Extremely Blessed X 4!
Over the past year, we have been on the strangest, scariest, most exhilarating ride of our lives, one that we didn’t even know we were in line for until we hit the first major plunge: finding out that we were pregnant with quadruplets!
The first time I saw our babies, they were in little plastic isolettes. Ventilators filled their throats, patches covered their immature eyes, and the itty bitty diaper each was wearing was smaller than a Kotex pad. As micro-preemies born at 27 weeks, 6 days, all of that was necessary for their survival. But to us, it was incredibly sobering. We slowly progressed through CPAP breathing assistance to nasal cannulas, meanwhile trying to teach them how to eat from bottles rather than being fed through tubes. We continued to pray unceasingly that God would allow our children to survive and grow even with their very premature births. After three long months of daily commuting to the hospital, we brought all of them home over the course of five days—the last one coming home on my original due date.
I don’t remember much of the first three months that they were home. We experienced severe sleep deprivation combined with checking oxygen tanks and “waking” our kids back up when their monitors alarmed that they forgot to breathe. The living room became a portable NICU with medical equipment tucked around their cribs and therapy exercises posted on the wall. Our kids took nearly an hour and a half to eat every three hours…and that was with two people feeding them! Thank goodness for sweet volunteers from church who helped, or we wouldn’t have made it through those tough early months.
The babies came home with too many wires, cords and monitors to move them to their bedroom every night, so I slept on an air mattress wedged between the china cabinet and the kitchen table. After several months, when we were finally able to move them to their room, I had to get used to sleeping in the same bed with my husband again!
Late summer and early fall found us finally starting to get a routine down. We figured out little shortcuts to getting through the day, like making 24 four bottles at a time or tag-teaming baths. We managed to venture out to grandparents’ houses a couple of times before winter set in, and the babies discovered the joy of sleeping through the night (one of my favorite first-year moments!). Our days ran like clockwork with everything from naps to feeding to medications having a designated time slot. The babies knew our schedule as well as we did and thrived knowing what was coming next in their routine.
Come October, we hunkered down for the winter. Preemies are especially susceptible to RSV and flu, and in order to protect them, their doctors asked us to keep them away from people until the season was over. We had already been very careful to keep them home, but it became crucial. A sign went up on our front door warning people away, and the few people who did come in were asked to kick off their shoes, wash their hands, and sanitize thoroughly before touching anything. As a stay-at-home mom, I was essentially on lockdown with the kids as well. But, the precautions were worth it, and the thought of spring kept us going.
Besides, I knew that once the winter weather was past us, we would be able to celebrate a huge milestone: their first birthday!
With the first year of having quadruplets drawing to a close, I couldn’t help but get a bit sentimental and overwhelmed with just how far we had come. We didn’t know whether our kids would survive the first year, and for us to watch our tiny miracles not only make it but blossom was one of the most faith-growing periods in our lives.
Now, with the help of therapists through Missouri First Steps, our kids are crawling, pulling up and starting to take their first steps! Babbling and giggling can be heard almost non-stop, and they are constantly exploring. The heart issues, eating problems, eye concerns and sensory difficulties that our kids are overcoming have only proved to slow them down a little bit. They appear to be on track to catch up with other kids their age by their second birthday.
Each child has his or her own unique personality that keeps us laughing all of the time. Caleb is our stoic, reserved, contemplative child who takes in everything going on around him. Abigail is our ornery one who loves to dance, smile and sing in her own special language anytime she catches the hint of a song. Elijah is our cuddle-bug who would be perfectly happy being kissed and snuggled all day long. Ellie is our quirky kid who has enjoyed defying the odds right from the beginning. We affectionately call her the Little Habanero since she has a bit of a fiery personality.
With the flu and RSV season over, we are getting to venture out into the great big world with our quadruplets! I think the kids are surprised that there are more people besides just us (and honestly, I forgot how many people there are too!). Our first trip to church was a success with only a few tears along the way, and we are looking forward to our first zoo trip of the summer. Recently, we got to celebrate their first birthday milestone with friends and family at the amazing Little Monkey Bizness venue in Shawnee, where the owners not only offered to sponsor their party but also to sanitize the play land again right before we show up-- just to help make our transition to the real world as easy as possible.
Our unexpected wild ride has turned into one of great blessing! Our faith in God has been strengthened, we have developed new friendships with people who truly care about our kids, and we have been able to reach out to other parents of multiples and NICU babies. Most importantly of all, we get the joy of watching our kids grow day after day.
We consider ourselves extremely blessed!
Rebecca Ishum is one blessed mama living is South Kansas City with her husband, Sean, and their quadruplets: Caleb, Abigail, Elijah and Elizabeth. When she isn’t busy taking care of their babies, she enjoys blogging and writing about her family’s adventures!