This is a new one, you guys… this is both from the writer’s perspective and in interview form. I met Senika (coolest name ever, right?) back in 2012 when I started dating Matthew; her and her husband, Chris, welcomed me so graciously into their lives and beautiful home. I love not only joining the Tyk family for Easter and Thanksgiving, but actually having a friendship – going out for dinner, spending time at the pool eating freshly roasted pistachios, or just sitting in the living room painting nails with polish that you can completely peel off once it dries (actually quite satisfying)… now, we’re just waiting for our invite to join them at the next concert, which could be a while – #quarantinelife
Shortly after starting this blog, I asked Senika if she would write about her experience leading up to children as well as motherhood. So many of us are at a stage in our lives now where we’re thinking about kids, or have them, which made this such a draw for me… plus, if you’ve seen Senika and Chris’s parenting style you’d want to take lessons from them too.
Alright – let’s jump in!
A few weeks ago, we were making our routine drive out of state to visit family. While sitting in the passenger seat, my fingernail started to catch on my sweater. I quickly found myself thinking… Did we pack nail clippers? That simple thought then transitioned into wondering if people who were traveling cross country in covered wagons packed nail clippers. Did they even have nail clippers? If so, was that something they made sure to load up in their wagon? Did they have a packing list?
Yes, a packing list! Let me take you back to when packing lists for road trips entered our world.
But before we go there, we’re already going to revert into interview mode. Hang in with me – I’ll make the transitions as smooth as possible!
I asked Senika to briefly touch on her upbringing as I like to share that sort of insight with the readers.
She was born in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico and grew up with one sister – Yvonne – they remain very close to this day. Her and her husband were friends for a year and a half before they started dating and he proposed after six months… another six months later and they were married. Guys… as she told me this, my mouth was agape… you just don’t see that anymore, unless you’re watching The Bachelor.
I asked when they started talking about kids, and as you would expect given the above timeline (and is normal for really any relationship), it was right away, though Senika expressed that she didn’t always want to be a mom – she didn’t dream of having children.
With that, we’ll jump back into her story…
About 10 years ago, Chris and I wanted to start a family and unfortunately it did not happen easily. After the natural routes were found unsuccessful, we started going to different doctors and countless appointments and with that came many ups and downs.
I wondered what doctors were telling them – what reasons they gave about their inability to get pregnant.
She clarified that doctors were not saying they couldn’t get pregnant – they simply advised to just keep trying… The frustrating part, she said, was not really getting answers. At a certain point, Senika and Chris decided to go to a specialist that had a high rate of success with couples struggling to get pregnant. The specialist recommended Intrauterine Insemination, or IUI, which is not as intense as Invitro. In order to comply with the process, Senika had to give herself trigger shots and booster shots which were done seven days out of each month. This process went on month over month, time after time. She told me the physical and emotional roller coaster that happened each month was exhausting, but they decided to try one more time… they said, this is it – if it happens, it happens. Drum roll, please… two weeks later and they found out they were pregnant!
Back to her story…
That one last time was our blessing, as after that, I became pregnant with multiples. The pause. More specifically, quadruplets! I still remember the day at the doctor’s office, they were doing a two-week ultrasound and she said, there is baby A, baby B… and baby C. Wait, she said, let’s start again. Baby A, then B, then C and one more! Baby D.
As I can imagine the slew of emotions I’d be feeling if I was told there were four babies inside of me, I asked her to bring us into her world… into her mind. I was expecting to hear something typical, like “oh my god, yeah, I was terrified,” or “I immediately wanted a glass of wine.” I did not receive those answers. As I sat across from beautiful, petite Senika, I watched her eyes glaze over. She explained so eloquently why she wouldn’t let her mind go there – that they chose to participate in IUI, knowing what could come to be – they chose to only feel gratitude for the amazing gift they were given.
Senika’s Story –
Fast forward one week (yes, one) and my pants no longer fit me. There was no keeping it a secret that I was pregnant; my body grew and grew, and grew. I became tired, couldn’t easily take a breath, and at one point, I had to start sleeping in a living room chair because I couldn’t even lay down flat. You could say I was ready to be through with the pregnancy.
Very early on, I was going in for weekly doctor’s appointments, but on December 26th, during a routine appointment, things took a turn and they requested that I go directly to the hospital. In my mind, I knew what that meant. If I went to the hospital, I was not leaving until the kids were born. I can remember thinking it wasn’t the time. I wasn’t done carrying them.
I remember sitting there and thinking I was in a crappy room and wanting Chris to get that figured out. A few hours later, I realized that they had me in an actual operating delivery room because they thought I would deliver that day. Fortunately that was not the day for delivery, so the next day, I ended up moving rooms and only stayed in the hospital for five days. The doctors were able to get everything stabilized and I was now admitted for observation and bedrest. I started to go stir crazy and ultimately got the ‘okay’ to go home on January 2nd. Week by week went by and finally we scheduled the delivery for January 26th; I just didn’t have any more room to allow them to keep growing inside me. All of this knowing that once they were born, the next part of our journey would begin and that would be guaranteed time in the NICU.
