Army mom Nancy Auclair expected a big surprise on Mother's Day, though nothing could compare to the four energetic bundles of joy she and husband Maj. Chris Auclair received four years ago on their wedding anniversary Aug. 2, 2006. The Auclairs of Richmond Hill are the parents of 4-year-old quadruplet boys.
Nancy Auclair said her sons actually are two sets of identical twins; Ethan and Brayden are identical, as are Joshua and Connor.
The couple had gone through in vitro fertilization and only two eggs of six were viable, splitting into four babies after being transferred, she explained.
Auclair said her sons were born when she was 29 weeks pregnant.
“They were viable at 24 weeks. My doctors’ long-term goal for me was 32 weeks,” she said. “Ethan and Brayden were in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) for eight weeks, Joshua came home at nine weeks, and Connor was in the NICU for 16 weeks.”
Though their sons are normal, active little boys, there are challenges, the Auclairs said.
“Brayden has moderate sensorineural bilateral hearing loss and Connor has a profound sensorineural bilateral loss and was fitted with cochlear implants,” Nancy Auclair said.
The couple called on their strong network of family and friends when Connor was diagnosed with cancer at 8 months old.
“We had just gotten back to NTC when he received his diagnosis,” Nancy Auclair recalled. “He had hepatoblastoma, which is a rare liver cancer.”
The quadruplets’ mother said other people who aren’t in the military can sympathize with military spouses but can’t really understand their way of life unless they live it. It’s the same with cancer, she said.
“Until you have lived it, I don’t think people truly understand what it’s like,” she said. “Connor went through four rounds of chemo and had half his liver and his gallbladder removed. We almost lost Connor after the liver resection. He coded three times after the surgery.”
One year later, Connor’s cancer metastasized to his left lung. His doctors removed a portion of the lung, and he was given another round of chemotherapy, Nancy Auclair said. Her son now is in remission.
“My life is hard but I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” she said. “I feel like I’m the luckiest mom on the planet; but then again, I wouldn’t wish it on anybody. You have good days and bad days. This is our life; yes, it’s tough, but we love it and we wanted nothing more than to be parents, and God gave us these wonderful little beings.”
Like all military families, the couple has made frequent household moves and dealt with long separations. Chris Auclair deployed to Iraq in December 2009 with the 41st Field Artillery, 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team, leaving his wife to cope on the home front.
“From the family’s perspective, it’s probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever done,” he said. “But I know I’m not unique. Other guys have (deployed) four and five times with families larger than what we have.”
“The night I was leaving, I actually asked Nancy not to drive me down to Fort Stewart,” he continued. “I didn’t want that emotional burden on my children seeing me leave. So I kissed them goodnight while they were sleeping, packed my bags and drove myself down here.”
Auclair’s first Iraq deployment also was with the 1st Brigade during the initial invasion of Baghdad in 2003. At that time, the couple was engaged. Auclair, a West Point graduate, said he was gratified to return to Baghdad and see the changes that had transpired over the past six years.
Still, fatherhood made his second deployment more challenging. To stay in touch, Auclair telephoned the boys in the evenings before they went to sleep and used Skype.
“All you want to do is talk to your boys … you’re half a world away,” he said. “But they’re home and their toys are there. You have to learn to put your feelings aside.”
Auclair said his wife “is simply amazing” and he doesn’t need to worry when deployed, knowing she is in charge.
“She’s the rock behind the family,” he said. “She’s the one who holds it all together.”