One Happy Family

The V-7 is one happy family! After one week of having the quints home, reality has settled in and it truly feels like we are one big family. There have certainly been some trying moments in the last week, but overall we are amazed at how well the children have adjusted to being at home. They slipped right into our “care” schedule, are getting to be more comfortable in their cribs, and their feeding skills are drastically improving.

Baby Pinwheel: Lily (Green), Theo (Blue), Ellie (White & Pink), Kali (Yellow), Bella (Pink)

Baby Pinwheel: Lily (Green), Theo (Blue), Ellie (White & Pink), Kali (Yellow), Bella (Pink)

 

We have made several trips to their primary doctor for weight checks. Their growth is a primary concern upon discharge and thus remains a primary goal in the outpatient setting. Often times their weights will be checked every few days, but more often one time per week. All of the quints are growing somewhere between 15 to 30 grams per day, which is an appropriate growth velocity for their age. The higher end is almost an ounce per day. We are excited to see them tracking on their growth curves. Often times, we are not sure where they are packing away the pounds, but when it comes to Theo we are positive its building that melon head and that Bella is tucking it away in her sweet cheeks.

This week has also been quite busy socially! The quints have met their great Grandpa and Grandma, great Aunts, and cousins.

Beautiful Family

Beautiful Family

Love from Aunt Debbie. I think she's done this before.

Love from Aunt Debbie. I think she’s done this before.

Love from Aunt Darla

Love from Aunt Darla

Theo & Grandma Vanderwall

Theo & Grandma Vanderwall

It is such a pleasure to see all of the love these little kiddies are getting. It makes for one happy family!

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Hail, Hail, The Gang’s All Here

On Saturday, October 20, we welcomed home the last, but certainly not least, of the V-5- Lillian Grace. It was a very happy homecoming and exciting to know that we are beginning the next chapter of our family’s life together.  We are truly overjoyed every time we look to our living to room to see all of the bouncy seats, previously filled with their teddy bears, now filled with our beautiful children; It is quite a surreal moment.

The picture of all 5 Quints together in the same frame!

The first picture of all 5 quints together in the same frame! From left to right: Bella, Theo, Ellie, Kali, Lily.

It has been quite the past few weeks getting everything ready around the house for all the little ones and finally transporting them home. Here’s a quick look at how it all went down:

Mommy and Daddy build the babies a beautiful new nursery.

Mommy and Daddy build the V5 a beautiful new nursery

Bella prays to Jesus, asking him to bring her and her brother and all her sisters home.

Bella prays to Jesus, asking Him to bring her, her brother, and all her sisters home very soon

v5 Diplomas

Bella’s prayers are answered and NICU diplomas for all five babies appear on the counter of the nurse’s station

Then, Kali and Ellie join him.

One by one, the quints pass their car seat test and are cleared to go home from the hospital

Now the dishwasher is full of bottles...

Now, the dishwasher at the Vanderwall residence is always filled with baby bottles…

Mommy and Lily

and mommy and daddy's arms are full of babies. The end.

and mommy & daddy’s arms are always filled with babies

Indeed, getting the opportunity to be with the quints 24/7 has opened our eyes to their little quirks and deepened our understanding of their budding personalities. There were some assumptions we made about these little ones early on, which are proving to be a bit off, and some that were and still are spot on. Here’s the latest update on each of the quints, in the order they appear in the group photo above.

Isabella Marie

Our Sleeping Beauty, would much rather spend her day catching some zzzz’s than anything else. She is a tough one to arouse, which is good and bad. It’s a struggle at meal times, but a joy when everyone is wound up and she is just relaxing. But, when she does wake up and join the party she can be quite the happy little girl.

Bella Beauty

Sleeping Bella

Bella Role Call

Excitable Bella

Theodore Joseph

Tutti Frutti, leads this Barnyard bunch in their animal chorus with his manly toots. Theo is definitely a little boy, but also our little cutie. He has the most precious face, and loves to lock eyes with you. He continues to be a champ when it comes to downing milk and apparently has shared this skill with his sisters because their feeding skills are getting much better.

Theo 2

Looks like our cute Mr. Tutti has something brewing

Theo is home 3

Theo passed out after one of his trademark high-volume feedings

Elliott Rose

Ellie has earned the nickname, “Cray Cray” for her recent frantic antics. Our experience living near Cabrini Green tells us this little one is proving to be quite the little gangster, rolling around the west-side of Madison with her hat pulled up, or down, and we swear she’s throwing signs, too. She also is learning how to play her parents and can turn on and off the tears like a light switch. She is still our little doll face, but definitely not the saving grace we thought she would be. She is our feisty little peanut.

