Quadruplets come home; cycle of feeding and diapering never ends

By Lesley Jenkins
star staff
ljenkins@starhq.com

ÊÊ  How do you tell four identical babies apart when everything about them is exactly the same, down to the hair, weight, and facial features? Have a plan and then a backup plan, just in case.
  Kevin, 39, and Christine Webb, 32, a Carter County native, are the proud parents of identical quadruplet girls and are firm believers in the power of nail polish and Sharpie markers. In order to keep from confusing the girls, the Webbs have color coded each child with toenail polish and a number on each foot, written with a non-toxic Sharpie marker.
  Maternal fetal medicine specialist John Hauth, M.D., delivered No. 1 baby, Emily Morgan, on March 17, St. Patrick's Day, at 6:13 p.m. weighing 2 pounds, 4 ounces. Baby No. 2, Marley Alaina, weighed 2 pounds, 3 and a quarter ounces and was also born at 6:13 p.m. because she and Emily shared the same amniotic sac. The other two babies were in separate sacs but all four were in the same placenta, which shocked the doctors.
  Kevin refers to Lindsey Reagan as "lucky no. 3" because as a reward for being the third baby born she will forever be associated with his favorite NASCAR driver, the late Dale Earnhardt Sr. She was born at 6:14 p.m. weighing 2 pounds, 4 and a quarter ounces. The girls were the first set of identical quads born at the University of Alabama Birmingham Hospital.
  Analysis of the placenta revealed the end results of the Rh antigen panel of the quadruplets' blood provides "at least a 99 percent confirmation that they are identical," Hauth said.
  The Sharpie backup plan almost failed on Tuesday when the daily bath left one of the girl's feet blank. Luckily, the process of elimination and colored toe-nail polish revealed which baby was unnumbered.
  The girls will be able to pull many tricks and pranks during their life to confuse people about each child's identity, but they were already playing tricks with their mother's mind only seconds after the delivery. During the Cesarean delivery, Christine was shielded from the surgery by a curtain. Kevin was placed in an assembly line filled with doctors, surgeons and nurses. After each girl was delivered, the baby was checked by doctors and then handed to Kevin to show Christine.
  He told her as he held each baby, "This one is Emily." As the second baby was cleaned up and checked, he told Christine, "This is Marley." Keep in mind that Christine was filled with a lot of drugs for the surgery. When Kevin held up the third baby, Lindsey, Christine looked dazed and confused and told Kevin, "I have already seen that baby twice. Where are my babies?"
  Christine explained she thought something was wrong with her newborns and thought Kevin and the doctors were only showing her one baby over and over again.
  At 2 and a half months of age, the girls are showing signs of their different personalities. Christine said Marley is a "touch me not." She only wants you to touch her on her terms. Her mother predicts "she will be the ring leader."
  Emily "likes to be held a lot," mom explained. She was the first to be released from the hospital and was spoiled during the first few nights at home with mom, dad and sisters all to herself. Christine allowed Emily to sleep beside her in the bed, so now "she wants to still be up against me in my bed." The girls will sleep together in one crib until they get too big. This provides them comfort and they enjoy being able to touch each other while they are sleeping. They even suck on each other's heads and hands when they are lying together.
  Sydney is "extremely loving. She wants to be loved and held." Dad said she also grins all the time, especially at her mother. If she is held up close to Christine she will smile herself to sleep.
  Lindsey is described as the quiet one who sleeps a little more than the others. Kevin describes her as the lucky one because she was the third one born and will always have the no. 3, also Earnhardt's car number, related to her.
  According to doctors and reports, the quads are one of only 27 sets of identical quads in the world. The odds of having identical quadruplets are difficult to calculate because they are so rare, but doctors estimate the odds to be between 1 in 8 million to 1 in 12 million.
