HOUSTON — Tressa Montalvo loved growing up in a big family with six siblings, but she never expected her own to become so big, so fast.
The 36-year-old Houston native gave birth at the Woman's Hospital of Texas to a rare form of quadruplets: two sets of identical twins.
Unlike quadruplets who split from one egg and grow in one placenta, these four boys grew in pairs within two placentas for 31 weeks before Tressa had a complication-free cesarean section on Valentine's Day.
The arrival of Ace and Blaine then Cash and Dylan a minute later was even more unusual because the Montalvos didn't take fertility drugs or use in-vitro fertilization, which have contributed to a 76 percent increase in multiple births nationwide between 1980 and 2009, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
According to previous reports, Dr. James Grifo, director of the NYU Fertility Center, has said the odds of having two sets of identical twins at the same time are 1 in 10,000 with in-vitro and much rarer with natural conception.
Yandel died about a week after being born, and Ryan died Feb. 7 and was buried a week later, on the day the Houston quadruplets were born.
Manuel picked up his oldest son and carried him to the nearest sealed crib.
“That's your brother,” Manuel told Memphis. “That's your little brother.”
The toddler reached out and touched the plastic case surrounding Ace.
“You see your brothers?” Tressa asked. Ace cried softly.
“What's he say?” Memphis asked.
“He's happy to see you,” Tressa said, smiling.
She said Memphis is just beginning to understand that his little brothers have arrived.
“He kept kissing Mommy's tummy and saying, 'Brothers?'” she said. “Yesterday he was kissing my stomach still. I think he now understands they're outside Mommy's belly now.”
Tressa was surprised to learn 10 weeks into her pregnancy that she'd be having twins.
Her physician heard a third heartbeat on her next visit and referred her to Dr. Brian Kirshon, a maternal fetal medicine specialist at the Woman's Hospital, who told the family to expect quadruplets.
“You're sitting there crying and you're not sure why,” Tressa said, remembering the day she heard the news. “I didn't know if I was excited or afraid. It was just overwhelming.”
Manuel, a plumber and tradesman, was more certain about how he felt.
“Basically, I pumped my fist,” he said. “It was a home run.”
With no serious health complications and birth weights between 2 pounds, 15 ounces and 3 pounds, 15 ounces, the boys have an excellent chance of leading normal, healthy lives, hospital officials said.