Zip-lining, kayaking, scuba diving – not exactly the typical agenda for a woman pregnant with quadruplets, but Melissa (Missy) Arnett wanted to keep up with her husband. She learned she was pregnant the day before they boarded a Caribbean cruise – she just didn’t know how pregnant. So she stuck to their original active agenda, despite the fact that her second pregnancy was giving her far more morning sickness, far earlier than she expected.
The couple had had difficulty conceiving their first son, Luke, then 18 months old. So with her military husband’s return from deployment scheduled, Arnett began low-dose fertility drugs in preparation for Baby No. 2. A pre-pregnancy ultrasound showed one, maybe two eggs were mature enough to produce a baby. Things obviously changed quickly, and when Arnett had her first ultrasound, she heard "Oh my! There's way more than one!"
And just like that, their lives changed forever.
Statistically, their odds of having quadruplets was .01 percent.
“The first half of the pregnancy felt like an accelerated regular pregnancy with all of the symptoms, only exaggerated,” Arnett said. “I was in maternity clothes literally at eight weeks.”
With intense medical management from Savannah Perinatology Associates, Missy carried her four babies – all boys – to 33 weeks. (A normal, singleton pregnancy lasts 40 weeks; the national average for quadruplets is 28 weeks.) Every step was an adventure. “It was a party all the time inside,” she said.
Prematurity is a given among higher-order multiple pregnancies, so the goal was to bulk up the babies to give them better, potentially lifesaving birth weights. Arnett was on a high-protein, high-fat diet that required her to consume the protein equivalent of 12 chicken breasts a day. But the medically approved license to eat unlimited amounts of food, even junk food, wasn’t much fun because she was nauseated constantly. She remembers her husband cheering her on as she choked down smoothies made from the health supplement store’s strongest protein powder, fortified with Haagen-Dazs ice cream. The goal was to gain 100 pounds over her pregnancy, but nausea limited her to 60 pounds.
It was all worth it, however, when the four babies were delivered via cesarean section by W. Lynn Leaphart, M.D., in a delivery room at Memorial University Medical Center that was jammed with doctors and nurses. A.J. (Andrew), Noah, Ryan, and Joel all weighed between 3 and 4 pounds, and all were out of the neonatal intensive care nursery and home by the age of 2 weeks.
The quads are healthy, active 2-year-olds now, busy discovering the world anew each day. One thing they won’t be discovering, however, is a baby sister. With five sons age 4 and under, Arnett says she and her husband consider their family blessed – and complete.