When I first started reading Rebecca's blog, A Beautiful Ruckus, I became very tired, juggling 4 two year olds, and life seemed exhausting to me! I continued to read and then was just in awe that she has not lost her mind! I honestly can not wrap my head around carrying, birthing and bringing 4 little babies home from the hospital. I love reading Rebecca's blog to see how she does it and maintains such a great perspective on life, motherhood and marriage-talk about a supermom!
Here is our interview with her:
What was your reaction when you found out you were having quadruplets? How far along were you when they told you?
The first words out of my mouth were, “Are you serious?!” The ultrasonographer told me that she wouldn’t joke about something like that, but the idea of triplets or quadruplets (they weren’t sure at the time) was overwhelming! I immediately starting shaking and crying as the full weight of what was happening settled in. They confirmed that there were quadruplets about ten days later. I was only 5 weeks, 5 days along at the initial ultrasound, but it’s a good thing they found them early, because we needed all the time we could get to prepare for them.
Many of our moms are overwhelmed when they find out they are having twins, how did you not lose it when thinking about having 4?
Not lose it? Haha! I should start by saying that my husband and I are strong Christians, but my initial reaction was one of anger toward God. After struggling with infertility, it seemed incredibly unfair to suddenly be given quadruplets. I mean, come on! FOUR babies?! Seriously, that is a lot of kids! I eventually embraced the idea before the kids were born, but I still have my freak out moments. Let’s just say that nothing builds faith more than being faced with an impossible task!
What was your pregnancy like?
It was definitely a day by day type of thing. We found out we were expecting quads in mid-September, and we were initially told to expect bed rest by Thanksgiving. I actually made it to the end of the year working full-time, and then spent four weeks at home on modified bed rest. At 23 weeks, six days, I was admitted to the hospital for pre-term labor (my contractions were 4 minutes apart!) and stayed there until the kids were born four weeks later. I was allowed one 30 minute wheelchair ride a day, but didn’t always make it that far. Weight-wise, I was told to gain between 50-100 pounds. I only managed to pack on 20 pounds total in between the intense nausea, the kids sucking the calories down as fast as I ate them, and the fact that my stomach could only hold three bites at a time. My insides were super squished!
Were you able to deliver naturally?
No, we did a cesarean section. Generally speaking, anyone with triplets or more are not allowed to deliver naturally. The day that I gave birth, was a blur. My contractions had started back up that morning, and I had texted my husband that they were putting me back on an IV drip. His boss sent him over from work just in case it was time. I didn’t think it would be, but the nurse called the doctor in to check on me, and I was already dilated to a 6 or 7 with Caleb (baby A’s) sack protruding into the birth canal. The nurse hit the staff assist button, the room flooded with doctors and nurses, and we were off to deliver immediately. We made it to 27 weeks, 6 days gestation. I think we had a team of 35-40 people working on me and four babies as they came out. It was really intense! After that, the kids spent three months in the Neo-Natal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) before coming home.
In the beginning how were you able to balance feeding, changing, bonding and sleeping?
That is a great question which I wish I could answer. I honestly don’t remember the first three months after they came home. I’ve been writing a blog since we found out we were pregnant, and when I go back to read the (very sparse) posts from that period, it’s like reading about someone else because I just don’t remember any of it happening. What I do know is that people from church came to help us. The babies came home in mid-May and for the entire summer, we had volunteers helping us around the clock. You find out who your true friends are when they are sitting next to you on the couch feeding babies week after week at 2am!
We had a schedule posted in the kitchen and a notebook to write down feeding and pooping for each kid so we wouldn’t mix them up. We learned to live in the moment and enjoy the cuddling as we fed them, and to also snatch sleep where we could. When they first came home, we were on a three hour feeding schedule. Our kids had some major feeding difficulties, and it regularly took 1.5-2 hours to feed all four of them. And that was with two adults working on it at the same time! Sleep was a highly sought after commodity…and that probably explains why I remember so little from the beginning.
Did you have family come in to help you?
My husband’s extended family and my immediate family live in the area. They definitely helped! But I also have to mention our church family! At the time, we didn’t go to church there. It was my parents’ church. However, they explained the situation to the congregation, and people volunteered left and right. Their church provided six weeks worth of meals when the kids came home, provided most of the additional help we needed during those first crucial months, and still look in on us regularly. We have since switched to that church and are thoroughly enjoying our new church family. The kids love getting to go to church too since they have known these people their entire lives!
The logistics seem very overwhelming to me. What is it like for you to go to the mall, or the grocery store?
Since they have been born, we have been on lockdown with them during the winter seasons. During the summers, we still tried to keep them out of enclosed public places like grocery stores. Our kids were born very early and even now still don’t have much of an immune system. If a germ even looks at them, they get sick. So we haven’t been to the mall or grocery store with them yet, although we have been to a fast food playland, the zoo, and the church nursery. As we start summer this year, we are finally off of lockdown for good, so we will hopefully be branching out. Yeehaw! What we look for now are places that are enclosed so that they can’t escape from us. It’s surprising how fast 2-year-olds are on those little legs!
(photo taken by abundantmoments.com)
As the kids get older do you find it getting easier or harder?
It’s different. In some ways it’s easier and in some ways harder. I’m probably just as exhausted chasing toddlers as I was being up all night with newborns. We don’t have to deal with portable oxygen tanks, apnea and bradycardia monitors, or severe reflux and eating issues now, but we do have to chase after, teach how to get along, and deal with opinionated toddlers these days.
Have you been able to maintain any hobbies or free time for yourself?
