More than we bargained for!
Life is full of surprises – but it’s not often you walk away with five instead of three…
Noluthando Ndlangisa and her husband were expecting triplets – but, while giving birth, a fourth baby popped out – and then a fifth one!
When Noluthando fell pregnant, she and her husband Joe were told she was carrying four babies. ‘But by 12 weeks, the scan showed only three of them,’ she recalls.
The couple had been struggling with secondary infertility issues (Noluthando has a child from a former relationship,
while Joe has twins from his previous marriage) and Noluthando was taking ovulation-inducing drugs. Multiple births
are a common side-effect of them.
Although they were overwhelmed, the couple had no choice but to prepare themselves mentally (and financially) for
this new challenge. ‘We bought clothes and baby accessories in threes, from bootees to bottles and strollers. I actually enjoyed shopping for triplets. We also picked three names: Siyanda, Sbahle and Simosihle.’
Noluthando’s obstetrician, Dr Moeng Pitsoe, planned a Caesarean section birth. ‘Once I reached 30 weeks, he assured me I’d passed the critical stage of the pregnancy. By then, I’d already gone on maternity leave, but was battling to walk or even stand, and my legs were hurting me,’ she says. The doctor duly scheduled the C-section for the morning of 6 September 2018.
‘Everything was going well in the delivery room and the first three babies came out as planned. But they weren’t
done yet. A few seconds later, I heard the doctor announcing: “There’s a fourth one ready to come out… and a fifth one!”’ Joe, standing next to his wife, almost collapsed from shock. The couple had to add two more names to their list: Slindile and Sindisiwe.
The chances of having quintuplets are one in 42 million. The Ndlangisa babies are only the fifth set of quins to be born in this country since the 1960s. Like all the other sets, they comprise four girls and one boy. However, unlike the last two sets born, all Noluthando’s quins are bouncing babies, healthy, able to breathe on their own and showing steady weight gain. Three of them were discharged after a month in the neonatal ward and the other two a week later.
Thus began an even more strenuous journey: raising the babies. Noluthando and Joe were not only faced with the
exhausting routine of caring for the infants, but were also thrust into financial difficulty, with two more unexpected
mouths to feed.
‘Originally we had two helpers: one for the night and the other for the day. Eventually, though, we could only afford to keep one of them,’ says Noluthando.
A typical day for her starts between 5am and 6am, when Sindisiwe – the youngest and smallest baby – wakes her up crying for a feed. The rest follow in due course. Simosihle, the third-born, is usually the last to wake, between 8am
and 10am. ‘On a good night, we probably sleep about five hours – but often, far less than that,’ she says. ‘We usually need to make about 10 bottles to last us through the night. I didn’t breastfeed from the beginning, as I couldn’t produce enough milk for all of them. Our doctor said I should breastfeed Sindisiwe, though, to ensure her weight catches up with that of her siblings.’
She says they battled to differentiate them at first. ‘At one stage, we labelled their bottles with their names after the nannies kept feeding the same baby over and over again because they couldn’t tell them apart!
‘Now we can tell them apart easily, but other people still find it difficult. Even their grandparents are still confused
a year later!
‘God’s been good to us and we’re forever amazed at these miracle babies. It’s a joy to see them playing together. It
hasn’t all been easy, though. I can’t do all the things I used to do, like going to gym.
‘Fortunately, my company granted me a year’s leave to focus on raising them. But I might just need another year off to catch up with sleep!’
COMPILED BY NOLWAZI DHLAMINI PHOTOS BY ANDREA CALDWELL