Looking Back at Theodore Joseph

Another year has passed and it is time to take a look back at each one of the Vanderwall-5. Starting with big brother, Mr. Theodore Joseph!

Mr. Theo is the most well-spoken, genuine and loving three-year-old. His brilliance and considerate-nature often leave me speechless. If he catches you staring off into space, he will kindly ask you what you are thinking about with honest interest. The little guy is truly a sponge; you only have to tell him once and he will remember it. He also enjoys quizzing others to be sure they know, too. It is adorable to catch him teaching his sisters- not only- their abcs and phonics, but all manners.

He is an even keel little fellow, but when he gets excited watch out he will transform into a T-Rex (Theo Rex)! His favorites have also remained the same over the years.

His Favorite Animal: Dog

His Favorite Stuffed Animal: Brown Bear

His Favorite Animated Character: Thomas the Tank Engine

His Favorite Shows: Super Simple ABC’s and Blues Clues “Alphabet Train”

His Favorite Food: Anything and Everything, but don’t stand between Theo and his veggies with hummus

His Favorite Activity: Snuggling while reading a book

Now, here’s a look back at Theo’s second year…

Theo at Two Years…

If you really want to turn back the clock, check out Theo’s First Year…

One Week Shy of 21 Months

The munchkins will be 21 months old in just 1 week and I wanted to capture how much they have changed with a few profile updates!

DSC02909Theodore Joseph

  • Nicknames: Theo, Mr. Theo, Buddy, lil Koala (he gives the best hugs!)
  • Favorite animal sounds: Woof Woof!
  • Favorite word/letter: Ooooo (must be a Wisconsin thing)
  • Favorite food: Banana (nana) or Cheese (Cheeeeez)
  • Favorite toys: Stuffed Bear and stuffed moose
  • Personality: Nana’s boy


Isabella Marie

  • Nicknames: Bella, Bella-Bean, Beanie
  • Favorite animal sounds: oo-oo ah-ah (Monkey)
  • Favorite word/letter: Is giggling a word?
  • Favorite food: Avocado
  • Favorite toys: Soft and cuddly toys (blankets, stuffed animals and even pipe cleaners)
  • Personality: Social butterfly


Lillian Grace

  • Nicknames: Lily, Lil, Lily-bug, Love-bug
  • Favorite animal sounds: Baa Baa (Sheep)
  • Favorite word/letter: Ma-Ma (Milk)
  • Favorite food: Milk and Meat
  • Favorite toys: Spoon and bowls (She loves to pretend that she is cooking)
  • Personality: Silly Lily


Kali Mae

  • Nicknames: K-Mae, Monkey, Monk
  • Favorite animal sounds: Meow (Cat)
  • Favorite word/letter: Kali has her own language and will babble all day to herself and imaginary friends
  • Favorite food: Kali is an equal opportunity employer and doesn’t appear to have a favorite
  • Favorite toys: Rubber bath toys
  • Personality: Daydream Believer

DSC02915Elliott Rose

  • Nicknames: Ellie, Ellie Rose,
  • Favorite animal sounds: Ney Ney (Horse)
  • Favorite word/letter: La-la-la (Ellie loves to sing)
  • Favorite food: Much like Kali, she loves a variety of foods
  • Favorite toys: Anything she can collect and organize (cups, blocks, dishes, animals, etc)
  • Personality: Independent Woman

T.I.K.L.E. at One Year

The stages of infancy fly by, often times I don’t recall specific days, but rather specific moments. It is these moments- these memories- that still give me goosebumps and have left footprints on my heart. Milestone stages at 3 months, 6 months and 12 months give me a reason to reminisce.

How do we spell love? T.I.K.L.E.

T is for Theodore

Theodore Joseph

T is for theo2

I is for Isabella

Isabella Marie

K is for Kali

L is for Lillian

Lillian Grace

L is for Lily

E is for Elliott

E is for Ellie


Another special thank you to Hayley for the beautiful photos that she took of our children at 3 and 12 months. She is a very talented photographer. Her talent and patience are divine!  Be sure to check back at her homepage for more Photos by Hayley.

The Quint’s First 2 Weeks

The quint’s first 2 weeks outside of Mama have been quite active. Frank and I have truly gotten a crash course in what it is like to be NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) parents. The highs are very high, the lows are very low, and often times they occur within minutes of eachother. We have been blessed with the time away from work to spend 8-12 hours everyday buzzing around the NICU watching nurses, taking part in our little ones’ care and meeting with the multidisciplinary team. Our most recent post announced the arrival of the V5 and told the story of our 24 hour honeymoon with five seemingly happy and healthy babies. After day 2 however,  the honeymoon was over.

