Five of a Kind The quintuplets slept through much of their first four months. Their parents barely slept at all. A look at the bountiful blessings -- and dizzying days -- of the Good family.

THE BALTIMORE SUN

YORK, PA. -- It took a minivan and a sedan to cart five babies and four generations of the Good family home to Gatchelville. Although the quintuplets' arrival had been the talk of the town, people treated it as a solemn event, showing the family the same respect they do the Amish who pass through this hilly farmland. After the cameras and microphones at the hospital in Baltimore, Ruth and David Good were relieved to see no one gathered by the mailbox. Neighbors next door merely glanced up from mulching their garden to witness the medical miracle pulling into the driveway.

Years from now, the homecoming story won't even need embellishment for the eager ears of toddlers: The two years their parents spent trying to conceive, the amazing sonogram with five fluttering hearts, the two dozen doctors and specialists lined up to deliver them Jan. 25.

And the public -- generous, adoring, nosy -- ready to make their lives a fairy tale, sitcom or Guinness Book record.

Although they entered the world within three minutes of each other, their departure from Greater Baltimore Medical Center was more gradual. The boys -- Nathan and Phillip -- arrived home five weeks after their birth, followed by Amanda and Patty Lynn a week later. Finally, on March 18, they all returned to the hospital for Katelyn, the youngest by seconds.

Nurses showed up on their day off to strap the children into car seats with the same steady, confident hands that tended to them in intensive care. Reporters and photographers from two states recorded the send-off. A biological windfall had brought this private couple into the public spotlight.

"Are the babies getting breast milk?" someone called out to Ruth near the end of an hourlong press conference. She blanched only a moment. "Um, they were, but they're on formula now," she said.

The media trailed them into the parking lot -- tracking the couple as they divvyed up babies between cars to begin their journey home. Almost on cue, a song played on the car radio to soothe them: "God is in control."

After the frenzy of the last hour, they took the serene back roads to Gatchelville -- a town that sounds like it sprang from the mind of Dr. Seuss. Even in York County, many have not heard of this place, which has only a church, grocery store, muffler shop and 75 people. Before the birth of the quintuplets, the big news was that Cedar Valley, the supermarket, had started serving pizza.

The Good babies, of course, eclipsed that. They became the subject of church small talk and dinner-time chatter. And the store, which you can see from the porch of the couple's Victorian farmhouse, became a gathering spot for news. Shopkeepers Mae and Mervin Wilson taped a newspaper clipping about the babies to a glass jar and began collecting donations. There was even talk of a community shower.

As best they could, the Goods prepared. They converted their dining room into a nursery, lining the walls with cribs, putting pink sheets over the sofa and adding a small swing where the table used to be. The china closet had been emptied and refilled with burp cloths, diapers and bibs. A second-floor closet -- stockpiled with wipes, shampoo and infant clothes -- resembled the storeroom of Kids R Us.

They also lined up an experienced support crew -- 30 volunteers from their church, North Harford Baptist, in Jarrettsville -- to provide round-the-clock help. David's parents were indispensable, and the babies' 71-year-old great grandmother even lent a hand the day Katelyn left the hospital.

"Formula's made," the babies' grandmother, Carol Good, calls out from the kitchen.

The first of many group feedings begins. Darwin is in the details here: The baby who cries loudest eats first. But today the ratio of child to adult is ideal -- 1-to-1. No one whimpers for long.

Close your eyes and the squeaks, grunts and slurps echoing through this kitchen make for an odd symphony. At some point, the mealtime song turns rhythmic: drumlike patting on tiny backs followed by hiccups in something akin to waltz time. It's a melody that their mother never heard teaching music at Bakerfield Elementary School in Aberdeen.

With her glasses, long blond hair and shy manner, Ruth looks the part of the kindly but straight-laced schoolteacher. David -- tall and slim with a boyish smile -- is the more expressive of the two. She's 28 and he's 29, but both seem younger.

Ruth shuffles into the kitchen wearing pink furry slippers and glances around at the babies, car seats and supplies. "Where are we going to put them all?" she asks.

"Honey," David replies, "Now's not the time to be thinking of that."

David's parents, who have been trying not to listen, break into laughter.

