Iraq veteran and wife face challenge of quadruplets – with army of volunteers

Charlie and Kelley Sandness have their hands full with  quadruplets.  Charlie holds Andrew, left, and Mason. Kelley  holds Mikayla, left, and Addison. (Al Hartmann | The Salt Lake Tribune)

Charlie and Kelley Sandness have their hands full with quadruplets. Charlie holds Andrew, left, and Mason. Kelley holds Mikayla, left, and Addison. (Al Hartmann | The Salt Lake Tribune)

In a rare peaceful moment, Iraq veteran Charlie Sandness has his two sons nestled in his arms as his wife, Kelley, rocks their two daughters in a recliner.

All four are 11 weeks old — quadruplets welcomed with shock and joy after their battle with infertility.

Then one impatient scream sets off a chain reaction that ends in a barbershop quartet of wailing from Mason, Mikayla, Andrew and Addison.

The couple, who are both 29, says that for feeding and changing diapers, “Team Sandness,” as a doctor called them early on, requires its own army.

The troops – family and members of their LDS Church ward – report daily. About every other day, Kelley’s mom, sisters or a friend cover the night shift. On the other days, the new parents alternate, and volunteers watch the babies from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. while Charlie is at work so Kelley can sleep.

Charlie Sandness holds Andrew, one of his quadruplets while his wife Kelley handles Mason,  Mikayla, and Addison. (Al Hartmann | The Salt Lake Tribune)

Charlie Sandness holds Andrew, one of his quadruplets while his wife Kelley handles Mason, Mikayla, and Addison. (Al Hartmann | The Salt Lake Tribune)

“They say it takes a village to raise a baby. Well, it takes four villages to raise our babies,” Kelley says.

The helping hands complete a circle of giving. While Charlie was serving in Iraq, Kelley was there to support a family in difficulty.

A sister in need  

The Sandnesses were married in 2008, right before Charlie headed to Iraq with the Marines. While he was deployed, Kelley’s sister and brother-in-law, Jen and Nick Davenport, faced a family challenge of their own.

Jen had a baby but suffered a major stroke during the delivery. She lost all movement on the right side of her body.

Kelley moved in with the family for about a year to help with the baby, as her sister stayed in the hospital for therapy that included learning how to eat again.

After Charlie’s deployment ended he became a drill instructor stationed in San Diego. He and Kelley wanted children. But after a year of trying and an unsuccessful round of costly fertility treatment in San Diego, they were beginning to think it wasn’t meant to happen.

Mikayla, left, and Addison, the girls in a set of quadruplets born to Charlie and Kelley Sandness. (Al Hartmann | The Salt Lake Tribune)

Mikayla, left, and Addison, the girls in a set of quadruplets born to Charlie and Kelley Sandness. (Al Hartmann | The Salt Lake Tribune)

‘Stop counting!’  

Kelley underwent a second round of intra-uterine insemination, during which doctor  injects sperm directly into the uterus. When a home pregnancy test was positive one night, Kelley’s shriek woke her husband.

“I was in shock,” Kelley said. “I didn’t ever think it would become a reality.”

During the first ultrasound, the doctor started counting. “I was like, ‘Stop counting!’ ” Charlie recalls.

Doctors raised the possibility of aborting two babies to give the others a better chance at surviving. The Sandnesses decided against it.

“After we heard the four heartbeats, we decided ‘we will do this and just take it one day at a time,’” Kelley said.

Andrew, left, and Mason, the boys in a set of quadruplets born to Charlie and Kelley Sandness. (Al Hartmann | The Salt Lake Tribune)

Andrew, left, and Mason, the boys in a set of quadruplets born to Charlie and Kelley Sandness. (Al Hartmann | The Salt Lake Tribune)

The couple moved to Utah, where Charlie had a new job training members of the Reserves at Fort Douglas in Salt Lake City.

Kelley eventually spent five weeks on hospital bed rest with preeclampsia and received medication to stop contractions. The babies, all weighing more than 3 pounds, were born Nov. 21 by Cesarean section.

They spent about three weeks in the intensive care unit, and then it was time to go home – to the Davenports’ house.

‘I feel blessed.’

Nick said the decision to bring six more family members into his Sandy, Utah, home was simply taking care of family – and returning Kelley’s favor.

He has remodeled his basement into a comfortable home for Team Sandness.

Adapting to another family living underneath them isn’t a big deal, he said. The Sandnesses say they’re grateful for the help until they get on their feet financially, while the Davenports are enjoying the newest members of their household.

Andrew, the oldest, will fuss until someone feeds him. Mason will fuss and cry regardless. Addison is a goofball, her dad said. Mikayla is the sleeping beauty who snoozes through anything.

“Kelley was there every step of the way [after Jen's stroke], so it was just my turn to pay it back,” Nick said. “I feel blessed she was there for me and I could do it now for her.”

Charlie said he and Kelley are so thankful for the help, because without it, they would be “zombies.”

Still, caring for the four babies is  “a blast,” Charlie said. “The funny faces they make and they all have personalities. It is overwhelming, but it is fun.”

 

 

 

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