{Quad Squad} Learning Curve

Today was a big triumph, for several reasons. First, I got some sleep. Like real-several-hours-in-a-row sleep. Second, the husband and I got recharged and were able to spend a little time together. Third, we came up with a bigger, better daily schedule for quadruplet life. And fourth, I woke up in a good mood. Which brings me back to "first," which leads me to explain all this to you from the beginning.

Trystan and Harrison hanging out. The littlest and the biggest!
Bringing our babies home from the NICU resulted in a euphoric high and a near-paralyzing state of fear at the same time. We'd spent such a long time at the hospital, watching them grow strong and big from the wee two and three-pounders that they were at birth—on top of being born 10 weeks early. As I've talked about before, there was the day less than two weeks in that we nearly lost Harrison. In fact, I wasn't even able to hold him until his 15th day of life. And there were endless times I jolted awake at night because I wanted to call the NICU again to be sure everyone was okay when I wasn't there. Not to mention the various nights we actually slept at the hospital. We'd worked so hard from the day we had found out I was pregnant with quadruplets to simply survive. It was all about surviving the pregnancy, then surviving the delivery then surviving the NICU. Each is incredibly difficult for its own reasons and each one tests your mind, your strength, your emotions, your spiritual faith so much more than you could ever imagine. As the one going through it all first-hand, I found myself reaching into depths I didn't even know I had to pull on strength and willpower I thought was all but lost. The day I got to meet my four beautiful, perfect babies I felt so elated. We'd done it. But it wasn't over. They still had to survive those first few weeks. And then, at long last, it was time to bring them home.

After such a long road to reach that point, we wanted to do things perfectly. Like any new parent, you freak out over everything and wonder if you're doing it all right. So with four premature little babies sitting in a pack-and-play in our living room, my husband and I exchanged more than a few looks wondering how we'd make it work. But we never spent too much time wondering if. With four babies in your charge, there isn't actually time to wonder if. You only have a few seconds in the day to wonder how. And then you just do. Which makes my recipe for surviving quads no if, a little how and a lot of do.

Harrison, at just over three months, lifting himself up on his arms. Daddy is proud!
It's safe to say that quad parents—and, of course, parents of multiples—get used to doing things the hard way. The pregnancies aren't easy and neither is managing several babies or kids at the exact same age. Having several kids the, er, traditional way (one at a time!) is challenging enough. Multiplying them and having them in groups is insane. And somehow God saw fit to entrust us with just that. Four little babies to challenge our lives, fill our hearts and turn our home into a mini-Babies R Us.

So when we got the last baby home, we checked our pride at the door and called on our moms to help. Okay, we didn't have to actually call...they were both ready and willing! For the first few weeks they alternated coming and staying with us, sometimes up to two weeks at a time. They worked tirelessly alongside us, in the ranks so to speak! We were all up long hours and slept little, the babies ate every three hours around the clock day and night. They took a lot of work to feed and burp when we got home because they were still trying to improve with the bottle. Eventually, though, it seemed like things were taking even longer. As they got up to three ounces per bottle, it felt like an eternity to get all four changed, fed and burped—even with two people.

I felt so captive, so helpless by the whole situation. There was no way I could make it a day on my own caring for four babies, how would I even feed them by myself? It would take hours and then it'd be time to start all over! My free time during the day was becoming less and less, almost no more than 30 minutes in between feeds by the time it was all done. The husband and I are both very independent people and being so reliant on others had been a hard lesson for us to learn. Granted, we were very grateful and extremely blessed to have help! But having people in your home 24/7 and feeling like you can't really do it on your own can be frustrating. We both look forward to the occasional weekend when it is just the two of us taking care of the babies and enjoying some time together in between. However, by the time Sunday rolls around we are exhausted and watching the door for our next arrival of relief.

Sweet Trystan striking a pose.
Harrison getting a bath :)
There were a couple things we knew we could do to help ourselves out. First, we weren't afraid to call on a few close friends to come over now and then. Currently, we limit the amount of foot traffic that comes in and out of the house to keep germs at a minimium. And anyone that does come to visit the babies has to have a DTap vaccine (Diphtheria, Tetanus and Pertussis or Whooping Cough) and flu shot. This ensures that the babies, who are still strengthening and developing their immune systems, will stay healthy. We aren't trying to avoid getting them sick altogether but we are trying to delay it as long as possible! A simple cold could land us back in the NICU.

There's always two people at our house taking care of babies. Me and the husband or me and the mom or my mom and step-dad or my husband and his mom and so on. It really does take two people to handle the load, or at least for us it does. Fortunately our moms are able to spend a great deal of time with us, but the nights were still incredibly exhausting. So we splurged for a night nanny three nights a week and it's been amazing. I found her on Care.com and we love her! Granted, it's a strain on the ol' budget and thankfully we've received a little help with it, but it's one of those do-or-die situations for us.

But quads are still quads and we were still tired. Then two days ago, I ran out of gas. So on Saturday, my mom and step-dad came to our rescue. I had shed a few tears that day for the first time in a long time, and I knew something had to change. Funnily enough, my husband and I traded places with them and went to the RV resort they're staying at just down the road and my mom and step-dad came to our house and took over quad duty! While they fed and cuddled with their grandkids, we jumped into the hot tub with some beers and talked babies. Total happy hour conversation material, lemme tell ya! But it was so needed. In all the chaos, it hadn't occurred to us that as the babies grow and mature our plans should too. It was a revelation as we sat in the bubbles and worked out a new weekly schedule that would hopefully enable us to do more.

