A couple who endured a decade of heartache welcomes precious one-in-a-million IVF quadruplets, consisting of four miracle girls and their dad who will be a stay-at-home mother.

The 43-year-old Justin Clark and his wife Christine, 36, brought their three-month-old quadruplets, Caroline, Darcy, Alexis, and Elisha, home from the Special Care Unit at Rotherham Hospital just over a month ago. Although they have Toby the labrador and Sox the cat as male allies, Justin Clark will have to wait in line in front of his own toilet for the next eighteen years. The babies are very special and were born prematurely at 30 weeks.

After trying for almost ten years, the couple had almost given up hope of becoming parents and had resigned themselves to not having children. It was their first round of IVF that proved successful – quite spectacularly so.

And that’s not the only reason why quads are extraordinary. Indeed, they are the result of a single embryo splitting into three, then one of those embryos splitting into two.

The couple is in shock, to put it mildly. Mothers of multiples frequently remark that parents of only babies “have absolutely no idea how difficult the situation is.” People have quoted probabilities of two million to one and even 70 million to one, but it is just not quantifiable because it is never happened before, says Justin. We are the first people this has happened to, and even some doctors find it hard to believe.

Having given birth to identical twins 11 months ago, I’ve often said this myself through gritted teeth.

I therefore meet Justin, a lorry driver, and Christine, a nurse, in their three-bedroom terraced house in the South Yorkshire village of Brinsworth with a mixture of deep admiration, curiosity, and a hint of sympathy for the sleep they will never get back. Upstairs, it is impossible to mistake the fragile bleating of a newborn crying out for attention. Excuse the mess,” Christine says needlessly, ushering me into a room cluttered with baby accessories.

Though the mother obviously has a gift for this, she and Justin have waited a long time to become parents. “We waited nine years for a baby and now we have got four in one go,” smiles Christine. “We are very lucky.” Justin and Christine met in a pub 12 years ago and married three years later. Like most young married couples, they were eager to start a family. The four little girls, still weighing only 5 or 6 pounds each, are snuggled up like dormice in a single bed. Three of them are sound asleep, but Alexis is pushing her lungs to the limit. Christine gently takes her in her arms, cuddles her and she calms down.

Christine says, “I have always wanted to be a mother. I do not come from a large family, but having kids was always on the agenda. We started trying before we got married, but nothing happened. I was only 25, so I did not panic. But after two years, we went to our GP, who did a lot of tests, and it turned out that I had polycystic ovaries and would probably need help to get pregnant. It was very upsetting. I saw friends getting pregnant, and while I was always happy for them, I wondered why this was not happening to me as well. The couple tried several treatments, including Clomid, an ovarian-stimulating drug, but Christine became ill from the side effects.

As people do not realize the full extent of the emotional rollercoaster that IVF can be, she adds, “We wondered if we wanted to go through with it. It was our last hope.” Justin and Christine were referred to Care Fertility in Sheffield, where they were given the opportunity to undergo two NHS-funded cycles of IVF. Their fears were realized when only two of Christine’s eggs could be retrieved for fertilization, and sadly, one of them turned out to be too immature to be used.

As our midwife informed us, “You only need one egg.” After the embryo was implanted, Christine learned that it would take 12 days for a pregnancy test to confirm that the embryo had worked. Not surprisingly, she could not wait that long. “I was devastated,” says Christine. “I could not believe I would put my body through so much for just one chance. I know women who have about 12 eggs and I only had one chance.”

The couple dared to believe that they would finally become parents—of one baby—at this point. It was seven weeks later that they received the most astonishing news. “I was lying on the scanner bed and the sonographer was staring at the screen without saying a word,” says Christine. “I cheated and took the test on the tenth day, and I was absolutely shocked when it came back positive. I could not believe my eyes.” I took the test to Justin, who asked, “What does this mean? “What does it mean?” I told him to read the box and he was speechless.