"I meant to take their picture," she explains.

After being apart in hospital warmers, the children are reunited on a blanket in the kitchen. Phillip kicks, Katelyn cries, Patty Lynn dozes off, Amanda's bottom lip quivers and Nathan flaps his elbows like a willful sparrow. David's father, Don, records it all with his video camera.

Even without the tape, this afternoon will be remembered. For the Goods, it will be preserved as carefully as the hospital bracelets, hats and booties David unloads from the car. If life as a family of seven is going to be difficult, this moment foretells none of it. These five babies who arrived more than nine weeks early, weighing as little as 2 1/2 pounds, have passed the first test. They made it home.

The first night

Night No. 1 is an endurance test. Katelyn, whose breathing was erratic in the hospital, has been sent home on a portable heart monitor. During the first 24 hours, it rings nearly every hour. The shrill mechanical cry, which signals that the baby's breathing has slowed, unnerves Ruth and David.

The sound also acts as an alarm for the other children. Once it goes off, a series of buttons must be gently hit. Unaccustomed to the device, the couple fumble trying to quiet the machine. Even unplugging it, they find out in exasperation, won't stop the noise.

By morning, exhaustion is setting in.

A call to the doctor reveals that the monitor -- not their daughter -- is malfunctioning. Over the next few months, it will become more annoying than any child's crankiness. One afternoon, silencing it becomes so frustrating that the baby's grandmother hides it under a mountain of pillows and threatens to throw it on the porch.

They learn a lot about child-rearing through trial and error. Unlike most first-time parents, the Goods couldn't read books -- or at least find any -- about raising quintuplets. Although fertility drugs like Pergonal, which Ruth was on, have made multiple births more common, quintuplets are still rare. Support groups say there are fewer than 40 sets in the country.

Talking to other parents is how many expectant couples get advice. But Ruth's conversations sometimes left her more fretful than relieved.

"One mother I talked to said she had nothing good to say about the first three months."

As if the prospect of caring for five babies wasn't enough, the Goods also had to think of the public spectacle the births might make. They avoided watching the latest TV miniseries about the most famous quintuplets -- the Dionnes of Canada, who were taken from their parents and exploited by the government in a theme park called Quintland. That was 60 years ago -- but a cautionary tale even today when considering how to handle the inevitable media interest.

For now, the daily tasks alone are mind boggling: Change 30 diapers, make 20 bottles, do two loads of laundry. Write thank-you notes, cook meals, straighten the house.

The help of parishioners makes all the difference. When Ruth was sent to bed 10 weeks before she delivered, volunteers sprang into action -- cleaning her house, cooking her meals and driving her to doctors' appointments. A baby shower in the church hall supplied clothes, cribs and diapers. Updates on Ruth became a regular feature in the church bulletin. And the congregation often prayed -- and still does -- for the Goods.

With Katelyn home, they return to church without the babies one Sunday. Their celebrity status is apparent.

"How's everyone? Anything new with Katelyn?" the pastor calls out from the pulpit as service informally begins.

"Everybody's doing just fine," David replies.

The pastor's sermon resonates with them: "I want you to think of your life as a vessel. . . . How do we make our days count in God's eyes? Live a life of love."

The Goods see raising children in those terms. Before learning of the pregnancy, they planned to move to New Jersey to join a Christian ministry that promoted high school evangelism. But now the ministry, they believe, has come to them.

Ruth says "seeing God's creation" has been her greatest joy since the babies arrived. "We just really know that it wasn't anything we did or the doctors did," says David. "We give all the credit to God for bringing these guys here."

And when they become overwhelmed realizing that David's job as office manager for the Kaestner Company, a Baltimore business that makes stainless-steel equipment, won't allow them buy a van large enough for the whole family, they console themselves with one thought: "God will provide."

Others are pitching in, too: A formula company has donated enough formula for the first year, and David's health insurance covered the $130,000 hospital bill. But the family has no long-term budget to raise five children.

"I don't have any grand vision of having $50,000 [and] to say to each one of them, 'Here. . . . Do what you want with it,' " David says.

But if they won't be wealthy parents, they're determined to be good ones. In the church basement, they take a Christian parenting class, watching a video about the day's topic: teen-age rebellion.

