The Wall of Hope

We were so honored when Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children asked us if we’d like to be featured on this years’ Wall of Hope.  The Wall of Hope is a photography exhibit which features former patients who have endured and overcome a health crisis.  Although our babies have overcome a lot so early in their lives, I am in awe to be accompanied by such inspirational stories of all the others that participated this year.

Photo shoots took place in August, and on October 16th (the day after the babies’ first birthday luau), the hospital hosted a brunch for all the former patients and their families.  The photos they selected to be featured on the wall was strategically placed around the room.  For the first time, we got to see what everyone would see walking through the hallways of the hospital.

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The photo (shot by Elyse Butler) selected to be on the Wall of Hope.  The statement below accompanies the photo.


Shocked. That’s the most appropriate word to use when you find out you’re expecting five – yes, FIVE – babies.

“I found out I was pregnant with quintuplets when I was just a bit over 16 weeks,” says Marcie Dela Cruz, who became the first person in Hawaii to give birth to surviving quintuplets on Oct. 10, 2015.

“I went into pre-term labor at 23 weeks and was admitted to Kapiolani Medical Center for Women & Children, where I remained for five and a half weeks before giving birth,” Marcie recalls.

All five babies were in the Kapiolani Neonatal Intensive Care Unit until December.

Kapena (the oldest) and Kupono (the middle) were the first two babies to go home one Dec. 13.

Kaolu (the youngest) joined them the very next day.

Keahi (the smallest at birth) and Kamalii (the only girl) were the last to arrive home on Christmas Eve, two months and two weeks after their birth.

Now 1 year old, the babies are doing great. They have no known complications and have not only caught up with, but surpassed the normal weight of babies their age.

And while having six keiki under the age of 4 (she and husband, Ray, also have a 3-year-old son, Makaio) is certainly a life-changer, Marcie says it was her experience at Kapiolani that left the real impact.

“I saw so much compassion, patience and willingness to make patients happy from everyone I encountered,” she says. “I’ll forever be thankful for those who took care of me during my pregnancy and those who cared for my babies during the first couple of months of their lives. Mahalo nui loa!”

Hauoli La Hanau

365 days, 52 weeks, 12 months, 1 year.  No matter how you say it, I can’t believe it!  On October 10th, we had a small celebration with family at home for the babies’ first birthday. It was a last-minute gathering, as we knew we’d be celebrating with 300 of our closest family and friends in less than a week.

Their Luau was nothing short of a success.  The music was great, the food was ono, and most importantly, the babies were on their best behavior while surrounded with love. They were all lined up in their high chairs at the entrance of the hall greeting their guests.

We’ve created so many memories during this first year of their lives.  We welcomed them into this world not knowing what to expect at just 1 and 2 pounds each.  I could’ve never imagined how much I would learn in the next few months.  Having a baby (or babies) born prematurely sure teaches you a lot.  Life is so fragile.  We’ve been blessed that all of our babies are strong, healthy and happy today.  We pray that their lives are similar to what they’ve experienced in this first year; that they remain healthy, strong and happy and that they continue to be surrounded by love and positivity.

Ray and I are so honored to be their parents.  We’ll continue to do our best to guide them in life.  We are a team.  We thank everyone who’s there to help us along the way.  After all, if it takes a village to raise a child, we may need the entire state!  Happy Birthday, Babies!


Hearts & Circles

My Makaio turned 3 last month (on September 2nd). We must be doing something right because he is everything I’d want my little boy to be and more.  He’s not perfect.  He’s spoiled.  I’m probably overcompensating for all the attention all the babies get.  He’s my first born and I don’t ever want him to forget how much he means to me.  No matter what happens in life, he’ll always be my number one!  He’s naughty and selfish with his toys sometimes, but what he is NOT, is jealous.  He loves, loves, loves his babies like a big brother should.  I can already see how protective he’s going to be over his little sister.  He even scolds his little brothers if they knock her over or hit her with a toy.

He’s my funny bebe. Makaio is the only person that makes me laugh every single day.  His smile brightens my day no matter what is going on.  It’s genuine.