Here is a summary of some of the medical trials and tribulations our quints have experienced in their first weeks:

  • Spontaneous Intestinal Perforation (SIP): Two of our little ones had bowel perforations within the first 3 days. Both required emergent surgery, which they handled well. One of the SIP’s may have been caused by NEC, which they found in surgery. The other occurred higher in the small intestine, and the informed us that this may result in a feeding intolerance later on.
  • Necrotizing Enterocolitis (NEC): NEC is one of the most common GI diseases in newborns and preemies. It is when the bowel does not get adequate blood flow (Ischemia) and begins to die (Necrotize). Early and aggressive treatment is imperative because it can result in dire consequences – NEC is the second leading cause of death in premature infants. The good news for our quints, is that they did identify it early and were able to remove the affected portion completely.
  • Gastritis versus Bleeding ulcer: Inflammation of the stomach wall and ulcers can be common as the immature digestive track is learning how to work. One of our little girls experienced this and as a result we found blood in her gastric residual. This appears to be resolving with the help of Zantac.
  • Spontaneous Lung Perforation: One of our quints got a hole in their lung, which required emergent chest tube placement. Luckily, this incident resolved quickly.
  • Complication of PICC: PICC lines, or Peripherally Inserted Central Catheters, generally have limited complications. So, yet another rare event for one of our girls where her PICC moved from her heart to near her shoulder. This resulted in infiltration into her subcutaneous tissues and ultimately her lung. She became very swollen as her upper body filled with fluid. But, this tough cookie fought it hard and it appears to have resolved rather quickly.
  • Grade 2 Intraventricular Hemorrhage (IVH): Infants born before 30 weeks are at the highest risk for brain bleeds. Grades 1 and 2 have similar outcomes and typically resolve within a month. They do cause an increased risk of developmental delay but not much more than from being a high order multiple. We continue to pray for the health of our little one diagnosed with a Grade 2 IVH.
  • Apnea and Bradycardia: Apnea is a pause in regular breathing lasting more than 20 seconds and bradycardia is a drop in the heart rate. All of our quints have experienced this at some point. “A’s and B’s” are typically caused by an immature nervous system. The good news is that all of our children are learning to pull themselves out of these events without stimulation (aka rubbing their backs).
  • Respiration machines: All of our little ones had to be intubated after day 2, which was expected. Unfortunately, one of their endotracheal (ET) tubes moved too low and collapsed their little lung. This has since resolved. All of them are continuing to advance through the variety of machines, but I thought it was noteworthy to introduce inquiring minds of the different types.
    • Intubation with an endotracheal tube (ET tube) with a ventilator
    • Intubation with an ET tube and continuous oscillation
    • RAM cannula with NIPPV (Nasal Intermittent Positive Pressure Ventilation)
    • Nasal Cannula on CPAP, Continuous Positive Airway Pressure
    • Nasal Cannula with higher concentration of oxygen than room air.

Needless to say, the first two weeks have been quite eventful. Although the events listed vary greatly in severity, it is difficult to watch our little ones experience any hardship. At the same time, it is certainly empowering to watch our children fight hard for life. Their resiliency is awe-inspiring! Today, we can say our little ones are collectively in the best health they have been since birth.  You will get to see and hear more about their progress and personalities in our posts over the next week or so.

Oh, and one more update for everyone. We learned that our insurance company has agreed to cover the quints birth and NICU stay for each of our children. They have also agreed to cover medical transport of our children back to a NICU in Madison once they are stable enough to bring back to Wisconsin. What an answer to prayer! We now are hoping that everyone will be healthy, and ready to be transported at the same time.

Thank you for praying along with us through both the euphoric highs and near-death lows on this wonderful roller-coaster of a journey,

Happy 3rd Trimester!

We have reached yet another milestone in this pregnancy! In just a few days we begin our 3rd trimester!

I did thisAlthough the third trimester often brings aches, pains, and discomfort from gaining half of your original body weight it also brings the joy of knowing that- for me- in 9 weeks or less, I will be holding each of these beautiful miracles!

24 weeks, or 6 months, is a critical milestone because it is the point in the pregnancy where doctors will consider your pregnancy viable, or in other words if you give birth after 24 weeks your doctor’s will help to save your babies. Therefore, from this point on the babies are coming, it’s just a matter of when.

The average gestation for quintuplets is 26-27 weeks, which for me would be in 1-2 weeks. However, my current perinatologist’s average for quint pregnancies is 33 weeks and 1 day, and of course my personal goal is 34 weeks! When it comes to high order multiples average just isn’t good enough.

So, how does this compare to a singleton pregnancy if we make it to 34 weeks? Well, being born at 34 weeks for 5 babies is about the same as being born at 30 weeks for 1 baby. According to all of the statistics, the risk of brain bleeds, respiratory distress, cerebral palsy, etc. all plummet at 28 weeks (you can read more about this in my previous post, entitled Visit to the High Risk Clinic).

Our outlook is pretty good. At my last doctor’s visit on Tuesday, I was informed that I might be able to stay out of the hospital for another 3-4 weeks. This was music to my ears because:

  1. Most make it another 4+ weeks after admission to the hospital before giving birth.
  2. Our pregnancy is stable enough for me to continue to enjoy the perks of living in a home.
  3. Hospital food doesn’t even come close to my mom’s delicious and nutritious cooking!

