CLIMB

Nicole, Scott, Ashley & Caitlin


In April, 1986, four months pregnant, I had my first ultrasound to “discount” twins. I laughed hysterically when they informed me I was carrying quadruplet – all done naturally!!

The grim statistics were presented to me from the first. I chose to believe that mine would be perfectly fine. At the end of June I was admitted to the hospital for two months’ bedrest. While I was being shown the monitor for contractions it was discovered I was already in labor. After unsuccessful attempts to stop labor the steroid shots began. On Friday, June 27 at 2:30 p.m. surgery began. Nicole Michelle was first at 1#15, Ashley Hope was 1#5. Scott Ryan was my biggest at 2# and Caitlin Elizabeth was 1#9. I heard each baby cry as they were rushed to the NICU.

Caitlin did not do well from the outset. At two days old she died in my arms. After a brief mourning, my hospital release and the funeral, my hectic life began. We live one hour from the hospital so daily trips, sometimes two trips a day, were made. I had a friend (pregnant with her first child!) come with me to watch my 4-year-old son while I visited my three tiny babies. Nicole did quite well and came home in mid-September. Scott had extensive intestinal surgery and a PDA ligation. He was originally scheduled to come home with a stomach bag, but recovered wonderfully fast. His intestines were reattached and his stomach was closed up. No bag was needed! Ashley dropped to 15 ounces and was so very critical that she could not be touched. I thought I’d never be able to hold her. When she was finally strong enough a PDA was performed. She was a real trooper through the surgery.

Scott finally came home in October, about two weeks after Nicole. My visits to Ashley became fewer as it was difficult to find people willing to watch two tiny babies and a 4-year old. Thank goodness my friend who had watched my oldest was brave enough to tackle all three! Ashley had many ups and downs especially in her weight gain. I hardly got to know her until she was 6 months old.

I was taught infant CPR, the proper way to give her medication, ways to stimulate her weaknesses and how to give her breathing treatment. I was given a room (private) so that we could spend our time quietly together. Most of the time she simply slept in my arms. The one day I’ll remember more than any other was a morning when the private room was not available. Ashley was in a very good mood. She sat in my arms and actually cooed for an hour. Other than her cries I had never heard a sound out of her!! Even the nurses were amazed!

After a lengthy fight with our insurance company, the okay was given to allow Ashley to come home on oxygen with 6 hours of paid nursing help daily. There were a few delays but in late February we brought our beautiful little Ashley home.

The first night she continually set off her monitor for high heart rate. Every time she woke up, Scott and Nicole awoke as well. I had Scott and Nicole in their car/infant seats with bottles propped up against my leg as I gave Ashley her treatments and bottles. Giving the medication in exact dosages was a disaster as well, since the measurements had been washed away by the medicine! The nurse arrived the next morning and took over. I tried relaxing a while but it was too hard to do. By the time the nurse left, Ashley was feeling comfortable, but by midnight the monitor was going off continuously. When the nurse arrived again she called emergency to notify them we were on our way.

Within hours Ashley was in intensive care. She was given blood tests constantly and it was eventually found that she had pneumonia. She suffered horribly for two weeks then lost the fight on March 6. I was not at the hospital when she died, but the nurse who had cared for her at our home was there to hold her when she died. I arrived 20 minutes later and had pictures taken of me holding her.

Ashley’s neonatologist as well as many of the nurses came to the funeral and gave us much support to get through the grief.

Today, Scott and Nicole are 2-1/2 years old. They are developmentally delayed but attend classes twice weekly to correct these delays. When they are old enough to understand we will discuss their sisters and take them to the cemetery. I want them to know Caitlin and Ashley as well as we did. They will be forever in our hearts.

Kriss

Interview…

1. My name is Kriss. I have a 20-year-old son, Casey and my two surviving quadruplets are Nicole and Scott…now 16 years old! My quads were born at 26-1/2 weeks. Caitlin died at 2 days and Ashley died at nearly 9 months. Scott and Nicole both have ADD and learning disabilities due to premature birth.

2. When I remember my babies I often wonder how different my life would be today had they lived. I wonder if the girls would be as beautiful and quiet as Nicole. I wonder if they would have Scott’s never-ending appetite and energy. Would they have Nicole’s shy smile or Scott’s bright one? Would they have had learning disabilities or more?

3. The worst part is when well-meaning family and friends feel they have to point out every multiple, every news article, every picture of triplets or higher multiples. It feels like they are rubbing it in that I did not succeed in carrying them longer.

4. I have coped with anger by talking with close friends and reading the CLIMB newsletter. Also, I have gone through counseling intermittently over the years when the pain becomes too much to bear.

5. I still have problems when asked how many children I have. Even simple acts of filling out medical paperwork can become difficult when it gets to the part of how many pregnancies and how many children I have. Physicians have questioned me about this seeming to not believe I had 5 children in 2 births. I get frustrated when people just assume I took fertility drugs. I’m almost used to being referred to as “Fertile Myrtle” but there are times I don’t appreciate it very much.

6. I have learned that I am mentally and emotionally stronger than my family members ever gave me credit for before my girls died. Other than a few close friends and CLIMB, I’ve dealt with this mostly on my own. It has helped knowing that there are others who have suffered the same pain.

7. I no longer think that I should have known I was in preterm labor as one nurse cruelly pointed out to me. I did not experience the same feelings of labor as I had with my first son. I had just had an ultrasound that morning and everything seemed fine. I know I did the best I could taking care of myself in my pregnancy. I no longer resent my friend who had twins naming her daughter Caitlin. It took me a while but I believe I have come to terms with it.

8. I remember when all of us were so excited to find I was carrying quads! It was like a dream. I remember the few minutes I was able to hold Caitlin as she died. I remember the day I held Ashley in the hospital for an entire hour and she looked into my eyes and cooed and tried to talk. That was the best day I ever had with her!

9. The best times to remember my babies are when Scott and Nicole ask questions about them. Although it’s a bittersweet feeling, I do enjoy sharing the little time I had with their sisters. I love to tell them how excited we were to have them and how very special they are and always will be to me.

10. The worst times are the anniversary dates of the girls’ deaths. I usually go into a bit of depression. Nicole instinctively feels lonely and often asks why her sisters had to die. She has always wanted a sister.

11. Sometimes I wish I would have spent more time at the hospital with Ashley. I would have insisted on holding her more often and would have made sure that she knew how much I loved her and wanted her. I would have reached out to the community more and asked for help in caring for my children at home so that I could have spent that valuable time with Ashley.

12. When I could handle it again I joined a few support groups and visited the NICU. I spoke with nurses that cared for Ashley and thanked them for all the nurturing they gave her.

13. If I could choose whether or not to have multiples again I would in a heartbeat! My kids are my pride and joy!

After this many years down the road, I’ve realized I will never “get over it” nor would I want to. I’ll continue to grieve forever. The way I grieve is what changes over time. I’ve learned to be kind to myself on the days I feel sad. I hold on to the memories of my girls and it brings me peace.