When Patricia Eze jokes, "I have a full house," she is not talking about a poker hand. On June 25, 2020, she delivered quintuplets at Holy Cross Hospital in Silver Spring, Maryland.
Those five babies -- Chimdi Louisa, Chimezie Lauren, Chinanu Lisa, Sopulu Basil (the only boy) and Chisom Leslie -- are believed to be the first set of quintuplets born in the hospital's 58-year history, according to Holy Cross Health.
Patricia and her husband Basil Eze, both originally from Nigeria, are also the parents of a 5-year-old daughter, Chinna. Their family marked a special milestone April 25 when the quintuplets were baptized at St. Matthias the Apostle Catholic Church in Lanham, exactly 10 months from the day they were born.
Father Canice Enyiaka, also from Nigeria, baptized the babies as they were held by five godmothers, most of whom wore headdresses and colorful traditional African dresses.
"Today it is my pleasure to present to you the newest members of this Catholic community, the quintuplets'," said the priest, who repeated their names, as the congregation clapped and cheered.
Before and after the Mass, fellow parishioners walked up to congratulate the family, and many held up their cellphones to take photos of the babies, almost treating them like rock stars.
About 15 minutes before the Mass, Basil Eze pushed the babies down the church's main aisle in a stroller for six, with big sister Chinna sitting in a back seat. In accord with safety protocols for Masses during the COVID-19 pandemic, members of the congregation wore face masks and sat at social distances.
"Today it's a very special day. I'm overjoyed," Patricia Eze said after the Mass. "I'm just so happy. I didn't expect this large a number of people to celebrate with us." And noting that the babies didn't cry at all as they were being baptized, she added, "The kids are happy, too!"
In telephone interviews, the parents spoke about how their lives have changed this past year.
Basil Eze, noting that three of the babies weighed just over a pound at birth while the smallest two weighed less than a pound, proudly noted that the five babies now all weigh between 17 and 19 pounds.
"They're doing fine! They're crawling backwards," he told the Catholic Standard, archdiocesan newspaper of Washington.
"Every day you wake up, it's a new thing for the babies. They change every day. They do new things," his wife said.
Basil Eze, who came to the United States in 1981 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Nebraska, now works for the U.S. Department of Labor.
The couple married in 2012 in Nigeria, and their daughter Chinna -- who is now a prekindergarten student at the Academy of St. Matthias the Apostle -- was born in 2015.
When the couple learned they would be having multiple births this past year, Patricia said she was scared at first wondering how she was going to do this.
Her husband agreed, noting: "The idea of having any more than two was frightening."
Patricia Eze was having a difficult pregnancy, and doctors told them that if she would deliver after 24 weeks, the babies would have a better chance of survival.
"A month before their birth, we saw a fifth heartbeat. Baby Chisom was hiding in the back!" Basil Eze said.
The quintuplets were born at 25 weeks on June 25 and doctors and nurses cared for them at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Holy Cross Hospital in Silver Spring.
"They were so little," Basil Eze said.
Patricia Eze praised the teams of doctors and nurses at the hospital saying: "The NICU is great. They're wonderful people... They took care of my babies. They loved them so much."
All five of the newborn babies initially needed help breathing and receiving nourishment. "They had all kinds of tubes. They were wired up everywhere," their father remembered.
Within two months after their birth, Chisom and Sopulu, the last two born, were able to come home. Three weeks later, their sister Chinanu was able to join them there. Meanwhile, Chimdi, who had been transferred to Mount Washington Pediatric Hospital at Prince George's Hospital Center in Cheverly, came home in October, and Chimezie, who was being cared for at Children's National Hospital in Washington, joined her family in November.
"It's kind of good they didn't come home at the same time. We would have been overwhelmed," said Basil Eze.
Pat Schratz, principal of the Academy of St. Matthias the Apostle, said the school held a diaper drive for the family and parents have been reaching out with donations. Parishioners have also brought over diapers, clothes and gifts and family friends set up a GoFundMe page to help with the costs of the babies' care.
Patricia Eze is thankful for the help of her mother, Virginia Ezenwa, who lives with them, saying: "She gave me all the support I needed... She was there for me. She encourages me to be strong."
The parents have seen their babies show different personalities right from birth and they continue to show these differences each day.
They also said their Catholic faith has helped them face daily challenges.
Patricia Eze said: "We're doing it by the grace of God. God has been so faithful."
Caring for the five babies "is a lot of work," her husband said.
He described the quintuplets as "miracle babies" and said he is expecting so much from them.
"The glory of God will guide them in whatever they choose to do in life," he added.
On the day of the baptisms, Father Enyiaka pointed out that it was World Day of Prayer for Vocations in the Catholic Church, which he said is not just about highlighting vocations to the priesthood and religious life but also a special day to lift up the vocation of marriage and family life, as seen with the Eze family.
After Mass, he said what touched him the most was "looking at those little faces, and how they represent that gift, that love of God."
The older sister, when asked what she thought about her siblings said: "I think they're awesome!" before darting away, while people gathered around the parents and babies after the Mass.