(NEW YORK) — With one delivery, Graham and Stephanie Freels became first-time parents, times five.
Stephanie Freels, 27, gave birth on June 4 to five babies — four girls and one boy — delivered via emergency cesarean section.
Over the weekend, she and her husband and their five infants returned to their home in Washington state for the first time as a family of seven.
“It’s amazing having them at home,” Stephanie Freels told ABC News’ Good Morning America. “And it’s so nice not having them go back and forth to the NICU.”
The “Freels Five,” as the quintuplets have been nicknamed, came into the world as a surprise after Stephanie and Graham Freels said they struggled with infertility for around five years.
The couple said they learned in late December that they were pregnant after undergoing an ovulation induction and several rounds of intrauterine insemination, or IUI.
Just after the New Year, they learned they were going to become first-time parents to not just one but five babies.
The news upended the plans the couple had made to move from Stephanie Freels’ parents’ home into their own apartment.
“At the beginning of December, we told her parents that we were moving out and we had a lease signed at a small apartment,” Graham Freels told GMA, adding that they then had to quickly cancel the lease. “I called up the landlord and I said, ‘I think we’re about to have a lot of kids, and I don’t think that apartment is going to work for us anymore.'”
The quintuplet pregnancy upended the state the Freels lived in too after Graham Freels researched doctors for higher order multiple pregnancies and chose to use an expert in Phoenix, Arizona.
In March, the Freels relocated temporarily to Phoenix so they could be cared for by Dr. John Elliott, a maternal and fetal medicine specialist, who they said helped them keep a positive “can-do attitude” about the prospect of having five babies at once.
Graham Freels said he continued working his full-time job remotely in Phoenix, while Stephanie Freels took on the full-time task of managing her quintuplet pregnancy.
She said she did that while also battling hyperemesis gravidarum, a form of “extreme, persistent nausea and vomiting during pregnancy,” according to the National Institutes of Health.
“I think that was the hardest part of pregnancy for me, that I had to try to meet that [calorie] goal,” Stephanie Freels said. “I didn’t really consistently eat solid foods until I was about 23 weeks pregnant.”
The Freels said their medical team told them another goal was to carry the pregnancy to at least 34 weeks, but in early June they went to the hospital when Stephanie Freels was 27 weeks pregnant, because she was experiencing abnormal pain and swelling.
At the hospital, she said she learned she was already six centimeters dilated and in labor.
Andrea Hassler, nursing director of women and infant services at Dignity Health St. Joseph’s Hospital, where Stephanie Freels gave birth, told GMA the medical team had about one hour in the middle of the night to mobilize for the delivery.
Hassler said the Freels arrived at the hospital around 10 p.m. local time and the babies were delivered less than three hours later.
“It was upwards of 20 people in the delivery room because each baby has its own team of nurses, respiratory therapists and physicians to help transition them after birth,” Hassler said. “And then Stephanie had her own team on the obstetrical side as well to ensure that she was safe during the delivery as well.”
The quintuplets — Adelyn, Eliana, Linnea, Fisher, and Harper — each weighed around 2 pounds at birth, according to Hassler. Though they spent several weeks in the neo-natal intensive care unit, she said the quintuplets had a “pretty uncomplicated course” medically after being born so early.
“As expected, they did need some respiratory support in the beginning,” Hassler said. “And then it was really a focus on being able to have those babies grow outside of mom’s womb up into the healthy babies that you see today.”
Fisher, the only boy, was the last of the quintuplets to be discharged from the NICU and went home Aug. 19.
Graham Freels said that in the last two weeks of having most of the quintuplets at home, they had gone through over 250 diapers and counting.
The quintuplets are fraternal, not identical, so they are able to tell the babies apart, he noted.
Now that they are back home in Washington, the “Freels Five” and their parents are all living at Stephanie Freels’ parents’ home again, where there are plenty of hands to help.
Both Graham and Stephanie Freels said they are beyond thankful for the family and friends who are helping with the babies, as well as strangers who have stepped up to help by sending money, cooking meals and offering their well-wishes.
The couple also said they are extremely thankful for the nurses and doctors who have cared for them and their babies for the past year.
“They truly are just amazing people and just the amount of care they put into taking care of not only our babies, but every single baby they’re working with,” Graham Freels said of the medical staff. “They’re doing amazing things.”