  The Webb girls are also considered a rarity because of Christine's "perfect pregnancy" and the girls' perfect health, according to Kevin. Before the pregnancy, she weighed a mere 95 pounds. By the time she was nine weeks pregnant, she knew there was something unusual about this pregnancy. With her two previous pregnancies with daughters Amber, 12, and Calina, 10, she did not start showing until half way through each pregnancy. By 9 weeks, she already looked like she was more than three months pregnant.
  Worried that something was seriously wrong, she went to the doctor for an ultrasound, which revealed she was carrying four babies. More amazing is the fact that Christine did not take any fertility drugs. Nearly 90 percent of quadruplets born are the result of fertility drugs.
  She gained 49 pounds in the pregnancy and had nearly 56 inches of babies inside of her. Doctors at the University of Alabama Birmingham wanted her to make the 30-week gestation mark to increase the possibility of the babies' lungs being mature. The girls were never on ventilators and only spent one night in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit before moving to the general baby nursery until they were released more than two months later.
  Despite being warned by loving family members that walking could be harmful late in the pregnancy, doctors said if walking was causing her pain, then she could continue. She even walked to Subway, a short distance from the hospital, on her delivery day.
  Her two daughters kept a close eye on her at home for the first stretch of the pregnancy. "Amber was like my little mom," Christine said. "She would tell on me (to Kevin) if I did something that I wasn't supposed to do." Amber said, "I had to tell on her once because she washed the dishes twice one day."
  Christine was placed in the hospital for the final three weeks for observation, but had no medical problems or stretch marks throughout the pregnancy.
  Kevin feels "outnumbered" in the one-bathroom house in Guin, Ala., and says men can never understand the magnitude of four newborns at once, because the babies are intangible to the husband until the birth. Even after months of planning for the girls, Kevin never imagined how much constant work they would need.
  Feeding, cleaning and diapering the babies is a never ending cycle. Kevin and Christine were told to rest when the babies rest. But that is hard because after the first baby wakes up, eats, and is changed, and then the others are cared for, it is about time for the first baby to wake up and eat again or be changed again. The whole process can take over an hour and a half. Needless to say, both parents and big sisters are exhausted.
  Each girl eats approximately 4 ounces of formula every 2 and a half to 4 hours, depending on growth spurts. The family was approved for Women, Infants, and Children, which pays for the formula. WIC gave the Webbs one month's supply, or 17 cases of formula. Each case would have cost the Webbs $80.
  The girls eat 48 to 56 bottles each day and go through 40 diapers on an average day. A week's supply of diapers and wipes costs $70, not including diaper rash medication, baby Tylenol, or any other necessities.
  Kevin is the sole provider for the family of eight because day care bills would be too expensive. Doctors also advise against placing a premature baby in daycare because of the child's weak immune system. Anyone who handles the quads is careful to wash their hands and disinfect anything that the girls come into contact with.
  A fund for the Webb quads has been established at the South Trust Bank-UAB branch with a $4,000 gift from UAB's Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Donations are accepted at any South Trust Bank for the "Webb Quadruplet Fund." For more information on how to contribute, call (205) 558-4315.
  Emily was the first to be released from the hospital on May 24. All three of the other girls were released on May 29. The hospital provided monitors for three months because they were multiples. The monitors provide peace of mind for the Webb family because doctors believe that Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is caused by an apnea episode where the baby stops breathing while sleeping. The monitors sound an alarm if the baby's heart rate drops or if the baby stops breathing.
  So far the monitors have only sounded an alarm because of a loose wire, but Christine and Kevin are glad to have the monitors to wake them up if something serious happens. All four girls have been tested for hearing, sight, heart and brain problems, but the doctors have declared that each one is in perfect health, despite being born 10 weeks premature.
  Grandparents are Mark and Elaine Gulow, Robert and Carol Webb, and Keith and Connie Hopson. Great-grandparents are Elsie and Elmer Carden, Arlin and Lois Hopson, and Bernice Mullins. Their great-great-grandmother is Ruby Hardin.