for Steve Prochaska since his wife Ruth gave birth to four girls—all at once
Eleven years ago on March 5, 1999, Steve Prochaska became the father of four girls when the surviving quintuplets were born three months prematurely.
Prochaska, who had wanted a family since he and his wife Ruth were married 13 years earlier, watched in amazement as each tiny girl was delivered by Caesarean section at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Milwaukee.
First came Salena Star, the tiniest weighing only 1 pound, 10-1/2 ounces, then Sabrina Ashley at 2 pounds, 1-1/2 ounces, Tabitha Brooke at 2 pounds, 1-3/4 ounces and finally Demetra Gina, 2 pounds, 1-1/2 ounces.
“It kind of shocked me when I saw them coming out,” Prochaska said in an interview with Ozaukee Press a few days after their birth. “I never saw a baby that small before. I never expected them to be that tiny. It’s kind of neat going into the NICU and going from baby to baby. I don’t think it’s going to hit me until we take them home.”
It hit full force when Salena was the last to come home a week before their June 1 due date, and it hasn’t let up much since then, said Prochaska, who has been an at-home dad since their birth. He receives Social Security disability for a back injury he suffered at work before the girls were born.
It’s not as physically exhausting as when he and his wife tried to sleep in between feedings every two to three hours, diaper changes and burpings.
Now, keeping up with active preteens who constantly talk, bounce and giggle is a challenge, Prochaska said.
“It’s easier because they do more stuff on their own, but it’s never quiet around here unless she (Ruth) takes them somewhere and there’s no one home,” he said.
The girls’ descriptions of their father made their parents laugh.
“He’s really, really wacko,” Salena said.
“He can be a clown,” Sabrina agreed.
“He sings like Elvis,” added Tabitha.
“When there’s a touchdown, he jumps up and down and yells at the TV,” Demetra said.
Each girl has her own personality that surfaced when they were still infants, Prochaska said.
Salena is the leader and the most mischievous, but she also helps the most around the house, her mother said.
Sabrina is the most independent and likes being by herself and with friends who aren’t sisters.
“She wants to grow up too fast,” her father said. “The others are content to be 11-year-olds, but not her.”
Tabitha is the talker and comedian of the family (in addition to her father) and loves to sing.
Demetra is an artist, the only one who is left-handed, and she doesn’t like to do housework.
“She says, ‘I don’t have to do anything. I’m the baby,’” her father said.
And she gets away with it, they all agreed while Demetra smiled.
Tabitha said she usually makes the bed and cleans the room she shares with Demetra.
Sabrina and Salena share another room in the three-bedroom Saukville home they moved to in 2002.
Tabitha and Demetra, who are identical twins, don’t like to be separated. They have been in the same classroom, except first grade grade, at Saukville Elementary and now at Thomas Jefferson Middle School in Port Washington.
“We laugh at the same time and say the same things at the same time. We think alike,” Tabitha said.
Sabrina and Salena are together in another classroom.
“They’re more like sisters. They get along sometimes and don’t get along sometimes,” their father said.
The parents have requested the girls be in the same classroom next year. It would make it easier to schedule parent-teacher conferences, their mother said.
The girls said they rarely switch places or play jokes on other people, but people do get them confused.
They love hearing stories about their unusual birth.
The babies were conceived during a second attempt of in vitro fertilization.
Four fertilized eggs were implanted. During the first ultrasound, the couple learned there were three babies.
“We were happy because we wanted to have a family,” Prochaska said.
The next ultrasound was a surprise. It showed five babies. One egg had split, producing identical twins Tabitha and Demetra.
“I told them to stop looking,” said Mrs. Prochaska, who was on bed rest for six months before their birth.
At 22 weeks gestation, the lone boy, Nicholas Frank, died. He stayed in the womb, helping to support the girls, for another five weeks.
When Nicholas was delivered stillborn, doctors hoped the other babies could continue to grow, but Salena’s water broke, forcing the Caesarean section a few hours later.
The girls each had a team of attendants who whisked them to the neonatal intensive care unit, where they were checked and hooked up to monitors.
Prochaska said he used to talk to the babies while they were in the womb, and he said the same things to them when they were in NICU, which seemed to calm them.
When the girls came home barely weighing five pounds each, their parents turned the living room of their two-bedroom home in Port Washington into a nursery. They slept on a makeshift bed on the floor next to the girls, who were arranged in birth order in infant seats on the floor. The babies came home with monitors for sleep apnea, which went off frequently during the night.
Each parent would feed two babies at a time. Each girl was assigned a color — red for Salena, yellow for Sabrina, green for Tabitha and purple or blue for Demetra. They were dressed and given bottles and toys in their colors. Those are still their favorite colors, the girls said.
The girls share clothes and choose what to wear, rarely dressing alike. They said they don’t fight over clothes.
They are A and B students in gifted-and-talented programs. They are healthy and rarely go to doctors except for vaccinations and check-ups, their father said.
In February 2009, Mrs. Prochaska was laid off from her job at Cramer Coil and Transformers in Saukville. She enjoyed being able to go on field trips with her daughters, she said, but they kept getting further in debt.
She found another job last week through a temporary service and started working Monday at a Brookfield company. She rides to work with a neighbor.
Prochaska will have full responsibility for the girls again. It’s his favorite job, he said.
“It’s great to be a father,” Prochaska said. “I wouldn’t change it for anything. I know how terrible it was not being a father for 13 years. It was very rough every time you heard someone was having a baby. It’s heart breaking when you can’t have kids.
“I’m glad we had four. I wouldn’t change it for anything. I just wish Nicky had made it.”
The girls know they had an older brother and go to his grave.
“We call him their guardian angel,” Prochaska said.
Steve Prochaska surrounded by his 11-year-old daughters (seated, from left) Tabitha, Salena, (standing) Sabrina and Demetra. Photo by Sam Arendt