kids

'I was drowning'. Kim gave birth to quints. Now her marriage is at breaking point.

Kim Tucci remembers the day she darted off, with two kids in tow, for an ultrasound.

Her husband Vaughn wasn’t there. When they woke up that morning, neither knew this was going to be the day that changed their lives.

A few weeks prior Kim had received a very early positive on a pregnancy test. It was only seven days or so post ovulation. She didn’t know what that meant, and put it down to a “very healthy pregnancy”.

They’d always wanted four children. This was exciting.

But on this particular day, she was bleeding.

Kim was worried she was having a miscarriage, and at five weeks and five days pregnant, rushed to the ultrasound.

There was not one baby growing inside Kim, though.

“They started counting out the gestational sacs,” she told Mamamia. “At that point I was just absolutely shocked.”

There were five.

“I had to ask, ‘What’s that even called?’ And they said, ‘That would be quintuplets.'”

There was no history in Kim’s family of multiple births. They had not been conceived via IVF. In fact, Kim had been diagnosed with endometriosis, which for some women can compromise fertility.

When she told her husband, he was supportive. “We can do this,” he assured her.

Kim, however, was anxious. Her three other pregnancies had been what she describes as “really problematic”. All of them had been born early and she found herself asking; “If I can’t carry one to term, then how am I going to carry five?”

While the pregnancy was uncomfortable and painful, Kim described it as “the easiest pregnancy I’ve had”.

“A lot of women who carry multiples need a stitch to keep their cervix closed but I was really lucky that I didn’t have to go through any of that. My body just kind of knew what it needed to do, and just pushed through.”

She was never under any illusions, however, that her pregnancy was uncomplicated.

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Carrying quintuplets is incredibly high risk. Something could go wrong at any moment.

At 30 weeks, the decision was made by a team of doctors to deliver the five babies. There would be 50 staff – doctors and nurses – in the room.

“I would have liked to go a little bit further,” Kim said, “because my body wasn’t showing signs of labour or anything, but the doctor worried that if it happened at 2 o’clock in the morning there might not be enough staff in the hospital to assist with such a large birth…”

“I felt robbed of my birth,” she now reflects.

The room was full, and it was anything but what she wished was a more “private experience”. With that said, Kim couldn’t be more thankful that she had such an incredible team around her, in case an emergency did arise.

And so, on January 28, 2016, in a matter of minutes, Kim and Vaughn went from being the parents of three children, to the parents of eight.

They already had Kurt who was eight, Ava who was four and two-year-old Indiana.

Six weeks following their birth, Kim took home Keith, Beatrix, Penny, Allison and Tiffany – five healthy babies.

But a new chapter was about to start for Kim.

“The connection was hard, really hard, times five. I just felt really weighed down and like I was drowning, and I just couldn’t come up for air. I was completely overwhelmed,” she said.

Struggling with post-natal depression, Kim’s house was suddenly bustling with family members and volunteers, all there to help.

“It was really helpful at the time,” she said, “but looking back I wish I could have done it by myself, with my family. Because I think that really hindered the bonding experience.

“I kind of felt like I was parenting with an audience. Every mother has different views on how they like to do things. I think it made my depression worse, like I had to ‘perform’ for a while.

“Most people when they bring a baby home they walk around in their pyjamas or they have crazy hair and they’re sleep deprived, which is all okay because you’re in the comfort of your own home.

“But when you have multiple people coming in and out you kind of feel like you have to keep a brave face on. It’s exhausting.”

Becoming a family of 10 took its toll. First on Kim’s mental health, and now, on her marriage.

The couple are currently going through a trial separation; trying to decide what they want to do next.

“Our biggest mistake,” Kim reflected, “is that we focused so much on the kids and we lost ourselves in the process. We were together for 10 years before, and then all of a sudden it’s like you’re strangers… like passing ships in the night.”

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She can see where things “went wrong”, and said it’s “just really sad”.

At times, Kim feels like a single mother, caring for all eight children. Her husband, in their temporary arrangement, comes and visits.

Most days, the house wakes at around seven o’clock, and Kim ensures all the kids are showered and dressed. “I do everyone’s hair,” she explained, laughing. “You can imagine doing ponytails… pigtails… they ask for different things these days.”

Kim Tucci. Image supplied.
Kim Tucci. Image supplied.

The quintuplets go to pre-kindy for half a day, then they'll do a few hours at day care, before beginning their night routine of dinner, wind down time, and bed.

Allison and Beatrix are particularly close at the moment, with Penelope and Tiffany forming another pair. Keith, a lot of the time, is the odd one out.

"They want to play with their dolls," Kim said. "And they say things like 'We don't want to play with you!'"

There is nothing in the world Kim cares about more than her eight children - everything in her life is about putting the kids first.

But that doesn't mean she finds it easy.

"I do fall and I do crumble," she said.

"But, I do, like most mothers, put on a brave face, and get on with it as best I can."

Kim Tucci will appear on SBS's Insight, airing at 8:30pm, on Tuesday July 23.  

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