We Have Quadruplets. Life, Life Hacks and How Not to Go Crazy

How a large family from Kolomna lives
Olga Kozhemyakina | 25 September 2020
We Have Quadruplets. Life, Life Hacks and How Not to Go Crazy

A year ago, Julia and Nikolai Mikhailov had four babies. It was a planned pregnancy and natural conception. The first ultrasound showed two fetal eggs. The parents were delighted with twins, but soon they learned that there would be four children. Doctors offered to make a reduction of the fetuses, but the Mikhailovs said: “It’s God’s will, so all of them should be born.” The babies are now a year and two months old. “Pravmir” visited the large family.

It is noon, the first nap time. In the courtyard of a cottage there are two double carriages, in which the “quartet” sniffs. It’s Saturday, but Nikolai is at work. He has only one day off. “The family needs to be fed,” Julia smiles.

We settled ourselves so that we could see the strollers and be there when the children wake up, but so as not to interfere with the babies’ sleep by our conversation. A couple of minutes later, a woman comes out onto the porch with a basin of just washed clothes. “This is my mother,” Julia introduces and says that there are always two people at home with the kids.

“Why Does Everyone Have One or Two, And I Have Four?”

Julia learned about her pregnancy at 8-9 weeks. The first ultrasound showed two fetal eggs, the doctors said that there would be two children. Nikolai was very happy about this news. Julia recalls the first, not very strong, shock.

Despite the fact that there are such cases in the family ( Nikolai’s mother has a twin sister) this turned out to be unexpected. But what happened next, tired but cheerful Julia recalls as something for which it is impossible to be ready:

– We came to the next ultrasound, on the 13th week, to listen to the heartbeat. The doctor looked at the screen for a very long time. He was silent, and I was waiting in awe to hear what was happening there. And then he silently showed on his fingers: four. What did four mean? Four children? How? I was shocked, I could not come to my senses.

– What were your first thoughts?

Why am I not like everyone else? Why does everyone have one or two, and I have four children? I understood that it would be difficult, there were few such cases. I was worried. I could not cope with emotions during the first two weeks, it was psychologically difficult, I cried all the time. From shock, confusion: how was it possible?

I had no thoughts at that moment how we will raise the children, I just thought: how was this even possible?

I was strongly supported by my husband. I said that we would have not two, but four children. He was delighted, laughed: “Does that happen?” she continues. “And in the evening, he met me with flowers. He said that we will definitely cope. But inside him, at first, there was some kind of war going on, of course. This was evident from some confusion, it was usually not characteristic of Nikolai. When I came to my mother, I also burst into tears. She found words to calm and reassure me, so I gradually began to calm down.”

In the Balashikha perinatal center, where Julia was sent from Lukhovitsy, where she was registered at that time, doctors were puzzled by her physique:

– We were offered to make a reduction: to remove two or three fetuses in order to avoid risks. When we came to the consultation to the head of the perinatal center, she looked at me and said: “Julia, you are so thin, it will be very difficult for you.” And I agreed to everything. And we talked with my husband, and decided: we would definitely keep all of them. At the end of February, I was admitted to the perinatal center and only on August 20 I left the hospital. All this time I led a snail lifestyle.

Before pregnancy, Julia weighed 56 kilograms. She is a tall young woman with an athletic figure. Pregnancy added 16.5 kg to her. She will remember the features of its course for a long time:

– Initially, I had breathing problems, my stomach was big, my chest was pinched. Then I started having problems with my legs: my veins ached. I did not sleep every night until three in the morning. No ointments helped. A specialist came, I did special exercises for pregnant women, practiced on balls, she showed what exercises to do on the legs to relieve tension. They helped a little, but I still endured pain.

All the Babies Screamed at Once

– The birth was unscheduled. We wanted to wait up to 34 weeks, but the waters left earlier. I was on a drip all night so that labor would not start. In the morning, the doctors gathered a consultation and performed a cesarean section. The firstborn was Maxim, he was born at 11:10, weighing 1.4 kilograms, 39 centimeters tall. Arseniy was born at 11:11: 1.2 kilograms, 39 centimeters. A little more than one minute later, the third baby was born: George, 1.5 kilograms, 40 centimeters. Anya appeared fourth: 41 cm with the same weight. That’s how big they were!

Each baby had its own placenta and umbilical cord, independent of each other. The parents looked at the names of the calendar. But only for the girl, the name was chosen in advance – Anna.

There were two resuscitators for each baby during childbirth, all in all eight doctors for four babies.

Nobody was put on my breast. The babies were born prematurely and could have breathing problems. They showed me one of them, but I heard them all: they shouted”, Julia recalls.

