Friday, December 23, 2016

Quints for Christmas

Hello hello!

Merry Christmas! This week has been yet another whirlwind. 

St. Joseph's Hospital hosted a press conference on Wednesday to celebrate our children as the first set of quintuplets in hospital history. We are grateful beyond words to St. Joseph's.  I can't say enough about the OB nurses (Jessie, I know you're reading this. Love you, girl!).  These ladies took amazing care of me pre-labor, during my surgery, and post-op.  Most of all, these nurses are my friends.  Since we have such a small network of friends and family out here, these doctors, residents, and nurses have become our extended family.  I can't imagine going through this experience without them. They will forever be etched in our memory and on our hearts. 

The NyICU staff never ceases to amaze me.  The NyICU at St. Joseph's is a well-oiled machine brimming with some of the most kind, giving, and comforting individuals you can imagine.  There are so many ups and downs in the NyICU.  These men and women know how to comfort us while making sense of some of the most nerve-wracking situations.  I actually love sitting with the nurses every day and getting to know their stories.   These nurses look out for our babies and for us.  To give you an idea, one nurse who I love texted me to say went shopping for our kiddos a new outfit.  These nurses truly care--heart and soul.  I can't tell you how much they mean to me.  Our family will be forever grateful. 

I imagine if you're following our story, you saw some sort of press coverage for us this week.  We so appreciate the support and excitement.  I think the highlight of our week was when the Busby family (of TLC's Outdaughtered) contacted us.  We love their show and have learned so much from them and their adorable six daughters.  We are so thankful to have someone lead the way through this quintuplet world.  It makes us feel less alone, just knowing they are walking this quintuplet path with us.  This is my favorite picture from this week.  We had such fun dressing everyone and getting them together.  I can't believe they were all in my belly--how did that even happen?!

L to R:  Millie, Clara, Luke, Isabelle, and Ava

On to an update on the kiddos..that's what you're really here for!  Ava is doing MUCH better this week.  Thank you so much for your love and prayers.  She is now taking my breast milk from a bottle AND she has gained more weight than any of the other children and now weighs the most of the quints.  Can you believe that?  What an answer to prayer! She is, however, dealing with some reflux, so we are going to work on getting her a slower flow nipple in hopes of improving her eating situation. 

Per usual, Clara is killing it.  Clara is just an ounce behind Ava in weight and Clara is totally off of her feeding tube and eating entirely from the bottle.  Clara was also the first child this week to come out of her isolette.  An isolette is that glass-looking box that the kids have been in for the last three weeks.  Once the children weigh enough and can maintain their own body temperature, they "graduate" to an open air bassinet.  This is a huge step forward.  Of course, Clara was the first to get her bassinet yesterday.

So proud of our Clara!  Maintaining her own body temperature with just a swaddle blanket.

Following Clara, both Millie AND Ava (wow, I know!) graduated to bassinets this week.  We are so proud of our girls!  Luke is a little slow to gain weight, so we're going to keep him in the isolette for a few more days.  Isabelle is gaining weight, but a bit slower than the other girls, so she'll be just a few days behind them as well. 

Millie's breathing has been a little erratic this week, so we put her on some oxygen just to help her lungs mature a bit more.  We imagine she'll come off of this by the weekend.  Millie also had an infected tear duct this week.  One of the nurses put a bit of my breast milk on her eye yesterday and it's almost totally healed today.  I'll admit, it reminded me of My Big Fat Greek Wedding and Windex.

Isabelle and I had some great snuggle time today.  She's our dainty one.  She's so funny---she makes all kinds of noises and coos as she eats and snuggles.

I could snuggle sweet Isabelle all day!

As we enter the Christmas weekend, I've been thinking about what it means to be truly kind and generous.  We have been shown so much kindness--it's been eye opening for me. God has given us so many gifts this season--I'm not sure the word thankful does my feelings justice.  From a stranger buying our lunch at Chick Fil A to our parents flying out here at a moment's notice to a warm hug from a supportive nurse, I can't begin to describe just how much kindness has been shown to us here in Arizona.  If you're reading this now, I want to encourage you to think about how you can show kindness to those around you.  A meal to a new mom?  Buying the lunch of the stranger behind you at a fast food place?  A last-minute angel tree gift?  Kindness is truly contagious.  Please search your hearts and think of to whom you could show kindness.  It is such a beautiful fruit of the spirit. 

Michael and I will spend Christmas with our new (large) family.  We will miss our moms, dads, and siblings during this holiday, but we are looking forward to seeing them when they visit next week.  We love you all and we thank you for your love and support.  God bless you during this special season.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Week 2 Update

Hello Friends!

