WALNUT CREEK, Calif. - Chad and Amy Kempel aren’t worried about the 35,000 diapers they’ll change over the next few years. They aren’t fretting either about finding a vehicle big enough to fit two basketball teams. And they aren’t concerned that they may never sleep again. Right now, they only have one focus: bringing home five healthy babies.
The Kempels are expecting quintuplets. Three boys and two girls.
“I don’t even care about sleepless nights and all that other stuff,’’ said Chad Kempel, 36. “Keep them alive and give us healthy babies. We know that one way or another we will find a big enough car and we’ll get formula and what we need one way or another.”
To understand how rare quintuplets are, consider this: of the nearly four million babies born in 2015 (the last year for which data is available) only 24 women gave birth to five babies at once. The odds of conceiving quintuplets naturally are one in 60 million, though the odds are higher with fertility help.
At 24 weeks, the expectant mother checked into Kaiser hospital in Walnut Creek about 10 days ago for doctor-ordered bed rest. With the average gestation for a quintuplet pregnancy at 29 weeks, as opposed to 40 weeks for a full-term baby, she hopes to be in her hospital bed for as long as possible.
“I’m just at the point now where it’s a waiting game,’’ said the 34-year-old Mountain House woman, who already has two young daughters. “Since I’ve been here I’ve received excellent care. I don’t doubt that we are in good hands. I’m just worried about go time.”
Her worry is understandable. In 2013, she lost her twin boys, Marshall and Spencer, at 22 weeks because of a condition called “incompetent cervix” which causes premature birth. Kempel has also had two miscarriages.
To become pregnant with her daughters, Avery, 18 months, and 3-year-old Savannah, she used a procedure known as intrauterine insemination. It’s different from in vitro fertilization because it’s less complex and invasive and also less expensive. She used the same procedure this time around.
About a month into her pregnancy and with her family at her side, Kempel went to her doctor for an ultrasound.
“We heard the doctor call out, ‘baby A, baby B, baby C and when he said ‘baby D’ I started to cry,’’ she said. “At that point I was already really worried and then he said, ‘I think there’s another heartbeat.’ I thought, ‘how is this possible?’ We were only trying for one.”
When the news settled in the research began. They wanted to find out who was the best doctor to deliver quintuplets, and all their research kept turning up Dr. John Elliott in Arizona. He specializes in high-risk pregnancies and delivering multiples and has gained a worldwide reputation for saving infants in multiple births.
Elliott said he has delivered 5,000 to 6,000 babies in his lengthy career, including sextuplets, more than 100 sets of quadruplets and more than 700 sets of triplets.
But being under Elliott’s care wasn’t in the cards. The couple said Kaiser denied their request to go to Arizona, saying they could provide the same care for mother and babies at one of their facility.
The couple even wrote to local and state lawmakers and President Donald Trump for help, but were unsuccessful.
“It’s just hard,’’ she said. “I feel we would have been negligent parents if we didn’t try and find the best of the best.”
For now, Kempel is spending her days, mostly in her hospital bed, catching up on cable television shows, and fiddling around on her iPad. And trying not to worry. “My husband and I welcome the chance to bring home five babies,’’ she said.
To get help, a relative set up a Facebook page and a Gofundme page, hoping to raise $750,000 to pay for medical care and hospital costs for the pregnancy and neonatal care.
And hopefully lots and lots of diapers.