‘I carried all five of those!’: Washington mother gives birth to quintuplets at Phoenix hospital
Aug 24, 2023, 4:35 AM | Updated: 11:54 am
PHOENIX — A Washington mother who gave birth to five newborn babies at Phoenix’s St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in June is set to return home this week after 11 weeks at the hospital, putting a bow on a long journey for the Freels family.
“So, I think the first thing to know about us, we always wanted a big family,” father Graham Freels told KTAR News 92.3 FM.
Stephanie and Graham Freels have prayed they would become parents since they got married in 2017, and on June 4, that prayer was answered.
It started in September last year when Stephanie found out she was pregnant. When she got her blood work back, her hormone levels were off the charts.
“And I think at that point we knew we were having a bunch of kids,” Graham said.
But she wasn’t carrying two or even four babies, but a whole set of quintuplets.
“I never thought it’d be quintuplets, that never even crossed our minds. We were like…Maybe triplets,” Stephanie said.
She was just 6-7 weeks pregnant when she found out it would, in fact, be five babies. Stephanie knew this could lead to complications.
“I just wanted them to be okay,” she said.
The research begins
So, they got to work, and knew they’d likely have to look outside their Washington town of Bellingham.
“As soon as we found out we were pregnant with quintuplets, I got on YouTube,” Graham Freels said.
The search led them to Dr. John Elliot at Saint Joseph’s.
Dr. Elliott is known as a top-tier doctor when it comes to delivering multiple babies at once.
“They moved their family here to Phoenix to seek care here,” Andrea Hassler, nursing director of women and infant services at St. Joseph’s, told KTAR News 92.3 FM. “Obviously a quintuplet pregnancy is a very high-risk pregnancy.“
Their goal was to make it to 34 weeks of pregnancy, but Hassler said you never really know when the time will come to deliver when carrying multiple babies.
New kids on the block
One June day, Stephanie began to feel pain and discomfort. The couple went to St. Joseph’s for a check-up.
“I didn’t think I was in labor, I thought I was just uncomfortable because of so much weight from the babies,” Stephanie said.
Not only was she in labor, but she was six centimeters dilated.
Over the late hours of June 4 and early hours of June 5, the five children were born at 27 weeks of gestation.
“We only had about an hour notice. So it was a quick mobilization, but this team is a team of experts,” Hassler said. “And each baby had their own team.”
Doctors and nurses from multiple offices and hospitals quickly assembled to deliver Stephanie’s babies.
“It was definitely a little bit nerve-racking because that wasn’t the plan. But I really do believe they came at the perfect time, just, with how well they’re doing and it gave me time to heal after,” Stephanie said.
The five newborns were delivered not only successfully, but quickly, too.
“It’s incredibly rewarding. As a leader to see the team come together to provide this specialty care in such a rare circumstance… It really, really gives me a sense of satisfaction and pride,” Hassler said.
The health care journey continues
Physician for the Freels, Dr. Hemananda Muniraman with Phoenix Children’s Hospital, has helped the new parents care for their children in the 11 weeks the family has stayed in the nursery intensive care unit.
“We were helping them, feeding them, eventually they started feeding on their own… They were able to go home, healthy, thriving, much before their due date,” Muniraman said.
Now Graham and Stephanie are set to head back to Bellingham and their full support system to raise their five children. But they both said they’ll be back in Arizona soon, just maybe not in the summer.
“Our faith is the most important thing in our life. It’s central to everything we do, and we just believe, right from the get-go, God created an awesome story,” Graham said.
“And it’s been so cool to see how many people are a part of it…From family, friends, this hospital, all the nurses, all the doctors, complete strangers helping us.”
Stephanie expressed that she is still blown away by the births.
“And then I obviously see them and I’m like, ‘I carried all five of those!’” Stephanie said.