Thank you for all of your thoughts and prayers for our children this week, especially Ava.  Ava is doing better.  The surgeon removed the drain from her tummy and it's healing nicely.  Now, we'll start feeding her with breast milk. If her body tolerates it, she'll be able to move forward like her siblings.  If she can't tolerate food, then we'll have to meet with the surgeons again and discuss other options.  Please continue to hope and pray Ava can tolerate her feedings and that this weekend is a success.

Ava is now well enough to be out of her isolette and held by Daddy.

Other good news this week is that the NICU staff was able to move all of our children into the same "pod."  For those of you unfamiliar with the NICU, this means that all of our children are now in the same room, sharing the same nurses.  We can close the glass doors and read/sing to all of our children all at once.  It's such a blessing.  
Before moving to our own pod with Isabelle, Luke, Clara, and Millie.  Holding two kiddos at the same time is absolutely amazing.

In other news, the children (except Ava) are now "non-nutritive feeding."  This means we are allowing them to practice breast feeding right after I finish pumping.  This way, they're not getting too much milk, but they are able to practice sucking, swallowing, and breathing.  Classic overachiever style, Clara has taken to this like a duck to water.  We practiced again today and she immediately latched on.  She's such a smart cookie.

We also like to think of Clara as the healer.  Shortly after she and Millie held hands (see below), Millie's breathing has improved and she came off of her ventilator and supplemental oxygen. We are hoping Clara and Ava can get some time together this weekend.

Clara and Millie hold hands

The other news from this week is that the hospital would like to host a press event next week.  We would love to celebrate the hospital and all they've done for us, but we'll admit that being the center of attention is not our normal. But, I am very excited to dress the quints (they're big enough to dress now!) for their introduction to the world.  

I've also spent time this week talking to other moms of multiples, pediatricians, insurance agents, and much more.  When we aren't at the NICU, I'm usually on my phone or computer trying to finish paperwork and tie up loose ends.  I don't think it's even hit me that Christmas is next week.  But, we have all the presents we could ask for, so I'm content to let the season wash over me with peace and joy.

I am continuing to heal fairly well.  I developed a bladder infection this week which was no fun, but we've got it under control now and I'm feeling much better.  I got my staples out and I'm only using pain medication to sleep.  I'm looking forward to being able to drive myself this weekend (freedom!!!!) and walk a bit more each day.

I think that's all for now.  Thank you so much for your prayers and generosity. We so appreciate the gifts, the donations to GoFundMe, the homemade dinners, the gift cards to restaurants, and much more.  We are so humbled.  Merry Christmas to all.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

One Week Old

Greetings Everyone!

I apologize for the lag time in our posts.  As you an imagine, things are moving at lightning speed now and we are trying to hold on to some sense of normalcy (whatever that is!).

Let me update you.

Miss Ava is first. Ava is battling digestion issues and a perforation in her bowel.  She had to have minor surgery last Wednesday, but we are indeed seeing some progress from the procedure.  The surgeons at Phoenix Children's have been so good to us.  Still, when we arrived at the NICU today, Ava was clearly in pain. This didn't sit well with me, the 'ole Mama Bear. Doctors say she's just dealing with gas pain and they are pleased she's "fighting through it."  As much I appreciate that, that wasn't enough.  I insisted on holding my Ava.  I held her for over an hour, singing to her and comforting her.  She settled down quite a bit, but leaving her at the hospital brought on the tears all over again.  Please pray for God to heal Ava's body and bring her some pain relief as soon as possible.

Ava hasn't started on the milk yet; she's still on liquids, antibiotics, and pain meds.  Given that Ava is behind on her feeding schedule, we imagine she'll be in the NICU longer than most of our other kids, but we'll have to wait and see.  We are thankful that doctors took her off the ventilator yesterday and she continues to breathe well on her own.

Our Ava is a fighter.  We know she will be stronger for this.
The other children, Luke, Millie, Clara, and Isabelle, are now together in the same "pod" in the NICU, so they're roommates. We love that!  When we first joined the NICU, the children were spread out over several pods.  So, we'd walk in and the nurses would say, "Isabelle is in pod 2; Luke in pod 6; Clara in pod 4; and Millie in pod 3.  Then, we'd literally travel from pod to pod spending time with each one of them.  Now, all four are in the same pod and we're in heaven. We can literally sit in one space and be surrounded by our bundles of joy.  It's absolutely wonderful.

Clara continues to be our overachiever.  She's taking the most breast milk and gaining weight very well.  Luke had to slow down his eating due to some air in his belly, but he's slowly picking up steam again in pursuit of Clara.

Sweet Clara is mesmerized by her Dad, especially his Christmas songs.

