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Double twins, double sacrifice

His name is Sgt. Pat Tetrick, one of the thousands of Americans called to serve in Iraq. But for this serviceman, joining the troops overseas meant leaving an army back home -- a tiny band of brothers.
/ Source: Dateline NBC

Christina Tetrick was about to endure what is going to be a very difficult and very dangerous pregnancy. And she would do it alone. Not because she's a single-mom, not because she doesn't love her husband, but because they were faced with a difficult dilemma: a choice between duty to family and duty to country. Along the way, this couple learned just how strong a love can be.

Christina and Pat Tetrick tied the knot in June 2001 and the two quickly settled into married life in Wichita, Kan. Christina, 28, was busy with her career as a construction engineer and 33-year-old Pat was a full time student with a full time job. Plus, he'd served in the Army Reserves since 1989. So when the attacks of September 11 happened, they figured it was just a matter of time before his unit was activated. 

But just a little more than a week after that terrible day that shook the nation, the Tetricks got some wonderful news, the kind of news that hit even closer to home, the kind of news that changes everything. Christina was pregnant.

In all the excitement, all thoughts of Pat being called to serve seemed to disappear in their focus on the physical demands of being pregnant. Christina got very big, very quickly. Alarmed, the Tetricks went to the doctors where the medical staff was quiet -- too quiet. 

The Tetricks could hardly believe it. They'd be having four babies, all boys, even though Christina had never taken

Dr. Margaret O'Hara: “The first time I did her sonograms I kept looking and looking at the Sonotech and said, gosh, it looks like identical twin boys, two sets.'

Christina's quadruplets were double twins, so unusual, it only happens about once in every 8 million pregnancies.

Christina: “I haven't gotten over the fact that I'm really pregnant yet. Okay, I'm not really to the shock part of having four yet.”

But their astonishment quickly turned to fear because their rare, double-twin pregnancy ran a high chance of major health problems for the quads, like cerebral palsy, blindness and retardation. And as the quads grew, so would Christina, gaining weight that would strain her kidneys and increase her risk of high blood pressure, making this a dangerous pregnancy for both mom and her double twins.

But just one month after learning they were pregnant with quadruplets came the news they'd feared. Pat's Army Reserve unit had been activated. He had to leave Christina for at least a year.

Christina: “The first night when we found out it was very hard for me, I went home, and you know, honestly just cried all night.”

Certainly Pat didn't have to go, Christina thought. There must be a way to keep him home with his family. 

Christina: “We could have fought it and we could have gotten him to stay.”

Sara James: “But you didn't, why not?”

Christina: “This is something that you just do; you stand up when you are called and you do it.”

Pat: “The patriotism in the whole country, just, you know seeing American flags, and being proud of the flag that may sound hokey to some people, but  it is making the things a better place for my children.”

And so, in January 2002,  Pat shipped out for training. At first he wasn't too far from home, stationed at Fort Riley in Kansas, only two hours away. But chances were, he wouldn't be with Christina when his sons were born. So 22 weeks along in a pregnancy risky for both mom and quads, Christina was on her own.  

James: “I'm sure there would be people who would say, we admire so much that patriotism and that willingness to serve and yet these are four little babies. You're going to need the help and those babies are going to need that help.”

Christina: “I try not to be angry when people say, oh well, why couldn't he stay? Doesn't he think this is more important?"

James: “It makes you mad when people say, how dare he leave?"

Christina: “Yes. It's got a lot to do with the terrorist attacks. It's got a lot do with how horrible it was and how many people died. And in retrospect to those people’s lives, this is a such a small thing that we're giving up.”

And so this couple, like so many other soldier's families, began their sacrifice of living life apart. And their quads kept growing and growing.

Then on April 5, 2002, after carrying her four boys through 32 weeks of pregnancy, something woke Christina from a deep sleep.

Christina: “I realized right away that the reason I woke up was because I was in a big contraction.”