* From day one, the job of the parents is to get control of the children. They must learn to submit to your rule.

* Once the family has been rejected as the social group, the child will take the markings of the new social order -- music, hairstyle, verbiage.

It's scary, this fire-and-brimstone talk about raising kids. But it's also hard to imagine the little people who now completely rely on their parents having purple hair and listening to heavy metal. Ruth stifles a yawn, and David says softly: "At this point, we just want to get through the nights."

Afterward, a woman stops David to hand him a plastic bag: "Snowsuits," she says. "You can use them come winter." He thanks another parishioner for the banana pudding and accepts a camera from an elderly lady who wants baby pictures.

Inching toward the exit, the Goods are stopped by a young woman who holds up her own infant and asks: "Look familiar?"

They oooh and aaaah over the baby, who weighs more than twice theirs.

L "Everywhere you turn," says David, "babies, babies, babies."

High-school sweethearts

Ruth met David in the sixth grade, but the two didn't begin dating until their senior year at North Harford High School in Pylesville. The friendship turned romantic after Ruth discovered David had a '68 Mustang. She loved the car and agreed to go to the homecoming dance with him.

They dated through college. When the Mustang was totaled and Ruth stuck around, David knew things were serious.

Their wedding in 1989 -- 300 guests and a horse-drawn carriage at his parent's 57-acre sheep farm -- helped prepare them for life lived in a big way.

What they didn't realize was how quickly sadness would follow that celebration. Just months after they were married, her mother learned she had ovarian cancer. The diagnosis came the same week that her father, who had developed complications from diabetes, began kidney dialysis.

In April 1990, the couple moved into her parents' home. They see similarities between that part of their past and the present. Coordinating doctor visits for two sick people took about as much time as arranging care for five babies. The couple began keeping a journal, a precursor to the one they now use for their children, to track her parents' diet, appointments and health. They sometimes slept in shifts, so someone would be awake if her parents called out in the night.

Those illnesses, coupled with the natural stress of adjusting to married life, made that first year their most difficult.

"When my parents got ill, I clammed up," Ruth says. "I didn't want to talk about it. That was a big hurdle."

Says David: "That stretched our marriage more than this. We had to look at each other and say, 'OK, this is going on in our family, but we have to keep things going between us.' That was the time when our marriage either made it or it didn't."

Like now, the church pitched in -- preparing meals, offering rides and sending cards. Parishioners also were there when Ruth's mother died on Mother's Day 1991 and her father 10 months later.

The couple then began to think seriously about starting a family of their own. They also bought an 80-year-old farmhouse and devoted their free time to renovating it. Initially, they chalked up their lack of success getting pregnant to grief, stress and exhaustion.

In the back of her mind, though, Ruth harbored a fear that she, like her mother, would get ovarian cancer.

The couple felt an urgency that most couples their age don't. It was brought on by advice from a doctor who cared for Ruth's mother. "For us, there was this ticking-clock issue," David says. "The doctor's idea was: 'Have your family early and get your hysterectomy because you just don't know.' "

Help from their friends

Six children and one grandchild between them, volunteers Mary Akers and Nancy Knopp are veterans at baby care. They can distinguish hungry cries from sick cries, change a diaper with one hand and feed two babies at once.

Mrs. Akers volunteers on Fridays, her only weekday off from work, a decision that mystifies her husband. But she grew up with Ruth's mother and rocked Ruth as a baby, so there was never a doubt where she would be when the babies arrived.

These women -- along with many others in the church -- knew these would be difficult days for Ruth, particularly without her parents there. While they can't fill that void, they can offer support. Most are dedicated to helping the Goods through the babies' first year.

"We'll start the mass feeding," Mrs. Akers says, scooping a whimpering Amanda out of her crib.

At 10 weeks, the quintuplets eat every four hours, and the Goods have two volunteers nearly all the time. The shifts typically run from 7 a.m. to noon, noon to 5 p.m., 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. and the least-popular 10 p.m. to 7 a.m.

But having constant company is a strain. Ruth and David are like shift workers, too, with Ruth typically sleeping from 8 p.m. until midnight and her husband nodding off as she gets up. In the early months, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. is the one time they can count on being together. But it coincides with the children's fussiest spells.

