The birth of a child – or, in the case of Maria and Joseph Sawaged, four children in five minutes – is one of the happiest moments in life-altering milestones. Facing the challenge of ɪɴꜰᴇʀᴛɪʟɪᴛʏ, which the Sawageds did for five years, also preceded the joy, prompting a series of more difficult moments. They stayed hopeful through 13 rounds of ꜰᴇʀᴛɪʟɪᴛʏ ᴛʀᴇᴀᴛᴍᴇɴᴛs, unwavering in their commitment to grow their family, no matter how long it took.
Maria and Joseph first met at Metro Community College in 2009. “I still remember she denied me the first time,” Joseph said. “I think it was the day after that she said I may as well take a chance on this guy.”
They married in 2014, and both wanted children. Maria wanted to start trying sooner, but Joseph wanted to make sure they had good financial footing first. “When we were thinking of getting ready, my first thoughts were, ‘I didn’t know the expense of a baby,’” Joseph said.
He wanted their debts paid off and to move into their forever home together. About six years ago, Maria said he had surgery – nothing too serious, but enough to make him question where they were in their lives. “At that time, we decided we were going to start trying,” Maria said.
After a couple months, they started a simple ꜰᴇʀᴛɪʟɪᴛʏ ᴛʀᴇᴀᴛᴍᴇɴᴛs. It didn’t work. That would become a recurring theme for the Sawageds. They tried, and tried, and tried, working with a specialist who cautioned them that ꜰᴇʀᴛɪʟɪᴛʏ ᴛʀᴇᴀᴛᴍᴇɴᴛs could eventually do more harm than good.
The ᴛʀᴇᴀᴛᴍᴇɴᴛs were also expensive. They would try for a month and then take a couple months off to relax and save up money. “It was on and off for five years that we tried,” Maria said. “It just wasn’t working.” Joseph described feeling “just as bad as you can get.” Every time, it didn’t work. Every time, more disappointment, a little more doubt. “You get really down,” Joseph said, not wanting to revisit the agony of those moments.
Still, he said they didn’t assign blame. They were told it was unexplained ɪɴꜰᴇʀᴛɪʟɪᴛʏ, a frustrating ᴅɪᴀɢɴᴏsɪs faced by up to a third of women seeking ᴛʀᴇᴀᴛᴍᴇɴᴛ for ɪɴꜰᴇʀᴛɪʟɪᴛʏ, but one that still means pregnancy is possible. “To this day, there’s no reason why,” Joseph said. “It’s just what our bodies were born with. There is nothing that we did on purpose that has done this.”
They decided to seek out a new doctor with Methodist Health Systems to explore new options. “We would have gone to any length to eventually get there,” Joseph said. Eventually, they got there. After 12 unsuccessful rounds of ᴛʀᴇᴀᴛᴍᴇɴᴛs, they were told the ɪɴᴛʀᴀᴜᴛᴇʀɪɴᴇ ɪɴsᴇᴍɪɴᴀᴛɪᴏɴ had finally worked, and the moment would soon come when they welcomed their first child into the world.
The Elkhorn couple knew going into ꜰᴇʀᴛɪʟɪᴛʏ ᴛʀᴇᴀᴛᴍᴇɴᴛs that a multiple pregnancy was a distinct possibility. Maria is a twin herself, so it didn’t come as a huge surprise when they learned they were going to have more than one child. “I thought I was going to have triplets when I got pregnant,” Maria said. “I just didn’t expect four.”
Since Joseph couldn’t accompany Maria to the appointment due to C.O.V.I.D-19 ʀᴇsᴛʀɪᴄᴛɪᴏɴs, she recorded the conversation with the physician, who started out by saying, “Don’t be alarmed.” Then the doctor’s recorded voice said: “There are four babies.”
The quadruplets arrived on April 30, 2020, via ᴄᴇsᴀʀᴇᴀɴ sᴇᴄᴛɪᴏɴ. They were the first set of quads at Methodist Women’s Hospital since 2017. The Sawageds had three boys and one girl: Luca Samuel, Julianna Sophia, Barrett Eli, and Tychus Cole. The quadruplets spent time in the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit.
“She beat the odds,” Robertson said, attributing that to her “determination and her ability to carry pregnancies.” He added: “We didn’t have to deliver her because she got sick, which is a very common reason we do have to deliver some women preterm.”
Now more than 1 year old, the quadruplets are starting to have their personalities shine through. Luca loves food and watching everyone around him. Julianna is talkative, likes to be heard, and is willing to be loud. Barrett wants to be held all the time, and Tychus is pretty much always happy.
Looking back, Joseph said he believes their initial delay was a mistake, but he’s quick to point out that it worked out perfectly in the end. In the end, “having a baby trumps all of the other processes that it takes,” Joseph said.
The Sawageds said they are blessed with well-paying jobs. They both work in sales at Nebraska Furniture Mart and can work from home – something they did before the ᴄᴏʀᴏɴᴀᴠɪʀᴜs ᴘᴀɴᴅᴇᴍɪᴄ made it commonplace. That’s been a godsend since the babies arrived.
Each one of those moments contributed to the joy the Sawageds now feel and the many moments ahead for them and their family.