When Amy and Chad Kempel initially began trying to start a family, the road to pregnancy wasn’t an easy one. Two years of unsuccessful attempts to conceive led to Amy undergoing intrauterine insemination (IUI), a fertility treatment in which sperm is put inside a woman's uterus to encourage fertilization, in 2012. The treatment was a success. The couple learned Amy was pregnant with twin boys. Sadly, their excitement ended in heartbreak when she went into preterm labor at 22 weeks. While the boys, named Marshall and Spencer, were born alive, they were not developed enough to live beyond the hospital and never made it home.
Not ready to give up on their dreams of having children, Amy and Chad tried again, resulting in the birth of their oldest daughter Savannah, 5, and then a second daughter Avery, 3. But as anyone who has ever suffered a miscarriage or the loss of a child knows, pregnancy is never the same again.
“After losing Marshall and Spencer, before our oldest daughter Savannah was born, that really changed my view on what I thought it would be like to be pregnant,” says Amy. “After trying again to have a baby after we lost the twins I was nervous every day. Am I going to lose the baby today? Am I going to have a preterm baby? I couldn’t enjoy the pregnancy experience and the process of trying to get pregnant.”
With Savannah and Avery happy, healthy, and keeping the Kempels very busy, it was time to decide if they would try for a third child, which, prior to their hardships, had been the plan. Amy was leaning toward keeping their family to the two kids, while Chad really wanted another child.
“I had a lot of one-on-one time with Savannah because I was a stay-at-home mom,” says Amy. “And then when we brought Avery home I was outnumbered during the day when Chad was at work. That was an adjustment. I didn’t have as much time with Savannah so then I felt guilty. I started getting depressed because being a mom to any number of children is hard. Trying to get pregnant and the miscarriages along the way I thought, I’m kind of okay with two.”
Despite Amy’s understandable hesitation, the couple moved forward with trying for that third...and got way more than they bargained for. Amy became pregnant with quintuplets.
Preparing for a Party of Five
Now if you’re trying to pick your jaw off the floor with this surprise twist, think about how they felt.
“Right away we were thinking if Amy’s body wasn’t able to hold two babies (to term) then how the hell is it going to hold five?” says Chad. “ We were terrified.”
The Kempels went into survival mode trying to find the best doctors to handle their situation to keep Amy healthy and pregnant for as long as possible. They also tried to mentally wrap their heads around what the future of their family could look like.
“As far as the end result, we were very realistic with the possibility of us not bringing home some of the babies,” says Amy. “It seemed like there were so many risks and negative outcomes, more than positive ones.”
Fortunately, all of those unknowns did have positive outcomes. Amy delivered all five babies at 27 weeks, with the quints spending a total of 63 days in the NICU.
“We couldn’t believe it at first,” says Chad. “Then we could see the small steps the babies were making towards doing things on their own and all of the stuff a normal newborn baby would do. That’s when we realized we’re bringing home five healthy babies at the end of this. It was game time. I thought, this is going to be the most insane thing we’ve ever experienced but we have to start putting things in order if we’re going to survive this ourselves.”
It was at that point the Kempels hustled to prepare a home for their five new additions: Lincoln, Noelle, Grayson, Preston, and Gabriella. Their nerves hadn’t allowed them to even consider buying cribs and other newborn accouterments until they were absolutely certain everyone was healthy.
Finding a New Normal
Now the Kempel quints are closing in on almost two years of life (their birthday is January 11), and the family of nine recently relocated from California to a new home in Idaho.
Amy admits their surreal family life still hasn’t quite hit her and raising seven kids is an adventure she never saw coming. Not only are the Kempels learning day-by-day what it’s like to parent five children of the exact same age and two older daughters, but they’re keenly aware of how this stress could be detrimental to their relationship.
“We had been married for a while but we were still working out the kinks of our marriage,” says Chad. “When Savannah was born our relationship got put on the back burner because no one was sleeping and, for us, we never really had much help with people taking care of the kids other than ourselves. It was just all us, all of the time.”
Savannah loves to tell everyone in the world we have five babies when they’re not around. The first thing out of her mouth to start a conversation: ‘We have quintuplets at home.’
They’ve recently found a trusted babysitter in their new home state of Idaho so they can take the occasional date night, although admittedly those are few and far between. Not only are the Kempels exhausted at the end of the day, but providing for a big family is obviously an enormous expense.
“Things we normally would have done, like go to comedy shows and movies, stuff like that, and then get a babysitter, we don’t really have extra money to be doing things,” says Chad. “We go to therapy together, couples counseling, and that’s helpful and we need to get a babysitter when we do that. We’ve done that a handful of times just trying to take the time for each other.”
A Day in the Life
So what’s a day in the life of the Kempel household like? It’s all about routine, purely for survival reasons.
To keep everyone on track, Amy and Chad maintained the sleeping and eating schedules the quints were given while in the NICU. If one baby would start crying in the middle of the night, Amy explains that they would wait for two more to wake up before they went in to feed them. The idea being that if they went in while only one baby cried, they’d literally be up all night just doing feedings. Fortunately none of the kids cry much at bedtime and typically fall asleep quickly, a “gift” Amy is trying to appreciate now because she’s pretty sure it’s going to be complete chaos once they start crawling out of their beds at night.
In terms of daytime activities, that’s a solid schedule as well.
“During the week when Chad is working I’m taking care of the babies by myself,” says Amy. “They wake up, they get breakfast, they get diaper changes, and playtime, and meals, and things throughout the day. Because there’s five, everything just takes so long. I feel like there’s not even time to do much else in between.”
Lessons in Love
Both Amy and Chad mention feeling guilty that they don’t have the same amount of time to devote to each quint that they did to Savannah and Avery as babies and toddlers. In fact, sometimes the best way to get quality time together is a good, old-fashioned puppy pile.
“My favorite thing to do with them is just to lay on the ground and let them crawl all over me,” says Chad. “I love that. To have them crawl up and put their head on you and return hugs.”
Big sisters Savannah and Avery aren’t old enough to help yet (or asked to), but they display a lot of pride in their younger siblings.
“Savannah loves to tell everyone in the world we have five babies when they’re not around,” laughs Amy. “It’s rare that Chad and I are without the babies and take the girls somewhere. But that’s the first thing out of her mouth to start a conversation: ‘We have quintuplets at home.’”
With all of the challenges rearing seven kids brings, Chad sees it as the best is yet to come.
“I just can’t wait to go on family vacations and have all of us cram into a tent,” he says. “Or everyone being at the pool together. Christmas mornings when they really understand what it is and dressing up and trying to keep them all quiet in church. I think it’s pretty awesome. It just seems like a fairytale to me. I love it.”