We sing “Betcha By Golly, Wow” together almost every day. If you don’t know the song, look it up.  Every single word is my truth to him.  Another thing I like to do with Makaio is tell him “listen to my heart”, then I place his head against my chest.  I tell him it’s saying “love you, love you…”  One day after doing that, he said “Mommy, Mommy, listen to my circle”.  I said, “it’s not a circle, it’s a heart”.  He says back at me “no Mommy, only girls have hearts, boys have circle”.  So every time I tell him to listen to my heart, he does the same and tells me his circle says “love you too”.

Love him.

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One day at a time

Babies are nine months old.

Nine months went by in the blink of an eye. As I look back at pictures of the babies when they were born, I’m amazed at how far we’ve come.  We decided to take a “one day at a time” approach to parenting the quints.  Our days are so consumed with schedules and routines that it’s no wonder the days turned into months so quickly.  We do our best to enjoy every moment but time is our enemy.

So much has changed over the past nine months.  Schedules changed from every three hours to only 4 feedings per day.  Luckily (for us), the babies started sleeping through the night at just 4 1/2 months, so night feedings are a thing of the past.

The babies have transitioned to solid foods and even their bottles have changed.  As much as we loved the Dr. Brown bottles, we’re happy to now have bottles with only three parts.  Everything matters when you multiply it by five.

Many things in our lives have changed for the better, but there are some things that have become a little more challenging.  For instance, they grew!  Oh boy.  Getting them in and out of our bus (I mean Van) is a task!  They currently all weigh between 16-20 pounds.  

They’ve started to fight over toys and constantly hit each other; there’s  even been a few instances of biting already (and there’s only five teeth total). Soon they’ll be mobile and the challenges will become more aparant.  Interestingly, we’re eagerly awaiting these new challenges.  Not because we’re glutten for punishment, but because it’s part of the process.  Seeing them discover new things is pure joy.

Our pastor recently said something that really struck me.  “Fear steals joy”.  It’s so true!  During the scary moments of our pregnancy, I chose to be positive.  If I didn’t, I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy my pregnancy and what was happening around me.  I’ll chose to continue to live my life that way.  There’s so many things I could worry about…so many things to fear.  I won’t.  I’ll continue to stick with the “one day at a time” approach to life and see where it takes us.  We’ll still plan for our future but will not succumb to fear or worry.

We made it through nine months and we’re still going strong.  I’m pretty proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish so far.  People assume we have a lot of help. Unfortunately, it’s not true.  When we need it, we get it.  Otherwise, it’s mainly just the two of us managing the six pack.  My husband made the decision to retire from roofing so he’d be able to take care of the babies once I returned to work.  It’s been 3 months since I’ve been back working full time and he’s been amazing.

May God continue to bless our Marriage & Family.

The Middle

Recently, we were asked if we planned on having this many babies at once.  My  husband began to tell him “we did IVF…” and before he could get another word in, the man interrupted and said “oh, see?  you did try for all these kids”.

Statements like that irritate me.  The mere question about fertility treatments somehow get under my skin.  I know most of the time people are so curious and shocked at seeing so many babies all at once that they don’t know what to say.  I think its natural for people to assume we went through some sort of fertility treatment, and I get it.  But asking “did you take fertility drugs” is a bit personal.  I mean, why should it matter whether or not we had fertility treatments?  Does the fact that we did IVF somehow discredit my children?  Do you even know what that means?  Probably not.

The process is very scientific from a medical perspective, but can be very trying on the woman (both mentally and physically).  I recall times when I had to give myself about 8 shots in one day.  You’re constantly being monitored by your doctors and its all about timing. It was 8 months from my initial consultation to the day I found out I was pregnant.  Getting pregnant this way was not fun.

