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For alumnus, best gifts come in fives

Nov. 17, 2010

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Wakeelah Crutison | Copy Editor
Students greet Ethan and Casey Jones (far left) and their 22-month-old quintuplets: (from left) Britton, Ryan, Brooklyn, Jack and Lila.

By Wakeelah Crutison
Copy Editor

Imagine having a house overrun with numerous volunteers and a hospital room filled with nearly 20 doctors to welcome five new babies into the world.

Casey and Ethan Jones received news of a lifetime when they discovered they were having quintuplets.

"Finding out you're having quints changes your life," Ethan said. "Life was supersized and fast forward."

The Jones family, whose lives are broadcast on the TLC show "Quints By Surprise," spoke to an infant and toddler class Tuesday about their experiences.

Though they are all born within three minutes of each other, the 22-month-old quintuplets already have five distinct personalities.

"I can't imagine life without them. They're so unique and different. They're five little people," Casey said. "I don't want them to miss out on anything just because they're quints. It's not their fault there are five of them. We don't want to make them a set."

Brooklyn is the oldest of the quintuplets, and is the sweetest of the bunch, her parents said.

"She's very girlie," Ethan said. "She gets excited about getting new clothes."

Casey said that Britton is a "little diva" and is the only baby to have "full on, fall on the floor tantrums."

Ryan's the show off, likes attention, and is the most playful. Though all the babies have hit their important milestones, "She's a superstar when it comes to hitting the milestones. She's normally the first one," Casey said.

Jack, the lone boy, is laid back and easy going, Ethan said.

"Since I'm in a house full of girls, I expect Jack to be manly," Ethan said.

Lila is a sneaky one, Ethan said. She's mischievous and is the quint most likely to wander off and explore, and get into trouble.

Ethan just graduated from Baylor's Executive MBA program in May 2010.

"We found out we were having quints four days before I started the program," Ethan said. "I was moaning and groaning because I thought I'd have to quit the program and give up my dream. And Casey was like, 'I'm the one who has to carry around five babies.'"

Along with running a business and going to school, Ethan had the added pressure of his family expanding nearly three times in size.

"Baylor was great. They told me to just do what I could do," he said.

The couple was married right out of college and he didn't want to have kids right off the bat. But when the time came for them to have children, it wasn't an easy road.

The couple tried in vitro fertilization and when that didn't work they decided to try artificial insemination.

Though people were reticent about their not having a biological child together, the couple said they just wanted a baby.

"I really wanted to be a mom and I wanted the experience of carrying my own child," Casey said. "To us, it was a baby and we didn't really care where it came from."

They had oldest daughter Eliot in July of 2004.

Casey said she wanted to give their daughter a little brother or sister. The couple decided to repeat the same procedure. Everything was the same as before, except this time around, there were six babies instead of the expected one.

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, out of 4.3 million births in the United States in 2007, only 91 were of quintuplets or higher multiple births.

Pregnancies of multiple babies can be risky if the mother is carrying more than three babies, Ethan said. Casey was carrying six.

"The doctor wanted us to do selective reduction, but for us that was not a choice," Ethan said. "Six babies were created and that's what we would have."

Ethan said Casey's body naturally reduced the number down to five.

He said they had a friend who had the same due date as Casey, and putting them side-by-side, "our friend had a little bump and Casey looked like she was about to give birth."

"The babies were very active," Casey said. "I didn't think there was much room for them to move, but they found room."

Casey developed pre-eclampsia and had to go into the hospital a week before the babies were born. The babies were born prematurely at 30 weeks.

"It was a balancing act for the doctors," Ethan said. "Casey's health was in decline and they were balancing that with the health of the babies. It was one of those things where Casey had to get really sick for the babies to have a chance."

"Something inside us told us it would be all right. We relied on our faith heavily," Casey said.

"They were so tiny. My wedding ring could fit around their thighs," Ethan said, holding up his ring for everyone to see.

Each baby had to be fed every two hours around the clock for 30 minutes.

"Our church group helped a lot," Ethan said. "They put together schedules, got volunteers, ran background checks on them and held orientations for everyone who was volunteering."

Casey said the couple had a hard time getting sleep.

"We got past all that. They're great sleepers now," she said. "They're used to a lot of noise. Took a lot of training to get them to sleep. We called it baby bootcamp. It took us a month, when they were about nine months old. We dimmed the lights, put on classical music, put their jammies on and told them it was night night time."

Casey said the great part about having multiples is watching bonds form between them. "They have their best friends with them 24 hours a day."

Because having the babies all the time is so demanding, the couple had volunteers. Ethan said having different people in and out of the house was awkward. "That was something I struggled with," Casey said. "With,Eliot, I didn't want anyone to touch her. With the babies I was so worn out. A new person would come in the door and I'd hand them a baby. But it was really hard to let someone else help with them," Casey said. "It was my five babies and they were my premature babies."

Ethan said the quintuplets don't usually all cry at the same time, but when they do act up, discipline is not really an issue.

"Casey had to explain it to me. When they're throwing fits or doing dumb things, they're just learning and figuring their world out," Ethan said. "With Eliot, sending her to her room was the end of her world. It's the same with [the quintuplets]. Timeouts work well. Babies' worlds are so small. So you have limitless possibilities."

Ethan said a lot of things had to change for their extended families when the babies were born.

"Home was no longer their house. They had to come down to see us and we just want to go out. So they'd be with the babies and we'd get a break. Our parents were sad they didn't get to see us. There was a whole adjustment period, but now we're a little more normal."

Because of their busy schedules, the couple had to come up with a new way to communicate with the outside world.

"We started a blog to keep people informed. I didn't have time to talk. I had the babies, and the business, plus I was in school and had to study," Ethan said. "So it was just more effective to write on the blog and keep everybody updated on the family than to make 20 different phone calls."

Along with the TV show, the blog serves as a means for parents of multiples to get advice.

Casey said when they first found out about the pregnancy they looked to other couples with multiple births for advice, but now people are beginning to look to them for parenting answers.

"There are very few people who've been what we've been through. So it was a little surreal for them. We don't have all of the answers but we just figure it out as we go," Casey said.

"There's no instruction booklet for quints."