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...