Quads. Yes, that means 'four': Soldier, wife welcome newborn quadruplets
February 8, 2013
The odds of having quadruplets are one in 800,000. On Nov. 19, 2012, the Schiefelbein Family joined that unique statistic when they were blessed with the birth of their quadruplets: Aidan, Brea, Curtis and Dominic.
The father, Sgt. Lee Schiefelbein, is a part of the 529th Regimental Support Company, 4th Battalion, 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard). He works in the Consolidated Dining Facility on Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall as a food service sergeant. He and his wife Alexis live on Fort Belvoir and also have a 2-year-old daughter, Gabby and Lee has a son, Jacob, from a previous relationship. Jacob lives with his mother in Imperial, Pa.
"My work day consists of waking up at 3 a.m. I leave my house around 3:30 a.m. and get to work by 4 a.m.," he said. "My day at the dining facility is over between 1-2 p.m. and then I head home to help my wife with our four bundles of joy and our energetic 2-year-old."
While Lee is on duty serving meals and supervising other Soldiers at the DFAC, Alexis is at home honing her time management skills.
"They eat every three to four hours," she said. "They're up for a feeding by the time he's already gone to work, so I usually do all four. I do one at a time and they just have to wait."
Her method is to take them as they wake up. "If one is still sleeping at the end, they get woken up and fed anyway, that way I don't have to wake up again in 30 minutes."
By about 8 a.m. Lee has finished with breakfast at the DFAC and is preparing for lunch, while over on Fort Belvoir, their toddler Gabby wakes up and it's time for another round of feeding the babies for Alexis.
"The full reality still hasn't hit me yet because my mom is here with us right now," she said. "I just get up and start cleaning, washing bottles and doing laundry."
On any given day, the Pittsburgh area natives go through about 24 bottles, at least 24 diapers, 24-34 bibs, 3-4 outfit changes per baby, as well as Gabby's clothes and meals. As for her laundry system, "I just dump it all in. There's no time to sort."
"Last night alone, I had Aidan and Brea both spit up so I had to do complete outfit changes for them," she said.
"Two nights ago, all I did was fold their laundry. And that's not our laundry or Gabby's laundry. It's just theirs." When Lee compares being a dad of quads to being a Soldier, the similarities include time management. The difference, Lee jokes, is that he gets more sleep on deployment.
"It's different though," he said. "Deployments are a whole different world."
Getting used to the idea of being pregnant with quads took some time for everyone.
"At first we were in shock," said Lee. "I think we're still in amazement. The initial shock took some time, but now it's just about settling into day-to-day events and adjusting to taking care of multiple babies." Lee's son Jacob took the news well.
"When we initially told him, he was shocked," said Lee. "He realized he was going to be the big brother. He's got another [half] sister. So he's going to be a big brother to six brothers and sisters. He's very excited."
When it came time to tell Alexis's mom, Patty Mulligan, it took a little convincing. "She didn't believe me," said Alexis.
"I had to get on the phone," said Lee. "She asked 'Really?' and I said, 'Yes!'"
"We thought [at first] maybe twins due to her elevated levels," said Patty. "I didn't believe her. I thought she was going to kiddingly say, 'Psych! There's only two.' And she said 'Mom! It's really four.' Lee actually had to get on the phone and tell me there were four babies in there."
"It was surreal," said Patty. "I think the reality of it all was whenever the doctors said she could downsize, because that's when you realize there are four babies."
Alexis and Lee had complications getting pregnant both with Gabby and the quads.
"It took us two years of trying and then seven months on medications to get pregnant with Gabby," said Alexis. "We were beyond happy. Once we found out it was a girl, we went straight to the store and bought 10 outfits."
"Both my pregnancies I had to have medication to help get pregnant," she said. "I found out with both pregnancies at four weeks and at an ultrasound at six weeks, they confirmed I was pregnant with quads."
During her pregnancy with the quads, the questions Alexis got the most were about in vitro fertilization and why she didn't downsize her pregnancy.
"Look around at them," said Alexis. "How can you choose which one to keep and which one you don't have?" The Schiefelbeins' faith was their guiding decision. "All of her doctors wanted her to downgrade her pregnancy, but we just couldn't imagine or even think about getting rid of one of them," said Lee. "We both felt that if God wanted to take one, or if one was causing problems for the rest, then that would be a decision we would make. But we were both preparing ourselves for all four." He added, "Once we knew they were going to be healthy, we felt so blessed."
For a normal, single pregnancy, full term is considered approximately around 40 weeks. For quads, the typical gestation is 29-31 weeks. Alexis delivered the babies by cesarean at exactly 30 weeks.
Brea, the only girl, was born first at 6:13 p.m., followed by Aidan at 6:14 p.m. Curtis and Dominic were born at 6:15 p.m.
"It was an amazing feeling," said Alexis. "I knew exactly where each one was and when they delivered them, I knew who they were delivering."
The babies weighed in at around 3 pounds each.
"Aidan was 3 pounds 7 ounces, Bea was 2 pounds 15 ounces, Curtis was 3 pounds and Dominic was 2 pounds 13 ounces," said Alexis.
The quads celebrated their 10 week birthday at the end of January, which is a big milestone for them. At 10 weeks they've all doubled their birth weight by the time they could celebrate their due date.
During the pregnancy, the quads were labeled Baby A-D. The Schiefelbeins took that system and ran with it for the quad's names. They're a mixture of family names comprised of grandparents and older siblings' names.
Alexis was cared for at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. They are the primary military hospital on the east coast for all high-risk births, which includes multiple births such as quadruplets. The babies spent their first few weeks of life in the neonatal intensive care unit at WRNMMC.
"We had ups and downs, but they did so well from birth that the doctors were amazed," said Alexis. "We had a great experience and it was hard for us to say goodbye to the nurses and doctors."
After 52 days in the NICU, all the babies are home and under one roof on Fort Belvoir.
The family transferred to JBM-HH from Fort Polk, La., in September when Alexis was 19 weeks pregnant. Once settled in the National Capital Region, they have gotten to meet some great people within their community.
"We're still new here," said Lee. "It's still a little overwhelming and unbelievable the support that we get from people we don't know or barely know. It is a blessing that the support structure is so large in this area."
Taking care of 5 children, 4 of which are infants is no easy task. At Christmas time, Lee's regiment and company took up a collection and got gifts and other items for the growing Family. Other organizations that focus on helping servicemembers also helped contribute.
"I just want to send a huge thank you out to all those who supported and donated stuff to us from the regiment and my company," he added. "We are truly humbled and blessed to have the support we have received."