On a recent visit to the clinic with one of her six newborns, Digna Carpio said that when the other patients recognized her as the mom of the Queens sextuplets they reached into their wallets, collected and donated $40 to her.
“That paid for the taxi,” she said. “Usually I have to pay $20 per taxi and we need two taxis between the six babies, me and the two home attendants.”
The kindness of strangers helped the Carpio’s, Digna and husband Victor, when she gave birth prematurely, at 25 weeks, on October 6, 2008. And though they felt happy and blessed that the last of the babies, Jaden, came home from the hospital to join his four brothers and two sisters – the Carpio’s have an 8-year-old son Jhancarlos – the stress of how this Ecuadorian family will make ends meet has begun to sink in.
“I’ve lost count of how many diapers I change,” Digna, 31, said though she estimates that she changes around 50 diapers a day and each pack of diapers, the soft and gentle kind, costs around $50. “It’s more when they get diarrhea.”
Victor, 35, earned about $35,000 last year working in maintenance and he gets two days off every ten days. He said that despite their home’s six percent fixed interest rate, they pay $2,200 in monthly mortgage payments for the family’s house in Whitestone, which they purchased two years ago. Their gas and electrical bills came to about $500 per month before the babies came home from the hospital and he assumed the water bill would be going up too. The spouses each have a cell phone and Victor admitted that he has fallen behind on payment. He’s had to tap into the family’s savings to pay bills.
“Not even a millionaire would be able to give the [six] kids all that they want,” said Victor, who added that he planned on calling the bank about refinancing because he might qualify for something now that he hadn’t qualified for before. “School’s going to start and then they are going to need clothes too.”
Unlike the California octuplets’ mom who used in vitro fertilization to conceive, Digna told The Queens Courier that she had not taken any fertilization drugs to get pregnant. She explained that since childhood she has had an irregular menstruation cycle, to such a degree, that at times she had missed her period for up to a year. After their first child, they tried again to conceive and couldn’t, so her doctor prescribed Provera, a female hormone used to treat, among other things, amenorrhea, the medical term for lack of menstrual flow. Digna said she also tried natural products such as Chinese teas.
But the Carpios never imagined these efforts would produce six children.
“We brought our small house because we always wanted a small family,” said Digna about their three bedroom house. The parents now have three cribs where their bedroom used to be. The parents have moved their bed and dresser into the closet-less den. “Now, there are nine of us,” Digna said.
Fortunately, the nurses at Mt. Sinai Hospital in Manhattan, where the sextuplets were born, trained them each to drink four to five ounces of milk every four hours and then sleep for four hours. Also, the Administration for Children’s Services provided home attendants to assist Digna with the babies from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., while she does household chores. Around 3 p.m., she picks her eldest son up from school but she’s grown concerned that they don’t devote much time to him anymore because when Victor gets home after an eight-hour shift, they team up to handle the babies.
“At first everybody wanted to help – even my family helped out a lot – but now everything has calmed down and everyone has gone back to their routines,” said Digna, who also expressed frustration at the media outlets who have asked her to take time out of her busy schedule to interview and photograph her and the babies, but then only highlight the rosy side of parenting sextuplets.
The family’s rosy story, that the children have reached the healthy eight pound mark and have been taken off oxygen, has made Digna and Victor happy and proud. However, they realize the real challenge has just begun.
“I would like to write a book about this experience,” Digna said. “This is an Act of God.”
If you would like to contribute to the family, donations can be sent to P.O. Box 570105, Whitestone, NY 11357-0105.