But Christina's contractions were so strong, doctors couldn't wait for Pat to arrive from Fort Riley. After seven months of waiting, of sacrifice, of pain, it was time. First born was Parker. Little Peyton was born next, followed by Camden and finally,  Christian. Forty toes, 40 fingers, and dozens of smiles because everyone was doing fine. And though Pat had missed seeing his sons born by just seven minutes, the disappointment disappeared the moment he held his sons in his arms.

Pat: “I could have been anywhere in the country, anywhere overseas. It was God's blessing to even be here in the States.”

The Tetrick quads, though healthy, only weighed  between three and a half and four and a half pounds each and would have to stay in the hospital for a month or so to ensure there were no complications. And while Pat had to return to active duty immediately after the birth, he was able to be there on May 3, 2002, the day the two biggest babies came home.

But it would be the first and last time he'd see his family for at least nine months. Pat's final mission destination came in. He was bound for the high security prison camp at Guantanamo Bay. Christina was now on her own with four premature infants, serving as mom and dad for the little Tetrick troops.

By June, all four boys were healthy 11-week-old, 8-pound babies who cried and grew and slept. Christina napped too wherever she could, but not for long because there was formula to make, laundry to do, and so many diapers to change -- all sandwiched between feedings and burpings every three hours each and every day. She perfected a two-armed technique.

Christina: “Now that I'm finally getting used to this, I really can't imagine having just one baby.”

Finding time to enjoy her double twin sons was hard, Christina said. But it was in peaceful moments that she realized how much she missed Pat and 3,000 away, in Guantanamo Bay he missed her.

Christina: “We want our boys to grow up knowing that you make commitments. And you do things for a reason and you don't back down. You don't skip out when things get a little tough.”

Because though the sacrifice kept them physically apart, to her they were still a family.

Christina: “I never thought that I would find a match that is so good for me. And I did. And it's really important. That's a big piece of it. I couldn't be doing anything I'm doing if I didn't know that he would be home.”

And on Dec. 6, 2002, her husband finally came home. It had been more than seven months since Pat had last walked through that door. He marveled at his sons, now big and healthy and strong -- though like a stranger, he couldn't tell them apart. But in spite of his absence, the boys, it seemed, knew their daddy.

And while the Tetricks were coming together as a family, the country was preparing for a war that Christina knew might tear them apart again.

Christina: “I'm going to be happy for a day at a time until we know what the future holds, but for right now, it's good.”

That Christmas was a wonderful celebration in the Tetrick household, but a bit bittersweet.

A mere seven weeks after coming home and being a father again, incredibly Pat was called to become a soldier once more. And on April 10, 2003, he shipped out for duty in the gulf. Pat was stationed at a high-security prisoner-of-war camp in South Eastern Iraq, a place that was becoming increasingly dangerous for Americans. Surrounded by sand and soldiers, he was truly a world away from life with his boys back in Wichita.

Pat: “I think about them every day, every minute. I carry their pictures in my pocket. Their pictures are up where I sleep. Every night when I pray when I go to bed, I pray for their safety. But I can't kiss their boo boos or feed them or change their diapers and it does tug at my heart a little bit.”

For Christina, Pat's second tour of duty was somehow more difficult, more exhausting. The boys were a year old, walking, playing, bumping into things and getting into everything. But though Pat had only been home for two months of their sons' lives, Christina maintains she wouldn't change a thing.

Christina: “We're going to share a lot of memories even though we missed a lot. It's just part of what we've done in our lives. It'll be so great for the boys when they grow up to tell their kids about. It's totally worth it.”

So much has happened to the Tetrick family, so much has changed. But through the nearly two years of doubt and pain and sacrifice, they say no matter what life brings them, their love will endure.

Pat: “Eventually I will get home and I will spend every moment of every day with my wife and boys and I will enjoy it. Trust me I will enjoy.”

Sgt. Tetrick has been home for several months. He returned in time to celebrate the boys' second birthday. He may be called up for another tour of duty in Iraq this summer.