Lauren Hablitzel-Lake is celebrating her first Mother's Day Sunday.
And her second. And her third. And her fourth.
The 26-year-old gave birth to quadruplets on Jan. 1 - the first babies of the year in Toledo - and has since lived through a crash course in motherhood. As a former math teacher who gave up her job to stay home with the children indefinitely, she's crunched all the numbers:
Every day her children go through 46 bottles, at least 32 diapers, a load of laundry, and a pack of about 80 wipes. It takes an hour to prepare the bottles for the next day and an hour to get through each round of feeding for little James Houston, Isaiah, Michaela, and Dakota - and that's doing them two at a time.
It doesn't leave time for much else.
"My day feels like feeding and washing bottles and doing laundry," Mrs. Lake said. "I'm lucky if I get a shower."
There aren't many others in the country with whom she or her husband, Nick Lake, can compare notes. Fewer than 360 sets of quadruplets were born in the United States in 2006, the last year for which statistics are available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
As for others who might chime in, Mrs. Lake said, "I never got a lot of advice from people other than, 'Good luck'•"
Nick Lake and Lauren Hablitzel-Lake are surrounded by towers of formula, boxes of diapers, and other supplies in the pasement of Lauren's parents' Perrysburg Township home, where the super-size family is staying.
Fortunately, this local family says everything is under control. "I run a very tight ship actually," the first-time mother said.
Every three hours she feeds two of the babies. The other two follow a half-hour later.
"If they're sleeping, I wake them up and feed them," she said. "If they get a little bit fussy before it's time to eat, I'll interact with them, take a little longer changing their diaper, to stretch time. … Being on a schedule takes a lot of the stress out. … It gives my day structure."
It helps that the suddenly super-sized family is staying with her parents, Charles and Linda Hablitzel, in Perrysburg Township.
There they get daytime help from her retired mother and have a more comfortable amount of space in which to live, nearly three times that of their 1,000-square-foot, one-bedroom house in McClure, Ohio, in Henry County.
The family needs every inch. The house is full of stacks of formula cans, an extra, full-sized refrigerator dedicated to holding breast milk and filled bottles, and a tower of diaper boxes in the basement rising more than five feet. Not to mention the bulky accoutrements that come with babies - times four. Four bassinets, four cribs, four of just about everything.
After spending time in Toledo Hospital's neonatal intensive care unit, the last of the quadruplets came home on March 18, making the instant family complete. Peek in on a typical day now and you're likely to see all four babies plopped down in their color-coordinated bouncers (blue for the guys, pink for the girl) on the kitchen island.
Small and angelic, each of them is connected to a monitor that keeps tabs on their heart rate and breathing, since preemies sometimes forget to breathe, said Mrs. Lake, who was at 30 weeks when the little ones were born.
Such medical concerns are only one part of the challenge of caring for quads.
"It can be frustrating when I'm listening to four babies cry and only have two hands," she said. "No one wants to listen to a baby cry. You want to fix it."
Others issues are more subtle. Time gets measured differently now. Instead of noticing how many minutes a movie is, she marks it by how many feedings it will take to get through it.
Then there are the obvious sacrifices, like the fact that the couple probably will have to sell the five-acre plot they own in Wood County's Middleton Township instead of building a house there. And who knows when she'll be able to return to teaching?
"They are a full-time job," she said of her quadruplets. "Day care would cost more than my income."
Still, after three years of trying to have children and fertility treatments, she's not about to utter a word of complaint.
"I can't think of anything I wanted more than that," she said. "It's one of those things that you always dream of is being a mom and having a baby and having someone depend on you entirely for their existence."
Her husband said he's amazed at how unfazed she is by the amount of work she puts into being a mother and the unexpected pitfalls of the job.
"I haven't seen her freak out once," said Mr. Lake, a civil engineer who helps out as much as he can when he's home. "I try but she somehow has managed to do more than me at the end of every day. She's like [an] … Energizer Bunny. She doesn't stop. I don't know how she does it."
Mrs. Lake's mother agreed: "She stays calm about everything."
It can't hurt that the home often is filled with soothing music because the infants like to listen to Kenny Loggins' "Return to Pooh Corner." Five times a day. At least.
But there's more to it than that.
"When you hold them and they look at you and you say their name and they smile, it just kind of makes your heart bounce," Mrs. Lake said.
Enough time has passed that each of the babies is starting to express an individual personality:
Dakota is the happy one. Isaiah is the looker, eyes constantly wide and alert. Michaela is the socialite who is all smiles. And James Houston, who has some gastrointestinal issues, is the fussy one.
"They share a birthday, but they're all four different," Mrs. Lake said.
That means she's had to learn the different ways they like to be held and the different ways they like to be fed. She's even learned to tell their cries apart.
"I'm the only one who can tell so far," she said. "Maybe that's a mom thing."
Contact Ryan E. Smith at:
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