I woke up to four happy babies thanks to Grandma & Grandpa!
We decided that bath time would be on Monday, Wednesday and Fridays and would get done during the day by my mom and I, versus putting it off until the evenings when we were most tired. This also gave my husband a break when he comes home from work. Then Tuesdays and Thursdays my mom and step-dad watch the babies for a few hours while I go to my local Starbucks and work. I still have to do the occasional work on other days, but getting to have several hours in a row will help me knock out most of my projects more efficiently.

We also decided that each baby gets 20 minutes to feed then they are done. We had learned this in the NICU before they were discharged so why shouldn't we apply it now? We'd worried so much about how much they did or didn't eat and if they'd burped or not that feeds were taking as much as 45 minutes per baby and was just getting worse. Feedings during the day are done every three hours and we decided to rigidly stick to that schedule to keep us on track. That meant changing diapers and warming bottles 10 minutes before feed time. This helps us get the most out of our "down time" in between. Then my mom suggested we try bottle propping again, which we do in the pack-and-plays with two babies to a person and constant supervision while they eat. It basically gives us an extra hand so that all four babies get fed at once! Lo and behold, feed times have been cut to a third of the original time it took. We now have all four babies changed, fed and burped in 45 minutes or less. Today, we got it done in 30 minutes! The 5pm feed was over at 5:30pm and when my husband arrived at 5:45 he thought we simply hadn't started yet. He was floored when I told him they were finished! And surprisingly enough, they still eat just as much if not more then they did before. I don't know if it's because they are less distracted in their boppies or what, but it's working and I'm loving it. I feel like I have a small piece of my life back!

We also chose to have a set bedtime for the babies at 10pm every night, which means the last feed of the day needs to be at 9pm. Then we let them sleep as long as they will at night in between feeds. This helps set a good trend for the future and helps us get to sleep as well. Our three hour daytime feeding schedule is dictated by the time the babies wake for their first morning feed. Say they get up at 7am, so we are feeding at 10, 1, 4 and 7. Instead of waiting to feed again at 10pm, we do a "cluster feed" and give them bottles again at 9pm before putting them to bed. And if the feeds are at 2, 5 and 8, then we do the 5pm feed and cluster feed at 7 and 9. And sometimes our schedule ends up being 3, 6 and 9pm, which works out perfectly.

Bottle propping babies! 
The new bath and work schedule also helps, because I don't have to stress out about my deadlines as much knowing I'll have two dedicated days to get them done during the week. And on Sunday and Tuesday nights, when we don't have the night nanny (she comes Monday, Wednesday and Thursday), my mom and step-dad stay the night and take over the feeds so we can get extra sleep. It was a great thing for us to realize that we can take charge of this situation and adapt it to work to our needs. And we didn't have to sacrifice every waking minute, we just had to figure out a new way to get things done.

So the new plan started yesterday and so far it's been working like a dream. I'll be sure to update on here how it's going and if we've hit success or not. But speaking of dreams, I better get to 'em. Bed is calling my name. More from quadville later this week!

10 comments:

  1. Awe...you'll are doing and awesome job, those babies are so blessed to have such wonderful parents! Oh and by the way, they are just so precious...love the look Harrison is giving while you are bathing him, he's like.....really? I'm getting a bath! Sssoo cute! They all are and just enjoy every minute, every stage as much as possible.....yea! to the grand parents too, I know I would be eating that time up! Love me some grand babies! A friend in East Texas, Pam.

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  2. I found a link for the milk maid. I saw them being used on another quad blog a while back. Here's the link
    http://www.greatbabyproducts.com/Milk-Maid-Baby-Bottle-Holder-p/prod-mm220.htm

    The babies are growing so fast. I hope the new plan is working out.

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  3. I hope your new schedule works out, I am suprised it took this long for you to shed a few tears,your Mom is the greatest sending you to the camper for some much needed rest.
    Now this Grandma knows what those stuffed animals are laying atop the babies;) Thanks
    Love the picture of Miss Trystan, they all are so cute.
    Continued Prayers and Happiness

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  4. Having my ONE little baby can be so challenging, so I absolutely love to read about how ya'll are "surviving" with four! Hats off to you my friend! I totally agree with changing the routine and how things are done as babies grow and change! You're doing an excellent job!

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  5. I enjoyed reading this post Amber! thank you for sharing :) they are just so cute!

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  6. So happy that the new schedule is working out for y'all! You are doing an amazing job, Amber. I've said it before, but I can't imagine having quads as your first children. Sometimes I feel like certain things were harder with Ella because of being a new mom. Y'all are rockstars! And I can not believe how big the babies are getting! It's amazing how fast they grow. I can't wait until we can have a play date, I'm hoping you don't move before we get a chance!

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  7. wow yall are awesome the way you have it all worked out....most families have a hard time keeping one baby on schedule...you have 4 and look at what a great job your doing...

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  8. This was a good post for me to read having our four all home now. In fact, George will be reading it today. It is all about just doing what works with quads! This morning we decided to start a bath schedule rotating boys and girls on alternating days and we've been tandem feeding two on a pillow in our lap. When they have better head control, bottle props it is! Whatever works! Quad parents have to maintain a bit of sanity however possible. You and Mike are doing a fantastic job! Bear Hugs! Amber

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  9. Glad to hear you found a schedule/system that seems to work.
    They're getting cuter by the day. ;o)

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  10. This post is so helpful!! We are sitting down and getting a schedule worked up this weekend, and I know we will use some of your ideas. We still only have 3 home due to our 4th having a feeding intolerance, but she will be home this week!!

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