Mother of quadruplets on her rare pregnancy: ‘I am genuinely over the moon’

Inga Mafenuka discovered she was pregnant with quadruplets at 16 weeks (PHOTO: Misha Jordaan)
Inga Mafenuka discovered she was pregnant with quadruplets at 16 weeks (PHOTO: Misha Jordaan)

She will never forget the day she found out. She’d just grown used to the idea of being pregnant when nurses at the clinic told her she wasn’t just having one baby – she was having four.

“Are you sure?” she asked, stunned. “Four children?” Yes, she was told, growing inside her was a perfect set of quadruplets. For Inga Mafenuka, it was a major shock – she hadn’t even been planning for one baby, let alone four. But nature has a way of catching us off guard sometimes. And on 6 July the new mom gave birth to four tiny babies – two boys and two girls – and is still having to pinch herself to make sure she isn’t dreaming.

“I’m still getting used to it all,” Inga (22) tells us from Tygerberg Hospital in Cape Town, where she delivered her quads to much excitement from hospital staff.

“I discovered I was pregnant with quadruplets at 16 weeks,” she says. “At first I was in denial about the whole situation – I wasn’t overwhelmed with emotion or anything like that. I just convinced myself it wasn’t true.”

But as time went on she started getting used to the idea and is now being treated like a celebrity by the hospital staff who haven’t seen a set of quads for more than 10 years. What makes Inga’s case all the more exceptional is her babies were conceived naturally – there was no IVF involved.

Inga is thrilled with her large, instant family. “I’m really excited,” the young mom says. “.” Her mom, Luleka (40), is delighted at becoming a grandmother and helped Inga pick out names for the tots.

“The girls’ names are Bunono and Bungcwele, and the boys, Bubele and Buchule,” Inga says.

She adds that even though she and the father of her babies, who works in a clothing factory, are unmarried and the pregnancy was unplanned, he does intend to support the quadruplets and be part of their lives.

Her family will be there every step of the way too, she shares.

“My mom was working as a domestic worker but stopped so she can help me with the babies at home.”

Inga lives in Khayelitsha with her mother, sister and cousins, so she’ll have plenty of love and support when her four babies are ready to come home.

Inga went to the hospital for a routine check-up when she was 29 weeks pregnant. Her blood pressure was fluctuating, and doctors decided to do a caesarean a few days later for the sake of both mother and babies. The delivery went well, says Anthea Arries, one of the four midwives who assisted with the birth.

“The C-section was uncomplicated and took just 30 minutes,” she says. “The four of us who assisted each held one of the babies,” adds Ashlyn Lodewyk, another midwife. The quads each weighed between 800g and 1kg and will need to stay in hospital until they weigh around 2kg.

Their sucking reflex has developed and their lungs and other organs are stronger. Dr Celesté van Drünick was the obstetrician who delivered the infants.

“Tygerberg has about 8 000 births per year, so statistically it will take us at least five to 10 years to get another spontaneous quadruplet pregnancy,” she says.

“So I feel very lucky I was able to do this.”

Spontaneous conception of quadruplets – ones conceived without fertility treatment – is extremely rare, she says. According to a 2015 report by the Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research, spontaneous quadruplets occur once in 512 000 births worldwide. Celesté explains why they decided to deliver at 29 weeks – 11 weeks short of term – when Inga came in for a checkup.

“The mother unfortunately developed pre-eclampsia, a potentially life-threatening disorder that arises from the placenta and causes a pregnant woman’s blood pressure to fluctuate,” she says. If left unchecked it can cause catastrophic organ failure.

“So after reviewing the situation with the mother, as well as our specialised obstetrics team and the professors that work here at Tygerberg, we decided it would be best for both the mom and her babies if we deliver them sooner than planned through a Caesarean section,” she adds. Laticia Pienaar, spokesperson for Tygerberg Hospital, says the babies are healthy “and growing nicely”. “At the moment they are in ICU in incubators because they’re premature and small, but they’re otherwise in perfect health.”

For Inga, finding out her babies needed to be delivered so soon was a shock. “I was admitted on the Tuesday because of how high my blood pressure was – and by the Friday I was a mom.”

She hadn’t even bought baby clothes yet and her mom had to rush around to make sure the infants will have everything they need when they’re allowed to come home. Inga admits she was nervous about the Caesarean. “I was like, ‘They’re going to cut me? Oh no, the pain!’ But it really wasn’t as bad as I imagined.”

Her four babies will be spoilt in the first year of their lives.

The family has had several offers of help, including one to sponsor the babies to the tune of R10 000 a month for 12 months from Cape Town-based radio station KFM.

“I was really shocked and overwhelmed after receiving the call from KFM,” Inga says of the station’s surprise gesture. Once the babies are a year old Inga plans to return to her studies to build a better life for herself and her children. She was a second-year information technology (IT) student at the Richefield Graduate Institute of Technology in Cape Town when financial circumstances forced her to stop attending classes.

“I was working part-time at MRP but I just didn’t have enough money to continue studying,” she says.

“But I definitely haven’t given up – once the babies are a bit bigger I want to go back. I love IT – my dream is to be a back-end programmer.”

For now, she knows taking care of her four blessings will be a full-time job. Inga can’t wait for the babies to be big and strong enough to come home. She briefly held them before they were placed in incubators and says it was the best moment of her life. “There are no words to describe that moment. It was just amazing. It was magical.”

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