Quintessential Ellie

Quintessential Ellie

Ellie be rollin

Ellie is dancing to the beat of her own drum

Kali Mae

Our little screecher monkey, still can hit the high “C” with the best of them. But, she has proven to be more mild mannered than we thought and is turning into a fair self soother. She still has the most definitive features with her dark, thick hair and darker complexion. She also has a smile that can melt anyone’s heart.

Sleepy time Kali

Sleepy time Kali

Kali

Kali Mae will make you an offer you can’t refuse

Lillian Grace

Our silly Lily, tends to still be our quiet observer. During her alert times of day, she will sit and just look around for hours. She also loves to be spoken to, and truly appears to be listening empathetically.  I often think she will be a counselor one day due to these budding listening skills. She is also our silly one with the most adorable smile. She will smile in any circumstance, which is a wonderful reminder to smile, too.

The alert lil' Lily Bug

Our alert lil’ Lily Bug

"Tell me more," says Lily.

“Tell me more,” says Lily.

We are cherishing each and every moment with these little ones. Now that we are all home we are excited for our family time spent reading books, checking out black and white baby flash cards and laughing our way through the feeding frenzy which comes around every 2-3 hours. It’s a riot!

The Race Home

Stork-with-Blue-BlanketThe quints are one week from being full-term babies and the race is on! Bets have been placed by many on their healthcare team as to who will make it home first.

This past week has provided some challenges on their road home, including getting their 2-month vaccinations, which included:

The doctors warned us that the kids may not be themselves for about 24 hours after the vaccinations and they were right. The most common symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Pain at the injection site
  • Poor appetite
  • Fatigue/Sleepiness
  • Increased Spells
  • Periodic breathing

Everyone spiked a fever and ended up sweating through their clothes. Their appetites were not the best the following day either due to them being a bit sleepier. Honestly, the best way to describe it is that all of their “issues” from a few weeks back, reared their ugly heads.

Silly Kali Mae who may be one part screecher monkey and another part parakeet.

Silly Kali Mae who may be one part screecher monkey and another part parakeet.

For example, Kali who tends to “bear down,” meaning to grunt to either pass gas, poop, or protect her airway from reflux, was doing so much more often. When she bears down she often forgets to breathe… she isn’t the best multi-tasker, yet. The frequent bearing down led to poor respiration and thus desaturation (decreased oxygen in her blood) where she had to be put back on her nasal cannula to receive extra air flow. Luckily, she only had to remain on it for 24 hours. The unfortunate news is that because she had this “Spell” she got 5 days tacked on to her stay before she can be discharged. So, Ms. Kali’s discharge is now projected for October 15th.

Lillian Grace playing peek-a-boo when she is supposed to be snoozing.

Lillian Grace playing peek-a-boo when she is supposed to be snoozing.

Lily and Bella are now focusing primarily on waking up and staying alert enough to eat by mouth. These two are the last with their feeding tubes. They are currently meeting 50% of their nutritional needs by mouth and need to get to 80% before they can consider sending them home.

Bella who somehow has a striking resemblance to Dwight Schrute from the Office in this photo.

Bella who somehow has a striking resemblance to Dwight Schrute from the Office in this photo.

So, that leaves Mr. Theo and Ms. Elliott who have been favored by Frank and I to win the race home for some time. These two, despite their bowel surgeries, will most likely be the first ones home and arriving via stork, or Honda Odyssey, this weekend!

Mr. Theo snug as a bug in his sleep sack.

Mr. Theo snug as a bug in his sleep sack.

Our little doll face, Elliott Rose.

Our little doll face, Elliott Rose.

In other news, Frank and I are doing well. We are so excited that our NICU journey is coming to an end, and are more than ready to start the next chapter at home! Frank is coming out of his busy season at work and is planning on taking some time off as the kids trickle home.

image_2

I am excited to have him home, so we can establish what life will look- aka a routine- as a family. I am also excited to share that I have returned to my pre-pregnancy weight. I share this for three reasons:

  • One, I believe it is a testament to good nutrition and regular exercise (just practicing what I preach),
  • Two, it is clear to me that weight truly is just a number because my body is definitely not what it was before in terms of composition therefore, operation “rebuild your temple, based on I Corinthians 6:19-20), remains in full swing, and
  • Three, because it has opened my eyes to a whole new population of people I want to empower for better health- Moms!

