Meet Corrie and Keith Cook of Nashua and their quadruplets
Quadruplets have taken this Nashua family on the adventure of a lifetime
Editor’s note: Writer Pamme Boutselis started her reporting on the Cook family in November 2016, and followed the family through late May 2017.
In 2015, Nashua natives Corrie and Keith Cook took a leap of faith and headed west to pursue their dreams. Corrie had recently been laid off, and with a newly earned MBA from Southern New Hampshire University, she and Keith responded to the lure of a lower cost of living and new job possibilities. They packed up their two-year-old son Alex and headed to Arizona.
“We had friends that had lived there for a few years and they would tell about all of the opportunities and adventures there were out there,” Keith said.
Corrie said the job market seemed to be booming in Phoenix “and we decided we had nothing to lose and took the leap,” landing in Laveen, Ariz.
And new adventures did come their way – great jobs for them both, a four-bedroom house and activities for their son Alex. Life was good. Little did they know the biggest adventure of all was headed their way.
A surprising ultrasound
Nearly a year into their new life in the southwest, the Cooks decided to try for a sibling for Alex. Before long they were expecting, and about seven weeks into the pregnancy Corrie had her first ultrasound.
“I was watching the ultrasound and noticed that something looked different from our ultrasounds we had with our son,” Keith said. “I saw more than one little circle on the screen and knew something was up. I was shocked and it didn’t really set in until the doctor also mentioned she thought she saw more than one.”
Corrie’s only reaction was to laugh. “I didn’t fully believe what the doctor was telling me or what I was seeing,” she said. “I asked if they were sure they didn’t count the same one twice by accident.”
It wasn’t a case of counting one child more than once, however; it was more like counting four babies. It was a big surprise, especially in a family without a history of multiples or the use of fertility drugs.
“The only multiples that are known in our family are on my grandfather’s side,” Corrie said. “He has a brother and sister that are twins.”
Heading back home again
Suddenly life in Arizona seemed daunting, being so far away from the support of friends and family in New Hampshire. The couple once again packed up their belongings and made their way home.
Alex, who turned three last October, had no inkling of what was ahead. He was fully immersed in the big gender reveal, however, when in early November the family learned their newest members would come in pairs – two girls and two boys.
In December, Corrie said, “He understands there is a baby in Mommy’s belly but doesn’t fully grasp that there are four of them! He is in for a very big surprise when they come home.”
The Cooks, who first met in Nashua in the first grade, and reconnected years later through a mutual friend when Corrie was a junior in college, had quite a few surprises in store for them as well. Little did they know what the months to come would bring. The couple that had been together eight years and married for four initially stayed with family as they prepared to go from a family of three to a family of seven in a few short months – shorter, in fact, than most pregnancies, given the time constraints of carrying quadruplets.
Corrie’s full-term due date was April 4, 2017, but her doctors would only let her carry the quads until 34 weeks – around Feb. 21 – and scheduled a C-section. Last December, Corrie said, “Our goal right now is to make it to 28 weeks and any days further are all the better. I am, of course, hoping to make it to 34 weeks.”
The quads, above, enjoy skin-to-skin contact with their mom.
At that time, Corrie spoke to the differences between her pregnancies: “My first pregnancy with Alex was a breeze in comparison to this pregnancy,” she said. “I was able to enjoy my pregnancy and all of the milestones that come along with the excitement of your first pregnancy.”
With the quads, she was considered very high risk. With four babies on board, her body was expanding at four times the rate she experienced with Alex, leading to a lot of discomfort and limitations on what she could do.
“With this pregnancy, I have bed rest in my near future, which I did not have with my son,” Corrie said. “Everything about the quad pregnancy is harder, not to mention I also have a three-year-old to take care of as well!”
As the months progressed, Keith and Corrie reached out to other families who had experienced what they soon would. “We went to a meeting in Nashua for parents of multiples,” Keith said. “I have friends who have twins so I’ve talked with them a bit. We have also been watching the shows on TLC about families that have multiples together, which lets you see a glimpse into what our future will be like.”
While the couples with twins had some great advice for the Cooks, Corrie said there weren’t any quad families locally. But she did find a Facebook group for moms of quads. “I have found that very helpful as well,” she said.
Facebook played an integral role in keeping the public up-to-date on what was happening with their pregnancy, with more than 2,000 followers in a group geared specifically to the quads and the Cooks’ adventures as they awaited the babies’ arrival.
Challenges along the way
In late December Corrie was hospitalized due to high blood pressure and physical discomfort. It proved to be an exhausting experience for Corrie, particularly after a treacherous ride into Boston in a snowstorm.