Writing is a big source of relaxation for me. I’ve been blogging for almost three years and also doing a bit of freelance writing. If I can get my day out on paper and maybe help some other parents with tips and tricks, then I feel like I can keep going. I also manage to sneak in the occasional baking project (cupcakes are my specialty!) and try to read for 20-30 minutes before bed each night. I think it’s important for mommies to not lose themselves completely in their kids.
How do you and your husband find time for each other with such a full family? Or do you?
We do the best we can! Occasionally, I blog on the topic of “Marriage and Multiples.” Balancing the most important relationship in the family unit, marriage, with the one that often overshadows everything, kids, can be very difficult. We don’t go out on dates regularly, but we do make time to text each other during the day, talk about our days in the evenings, and enjoy some of our favorite TV shows together. My husband and I are partners, and I am blessed that he pitches in fully in the evenings with taking care of the kids and dinner cleanup. It gives us more time together and helps me reserve a little bit of energy for him.
How old are your kids now? Are they very similar in personalities?
Our kids are 2 years old now. Caleb, Abigail, Elijah, and Elizabeth all have totally different personalities! Caleb is shy and reserved, Abby is independent and a mischief maker, Eli is sweet, sensitive, and ridiculously goofy, and Ellie is a very caring helper and total people person. They are a riot all together!
Planning for your first child, picking out the right gear etc. can be overwhelming for a mom having one baby. When you were pregnant how did you plan for four?
I’m not sure it’s possible to plan for four. A lot of times, you won’t know what you need until you actually need it. And that’s okay. We said “yes” to every used item that was offered to us, and people were extremely generous! We were able to pull most of our needs from the Baby Depot that sprung up in our garage.
My advice is that if you start feeling overwhelmed about all of the choices out there, cut yourself some slack and realize that a lot of this stuff is new. Your mom and grandma didn’t have them, and they survived. You will too. As far as the must-haves, ask friends what their top 3-5 things are that they couldn’t live without and start there. Just remember that you can always pick up a few extra things after the baby is born as well! And diaper showers! If you have a couple of people offer to throw you a shower, ask that at least one of them be a diaper shower!
What is the biggest lesson you have learned about being a mom?
Speak up! A lot of people will offer to help, but won’t know how to. Just make it easy on everyone involved and let them know specifically what you need. On the flip side, a lot of people will think they are being helpful and won’t be. It’s okay to redirect those well-meaning people to ways they can be more helpful. No one is a mind reader. Your stress level will lower drastically if you make an effort to just communicate verbally about what you need.
What advice would you give to moms who are pregnant with multiples?
Find a support system with other multiples. I don’t want to discount singleton moms at all, but having multiples is really very different. I was given a lot of advice by singleton moms that just didn’t apply to my situation. When I found a group of other quad moms online, that’s when I finally didn’t feel completely strange. In that group, I’m 100% normal. I have a normal family that does things the normal way. When I have a question, they are my go-to group for advice from quad moms’ perspectives. Those support groups are invaluable!
To find a support group for multiples in your area, either ask around until you find one (that’s what FaceBook is for!) or Google the name of your city and “multiples group” to see what comes up. These groups are all over the place. Even if there isn’t an in-person meeting in your city, there are tons and tons of websites and support groups online. And often, it’s easier for a multiples’ mom to get online than to get out, so it’s probably a win-win in the end!
I can imagine you get stopped all the time by people, does this get old?
Yes and no. Before kids, I used to watch Jon and Kate plus Eight in awe of how they did it. I totally get that our unique family is fascinating. If people ask if they can ask a few questions, I will almost always say yes. It’s all in the approach. But if a complete stranger blurts out a question like, “did you have your tubes tied?” I’m much more likely to deflect the question and move on. We also don’t appreciate the people who take pictures of our family without asking us. Our kids aren’t a zoo exhibit and are often treated like one. I think the hardest part, though, is when people are rude in front of my children. They have little ears, and definitely hear more than they let on. I know that will only get more difficult as they get older and understand more.
Honestly though, I don’t mind the general questions. That’s one of the reasons why I blog. To answer the questions and help keep the speculation to a minimum. J
Best advice for a multiple mom to be? Keep a sense of humor! Either the questions will drive you nuts and make you mad, or you can laugh it off, write them down, and giggle at them later when you need a pick me up! Remember that your attitude toward it will be observed and mimicked by your kids. Learning to see the humor in the situation will make the growing up years a little easier!
I have seen first hand how hard it is on couples whose babies have to stay in the NICU. What advice do you have for them?
My heart breaks for any mom who has to go through the NICU experience. One of the worst moments for me was being discharged from the hospital and having to walk out the doors while leaving my babies behind. Of course, they were getting the very best care, but as a mom, leaving without them is contrary to everything you expect those first few days to be like.
The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) experience is one of those things that simply can't be understood until you walk that path. Recovering from a pregnancy that often includes a cesarean section (that's major abdominal surgery!), and trying to balance the lack of sleep with pumping, and then adding the emotional and physical drain of watching your child in an isolette is incredibly difficult. As a mom who has walked that path, if there is any advice that I could pass on, it's this: It's okay to take a day off every now and then and take care of yourself. I didn't do it often, but there were several days over the course of our three month NICU stay that I simply didn't go to the hospital. I stayed home, cleaned my house, watched a movie, or went to lunch with a friend. I just needed that mental break and a chance to realize that life was still carrying on outside the doors of the hospital. Those few days really made a big difference in my ability to keep going and be there for my kids.
You can read all about Rebecca's journey on her blog. If you have any questions for her please feel free to leave them here or visit her on her blog to find the answers.