Bursting with joy: Mother celebrates quads" first birthday after defying the doctors who urged her to have two aborted


Bursting with joy: Mother celebrates quads' first birthday after defying the doctors who urged her to have two aborted Emma and Martin Robbins naturally conceived quads at odds of 750,000 to 1The couple were urged by doctors to abort two to save the others' lives
But they defied medical advice and continued with the quad pregnancyCouple are now celebrating the first birthdays of their four healthy boys – Samuel, Reuben, Joshua and Zachary

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With his newborn son: Martin Robbins with Zachary, one of the identical twins out of the quadruplets very unusually born on 29 February 2012

Not only were they conceived naturally at odds of 750,000 to one, they are also the only leap year quads in Britain to have been born on February 29 — the chances of that are 3.5 million to one — and will therefore celebrate a birthday only every four years.

They are also flourishing despite the physical risks of multiple births. Indeed, when Emma — a former project manager — discovered she was pregnant with quads, she was advised repeatedly to ‘selectively reduce’ two of the foetuses to give the remaining pair a better chance of survival. She refused.

‘We knew about the things that could go
wrong — premature births, miscarriage, cerebral palsy, even death — and I
knew that even if all our boys survived, the pressure on our finances
would be huge.

The quadruplets were conceived naturally at odds of 750, 000 to one

Mummy's little miracles: The quadruplets were conceived naturally at odds of 750, 000 to one

‘But I couldn’t bring myself to choose between them. How could anyone I knew I had a strong marriage, that Martin would support and help me every step of the way, so I decided to let nature take its course.’

Emma and Martin are now embracing parenthood on an epic scale. ‘The boys are a joy,’ she says.

‘They’re hard work; not because
they’re difficult babies, but because there are so many of them. But
they’re my life. I’m incredibly grateful for them, and proud of what
we’ve achieved.

‘Martin and I have no social life, no
time to ourselves. We scrimp and bulk-buy bargains. But we have a
deeper respect for each other now, and every day one of the boys will do
something that makes me think: “You’re the sweetest, most beautiful
thing in the world.” ’

Each one has a distinct character.
Zach is jolly and easy-going. Sammy is sweet and sensitive. Reuben is
such a bully — if one of them has a toy, he always wants it. And Joshua
is the boss; the naughty one who learns everything first.’

Martin, a sign-maker, has designed coloured tops for the boys, each one bearing their name, which they are wearing when I visit.

Silences are rare in the Robbins’
three-bedroom home in Bristol, and even these are invariably punctuated
by the washing machine churning through five loads each day.

The household utility bills have
trebled since the quads arrived; food costs 150 a week and the boys get
through 300 nappies every fortnight. Their quad buggy, fully freighted,
weighs 10 stone. Naturally people stare but while Martin, 39, relishes
the attention, Emma does not.

‘I feel for Luke,’ she says. ‘He said
that nobody loved him any more when the quads arrived, and my heart
nearly broke in two. We try to give him as much one-to-one attention as
possible but it’s been hard — although he’s starting to enjoy his
brothers now he can see what fun they’re going to be.When Martin comes
home from work, he makes a point of spending time just with Luke.’

The Robbins, who have been married for four years, planned to have a second sibling for Luke.

They vividly remember the day, in October 2011, when a routine hospital scan disclosed that Emma was carrying quads.

She says: ‘The sonographer went silent and I wondered what was wrong — I was worried she couldn’t detect a heartbeat.

Happy birthday: Mother Emma Robbins with sons Reuben, Zachary, Joshua and Samuel next to father Martin

Happy birthday: Mother Emma Robbins with sons Reuben, Zachary, Joshua and Samuel next to father Martin

Time to celebrate: The quadruplets inspect their first ever birthday cake

Time to celebrate: The quadruplets inspect their first ever birthday cake

‘Then she said that she thought she could count four heart beats. Martin and I squeezed each other’s hands so tightly. We were in shock.

‘They handed me the number for the Twins and Multiple Births Association (TAMBA) and we walked to the bus stop.

‘We didn’t even have a car, and lived in a tiny two-bedroom terrace. We kept thinking that we just couldn’t afford to have quadruplets.’

For the next fortnight Emma scoured the internet for information on multiple births, and what she discovered was sobering.

‘Everything I read was frightening — there was so much that could go wrong. I was in tears every day. I phoned TAMBA and they warned me the hospital would encourage me to selectively reduce my pregnancy, so I prepared myself mentally.’

For two weeks Emma considered her options. Then she and Martin made their decision: they would cope whatever the outcome. Emma recalls: ‘I had scans at 12, 14, 16 and 18 weeks. They asked about selective termination at every stage so that, in the end, I got angry and said I couldn’t do it.

The quadruplets from left to right, Sammy Robbins, Zachary, Joshua and Reuben Robbins

The
healthy quadruplets from left to right, Sammy, Zachary, Joshua and
Reuben Robbins at home

Left to right, mother Emma Robbins with her sons Reuben, Joshua, Zachary and Sammy and husband Martin at home in Bristol

Happy family: Left to right, mother Emma Robbins with her sons Reuben, Joshua, Zachary and Sammy and husband Martin at home in Bristol

‘There were times when I questioned
my own judgment. I knew I was risking my health; that I could develop
pre-eclampsia (dangerously high blood pressure which can lead to
life-threatening seizures).

