Every day’s a numbers game for Chris and Katie Sturm now. Up to 24 diapers, 20 bottles spread out over five feedings — things really add up with four new babies.
“Lots of crying — somebody is always crying,” Katie Sturm said of life caring for four babies.
She delivered her quadruplets July 3 after months of challenges, including undergoing brain surgery in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Three months after the babies’ arrival, she and her husband are adjusting to life with multiples, with the help of a team of relatives, doctors and caretakers.
They already were parents to their 3-year-old son, Ryan, but they wanted to try for a girl.
“The whole point of all of this is we wanted to have one boy and one girl and we were going to be done,” Chris Sturm said.
The news that his wife was pregnant with quadruplets was especially surprising because at age 16, she had been told she’d never be able to get pregnant with her own eggs.
“Nothing prepares you for the idea that, ‘Hey, guess what? You wanted one baby, but here’s four,’ ” he said.
Katie Strum said she cried for days when she got the news. She was worried she and her husband wouldn’t be able to afford four more children, but they’ve made it work. The couple moved into a larger home and bought a minivan to prepare for life with five children.
“You do what you gotta do, you know?” she said.
But just as she was getting used to the idea of quadruplets, she got another shock. Three months into her pregnancy, she suffered a seizure at work.
She was diagnosed at UT Southwestern with a glioma, a tumor that affects brain function and health.
Her doctors wanted to wait until her babies were born to remove it. But after she had another seizure, they decided to move faster.
On March 22, the day Dallas County’s shelter-in-place order went into effect and during the 20th week of her pregnancy, Katie went into surgery.
“My biggest fear was that I was going to die on the table,” she said. “I told my husband that if something did happen to me, I didn’t want to leave him with four newborns by himself.”
But things went well and Katie recovered successfully at home. On July 3, when she was 32 weeks pregnant, doctors performed a Caesarian section, and Austin, Daniel, Jacob and Hudson were born.
The boys stayed in the hospital’s neonatal intensive-care unit for different amounts of time. Austin and Jacob came home first, Daniel a week later, and Hudson two weeks after that, the couple said.
“They didn’t do that for our sake, really. They had to keep them as long as they were needing to be kept,” Katie Sturm said. “But it was nice, and it really helped us adjust a little bit easier.”
Life with multiples
Katie said she has received lots of help along the way.
Her grandmother organized a socially distant drive-through baby shower before the children were born, and she and Katie’s mother and mother-in-law have been around to help provide care.
The couple have joined a program for multiples that helps them get formula and their doctors often provide samples of formula.
The family is also working to make sure their first child, who is just starting to potty train, also gets plenty of attention. The couple said Ryan has been sweet and gentle with the newborns but is eager for them to get older so he can play with them.
“He told my mother-in-law the other day that he doesn’t want anymore,” she said. “He calls them ‘growers,’ and he said he only wanted one.”
Despite the challenges, she said she feels extremely fortunate.
“Whenever they smile, it just touches your heart a little bit,” she said. “That’s really when I feel lucky and blessed to have four of them.”
Katie, a registered nurse at Texas Health Arlington Memorial Hospital, returned to work part-time last week. She and her family coordinated their schedules so someone is always home with the kids.
But she also has to keep an eye on herself because gliomas can recur.
A little more than two months after the quadruplets were born, Katie had another seizure.
“We’re doing MRIs every three months right now, so we’re keeping a close eye to make sure it doesn’t happen again, and just take it day by day,” she said.
Sleep deprivation can raise the risk of such seizures, and with four newborns it’s not easy to stay rested. The babies sleep only five or six hours a night, and if more than one of them is awake, Katie gets the others up to keep them all on the same schedule. The couple also has hired a part-time nurse to help with overnight care.
Katie said her doctor is confident about her health long-term, but she’s still anxious.
“I have to worry about it for the rest of my life,” she said. “I have these babies that I have to worry about. Am I going to be around in 15 years when they’re in high school? I don’t know. It’s been tough.”
But she sounds calm and matter-of-fact when she talks about the challenges ahead.
“I don’t have any other choice but to be strong and try to handle it,” she said.