Families still have hands full

Kansas sextuplets, quadruplets celebrate their first birthdays

? It’s been a year — and thousands of dirty diapers — since south-central Kansas was treated to the births of quadruplets, followed the next day by sextuplets.

For the Tetrick family (they have the quads), the past year has seen father Patrick fulfill his Army Reserve duties. A few weeks after his four boys were born, he headed to the U.S. Navy Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to guard prisoners captured in Afghanistan and suspected of links to the al-Qaida terrorist network.

Now Master Sgt. Patrick Tetrick is at Fort Riley awaiting deployment to the Middle East.

Rago sextuplets

For the Headricks, (they have the sextuplets) the past year also has been hectic. A slice of a mid-March day makes the point.

No sooner had a sleepy 5-year-old Aubriana Headrick curled up in her mother’s lap that her little brother, Sean, crawled up to them, wanting to be held, too.

Sondra Headrick, 34, reached down to easily swoop him up, all the while watching four other siblings — Ethan, Melissa, Jaycie and Danielle — crawl and play with each other on the living room rug.

The remaining sextuplet, Grant, was the last to wake up from his morning nap. Shelly Hewitt, a volunteer helper from nearby Norwich, changed his stinky diaper.

That will be one of about 50 diaper changes each day at the Headrick household. That’s actually an improvement, now that the babies mostly sleep through the night, Sondra said. It used to run about 100 diaper changes a day.

All of which suddenly reminded Sondra she needed to ask her husband, Eldon, when he came home from work to check with the company that gives them the diapers to see if they will extend their donation for another year after the babies turn 1 on April 6.

The Headrick sextuplets are seen in their Rago home. The siblings, from left, Ethan, Melissa, Grant, Sean, Jaycie and Danielle were born the day after a set of quadruplets were delivered nearly a year ago in Wichita.

Eldon Headrick, 33, works for the Street Department in the city of Wichita, 40 miles east of Rago. With his wife busy caring for seven children, his modest city job is their sole income.

“Things are tight, but pretty soon it is going to get tighter,” Sondra Headrick said. “Other donations have started running out. The kids are getting older — we are going to have to decide on a house.”

Sondra Headrick gave birth to the three boys and three girls after using fertility drugs before conceiving. Now nearly a year old, the babies are all healthy.

Wichita quadruplets

In Wichita, Christina Tetrick, 29, has her own hands full with her four boys.

The rare quadruplets — two sets of identical twin boys — were born at another Wichita hospital the day before the sextuplets. The Tetricks were not using fertility drugs.

For Christina, a former construction engineer, the hardest part of her first year as a mother has been loneliness.

“With Pat gone so long — when you are dealing with so much and don’t have anybody to talk to about your daily stuff — that is hard,” she said.

The Tetrick quadruplets, two sets of identical twins, are seen in their Wichita home. The brothers are, from left, Parker, Peyton, Camden and Christian.

Now a master sergeant with the 530th Military Police Battalion based in Omaha, Neb., Patrick, 35, came home for six weeks before being deployed again.

He will miss their first birthday. “Duty calls,” he said.

This will be his fourth deployment. Patrick was also activated in 1990 for the Gulf War, and again in 1997 for Operation Joint Guard in the Balkans.

“It’s our job. We are soldiers,” he said during a break in his training at Fort Riley. “Each in our own way feel strongly about our country. We all took the oath.”

But Christina knows that this deployment will be different. She knows he will not be able to call home twice a week, or e-mail her all the time, as he did from Guantanamo.

“That is sort of scary for me,” she said.

She keeps a diary on the family Web site, www.born4 theUSA.com, where she answers letters from other parents of multiple babies and chronicles her own experiences. It is also a way for her own boys to have “a record of my sanity” when they were young, she said.