When the joy is quadrupled
By Ayesha Inoon
The young mother’s face alternates between joy, sadness and frustration as she speaks of the ups and downs of bringing up not one, but four bundles of joy. Where the role of motherhood calls for infinite patience, incredible self discipline and boundless stamina, 25-year-old Fathima Fazna is required to have these qualities fourfold as a typical day unfurls in a parade of feedings, baths, changing nappies and soothing cries.

Fazna, the elder girl in a family of two, entered into a conventional marriage to Mohamed Akram with the usual hopes and dreams of a young girl about to embark on the journey of wifehood. She remembers the thrill she felt upon discovering she was pregnant, and also the qualms about delivery that every expectant mother is bound to feel. An accomplished seamstress, she gave up her trade to focus on her pregnancy.

When, at two months, her belly seemed unusually large, the doctor opined that it seemed like a “big” baby. At four months, they surmised it to be twins, and ordered an ultrasound scan, which revealed not two, but four new lives growing inside her womb.

With no previous history of multiple births in the family, and not having undergone any fertility treatments as they had been married just a few months earlier, this came as a complete surprise to the couple, who vacillated between fear, hope and wonder at this unexpected gift of nature. With the doctors at Kaleel’s Nursing Home carefully monitoring her situation, and the hospital itself offering to perform the delivery at no cost, they could concentrate their energies on preparing for the birth and home coming.
When Fazna unexpectedly went into labour in the eighth month, all the groundwork had been done, and an emergency C-section was carried out on April 25. Except for one sturdy little fellow, the other babies had to be kept in an incubator for a period before they were able to be taken home by the anxious parents.

However, no amount of preparation can suffice for the enormous task of taking on four newborns at the same time, as we discovered three months later, on a visit to the confined, yet clean and neat home of the Akrams at Maligawatte.

At this stage, the quadruplets Mohamed Aman, Mohamed Fadir, Mohamed Fakir and Fathima Anfal are just beginning to be more aware of their surroundings, reacting with smiles and gurgles to the attentions of the many care givers around them. With a line of relatives constantly taking turns to help with the babies, the burden of physical care is somewhat lessened. Still, Fazna and Akram bear the brunt of the work, making sure that each baby gets its share of parental love and attention.

With one baby being fed on her lap, one in the arms of her sister-in-law, and two being entertained by their uncles, Fazna spoke to us of the challenges and rewards of raising three baby boys and a little girl all at once.Sleeping in the nights is an issue that even parents of single babies have to cope with, and, with four little ones who each have their individual appetites and temperaments, sometimes days can go by with hardly an hour or two of rest. Fazna remarks that most nights she and her husband are up until dawn, as the babies rarely go to sleep at the same time. Fortunate enough to have a husband who does his best to help in every way, she says she barely feels the passing of one day to the other when hardly a moment goes by without something to be attended to.

Bath time is a routine that has been well planned with an aunt bathing each baby in turn and the parents drying, powdering and dressing them. Still, there are days when Fazna must cope on her own, which is much more complicated, but not, she says, impossible.

Regular visits to the clinic take the form of a long distance trip, with four sets of supplies having to be packed, and four adults having to make the journey. Vaccinations are another story and Fazna says that they were advised to vaccinate each baby a week apart, so all of them wouldn’t be affected at the same time.

Even with the excitement of the unusual charge of caring for four babies stimulating them to face each day with courage and gladness, there are still the practical issues of meeting the babies’ needs to be considered.
Akram, who works in a shop selling electrical goods, must provide for his family out of a meagre salary. With a tin of infant formula costing Rs. 405, and the babies needing one tin per day, even with Fazna breast feeding them in turn, their financial resources are stretched thin.

As they grow, so will their requirements. Although there have been several offers of help, not all have materialised, and of course, one cannot be dependent on outside assistance forever. With an implicit trust in God to help them in carrying out their responsibilities, the couple believe that they will find a way to sort out their difficulties and travel the long road ahead.

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