We get asked these two questions a lot! I figured they sort of went together so I’d answer both.
The quintuplets were born at 31 weeks 1 day. This was after I was on hospital bed rest for 10 weeks alone, had a surgical cerclage placed during that time, and was on many tocolytics (drugs to stop contractions/preterm labor) including mag sulfate for 8 weeks continuously. The babies all came home by 73 days. Elias was the last one home and had many surgeries for random newborn problems in the NICU. His NICU stay was over doubles his sisters stay. Preemies have an actual age. This is how old the kids are counted from their birth date. Preemies also have an adjusted age. This is how old they are developmentally that is calculated from their due date. That means when our babies were 10 weeks old actually. Their adjusted age was 1 week old. Most doctors stop adjusting ages at two years old. However, some doctors adjust preemie’s ages until 5 years old (the neurodevlopment pediatrician does). Kids play catch up their same actual aged peers during this time and the age difference becomes less significant as children get older.
Photo Credit: Cherise Kiel Photography “Celebrating their 1st Birthday”
Some parents do the wait and see approach. The older a child is to start therapy, the harder and longer it takes to fix the problem though. Some parents are more preventative and start the process quickly that way it is readily available as a problem arises. We are the more preventative type parents. To help our children “catch-up” to their same age peers and get help for any problems, we have had them frequently evaluated by many professionals. We have then gotten them many services. Early intervention is key to find any issues. For the children’s first two years of life, they had a lot of assessments by different professionals. They had a NICU followup nurse come to our house to give assessments periodically, Early Intervention evaluations routinely, and also saw a neurodevelopment pediatrician outside of the house who did the most extensive evaluations. At first these evaluations were done every 2 months, but slowly went out to every 6 months. Yes, this means we had evaluations constantly at first. It was hard on me since my husband returned to work 10 days after they were born. We had no family and friends in the area during the early days. However, I loaded them up, dropped Conner at school, and took them since I wanted them to have the best chance at an amazing life. Since their discharge from NICU-2 years old, we had Arizona’s early intervention physical therapists (PT), occupational therapists (OT), and speech therapists (ST) come out to our house multiple times a week. From the ages of 2-3, the children saw Georgia’s early intervention speech at the house once a week. Also, from age 2-present, the children see OT, PT, and ST privately outside of the house. This is at 3 different locations-45 mins apart, once a week for an hour each type of therapy per kid. That’s right! The children receive 4 hours of different therapies each per week. The kids are “graduating” though from the various therapies as soon as they are developmentally caught up to their peers. This is found out through the frequent testing by professionals.
Their speech therapists have worked on oral motor skills, speech, feeding issues, and more. Their physical therapists have worked with Elias’ torticollis, plagiocephally, strengthening areas that needed it, loosing areas that were too tight, and helping movement fluidity. Their occupational therapists have worked with fine motor skills, confidence building, and now pre-writing skills. They have also had 5 hearing tests since birth (passed them all but it’s a common reason for speech delay so they like checking). In addition, they have had 4 vision checkups since birth. They have never had ROP and have always passed. They check though since that is a major area preemies often have issues with because it is one of the last senses to develop in-utero. The quints love going to the dentist and have already visited 5 times with no cavities!
In the last month, the quintuplets have been evaluated twice! The first evaluation, was to see if they qualified for early intervention preschool. The at-home therapy stops at 3 years old so this is the continuation of that, if they qualify. The second was their neurodevelopment pediatrician’s progress evaluation. Each evaluation consists of play, puzzles, and activities to allow evaluators to see the children’s skills, how they do things, and what they struggle/excel with doing. It typically takes about 2 hours per child to do an evaluation. They tally up 3 different tests during this time each evaluation to make sure it is comprehensive in all areas. The evaluation results were very similar from the two different evaluations. The scores were slightly different in the areas for each child as expected since they are individuals. For each part of the test, a score of 100 is perfect. A score of 115-85 is “normal” by standard deviation. The children all scored above average (116+) and within the normal standard deviation for most areas with PT, OT, ST, and social skills. They quints scored in different components of speech a score of 79-normal range. That means they were barely below if at all in just speech! To be eligible for the early intervention preschool, they need to be significantly delayed and that is a score of 60 or below! The neurodevlopment pediatrician said they don’t have to come back to be reevaluated for a year! That is the longest she allows patients to go between evaluations. We have always had to come back every 6 months at the most so this is a huge step!
With the new results, I was left scrambling to check for other preschool alternatives. Some I checked out wanted $1000+ a week for the quint’s tuition. That is not feasible. After a lot of checking to find the right fit for us, I have found one! They will be starting this fall. Conner is starting a private, middle school, and I am starting nursing school again this fall! Our schedule is crazy looking between-swim lessons for 7 kids, school schedules, gymnastics for the quints and Gideon, basketball for Conner, and possibly karate. Did I mention, Dad has been and will continue to be gone for weeks here and there and a lot of overnights? We are strong though and will make it all work. I am glad my mom lives close now to help make it all possible if I need a hand.
We are so thankful that these little ones have come so far and have done so well! For, the first 20 weeks I was pregnant, everybody told me to selectively reduce since the outcome would be grim. We have had a lot of scary moments but we are so blessed. When I see how far they have come, and know what could have happened, I can’t help but be thankful for the miracle of them being happy and thriving.
Photo Credit: Grace Photography II “Learning with Mommy at 2.5 years old”