"It was a moment I will forever cherish," mom Stephanie Freels said of the birth of her five babies: Adelyn, Eliana, Linnea, Fisher and Harper
A Washington couple who dreamed of becoming parents ever since they married just got their wish five times over!
Stephanie, 27, and Graham Freels, 29, welcomed quintuplets — four daughters and one son — at just 27 weeks on June 4 via emergency cesarean section at Phoenix's Dignity Health St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center, the hospital said in a press release.
The happy family returned home over the weekend following an 11-week stay at the hospital's Nursery Intensive Care Unit following the "extremely rare" delivery.
Stephanie said they're "so grateful" that their children are back home with them.
"So many people have prayed for us and our family throughout our journey and NyICU experience," she said in a statement. "We are so grateful that so many prayers have been answered and we are looking forward to creating new memories as a family of seven."
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It's been a whirlwind of a journey for the couple. Stephanie was diagnosed with a pituitary cyst after the couple married in 2017, according to the hospital. Though surgeons were able to remove the cyst, the couple still struggled to get pregnant.
However, the Freels' prayers were answered on Dec. 23, 2022, when Stephanie found out she was expecting.
"For years we had prayed that God would bless us with children, and now it was finally coming true! I’ve always wanted a large family, but I could have never imagined it would happen all at once," she said in a statement, per St. Joseph’s.
When doctors in Washington tested Stephanie's pregnancy hormone levels, her results showed the couple could be expecting more than one baby.
In January, their first ultrasound appointment proved the hypothesis to be true — and that they were expecting quintuplets. "It was one of the craziest moments of our lives," Stephanie said. "We were so excited and confident that God had purposefully entrusted us with these five precious babies. However, we also knew there were serious risks to carrying quintuplets."
St. Joseph's notes, citing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that of the more than 3.6 million births recorded in the United States in 2020, only 29 were quintuplets or higher-order multiples
It's a difficult pregnancy for both the mother and the baby, and the Freels knew they needed the right doctor to help them through Stephanie's pregnancy.
For help, they turned to Dr. John Elliott, a Phoenix perinatologist who specializes in higher-order multiple pregnancies. After a consultation, the Freels decided to move to Arizona from Washington State for the remainder of Stephanie’s pregnancy and deliver their five babies at St. Joseph’s.
Graham told Good Morning America that they had recently signed a lease for a small apartment at the time.
"I called up the landlord and I said, 'I think we're about to have a lot of kids, and I don't think that apartment is going to work for us anymore," he said.
On June 3, the couple rushed to St. Joseph’s after Stephanie was experiencing a considerable amount of pain, per the hospital. They then learned she was already six centimeters dilated.
"I was absolutely terrified, but God was with our family through it all as St. Joseph’s amazing medical team cared for Stephanie and helped us welcome our five beautiful children," Graham said.
Finally, on the morning of June 4, Adelyn, Eliana, Linnea, Fisher and Harper Freels — otherwise known as the "Freels Five" — were born.
Because the babies were born 13 weeks early, they all weighed less than two lbs., per the hospital. In the operating room, each baby had a team of neonatologists, nurses and respiratory therapists to provide them with the immediate care they needed after birth.
The hospital is also known for its NyICU, which, according to Andrea Hassler, nursing director of women and infant services at St. Joseph’s, is world-renowned for looking after "some of the most fragile babies," including those who are born in high-order multiples.
As the babies remained in the NyICU, St. Joseph's said mom and dad watched as their babies achieved each milestone, like when the babies were strong enough to take a bottle to baby hiccups. Fortunately, none of the children experienced any serious complications from their preterm birth.
"One of the best moments of our NyICU journey was being able to hold all five of my babies for the first time," said Stephanie, adding that she was "so emotional leading up to the moment I could finally hold all of them in my arms after carrying them in my belly."
"It was a moment I will forever cherish," she continued. "I am so thankful to the NyICU nursing team for giving me this experience."
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