Ivanna Cardenas-Gutierrez thought her husband and doctor were playing a trick on her as she got her first ultrasound.
As the image popped on the screen, the doctor told the first-time mother-to-be she was having twins.
She was thrilled.
And then her doctor said there was a third baby.
And then a fourth.
“I thought they were just playing around with me,” Cardenas-Gutierrez, 27, said Wednesday at Jackson Memorial Hospital, remembering that February day. “ I was like are you guys playing a joke on me, right?”
It wasn’t a joke.
The couple, who dreamed of having a large family one day, had gotten their wish in a flash. The babies, Gabriel, Julian, Sebastian and Francesca, made their debut Aug. 18 — at 27 weeks — after doctors did an emergency C-section because one of the babies was not receiving enough nutrients. The babies, who ranged from 2 pounds, 3 ounces to 1 pound, 3 ounces, have been in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit since their birth.
On Wednesday, Francesca, wearing a white bow, was ready to go home.
“To have a big family, we are just blessed,” said Cardenas-Gutierrez, who wanted to throw a party for her daughter but couldn’t because of health risks. “This is a big day.”
The last three months have been a roller-coaster ride for the new parents, who start their day at about 8 a.m. and spend the rest of it changing diapers, holding babies and “learning how to be parents of multiple children.”
“We had a lot of tough times in these three months but at the end it’s been a blessing,” father David Gutierrez said.
Mom didn’t take fertility drugs — and conceiving quads without that boost is not common, said Dr. Salih Yasin, the couple’s obstetrician/gynecologist at University of Miami/Jackson Memorial Hospital.
Only one in 700,000 pregnancies result in quadruplets without medical assistance.
Quadruplets are generally delivered early because of the need for extra nutrients outside a mother’s body, the doctor said.
When the couple came in for an ultrasound Aug. 18, Yasin realized that Baby D, Gabriel, was not growing like his siblings.
“This is a decision we had to make with a soft heart,” he said. “We think we did the right thing in the end.”
Gabriel weighed 1 pound, 3 ounces when he was born. Gutierrez said they were told to say goodbye. They brought in a priest and had him baptized. But after holding for several hours, his breathing improved.
“They are all doing pretty good now,” Gutierrez said. “We knew if they made it through that, they could make it through anything.”
The babies now each weigh over 5 pounds.
Since the babies were born, a lot has changed for the couple who married in 2011.
They recently moved to an apartment closer to the hospital. He is a chef and she is an interior designer. He had saved up to open a restaurant — but with the babies, the money will be used to support his new, big family.
The babies have already developed personalities — Gabriel’s a fighter, but doesn’t like to be bothered. Sebastian is the wild one, Julian is “the man,” Francesca is quiet.
With baby Francesca leaving the hospital Wednesday, Sebastian and Julian should follow soon. Gabriel, whose lungs were not fully developed, will likely stay a little longer.
The couple will have to trade in their small car for a minvan, and stock up on extra car seats, diapers and other baby care products.
But for now they are trying to live in the moment.
“We try to take it one day at a time and see what happens,” Gutierrez said.
Then he gave Julian a kiss on his head.