Millie is doing much better in the later half of this week.  As you may remember, Millie was born with the cord wrapped around her neck, so she had fluid in her lungs and some trouble with her breathing. We were thrilled when doctors took her off the ventilator earlier this week.  Her breathing is still a little erratic, but doctors say she's slowly adjusting and they're pleased with her progress.  Millie is just a dear.  Not our complainer in the least.  She leaves that to Luke.  He loves to make a lot of trouble when you try to take his temperature or change his diaper.  That little man in opinionated!

Isabelle is a snuggler.  She loves to be held, sung to, and rocked. She is eating well and seems to be happy with her little lot in life. She's quickly catching up to Clara on feedings as well.  All five of our children have some issues with jaundice, which is normal for preemies, so each one spends a bit of time in the "tanning bed," as we call it, to help improve their bilirubin levels (and fight jaundice).
Isabelle and Luke celebrating their one week birthday with Mom.

As for me, I'm doing pretty well.  I was discharged on Friday with several different kinds of blood pressure medicine.  I've battled BP issues for the last several weeks, so doctors are trying to bring it back to a healthy level.  After two days at home and a bit more sleep, it's coming down nicely.  The nurse took out my staples before I left the hospital on Friday, so now it's just taking care of my incision and trying to re-train my ab muscles.  I'm trying to increase the distance that I walk each day and ease off the pain medicine.  

I've already lost 35-40 pounds since the delivery and that's helped my back pain tremendously.  Now it's just a matter of getting back to a healthy diet and lifestyle.

That's all for now.  Please send some positive thoughts to our Ava.  I'll try to write more tomorrow.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Mom Time with Luke

As Michael said, Tuesday was a special day.  For the first time, we felt like parents.  We felt like a team, united by love and this true miracle.  For those of you waiting on the parenthood experience, please know it's worth the wait.  And remember that I say that without an ounce of bitterness or judgment in my heart.  I have such compassion for those who God asks to wait.  It is NO easy feat.  As one who has waited, please know God will bless each and every day you wait.  Joy comes in the morning. This I know for sure.

I can't tell you how much I appreciate Michael stepping up and taking the lead in neonatal care.  This recovery is far more intense than I expected and as much as I'd like to be in the NICU all day every day, my body simply isn't ready for that. My blood pressure is unfortunately still at a higher level and my pain isn't managed completely. Still, I love to go visit the children as much as I can.

In the meantime, Michael is there with them, singing songs and reading books to each one of them.  He's already such an amazing father (as I'm sure you gathered from his blog post last night).  People say you fall more in love with your spouse at different times in your marriage.  Well, they're right.  I've witnessed Michael's demeanor evolve as he welcomes these sweet children into his heart.  There's nothing in this world that brings his more joy and love.  I'm honored to be a part of this family.

Yes, this is my new make up line called exhaustion.  Quite fetching, isn't it?

In one of these posts, I'll have to tell you about the actual surgery/delivery, but I don't think today's the day.  Let's give me some time to gain a bit more perspective--my hormones are still all over the place.

I did get the opportunity to do skin to skin with Luke on Tuesday.  He is such a popular dude.  More than one nurse and even a doctor call this little man their "boyfriend."

Luke Thomas Baudinet

Getting more info from one of the doctors.

Yesterday (Wednesday) is what the doctors are calling a "do over day."  Apparently these happen in the NICU and it's part of the (very stressful) experience. We'll explain more about the challenges our little ones face in another post.  For now, everyone is stable and we pray that today God enables these children to take breast milk and digest it properly.  Happy Thursday!

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Update from Dad - Part 2

Moggie and I got to spend some quality time skin-to-skin time with Luke and Clara this afternoon. Moggie's mom, "KK", accompanied her with Luke. My mom, "Grandma Ginny", came with me to see Clara. We were able to look in on the others afterwards.

Mom, Dad and Clara
Clara with Grandma



Update from Dad

First of all, I want to send a special thank you to my wonderful wife for our five beautiful children. I am so proud of her for the tremendous sacrifice and suffering she bore to get us here. Second, I want to thank all of you - our family and friends  - for your love, prayers, and support during this process. In particular, our parents have been tremendous - moving heaven and earth to get here when the doctors decided on an emergency C-section and taking care of our every need since then. Third, I need to thank the incredible medical team that have been taking care of Moggie and the kids. We will be forever grateful to our primary doctors - Dr. John Elliot, Dr. William Chavira, and Dr. Lexi Hill - we simply cannot say enough great things about them and their staffs. In addition, the entire staff of St. Joseph's Hospital has been incredible from start to finish. It would be impossible to thank each and every person who deserves our thanks. At some point we may try, but for now, I want to specially thank Moggie's nurse Jessie for taking care of her and getting her through the most difficult parts of the delivery and recovery. Also, Moggie and Jessie are the same person and I am convinced that they must have been separated at birth.

