Bay Area quin­tu­plets cel­e­brate a joy­ous first year

Fam­ily, friends cel­e­brate with par­ents and five ba­bies; life in house­hold ‘all kind of au­to­mated now,’ says dad

The Mercury News - - Local News - By Emily DeRuy [email protected]­yare­anews­group.com

MOUN­TAIN HOUSE >> When Chad and Amy Kem­pel first brought their five ba­bies home from the hos­pi­tal, they had no idea what to ex­pect.

But as the quin­tu­plets turn one, the fam­ily of nine is set­tling into a new nor­mal.

“It’s all kind of au­to­mated now,” Chad said of a daily rou­tine that in­cludes a seem­ingly end­less cy­cle of bot­tle feed­ings, di­a­per changes and naps. “We kind of don’t even think twice.”

On Sat­ur­day, friends and fam­ily gath­ered to cel­e­brate a blurry, sleep­less year that has been both joy­ous and ter­ri­fy­ing.

When the ba­bies were born more than three months early after a long and ul­ti­mately los­ing bat­tle with Kaiser to go out of net­work for pre­na­tal care, Chad and Amy prayed for the best but braced for the worst. Sev­eral years ear­lier, the cou­ple had lost twin boys just hours after they were born and they feared they would face the same night­mare all over again.

But while doc­tors will spend the next few years keep­ing a close watch for po­ten­tial med­i­cal prob­lems, the ba­bies — Lin­coln, Noelle, Grayson, Gabriella and Pre­ston — ap­pear to be de­vel­op­ing well.

Born at a tiny three pounds, the quin­tu­plets now have chubby cheeks and rolls

of baby fat. Two are crawl­ing, and all are de­vel­op­ing into dis­tinct lit­tle peo­ple. Grayson — the only baby to go home with an oxy­gen tank — is tube free and, said Amy, “kind of the flirt.” He was one of the first to crawl. Noelle loves to clap. Lin­coln is the fussi­est but get­ting bet­ter at sooth­ing him­self. Pre­ston is gig­gly. Gabriella is calm, al­ways the first to wake up.

Most days, Chad, a man­age­ment an­a­lyst who com­mutes to San Ma­teo County from their home out­side Tracy, is on the road predawn. Amy gets up with the ba­bies, who have been sleep­ing through the night for a cou­ple of months, by about 6:30 a.m., Feed. Change. Play. Nap. Re­peat, mostly without help.

“A lot of it’s just repet­i­tive,” Amy said. “It’s just non­stop.”

“Like Ground­hog Day,” Chad added.

While date nights are elu­sive and tak­ing seven chil­dren any­where — the pair have two older daugh­ters Sa­van­nah, 4, and Avery, 2 — re­quires her­culean ef­fort, the fam­ily tries to leave the house at least once each week­end to avert the cabin fever that in­evitably sets in when nine peo­ple are cooped up in a 1,550 square foot house.

On Fri­day, the quin­tu­plets’ ac­tual birth­day, the fam­ily went to the zoo. They’ve been to the aquar­ium, the fair and a pump­kin patch. Last week, Chad loaded all the ba­bies into a five-seater stroller and went for a jog.

In­evitably, the fam­ily draws shocked stares and com­ments wher­ever they go.

“Ev­ery­one stops us,” said Chad, adding that he doesn’t mind. It re­minds him of trips to Lake Ta­hoe, where typ­i­cally aloof Bay Area na­tives sud­denly turn into warm, friendly neigh­bors, wav­ing and say­ing hello. The ba­bies, he said, have had the same ef­fect.

The cou­ple wor­ried the older girls might be jeal­ous of their un­usual set of sib­lings — just 31 sets of quin­tu­plets or more were born in the en­tire United States in 2016, ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Cen­ter for Health Sta­tis­tics — but “they’ve ac­tu­ally ad­justed really well,” Amy said.

At the birth­day party on Sat­ur­day, Sa­van­nah and Avery helped dis­trib­ute bot­tles and fetch burp cloths and hand out toys while the ba­bies took in their sur­round­ings — proud grand­par­ents and fam­ily friends, bal­loons shaped like farm an­i­mals and a pile of presents.

“I still can’t be­lieve that they have five ba­bies,” said Flo, Amy’s mom, smil­ing in won­der.

Some­times the days are fren­zied and Chad and Amy feel like they don’t have time to stop and en­joy the lit­tle mo­ments — the smiles and the baby gig­gles. They worry Sa­van­nah and Avery aren’t get­ting enough one-on-one time and are al­ready plan­ning spe­cial days for the fu­ture where each Kem­pel kid will get to choose the agenda and be the cen­ter of at­ten­tion.

But, as they plopped each quin­tu­plet — all wear­ing birth­day hats and fes­tive new out­fits — into a cus­tom ta­ble fit­ted with five baby seats, the wor­ries faded mo­men­tar­ily.

Five cup­cakes, five can­dles, the Happy Birth­day song with five names and a first taste of sugar.

Tear­ing up, Chad read each baby a short birth­day note the cou­ple had writ­ten, full of hopes and dreams for the fu­ture. Amy cupped each baby’s face in her hands, kiss­ing their cheeks and whis­per­ing happy birth­day.

A year ago, all of it seemed im­prob­a­ble to the cou­ple, a dream too good to be true.

JOSE CAR­LOS FAJARDO — STAFF PHOTOGREAPHER

Chad Kem­pel, of Moun­tain House, reads a birth­day card to his quin­tu­plets, from left, Lin­coln, Noelle, Grayson, Pre­ston and Gabriella, as they cel­e­brate turn­ing one year old dur­ing a birth­day party at their home in Moun­tain House on Sat­ur­day.

Grayson Kem­pel, 1, en­joys his cup­cake as he cel­e­brates his birth­day. A small group of friends and fam­ily in­clud­ing the quin­tu­plets’ two older sis­ters, Sa­van­nah, 4, and Avery, 2, joined in and sang happy birth­day.

JOSE CAR­LOS FAJARDO — STAFF PHO­TOG­RA­PHER

Amy Kem­pel, of Moun­tain House, lights five birth­day can­dles for her quin­tu­plets dur­ing a birth­day party at their home in Moun­tain House on Sat­ur­day.

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