People don’t out-of-the-blue just come out and say “I think I want twins, I’m gonna do IVF”.  Most people that go through fertility treatments just want to be parents.  There’s no guarantee you’ll get pregnant and there’s definitely no guarantee you’ll have twins.  The reason multiples are more common with IVF is because more than one embryo  (typically two) is implanted at once with the hopes that one will “take”.  Most of the time, only one of the embryos survive resulting in one baby (which is what happened when I got pregnant with Makaio).  Sometimes, both embryos survive, and that’s when you see fraternal twins; each of them from their own embryo.  More rare is when there’s identical twins.  When multiples are identical, that means the embryo split naturally.  In my case, the two embryos survived.  One was a female and the other a male.  The male split, then those two split again.  The chances of that occurring is extremely rare and nothing we would’ve anticipated or could’ve even planned.  So, no sir…we did not “try” for all these babies.  It was a blessing and a miracle from God.

Please don’t discredit those who’ve gone through some sort of fertility treatment.  We shouldn’t be defined by how we got pregnant.  Its really no one’s business.  For many people, its their last chance at having a family.  The result(s) of these treatments is not the beginning nor the end of their journey…its the middle.  There’s always a story behind the decision, and there’ll be more stories to be told in the future.

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gofundme

 

An Unforgettable Day

This Father’s Day has been a day we’ll remember forever.  Not only did my children spend the day with their father and my father; they were dedicated to our Heavenly Father.  Pastor Jon Burgess of New Hope Oahu brought our family on stage during the 11 a.m. service. He invited all the other pastors on stage and asked the entire church to pray for our family. Looking out into the audience and seeing everyone reaching out to us was an unforgettable moment. The entire church was praying for us. The Pastor led them in prayer for me, my husband, our six children and all those who’ll help raise them.

I also had an opportunity to share our testimony which will be shared at all 5 services during the first weekend of July. God has blessed us with these children and was with me during every step throughout this journey; especially during the darkest, scariest moments. I am amazed at all He has done for us and can’t wait to see what’s in our future. #blessed

First tooth!

Kupono is the first to have teeth!  Not only one, but both bottom teeth have broken through.  We didn’t even know he was teething!  I mean, we know it’s time for teeth to be coming in, and there’s definitely drool, but no fussiness or fever.  Here’s hoping the rest of the teething is the same.


He did what?

Since Father’s Day is coming up and his birthday just passed, I wanted to introduce you to the seventh wonder of my world; my husband Ray.

We were together 10 years before we actually got married. Those 10 years were not always easy for us.  We had our struggles.  I knew from the beginning that he was no longer able to have children.  He already had 5 children and he and his (then) wife decided to move forward with a vasectomy when his last son was born about 9 years before we met.  Our relationship had its ups and downs, but ultimately, we decided to make it work.  I accepted that being with him meant I’d never had children.  It was a struggle for him as much as it was for me.  He’d go through phases of guilt because he knew how much I longed to have children of my own.  I loved this man and although being with him meant I’d never have children, I didn’t want to live my life without him.  We tried to make the best of it.

A couple years after getting married, we met with a urologist to see what it would take to have his vasectomy reversed. Long story short, since it was over 15 years since his procedure, the doctor didn’t think the reversal would’ve been successful.  When we left the doctor’s office, all I could do was cry.  I thought there was no hope.  Months later, I decided to meet with a fertility doctor to see if there were any options for us, and there was.  The doctors explained In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) and how it works.

My part was hormone injections to produce more follicles (which produced more eggs). There were some obstacles along the way, but after seven months of doctor’s appointments, surgery, and multiple injections, my body was finally ready and we scheduled the egg retrieval surgery.  The same day my eggs were retrieved, the doctors had to retrieve his sperm.  Traditionally with IVF, the male would just go in a room and “produce” his specimen in a cup, but Ray couldn’t do that because of the vasectomy.  A urologist had to retrieve the sperm in a different manner…with a needle.

As you can imagine, Ray was not looking forward to this procedure. We didn’t even know if it would be successful.  There was a slight possibility the doctor wouldn’t have been able to get any sperm at all.  I, for seven months went through a lot to get to this point, and things were still up in the air.  I was at home on bed rest after my procedure while Ray went to the hospital to get his done.  All I could do was wait.  He was probably gone for only a couple of hours but it seemed like an eternity.  Did it work?  Did I go through all of this for nothing?