And now what you've all been waiting for - updates on the kids (plus pictures!).  While Moggie has been recovering from her surgery, I have been working with neonatal team on the care for our bundles of joy. I spoke with the children's neonatologist a short time ago. She told me that everyone is doing what they need to be and that she considered their overall progress to be "ahead of schedule."  They are still fragile, so their situation can change at any point, but that report was music to my ears. 

Ava: Our "first born" is just adorable - and temperamental! They let me change her diaper yesterday and she did NOT like that! She screamed her little head off. This morning the physical therapist was working on her motor skills and told me how mad Ava got at being disturbed and forced to do motor skill exercises. She is still on a little bit of breathing support, but is slowly being weaned, and should be breathing entirely on her own in the next few days. She also has a bit of jaundice, but nothing out-of-the-ordinary for a premature baby. They started feeding her last night but she could not keep it down. They re-evaluated her around lunchtime and everything looks good so they will try again tonight. Here's hoping that goes well!

Clara: Clara is our overachiever. She has been breathing without any support from the beginning and it continues to get stronger. She has been guzzling her food and is slowly getting increased amounts. They expect she will be entirely off the IV supplement fairly soon. She has some jaundice, but like her siblings, nothing out of the ordinary. I am scheduled to do our first skin-to-skin session with her later this afternoon. I am so excited!

Camille "Millie": Millie is our sweetheart. She is so calm, sweet and dainty. Unfortunately, she had her umbilical cord wrapped around her neck at birth, so has been facing the most struggles. She was incubated and remains on the ventilator. But the doctors say, at this point, they are leaving it in only as a precautionary measure, as she is basically doing well. She also had fluid in her stomach and the nurses are still working to remove that, so they have not been able to feed her yet either. The good news is that she is the only child so far to avoid jaundice.

Luke: Luke has been competing with Clara to see who will the biggest overachiever. And he is incredibly popular with the NyICU nurses! They have had him on breathing support, but he keeps pulling it out and breathing on his own. The doctor told me they've decided to surrender to his wishes and take it out entirely during his next assessment. Like Clara, Luke has taken well to his food and continues to get increased amounts. He has jaundice, but is otherwise doing well.  He is doing well enough to get a skin-to-skin session with Mom this afternoon at the same time I take Clara. Moggie is stoked and is resting up to prepare.

Dad and Luke's nurse Kim taking his temperature. See how happy he is about it!

                                            Dad singing to Luke with backing vocals by Pop Pop
                                            and the NyICU nurses.

Isabelle: The nurses are unanimous: our "youngest" will be one day be ruling the roost. She is feisty, but at the same time, cooperative when they work with her. She is slowly being weaned off respiratory support. She has also started eating, although not as well as Clara and Luke. They will continue to feed her small amounts in the hope that she will be able to progress soon. Isabelle got some quality time with Mom yesterday, so that was good. 

Mom and Isabelle.

Isabelle and KK.
On the whole, we are so pleased with how they are doing. It's always hard to hear about the little setbacks, but the good news has outweighed the bad. The hardest thing is trying to divide my limited time among so many little angels who want daddy's attention. Right now, they all have to be in separate units for a variety of reasons, so we can only work with one at a time. We hope that we can start moving them all closer together soon.

That's all for now. We will provide updates again soon!

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Photos of Day One

 Ava Louise 3.6 lbs
 Camille "Millie" Whitney, 3.10 lbs
 Luke Thomas, 3.14 lbs
 Clara Catherine, 3.8 lbs
Isabelle Frances, 3.6 las


Well, my due date came early due to some liver and kidney issues.  So excited to tell you our little ones were born this morning, December 4, 2016.

Names are:  

Ava Louise Baudinet
Clara Catherine Baudinet
Camille "Mille" Whitney Baudinet
Isabelle Frances Baudinet
Luke Thomas Baudinet

More to come when I can hold my eyes open!

Friday, December 2, 2016

In The Hospital

Hello my friends,

Thank you for tolerating my whining earlier this week.  I don't usually think of myself as a whiner, but some days you just need to take a moment, ya know?

Everything is going to be ok!

Big news broke yesterday.  First of all, our doctors scheduled my C-Section for December 17, 2016.  That will be exactly 34 weeks gestation.  I'll be honest, I really thought I would have these babies well before that, but if we make it to 34 weeks, it will give them every chance possible to have a healthy life.

