7.02.2013

Learning How to Thrive with Quadruplets

To say my life has changed since having quadruplets is most certainly an understatement. If you'd asked me five years ago what I thought my life would be like now, I would've have answered that hopefully we'd be trying to start a family or just now have a baby on the way and that I'd still be an editor for a magazine somewhere and we'd be enjoying a little country house on the outskirts of Houston.

I would have blinked in utter dismay and gone into shock had you told me I'd have one-year-old quadruplets, a beautiful new home in the Dallas area and my own (currently on "hold") freelance writing company. In fact, I'm pretty sure that was my reaction when the ultrasound tech pointed to the fourth baby on the computer screen.

There are countless ways in which my life has changed, the most obvious being the four children I now care for around the clock. Running out to meet a friend for lunch or the husband and I deciding to drop everything for dinner and a movie are things of the past. I was launched into a very difficult and hazardous pregnancy then two months of hospital bed rest on awful medication that challenged my very will to live. Then I was catapulted into being a mother of four and watching my tiny little babies fight for life in the NICU for nearly two months. Next, I immediately began making 32 bottles every day and feeding said babies around the clock. I'd never been so sleep deprived in my life!

Now we're moving into the toddler stage and the kiddos are starting to show more recognition of things, of words, of your movements and vocal sounds. They've actually started mimicking us on occasion and their curiosity for the big wide world out there is captivating. I've begun to realize what a role model I will truly be setting for these kids. I want them to be strong, unafraid, motivated and smart. I want to drive them to be the best human beings they can and to go for their dreams and follow their hearts.


The weight of this realization, times four impressionable minds at one time, can be stifling at times. I wonder if I'll do a good enough job, if I'll say the right things at the right time, set the right example, comfort them when needed and push them when it's time to get tough.

As the babies grow and we become more mobile and active and able to participate in the "outside world," the husband and I have both begun to experience the public's reaction to a couple walking around with quadruplets. We got glimpses of it before during trips to the hospital or doctor's office, when we had four tiny infants in car seats snapped onto two twin stroller frames. Now it's simply in full force. We can't go anywhere in public without being questioned, judged or congratulated. It's a whole new slice of life that we're gradually learning how to handle.

Recent events motivated me to write this post. To share the thoughts and feelings we encounter nearly daily. We are really enjoying getting out with our crew more often, but I often end up bracing myself when people follow behind us or come up to us directly to "catch" our attention and ask questions. They always assume we did IVF (we didn't) and they almost always comment on the fact that we're either done having kids or that we must be so tired and have our hands full.


While some comments may be true, many of them get old after awhile. Partly because of repetition, partly because of the way people act like we're a science exhibit. I always smile briefly and just try to keep moving, running my errands or whatever that may be. Whenever we stop we tend to draw extra attention and, since we never know what people are going to say, we try to avoid it for the timebeing. We went to the mall a couple months ago and stopped for a few moments outside a store and in a matter of minutes were surrounded by a circle of people. One couple stopped to look at the babies, then a group of girls, then other people noticed people were gathering so they gathered to point and look. I felt like an exhibit or a freak show.

I know quadruplets aren't something you see every day. Heck, I would be amazed and nudge my husband in the ribs and try to discreetly glance at the babies. I'd also just smile and keep walking by or comment to the mother how beautiful her children were or how great she looked or something to make her happy. I've always been that way when I see moms out with their kids, even before I had my own. I firmly believe that you never know how a nice comment bestowed on someone might positively impact their day! Years ago, I made a pact with myself that whenever I was out, I'd say at least one nice thing to someone.

Thanks to a very supportive group of fellow quad moms both in Texas and around the country, I usually feel pretty normal. I'm used to having quads now so everything in our crazy house is normal to me these days! Our group is very involved and has been great for advice and support, especially on those long, hard days when you're keenly (painfully) aware that you have four small children all the same age. And only one of you.

In the quad group, we've often shared support when people have been quick to cut us down. Most of the time, I think it's because others don't understand our situation. I've been told that it's terrible I have quads because now their tax dollars are paying for my welfare (what!?), that it was unfair to the infants themselves to try and have four babies (yes, I did that on purpose), that I shouldn't whine when I don't have help or that I should hire a nanny and not turn my family into slaves (no one's in shackles, I swear!), that I'm an idiot, that I'm an octomom wannabe (I assure you with all my heart, I am not) and the list goes on. I've quickly learned the bottom line is that curiosity trumps manners. And people love to judge.

