"We're overwhelmed with just how enjoyable they are," beamed Colleen Crandell talking about her one-year-old quadruplets. "How many hugs? How many smiles? You don't get that many with just one."
When Colleen and Cy were married 13 years ago they thought their family was complete with her three children from a previous marriage because Colleen had had a tubal ligation. But years later Colleen realized Cy wanted a child and she was the reason he couldn't have one. So even after daughter Amanda married and had a baby, Cy and Colleen decided they would like to have a child together.
The tubal reversal surgery seemed successful. But when no pregnancy occurred after numerous fertility treatments, their doctor told the Crandells that in vitro fertilization (IVF) was probably their last hope. The 39-year-old grandmother and her husband Cy, who was 48, decided they would try just one more time.
As per normal procedure for IVF, three fertilized eggs were transferred into Colleen's uterus with the hope that one would implant and survive. The Crandells were first shocked then excited when they found out that all three eggs implanted and one had split producing identical twins and they were expecting quadruplets.
The babies were born ten weeks prematurely on Feb. 10, 2002. Chloe May was first and weighed two pounds thirteen ounces. Tiny Kelsey Christine was two pounds six ounces. Alyssa Ruth came in at three pounds three and a half ounces. And brother Cyrus Terence made his appearance last weighing three pounds four and a half ounces. There were some medical problems but they were short term, correctable or, it was believed, the babies would outgrow them. One at time, as they gained weight and their health status improved, the babies were released from the hospital.
They were brought to their home on 16 acres near Rockville that has been in the Crandell family since the 1830s. The quadruplets celebrated their first birthday last Saturday at the St. Joseph Catholic Church Hall in Rockville.
Besides Colleen and Cy, there were grandparents, Godparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and family friends along with big sister Amanda Gordon and big brother Mat Sharp. The babies other older brother, Jason Sharp, was unable to attend as was their three-year-old nephew, Cole Gordon, who was home with the flu.
Festivities featured balloons, food, party hats, child's play and laughter. The four-seat stroller was conspicuous by its size. The babies, all near normal development for their ages, were crawling, pulling up and trying to walk all in the loving and protective view of the extended family.
But as nap time neared, sleepy eyes started drooping. One by one, the Crandell quads found a warm soft lap to cradle into and went to sleep.
"I can't tell you how blessed we feel," Colleen said. "Do you know how rare it is to have four babies and have all four of them healthy and normal?"
When asked what life has been like this past year Colleen, now 41, laughed.
"Busy! But it really isn't the work of caring for them that's difficult," she said. "I don't think I work any harder with these four than I did with my other three stair-step kids.
"When they were 3, 5 and 7, one was in preschool and took speech therapy two times a week. One was in kindergarten and one was in first grade. I was divorced then and had to work full time. Now what I'm doing seems like a piece of cake comparatively," Colleen mused. "Even though there's four, they are on the same schedule and I have the luxury of being able to stay home with them."
Tomorrow: An average day with quadruplets.