We also wanted to share with those who were praying for our insurance appeal that we had our grievance hearing. Unfortunately, the committee decided to uphold their decision to deny payment of our perinatal care in Arizona. We would appreciate continued prayer for this journey as we trudge on to the next level. It has become a moral battle of proving the value of life. We are now fighting for more than just our five miracles, and feel as though we have the opportunity to speak for parents who were encouraged to consider multi-fetal reduction and may have moved ahead with those decisions, and thus had to grieve those losses. We also will not back down because we believe in the importance of having a choice in healthcare, and speak for those who may have thought at one point they had no other choice but to give in, or to give up. Most importantly, we also speak for all of the children who did not get a chance at life. We are fired up and ready, so please pray that the committee in this next round would be more open to our appeal.

As always, we thank you for your well wishes, prayers and support. Please know you are a valued citizen of the village that is helping to raise the V-5!

The V-5 are 2 months old!

The V-5 are 2 months old today!

At these monthly milestones, I look back and truly cannot believe all that we have experienced in the last 2 months. It seems like just yesterday that I was trying to figure out how to change the diaper of a 2lb baby in an isolette without lifting them, while being blinded by their “bili light.” Today, I can walk right up to their crib, move a few cords, and lift them up to comfort them. I am eager for the day for them to come home where we can snuggle gown, glove and cord free!

It is also amazing to watch them grow and develop. We knew at birth that they had defining characteristics, but with each day they look more and more different. We thought we would share this growth one-by-one.

Big Brother Theo

TheoSmileyFrog

Theodore Joseph

Theodore Joseph

Theo keepin' it real

Theo keepin’ it real

Theo celebrated his 2-month birthday with a celebratory surgery. He had his reanastomosis today where they reconnected his ileum, or the lowest portion of his small intestine. His surgery went very well and they are planning to extubate him in the next 24 hours. He had his spontaneous bowel perforation on day 3 of life, so we were very happy to say goodbye to the smelly ostomy bags today. Now, at 6lbs and 7oz this little boy is a fantastic eater and we have no doubt that once he is recovered from his procedure he is in the running to be the first or second one home.

Big Sister Bella

Isabella2

Isabella Marie

Isabella Marie

Kung-Fu Bella

Kung-Fu Bella

Isabella has been our rock with no significant issues from day one. She has become the sleepy one of the bunch, nicknamed Sleeping Bella, aka Sleeping Beauty, and has maintained her quiet personality. She is learning how to eat by mouth and is a champ when it comes to taking a bottle. Breastfeeding is not her forte partially because she’s a biter- not fun. This little beauty is now weighing in at 5lbs and 14oz and leads the girlies in size. A few of the nurses bet that she will be the first one home.

Ms. Lillian Grace

Lillian1

Lillian Grace

Lillian Grace

Lily's Trademark Smirk

Lily’s Trademark Smirk

Little Lily continues to amaze us with her resiliency. We have had many scares following her grade 2 IVH with surrounding PVL, but she has showed no signs that this is hindering her development. She is one of the stronger eaters in the bunch and her growth has also been stable. She now weighs 5lbs and 13oz.

Kali-Mae

Kali

Kali Mae

Kali Mae

Kali's impression of Derek Zoolander

Kali’s impression of Derek Zoolander

This little monkey maintains her feisty personality. She has been struggling with GER the last several weeks, and is now on a formula for spit-ups. It was quite difficult to see this happen, since breast milk has so many benefits. But, when I see how much better she feels and looks, I know it was the right choice. We are hoping that she will quickly grow out of it and be back on mommy’s milk soon. Kali is on the smaller size, but is holding her own with the other ladies in the room at 5lbs and 12 oz.

Baby Ellie

Elliott2

Elliott Rose

Elliott Rose

Our little Peanut

Our little Peanut

Our little Princess Ellie also celebrated her 2-month birthday with a reanastamosis. She had her jejunum reconnected and was able to be extubated today. It was wonderful to see her breathing on her own and even smiling after they removed the tube. She truly is a tough cookie. Her tolerance for pain and her ability to self-soothe are amazing. We have no doubt that this was only a speed bump on her journey home. She is our little peanut at 5lbs and 7oz, but keeps pace with Theo in the eating department and definitely may beat the other girls home.

We are so grateful for the continued well wishes and prayers for the V-5. Hopefully, in another month we will be snapping these photos from the comfort of our own home!