TRICKUM — A violin concerto played softly over a widescreen television as 11-week-old quadruplets Elizabeth, Emily, Erika and Alexis started to coo Tuesday morning and stir in their bouncers. They were getting hungry. Again.
Feeding time in this Cleburne County household is just one of the adjustments that Shelby and Dakota Smith have had to make since becoming parents of quads on Feb. 19, between 10:15 and 10:30 a.m.
The trick is to stick to a routine. That’s made the care-and-feeding process “surprisingly smooth,” said Shelby.
The last of the foursome, Erika, came home Monday from the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at UAB. Shelby said that despite being delivered 12 weeks early, the girls are all healthy and are gaining weight.
Shelby, 27, and her husband, Dakota, 24, will mark Mother’s Day today by taking the girls and their 2-year-old brother, Jackson, and venturing out into the wide world. It’ll be the quads’ first big trip, to Dakota’s grandmother’s house in nearby Georgia.
“This will be the first time the girls meet the rest of the family,” Shelby said.
The first three newborns came home on April 27. Now that all four are home, the realities of tending to them have taken over the Smith household.
The aroma of freshly mixed baby formula wafted through the kitchen as Shelby described the “process” of feeding the newborns every three hours, day and night.
“Five bottles, four rows,” she said, describing how one entire shelf in the refrigerator is now dedicated to clear plastic bottles and a gallon-sized container with blue tape marked “FORMULA.”
Dakota’s family lives next door to help out with the production of the bottles and other tasks. Dakota’s mom, Christian, watches the babies while Shelby is at work, and Dakota’s sister, Cheyenne, makes the bottles.
“She’s been our designated bottle-maker. She’s done a great job. We have well water so we have to boil the water first,” Shelby said.
Not surprisingly, the kitchen has been taken over by colorful baby bottle parts, including gasket-type rings and clear nipples.
Shelby said that if she is by herself, it takes one hour to feed all of the newborns, but if she has help — two babies per person — the task takes only 30 minutes.
“We’ll start with whoever starts fussing first, get them changed and start feeding them, and then we move on to the next fussiest one,” she said.
Dakota’s employer, Cooper Chevrolet in Anniston, held a diaper drive that brought in boxes of Huggies, Pampers and Luvs, now stacked in a bedroom and the back of the living room.
“I feel like I’m constantly opening a pack of diapers,” Shelby said.
Due to a round-the-clock feeding schedule, getting a full night’s sleep is a thing of the past.
“As far as how we feel physically, we’re really tired, getting a few hours of sleep at a time. We’re getting decent sleep but it’s broken into like two hours at a time,” Shelby said.
“As far as emotionally, it’s a relief to have them home and not have to drive to Birmingham anymore … they were on wires and monitors and everything so you couldn’t really pick them up too much.”
She smiled when she said, “I can pick them up pretty much anytime I want to.”
Shelby said that a year ago the couple decided to start trying for a second child.
“It took us a few months to get pregnant,” she said. “We didn’t even know if we would get pregnant because we did fertility. I didn’t think we’d have four. We never even really considered twins.”
She went to her doctor for a routine visit to simply confirm she was pregnant.
“Her eyes just got big and she was like, ‘There’s three here,’ and I just was like, ‘Three what?’ and I did not expect her to say three babies, and the fourth one the next week. Definitely very shocked.”
Shelby said one of her friends, Shonna, “jinxed us, saying we were going to have triplets.”
When Shelby found out she was going to have at least three babies, she called Shonna, who refused to believe her.
“She thought I was kidding. I was crying; she knew I wasn’t kidding.”
Shelby had hoped for at least two boys in the mix, but her friend again correctly predicted otherwise — all girls.
She said that all the nurses and doctors involved in the process said the girls are doing really well considering they were born premature.
“Just to hear that, it feels really good, that I did something right.”