I love this video on YouTube, I've been asked every single one of these questions! The video also sort of portrays the cynicism that can so easily come to me—and other moms of multiples—when responding to people's prying inquiries. Finding a balance between privacy and politeness and protecting your children so they don't feel like an attraction at the zoo is a very fine line to walk.



Fortunately, this is not the majority of our experience with the general public. Just a small percentage. It comes with the territory, I always say. We knew while I was still pregnant with the quads that these sort of things were likely to be expected. And I've comforted and stood up for other quad moms when folks said similar, or even worse, hurtful comments to them.

Dealing with folks that we cross paths with is definitely something we're working on. I never know what people are going to say, but I never want to cut down people that are going to say something nice. And I certainly don't want to be selling my kids short. By that I mean, they are really cute babies with big ol' smiles and I want them to be admired and appreciated. Apples of my eye and all, right? But the minute you make eye contact or entertain a question or two, you never know where it'll end! Will that be the last question? Or are they going to have the IVF discussion and accuse me of being irresponsible for having so many kids? Or will they smile and nod and leave me in peace? One can never be sure. And whenever we are out in public, I'm already keeping an eye on all four kids in the stroller, the shopping cart I'm either pulling behind me or my husband is pushing, searching for snacks in my purse and making sure I don't run over anyone in the process. It's not exactly the most convenient time to have a conversation with a stranger. Oh, and both the husband and I are trying to "enjoy" our family outing as much as possible. ;)


I've certainly made my blog an open book about our life with growing quadruplets and I did for two reasons: to support other quad moms, especially those who come after me and email for support or advice as they embark on their pregnancies—as well as any moms or moms-to-be in general, there's strength in numbers!; and for those who are interested in reading along and hearing the tales of a high-order multiples family. I have loved reading the comments many readers leave on my posts and getting to know some of you readers even more personally!

That said, it's probably high time for another FAQ post so if you have a question (that's polite and clean!) and you're dying to ask, leave it in the comments section for me and I'll be answering them all in an upcoming post.

And, I want to thank all of you for reading. And sharing. And supporting us! We're not any more special than any other family and we're not above the challenges that comes with raising any number of children. We're just a family with four babies that get asked a lot of questions. ;)

As always, I look forward to continue sharing about our life with quads and how we make the most of every day, one tale at a time...
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18 comments:

  1. I can not even begin to understand the looks and commments you get but I can share my experience with my singleton! Everest was a 29.5 weeker, and had a brain bleed w/ hydro. He could not sit unassisted until 14 months, and had a bald little head w/ several scars. I would push him in a stroller at the store, and pull a cart behind me. I honestly don't know how many times I got "what happend to his head?" or "what is wrong with him, why don't you put him in the cart" I am now very active in the Children's Miracle Network and our NICU family advisory council, and I love to share his story/our story, but also try to prepare others the inevitable rude people. From what I can tell from your blog, you are setting a great example for your kids, and all of the people close to them are as well. Great Job, Amber :)

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  2. What a crime, that people can be so ugly. The babies are beautiful, and I enjoy all your posts.

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  3. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences with the world. I for one think you are an amazing awesome women, mom, wife. I follow several multiple blogs and you all amaze me. You all are so full of life and energy that I would I would just love to bottle and have a little of it for myself. Have a great day! Sherri

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  4. AnonymousJuly 02, 2013

    My youngest is now 35 and looks as if he never had a sick day in his life BUT when he was 6, he had cancer, chemo, lost weight, lost all his hair but his eyelashes (thinned out but never completely lost). But we still had a life. And we took our older children to their sports, church, camp, etc. And yes, I got comments, questions, critical comments (like I let him lose weight and get thin on purpose!). All I could do was use the opportunity to tell people about cancer and suggest they donate $$ for research for this horrible condition. Not the same situation as yours I know but I felt the majority of people were understandably curious as to why he looked so pathetic and most of them tried to be kind. And perhaps the people who questioned me had a similar situation among their own families - so those questioning or commenting to you may really want to be assured that, yes, your babies are normal, healthy, you got through a difficult pregnancy and so therefore my friend, daughter, niece, etc. will also get through her pregnancy and have a healthy baby or babies. There were times when I felt as if I were reassuring others that my child would eventually be OK; I just felt they had a reason for their comments! Your children are beautiful and you seem to be a very organized person and doing a good job with what must be, at times, over-whelming! Keep it up! I very much enjoy your blog.