Second part of the news is that I was admitted to the hospital yesterday.  My blood pressure still isn't cooperating and the doctors want to be able to monitor me more closely. Michael and I agreed with this decision--as much as I like being at the apartment, it is a bit scary to worry about each little pain/pressure I feel.  Being under constant care does indeed bring peace of mind.

Still, it's the hospital, not the Hilton.  I can't say it's all that restful or comfortable, but the doctors and nurses here at St. Joseph's are SO kind and supportive.  When I walked into Labor and Delivery yesterday, the entire staff started clapping.  It was a wonderful way to start our stay.

Still, the idea that I can't leave the hospital takes a toll on my psyche.  I tried to fight the panic last night, but I lost.  I sat in the hospital bed with tears streaming down my face, as I squeaked, "I can't do this...I can't do this."  Being the good husband he is, Michael comforted me with words of encouragement, Reece cups, and Netflix.  Worked like a charm.

Unfortunately, Michael couldn't stay the night with me last night because our beloved dog Ellie is still at our apartment.  As a result, he left me around 9:30 pm to go check on Ellie and spend the night at our apartment.  While I was totally on board with this decision,  the gray clouds of loneliness really started to roll in. I'm in a strange place with very little support going through one of the scariest moments of my life.  Oh, the tears!  I cried and cried, longing for a sense of stability.

Before Michael left, we agreed we needed more help.  So we made the call to the "Calvary," as I know them.  The Calvary is another word for Mama and Papa Bolton.  I need my mom at this point.  Not only can she help me keep track of all of the medical info, she can keep me company, and give Michael some flexibility in his schedule.

Being the amazing mom she is, Mom is currently in route to Arizona and will be here tonight for dinner.  I already feel a sense of relief knowing I'll have some extra help from a very special lady.

In other news, the doctors have officially diagnosed me with preeclampsia, so it's a good thing I'm here for monitoring.  As of now, it's a mild case of preeclampsia, so we'll monitor blood pressure and labs.  If things start to change, they will bump up the date of my delivery.

In the mean time, I'm bored in the hospital.  Feel free to leave some comments for me or request a topic for me to cover in future posts.

Monday, November 28, 2016

How Do You Feel? (Brace Yourself)

I get this question quite a bit.  Everyone who poses the question is well-intentioned, but I'm not sure they are ready for my response.  Instead of telling the whole truth, I usually respond with "I'm hanging in there" or "I'm here" in hopes that will suffice. 

Given that last week was by far the most difficult week for me (physically and emotionally), allow me to detail what/how I really feel.  Forgive me, this is a bit self indulgent.

Ever since my blood pressure has been on the rise, I've been on strict bed rest, so I'm allowed to stand up to go to the bathroom and I can sit up for meal time. That's it. Otherwise, I am to be lying on either my right or my left side (preferably my left as it takes pressure off of a very important blood vessel and improves blood flow to the placenta). The trouble with lying on my left side is that baby B and D then begin to press on my diaphragm and I can hardly breathe. Top that off with my ridiculous sinus congestion and I honestly feel as if I'm drowning.  My nose is congested which then backs up my ears, so I can't hear very well and any time I flip to the other side, it sounds as if there is the ocean inside my head (Perhaps I should see this as a vacation?  Hardly).

In addition, I feel as if I have the back of someone at least twice my age.  I've had back pain before, but yoga and exercise seemed to solve it--and it's never been this bad.  Well, it's back (no pun intended) with a vengeance and now every time I take a step it feels as if my sacrum and my backbone and grinding against each other.  Luckily (?), it's worse on my left side, so I can usually step with my right foot and then drag the left foot behind me. Getting a good mental image of me, aren't you? 

Then there's the belly.  The belly is HUGE at the point (I've gained 85 pounds, folks). Each baby weighs 3 pounds now, so there is a minimum of 15 pounds in this belly every day, all day.  The skin on my belly is tender to the touch--almost like a sunburn.  Doctors say this is "simply stretching," which I chalk up to them being men and never experiencing this feeling before.  Rolling over in bed is one of the more painful activities of my day.  This ain't no sunburn, friends.

So, how am I feeling?  Well, I'm definitely hanging in there, but just one day feels like a week.  Still, I'm grateful to not be in the hospital yet.  Now that I'm 31 weeks and 2 days, I am proud of our progress.  Still, the doctors say that will let me go until 34 weeks, so I could have as many as 2.5 weeks ahead of me.  I'll pause and try to put on a happy face before posting again.  Thank you all for your love and support--it really does make a difference!  Here's a video of some kicking action--these kiddos love to move around right before dinner time.