“It certainly opened my eyes to just how high-risk I am,” Corrie said in early January. “Having to be monitored 24/7 was difficult. Also, losing my privacy was hard. There is no shame at the hospital. Nurses constantly in and out, asking personal questions, measuring your urine outtake, constantly having your stomach out being monitored, not being able to wear clothes. It was all a shock at first because I had no idea what to expect.”
At this point, everything physical was hard for Corrie. She said, “Walking is almost nonexistent…as my hips and legs feel like they are going to break. Getting out of bed to use the restroom, shower, etc., is a task I dread each time.” She could no longer sit up straight, which made eating, sitting, walking – everything – very difficult.
“Due to the pain of everything being squished and stretching, I can only lay on my left side to sleep, which is difficult on my hips and has also started to cause some bruises,” Corrie said.
The couple was thankful to have family close by and willing to help. “They are truly our support system right now and have been taking turns taking Alex while I can no longer chase him around and while I’ve been in the hospital,” Corrie said. Her grandmother made him a playroom at her house and had a bedroom set for when he stayed over.
While it wasn’t easy for Alex, Corrie said he took it all in stride as he loved seeing everyone, but some days were harder than others.
“It is hard to explain to him what is going on, so we try to make it exciting and on the weekend when Keith is home from work we spend a lot of family time together, just the three of us,” she said. “He knows there are four babies in mommy’s belly but when I ask, he tells me he’s only getting a brother, so we try to tell him he’s getting two brothers and two sisters.”
What was hardest for Corrie was the feeling she was losing her independence. “I now need to rely on others for normal daily things I used to easily do,” she said. “I know this is temporary and will all be worth it so I try to stay positive the best I can.”
The countdown begins
Corrie was able to return home again after the brief hospital stay, but in a little over a week she was back in the hospital, and would remain there for three weeks prior to the quads’ arrival. Grateful the babies were continuing to show good health – and that she wasn’t experiencing any real health concerns – it was still difficult to be away from home and her family, particularly her son. In her blog, Corrie wrote, “We try to Skype every night, which helps, but just isn’t the same.”
There was quite a bit of company and lots of medical procedures and tests. She tried to keep busy, blogging. “I pass the time in between by reading, watching Netflix, writing thank-you cards from the shower, trying to learn how to crochet, walking the halls and browsing the gift shop.” Corrie was still able to walk around a bit each day, not confined quite yet to complete bed rest.
As she entered into week three of her hospital stay in late January, excitement started to build – perhaps a bit more excitement than they needed one Sunday afternoon. Corrie started having contractions. She experienced a seesaw of emotions as the contractions persisted and grew closer together. She had a variety of medications and treatments to slow down the potential birth.
On the morning of Jan. 24, “My contractions decided to fizzle out,” Corrie said. “It was a two-day ride on the edge of our seats. Of course, our friends and family were there for us and just waited for the word of when go-time was.” The Cooks were grateful to have an opportunity for the quads to delay their entry at least another day, if not another week – “The past few days showed me really anything can happen,” she said.
Time to meet the quads
As the month came to a close, contractions were a daily occurrence, sometimes consistent and other times fleeting. But then it was go-time for real. On Feb. 2, Alex went from being an only child to the older brother of four siblings – Hailey Yvette, weighing in at 2 lbs. 11 oz.; Michael LaRue, 3 lbs. 7 oz.; Benjamin Robert, 3 lbs. 14 oz.; and Ellie Germaine, 3 lbs. 3. oz. Within two days, the quads were breathing on their own and just using a c-pap.
While the babies have experienced intermittent, but not serious, health issues, they were healthy overall and doing so well they were transferred closer to home before February was over. While each had milestones to pass to be able to leave the hospital, by early May all four babies would be home with their family.
Corrie, however, had a tough time recovering from the C-section and continued to bleed longer than usual.
“I had three bleeding spells and the last one resulted in a call to 911 and a ride to the ER by ambulance,” she said. “I was losing a lot of blood and passed out on the way to the hospital. Once I was at the hospital I was sent in for emergency surgery and warned that a hysterectomy may be inevitable.”
During surgery, a large piece of placenta was removed that was left over from delivery, which Corrie said is very rare after a C-section. She didn’t need a hysterectomy, but required a blood transfusion. “It was honestly one of the scariest days of my life,” she said.
Life with quads
Now that the twins are home and Corrie is on the mend, it’s a whole new life for the Cooks as their family adjusts.
