by Kara Hansen
OLATHE — It takes a village to raise a child.
When Kate and David Brooks found out they were expecting for the second time, they had no idea how true those words would become for their family. Shortly thereafter, the couple found out that Kate was carrying not one, but five babies. Quintuplets.
“It was shocking, numbing, and exciting all at once,” said Kate. “The first two weeks after we found out about the pregnancy were overwhelming. I kept thinking, ‘What am I going to do?’”
The options given to the Brookses, who were already parents to one-year-old Mallory, were to reduce the pregnancy to two or three babies, terminate the entire pregnancy, or carry the pregnancy as it was. The doctors gave them a few weeks to make a decision.
“My husband and I were really on our own journeys over those few weeks — just overwhelmed,” continued Kate. “I had gone to church one Sunday and the opening music was ‘The Servant Song.’
“When we sang the verses, ‘What do you want of me, Lord? How do you want me to serve you?’…I just knew. This is what I’m supposed to do. I’m supposed to be a mom of six kids. This is my mission.”
So despite the enormity of the task, the Brookses charged ahead with their pregnancy and made plans for the five babies.
The quintuplets were born Oct. 10, 2006. Emily, Owen, Jesse, Ruth, and Helen all made their appearance into the world — in that order — weighing around two-and-a-half pounds each. As premature babies, the quints required some extra care and time in hospitals — each for different problems. Owen was the first one released to go home on Dec. 20, 2006; the rest followed. The last to arrive home was Helen, on April 4.
“The past year has been a blur,” admitted Kate. “It’s all about them. Having them has taught me a lot of patience. I have to let the little things go and just enjoy these babies.”
Meeting the needs of five newborns and a toddler created some unique challenges for the family. Having five infants at once required a few more sets of hands than just Mom and Dad, so the Brooks family has relied on a steady parade of volunteers from the day the first baby came home.
Alyce Yoksh began volunteering with the Brooks family in April, with her eight-year-old daughter Amanda. The two have helped with everything from bathing the babies to entertaining one baby at the hospital while another is receiving treatment.
“We really enjoy helping out — they have become like our extended family,” said Alyce, a parishioner at Prince of Peace in Olathe. “It’s always a special time to go see what the kids are doing and catch up with Kate and David.”
Kay Osborn was the Brooks family’s first volunteer and has come to be such a part of their life that she is referred to as “Grandma Kay.”
“I’ve done a lot of rocking, feeding and changing diapers. I especially love helping the family any time they leave the home,” Kay said.
She first found out about assisting the Brooks family though her daughter’s neighbor, who is a member of St. Agnes Parish in Roeland Park.
Volunteers have come largely from St. Agnes, the family’s parish at the time of the babies’ births, and now also from Prince of Peace, where the Brookses moved last spring.
“We have just had an amazing response from the community, especially St. Agnes and Prince of Peace. People have helped us with everything from cleaning
the house to being an extra set of hands with the babies,” said Kate. To say the family has a crew of committed volunteers would be an understatement. Kate estimates 30 individuals are in the family’s home on a weekly basis, ranging from teenagers to grandparents. Kate’s sister, Judy, coordinates the volunteer shifts via e-mail.
Kay, who lived within five minutes of the family when they were in St. Agnes Parish, now gladly drives 25 minutes each way to help out in Olathe. She has plans to move to Harrisonville, Mo. — which will be a 55-minute drive to see the quintuplets — but intends to continue her schedule of volunteering with the family two to three times a week.
“With all things, the more you give, the more you receive,” Kay said. “This family has given me back so much; they are a wonderful blessing to me.”
Alyce and Amanda enjoy volunteering with the quintuplets so much they plan to help out even as the babies become more independent toddlers and children.
“We’re really excited to see the babies meet their milestones and grow up over the years,” Alyce said. “I can just picture 30 volunteers there to see the babies off on their first day of school.”
Most families look forward to their child’s first birthday, but with such a large “extended family,” the quintuplets’ first birthday had a deeper significance for the Brooks family.
The family held a birthday party open house for the quintuplets on Oct. 13 at Prince of Peace as a way of thanking all the people who have helped in the children’s first year of life.
“It’s our way of thanking our family, friends and volunteers for their amazing support and prayers over the past year and during our pregnancy,” said Kate.