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Meet the Quads

Four times the joy for the Grinnan family

The Grinnan household is a home of multiples. It contains two Fairfax County police officers and four of everything else — four cribs, four strollers, four baby swings and four highchairs.

That's because Sophia and Mike Grinnan are the proud parents of quadruplets: Maria, Alexandra, Christopher and Michael Jr. Born May 22, 2003, they're now nearly 9 months old and as cute as can be.

"It's so enjoyable — the pleasures are so spectacular," said Sophia, 41. "And we can hardly wait to take them on vacations, camping, fishing and to the mountains."

A public information officer, Sophia's been with the police department since 1985. Mike, 34, a sergeant at the Sully District Station, has been with the department since 1993. Married four years, they've lived in the Chantilly area, the past two years.

And although they wanted to have a family, it just wasn't happening. Finally, after trying unsuccessfully for a year, they underwent two years of fertility treatments. By now considering adoption, they even had a social worker with an adoption agency do a home study to confirm that they'd be good and loving parents. But they also visited Genetics & IVF in Fairfax to give in-vitro fertilization a try.

Mike's a former Marine and, fittingly enough, the procedure took place on Nov. 10, 2002 — the day of the Marine Corps birthday. "We only tried in-vitro once," said Sophia. "It's so expensive, we couldn't afford to do it again, so we put in four eggs."

THE DOCTOR told them there was a 2-percent chance that four eggs would become fertilized, 10 percent for three eggs, 50 percent for two eggs and 80 percent for one. But, said Sophia, "He told us not to get too excited because it doesn't usually take, the first time."

Two weeks later, they returned to get the results. "When they told us all four eggs had taken, we laughed — there wasn't much else to do," said Sophia. "We were excited." Added Mike: "I was shocked."

However, doctors also gave them some not-so-pleasant statistics about mortality and survival rates of multiple births. "They discussed 'selective reduction,' but we opted not to do that," said Sophia. "We really prayed hard for a family, so we just couldn't do that."

Still, the pregnancy was difficult. Besides being sick, Sophia also got blood clots and pancreatitis and, for quite awhile, was only given liquid nourishment. She was confined to bed for three months — the last two, in the hospital. Then, at 30 weeks, the quads were born. A typical pregnancy is 40 weeks; but for quadruplets, said Sophia, 30 weeks is good.

She's one of five children, and Mike's one of four, and he was with her in the delivery room at Inova Fairfax Hospital as they were born by Caesarian section. "They'd reserved two delivery rooms for us — and 24 medical personnel," said Mike. "It was scary at first, but when I saw them joking around, I knew everything would be all right."

Sophia's OB-Gyn, Dr. Walter Hodges of Chantilly, delivered the quartet, along with Barbara Nies, an Inova Fairfax perinatal specialist. "The were awesome, as were the doctors and nurses at the hospital while I was on bed rest," said Sophia. "Every chance that these kids had to be healthy I attribute to them."

Maria made her entrance into the world, first, at 8:20 a.m., weighing 2 1/2 pounds, followed immediately by brother Christopher, 2 pounds, 15 ounces. Then at 8:21 a.m. came Alexandra, 2 pounds, with 3-pound Michael Jr. making his debut at 8:22 a.m. They resemble each other, but aren't identical.

SOPHIA WAS released from the hospital, a week later. Three of the babies went home, six to eight weeks later, once their vital functions were stable enough. But Maria had to stay for four months. Said Sophia: "At one point, we had some at [Inova] Fair Oaks, some at Fairfax and some at home."

All the infants are doing fine now, but Maria has had some rough times. "The first breath a baby takes closes up a hole in the heart," explained Sophia. "But hers didn't close, and blood didn't reach her intestines, so they were dying. They removed 15 1/2 inches of her intestines when she was 7 weeks old."

Maria also got a staph infection and was in isolation for 2 1/2 months. Said Sophia: "We had her baptized in the hospital because we didn't know if she was going to make it."

But the tiny girl proved to be a fighter. More of her intestine had to be removed, along with an intestinal valve that helps with nutritional absorption. And doctors sewed up the hole in her heart.

Maria's condition was extremely rare. She had a colostomy and, for awhile, an ostomy bag. She received medicines through a tube leading into her stomach. But the tube was removed, a month ago and, during her fifth surgery, Feb. 13, doctors stitched up the hole where it used to be. She came home on Valentine's Day.

"Dr. Alexander Soutter of Inova Fairfax Hospital did her surgeries and saved her life," said Sophia. "After her surgery in September when they took out the colostomy bag permanently — and she also recovered from pneumonia — we knew Maria was going to be OK. Thank God, she's doing wonderfully — we've been very blessed."

The Grinnans have also been blessed with invaluable help from Sophia's mom, who came from Phoenix, Ariz., in March 2003, stayed with her in the hospital and — until she left last month — also helped out at home with the babies.

IN ADDITION, family friend Flory Garcia helps with their care — changing, feeding and giving them medicine, as well as playing with and exercising them — as does Jody Eggleston, who came all the way from Nebraska to be their live-in nanny. And, added Sophia, "We can contact our pediatrician, Dr. Candace Fugate, any time of day or night, and she's always there for us."

As a result, Sophia was able to return to work, Dec. 1, after a nine-month leave. She has six more years until retirement and — with four new mouths to feed — her salary comes in handy. And the babies are thriving.

They take routine shots given to premature babies, but are all in excellent health. The boys outweigh the girls by just a few pounds. Maria and Alexandra are 13 and 14 pounds, respectively; Christopher and Michael Jr. are 17 1/2 and 17 pounds, respectively.

"They're developmentally where they are today — right on track — because of all the help of family and friends," said Sophia. "And we provide a good, loving, secure environment for them" — not to mention a beautiful and spacious home with a large yard and a swingset in back.

So far, the biggest changes in the couple's life have been a lack of sleep — "At first, we hardly got any sleep, at all," said Mike — and an increased grocery bill. "We have to budget ourselves, now," said Sophia. "They go through 56 jars of baby food a week." And that doesn't even include their formula and Pampers.

But three of the quads are now sleeping through the night — from 9 p.m. to 4:30 a.m. Maria still gets up one or two times a night; because of her short intestine, it takes more food to sustain her weight, and she also takes vitamins to help with nutrient absorption.

They're also good-natured babies who enjoy each other's company. And although there are four cribs and four carseats, their toys aren't in multiples. Instead, the brothers and sisters share and rotate them. "It sounds like a circus when they play together," said Sophia. "They all make their own noises."

ALTHOUGH SOPHIA admits to feeling overprotective toward her children, she doesn't seem overwhelmed. "We never had one or two — we only have four," she explained. "So we didn't have anything to compare it to; this is all we know." And she and Mike are loving every minute of it.

"The best part is coming home to them, every day," said Mike, who also helps with their care. "They smile at us and put their arms up for us to pick them up. I come home to see them, at lunch, and they're happy. The hardest thing is trying to spend equal time with them — and finding time to be with each other and to prepare meals."

According to their parents, Michael Jr. is the most animated, rambunctious and energetic quad, while Christopher is sweet, sensitive and the most laid-back. Alexandra loves to chatter away, and Maria is curious and lively.

"I love feeding them, playing with them and calming them when they're upset," said Sophia. "I absolutely love my children." However, she added, "We promise Fairfax County not to take them to any restaurants until they're very well behaved."