Photo by Kendal J. Bush
“It is such a relief to have them all in the same place to have our whole family all together,” Corrie said. “It is also quite intimidating as we are now responsible for five children 24/7 without the assistance of the doctors and nurses from the NICU.”
As for becoming an instant big brother to a crew of babies, Alex didn’t initially take to the role at once.
“At first, he was not happy,” Corrie said. “Benjamin was the first one to come and Alex realized Benjamin was still at home after the first night. He told me that Benjamin and I were in ‘time out.’ He has warmed up to them now and calls them ‘his babies.’ He is already the protective big brother that lets everyone know they are all his babies; that they can’t have them.”
The Cooks moved into their own place a week after Benjamin came home. Corrie said they haven’t fully unpacked because the babies keep them very busy.
What’s most surprising for the couple is how much work it is to take care of four infants. “I knew that it wouldn’t be easy, but never fully grasped just how that would look,” Corrie said. “They like to eat at the same time, cry at the same time, etc., and there is always something or someone that needs your attention. Once I am done with one baby it’s time for the next one and so on. It is the hardest, yet most rewarding, job I’ve ever had!”
It’s tough to create a routine, but she said the most established routine is that the babies eat every three hours. “We feed whomever wakes up first and then trickle on down the line until all babies are fed. They are starting to sleep more at night, usually only waking once,” said Corrie.
Thanks to the help of friends and family, it’s been doable. “From coming along to doctors’ appointments to cleaning the house for us, to doing the overnight feedings, they have blown us away with the support and we are so thankful,” she said.
The babies’ interactions, Corrie said, are varied and unpredictable, but when they do notice each other they stare and sometimes exchange smiles. “If they are lying on the floor next to each other, they will often hold hands and depending on how close they are, they will sometimes try to ‘kiss’ each other,” she said.
They each have distinct personalities, Corrie said. “Hailey is our firecracker. She is the most expressive and loves to smile and ‘talk.’ She is also the feistiest. She was and still is the smallest, but that does not stand in her way of getting what she wants when she wants it.”
She said Michael is mommy’s boy – and the most sensitive. “He can hear my voice from a mile away and will do just about anything for me to hold and cuddle him. He has the biggest grin and knows just when to use it. He is very particular with what he likes and doesn’t like and loves to ‘talk’ to Mommy.”
Benjamin is the biggest of the four babies and their “laid-back dude.” “When everyone else is crying, Benjamin will just be hanging out wondering what the commotion is about. He hardly ever cries,” Corrie said, “except for when he’s hungry and man, does he love his food!”
Then there’s Ellie, the “social butterfly.” Corrie said she’s a tough egg to crack when it comes to getting smiles, but she’ll sneak a smile when you least expect it. “She loves the camera and getting her picture taken. She is also our nosy one and is very interested in who is in the room as well as loves to be a part of the conversations.”
By late May, the quads had grown quite a bit, with Hailey weighing in at 7 lbs. 9 oz.; Michael at 8 lbs. 14 oz.; Ellie at 8 lbs. 10 oz.; and Benjamin at 10 lbs. even. Corrie said they have done relatively well given their early birth and being one of four babies.
“Hailey had an issue with eating and gaining weight, which is the reason her NICU stay was so long,” Corrie said. “We had to try many different formulas and medications to find exactly what would work for her.” Her weight is still monitored closely by her GI doctor and pediatrician.
“Michael has what they call a ‘soft airway,’” she said. “This is something that he will outgrow as he gets bigger and stronger. Currently with this condition we find that Michael is very noisy when he breathes and almost sounds like he’s squeaking.” Michael also was readmitted to the hospital for three weeks early on due to the flu.
Throw away the plan
Just as Corrie and Keith once looked to others for advice, with the experience of her quad pregnancy behind them and an unexpected family of seven in such a short time, no doubt others will soon be looking to them for advice.
“My biggest advice would be not to panic and to just go with the flow,” Corrie said. “Before I had the quads I was a planner. I had everything planned out to the minute. When I heard I was pregnant with quadruplets my ‘plan’ went out the window. I never planned or imagined I’d have four babies at once and that was the day I learned to just go with the flow.”
She said every day is different with multiples. She is no longer fully in control of what their days look like as the demands for each baby changes daily – “and the fact that we are now officially outnumbered!”
The Cooks would like to thank everyone who has supported them through this journey. There has been an outpouring of support and offers to assist with donations and caring for the quads. They have been the subject of national news and have had widespread media attention, much to their surprise and truly appreciate the kindness and care that has been offered throughout.
Pamme Boutselis is the mom of four now-grown kids, a serial volunteer and writer. Follow her on Twitter @PammeB.