Anticipating their new lives, the Goods tried to streamline their interests. They resigned their positions in the church, where he was a deacon and she was a pianist. They put plans on hold to renovate any more of their home. Ruth has given up even reading junk mail to squeeze a few extra minutes out of her day.

She believes organization is a key to life running smoothly. In the changing area upstairs, she has floor-to-ceiling shelves with individual bins for bibs, socks, blankets and sleepers.

Then there's the baby "bible" -- a cloth-covered journal with sections for each child. In it, the Goods or a helper meticulously record feedings, diaper changes and dispositions. Volunteers are gently chastised when they forget to record an amount taken from a bottle, while others go overboard writing comments like "yuk!" in the diaper section.

Mrs. Akers goes to the binder: "Nobody had a messy yet, right?"

"Let's get another burp, Nathan," Mrs. Knopp says.

The feeding/changing/napping routine is in high gear by noon. "It's time to fold laundry," says Mrs. Akers, and the two women head upstairs. Stealing a glance out the window into the back yard, Mrs. Akers says: "You can look out there and just see the kids running around and climbing those trees."

Before their shift ends, they check on the sleeping babies once more.

RF "That's the way we like to leave 'em," says Mrs. Akers: "content."

Improving the odds

After a year of trying to conceive, Ruth and David began seeing an infertility specialist who determined Ruth wasn't ovulating. She was put on a fertility drug that stimulates the production of eggs and told of the possible outcome: multiple births. Since they had been unsuccessful having one child, the couple was unfazed by that risk.

A year later, Ruth was ready to give up on the medication when she went for a monthly blood test. Her stomach was so bloated from the drug that she looked three months pregnant. The results later confirmed she was. Her hormone levels were extremely high, which indicated a possible multiple birth. The couple prepared for the idea of twins or even triplets. But a sonogram at five weeks revealed something else.

Looking back on it now, they understand why the technician was so serious while reading the results. She finally told them she thought there might be three, but then moved them into another room with specialized equipment.

There, the picture was clear. The technician began labeling what she was seeing: A . . . B . . . C . . . D . . . E.

Ruth and David were relieved when the alphabet stopped.

But relief was followed quickly by concern as doctors described the risks.

Multiples are almost always born prematurely. If their organs are not fully developed, they can face problems ranging from lung disease to brain damage. Then there is the social and economic impact; few families are financially or emotionally equipped to raise five children today.

One doctor offered an option. They could choose selective reduction -- in which some fertilized eggs are removed to better the survival chances of others. There was no debate or discussion. The couple, who would consider such a procedure an abortion, would see the pregnancy through.

"At first we didn't get much positive feedback," Ruth says. "They felt the chances of them surviving were very slim."

She spent much of the first three months in bed with morning sickness that lasted all day. After that passed, she began feeling pressure from her chest to abdomen. At her doctor's suggestion, she often used a wheelchair to get around outside her home.

By Nov. 2 -- her 20th week -- Ruth was sent to bed.

"The first week was hard," she says. "My back was sore, and I felt sick. I thought, 90 more days of this."

For 10 1/2 weeks, she stayed there, mentally checking off each day that brought the babies closer to term. She studied the Bible, read about infants, and wrote letters. Thanksgiving and Christmas passed -- celebrated from the same place on the living room sofa.

Three times during those weeks she made emergency visits to the hospital -- once with bleeding, another time when she thought her water broke. The third time she was only 26 weeks into her pregnancy. Infants born that early would face a high risk of death or severe neurological damage. Drugs stopped her contractions, and she was sent home.

Nearly five weeks later, on Jan. 25, she woke up with the worst contractions yet. By 4:30 a.m., she and David were making the 40-mile journey to to the hospital.

Although check-ups in the womb had suggested that the babies were healthy, nothing would be certain until they were delivered by Caesarean section. By early that afternoon, a team of 24 doctors, respiratory specialists and nurses -- including some hired just for this event -- were lined up in two operating rooms to bring the quints into the world. When each child let out a shrill cry -- signaling their lungs were functioning -- relief filled the room.

