My husband and I have been outnumbered since the beginning, and the one beautiful thing is that we don’t know any different.
There were so many times when the quads were babies that my husband and I would look at our friends with only one baby and envy their freedom. We couldn’t just pack up our crew and take off for dinner at a restaurant, and I couldn’t just make a simple Target run unless I had at least two babysitters or a grandparent. My husband and I have been outnumbered since the beginning, and the one beautiful thing is that we don’t know any different. We went from no kids to having quadruplets, and to us, that has become the norm. Sometimes, his parents will offer to have the kids spend the night on a Friday or Saturday evening, or my parents will take one or a couple for the afternoon after church. Then, if we only have two kids to care for, it’s easy-breezy — one kid is a total piece of cake! Another thing that set our experience apart was the way it started. The quads were born 10 weeks premature and spent about two months in the NICU; it was weeks before they were even strong enough to manage a bottle. Our son was on a ventilator and became so ill, he nearly died when he was 10 days old. It was five more days before I even held him for the first time. Because of their delicate systems, we had to keep all four quarantined at home in a somewhat sterilized environment for months. Do you feel like a pro now that the kids are 4 years old?
Now that the kids are getting older and more independent, we often say we feel more like we just have four kids versus quadruplets. It’s so much easier to take them places. I remember being petrified the first time I took them to the gym with me; they were just over 2, and I was scared to death one of them would get run over in the parking lot while I was trying to herd them inside. With every passing outing I managed on my own, I felt more confident and liberated about my abilities. There are still plenty of things that make us keenly aware that we have quadruplets: school registration fees times four; buying shoes after they’ve had a growth spurt; meal times and all the plates of food; and going to the movies, because six tickets ain’t cheap! How do you literally get around with everyone?
We have a Chevy Suburban LT. I had, and still have, no intention of ever driving a minivan. We have the carseats that convert to booster seats as the kids grow, so we didn’t have to keep buying the next thing: They fit two in the back row (a bench seat) and two in the middle seats. The storage space came in handy when we had to tote around two twin strollers, too. We had a quad stroller in the beginning, but it was heavy, huge, and attracted a LOT of attention — which you’re already doing when you’re out with four babies. Loading four infant car seats into the car by myself was a CHORE. Now, I make sure to park by a sidewalk, never in the middle of a parking lot. At places like Target, I can just have them all stand in a shopping cart and push them inside. Then we switch to the biggest cart they have. Target is one place I’ve got down: We get popcorn, or pumpkin bread from Starbucks, and divvy it up. We bring sippy cups from home, and everyone picks their seat in the giant cart, which I like to compare to driving a boat. Two get my iPad and two get my phone, and they watch shows while I shop around. We go for a bathroom break as soon as we arrive, and then halfway through if it’s a big list.
I make time for myself and have no shame or guilt about it.
I make time for myself and have no shame or guilt about it. I was thrilled for both myself and my kids when they started preschool. It was an exciting time for them to learn new things, meet new friends, and be out of the house in a fun environment — and for me, it meant alone time. I get a pedicure every two months or so (about the same as I did pre-babies). Mike and I try to make time for two or three date nights a month. (We are very predictable! Our usual date night is dinner at Texas Roadhouse and then a movie.) It’s not always perfect, but we continue to make our best effort. On months that date nights are fewer, we’ll make a point to sit together on the couch and watch a show or two and relax together. I try my best to keep up with personal appointments, like getting my hair colored or going to lunch with my mom. I simply schedule these around my work deadlines and when the kids are in school. How did your quad pregnancy change your body image?
My body definitely took a beating during my quad pregnancy. I was on home bedrest by 17 weeks and on hospital bedrest at 22 weeks (until I delivered at 29). The entire two months I was in the hospital, I was on various medications to help ease my constant contractions. It was a constant effort to keep things on any kind of even keel. I had a lot of bulge left in my stomach postpartum, excess skin, and my ab muscles had split almost completely in half. I was dealing with excruciating back pain and awful nausea on a daily basis, in addition to being exhausted. Looking at me, people constantly asked when I was due, which got old really fast — even though I mostly felt proud of what my body had accomplished. When the babies were eight months, I underwent an abdominoplasty and had a severe umbilical hernia repaired, excess skin removed, and my stomach muscles tightened. This has enabled me to function at a more normal level; it did away with my back pain completely, and I can actually exercise my core without any pain. Are you still dealing with any postpartum changes?
The effects of such a long bed rest and strain on my body left me with sudden onset advanced arthritis in both my knees, and chronic plantar fasciitis in both feet. Each of these conditions can cause a great deal of pain, especially since I’m on my feet and moving all day, so I’ve been dealing with ongoing treatments, including a minor surgery on both feet and non-steroidal injections in my knees every few months. I feel like my metabolism has finally started to improve, which my OB warned me can take as much as two years after even a singleton pregnancy. I have to mention that not all quad pregnancies have these effects; I’m only 5-foot-3, so there wasn’t a lot of room for my stomach to grow other than “out.” Some quad moms I know who are much taller got barely any stretch marks and made it to 34 weeks. Others felt fine for the most part and even kept working during pregnancy.
As mothers, it’s our job to band together and support each other in the best possible way.
I’m immersed in a private online quad mom group that has been my saving grace ever since I was pregnant with my babies. There are about 450 of us; we recently added a new quad mama who's in Kenya, and we also have some in Finland, England, and beyond. They normalize this life so very much and have provided so much feedback, advice, and encouragement over these past four years. Many of them are wonderful examples to me of what to strive for, what goals to accomplish, what priorities to keep, and how to just continue taking things one day at a time. That’s how we’ve survived since the beginning, and it’s exactly how we intend to keep going! Have you come up with a parenting hack that changed the game for you?
Parenting is a constant learning process. Whether you learn from the first child when you have the second or, like us, you’re learning to deal with each of your same-age children at the same time. I’m still learning to let the small stuff go, that having an orderly house isn’t the most important thing in life. I often remind myself that, when I was pregnant with the babies — not knowing whether they would all even survive — I would have traded anything in a split second to know that my babies would grow up happy and healthy. All the dirt in my house is a sign that I have four children who live there, and so I’m immensely grateful for it. What have you felt the least prepared for so far? Anything you think working moms NEED to know?
There’s so much attention on the “breast is best” movement and the effort to normalize breast-feeding — which is by all means fantastic — but mothers out there can’t forget those like me who either aren’t able to produce enough or aren’t able to continue pumping or breast-feeding for whatever reason. I stopped pumping, because my body was so taxed with recovery, traveling to the hospital to spend all day every day in the NICU, rotating among my four infants, and trying to cope with becoming an instant mother to quadruplets, that I simply had nothing left to give. I wish I’d been more forgiving to myself about that. Giving your baby formula doesn’t mean you’ve failed or have no sense of what’s best for your child. As mothers, it’s our job to band together and support each other in the best possible way.