Nicole Neustadt has accomplished more in the last 15 months than most people do in a lifetime.
At the span of just over a year, the 26 year old mom battled—and appears to have beaten—cancer AND gave birth to two sets of fraternal twins.
Playing happily in her living room with 13-month-old twins Ava and Juliana while simultaneously feeding one of the 2-month-old boys, Nicole makes it look if not easy, then at least manageable.
“You just do it,” she says. “It is non-stop, but I never think of it as a burden. Four kids to kiss good night? Four kids to hug? Four kids to love? It’s not a burden.”
The bills are a little daunting, she concedes. The family goes through a large can of formula in four days and 2 gallons of milk per week. They had to buy four cribs and four car seats. A quad stroller—the only way one adult can take all four on a walk at once—runs about $500. (Neustadt is hoping for one for Christmas.) And a significant amount of money still goes to medical bills—Neustadt’s cancer treatments, plus four premature babies’ stints in the neo-natal intensive care unit.
And circumstances call for creativity here and there.
In July of 2006 just after Nicole and her husband Brian were married, she started having severe chest pains. X-rays revealed a “shadow” in her chest, which was later diagnosed as non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Six rounds of chemotherapy and 22 straight days of radiation left her exhausted, but hopeful for her future. She’s currently in remission, but her doctors had told her the treatments could prevent her from ever having children, so she had her eggs extracted and frozen before starting chemo.
“They told us if—if—I could have kids, it would probably take me two years to get pregnant,” she says. “I finished treatment on Jan. 8, 2007, and I was pregnant in February.”
An early ultrasound revealed she was carrying twins, and on Oct. 13 she gave birth to Ava and Juliana—six weeks early, but healthy and strong.
In March, just as the girls were approaching the 5-month-old mark, Nicole found out she was pregnant again.
On Sept. 14, one month shy of Ava and Juliana’s 1st birthday, the energetic mom gave birth to Joseph and Johnathan—seven weeks early, but healthy and strong.
The key to Nicole’s success is a strict daily schedule. “Nicole is like a drill sergeant,” her husband says.
The girls rise at 6:30 a.m. They share a room, so if one wakes before the other, the early riser talks and sings to wake her slumbering sister. Breakfast is at 7 a.m., followed by playtime until their first nap at 9. Lunch is at noon, second nap is at 2 p.m. and dinner is at 5:30. By 7:30, they’re back in bed for the night.
The boys are still too young for a schedule, spending much of their days watching their sisters play or snoozing in the pack ‘n’ play set up in the living room. They, too, share a room.
Nicole’s obstetrician told her she hyperovulates, meaning she releases more than one egg each month, greatly increasing her chance of conceiving fraternal twins. Some women inherit a gene that causes hyperovulation, but it can also be caused by assisted reproductive technologies or age-related hormonal changes, especially as women delay pregnancy into their 30s and beyond.
Her great-great-grandmother had fraternal twins, so it’s possible she has inherited the “twin gene.” She wasn’t taking fertility drugs during either pregnancy, and she was relatively young (27 and 28) for both conceptions
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