We've been held graciously hostage by these babies. —Anthony Consolo
DAVIS COUNTY — Twenty bottles sit freshly washed and drying on the counter. Twelve chickens poke around a coop in the backyard. Five children ages two and under are passed between helping hands. Four bottles warm in the microwave. Three cases of formula sit nearby. Two spirited St. Bernards play underfoot. And two exhausted, but happy, parents manage it all in a single home on one acre of land.
Welcome to a normal day in the life of Natalie and Anthony Consolo, 2-year-old daughter Dorothy, and the quadruplets: Annabelle, Lucille, Charlotte and Daniel, all just over 2 months old.
On Monday, Brenda Pehrson, Relief Society president of the couple's LDS ward, stood at the sink washing dishes. Julie Sage, another ward member, rocked one of the quadruplets in the nursery down the hall, keeping an eye on the three others. It's not what the Consolos envisioned when they had hoped to add a baby to their family of three.
But Natalie conceived the quads without the aid of fertility treatment, endured the pregnancy and is now learning how to live with little rest.
"Six days a week, from 10 to 2," Pehrson says of the amount of time at least two women from the family's LDS stake come to the home. "We have a lot of great people offering to help."
It's the only time Natalie and Anthony can count on sleeping. Since the quadruplets were born Feb. 25, Natalie said she and her husband average about three hours of sleep per night each — most of that when the LDS ward members come and take over.
"It's a good day if we get six hours," Natalie said.
Everything else is up in the air and the Consolos — who have asked that their city of residence not be disclosed — steal sleep when and where they can. Or when they have to. Anthony said he's found Natalie passed out on the bed. She's happened upon him conked out on the floor.
"Every three hours there's a feeding," Natalie said. "There's putting in the pacifiers. Changing blankets."
"Changing diapers," Anthony added.
"Then more feedings," Natalie replied, noting that feeding all four takes an hour.
"We've been held graciously hostage by these babies," Anthony said.
Determined to keep them healthy and growing as long as possible, Natalie carried the quadruplets for one day shy of 33 weeks, outlasting the average gestation period for quadruplets by two weeks.
Dr. Michael Draper said it was an exciting and blessedly uneventful delivery.
"It went great," he said. "(Natalie) was in and out of the operating room in less than an hour."
Draper previously had delivered seven sets of quadruplets and said he enjoyed delivering babies as big as the Consolo quads. He also praised the team that helped with the C-section delivery, a team of four obstetricians, three nurses, one anesthesiologist and one scrub tech. On the other side of the operating wall, there were more people waiting to receive the babies. In total, each infant had three to four people tasked with its delivery and care.
"In this situation, it all came together really well," Draper said. "We didn't expect there was going to be any problems. There is satisfaction in knowing these babies have a chance to do very well."
Two months out and the babies are big, healthy and growing both in size and in personality, Natalie said.
Lucille is the quiet and dainty one.
Annabelle is sweet and loves to look and see all that is around her.
Daniel is "a boy's boy" who loves to eat. He was the second smallest at birth, but now weighs in the biggest at 11 pounds.
And Charlotte, well, Charlotte is the screamer.
"When she sleeps, she's the best," Natalie said. "When she's awake, she wants to be held."
All of the babies' cries are different, but Charlotte's is the most powerful, and it's easy for one child to get the whole bunch going.
"When one of them starts, you want to stop it before it can become a quartet," Anthony Consolo said." When all four of them are crying at the same time, my goodness, it's a blessed cacophony."
The beaming father is upbeat and optimistic while Natalie maintains a peace and confidence. Still, both admit that the lack of sleep and sheer size of the undertaking make an impact.
"It's a strain, but I have my faith to sustain me and I have a lot of help," Natalie said. "We couldn't do this without the help of our ward and our families. Being stubborn helps, too."
Anthony was working as a restaurant manager and said he had a supportive, accommodating boss. But eventually he said he needed to be home full-time to help his wife. The family has been able to sustain itself using some savings.
"Luckily we've been frugal and have been able to get through," Anthony said. "We're raising animals here … and are looking into being self-employed. With the babies, you have to be on-call."
The family downsized from a 6,000-square-foot home to a 700-square-foot bungalow in Provo not long after Dorothy was born in an effort to save and allow Natalie to stay home. Now, the family has moved to a four-bedroom, two-bathroom home on a single acre in Davis County that houses the family, as well as the dogs and chickens.
Anthony managed to build the chicken coop between feedings and the family expects eggs by summer.
"The chickens came six weeks ago," Natalie said. "When we got them, (the chickens) were a day old. By the time the coop was done, they were fully feathered."
On average, the family is going through as many as 50 diapers a day and spending around $300 on formula a month. Much of this was donated — including the cloth diapers the family still plans to transition to — by friends, families, companies and complete strangers.
"We couldn't do it without the generosity of others," Anthony said. "We're moving forward knowing we're going to be OK. As long as the babies are fed and the babies are warm and we have the shelter that we need, I mean, we're satisfied."
Natalie said it hasn't been easy going from being a single woman of 28 to a married mother of five in the span of three years, a concept she still struggles to wrap her mind around.
"I take it one hour at a time," she said. "At the beginning we were doing a lot more and wondering how can we keep up, then (the church volunteers) stepped in."
Pehrson, one of the helpers, said different tasks are all mapped out for those who come to help. She said the experience helps not only the Consolos, but those who have offered their time.
"I think it's good for our ward to learn how to serve and to help this family," she said. "We'll keep doing it as long as they need us to."
The Consolos said they've loved watching Dorothy, their 2-year-old girl, dote on the babies and see each small step as an accomplishment.
"The most rewarding thing to me is any time I've got all of them fed and changed and I can see I've done it," Natalie said. "That's a great feeling. It's very empowering. … When I start getting frustrated and feeling very overwhelmed I just have to stop and look at them and go, 'This is all so worth it.'"