‘I knew the babies would be premature, and that the risk of brain damage was dangerously high.’

Neither was the pregnancy easy. ‘I felt constantly nauseous and I was so, so tired. I’d haul myself off to work, and it was all I could do not to fall asleep slumped at my desk.’

For the final seven weeks of her pregnancy Emma was prescribed bed rest. ‘I lay on my side the entire time — I only got up to go to the loo. I had excruciating sciatic pain down my legs and severe backache. The boys were kicking constantly and I struggled to breathe.’

Proud parents: Martin and his wife Emma Robbins were urged to terminate two of the quads

Proud parents: Martin and his wife Emma Robbins were urged to terminate two of the quads

Emma gave birth to her sons on
February 29 last year, two months before her due date, by emergency
Caesarean. Reuben was delivered first, weighing 2lb 14oz, followed by
Zachary, 2lb 8oz, his twin Joshua, 3lb 1oz, then Sam, 2lb 13oz.

‘I was in floods of tears and I could hear the surgeon say “Ah, hello!” as each one was born,’ she remembers.

‘I’d worked so hard to keep my little stars safe, and it was the most incredible feeling to know they had come into the world. But I knew that there were still risks.’

Indeed, the quads spent the next six weeks in special care. Samuel, the only one who did not need a ventilator to breathe, was the first Emma held, the day after his birth. ‘It was heavenly just to feel this tiny body,’ she says, ‘but he seemed so fragile I feared he would break.’

It was eight weeks before Emma and Martin took their sons home, strapped into car seats in their newly acquired people carrier. They did not yet grasp the scale of the task that awaited them.

‘I’d been bottle-feeding them my own breast milk in the hospital for eight weeks, expressing two litres a day,’ says Emma.‘I was like a milking machine, expressing milk every three hours, day and night.’ At home, however, without back-up from nursing staff, the feeding, nappy-changing, bathing and dressing was remorseless and exhausting.

Martin returned to work after a week’s paternity leave and Emma began feeding the babies formula milk. They had bottles every four hours, day and night, and each feed took up to two hours.

‘We had only an hour a day left to do everything else: to look after Luke, cook, do the washing,’ she recalls.

She remembers how sleep deprivation pushed her to the brink of despair: she feared she’d never learn to love her babies, and at her lowest point wanted to give them away.

Quite handful: But the couple decided to continue with the quad pregnancy and now have four healthy boys

Quite handful: But the couple decided to continue with the quad pregnancy and now have four healthy boys

‘Martin and I slept for two hours
each a night, but not at the same time and never consecutively,’ she
recalls. ‘I look back and think: “How on earth did we do it”

‘I’d
had so little sleep, I was hallucinating. I didn’t want to be around
the boys. I never wanted to hurt them, but I had nothing left to give.’
There was help from friends and family, student nannies, the support
charity Home Start, and a church pastor, but after two-and-a-half months
Emma reached a nadir.

Delighted: Emma Robbins admits she thought about having the quads adopted at one point but now feels like the luckiest person alive

Delighted: Emma Robbins admits she thought about having the quads adopted at one point but now feels like the luckiest person alive

She sought help from her doctor for
depression. She also phoned her father, Colin, 70, a retired lawyer (her
mother died of cancer when she was 16), and said she felt defeated.

‘I
said to Dad, “I think the babies would be better off if they were taken
away and adopted.” Life seemed impossible. I’d lost all sense of
reality,’ she recalls.

‘But Dad said: “Emma, you’re not depressed; you don’t want to give your babies away. You’re just very, very tired”.’

And so it proved. Friends and family pulled together to raise 3,000 to pay for full-time nannies to help care for the boys day and night for four weeks. This respite was miraculous: Emma began to feel the first stirrings of maternal love.

‘I remember the first time Martin and I slept for four hours straight and it felt as if heaven had come,’ she says. ‘The boys got into a good routine and, bit by bit, I started to bond with them, to love them.

‘It happened first with Joshua. He was having a really bad day, so I decided to give him a bath. I put him on his changing mat and he looked into my eyes and a surge of protective love washed over me.

‘Zach was the first to smile, and I thought: “Oh, you little angel!” He was lying in my lap and he gave me this big grin; I just laughed back.

‘Each one of them did something so adorable it just made me think: “I love you so much.” ’

Even now it is the little things that lift her. The way a beam of delight lights up one small face, then erupts into a chuckle that spreads like a ripple until three other infant voices are joined in peals of laughter — and then Luke joins in, too.

‘When all my boys are chuckling together I feel the luckiest person alive,’ she says. ‘To make one child happy is incredible. But to do it five times over is the most wonderful thing in the world.’

Leader of the pack: Luke, pictured front right, is a very patient big brother to the four quadruplets

Leader of the pack: Luke, pictured front right, is a very patient big brother to the four quadruplets

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