EMMA, 31, AND MARTIN, 39, WERE DELIGHTED TO DISCOVER THEY WERE EXPECTING WHAT THEY THOUGHT WOULD BE THEIR SECOND BABY.
BUT AFTER A ROUTINE SCAN THEY WERE STUNNED TO DISCOVER EMMA HAD CONCEIVED QUADRUPLETS NATURALLY AT ODDS OF 750,000-TO-ONE!
I wouldn’t abort my quads
SHE WAS ADVISED AGAIN AND AGAIN TO TERMINATE TWO OF HER BABIES TO GIVE THE OTHERS A BETTER CHANCE OF SURVIVAL.
BUT THE BRAVE MUM HAD NO INTENTION OF SACRIFICING ANY OF THEM AND REFUSED. NOW SHE HAS PROOF THAT HER INSTINCT WAS RIGHT – FOUR HAPPY, HEALTHY AND UTTERLY ADORABLE ONE-YEAR-OLDS.
THE BABIES WERE EVEN BORN ON FEBRUARY 29 – A LEAP YEAR – MEANING THEY ONLY CELEBRATE THEIR TRUE BIRTHDAY ONCE EVERY FOUR YEARS, AT ODDS OF 3.5MILLION-TO-ONE!
As the sonographer squirted cold jelly on my tummy and moved the cursor across it, she fell silent.
I looked at my husband, Martin, 39, and panic swept across me.
I wondered if she was struggling to detect a heartbeat and dreaded hearing bad news.
‘Do twins run in the family?’ she asked, turning the monitor to face us.
I breathed a sigh of relief and gazed at the fuzzy black-and-white image on the screen.
A smile crept across her face, ‘There’s not just one heartbeat… I think I can hear four,’ she said.
‘Four?’ I gasped. Martin’s jaw dropped.
We had joked we might be expecting twins as my bulging bump was bursting out of my clothes already, but never in a million years had we imagined having QUADRUPLETS!
I had got the dates wrong too, at only ten weeks gone my tummy was so round.
The sonographer slowly moved the scanner, showing us three amniotic sacs and counting the babies one by one – explaining she could see one baby in two of the sacs and two – twins – in the third.
Before we had the chance to ask any questions, she disappeared to fetch doctors just to be sure.
Martin and I were left staring at each other dumbfounded, but he squeezed my hand in reassurance.
Hoping to add to our little family, with a brother or sister for our son Luke, now three, we never in our wildest dreams imagined having so many babies at once.
Three medics joined us and asked if we had had an ‘assisted’ pregnancy – using IVF treatment – or whether we had taken any fertility medicine.
Having done neither, it was hard to believe we had conceived quads naturally – especially at odds of 750,000 to one!
Suddenly we were being catapulted from a tiny family of three to a brood of seven.
We left the hospital in shock and as we walked to the bus stop hand-in-hand, I couldn’t help but worry.
‘What are we going to do?’ I asked Martin, thoughts whirling around my head.
‘I don’t know,’ he admitted, ‘but whatever happens, we’ll be ok.’
We weren’t prepared, with no car and living in a tiny two-bedroom house, it seemed as if there was no way we would be able to squeeze four more little people into our lives.
As well as space, there was money to think about. How on earth would be able to afford to look after so many babies?
We spent a fortnight agonising over what to do.
But after lots of research about multiple birth pregnancies, we reached a decision – we would cope whatever the outcome.
Glued to my laptop looking up multiple births, I knew I would be risking my own health continuing and that there was a chance I might develop pre-eclampsia – dangerously high blood pressure which can lead to life-threatening seizures.
Complications including miscarriage, premature birth, low birth weight, cerebral palsy and death were also high, but we both agreed our quads deserved a chance.
Despite the astronomical odds against it, this had happened to us. So it seemed only right to let nature take it’s course.
Unable to keep our excitement to ourselves, we confided in our closest family members – my dad, Colin, 70, and Martin’s mum, Liz, 64.
Their reaction was priceless.
‘We’ve having quadruplets,’ I announced over-the-phone nervously.
Dad almost dropped the handset in shock.
‘You’re pulling my leg!’ he said stunned before bursting into a nervous laughed. It took a while for it to sink in.
