The journey of parenting comes with its share of ups and downs and most parents can attest to this. The truth is, the excitement of parenthood can sometimes be overshadowed by the realities on the ground. Thirty-two year old Divinar Joseph knows this all too well. Divinar, a teacher by profession and the brains behind popular Facebook group Parenting Journey, is a mother of five; a singleton nine-year-old daughter and five-year-old quadruplet daughters. She is also the guardian of her five-year-old niece.
According to her, after the challenges motherhood has presented her with including seeing her children fight for their lives in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), the best part about motherhood is "seeing your kids alive and healthy."
As the world commemorated World Breastfeeding Week early this month(August 1- 7), Divinar is reminiscent of her experience with breastfeeding, and other aspects of parenting, given her unique situation of having quadruplets in her family. She shares her journey thus far with Parents.
What was your reaction and that of your partner when you learnt you would have quadruplets?
It was a priceless moment though mixed with shock and scary thoughts. As the person carrying the pregnancy, I wasn't sure if I would hack it. I had to keep reassuring myself that God would not task me with something that I could not manage.
After coming to terms with the pregnancy, how was it like, especially compared to your previous pregnancy?
My singleton pregnancy was smooth but with the quadruplets, pregnancy was a horrible, rocky experience. Aside from carrying multiple babies, I was vomiting blood throughout the pregnancy period. Since it was a high-risk prgenancy, I had to get a Mcdonald stitch (a stitch done to close the cervix to prevent it from opening prematurely hence preventing miscarriage) and I was also put on total bedrest.
How did you explain the situation to your older daughter?
After we had our gender reveal, I told her she was going to have four sisters. She was really excited at the idea though after the babies came prematurely, she couldn't understand why they had to stay in hospital for three months while I got discharged. Explaining this to her was hard because I could see it bothered her.
Speaking of delivery, how was your experience, considering they were preterm?
To be honest, I had mixed feelings. I was filled with joy due to the fact that the huge 'load' I was carrying was finally out but at the same time, it was such a horrifying experience. Seeing my tiny little babies fight for their lives in Neonatal ICU (NICU) for over two months was scray because sometimes I was not sure if they were breathing or if it was just the machines.
Given the toll the pregnancy had taken on your body, how was the healing process?
The healing process was pretty fast; in two weeks I was able to run my errands thanks to the team of doctors at Aga Khan Hospital who attended to me who were involved in the whole pregnancy and delivery process.
How did you maneuver breastfeeding? Were you worried about not being able to give them enough nutrients?
I was advised to express the milk for the children to be fed exclusively. I did that for three months to help them build a strong immune body system as advised by the paediatrician who was in charge of them in ICU and HDU. Although I was worried about not being able to give them enough nutrients, I thank God I got help from the breastfeeding nutritionists at the hospital during my ANC visits. They gave me a lot of insight on the dos and don'ts.
I also read a lot of books on lactating as well online research and joined several lactating multiple parents support groups. We learnt a lot from each other through experience.
What are some of the tips you picked up from your breastfeeding period?
I learnt about burping after feeding and introducing at least one type of food every time so as to easily identify any possible allergies easily, and thorough sterilization of the utensils used.
Taking care of four infants must have been tough.Did you have a support system?
It was! I honestly never got time for self care since my hands were full. Thankfully, I got psychosocial, spritual, physical support from my spouse, family, friends and even strangers.
Looking back, how did the pregnancy affect you?
It resulted in adverse effects on my body- my teeth are weak and sensitive, my hair fell off due to lack of adequate calcium and my memory took a hit. Sometimes I can barely remember if I have even taken a meal but I am on memory supplements. I also heavily rely on calendar reminders so as to appropriately carry out my day-to-day tasks without dissapointing myself or the people around me.
The other side of things is that nowadays I am not able to get in touch friends as previously. My day seems short with the errands I have to run since I don't do much of delegation; I love doing things by myself.
What are some of the challenges raising multiples?
The biggest challenge is majorly financial constraints. This is an expensive blessing as every child is treated as an individual when it comes to medication, education and general well-being. Sometimes, I think we need a multiples representative in governance to champion policies that look after our interests.
In light of these challenges and your general experience,what is your advice to other parents of multiples?
The biggest lesson I have learnt with parenting multiples is to never walk alone. Join parenting groups, especially those of parents with multiple babies; the shared experiences make the journey easier. Then, don't shy from asking help from professionals, family and friends and live within your means or adopt saving measures such as shopping from wholesale shops, open air markets, slaughter houses and suppliers since prices are cheaper.
Finally, take a day at a time and above all pray for God to be the pillar of your parenting journey.
Photos courtesy of Divinar Joseph