She was taken to the intensive care unit, where she stayed until 9 pm, and after that she was transferred to a regular ward. The next day, she visited her kids in the children’s intensive care unit, where they stayed for a month and a half.

All this time they were not put to the breast, but Julia was expressing milk, and the children were fed through special devices. They started with five milliliters of milk. The volume was gradually increased. And then they brought the children. First, they brought two babies to the mother’s ward, and after a while, two more. Her husband and both grandmothers of the babies were on duty every day in the Julia’s ward.

At first, Julia recalls, she got enough sleep: “I immediately fell asleep, because I had problems with sleep during the whole pregnancy.”

– I am very lucky: my husband is not afraid of babies. When he was with me at the hospital, he washed them, changed diapers, held them, and turned them from side to side. He is still doing that. My husband took massage courses, we took care of the children ourselves. It was inconvenient to drive to a hospital and hiring a specialist was expensive. I thought that I myself would be afraid, there was no experience of communicating with babies and caring for them. It was all for the first time. But, apparently, maternal feelings play a role. Everything is as if by itself.

Our Whole Life Is a Big Conveyor

In August, the kids and mother were discharged. At home, they have established shifts and a clear schedule: sleep, food, walks. “Even if a child wakes up, I let the other one sleep for another 10-15 minutes and wake up. Otherwise, it will be impossible to put them to sleep,” Julia says.

Julia tells about a typical day in her family at that time:

– Until three in the morning I was on duty, then the grandmother was – my husband’s mother – from three until the morning. My mother then came twice a week from another city. My husband was also on duty. The first year was very difficult. Assuming that there was pumping every three hours of feeding. I had about four hours of sleep then.

Now our life is arranged like this. In the morning we wake up, we need to change diapers, give the kids compote to drink, let go of the grandmother on duty, – Julia continues. – Then the other grandmother comes. Then we eat porridge. Everyone is sitting at the table. One adult needs to feed two babies. We eat, wash ourselves, grandmother looks after the children, at this time everything should be cleaned up. In thirty minutes we’re going for a walk. It’s a kind of a ritual: we drink compote again, we dress. On the street we rock babies in strollers, the kids sleep for an hour and a half or two. It’s mom’s time. Now I am engaged in landscaping and sorting things out, I do not rest. I want it to be clean in the house and on the territory.

When Julia was discharged from the hospital, the governor of the Moscow region made a present to the family: a certificate for the purchase of housing. Most recently, the Mikhailovs moved into the cottage, and there is still a lot of work to be done. But the kids have appreciated the new space and are happy to explore it.

– When they wake up, we walk a little and eat soup, then wash, clean everything up, play, then they have a second nap time. In the evening we put them to bed two by two, each one falls asleep in his bed with a bottle. While the first batch is falling asleep, the second takes a bath.

There is cyclicality and monotony in all this, but children grow up. There will be other days, Julia explains. She says she doesn’t even think about running with her husband or sports activity in the gym right now. Everything that was before the birth is forgotten now. Although once the parents made the Mikhailovs a present:

– We were allowed to go to St. Petersburg during the winter holidays for three days. And you know, on the first day my husband and I were in a strange state, as if something was missing all the time. I felt like an irresponsible mother: how are the kids now? They might be crying now, and we are resting here. We were able to relax only the next day. But three days were enough. It is very important and necessary to have a rest. But it was incredibly difficult to fit into our rhythm again upon arrival home.

– And were there some other cases when you were out of schedule? Maybe it was a difficult moment in your life?

– The most difficult moment for all this time was when the kids fell ill. They caught a cold. At first, one fell ill, and the next day, all the children had a fever. Then we split up, each adult took a baby into the room, and so they were treated for some time. At one point, Maxim lost his voice, and dad went to the hospital with him, we stayed at home with three kids. Since children have bronchopulmonary dysplasia, I was very afraid of complications in the lungs and pneumonia. The doctors also talked about this. But there was even no coughing, the children caught up the regime.

When Julia talks about children, she smiles all the time:

– I rejoice. I remember how the kids showed the first emotion. At first they laid there, just looked at you, but now they hug you, begin to walk, learn nursery rhymes.

One and a Half Packs of Diapers Per Day

For all her children, Julia receives about 20 thousand rubles in benefits, and there are many expenses. Two strollers cost about 100 thousand rubles. And much more is still ahead.

– We spend one and a half packs of diapers a day. We stopped feeding with artificial nutrition. Previously one 800-gram can a day was eaten. We were offered help by a baby food company from Balashikha, but, unfortunately, it did not suit us. We picked up a different food, bought it ourselves.

Friends and my sister help us with children’s clothes. I try to buy outerwear for them myself, and I accept the rest of the clothes from my friends without hesitation. Anyway, children grow up. I try to dress them in the same style, but not in the same way. I have no such thing. They are not alike at all, I began to distinguish them immediately. When they wake up, you will see by yourself.