Saturday, November 19, 2016

30 Weeks--Time for Thank Yous!

We made it to 30 weeks!  Hooray!  I've said all along that 30 weeks was my goal because it gave the babies the best chance of survival and a healthy life.  From here on out, every day is a bonus.  We are so thankful.  In honor of 30 weeks, I thought it was time to extend some thank yous to some of the people who have helped us get to where we are today.

  1. Mama and Papa Bolton:  For those of you who have met my mother, you know she is one of the most caring, nurturing women on the planet.  She's been out to Arizona three times to visit us (and this lady hates to fly).  Every time she comes, she makes us delicious home cooked meals (homemade spaghetti, steaks, brownie your mouth watering yet?).   Mama cleans our apartment top to bottom, does grocery runs, and everything in between.  She's been such a source of support and joy for me.  Daddy Bolton has given so much of his time and talent to us.  He's added a closet to the nursery, added medicine cabinets to the bathroom and much more. As you can tell, my parents are rock stars.  Seriously.
  2. Mom and Dad Baudinet:  These folks are the taskmasters.  They have been so generous with their time in helping set up the nursery, clean our Virginia home, and anything in between.  I know they are going to be such fantastic grandparents.
  3. Aunt Margie:  Aunt Margie is Michael's mother's sister.  She lives here in the Scottsdale/Phoenix area.  Aunt Margie and her family have been such a support system for us.  They bring dinner, visit me on lonely days, and just keep us company in general.  We've been so lucky to have family in this area.
  4. Carla:  Carla is such a good friend to me.  We've been in the Junior League together for several years, but our friendship goes so much further.  Carla has been my "sister" for years
    now.  She knows all my struggles and has been there for me at my most vulnerable of times.  She even came to visit me here in Arizona.  We literally laid around and watched TV together while enjoying In and Out burgers.  It was blissful. 
  5. Claire:  This woman is such a safety net for me. 
    She checks my mail for me.  Takes care of our Virginia home and much more.  She helped tremendously in the set up of the nursery.  I can't imagine getting through this without her (AND her husband Pete). 
There are SO many more people to thank.  My friend Mairi and her mom were instrumental in setting up the nursery.  My friend Camille from Charlotte who's been such a source of emotional support (and found us a place to live in AZ!).  Carla's husband Nick and his friend James who put together furniture for the nursery.  Our friends Cade and Karen have also been helpful in preparing our home for the little ones.   Michael's best friend Eric and his wife Lynne have donated so many of their baby items for us to use.   We really can't thank them enough. It truly takes a village!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Gestation Time

The risks involved with having quints are plentiful--we've talked about that.

Still, the biggest challenge is pre-term labor.  Nationally, American quints are born on average around 27-28 weeks gestation.  At 26 weeks gestation, a preemie has about an 80% chance of survival, but an almost 50% chance of some sort of significant long-term physical or mental disability. At 28 weeks, these numbers improve to 90-95% survival with a 25% chance of long-term disability.  (The stats vary somewhat depending on the study, but they're all in the same ballpark.) These numbers continue to improve the further you go in pregnancy.

As a result, it is our goal to make it to 30 weeks - when the chances approach 90% that a preemie will be reasonably healthy long-term.  Dr. Elliott would love for us to make it to 34 weeks, but in my mind, I've told myself 30 weeks is a must. Anything else is bonus points.  Classic overachiever mindset--bonus points.  Maybe I'll even get a "good job" sticker and a sucker at the end of this?  Here's hoping.

So, here were are, present day of 29 weeks and 5 days.  So close to 30 weeks I can feel it; however, my blood pressure is not cooperating as much as we'd like for it to.  Just today at my appointment, my BP fluctuated between 150/90 and 140/85.  I was sent to the hospital for observation.  My BP is terrific as long as I'm lying down, but as soon as I sit or stand, it shoots back up. The doctors released me to go back to the apartment, but I doubt I be here much longer.  I'll go back to Labor and Delivery on Saturday for a check up, so we'll see if they admit me at that point.

Fingers crossed!

Yes, there are definitely five babies in there!

Child Care/Au Pair Service

Once we reached 12 weeks, we realized we needed to start thinking about childcare. We both have jobs that we love, so it was clear we were going to need support as we enter this next stage of life. And both our families are a full day's drive away, so we just can't call them up to help on a moment's notice.

After talking to several moms and child care professionals, we settled on hiring an au pair (or two).  A good friend of mine's brother used a company called Cultural Care and they simply raved about this company.
I called Cultural Care and was amazed by the expertise and support available just on the introductory call.  After a few follow up calls with regional contacts, I knew this was the company for us.  These people understand how to match an au pair with a family; they help manage your expectations regarding the service; and they help you establish a timeline so that you can get the help you need in the time that you need it.  I only have one word regarding Cultural Care.  WOW.