The sonographer wanted a second opinion, so she asked us to go into the waiting room and she asked a consultant to confirm the news. Justin recalls, “We sat outside and all we could hear was the staff bustling around us saying, “It’s triplets, it’s a baby”: “It’s triplets, it’s triplets!” It seemed like an eternity before we went back into that room. I felt sick, thinking something had gone wrong, but she quickly reassured me that I was in fact pregnant. Then she said, “I see three pockets – you’re going to have triplets.”

We were all shocked to see four tiny heartbeats. I tried counting them in my head, “One, two, three, four,” but it was too much to process. We had gone from having zero to four babies in one go. Multiple pregnancies always carry risks, but having four fetuses means four times the danger for mother and babies. Medical professionals faced the couple with an extremely difficult choice. Dr. Shakar, senior consultant, scanned Christine and said, “You are not going to have triplets: “You are not going to have quadruplets.”

We were offered a selective abortion on multiple occasions, wherein the doctors would have aborted two of the babies in order to save the other two, but we declined, according to Christine. Justin and I do not believe in abortion, and even if the babies had a serious condition, I do not think I could have lived with the idea of getting rid of two of them. We also did not get tested for Down’s syndrome because we knew there was a risk involved.

People told me after my 12-week check-up, “You should be full of energy by now,” but I was sick morning, noon, and night. Sometimes I even woke up in the middle of the night to vomit. Justin wanted to know the sex of the babies at 20 weeks, but I said, “No way”: “No way.” If the pregnancy was going to be that difficult, I wanted to have a nice surprise at the end. Christine says that she felt that she had waited too long to have children and was willing to accept the risk.

We were aware at this point that we would have four children, but we had no idea how we would pay for it. Nevertheless, people were incredibly kind, donating clothing, pillows, and even a rocking chair. On March 25, the twins, who weighed between two and three pounds each, were delivered via Caesarean section at thirty weeks along with over forty-two staff members. Everyone was vying for a front-row seat, and Justin went with the babies to a side room after they were born.

The babies had bruised my lungs from kicking me so hard that it was upsetting to me that I could not go near them for a full day. Justin took 253 pictures of them to show me, and I went straight to the addiction. Christine left the hospital a week later, but her daughters stayed in special care for an additional nine weeks, until they returned home at the end of May. “I could not wait to bring them home,” says Christine. “I wanted to be their mother and look after them here.”

Justin resigned from his job to care for his daughters, saying, “There is no point in me going back to work, as my salary would not even cover childcare costs.” Despite the challenges, he looks forward to his new role as a full-time homemaker, noting that being a long-haul truck driver and raising quads are similar in that both require long hours and monotonous work with constant attention to detail in case of an accident.

Christine occasionally forgets to change her shirts, and I have been caught off guard a few times. Other than the compulsory family allowance of £60 per week, the pair is not reliant on state handouts. I know who is who because I remember what they wear in the morning.

The babies need over 200 diapers a week and at least one tin of formula every 48 hours. Christine managed admirably to pump her breast milk for the first seven weeks, before an infection prevented her from continuing. The babies are fed every four hours, but it takes at least an hour to feed all four, so by the time you are done, you have only got two or three hours before the next feed,” explains Christine. After a year of maternity leave, Christine plans to return to work part-time because her salary is higher than her husband’s.

Logistically, it is a nightmare. Anyone with one baby knows that leaving the house can take forever. What is it like with four children? If we go out, we take two tandem strollers, but if we have to drive, I put the four girls in the car and Justin has to walk or take the bus! The other day, we went shopping and managed to leave the house in just two hours! The remarks the couple receives from strangers are familiar to any mother of twins or triplets: “You have got your hands full” or “Oooh, double/tripple/quadruple the trouble.”

I think the answer to the question “are we going to have any more children?” is definitely no. Christine smiles. I love it when people approach us and say good things, but I feel like responding, “Yes, thank you, I know!”

Source: dailymail.co.uk

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