One month, one week, and one day old, the four Gardner girls are doing great, their parents report.
“They should’ve had a much rougher course than they’ve had,” Ashley said. “They are little miracles who have a purpose to be here.”
Sitting in a small room on the hospital’s first floor, the popular Quad Squad parents look tired but happy.
“They are blowing the doctors’ minds,” Tyson said. “Once again, we see the hand of God. Every time we look at our babies … words can’t describe it.”
The babies have little ups and downs -- such as forgetting to breathe -- but nothing their parents or doctors consider too alarming.
“It’s just normal premie stuff they have to grow out of,” Ashley said. “It’s scary and hard, but [the experience so far] definitely could have been a lot worse.”
None of the girls are on ventilators and one is breathing room air. Two are bottle feeding, and the other two are following quickly behind, each having taken a bottle.
The Gardners joke that there is competition between the girls in the NICU -- who will come home first and have her parents to herself?
Esme is blazing the trail; she was the first to take a bottle and has steadily gained the most weight, weighing in at more than three pounds.
It’s like she is saying "I want to come home, what do I need to do?" Tyson says.
But Evangeline quickly caught wind of that, Ashley pipes in, and is now taking every bottle.
“There is competition,” she said.
The girls each have a distinct personality, bringing flare to their corner of the hospital.
“Indie is feisty,” Ashley said. “I call her Indie-pendent. She’s our fighter.”
While in the womb, Indie and her identical twin sister Esme developed twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome (TTTS), a serious disorder that sometimes occurs in identical twins who share a placenta.
Developed at random, TTTS occurs when there is a connection in the two babies’ blood vessels of their shared placenta. It results in one baby receiving more blood flow while the other baby receives too little.
As the recipient, Indie was in the most critical condition, Tyson says, remembering a string of scary days in October. The couple flew to California and the girls were cured in an emergency surgery.
She has had the roughest time of them all, he says.
But Indie is a trooper and she’ll let you know it, Ashley says while laughing.
Esme, on the other hand, is mellow.
“You can do anything to her and she just sits and smiles at you,” Tyson said. “She’s just so happy.”
The other set of identical twins, Scarlett and Evangeline, also mix sweet and sass.
“Scarlett is a little diva,” Tyson said. “She is stubborn.”
Scarlett was the last to take a bottle and insists on doing everything on her time table.
“When you put a bottle to her lips, she’ll close them tight and look the other way,” he said. “But when cameras come around, she’s wide awake and wants to see.”
“If you snap the camera Scarlett will immediately open her eyes like ‘oh, did you want to take my picture?’” Ashley said.
Evangeline is the mellow one in this set, similar to Esme in personality and in progress.
She was the second to take a bottle and drank 30 ML on her first try.
With a diaper bag in tow and a necklace with the quad’s initials hanging from her neck, Ashley beams as she talks about her girls.
“They’re beautiful and I’m so in love with them,” she said.
Life in the NICU
The first-time parents spend most of their time at the hospital caring for their girls in every way they can.
Still recovering from a Cesarean section, Ashley wakes up around 8 a.m. and tries to get some unpacking done. Tyson moved the couple’s belongings into a bigger home while Ashley was on hospital bedrest.
Because the Gardners only have one car, Ashley’s mom picks her up around noon and they head to the hospital.
After Tyson gets off work at 2 p.m., he meets Ashley at the hospital and they rotate between the babies, assisting with the girls’ care times every three hours.
Care times include doing anything that stimulates the baby, such as holding her or changing her diaper.
“We start with Indie at 1 p.m. and Esme at 1:30. Then Scarlett at 2 and Evangeline at 2:30,” Ashley said.
After holding Evangeline for an hour, they have time for a quick break and then start on Indie again at 4 p.m.
“We can only hold them twice a day,” Ashley said. “It takes 16 hours to be able to hold all four of them twice. You have to be here all day.”
Exhausted, they head home between 9 and 10 p.m., crash into bed and then wake up and start all over again.
The only thing we think about are those babies and when they’ll come home, Tyson says.
Though they don't have a firm date, the couple expects to take the girls home sometime around their initial due date, which is March 11.
After eight years of infertility, Ashley and Tyson found out in early July 2014 they were expecting two sets of identical twins. Nicknamed the Gardner Quad Squad, they have seen support from around the world as they’ve shared their story of infertility, in vitro and now the birth of their four baby girls.
The couple’s Facebook page -- A Miracle Unfolding-Gardner Quadruplets -- is a place of refuge and support for those struggling with infertility. It has 401,392 likes and counting.