By M. Scott Morris
NEW ALBANY – Newborn babies are loud and demanding creatures. Sure, they’re precious and cute, but there’s no denying they can make a racket.
Until Christmas Eve, Helias Hernandez only had a pair of stepchildren, and they were fully capable of feeding themselves and going to the bathroom on their own.
Micah, 16, and KaraLynn, 10, surely have their loud moments, but they’re old enough to listen to reason, more or less.
“He wanted a baby,” said Veronica Hernandez, Helias’ wife. “He said he wanted three children. I said, ‘You’re only getting one.’ Well, he got four.”
That’s right: Helias and Veronica are the proud parents of four newborns, Allyson, Ashley, Alexander and Anthony. Their New Albany home is a happening place, where the needs of the quadruplets come first, even on Father’s Day.
“This is my first time to change diapers,” he said. “I never changed diapers before.”
“He caught on real fast,” said Terry Sullivan, Helias’ mother-in-law who’s visiting from Alabama. “He’s good at bottles, feeding, burping, cleaning spit-up, all of it.”
The quads came home in April, and Helias has learned just how much noise they can make.
“They start crying at 10 o’clock at night, every night,” he said. “I’m going to put the babies’ crying on my ringtone.”
Helias is four times blessed thanks to nature, not science. He’s a twin, himself, and Veronica was not on fertility drugs. For a time, they thought she was carrying triplets, then they spotted the fourth.
Veronica went into North Mississippi Medical Center Women’s Hospital around Thanksgiving, and her mother (the babies’ Mawmaw) has spent most of her time in Northeast Mississippi since then.
“I’m sure I get on his nerves occasionally,” Terry said.
“No,” Helias assured her.
“He has been very good about having me here,” she said.
Her sister, Beth Schaffhauser from Arkansas, has also been in town to help.
Helias’ twin brother, Eduardo, lives in New Albany and he’s been around, too. The rest of the Hernandez family is in Mexico.
“I want to take them to Mexico City someday,” Helias said.
“He wants them to see his mother,” Veronica said. “That’s what I would love to do, too.”
“My mother, my father, all of my family in Mexico,” he said.
That trip will have to wait. In the interim, technology helps bridge the miles.
“The first time his mother saw them was on Skype,” Veronica said.
Helias works Monday through Friday and some Saturdays at Albany Furniture. Before the babies, he enjoyed coming home and playing on his computer.
“I go to sleep. I go to work. I play with the babies,” he said. “I don’t have time for anything else.”
“He’s taken up photography and Photoshop since the babies were born,” his mother-in-law said.
The photos are posted on the “Hernandez Quadruplets” page on Facebook, which has picked up a slew of followers.
Hillcrest Baptist Church has been handling donations for the family. Thanks to church members’ generosity, Helias and Veronica have yet to buy diapers. The little ones go through one pack of diapers a day.
Every room in the house has baby stuff in it. The non-infant family members have to schedule their own eating and shower time around the babies.
“You just get worn slap out,” Veronica said. “I know I couldn’t do this by myself.”
By necessity, Helias has become an efficiency expert.
“Changing them, I like to work fast with the babies,” he said. “I like to feed them fast and get them to bed fast.”
When he reached a comfort level with his duties, he suggested that everyone else go to Wal-Mart and leave him alone with the babies.
“They were asleep at first,” he said. “They woke up, all crying.”
“He’ll never say that again,” Veronica said. “There’s nothing you can do when they all start crying. You feel bad because you can’t hold them all.”
That happens even on good days, and they’re not always good days. The babies and KaraLynn have been dealing with pink eye, which required a bag full of medicine to treat them all.
In addition, baby Alexander has been at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital getting treated for reflux and bronchiolitis.
“He’s been having respiratory problems,” Terry said, “so that’s something extra to deal with, him being up in Memphis.”
Breakfast in bed?
For Mother’s Day, the whole family went out to eat, and there was a surprise when they finished the meal.
“Someone just snatched the ticket off the table and said, ‘My wife said, “Happy Mother’s Day,”’” Veronica said.
They have no set plans for Father’s Day, though breakfast in bed was mentioned.
His mother-in-law said, “Breakfast in bed will be Helias in bed with the babies and giving them their bottles.”
That got a good laugh from the women in the room, and Helias smiled because it was probably true. Everything’s different since Christmas Eve.
His crowd of babies can be loud and demanding, but they also get quiet time snuggled in daddy’s arms. They look at him; he looks at them.
“I feel good,” he said. “They changed my life. It feels really good.”