Laughing Boy, Hooligan, Brain, and Actress

An hour later, a short whimper was heard in one of the strollers, turning into lazy crying. Julia jumped up, went to greet the kids after sleep. In the carriages, one after another, with a difference of several seconds, the children began to wake up. Just after sleep, looking like curious chicks, they asked for attention.

Julia told us about each of them.

– Maxim is the firstborn. This is our laughing boy, his laugh is so infectious, everyone around him wants to laugh too. He is positive and very kind. He is a little capricious: he already has 12 teeth.

Arseny was the smallest when he was born. Now he caught up with everyone. He is the only one who walks without support so far. He is independent. He is very flexible. He can raise his leg to his ears, and raise the other one. He is interested in everything, the most inquisitive one. He is little hooligan.

George is a gifted boy. You can show him some games once or twice, and he immediately repeats it. For example, educational games “Worms”. He loves them. He collects pyramids, helps to put away toys, responds to requests from adults. He is very tender, he can come, put his head on your shoulder, and press against your cheek.

Anya is a star. She loves to dance, dress up, play, talk to a horse or a cat.

In general, they all love music very much. When they were very small, we laid them out on the bed, turned on children’s songs, they looked at us, and danced with their feet.

We do not turn on the TV yet. I want them to keep each other busy with the game, communicate. Now it is such a period when they began to react to each other, invent games among themselves.

It happens that they cannot share something among themselves. Everyone needs one toy. George can always amuse himself. If they take a toy from him, he will come up with something else. The other three will see that, go to him again to look, what is he busy with. Ant they take it away again. If they take his toys away three times, that’s all, then he already screams.

“I Don’t Mind Giving Birth to Another Child”

The walk after sleep is in full swing, every kid needs to be entertained. Julia’s mother came out to play with the kids. Here are the flowers, in which bumblebees fly, the wind drives the leaves, everything is in motion: it’s interesting. One needs to go to the flower bed, and everyone also wants to go there. The time will soon come when children can scatter around the yard, they will be hard to catch.

– Julia, when I look at this, I remember a Soviet cartoon about a monkey mother with many children… How to deal with everyone?

– This cartoon is what awaits us, I’m sure. Even now, there are moments when you do something, for example, you go to the toilet, and the kids, out of curiosity, all crawl after you. But we never leave them completely alone: it can be dangerous.

Of course, we have difficulties, too. Going to the hospital is difficult. Anyway, one adult is needed for one child in such cases, as well as the suitable transport. Therefore, if something is urgent and it can be done at home, get tested, for example, they meet us halfway, and come to our house.

And I do not hide that we get tired, but we have everything like everyone else has. Instead of one baby that needs to be washed, we have four.

– Julia, do you think sometimes about going back to the maternity hospital?

– Oh, I’m not ready yet. Although the thought that the second birth is a different perception of motherhood comes to me. I’ve heard about it somewhere. Now I realize that some things are cyclical and, perhaps, pass by. I may not pay special attention to them.

Probably, I want to experience motherhood a second time. But given the fact that there are four children and the first year was very difficult, I am not ready yet. I am now 32 years old. To be honest, I do not exclude a second pregnancy, but another question arises: we need to raise everyone. Like any mother, I want the children not to need anything, I want them to have everything to develop properly. But, as they say, if God is willing…

In St. Petersburg there is a family with quadruplets, I see their Instagram. They were born a month earlier than us, and then one day I saw that the mother was pregnant with the fifth! It seems that the children were six months old then. I’m not ready yet.

“They Looked at Us Like at a Reality Show”

On the daytime promenade with strollers, you need to go to the car gate. The dimensions of the double stroller do not fit through a standard door. Therefore, the transport of babies is in the garage, if not necessary.

Passers-by, sometimes, look back at us on the street. Someone takes courage and asks questions. Recently, a man decided that two in strollers were Julia’s kids, and two more were grandmother’s babies. Julia replied that all of them are hers. People are surprised, sympathetic, touched.

– The stores make special discounts or unexpected gifts when they find out that we have quadruplets. Of course, we do not specifically talk about that, just when you buy, for example, four cribs at once, questions arise. This doesn’t happen every day. This is very pleasant. We appreciate it.

Sometimes we meet very kind, understanding people. For example, the owner of the house we bought held it especially for us, despite the fact that other people offered to buy it faster and pay more. But she waited for us and even left almost everything in the house: a lot of furniture and household appliances.

Tomorrow we will have a housewarming party, our friends will come. They are already used to everything, they help as much as they can. At first, out of confusion, they looked at our large family like at some kind of a reality show.

Translated by Alyona Malafeeva

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