7 weeks old

Time is flying by here in the Madison NICU. The V-5 are now 7 weeks old, and a corrected gestational age of 36 weeks, or 9 months.

Our family has been very busy the last few weeks. The quints spend their days learning to eat by mouth, snoozing and growing. They are all approaching the 10th percentile for weight-for-age with an increasing trajectory. The ladies and Theo are at or near 5lbs:

Bella is
Bella is 5lbs 1oz
Lily is
Lily is 4lbs 15.5oz
Kali is 4lbs 14oz
Kali is 4lbs 14oz
Ellie is
Ellie is 4lbs 10oz
Theo is
Theo is 5lbs 3oz!

We are so excited to watch their progress as they learn how to take a bottle and breastfeed. Theo takes the cake…literally, for being the bottle and breastfeeding champ! We are fairly certain that if we let him, he would chug his bottle down in 3 seconds flat. The ladies are also progressing in their pre-feeding and feeding skills. Lily is by far the most interested, followed closely by Bella. Ellie and Kali are still quite content with having their food trickle into their bellies.  The quints have to be able to meet 80% or more of their nutritional needs by mouth before they can have their feeding tubes pulled. They also have to be able to sustain their weight and continue to grow appropriately on p.o. (by mouth) feeds before they can come home.

There are other goals that they must meet prior to coming home. They must outgrow their apnea and bradycardia of prematurity, or their “A’s and B’s”. Currently, they are all attached to monitors that measure their heart and respiration rates, as well as, their oxygen saturation. All of the kids continue to have moments when their heart rates drop (bradycardia) and their respiration rates continue to fluctuate. The only quint that is truly struggling with this task is Kali.

Daddy and his Kali Monkey
Daddy and his Kali Monkey

The medical team has assured us that this is due to her GERD (Gastrointestinal Esophageal Reflux Disease) and not lung or heart disease. We did find out via an ECHO last week that Kali does have a small PDA (Patent ductus arteriosis) and a muscular Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD), but again they have told us that these are unrelated to her difficulties maintaining her oxygen saturation and that both will close as she ages.

The quints have successfully accomplished the third task required for coming home- maintaining their temperatures outside of the isolette. All of V-wall 5 are in cribs! Ellie and Theo have larger cribs because they are in a larger room. The other ladies are in smaller tub-like cribs. Nevertheless, they are champs at regulating their temperature. This means they can come out to play more often!!

Bella with Uncle JD
Bella with Uncle JD
Grandpa T and Lily Bug
Grandpa T and Lily Bug
Whispering Sisters (Bella & Lily)
Whispering Sisters (Bella & Lily)

Daddy and Mommy have been busy, too. We have been finishing up their nursery with all five cribs, sorting and color-coding outfits and blankies, and cleaning and child-proofing the house. We also recently bought a 2012 Honda Odyssey from Zimbrick Honda, here in Madison. They were fantastic and met us at our price-point. We are very happy with our baby mobile; complete with 8 seats, and five of which have a LATCH for car-seat safety.  Many thanks to Justin and the Gurnee Police Department for helping us to install our seats!


It will still be a few more weeks before anyone comes home for the reasons mentioned above. Ellie and Theo will have their bowel surgeries, anastomosis, the first week in October and then will have to stay in the hospital until they heal and can eat normally again. While we wait to welcome our five little miracles home, we spend our days at the NICU doing what we can to support their growth and development.




The V-7 were reunited this past week. On Sunday, Theo and I landed in Madison after an uneventful flight. Theo was a champ and slept most of the way.

Theo is happy to be home
Theo is happy to be home sporting his new do!

It was quite emotional to walk into the Madison NICU and realize that we were all here, and here to stay. I just stood for a brief moment at the entry way and could see all of the entrances to their rooms and my husband standing right in the middle. My mind took me home to when some day soon I would be able to stand in the hallway and peer into their nursery and do this exact same thing. Needless to say, many happy tears followed.

Our 6-seater table from the wonderful Tille family featuring new stuffed animals from Grandpa T

The following day, our family joined us for the reunion on Labor Day. We also were welcomed by NBC, ABC and Fox/CBS who helped to capture this exciting event for our family, but also for the city of Madison as we are the first quints to reside here. Our interviews with NBC and ABC are featured below:

The remainder of the week has truly flown by. The V-5 celebrated 1 month on Tuesday and in the NICU this celebration includes a battery of tests. All of our kiddos had repeat head ultrasounds and eye examinations to assess their eyes’ maturity, and to rule out retinopathy of prematurity (ROP). Also, Bella had an echocardiogram to investigate her persistent murmur. All of the quints have murmurs, but we now know that Bella does not have a PDA, Patent Ductus Arteriosis. Theo also had an examination of his intestines to see if they could begin refeeding and wake up his large intestine, just like his little sister, Ellie.

All of the tests brought reassuring news, except for one. Our little Lily Bug had minor PVL, which is Periventricular Leukomalacia. The good news is that her grade 2 brain bleed is resolving and healing, but this new finding of PVL was disheartening. PVL is an injury in the brain that affects the white-matter neurons. Infants with PVL most often display deficits related to motor control (movement), developmental delay and are at a greater risk of cerebral palsy and epilepsy later in life. Only time will tell if our little Lillian will face further challenges.

Lily and Daddy Enjoying K-Care
Lily and Daddy Enjoying K-Care

All of our little miracles are now a corrected gestational age of 34 weeks, which means we get to truly start focusing on feeding and growing. Enter this excited Mama who cannot wait to begin truly breastfeeding. No offense to my trusty pump, but nothing beats nuzzling with your babies. The next few weeks will help us to further assess Lily’s potential for feeding and motor issues, as well as, reveal our kiddos’ abilities to suck, swallow and breathe- a touch task for preemies.

bouncy seats

It has been quite a busy week, but overall the Vanderwall family is over-joyed to be reunited. We are forever indebted and grateful for the all of the new and donated items that awaited ua at our home. I have had so much fun going through all of the items, organizing and partaking in some long-overdue nesting. So, thank you once again from the bottom of our hearts for all of the love, support, financial contributions and gifts that we have received. I can confidently say that the quints now have everything they need for when they arrive home. The only remaining item is a way to get them home. Next up on the to-do list…the V-7 mobile, or perhaps we’ll give new meaning to a VW bus!