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  5. It is terrible the way a small percentage of people react, your kind responses are far better then I would give.
    You and Mike are doing a fantastic job!!!!
    Thanks for sharing so much of your life, especially those beautiful babies.
    No questions this time around, will have a zillion of them once you are in your new home;)

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  6. What a great post!! I read it out loud to Louis Dean and he said, "WOW! She IS a writer!" You know we are your biggest fans!! I love those babies and let me tell you something!! You are doing a GREAT job!! You are a natural and I always knew you would be a good mother! Go with your gut instinct about things. That is the Holy Spirit whispering to you and directing. Those babies are AWESOME! So are YOU! Never forget that and NEVER let ANYONE steal your joy!! Love and prayers always......

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  7. Thank you Amber, that is a great post. Your children are just so precious it would be hard to not look and admire if I were to see you out in public....heck I look at all babies, I just love babies! I can only imagine the bond they have among one another and I look at them with that thought......there can be no one closer than your brother or sister and to be all of the same age.....wow, what a journey they are going to have! I know they are just a blessing to the whole family and so blessed with great parents and grandparents, too! Thank you for sharing your story, I enjoy reading it every time, just dont always comment! I hope you have a happy and safe 4th of July........can't wait to see the cute pictures! A friend in East Texas, Pam.

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  8. No questions here, but I just want to say that I enjoy reading your blog & I hope the good public responses outweigh the bad. Good luck with your upcoming move!!

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  9. Ha! That video was hilarious, but poor you that people feel they can ask such personal questions! You seem to be doing an awesome job raising your kids, and they are lucky to have you and your husband as parents. I think if I saw you in public, it would be hard not to stare (seeing as how higher-order multiples are pretty much non-existent in our part of ND), but I would hopefully be able to restrain myself to just a smile :)

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  10. I just can not believe how rude people are...my Mom would have swatted us if we talked to people the way people do now...I think your family is beautiful...and you are doing a great job!!!

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  11. I've been following your blog since I saw a link to your blog on Rebecca Ishum's blog. I've loved seeing your little ones grow! As a nurse I am always fascinated in the science of what/how/why. Were they completely spontaneous quadruplets? Were you on any kind of fertility medication? I know, I know, stereotypical questions. I'm just so curious!

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  12. So funny you posted this! I started drafting a "what to say to multiples" post a few weeks ago. As we get out more and more I feel the need to be kind, yet educate people too. The feeling of being a freak show is unsettling. When I finish, I will link to this post for sure. So happy to share this zany ride with y'all!

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  13. AnonymousJuly 02, 2013

    Amber - what if you create some cards that list facts about high order multiples and carry them with you.

    When someone stops you in public and wants to ask personal questions about your babies - just hand them the card and say "I'd really love to chat but I'm in a hurry this might answer your questions."

    I bet that would totally surprise them and they might think twice about asking personal questions in the future - maybe : )

    Anyway, just an idea! I love your blog, your honesty and love reading about your precious quads.


    p.s. I love your mom's blog - she is precious!

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  14. I still think we should form a community with ony high order multiples! Even my own mom doesn't understand why going out is so exhausting. Sometimes all the comments and attention makes the good times not so good. You and Mike are doing a fabulous job of raising four beautiful children.

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  15. I like Krista's idea- what fun we would have living in our little quad-land community where babies come in 4-packs and it's totally normal! But for now, I love the support we moms have with each other. Great blog post! And that cartoon still has me in stitches. Hope you have a very wonderful INDEPENDENCE day in more ways than one tomorrow, Amber! Happy moving!

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  16. AnonymousJuly 03, 2013

    One question:

    Have you read about the Genain identical quadruplet sisters? I found their story pretty fascinating, and kind of crazy (even though the chances are one in like a bajillion!!)

    http://schizophreniabulletin.oxfordjournals.org/content/26/3/699.full.pdf

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  17. We just had twins and probably get a 10th of the attention that you get but we are already sick of it. Not making eye contact is key. My husband learned this the hard way when he was trapped by an old lady in the dairy section.

    Questions for you:
    Update on your stomach sugary?
    Money Saving Tips?
    Did you breast feed?
    How have your pets adjusted?

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  18. AnonymousJuly 11, 2013

    Question: When did you first feel like a mother?

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