Washington, April 17 : They might have drowned in sorrow after the loss of two children in infancy, but for this Indian couple from Artesia, California, the year 2008 couldn't have been more happier and luckier, as they welcomed quadruplets in February - and thus instantly doubled the size of their brood.
Lakshmi and Sreedhar Raparla welcomed their bundle of joys at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.
The babies spent only about a week in the hospital's Newborn Intensive Care Unit an exceptionally short stay for quadruplets, and are now at home, where they weigh in at nearly seven pounds each.
"This was an exceptional experience. Quadruplets are normally at extremely high risk because they're born prematurely and can spend weeks or months in the hospital, and have serious developmental problems. But these babies are doing great," said Ruth Cousineau, M.D., the Raparla's obstetrician at Cedars-Sinai.
Lakshmi and Sreedhar were elated but apprehensive after discovering about the pregnancy last summer. Lakshmi's two previous pregnancies had been uneventful, but they culminated in tragedy. After the birth of a baby boy in 2004, Lakshmi took him to India to see her family. There, he developed pneumonia and died. When the couple had a daughter in 2006, they thought this would begin a new chapter in their lives. However, the infant was severely anaemic, and passed away at four months while waiting for a liver transplant.
The grief-stricken couple, who already had two sons, ages 10 and 7, being educated in India, felt their prayers had been answered last year when Lakshmi became pregnant.
However, when an ultrasound detected four heartbeats, their doctor urged them to do a selective reduction, a procedure in which one or more of the fetuses are terminated to increase the chances the remaining infants will be born healthy. But the Raparlas were undaunted by the potential dangers, and switched doctors - to Cousineau, an obstetrician at Cedars-Sinai who specializes in high-risk pregnancies. .
"We lost two babies before so we know how important life is. My first thought was 'God is giving us back the two babies we lost,'" Sreedhar said.
Cousineau told them that if Lakshmi could carry the infants for at least 28 weeks, they would have a 90 percent chance of survival.
"The doctor said that 28 weeks would be good, but 34 weeks would be spectacular. So that became our goal," he said.
But it was tough getting there. By the end of her second trimester, Lakshmi's uterus had become so distended that her doctor performed a cervical cerclage, a procedure in which the cervix is stitched. She was also put on bedrest.
"I was so uncomfortable and it felt like there was a big rock on my belly. I had trouble sleeping and breathing. . . Every day, I'd think nothing is harder than this. But I had it in my mind that I had to make it to 34 weeks because I didn't want my babies to have any problems," Lakshmi said.
She finally got her wish. After gestating for nearly 35 weeks, which is considered phenomenal for quadruplets, their three daughters and one son arrived on February 22.
"All the infants were amazingly healthy, big babies, none of them required respiratory assistance, and they only spent about a week in the intensive care nursery," said Cousineau.
The four babies ranged in size from 4 pounds, 5 ounces to 4 pounds, 12 ounces.