Two weeks later, at our 12-week scan at St Michael’s Hospital in Bristol, the consultant congratulated us before talking us through our options.
‘You could terminate the pregnancy, reduce the pregnancy by terminating some of the embryos, or carry on and see what happens,’ he said.
Instinctively I clutched my already-showing bump. An overwhelming sense of love rushed through me.
‘We’re keeping all four,’ I whispered, finally one hundred per cent sure it was the right thing to do.
But my decision was rocked just minutes later when I had another scan.
‘It looks like one of the sacs has come away,’ we were told gently.
‘What do you mean exactly?’ I snapped.
‘It seems as if one of the babies hasn’t made it,’ he said.
My body went numb and tears streamed down my cheeks.
I knew losing one or more of the babies was a possibility, but I hadn’t considered it might actually happen.
The shock of it made me realise just how attached I was to our tiny little miracles already.
‘Oh, I’m really sorry I think I’ve made a mistake,’ the sonographer said, stopping suddenly. ‘Here’s the fourth baby and it has a heartbeat.’
An overwhelming sense of relief washed over me.
I knew I had to do all I could to bring four healthy babies into the world.
Even though we had made our minds up, each time I went to the hospital we were warned about the risks and asked to consider aborting the twins to save the other two babies.
But I knew that every time I looked at my surviving babies I’d also be thinking about the ones I’d lost. The thought of it broke my heart.
Suffering from severe morning sickness from the moment I woke up to the time I went back to bed, it was all I could do to drag myself to work.
I could barely keep my eyes open as I sat at my desk and often went for a ten-minute lie down.
I grazed on cream crackers, dried apricots and sipped ginger beer to keep the sickness and bay and just about managed to soldier on.
‘Look between the baby’s legs,’ the consultant giggled during the 14-week scan.
There was no doubting we were having at least one boy, but we couldn’t tell the sex of the others just yet.
It wasn’t until a fortnight later, we discovered we weren’t just having the one boy – but four!
After seeing the outlines of each of them on the screen, we started to think of them individually and contemplated names.
I tried to carry on as normal, but I was constantly so drained and in January, 2012, I was signed off work and told I needed complete bed rest.
I spent seven weeks laying on my side, only ever getting up to go to the loo. The boys were kicking constantly and I struggled to breathe.
Two months before my due date, I went into labour.
Reuben was the first of the quads to be delivered by caesarean section, weighing 2lb 14oz, followed by Zachary, 2lb 8oz, and his twin Joshua, 3lb 1oz, and finally Samuel, 2lb 13oz.
Every time the surgeon plucked a baby from my tummy I could hear, ‘Ah hello!’ and I felt a wave of happiness surge through me.
They arrived on 29 February, 2012 – a leap year – so will celebrate their true birthday only once every four years, at meteoric odds of 3.5 million to one!
When I was finally able to cradle their fragile bodies in my arms, I felt like the luckiest woman alive.
After two months in hospital, the boys were strong enough to be taken home.
And over the past year, Martin and I have embraced parenthood on an epic scale.
Each night the babies would wake up one after the other and start screaming.
We had to transform the lounge into a nursery and Martin and I took it in turns to sleep down there.
With four breastfeeds to organise every four hours, day and night, as well as bottles, 30 nappy changes and endless baths, life was exhausting.
And as the boys got bigger, so did the challenges – all sat in their four-seater buggy it weighs ten stone, so pushing proves a serious workout.
Our household bills have trebled since the quads arrived to £150-a-week and the boys get through 300 nappies a fortnight.
We operate on a strict schedule, planning meals, naps, bottle-feeds and playtime – it’s a military exercise.
But watching as Luke helped his little brothers tear wrapping paper and open their presents – blankets, a tent, a rocking snail and plastic musical instruments – we couldn’t be any prouder of all of our boys.
Each of them has their own personality. Zach is jolly and easy-going, Sammy sweet and sensitive, Reu is a bully – if one of them has a toy he always wants it and Josh is the boss, the naughty one who learns everything fast.
Luke is a very patient big brother and dotes on all four of the boys.
I could never have imagined having five children, let alone having quads, but now, I can’t imagine life without a single one of them. They are my everything.