AKRON, Ohio — It was the eighth week of Tabitha Burchett’s pregnancy. Her husband, Shane, was working so she went to Akron by herself for a routine appointment.
The doctor looked closely at the ultrasound.
“Here is the ugly side of infertility,” Tabitha remembers him saying. “There are four babies.”
The physician knew the couple wanted just one infant. Four years ago, with the help of basic infertility treatments, Tabitha had given birth to a daughter, Brielle. But when those treatments didn’t work the next time around, the couple, ages 31 and 40, opted for artificial insemination.
For infertility specialists, one fetus is always the goal, but life has a quirky way of shaking things up now and then.
Tabitha left the office, climbed into her car and called Shane. Overwhelmed by the news, they laughed — and they cried.
The couple was given the option of a procedure to reduce the number of babies. Some parents make this excruciating decision to lower the risk of problems for the remaining babies and the mother.
Tabitha was told that even if they declined a reduction, her body would likely terminate a baby anyway. The Burchetts took their chances. They were comforted that doctors said all of the babies had sacs and placentas, so each had his or her own food source and wouldn’t starve.
“There is no way we could do a reduction,” explained Tabitha. “This is what God gave us.”
With the exception of a gallbladder problem, common with some expectant moms, Tabitha felt well and the pregnancy went on without a hitch. Of course, at 5 feet, 1 inch, her belly was mighty, and strangers often asked how many babies she was carrying.
“Four,” Brielle would answer gleefully — triggering an equally excited reaction.
But Shane and Tabitha worried about the health of the babies during the pregnancy. Normal gestation is 40 weeks, and they were warned they would be lucky to make it to 28 weeks. But the time kept ticking, and the babies kept growing. At 32 weeks and five days, the youngsters decided it was time to make their debut.
Between 6:58 and 7:01 a.m. on Dec. 15, three boys and a girl entered the world. Brock, Corbin, Grayson and Hadley weighed between 2 pounds 13 ounces and 4 pounds 9 ounces. They were so healthy, the newborns remained in the hospital just two weeks, solely because of their low birth weights. At their one-month checkup recently, they weighed between 5 pounds 4 ounces and 6 pounds 6 ounces.
While they may be small, their personalities are bigger than life.
“Hadley is just so feisty. Everything has to be her way. The nurses called her a ‘tiny spitfire.’ Corbin, our biggest boy, is laid back and hardly makes a peep,” explained Tabitha. “Grayson is grumpy. Nothing ever seems to be right for him. He is our crybaby. Brock has such big eyes. He just likes to sit and watch everything — and grunt.”
Wanting to express appreciation for the care that was given to her and the babies, Tabitha called the Beacon Journal, and I was invited me to visit their home in Shreve, near Wooster, Ohio. Inside, the four babies with wisps of dark hair were sitting in bouncer seats, so young their cries were gentle and endearing.
When asked about what she wanted to say to those who helped during the pregnancy and birth, Tabitha struggled to hold back the tears.
“We want to thank Akron City Summa Hospital, the maternal fetal department at Akron Children’s Hospital and the labor and delivery team. They were prepared for us. They had every possible situation ready for us,” she said.
The Burchetts said the staff who worked for Akron Children’s neonatal intensive care unit at City Hospital was remarkable.
“They walked us through every step. And it’s because of the care they gave our babies that they were able to come home so soon,” she added. They went on to thank individual doctors and other medical personnel.
And so, the time spent worrying whether the babies would be born healthy is behind them. Instead, their days are filled with feeding and changing diapers. Lots of diapers.
The quadruplets go through 30 to 35 diapers a day and 32 bottles. Their families have pitched in, but because of this aggressive flu season, Mom and Dad have been hesitant to accept help from others. That means they get about four interrupted hours of sleep a day.
During my visit, Shane arrived home around 5:30 p.m. from Advanced Drainage Systems, where he works as an assistant dispatcher. He trudged through the snow, quietly stepped through the front door and plopped down in an easy chair, his eyes heavy from lack of sleep. Perhaps that is how his folks felt when he was born. Shane is a triplet, and his grandmother a twin.
“We keep joking that someone in the room is going to have five because it keeps going up every generation,” Tabitha said, chuckling.
Tabitha, who works as an administrator at a law office that reviews legal documents for large corporations, is on maternity leave and plans to return.
“I have to,” she said, referring to the family’s growing expenses.
While Tabitha and Shane are thankful beyond words for four healthy babies, they are forced to look to the future. It’s cause for worry.
“How are we going to do it all?” Tabitha wondered. “We think about caring and providing for them and making sure that they are getting all of the opportunities — as if they were just a single child.”
And, Shane added, “We need to add on.”
The Burchetts live in a small, two-bedroom ranch home. That would have been fine had they welcomed just one more baby into the family, not four.
Their church is helping them design an addition for the house and is looking for contractors and other tradespeople who are willing to donate their time, provided the Burchetts pay for the materials. Later, there will be a fundraiser to help with the effort.):