Their weights ranged from nearly 2 1/2 pounds to just more than 3 pounds, and they were put immediately in the neonatal intensive care unit. Although they initially lost weight, they had few complications.

The day after the babies were born, Ruth and David went together to see them for the first time. "It was amazing," he says. "It was better than anything we let ourselves expect."

A checkup at home

One of the few advantages of having quintuplets is that a pediatrician will make house calls. When the babies are nearly five months old, Dr. Sharon Neibel-Pondek arrives for a well-baby visit, bringing along her nurse, a portable scale and supplies.

With volunteers present, there are plenty of hands to go around. The doctor isn't interrupted by phone calls. The children don't disrupt the waiting room, and their parents don't have to answer endless questions from onlookers.

Even when Ruth had taken two babies to the doctor's, it brought more attention than she wanted. "People say, 'Oh, twins.' I don't even get in a discussion because then I'm faced with questions for 30 minutes. I do not want that. I usually bury myself in a magazine and just smile," she says.

Improvisation is the key to turning the Good's kitchen into an examining room. The nurse sets up a scale on the table. Margarine tubs hold the immunization shots and alcohol swabs.

Katelyn goes first, getting weighed, measured and examined.

"They're cooing?" asks the doctor. "Lifting up their heads? Has everyone rolled over?"

She pulls up Katelyn, trying futilely to get her to stand.

She's not on the chart yet, says Dr. Pondek, referring to the growth charts used to measure a child's height and weight compared with others the same age.

Although the Goods are disappointed, they take the news in stride. "She's a good kid," says David, sweeping her up from the table and kissing her.

Nathan is next. "He must be a good eater," the doctor says, examining a rash on his chin. "Any questions about Mr. Nathan?"

David says, "Do you want to ask about the nights?"

"He cries at night, about an hour after feeding," Ruth says. David cuts to the chase: "When should we start to feel manipulated?"

Dr. Pondek suggests putting him in his crib and letting him cry for several minutes before offering comfort.

Patty Lynn begins crying even before she's measured. Their concern about her: She spits up a lot.

"Will that eventually stop?" Ruth asks.

"At about a year," the doctor says. "Wait until they spit up baby food. It comes out in color."

Ruth rubs at the stain on her shirt from Patty Lynn's regurgitated breakfast. She steals a look at David, trying not to seem alarmed.

Although pleased with the babies' progress, the doctor delivers some disappointing news: They're not ready for cereal. They should be putting their hands together at this age. And Katelyn can't get off her heart monitor yet.

Dr. Pondek and her nurse finish in an hour -- quicker than an office visit for five. Ruth and David look relieved. Unlike the last appointment, when Phillip was sick -- and David had to root through a trash bag looking for his dirty diaper -- this one was a breeze.

Mixed on the media

The day after the babies were born, David got his first inkling of how life had changed. There were five messages from the press on the couple's answering machine, and the hospital had received three dozen.

Because they live in Pennsylvania and had the babies in Maryland, media in both states felt some claim to the story. Early on, David says, "One question was being asked: 'What do we want to do about exposure?' That became an issue. What do we want? What don't we want? And how do we control it?"

Initially, the Goods didn't want their names released and were described simply as "a Southern Pennsylvania couple" in news reports. Several days later, the couple reluctantly agreed to a press conference. Ruth, who was still recovering, wore slippers. David answered most of the questions. And about 20 TV and newspaper people turned up.

Several reporters monopolized the event, insisting on repeating questions when the couple's answers weren't dramatic enough. For the Goods, it was the first time they fielded inquiries about whether Ruth was breast-feeding and how they could tell their children apart.

Shortly after that briefing, a York paper ran a story asking women their opinion of Ruth's decision to breast-feed her quintuplets. The article included a graphic illustration of positions mothers use to breast-feed multiples. In the headline, Ruth was dubbed "Milkmaid for Five."

Although the couple had little experience with the press, they knew this story had gone too far. David called and complained.

For Ruth, it was embarrassing. "I felt invaded and . . . mad," she says. "I wanted to be very private about that."

The irony is that while the Goods struggled to limit local coverage, their out-of-town relatives were disappointed the story didn't attract national press.