We began to complete our "matching profile" and thus began the search for an au pair. The process of creating a matching profile was actually quite satisfying.  Parents write a letter to the potential new au pair and tell their "story."   This was cathartic for me, a way to express my fear/excitement during this stressful time.

In talking with our regional rep, we agreed that the quints would need two au pairs to really make this work.  While it is financially daunting, we all agreed that it made the most sense given our employment situation (and the idea of five infants at one time).

Thus began the "matching" process which includes Skype interviews and follow up emails/questions.  Several au pairs were a bit overwhelmed by the idea of quintuplets and quickly turned us down.  This was tough.  It felt a bit like asking someone to the prom and promptly getting turned down.  Granted, it wasn't like that (and Cultural Care warned us some au pairs wouldn't be prepared for this sort of challenge), but rejection is hard--anytime at any age.

After several interviews, we found our two angels--Merle and Jessica.  Merle is from Germany and Jessica is from Sweden. They both have such caring dispositions combined with love for Harry Potter and laughter.  We absolutely adore them.

The Cultural Care au pairs attend "au pair school" in New York before they arrive at our home.  We will provide a bedroom for each one of them along with a bathroom for them to share.  We also provide access to education (community college or four-year college) in which we will support them taking one class per semester.  The best thing about Cultural Care is that the au pairs are part of a local cohort.  They have gatherings with other au pairs in the area as they get to know their new city and family.  It seems like such a fulfilling experience for everyone involved.

If you are interested in au pair childcare, I recommend you contact our Childcare Consultant, Emily, directly. She will give you the exceptional service that our family received. Here is her website:

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The Nursery

I've dreamt of decorating a nursery for so long.  In the past, I had kept my distance from baby stores because it hurt too badly to look at nursery items.  But, come 26 weeks, I realized it was time.

My parents and Michael's parents (along with some of my best friends in the world) offered to drive to our home in Virginia and decorate the nursery for us.  Remember, we're still in Arizona, so we have no way of decorating a nursery.  Probably should've thought of that before I left...whoopsie.  I blame Hepatitis A.  

So, I needed to decide how this would work.  Which room would we use?  Did we have a room that could hold all of the cribs? How many cribs would we start with?  What about bassinets? Did we want to repaint?  What about storage for all of this baby stuff?  

I started with a theme.  I wanted our nursery to be a lamb theme. We've always felt comforted by the idea that the Lord was our shepherd and he would lead us to a safe place.  We wanted our children to feel the same way.  The Lord is indeed our shepherd and we wanted to honor that in the nursery.  They are also associated with restfulness and sleep, so we hoped the babies might pick up on the hint (we can always hope). Not to mention, sheep/lambs are really, really cute. 

My fabulously creative (and world-class shopper) of a sister helped me pick out the items for the nursery.  Cribs, bedding, gliders, chests, changing tables, mobiles, you name it--we picked it.  I shipped it all to Virginia so that "the crew" would have it at their disposal when they arrived.

My favorite part of the nursery is the art.  My sister is a budding artist, and wow is she talented.  She painted angels to go over the beds of the children.  Each angel has its own color and personality.  We imagine our children will be just as distinctive as these paintings are.  I am so grateful to have the family that I do.  

A few nursery photos:

Grandmothers with the angel paintings
Angel paintings
Cute little lamb sheets

This gal, my sister in law, probably worked harder than anyone that weekend.  Bridget, we can't thank you enough!

And a few photos of the amazing friends who made all of this possible.  

Baby Registry

Once we reached 24 weeks (yay for viability!),  I decided we needed to get on this whole baby registry idea.  Mom and Dad came for a visit at 24 weeks to celebrate (and clean our apartment).  We had a great visit and Mom took me to Babies R Us to look around.  Granted, at this point, I'm in a wheelchair, but browsing was fun nonetheless.

It was then that it started to dawn on me.  We need FIVE cribs, FIVE car seats, FIVE spots in a stroller, diapers times a MILLION, wipes times TWO MILLION, and what about clothes? Or bottles?  Or that booger sucker thing?  Holy cow.  What have we gotten ourselves into?

I took Michael back to Babies R Us the following week to start a registry.  It's odd..when you start a registry at one of these stores, they ask you the baby's gender.  In doing so, Michael and I looked at each other.  Given that we have four girls and one boy, we said "both" in response to the gender question.  That began one of MANY strange looks the dear customer service agent gave us.  Given that their registry only goes up to four children at a time, there wasn't a way for us to register the "normal" way, but we gave it our best shot. 

