Mother of quintuplets thought she was just having twins: ‘Not even my doctor suspected this could’ve happened’

While she’s now a proud parent of quintuplets, having five children wasn’t exactly the plan for Mississippi mother Haylee Ladner. In fact, before welcoming the children earlier this month with her husband Shawn, she thought their family would only be expanding by two babies: twins.

On 16 February, the Ladner family were introduced to their five children, which included four identical girls and one boy, at the Wiser Hospital for Women and Infants at the University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC). As reported by the hospital last month, all babies were delivered by Caesarean section, between 9.19am and 9.23am.

Speaking to The Independent, Ladner recalled how, before getting pregnant with her babies, she and Shawn struggled with conceiving a child, which led them to seek a fertility treatment: Intrauterine Insemination (IUI). The procedure is “a type of artificial insemination,” where sperm is placed directly into the uterus as the “ovary releases one or more eggs to be fertilised,” according to the Mayo Clinic.

While undergoing IUI, Ladner worked closely with her fertility doctors, using an internal ultrasound to determine how many mature eggs she would ovulate in a cycle, and the time of ovulation. In her case, she had two mature follicles, which were the two eggs she ovulated during that cycle.

After a few weeks, Ladner learned she was pregnant, at which point she visited her doctor to test her levels of Human chorionic gonadotropin, a hormone produced by the placenta during pregnancy, per Cleveland Clinic. When she saw how elevated her numbers were during the appointment, she assumed she was going to be a mother of two.

“Typically, HCG numbers double every 48 hours and you have to repeat blood work to ensure that the numbers are increasing correctly indicating the beginnings of a healthy pregnancy,” she explained. “My numbers were extremely high at the first HCG draw that they did not ask me to repeat bloodwork. They were in about the 2,000s when I was barely four weeks pregnant. Because of this, my husband and I assumed we could be having twins.”

While HCG levels can vary throughout a pregnancy, they can be anywhere between 200 to 7,000 for a women carrying twins after the first five weeks since the last menstrual cycle, according to Healthline.

It wasn’t until Ladner was in her seventh week of pregnancy that she learned how many children she was actually having. The realisation occurred during an ultrasound, after she saw two gestational sacs - fluid-filled structures that surround an embryo at the start of a pregnancy - on the screen.

“I immediately react and say: ‘Oh it’s twins!’” she recalled. “At this point, my fertility doctor says: ‘I’ve never seen this before,’ and then proceeds to tell us that he sees five babies. Four in one sac, and one in the other. No one, not even my doctor suspected that this could have ever happened.”

During Thanksgiving, the soon-to-be parents of five threw a gender reveal. However, according to Ladner, before learning the babies’ sex, she and her husband had very different ideas about what to expect.

“I was actually really shocked to find out we were having four girls and a boy, I thought it would be the opposite,” she said. “My husband wasn’t though! He said he had a feeling that it would be four girls and a boy. We were happy either way!”

She also detailed how the two eggs during her IUI cycle ultimately led her to her identical daughters and one son. “It just so happens that one of the eggs that ovulated divided four times, making the identical quadruplets, and the other egg fertilised as well, creating a singleton,” she said. “This is extremely rare because, again, I only had two eggs that I ovulated.”

During a press conference at UMMC last month, Dr Rachael Morris, an associate professor of maternal foetal medicine who helped deliver Ladner’s babies, emphasised how rare the pregnancy was.

“Reports of spontaneous quintuplets vary but are about one in 60 million. There are very few reports of identical quadruplets in the literature to date. Reported incidence is one in 10 to 15 million pregnancies. There is only one other report of this combination in the literature from 2018,” she said, as reported by UMMC.

Ladner’s first daughter, Adalyn Elizabeth, was born at 9.19am, followed by her three sisters, Everleigh Rose, Malley Kate, and Magnolia Mae, and finally, her little brother, Jake Easton.

Dr Mobolaji Famuyide, chief of the division of newborn medicine and a member of Ladner’s care team at the hospital, also acknowledged how doctors paid close attention to the pregnancy, with Ladner admitted to the hospital on 11 January.

“A daily schedule was in place for the entire duration of her stay in the hospital, and team members were willing and happy to be called in even if this happened at 2am,” she recalled. “There were five warmers and two rooms ready for the babies, and several neonatologists, neonatal nurse practitioners, fellows, nurses and respiratory therapists ready every day. We were ready for weeks for this birth.”

Speaking to The Independent, Ladner said that she and Shawn haven’t taken their children home from the hospital quite yet, as the babies are currently in the NICU. However, the couple said they are very grateful for how well their babies are doing, and for the support system they had along the way.

“The plan is to take it one day at a time, but the babies are all doing absolutely wonderful and are all doing better than anyone could have ever asked for,” she added. “I believe with all of my heart that these babies are miracles from God given to us. We have been through so much, and we could not have made it this far without a lot of prayer and a lot of support from our amazing medical team that we have had.”