MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Wednesday, October 2nd. So glad you’ve joined us today! Good morning. I’m Mary Reichard.
NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. Coming next on The World and Everything in It: multiple births.
The number of moms giving birth to multiples in this country is increasing, and has been for decades now. That’s due in large part to the increase in fertility treatments.
REICHARD: Of course, pregnancies with more babies carry higher risks, but parents of multiples will tell you there are plenty of rewards, too. Today, Katie Gaultney brings us the story of a couple who learned earlier this year they were expecting quadruplets. They told us what they think the road ahead looks like now that the babies are here.
SMITH: We’re scrubbing up!
KATIE GAULTNEY, REPORTER: New babies require special handling. But the Smith baby girls are… extra special.
SMITH: So you got a little sponge scrubber dealie…
Lance Smith is a proud new daddy. He and his wife, Kelli, visit their daughters daily.
SMITH: . . . Pretty much up to the elbows is what they recommend.
The “scrubbing in” station is one short, fluorescent-lit hallway away from their girls’ large hospital suite, which they’ve dubbed “the penthouse.” Inside the dim room, a nurse is trying to get one of the babies to take deeper breaths.
NURSE: So I just put this little towel roll behind her neck so it opens up her airway a little bit…
Machines alarm, and heavy medical equipment surrounds every bassinet. But the room has some charm.
SMITH: We have a lot of really cute signs that the nurses have made for us. Um, a lot of them are like handprints and footprints of the girls or they say, you know, happy two months, or we have one that says, “Be still and know that I am God,” Psalm 46:10…
Lance and Kelli’s daughters were born May 26th at 26 weeks. They’ve been in the NICU ever since, and Kelli was on bedrest in the hospital for a month before that. The Smiths struggled to conceive and did three rounds of IUI, a fertility treatment.
SMITH: I’ve heard a couple of people who said, “So do quadruplets run in your family?” And I’m like, “No. So quadruplets don’t really run in anyone’s family, but I mean it’s okay to ask…” (laughs)
The first two rounds of treatments didn’t result in pregnancy. So when they learned in their doctor’s office they’d be having four babies instead of one, they were shocked.
SMITH: Lance went into provider mode and you know, bigger house and a car that fits four car seats. And yeah, I went into, oh my gosh, how am I going to carry these babies?
The quadruplets were born more than three months early. Four daughters. The littlest one, weighing just 11 ounces, died a few minutes after birth. Her parents got to hold her while she was still alive, pray with her, and admire her. They named her Mikayla Grace.
SMITH: You know…it’s, she’s breathing in heavenly air now and she’s not in pain. She’s not suffering, but they were just, yeah, it’s hard…
They’re struggling to reconcile the grief of losing a child with the joy of having three more. And it’s hard to know whether to say their living daughters are triplets or quadruplets.
SMITH: Like upfront when you sign in, it says the patient name and we would say “Smith triplets.” And the first time I wrote that it felt wrong. And I always felt like I had to explain to people, “But we had four,” you know, just to honor Mikayla.
The emotions are complicated. But their family and church are providing support amid the rollercoaster moments. And spending time with their three surviving babies helps, too.
SMITH: Shh… It’s okay, it’s okay, there you go.
The girls—Talley, Emberly, and Addison—are now three weeks past their original due date. And their uniqueness is already evident. Addison is their feisty one, a little colicky.
SMITH: … Usually she’s crying like crazy…
Emberly needs the most medical care, and Kelli and Lance say she’s making great progress.
SMITH: And she’ll have another procedure where, um, it’s to help with reflux. It’ll be a big surgery, but…
And then there’s Talley.
SMITH: (baby talk) What do you see, Talley girl? [baby grunts] Yeah, their little baby noises are so sweet.
Talley is the biggest of their girls. Lance and Kelli say she’s the calmest baby ever. She was on C-PAP for a couple months after she was born to support her breathing. Once she came off of it, her parents and the medical staff could finally see her bright, almond-shaped eyes, button nose and big cheeks. But those same features made their pediatrician suspect something else.
SMITH: I came in one day and it was just a regular day and she said, “So I wanted to know if you’ve ever heard of trisomy 21.” And, um, I said, “Well, yeah, that’s Down Syndrome, right?” And then it kind of just hit me that she was talking about my baby…
Genetic testing confirmed the doctor’s suspicions: Talley has Down Syndrome. After so many ups and downs with the tough pregnancy, the loss of Mikayla, and a long hospital stay, the news was hard to take. But the same doctor who delivered the diagnosis gave them spiritual comfort.
SMITH: She was just explaining to me that God knew that Talley would have this diagnosis and God knew that we were going to be her parents. And then none of it is surprising and that none of it is, um, anything that we can’t handle if we rely upon God.
Lance is an accountant, and right away he started calculating what this diagnosis might mean. He worried Talley wouldn’t bond with her sisters. Or what if she was teased at school? But Talley has already defied expectations, showing strong muscle tone, good heart health, and steady weight gain. She was the first to come off respiratory support and breathe room air.
SMITH: I think the number one thing that helps me come to terms with it, it’s like seeing how happy she is out of the three. And so I’ve kind of said in my mind like, “If she, if she’s happy, then I’m happy.”
The Smiths know they have a long road ahead. Talley and Addison may come home in a couple weeks. But Emberly has more medical hurdles to clear, so she’ll stay in the NICU. Kelli’s training as a Christian counselor serves them well as they face unknowns.
SMITH: The phrase “one day at a time” has never been so true as it has been in this NICU experience.
Lance and Kelli say they have to actively practice setting their desire to control aside and trust in God’s good plan as it unfolds.
SMITH: “It’s out of my control,” which is scary, but, “It’s out of my control,” which is comforting at the same time, right? Like God, the Creator of the universe has this in his hands and there’s such peace in that…
For WORLD Radio, I’m Katie Gaultney reporting from Dallas, Texas.