We walked around the store, totally bleary-eyed.  Michael held the registry gun awkwardly as we wandered the store, hoping someone would magically appear and tell us what/how many we needed.  They didn't.  We registered for a Diaper Genie and went to dinner at Outback.

So much for my big plans.

I put on my big girl panties the following weekend and started researching/reading.  We finally established complete registries at Amazon and Babies R Us.  I still have no idea if I registered for the right/wrong things.  For all of you moms out there, take a look.  Let me know if I'm doing this all wrong!

The Ever-Elusive Hope

Hope.  It seems like a simple enough feeling.  Most people experience hope as soon as they see that little plus sign. Or, hope may be "born," so to speak, when a mother first hears her baby's heart beat on an ultrasound.  As difficult as this entry is for me to write, it's essential to your understanding of how we approached this pregnancy.

Hope is elusive to us, especially to me.  We can't seem to find it, no matter how hard we try.  We are afraid of hope.  We are afraid to hope.  Hope, to us, seems like we're setting ourselves up to be let down in a cataclysmic kind of way.

You see, we hoped in our first pregnancy...only to collapse in each other's arms after the loss.  We hoped in the second pregnancy, only to cry, mourn, and question our fate and our marriage.

Hope seems to breed grief in our circumstances.  Anytime we get "high" on hope, we experience a terrifying fall into the pits of grief.  We don't want to hope.  It's almost as if hoping is some sort of curse.  In some subconscious way, I think "if I don't hope, it won't hurt as much when I fall."  It's like I'm roller skating for the first time.  If I strap on the knee pads of realism and perhaps even pessimism, it won't hurt when I fall.  On the other hand, hope makes me feel as if I'm roller skating at 20 miles per hour with no pads towards a brick wall.  In short, hope makes me feel vulnerable.  I'll say that again, hope makes me feel vulnerable.

I'll take a break here and say that if you haven't watched Brene Brown's Ted Talk on vulnerability, you need to.  Right now.  She's my guru.

Ok, we're back.  So many of you may wonder...

Why the secrecy?
Don't they trust us?
Wouldn't they want to shout this news from the rooftops?

Well, given that you now understand my fears and my struggle with being vulnerable, hopefully you understand why we did what we did.  The doctors told us we may never make it to 24 weeks, much less any further.  There were doubts and threats everywhere.

We really wanted to cleave to each other, hope for the best, and pray that God blessed us with a family.  We trusted that our friends would be able to celebrate with us as soon as we were ready and able.

We hope you understand and now that we are celebrating 29 weeks this week, perhaps maybe some of that ever-elusive hope will start creeping into our world.


We made it to Arizona!  Hooray?

Michael, Ellie, and I first drove to Alabama (a cool 12-hour drive) to see my family before heading out west.  From Alabama, we drove to Dallas, Texas where we spent the night.  From Dallas, we drove to El Paso where we again spent the night.  From El Paso, we drove into Phoenix to our rental in neighboring Scottsdale.

Let's just say that whoever designed the interstates and associated rest stops in Texas did not have pregnant women in mind.  I've never had to use the restroom so bad in my life.  If any Texans are reading this, you should really petition for more rest stops.  It's quite insufficient.  
Pregnant lady coming through!

We arrived at our tiny apartment and I immediately felt overwhelmed.  To go from our beautiful home in Virginia to an 800 square foot apartment was going to be an adjustment.  Not to mention this place was furnished (which was nice), but it's never quite decorated to your taste, is it?  I missed my towels from home, my throw pillows (yes, I'm pregnant and hormonal), the smell of my dryer.  I missed it all.  I missed my friends.  My rocking chair on the porch.  I just wanted to go home.  I probably cried at least twice a day every day the first week.

Keep in mind, hardly anyone knew we had moved to Arizona. We told our very closest friends, pastors, and bosses. Otherwise, no one else knew we were here, so it wasn't like I could post some sappy message on Facebook and get a hundred supportive comments.  Nope.  Now was the time to buck up and make the best of this.  I didn't have the luxury of feeling sorry for myself.

Our first appointment with Dr. Elliott was the next day.  He was just as supportive and knowledgeable in person as he was over the phone.  We took a good look at the babes and he gave me some pointers for getting through the next few weeks.  Keep in mind that 24 weeks is "viability," as doctors call it.  That means if the babies are born before then, they will not survive.  Moreover, if the babies are born before then, doctors are under no obligation to save them.  No pressure on the mom carrying these bundles of joy.  Just keep your legs crossed, ok?  Sure.

Here are the kiddos at 18 weeks:

Baby A
Baby A in 3D
Baby B
Baby C
Baby D
Group Photo
Baby E