Finally, he called me. He was waiting for some pain killers.  What I’m about to say may make you cringe (especially if you’re a man!).  He told me that the doctor couldn’t retrieve any sperm with the needle (my heart sank) so he tried a different method…one that involved a scalpel!  Yes, I said a scalpel! (I’m trying to keep this PG so you’ll have to use your imagination).  The doctor told Ray to hold his hands up, and said “whatever you do, don’t touch me”.  He sliced it open and squeezed.  All of this with no anesthesia.  The worse part according to Ray was when the doctor had to squeezed it.  This happened a few times before they said “they got it”.

They prescribed Ray some pain killers and sent him on his way. All I remember is lying on the couch when he came home.  When I saw him I was more in love with him than ever.  He was so nervous about the needle, and ended up going through much worse.  I don’t know that he would’ve done it had he known what was about to happen.  

As he was changing out of his pants, I noticed his underwear was on backwards.  I asked him why, and his response was “I just wanted to get the F@!K out of there!”  I couldn’t stop laughing!  I was in pain myself, and all I could do was laugh and tell him how much I loved him.  Nearly 4 years and 6 kids later, I would say it was well worth it! When we talk about it, Ray still cringes.  

He’s still going above and beyond for me and our family.  I returned to work full time in the end of March, and guess who takes care of babies?  Ray retired from Roofing to be a stay at home Dad.  Makaio (the oldest) continued to go to daycare after the babies was born, but Ray stays home and takes care of the 5 babies while I’m at work.  He does it all on his own, and is awesome!  We don’t have much outside help with the babies.  He admits that it gets hard at times, but loves spending time with them.

Our lives have changed so much over the years, but I would’ve never imagined this is where we’d be today. While I’m still dealing with my own demons about returning to work (guilt, time management, guilt & guilt), Ray holds down the fort at home.  The kids are happy and healthy, he’s proud of himself, and I’m in awe.  I can’t believe how blessed I am to have all that I have.  I hope he knows how much I love appreciate him.  He does so much for us and never complains.  Well, he complains a lot, but not ever about taking care of the babies.  We’re still figuring things out as we go along.  It’s just us but I wouldn’t want to do it with anyone else.  #ilovemyhubby

Click here to watch a short video of Ray
 

Meet Kaolu

The last of the the pack, Kaolu was born at 5:06pm weighing 2lbs 10.3oz and 14.17 inches. He is my happy,smiley baby boy.  I knew he’d be this way while still pregnant. During an ultrasound he flashed the “I love you” sign and another time it looked as if he was reaching out to Keahi for a hug.  He was also the first to flash me a smile.  

His name was a bit of a happy accident.  I knew I wanted to name one of my boys after my Uncle Ronald.  I would be honored to have a child like him.  He is hard-working, dependable and probably one of the sweetest men I’ve ever met.  His middle name is Japanese – Kaoru.  Switch the R to an L and we got Kaolu (the letter r does not exist in the Hawaiian alphabet).  It was so fitting because Kaolu means pleasant in Hawaiian.

I wrote about TTTS in my last post.  Kaolu was the other baby who was directly affected by this disorder…the recipient.  Because he was receiving extra nutrients, he was the biggest of the boys.

About 4 months into my pregnancy, the doctors performed a procedure called Amniocenteses.  650cc’s of fluid was drained using a long needle through my belly.  There were two doctors and a nurse there.  One doctor with the needle & the other doctor performing an ultrasound to see  how deep they needed to go and make sure the baby wasn’t affected. Luckily, that was the one and only procedure needed.

Both Kaolu and Keahi are happy, healthy baby boys.  They were partners in the womb and now share a crib.  Kaolu loves to laugh and is extremely ticklish.  He is a chub-a-lub. Although he appears to be the biggest because of his round face and chubby cheeks, Kupono out-weighs him by a pound.  

Kaolu will always hold a special place in my heart since he’s the baby of the family (even if it’s only by a minute). #ilovemykaolu

Click here to watch a short video of Kaolu