I asked Senika about her headspace; although I’m not a medical professional, I’ve heard my fair share of stories about children in the NICU.
She told me she did everything in her power to stay positive. She said Carter came home first, followed by Preston, then Savannah. Hailey was there far longer as she developed Necrotizing Enterocolitis, also known as NEC, which is a medical condition where a portion of the bowel dies.
“She couldn’t eat on her own for days and I couldn’t touch her. It was breaking my heart, but I still never allowed myself to think, ‘what if?’ We just kept visiting and taking things as they came. As the days passed, Hailey began to show promising development so we were able to rule surgery out of the picture and by day 48, she was cleared to come home.”
I watched Senika’s face re-live her reality from eight years ago, as she wiped away her tears, paused between sentences, and smiled with what they all overcame.
One of the benefits of the NICU was they got the kids on a schedule. Feeding every three hours, sleeping, and even wake time. That helped us tremendously! The first year was a total blur. Endless bottles (32 per day to be exact!), diapers, cuddles, and watching them transform from tiny little 3lb 7oz preemies to growing babies. We had spreadsheets, checklists, and did everything we could to stick to our routine. The premise behind the routine is it would allow the kids to do everything together (such as sleep, eat, and play) so that we were not randomly trying to figure out what each of them needed throughout each day.
When did you go back to work? Were you scared to leave them with someone else?
“I went back to work at the beginning of April. We chose a wonderful woman named Bogi through the AuPair program way ahead of time. We felt very strong about her, and yeah, no part of me wanted to be a stay-at-home mom. Plus, we thought it would be good for them to know other people.”
I know you’re the perfect mom, Senika, or at least from the outside, that’s how it appears, so lift the curtain for us. Throughout their eight + years, have you ever questioned your ability as a parent?
“I’m not perfect. I’m really not. I just try and go into situations realizing how lucky I am to have this time and really be present. I know how fast time goes by and how blessed we are to have four healthy children. I will say, though, it has been difficult making certain decisions, knowing it will affect four children… that responsibility really made us feel the pressure and recognize how impactful and magnified our decisions can be,” she wiped away another tear and got up to grab a paper towel. I don’t know why I didn’t think to have tissues for us, but hey, Senika’s also teaching me how to be more aware!
I asked her to share something she’s been impressed by with her four kids; before she answers, I feel inclined to tell the audience their attitude and manners are worthy of praise.
She offered a smile and I could see her visualize the quads, “I just love the way they help each other. They can sense when the other needs something without a word exchanged. I really am amazed with how connected they are and how ready they are to help one another. One time, Preston had an issue at school and Carter immediately had his back. Things like that shouldn’t be undervalued and I can only hope they hold that connection throughout their lives.”
Back to Senika’s story –
“How do you do it?” That is a question I hear often. Truthfully, I don’t know what the answer is. I can say that it is never ending thoughts in my head about figuring out what needs to be done next and doing it. Where everyone is, how I can try and be present for each of them, what they need at any given moment, what everyone is going to need later (i.e., lunch, dinner) and what we are doing the next day. While the struggles of keeping up with bottles has now turned into spelling words and homework sheets, there is no doubt that we still enter uncharted territory around each corner with four kiddos needing the same thing in different ways. It’s overly tiring, of course. Even now, we are kept on our toes with this quarantine; we thought we were finally in a good routine for 2nd grade, making progress in the areas that needed focus, and bam, a curve ball has been tossed to us (and everyone). So, we are now navigating working at home (both Chris and I) while keeping up with the kids and school work. That’s definitely not something I envisioned when thinking of uncharted territory!
While I always want to draw out the cracks in people’s armor, I can realize that it doesn’t need to be the center of a story – sometimes people don’t have to walk through fire to come out on top. Sometimes people can appreciate the amazing gift that is life and treat it as such throughout.
That said, I asked her how she copes when she feels overwhelmed because again, having four kids the same age… I can only imagine.
“When I think I can’t do something or I’ve reached my boiling point, I usually don’t explode. I typically tend to shut down emotionally and close off. And yes, sometimes that can be at Chris’s detriment which I’m working on. Patience is definitely something I struggle with.”
Clearly you’re strong willed, I stated, almost mesmerized by her awareness and capacity to take on so much. I asked if she’s always been so strong willed and she said yes – she attributes it to her parents as she never wanted to let them down.
“I just want to raise good people. These kids will turn into teens and then adults, and I want them to do good in the world. I want them to be happy. I want them to be good partners to whoever they end up with. And I want them to remember to pack the nail clippers!”