The initial flurry of interest already has spawned follow-ups -- most recently when the babies reached six months. Last week, the couple was approached about the quints being in a health insurance ad. While they're not seeking commercial work for the babies, they're not ruling it out, either, particularly since it would help defray the cost of raising five.

"We're kind of hoping that every once in a while, the local papers will do an update," David says. "Anything more than that? We're not sure. We think we'll have our hands full keeping our family healthy and happy."

Venturing out

For the quints' first visit to their grandparents -- on Easter -- the Goods borrow a 15-passenger van to travel the 12 miles. It takes four hours to get five babies fed, bathed and dressed. Ruth, who has chosen all-white outfits for them, struggles to keep them clean until they reach her in-laws. David has to make five trips to the van just to load the bags.

"It left us totally drained," Ruth says. They joke afterward that there won't be another Good family outing until the children can dress themselves.

But by early May, Ruth is ready for a longer outing than her daily walks to the mailbox. And her in-laws are ready to keep the babies overnight. For Ruth and David, this means their first night alone since the babies came home.

Clearview Farm looks like it was plucked from the pages of a children's storybook. The sheep strolling in the field. Cats wandering through the whitewashed barn. A welcoming grandmother by the door with silvery gray curls.

Inside, the house has been re-arranged for infant guests. A playpen is set up by the brick fireplace. A crib is in the dining room. And the washing machine and dryer have been converted into a changing table.

Ruth hooks Katelyn up to her monitor, tries to soothe a crying Phillip and kisses each baby as she readies to leave. She's one kiss short of making her exit but can't find her fifth child, who is being changed in the laundry room.

"Don't forget," her mother-in-law Carol calls out, "There's one on the dryer."

For the next 31 hours, Ruth will be quintuplet free.

She and her sister-in-law, Shannon Good, a mother of two, head to the Wal-Mart. "This does look like our diaper room at home," says Ruth, strolling down the baby aisle. A child cries nearby, but they blithely ignore the sound as they comb through the toddler clothes. Ruth picks up Mother's Little Miracle stain remover (It gets out spit-up," she says) and a barrette to match her first Mother's Day dress.

Waiting in the checkout line, she bypasses the magazines with scandals about Oprah Winfrey, Don Johnson and Brad Pitt.

"What is this?" she says, grabbing Woman's World with a cover story on a Texas mother of triplets. "Dawn's 3 little miracles," the headline reads.

"I can beat this," says Ruth, as she tosses the magazine into her basket.

That evening, she and David have their first long discussion about selecting legal guardians for their babies.

"We've prayed about it a lot," David says. "We have no idea whether anyone would say yes. We wouldn't want to split them up in any way. We're seeking to find a family that we feel would spiritually raise them as we hope we will."

Although they're close to asking a couple, they haven't yet and are taking more time to think through their decision.

For Ruth, the silence in the house is a reminder of life before the quints. "Now there's always someone around. Having all five, even if you can't love every minute of it, coming back to an empty house reminds us that we're happy to have them."

Meeting the public

Seven weeks after the homecoming, the quintuplets of Gatchelville have yet to make their debut. There have been sightings -- Nathan going to church with his parents, Katelyn being taken to a doctor's appointment. But a full-fledged appearance by all five has not occurred, and well-wishers are antsy.

Their wait is almost over. Prospect United Methodist Church has planned a shower, and the family has agreed to go.

The morning of the event, though, the couple seem less than eager. David's mother explains that they have been debating whether to take the children. Guests expect the babies to be there. But the Goods are torn between not wanting to disappoint neighbors and not wanting the imposition in their lives. They're also concerned that people who may have colds will touch the babies. David's parents offer to go along and discourage that.

Before they leave, there's a knock on the door. "May we see the babies?" says a neighbor, who can't make the shower. David declines. If she's still around when they are heading out, she is welcome to see them then.

With the help of David's parents, they bundle everyone. The neighbors are by the porch when the triplet stroller and double stroller pull out front.

"I'm just dying to see them. They're adorable. I bet my son was bigger than any of them when he was first born," one woman says.

David and Ruth smile, say nothing and begin pushing the children down the street. A reporter and photographer from a local paper pull up, having been tipped off about the event.

