I will never forget the day we discovered we were having quadruplets. I can not even begin to list the thoughts that spun through my mind on rotation, but the main one was, "How on Earth are we going to raise FOUR babies?!?"
I'm not going to say that the first year was easy, but I have discovered, like so many before me, that it can be done! You can even enjoy (most of) it. Now, I'm only drawing on personal experience, so take this for what it's worth, but here is my advice for surviving your first year with higher-order multiples.
1. Journal, blog, whatever. Just write things down! I am starting with something I regret not doing. I didn't start my blog until the babies were about 9 mos. and I've never really kept a journal. When you are going through your pregnancy, every little detail seems so huge and important that you know you will not forget it. Yes, you will. It is crazy how much of my pregnancy is a blur just 2 years later. I wish I had written things down as they were happening so I could look back and remember not only the facts, but also my thoughts and emotions about all that was going on inside of me.
This blog or journal will not only be special to you, but what a great gift to pass down to your child.
2. Accept help. People genuinely want to help and you are going to need it. I really struggled with this one. I have always been very self reliant and had no interest in changing. Thank God my wonderful friend Dawn talked me into letting her create a schedule of volunteers to help me. This starts once you go on bed rest and continues for as long as you want after the babies are home.
"Good" help includes: bringing over food. Caring for older siblings. Helping feed babies. Any housework (folding laundry, dusting...). You may find that some people are really just curious about quadruplets and not necessarily interested in being "good" help. These people can be thanked and don't need to come back. If they are not really helping, they are just more people in your home possibly causing you stress. Keep as much "good" help as you need for as long as you need, but don't feel bad about letting these people know at some point that you are ready to go it on your own.
Also, always remember, these are your babies. If someone is doing something you don't like or in a way you don't like, speak up. Your babies will most likely be preemies and may have some special needs. Make sure they are being handled as you wish. Your helpers will understand and appreciate you showing them what the baby needs. If not, they are not much help.
3. Start a schedule early. If it is all your children have ever known, it will be completely natural to them. My children spent 2-3 weeks in the NICU where they were put on a schedule. When they got home, we just continued that same schedule and have since adapted it to fit our family. My quads have always eaten at the same time, slept at the same time... It is all they know and it works. If they know what is coming, they handle it much better. If you know what is coming, you can plan. You will know when you need help. You will know if/when you can sneak out for an hour or two. Without our schedule firmly in place, I am certain I would have lost my mind (well, you know, even more...).
4. Learn to smile, nod and ignore. One child brings a lot unsolicited advice and comments. Four babies bring four times more! Everyone will have an opinion and a lot of people will want to share them with you. I have found your best bet is to say nothing, smile, nod and keep on moving. Who knows, maybe one day the lady in the checkout lane at the grocery store will pass on a great tidbit of parenting advice and help you with a problem. Probably not, but we can just ignore any unhelpful pieces of advice. As for the comments, most of ours have been positive, but I have learned it is usually best to just ignore the rude or hurtful ones. I know my babies are blessings and what a random man at the park thinks makes them no less precious. I am worried about when they are old enough to understand what is being said. I will figure that out when we get there.
5. Find some sort of support group. Most people will never parent multiples. When I found out about the quads I didn't know a single person who had triplets, much less quads! There is nothing like being able to talk to someone who has actually been through what you are going through. Also, early on, when you are sure there is no way you can do this, it will be so inspirational to see these ladies who are doing it and doing a great job of it! What group you join is up to you, but most areas have a local multiples group or you can find several online.
6. Okay, here it comes- the gear. Yes, you are having four babies, but you do not need four of everything.
-Cribs. You will need four cribs, but not immediately.
****disclaimer- again this is my experience and my advice. I was warned by some nurses against babies sharing cribs. Other nurses (and my pediatrician) said it was fine and even beneficial to the babies.****
When we first brought the babies home, they all slept in a pack and play in our bedroom. We then moved them into one crib in their room. Once they got too long to sleep that way, we switched to 2 and 2. Everyone got their own crib once they became more mobile and started waking up with scratches and things. I was blessed that my kids have always been pretty good sleepers. I credit this in part to them sharing cribs for so long. I think the comfort of their sibling near them helped them self soothe back to sleep when they woke up at night.
-Bouncy seats. We had a few bouncy seats combined with a couple swings. We always had a seat for a baby and tried to rotate them around a bit so they had different views. Some people I know swear by one bouncy seat per baby, but I think as long as you have a place to put a baby down, you are fine.
-Boppies. We actually had eight of them! We had four downstairs and four in their room upstairs. We used these for one person feedings. We would use burp cloths to prop the bottle on the side of the Boppy and the baby would recline and eat. They also often napped in them during the day. They were wonderful. They are not super expensive and the covers remove and wash easily.
Can you believe how tiny my little sweeties were?
-Clothes. In the beginning you will need very few 'outfits'. Have at least a dozen sleepers (you will want more if your babies have bad reflux) and they will be set. Once they get older you can dress them up in adorable outfits and have a grand time!
-Bottles. You will need at least a day's worth- 32 bottles. This is a lot of bottles and you will need to create some sort of system for cleaning the bottles, making/pouring the formula/breast milk, and storing them. Believe me, these bottles and the whole process will be the center of your life for a while. I remember how weird (but wonderful) it was when we finally got rid of the bottles.
-Strollers. Yes, I said strollerS. Again this is only my opinion (and my husband thinks I am crazy here), but different situations call for different strollers. If you are only going to have one stroller. Make sure it seats all of your babies. I know early on you can't imagine taking all of the babies anywhere by yourself, but you will need to and even want to before you know it.
A look at our stroller collection:
We have two twin strollers. These were great in the beginning, because the babies' car seats fit in them. I don't know of a quad stroller that takes the car seats. We still use them occasionally and call them our 'stealth' strollers. We can separate if we want and get far fewer questions and comments when people think we only have twins. The obvious downside is that you need two adults for these strollers to work. Also they do not handle very well. Finally, the baby in back can't always see that well and typically begins kicking the baby in front. The fabric seats don't protect the baby in front, so then the crying starts. They usually frustrate me so we don't use them that often.
Our quad Runabout. I love this stroller! I know it looks crazy and industrial, but it is actually quite light weight. I can lift it in and out of the van on my own with no trouble. The kids can all see. It will hold them up to 45 lbs! Also, it handles very well. I can drive that stroller through the crowded aisles of Target with one hand! The only real downside (other than not being too attractive) is the seats do not recline much. I wish they were able to recline further than they do.
Our Step 2 choo-choo wagon. This is our newest addition to our stroller collection. The kids love it. They each have their own space. No own is kicking anyone or pulling any one's hair. Everyone can see very well. The downside is control. It doesn't exactly corner well. This makes it best for outdoor events. Fairs, parades (we kind of are one), the zoo (again...) anything like that.
7. Keep your sense of humor! This world wasn't really designed for our families and craziness will ensue. Your choices are to sit down and cry about it or get a good laugh and keep moving! This is a wild ride and some days you will consider giving up. Even if you could, you would be missing out on the best ride you'll ever find. Enjoy it!!!!