Mother gives birth to 5 children in 13 months

By Phan Duong   January 28, 2024 | 06:06 pm PT
Four months after giving birth to her twin sons, Dong Nai Province’s Do Thi Tuyen, 32, discovered she was pregnant again.

"When I found out I was pregnant, I burst into tears from shock because my first two children were still newborns," Tuyen said.

Cặp sinh đôi và sinh ba (lần lượt từ trái qua) của vợ chồng chị Tuyến ở Trảng Bom, Đồng Nai trong một lần đi nhà thờ, tháng 10/2023. Ảnh: Gia đình cung cấp

(From L) Twins Minh Khoi, Minh Khang and triplets Minh Chau, Minh An and Minh Anh in October 2023. Photo courtesy of Tuyen and Toan

Her elder sons were born in 2020, 13 months before the second three.

Tuyen and Nguyen Van Toan, 34 years old, got married in 2016. Tuyen was diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome, so she was forced to undergo stimulation to increase her chances of conceiving. Eventually, the couple conceived naturally and welcomed their twin sons in October 2020.

Because it took her 5 years to conceive, Tuyen naively did not use contraception any more. Four months after giving birth, Tuyen showed signs of morning sickness. By the time the ultrasound announced triplets, "everything was spinning, I couldn't think of anything anymore," she said.

The surgical wound from the previous birth had not yet healed, and now being pregnant with three more children was dangerous.

"If something happens to me, these three children and their two brothers will no longer have a mother, so who will they take care of and raise them?" she thought.

However, she had no thoughts of "giving up or keeping the child." Her family's encouragement and her husband's support also helped Tuyen feel more at ease and reassure herself to have a healthy and safe pregnancy.

Their were acquaintances in her neighborhood that didn’t know Tuyen had already given birth and gotten pregnant a second time, so they asked questions like: "Why have you not given birth yet after being pregnant for so long?"

Even though Tuyen loves her children, taking care of two newborns with a pregnant belly was exhausting and perilous. Four months into her pregnancy, the couple was forced to send the twins to their grandparents' house, 20 km away. The two children, just over 7 months old, had to be weaned and separated from their mother. The day she sent her children away, Tuyen hid behind the door and covered her mouth, not daring to cry out loud.

But at least, from that point on, Tuyen had time to take care of her pregnancy. However, at 28 weeks she was at risk of miscarriage and had to be hospitalized. At 32 weeks, Tuyen had a cesarean section to deliver her babies because of the high risk of premature birth.

That was the most difficult period for the family. Tuyen left the operating room and was unable to meet her newborns because they were transferred to Dong Nai Children's Hospital and placed in incubators. On the third day, she planned to visit her child, but before she could get out of bed, she collapsed from the pain of her surgical wound. Tuyen also couldn't go back to her grandmother to see her two older children because the Covid-19 epidemic had struck and Vietnam was on lockdown.

After staying at home for a week, the woman braved the pain to go to the hospital to see her children. The three newborns, whose weight ranged from 1.8 to 1.9 kg, had been kept in an incubator for 10 days and already looked better. After half a month, the babies were sent home.

Năm anh em được mẹ cho tự ăn rau, trước khi được cho ăn cơm, tháng 11/2023. Ảnh: Gia đình cung cấp

The five siblings during mealtime. Photo courtesy of Tuyen and Toan.

Toan became the only person to shoulder the entire family’s finances. Each month, just diapers and milk for 5 children was enough to force him to work multiple jobs. The babies’ grandparents were old and weak and running a grocery store so they could only help with some daily errands. Tuyen alone had to take care of all her children.

Because she was afraid that her babies would get clingy, she refrained from holding them much. Even when they nursed, they did so lying down. Every night she had to get up at least twice to feed the babies milk and change diapers. Normally, taking care of one baby in the first few months is very stressful, but for Tuyen, everything has to be done three times.

"Three babies are in the same bed, so if only one baby gurgles or has a wet diaper, the other babies wake up at the same time. I don't know if there is any mysterious force helping me out, but I always wake up in time to change diapers and feed them without waking the other babies up," Tuyen said.

Although there have been times when she feels exhausted, thinking about her first two children being separated from their parents and the other three children not getting snuggled, Tuyen became even stronger because "my fatigue is nothing compared to what my babies have to go through". After the 3.5 months mark, Tuyen could take care of her children and do all the housework, no longer needing help from her grandparents.

After the triplets’ first birthday, the twins were welcomed home.

Then, finally, the struggles of house life ensued, taking the place of the pains of birth.

Her five boys would goof around, horseplay, and get into fights with each other every day. And so, every day Tuyen, had to intervene countless times.

Fortunately, the 5 children were all the same age, so they always had someone to play with. And they even eventually learned to behave as well. All it takes now is one child being scolded by their mother for the other four children to learn to be good. They now know how to remind each other to put away their toys when they see their mother coming home.

Currently, the older twins Minh Khoi and Minh Khang are three years old, while the triplets Minh Anh, Minh An and Minh Chau just had their second birthday. All weigh around 17 kg. Because of their similar height, weight and appearance, wherever they go out, people around them think they are brothers born in the same year.

The mother said that it is difficult to tell the babies apart just by looking at them. She often has to point out to people that the first two babies are bigger, so they have darker hair and are taller, one of them is fat, one is skinny. Of the next three children, two are fat, one has hooded eyelids, the other has double eyelids, and the other one is thinner so they’re easier to tell apart.

"When the triplets were learning how to walk, they fell, causing one to break two front teeth, one to break one tooth, and one fortunately didn’t lose any tooth," Ms. Tuyen said sadly, but adding that this was yet another way to tell them apart.

Even so, when they sleep, the boys' appearance still sometimes confuses their mother. To avoid mistakes, Tuyen always dresses her children in different clothes when going to bed.

Chị Tuyến và đàn con đáng yêu tại quê nhà Trảng Bom, Đồng Nai mùa thu 2023. Ảnh: Nhân vật cung cấp

Tuyen and her five children in their hometown in Dong Nai Province. Photo courtesy of Tuyen.

The family has so many children that as soon as Toan receives his salary, he has to buy enough diapers and milk for the whole month, and then use the rest for groceries. The family has to be flexible about the way they do things. For example, all the children are physically able to feed themselves, but whenever meal time comes around, Tuyen has to sit them in a circle and spoon feed them herself.

People who don’t understand the full story would say she’s a coddling parent, but Tuyen understands that had she let the children feed themselves, they would smear or drop the food all over themselves, then the entire house would be dirty, and food wasted. That’d lead to hours of cleaning up instead of a 20 – 30-minute meal.

Tuyen and Toan don’t send their children to kindergarten because their income is not enough to pay tuition. "Furthermore, who will take them to school and pick them up? What happens when they get sick?" Tuyen asked. She plans to quit her job and stay home to take care of them until they are 5 years old.

The couple said that raising 5 children requires a lot of time and effort, and sometimes they cannot give them everything. But every Tet holiday, they will try to buy the children new clothes and better food than usual.

"The children really enjoy it when they get to dress nicely and go out. Seeing all of them growing up healthily makes me and my husband extremely proud," said the mother of five.

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