We also learned at our previous visit that all of the babies are growing at a similar rate now; they are all between the 60th-70th percentiles. My side of the family is known for making big babies, so we’ll see how this plays out. The only difference was that Baby B’s legs were much, much longer than everyone else’s. It looks like she takes after her Daddy and will be the speedy queen of the bunch. We also learned that everyone’s hearts, brains, kidneys and circulation look great!

The only concern from the visit was that Baby E’s umbilical cord did not insert centrally into her placenta, which is correlated with causing distress later in pregnancy. Right now, baby E is as playful as the rest, so my prayer is that her circulation stays strong. She has been the doctor’s concern since day one, so I know she is going to be our little fighter.

Baby E has got her dukes up!
Baby E has got her dukes up!

Now, for those that have bared with me to the end of yet another lengthy post, I plan to present to you the names of our five little miracles…with a bit of explanation of course in the next post!

Visit to the High Risk Clinic

Keep Calm and Choose Life

It has taken me over a week to process our first visit to the perinatal high-risk clinic. Frank and I went into the visit excited and prepared to askour long list of questions about how we can make this pregnancy the most successful it can be. We anticipated a thorough discussion on treatments, tests and procedures as well as detailed instructions for each trimester. Much to our dismay, this is not what occurred.

The visit started off wonderfully. We had our second ultrasound and had the opportunity to see all five of our blessings at appropriate lengths and with strong heartbeats. The ultrasound tech was amazing! She walked us through everything we were looking at for each of the fetuses. It was breath taking!

Frank and I were so encouraged after the ultrasound that we decided to launch our announcement and once again we were overwhelmed by the love and support from everyone! We don’t have words to describe how thankful we are!

We then headed over to the consultation room to meet our maternal and fetal medicine specialist and his fellow. Even within the first few minutes I sensed tension that you could have cut with a knife. The doctor also did not congratulate us, but hopped right into reviewing my medical history and highlighted each condition that put this pregnancy at risk. Then, he decided to transition to the stat list and read the probabilities for each of the chronic and acute disabilities and conditions. I made it halfway through the list and burst into tears. The fellow kindly stopped and was very apologetic. He just kept saying, “Oh no, Oh no… I’m so sorry.” I sensed his compassion at this point, but unfortunately the floodgates had already opened. The specialist quickly took over and the fellow excused himself; I’m fairly certain he went out into the hallway to cry because he came back with tear-stained cheeks.

I knew where this conversation was going. Our perinatologist then walked us through additional studies on the risks of quintuplets and the benefits of multi-fetal reduction. I must admit his approach was much softer than our first doc, but it was clear he was on a mission. He told us that there was a chance that all five of our children could be born with cerebral palsy. This really hit home; would I be able to mother 5 children with several disabilities? My immediate answer was yes, if that’s what I was called to do.

He also shared several studies that highlighted the importance of gestational age and birth weight. There is no doubt that I comprehend the risks we are facing of CP, compromised lung function, IVH, blindness, deafness and the list goes on and on. But, as a mother-to-be I cannot help but be optimistic and fight for these little ones. I have catalogued the research articles that were shared by the docs below, and would love others’ opinions. But, I have also found countless studies that demonstrate that medical technology today provides strategies to prolong gestation and decrease the risk of neurological abnormalities and respiratory complications.  If any others have additional research studies that have been pivotal to their care, please do not hesitate to share.  My hope now hinges on the fact that I could make it past 32 weeks. For quints, this would resemble a birth at 28 weeks, which continues to pose a risk, but according to the articles the risks tremendously decrease for (Condition, probability):

If we can make it to 34 weeks, the probabilities of RDS decreases to 55%, IVH to 2%, Sepsis to 11% and NEC to 15%.  So, our Doom and Gloom conversation, part II, finished up on a very sad note. Frank and I drove home in a haze of what if’s, statistics, and desperately sought some good news. Our next visit back to this clinic is not until our 2nd trimester, or one month. Until then, we continue to take one day at a time doing all that we can to prepare mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually and of course financially to parent five beautiful babies.

Research Articles:

Multiple Gestation associated with infertility therapy: an American Society for reproductive medicine practice committee opinion

Contemporary outcomes with the latest 1000 cases of multifetal pregnancy reduction (MPR)

Estimation of neonatal outcome and perinatal therapy use

Long-term Medical and Social Consequences of Preterm Birth

Long-term family outcomes for children with very low birth weights

Multi-fetal Pregnancy Reduction, Committee on Ethics

Management of High-Order Multiple Gestation

High-Order Multiple Gestations

The Case Against Multi-Fetal Reduction

Determinants of Gestational Weight Gain

Outcomes in Young Adulthood for Very-Low-Birth-Weight Infants

Written by: Cassie Vanderwall