"HE goes 'A, B, C, D', then he goes 'Todd and Alise, there's a baby D'. I said 'what'."
That was the moment that Frenchs Forest couple Alise and Todd Andrew found out they were expecting quads.
In the lead up to Mother's Day, Alise recalled the early stages of her pregnancy and what life was like for a first-time mum who suddenly has four babies all at the same time.
She was 35 years old and they'd be trying IVF without success until one day when they decided to use two eggs during the round.
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"It was our fourth attempt, my age, I didn't get a lot of eggs every time I did a round of IVF," Alise said. " When we came to the transfer day we said to our doctor 'how many eggs do we have' and he said 'two, one really good one and one mmm, we wouldn't freeze it because we don't think it would survive being thawed."
When told the not-so-good egg would be discarded they asked about the likelihood of it becoming fertilised. "He said 'maybe 20 per cent' and Todd and I were like '20 per cent, well throw it on in'," Alise said.
At the seven week scan they were told there was two heartbeats. "I started laughing, Todd sat down," she said. "When he said there was a third heartbeat neither of us said a word. We were both waiting for him to say 'just kidding', but he was a very serious doctor and the 'just kidding' did not come.
"You go from wanting to have a baby and having to have help to conceive a child and then it was like now I'm going to have three of them at once, I couldn't get my head around it and a little bit of me was in denial. I was probably in denial the whole pregnancy."
Days before their 12-week scan, Alise had a significant bleed but a trip to the hospital confirmed there were still three heartbeats.
During the Nuchal translucency scan three days later the sonographer asked Alise how many babies she was having. "I said three, but I had a scare, is there not three heartbeats? she said 'I'm just going to get your doctor'."
Alise and Todd then looked at each other fearing the worst after her scare, with Todd reassuring his wife: "just breathe, just breathe".
Then, the words confirmed it, "he goes 'A, B, C, D', then he goes 'Todd and Alise, there's a baby D'."
"On the way back from the hospital Todd and I didn't speak to each other the whole way, we were both processing it," Alise said. "Then we got to Forestway and McDonald's is there, and I don't really eat McDonald's, but I said 'I want McDonald's and I want a Big Mac, a Quarter Pounder, six nuggets and a Fillet o' Fish' and he said 'are you serious?'. I ate it all, I was starving."
I used to shove Tiny Teddies down the side of my bed at night because I'd wake up and need a snack.
The 'eating for two' thing might be a myth for some, but for Alise she was starving her entire pregnancy and would often have a second dinner or snacks late at night.
"I used to shove Tiny Teddies down the side of my bed at night because I'd wake up and need a snack," she said. "He'd often wake up and I'd be snacking on something. If we'd had chicken schnitzel that night he'd wake up and I'd be eating cold chicken schnitzel."
Upon discovering there were quads on the way, not triplets, the doctor thinks that the heartbeats of two of the babies must have been in sync, and that one was covering the other, which is why the fourth baby wasn't spotted earlier.
After a problem-free, albeit hungry, pregnancy, the quads arrived on March 18, 2009 via caesarean at Westmead Hospital. "They were born at 8.30am and all out within two minutes. Bailey's the oldest, it's alphabetical, but we didn't do that intentionally."
Bailey weighed 1621 grams, Ethan 1440g, Mitchell 1390g and Nate 1192g.
Of the newborns, three are identical triplets - Bailey, Ethan and Nate, while Mitchell is fraternal.
"Todd and I really only thought maybe twins doing the two eggs, never in a million years did I think that one of the eggs would split again," Alise said.
It's better now that they're bigger because they're not dependent on you for everything.
Looking back, Alise doesn't remember much of her first six months of being a mother, it was hard, there was four of everything, she was sleep deprived and in the end they did get support in to help with the day-to-day caring of their newborns.
"It's better now that they're bigger because they're not dependent on you for everything," she said. "But, the trouble with multiples is that you wish their whole life away because you just want them to be able to do this, or you just want them to be able to do that. When will they be able to hold their bottles for themselves so you don't have to feed them all the time? When we were at home by ourselves, they'd feed every four hours and then you'd do what you had to do, you might have 40 minutes before you started all over with the first one."
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In the lead up to Mother's Day, Alise said the best thing about her boys is the hugs are amazing, but she admits having "four pre-teens" is challenging".
"They can be good friends, but they know the buttons to press with each other which I'm sure most siblings do anyway," she said.
"I have a shorter fuse, I have no patience, I'm always barking orders which I never thought I would be as a parent. I'm very militant which I never wanted to be, ever. You have no choice; everything's a production and routine. Routine is the lifesaver and I hate routine but it is what gets you through."
Nate, the youngest by two minutes, admits it's a "bit annoying sometimes" being the youngest of the quads.
Bailey loves being the oldest "because I'm always the superior one," he smiled. Also, while there's always someone to play with, he said he and his brothers have to "share everything".
"Your parents don't get to see you play sports because you have to share that time," he added.
Mitchell loves always having someone to play with, but said it can also be a challenge. "We all get in each other's space and fight a bit with each other," he said.
Joining the club
Both couples are among more than 170 members of the Northern Beaches Multiple Birth Club and they often seek support from fellow parents.
The club has been supporting multiple mums, dads and expectant parents since 1977 and president Bronwyn Bruzzano said there's understanding there that parents of a single child don't always get.
"I have eight-year-old triplets, identical boys and a girl," she said. "The whole reason we exist is to help people who feel isolated and who don't think they can leave home because you've got two newborns. It's about rocking up with screaming newborns, looking like you've just got out of bed and knowing that you'll be supported.
"My advice is to listen to people's advice, but find your own rhythm because not everything works for everyone."
Multiple births in Australia
- 1.5 per cent (or 4501) of pregnancies resulted in a multiple birth, remaining relatively consistent over the past decade.
- 55 of these pregnancies were triplets or higher order.
Data for 2019 from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
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