doctors had to work some magic. Then out came baby D, Nolan, who weighed in at 1 pound, 10 ounces. And finally, our active little guy, Baby E, Dillon, who weighed in at 1 pound, 9 ounces. I didn’t have any complications with the surgery, or any more bleeding that would be expected with a C-section. As I was sewn up, Daniel went over to check on the babies.
And like that, in a matter of minutes, we went from a family of three to a family of eight. It was so surreal, it almost felt like it didn’t happen, because I hadn’t been able to hold any of them. It would be 10 hours before I got to see my babies in the NICU.
I wasn’t really sure what to expect as we headed over there together, I was anxious and eager to see what they looked like, and I felt helpless because I couldn’t hold any of the babies or do anything for them. My first reaction when seeing the babies was that I couldn’t believe that they had all been inside me.
At this point, within a couple days, many new parents leave the hospital with their babies, but I was one of the small percentage who aren’t able to. It was a really weird feeling leaving the hospital without my babies and especially to have to drive one hour and 15 minutes each way home and then back to visit them. I tried to see them five days a week, which meant I’d stay at the nearby Ronald McDonald house for three nights, and then make the long drives back and forth for two. It was hard to be away from them, but I also needed to get some time with Rowan at home. And, it was physically uncomfortable to keep making that trip; it took a good six weeks for me to feel comfortable being up and moving around after my C-section.
When the babies could finally come home, they were released over a two-week period between when they were three-and-a-half to four months old. I am incredibly thankful for the entire staff at Seton Medical Center Austin for taking care of them when I couldn’t be there, nursing them to health, and getting them to a place where we could bring them home.
As I write this, my babies are 7 months old. They are all healthy, happy, eating regularly, and sleeping through the night! It has been an incredible journey, and I hope you come along for the ride as our show Hodges Half Dozen premieres Tuesday, November 7 at 10 p.m. EST on TLC. You will get to see our story from the beginning, our birth captured live — the first multiples birth ever to be witnessed this way — the emotional highs and lows of the first few months, and all the personalities of our no-longer-little family. If I hadn't been through it all myself, I'd say it's all kind of unbelievable.