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Washington couple welcomes quintuplets at Dignity Health St. Joseph’s in Phoenix

PHOENIX (Aug. 23, 2023) – A young couple from Washington recently welcomed all five of their quintuplets home from Dignity Health St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center after an 11-week stay in the hospital’s Nursery Intensive Care Unit (NyICU). Proud parents, Graham and Stephanie Freels, are looking forward to creating new memories with their four daughters and one son who were born at just 27 weeks gestation.

Graham, 29, and Stephanie, 27, have wanted to be parents from the day they were married in 2017. However, shortly after the couple tied the knot, they learned that Stephanie was suffering from a pituitary cyst which doctors say was responsible for causing hormonal changes and other symptoms like serious headaches. Luckily, surgeons were able to remove the cyst but the couple still struggled to get pregnant.

Five years later, Graham and Stephanie learned that their longtime prayer to be parents had been answered. The day before Christmas Eve, they learned that Stephanie was pregnant.

“It was a pretty incredible morning for us,” said Stephanie. “For years we had prayed that God would bless us with children, and now it was finally coming true! I’ve always wanted a large family, but I could have never imagined it would happen all at once.”

Shortly after learning she was expecting, Stephanie’s pregnancy hormone levels were tested and her results were off the charts. Doctors in Washington told the couple this could mean they were expecting more than one baby.

This hypothesis was proven to be correct when the couple went in for the first ultrasound appointment. On Jan. 4, the ultrasound revealed that they were in fact expecting quintuplets. The next week, the couple sat in amazement as they watched the flicker of five heartbeats on the ultrasound screen.

“It was one of the craziest moments of our lives,” said Stephanie. “We were so excited and confident that God had purposefully entrusted us with these five precious babies. However, we also knew there were serious risks to carrying quintuplets.”

Quintuplets are extremely rare. Of the more than 3.6 million births recorded in the United States in 2020, only 29 were quintuplets or higher order multiples according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The pregnancy can also be extremely taxing on both the mother and babies, and the Freels knew they needed the right doctor to help guide them through Stephanie’s pregnancy.

“Right after we learned that we were expecting quintuplets, I hopped on YouTube and started doing some research to find the right doctor and hospital to deliver our babies,” said Graham.

Graham soon came across the name Dr. John Elliott, a renowned perinatologist out of Phoenix who specializes in higher order multiple pregnancies. After a consultation with Dr. Elliott and his team, the Freels made the decision to move to Arizona from Washington State for the remainder of Stephanie’s pregnancy and deliver their five babies at Dignity Health St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center.

Stephanie and Graham spent most of her second trimester enjoying springtime in Phoenix and undergoing regular checkups with her care team. Stephanie’s goal was to carry the babies until 34 weeks, as preterm delivery is common among multiple births. However, it turns out the couple would be meeting their little ones earlier than anticipated.

On June 3, Stephanie and Graham went to St. Joseph’s because Stephanie was in a considerable amount of pain. To their surprise, they learned that Stephanie was six centimeters dilated and the babies would be born via emergency C-section at just 27 weeks gestation.

“I was absolutely terrified, but God was with our family through it all as St. Joseph’s amazing medical team cared for Stephanie and helped us welcome our five beautiful children,” said Graham.

Adelyn, Eliana, Linnea, Fisher and Harper Freels were born in the early morning of June 4. Since the babies were born 13 weeks early, all of the babies hardly weighed more than two pounds. Each baby had a team of neonatologists, nurses and respiratory therapists in the operating room to provide them with the immediate care they would need after birth.

“St. Joseph’s is home to a world renowned NyICU, and in partnership with Phoenix Children’s, the unit is experienced in caring for some of the most fragile babies, including those who are born in high order multiples,” said Andrea Hassler, nursing director of women and infant services at St. Joseph’s. “Similar to the Freels, we have families that travel from all over the country to deliver their babies at St. Joseph’s and receive world-class care for their newborns.”

For 11 weeks, Graham and Stephanie visited the NyICU and watched in excitement as their children grew and gained strength. They celebrated each milestone, like when the babies were strong enough to take a bottle, and soaked up the small moments like adorable baby hiccups. Amazingly, none of their children experienced any serious complications from their preterm birth.

“One of the best moments of our NyICU journey was being able to hold all five of my babies for the first time,” said Stephanie. “I was so emotional leading up to the moment I could finally hold all of them in my arms after carrying them in my belly. It was a moment I will forever cherish. I am so thankful to the NyICU nursing team for giving me this experience.”

After 76 days, the final quintuplet was discharged from St. Joseph’s NyICU last week and the “Freels Five” are now all happily under one roof at home with their parents in Phoenix.

“We are so grateful to have all of our children home with us,” said Stephanie. “So many people have prayed for us and our family throughout our journey and NyICU experience. We are so grateful that so many prayers have been answered and we are looking forward to creating new memories as a family of seven.”

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Publish date: 

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Media Contact

Abby Kay, External Communications Specialist

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