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