The birth of our quads at just under 26 weeks' gestation and subsequent passing of our first born quad two days later seems a blur to me now, over eight years later. I feel that I somehow stepped out of my body during those days and just did what had to be done, which was to go into survival mode.

We hadn't fully decided on names for each of them at that point, so when a nurse came in to tell us to prepare for the worst at 3am was when we officially named them all - three little brothers and a little sister to our eldest daughter who was born 15 months earlier. In our minds and from what my husband and I had been told we could potentially lose all of them at any time, so we held onto each other tightly and braced ourselves for whatever was to come.

Shortly after, a second visit from the nurse confirmed that the first born baby wasn't going to make it and that we should come down to be with him. I felt numb. I was still on painkillers following an emergency C-section in a strange hospital far from home, where we had been taken in an ambulance, sirens blazing at rush hour less than two days before because of a lack of space for four babies at our local hospital.

The atmosphere was tense, staff rushing everywhere, sympathetic looks. Some didn't know what to say and yet for others this was the day-to-day reality of life in NICU. He was removed from the incubator that was a world away from his former place in my womb, where he should have been still. I saw his face for the first and last time as they removed the wires, tubes and masks. Perfectly formed but so minute. He continued to breathe for what seemed like a long time as he was placed in my arms. After a while I handed him to my husband as I felt too overwhelmed, feeling that I was in someone else's life which was not my own.

Our three survivors and eldest daughter drove us forward from that day and made us focus on each and every moment. We lived between home and hospital each day, trying to keep an energetic toddler occupied and settled in her routine at home whilst making the long journey to her siblings' place of birth and back. Although I hadn't intended to breastfeed all the babies I had so much milk that came rushing in that I felt that the only thing I could do was to express as much as possible so that they could still be nourished by me, even if there was no more room in my womb.

We decided to bury our tiny baby near our home in a peaceful woodland cemetery. On the morning of his funeral I received a phone call to say that his identical twin brother was to be transferred back to our local hospital, so they both moved on on the same day. My husband and I were the only attendees and I sang a song I wrote as we said our goodbyes.

In the days that followed, the remaining two survivors moved back to our local hospital and the three remained there for a further four months, each with their own rollercoaster rides until they were ready to come home and the journey continued there.

Two sets of adult feet and four sets of child's feet together

Adjusting to our new normal was not easy. I had bought a quad pram initially, which our eldest ended up going in too when she was tired. Going to the park felt like we were in a goldfish bowl. Lots of personal and invasive questions which we didn't want to answer and always the same enquiry, 'Are they triplets?' 

Even though a stranger was asking this and I didn't need to go into it, I could never say yes. I always responded with, 'No, they are three surviving quads.' It inevitably creates an awkwardness which I used to feel responsible for but no longer do. I still have the same response today because that's what they are - three surviving quads. I totally understand if another mother with surviving multiples has a different answer but this is what I feel comfortable saying.

Nowadays the questions are less as they don't really look alike and are different heights and very different little people. They know that they are three surviving quads, but I also never call them, 'The Quads.' I call them by their names and they are very much individuals along with their big sister. I used to watch them play and imagine what it would be like with their brother next to them, but that has got less and less. When we visit the cemetery on occasion the children do enjoy going to their brother's 'garden' and they each put flowers down and say a few words to him before we sing a song together. There is something very beautiful and moving about this time and we openly talk about him whenever he comes up in conversation.

I do acknowledge that it is difficult to quantify the death of one or more multiples when others have survived, because you can't grieve for the absence of life per se after the pregnancy and the ensuing journey is so busy and full. His passing really underpins how lucky we are to have the other three and the life that they have now far supersedes any predictions and expectations that were made about them following the birth.

Trying to unpick the journey is impossible to fully encapsulate, but I think that the short sentence we decided on to put on our baby's resting place is a start, 'You breathed life in this world so briefly, but will live in our hearts for always.'