Quints doing quite nicely
ST. LOUIS – Pete and Jenny Ferrill's baby registry looks like any other except for the "number of items."
High chairs, five; rocking chairs, two; baby pillows, five.
The list goes on.
In a little more than a month, the Ferrill Five will leave Children's Hospital in St. Louis and come home to their three-bedroom house in Danville.
The Ferrills still need some things, like high chairs, before the homecoming. For now, the main priority is for the quints to get healthier and bigger.
"They are doing well," Jenny Ferrill said from the hospital, where she spends most of her days and nights.
On Dec. 22, Ferrill gave birth to quintuplets – three boys and two girls, none identical. A team of more than 30 doctors and medical professionals helped in the birth of the quintuplets – a first for Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis.
Irelyn, Landyn, Layne, Kieran and Drayden weigh more than 4 pounds each now and are bottle-feeding and nursing. Layne had a bit of a setback last week, needing a blood transfusion as his oxygen levels dipped, Jenny Ferrill said, but he's doing well now.
Mom was released from the hospital several days after giving birth. She came home for a quick visit last weekend but stays in a Ronald McDonald House apartment in St. Louis so she can be near the quints.
Two weeks ago, Pete Ferrill returned home to Danville and his job at the Center for Children's Services.
"It's difficult to be away from them," the father said. He's also working toward a master's degree and preparing the house for the homecoming. "There's been a lot of reconfiguration of furniture and storage areas into more of a living space."
Jenny Ferrill said a support group called Mothers of Supertwins has been helping them prepare for the unknowns of caring for multiple babies. A mother of sextuplets and one with quadruplets developed spreadsheets for tracking diapers, formula and medication for each baby. They shared it with Jenny, who finds it a little overwhelming.
"It's very tedious," she said. "It's going to be a lot to keep track of."
Feeling overwhelmed is a natural reaction for parents of multiple-birth children, according to Lynda Haddon, a mother of twins and multiple-birth educator who teaches prenatal classes for multiple-birth parents.
Parents soon settle in and begin making order out of the chaos, she said. Haddon emphasizes establishing a routine that fits the whole family, prioritizing needs, having a sense of humor and learning to "go with the flow."
"You aren't going to dust as often, and some days, you might not even get dressed," said Haddon, who recommends parents accept offers of help from friends and family but have specific tasks for them, like taking two of the babies for a walk.
The Ferrill Five will be a challenge not just because of the number, but also because they are premature.
The Ferrills have a lot of family – grandparents, aunts, uncles – ready to help after the homecoming, but Jenny said they want to limit who provides direct care to lessen exposure to germs.
The first-time parents have talked a lot about being home with the babies, Pete said.
"We understand that it will be a different type of stress, and we will have some sleep deprivation, but we're really looking forward to being back under one roof. This has been a long journey to be away and be separated," he said. "We're really looking forward to being under one roof rather than just e-mail and telephone."
Jenny's been in St. Louis since late October and feels the stress of not having her husband by her side now.
"In a month and a half, we'll be in the same house, and it will be so worthwhile," she said.
Haddon tells parents that it's just as important to take care of themselves.
"This is a miracle. It's really nice to just sit back and enjoy the babies and play with them; don't worry about the bed being made," she said. "Sometimes, you've got to say the obvious – slow down and enjoy those moments, because they are fleeting."
And Haddon definitely recommends that parents seek out other parents for advice, support and "the little tricks" that make things easier.
The Ferrills have already received help from the Mothers of Supertwins.
Haddon said there's an information gap because most literature focuses on parents of single babies. Support groups can fill the void, and multiple births are more common now.
In the last decade, multiple births have increased, Haddon said, because of fertility drugs and women having children later in life. Older women, specifically over the age of 33, tend to have multiples more often than younger women, Haddon said.
The Ferrills are getting e-mails asking about the quints' progress and how to help financially. Pete Ferrill said he's been directing people to their Target baby registry, which has a lot of basic necessities. And the family has a Web site with a link for donations.
Some corporations have stepped forward with gifts, Jenny Ferrill said.
Five car seats and five swings have been donated, and Gerber requested copies of the babies' birth certificates in return for some baby food. Other companies, like Carter's and Beechnut, have also pledged some help.
"We're just very grateful for everyone's support and generosity," Jenny said.
The three boys will share a room and the two girls another, and they'll share cribs, too.
Pete said the foot traffic among rooms will be high, so sharing rooms and cribs will cut down on that.
For the first 24 months, at least, their home will have plenty of space, he said.
"The first six weeks will be the most challenging, and we are planning accordingly for that," Ferrill said. "We're ready to be at home and be able to take care of each other."