Four times the work, sure, but four times the love and joy

| 21 Feb 2012 | 10:49

    Vernon-A baby's first birthday is always special but for Monae and Jim Burke of Vernon, it was four times more special as their quadruplets, Jimmy, Lindsay, Morgan and Shannon, who turned one on Aug. 14th. Two years ago Monae, 38, and Jim, 39, never allowed themselves to think about celebrating the first birthday of a single offspring, not to mention four. "Our original doctor gave us a one percent chance with in vitro which wasn't good," Monae said. "Then we switched doctors and with only one insemination, I became pregnant." In Vitro Fertilization is a procedure which first succeeded in 1978 in England. Since then the technology has been refined, with more than 20,000 babies born worldwide. With the good news of the pregnancy came the additional reality that there were four babies on the way. And while Bill and Monae were ecstatic, the doctors were more guarded. They told us that there was only abut a 40 percent chance of successfully delivering all four babies," Monae recalled, "and (they) strongly encouraged selective reduction saying that twins would be a safer option." The decision was a difficult one. But in the end, a series of small incidents led them to that decision. "We were in the hospital gift shop after a weekly checkup and we both noticed that there were only four teddy bears on the shelf," Jim said. "Then later that week, I woke up for no apparent reason and when I looked at the clock it was 4:44." After that, the Burkes never looked back. The pregnancy was difficult and the babies were born 13 and half weeks prematurely. Lindsey and Shannon came home first after six days in the Intensive Care Unit at Morristown Memorial Hospital; Jimmy came home after 71 days; and Morgan didn't come home until 96 days after her birth. "At first the doctors thought that Morgan didn't have a stomach and that they would have to create one," Monae said. "As it turned out, her stomach was up in her esophagus and she basically had a hernia." Morgan still has feeding issues. Though all of the babies are about four months behind full-term children in their physical development, Morgan is still only 12.5 lbs. Although she cannot sit up on her own yet, she can move about the playpen using her feet and legs for leverage. Taking care of the babies is a full-time job for Monae, whose only relief is Jim when he gets home from work. But she is more than happy with her lot. "I am 38 years old and so I don't feel like I am missing out on anything," Monae said. "This is what I want to be doing. "People ask me, ‘Don't you have any help? How do you manage?' But I don't understand why they would feel that I need help," she continued. "I am taking care of my children." Organization and routine are key to the Burkes' success with handling four babies. Monae works on the principle that if you don't allow a mess to accumulate, then you don't have a lot of clutter to deal with. "I know at some point that things will become harder to handle when they are older, but I try to keep on top of things." Because the Burkes live on the side of a mountain, getting out for some fresh air poses some problems. "You can't really just put the kids in the stroller and take them out for a walk so we have to plan our trips out," she added. Recently Jim and Monae brought the babies in their quad stroller to the Sussex County Fair. "We thought it would be a nice family day out and the kids could enjoy looking at the animals," said Jim, a service technician for a medical imaging company. "But we had to leave after about an hour because people kept coming up to us and treating us like we were one of the spectacles in the fair." It is not that the Burkes don't understand that quads are interesting to most people. They are open people's curiosity, but more often than not strangers cross the lines. "People were coming up to the babies and they felt that it was all right to touch them," Monae said, "One person even asked me if I had taken fertility drugs." While the Burkes were disappointed by their trip to the fair, they are by no means going to hide the children away. "I have to be really careful during flu season because they were premature," Monae said, "so we pretty much hibernate for the winter. "But we will definitely venture out," she added, "and we may even take them to the fair again when they are a little older and walking around."