Lines form on either side as the strollers park by the door. Women dressed in their Sunday best snap pictures and clamor for details:

What do you do in the middle of the night when they all cry? How are your nerves? Do you have any trouble getting baby-sitters?

The paneled room has been festooned with balloons, crepe paper and a banner: Welcome, Amanda, Phillip, Nathan, Patricia and Katelyn. In the back of the room is a buffet table laden with sandwiches, deviled eggs and desserts.

Ten minutes after the children arrive, their grandparents make a U-turn with the strollers and head home. A muffled chorus of disappointed "ooohs" fills the room, but no one says a word.

David and Ruth, now wearing corsages, are asked to sit onstage. They look like the homecoming queen and king, their unease showing in their tight-lipped grins.

More than 40 women have shown up. Although they're all neighbors, many have never met the Goods. They introduce themselves -- Ethel, Irma, Pat, Peggy, Jane, Bev, Glenda . . .

It's hard to keep up. Finally, the opening of presents begins.

The Auxiliary Fire Department sends a basket with diapers and wipes. The Hoslers give a walker. It doesn't matter that the couple already opened one: "Duplicates are no problem in our family," David says.

The Hulsey family gives tooth-fairy pillows hand-embroidered with each child's name. Laura Hulsey spent a week sewing them.

"I just felt like this is a special occasion," she says. "How often are quintuplets born in your neighborhood . . . especially Gatchelville?"

Cynthia Dolinger was up until almost midnight finishing her quilt. But now she worries: "I felt I should have made them five."

More than $150 has been collected in the grocery store jar. The last gift unwrapped, they slip off stage and into the back corner of the room, thanking each person for her gift and promising to call if they need extra baby-sitters.

Although they know such kindness from strangers won't last forever, they take life one day at a time.

"Whenever people hear we have quintuplets, they always ask about college, braces, cars, auto insurance," David says. "To us, it's not worth worrying about. . . . It's going to work out somehow."

And worrying too much about the future causes them to lose the moment -- already too fleeting when there are five babies to track.

"It's easy to trudge through each day and not really realize how fortunate we are," David says. "At times, it's easy to just think: 'When I get home, I'm going to have to scarf down dinner so we can keep everybody quiet.' I can get into that routine. . . . Then if I truly think what they are -- that they have eternity ahead of them and we're not going to get yesterday back -- it gives me a completely different perspective. It helps us cherish these days."

When husbands start entering the hall to pick up their wives, the Goods take it as a sign they can go home. They accept the decorations, the leftovers, the hat-shaped party favors, uncertain what they'll do with them all. They load the presents -- including 400 diapers -- into the flatbed of a borrowed truck and drive down the hill. There are babies to change, bottles to make and a dishwasher to load.

And tomorrow there will be a newspaper to read. The front page of the York Dispatch carries a banner headline: "Quints Go Public."

From January 25 to September 24:

Nathan Bennett

Born: 3:04 p.m.

Weight: 3 pounds, .6 ounce......now 16 pounds

Length: 16 inches.......now 26 inches

Patricia Lynn

Born: 3:05 p.m.

Weight: 2 pounds, 10 ounces.....now 14 pounds

Length: 16 1/2 inches......now 25 inches

Amanda Ruth

Born: 3:06 p.m.

Weight: 2 pounds, 8 ounces.......now 15 pounds

Length: 15 inches........now 24 3/4 inches

Phillip David

Born: 3:07 p.m.

Weight: 2 pounds, 14 ounces......now 16 pounds

Length: 16 1/2 inches.......now 26 inches

Katelyn Marie

Born: 3:07 p.m.

Weight: 2 pounds, 5.8 ounces.....now 13 pounds

Length: 15 3/8 inches.......now 24 3/4 inches

The daily numbers:

30 diapers

20 bottles

7 1/2 jars of baby food

2 loads of laundry

1 dishwasher run

The bottom lines:

Hospital bill: $130,000

Doctors and nurses present for delivery: 24

Weeks Ruth was bedridden: 10 1/2

Pounds she gained: 42

Combined weight of babies at birth: 13 pounds, 6.4 ounces

Combined weight now: 74 pounds

Cribs in the house: 8

Round-the-clock volunteers: 30

Estimated cost of raising five children to age 17: $1,155,700

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