Just a few days shy of having all four babies home for a month, Ashley and Tyson Gardner are adjusting to life outside the NICU. They’re busy, and they’re loving it.
Tyson is on FMLA-leave from his work for another six weeks or so, and said the time off has given him and Ashley time to establish a routine as a new family.
“It’s been so critical for us to be together,” he said. “I’ve gotten to be here for everything.”
In an interview with the Daily Herald, the quad parents shared bits and pieces from their daily routine, while offering details about the girls and their emerging personalities.
DH: Tell us about the girls. Are they on the same sleeping and eating schedule?
Ashley: Yes, they are! The girls eat every three hours. For example, if we start feeding them at 12:15 p.m. then we start again at 3:15 p.m. The feeding process takes between 30 minutes and an hour. They sleep in between feedings.
DH: How many bottles, diapers and outfits do they go through every day?
Ashley & Tyson: Eight bottles each equals 32 bottles a day! Total, that’s about one can of formula a day. At the end of the day our sink is full of bottles! It varies, but usually the girls go through 32-40 diapers and one to two outfits a day.
DH: How many loads of laundry do you do a day?
Tyson: Between blankets and burp clothes, we do about two loads a day.
DH: Any baby gear you can’t live without?
Ashley & Tyson: Rock ‘N Play sleepers. It’s just a pain to carry monitors and cords upstairs to their nurseries, so the girls usually sleep in the living room.
DH: Do you have any outside help?
Tyson: Not on a daily basis. Of course our parents and siblings visit and help when they can, but mostly it’s just the two of us. It’s been good for us because it’s forced us to know we can do it all on our own.
DH: When it comes to caring for the girls, Ashley has the day shift and Tyson has the night shift. When do you see each other?
Tyson: It’s hard. You forget about yourself when you’re taking care of these babies because they are so sweet and precious. You really have to focus on creating a balance and setting aside time for each other. We try to go on a date night once a week.
DH: Who is allowed to visit your home?
Tyson: Close family and friends. Pretty much everyone who was on the visitor list at the NICU. They all have to have their shots, including the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine, TDAP (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis) shot and flu shot. We don’t let people in the house unless they’ve been immunized.
DH: When do you think you’ll start taking the babies out in public?
Tyson: Possibly around Mother’s Day. Right now the goal is to get out of RSV season. When we left the NICU we knew we didn’t want to come back.
DH: You say you can both tell the girls apart. Can anyone else?
Tyson: No, not really. They think they can and then they get it all wrong. Evie and Scarlett are especially difficult to tell apart. It’s easy to pick out Indie because she is the smallest.
DH: Who do you think the babies look like?
Tyson: Scarlett and Evie look like daddy. We feel like the other two look like Ashley. Ashley’s parents didn’t take a lot of pictures of her as a baby so it’s hard to compare, but everyone who knew Ashley when she was young says Esme and Indie look a lot like her.
DH: Do you color code the girls’ blankets, outfits, bows etc?
Tyson: Sometimes, but it’s not every day. When we do, we usually dress Indie in pink, Esme in purple, Scarlett in red or blue and Evangeline in teal or mint.
DH: Do the girls have nicknames? If so, what are they?
Ashely & Tyson: Yes! Indie has the most; we call her Indie pie, Pumpkin face (because she has a round little pumpkin face), Baby doll and Indie 500. We call Esme Ezzy bear and Evangeline Evie bear. Scarlett is Scarletto or Miss Scarlett.
DH: Tell us about the girls’ personalities.
Ashley & Tyson: Their personalities are how we tell them apart; each one is so different. They make different noises and have different cries. Indie is very vocal and feisty. She is still the leader of the pack. She’s the one always making demands and calling us over to pick her up.
Esme is still mellow yellow. She is relaxed and chill and doesn’t need a lot of attention. She is very observant and definitely the most reserved.
Scarlett is our little diva. She likes a lot of attention and has a blood-curdling scream. She and Evangeline have a set of lungs. They’ve figured out if they cry, we’ll come, so they often fake cry and wait for us to pick them up.
Evie is just all over the map. We call her our chameleon.
DH: How is your dog, Bentley, surviving?
Tyson: It’s been a little rough on him, to be honest. He’s been put in the shadows a little bit, but he’s very patient. He’s very good and doesn’t jump up. He knows there are boundaries. He’s very aware and smart and also very protective. A few days ago at about 3 a.m. I had just finished feeding the babies and went out to the garage to get something. As soon as I turned the lock and opened the door, Bentley started barking and ran downstairs. It was kind of a relief to know he hears things we don’t and will be a watchdog for the girls.
DH: Tyson, when do you head back to work and what is the plan for when you do?
Tyson: In about six weeks, so the beginning of May. It’s going to be so difficult when that time comes. I hope I can arrange something so I can work from home. My employer has been so great -- I’ve gotten to be here for everything. For me as a father, I don’t want to miss anything.
DH: You opened an Etsy shop recently. How’s it going?
Ashley & Tyson: We planned and thought about our Etsy shop long before we started it. It’s been very good for us. It gives us supplemental income, which we need. Babies can bankrupt you. It’s also allowed us to be at home and still bring in money. It’s something we’re looking at expanding. We’d love to do it full-time.
DH: Do you plan to add more products? If so, when and what will they be?
Tyson: Our focus is on blankets, which fits perfectly with our name, A Miracle Unfolding. We love our fabric -- a sweater knit -- because it is stretchy, easy to wash and breathable. We’re hoping to introduce new designs made out of the same material and maybe offer slippers and moccasins. We’re also collaborating with other Etsy shops to possibly put together gift boxes people can order.
DH: How do you two have time to do all of this?
Tyson: We purchase the material and hire some stay-at-home moms to help us with the sewing. It’s a win-win all around. They are our neighbors, friends of friends and Ashley’s mom. It’s been such a blessing.
DH: You said you drive a Hyundai Sonata. Do you have plans to buy a bigger one in the future?
Tyson: Absolutely. We’re looking at minivans and full-size SUVs that are safe and could fit a quad stroller. We don’t leave the house much right now, but we’re hoping to find something within a month or two.
DH: Give us an update on the TLC show you’ll be in.
Tyson: It was a very scary process; we had never been in front of a camera before or signed big contracts. But TLC has been incredibly giving and generous. They respect our thoughts and wishes, and if we’re not comfortable with something they work around it. We told them we’re not actors and we’re not going to read a script. It’s been easy, really. We’re happy with the story they’re going to tell. It’s our story. We have the best home footage you could ask for and these girls will have that forever. It’s a miracle what happened to us and to have someone document that is a gift.