When we start planning our families we typically plan for one child at a time. Our house size, our vehicle–most aspects of our world fit that first child and if we decide to have a larger family we plan and grow into it by adding to it over time. It’s hard to comprehend trying to plan for going from no children to 4 four babies at once! This is why a grass-roots community group organized to support, assist, and encourage the Johanneck’s newly formed family of 6. We have met several times to assess and predict needs, form work groups and create both short and long-term plans. Our goals are big and bold and they’re all centered around the family’s needs. Please consider joining us!
2 + 4 = 6
Almost all great fairy tales start out with the line “once upon a time” and they end with “and they lived happily ever after.” But sometimes along the way, the fairy tale takes unexpected turns. Once upon a time Michelle Stephens and Scottie Johanneck, of Redwood Falls, fell in love, got married and, as most young couples, had a dream of starting a family. Along the way there was much happiness as well as heartache and ultimately, this is a story of faith, hope and love.
In Michelle’s Words
Scottie and I have struggled with infertility for years. It is amazing to discover how many others also silently struggle; no one wants to talk about it because they either don’t know what to say, or they don’t know how to approach such an emotional topic.
Our journey dealing with infertility started as most do. You try the at home ovulation test kits and pregnancy tests, only to be let down month after month. We eventually went to see our doctor and were referred to a specialist. After exhausting our options with fertility medications and no success, we were referred to another specialist. Tests, drugs, more tests, timing, emotional roller coasters, and trips to and from the doctor.
The years go by and you feel like you are just spinning your wheels. You reach a point where you are ready to give up. We discussed the options of adoption or perhaps just living a life without children. We had looked into in vitro fertilization (IVF), but the cost was not something we could afford (especially given the small chance that it would actually work.
Our saving grace . . . As you can imagine, you begin to build a relationship with the medical professionals you work with. I had an amazing sonographer who mentioned an infertility clinic in Woodbury that has a warranty refund if you are not able to get pregnant. Although the cost was still far beyond what we could afford, at least we could rest assured that we could be refunded and possibly put that money towards adoption or just pay the loan back. We met with the doctors and we qualified for the warranty program so we decided to take the leap.
We had our first transfer of one fresh embryo on September 18th, 2016, which only resulted in a chemical pregnancy. Our second transfer of two frozen embryos on November 28th, 2016 resulted in no pregnancy. Our third transfer of two frozen embryos on April 11th, 2017 resulted in pregnancy but we miscarried. We had our forth transfer of three frozen embryos on October 27th, 2017 and were once again pregnant but miscarried again. Our fifth transfer of our last 3 frozen embryos was on January 9th, 2018. It resulted in a pregnancy – and there were FOUR little hearts beating! In a state of shock, we walked out of the ultrasound trying to wrap our heads around what that meant. We kept ourselves as grounded as possible, knowing that we have a high risk of miscarrying again. When we returned for the next ultrasound (two of the longest weeks of our lives) we were shocked to see all four of those little heartbeats were still there and thriving! They were measuring the right size and their heart rates were right where they were supposed to be. We were then referred to specialists that deal with multiples.
We were referred to Abbott Northwest Hospital in Minneapolis where everything checked out normal at our 12 week ultrasound. We came back for our 16 week ultrasound and found out we were having FOUR GIRLS! When we returned for our 20 weeks ultrasound Scottie politely asked them to double check the genders one more time; yep, still all girls!
FOUR little hearts beating!
Michelle and the babies lasted a couple of weeks beyond what doctors hoped for which was amazing! On August 2, the four little Johanneck girls were born at 32 weeks gestation: Baby A/2: Harper Drew (twin) 1.9 lbs.; Baby B/3: Haven Alee (twin) 3.8 lbs.; Baby C/1: Emma Victoria 3.7 lbs.; Baby D/4 Taylee Rebecca 2.12 lbs. As expected, each of them needed some assistance but they’ve made significant progress in the days since birth gaining weight and are now all breathing on their own! Harper is the littlest one and remains on an IV to help with hydration and growth but she’s been progressing very well and was even ahead of some of her sisters in coming off oxygen! The girls are in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at Abbott Northwestern but are expected to move to Specialty Care soon since they no longer require much medical intervention. Doctors anticipate they will be there for another 1-2 months while they continue to grow and develop.
As you can imagine, hoping and praying for one child and getting four instead was both amazing and shocking! Scott and Michelle are talking with other families of multiples and learning many tips and tricks on how to manage this life-changing event. They see that their lives are about to get very, very busy! These parents advise accepting help with daily household chores, care for the babies, lawn maintenance, pet care and other activities. In addition to these basic needs, housing and transportation are an issue.
Scott and Michelle’s home is a little rambler with a one-car garage. Scott has remodeled much of the house and created a lovely home for their family but space is an issue. The nursery has room for only two cribs and the rest of the home is a very tight squeeze for a family of six. An addition is planned to provide more space for bedrooms, laundry, kitchen/dining and an attached garage. Neither family vehicle will hold all six of them so addressing that is also a priority!
The community group called the Juggling 4 Johannecks Quad Squad formed to help the family with all of these needs. We ask for everyone’s support to help make these plans a reality for Scott and Michelle! Proceeds from fundraisers supply materials for the addition, purchase a larger vehicle and support other expenses. Helpers of all ages and skill levels are needed! Many skilled volunteers are needed for construction–we’re going to gather for an old-fashioned barn raising before the family arrives home and give them room to grow!