GATCHELVILLE, Pa. -- Like a CNN anchor, 3-year-old Amanda Good offers the same bit of information to all visitors. "Mommy's got a baby in her tummy," she says with a sense of urgency and persistence.
And why not? It's happy news, practically a miracle.
But here's the funny part: While she's excited about the addition of a younger sibling (and positively certain it will be a girl, too), the future broadcaster doesn't realize she's left out the most surprising part.
In the Good family, the words "baby" and "Mommy" are heard often enough. The big news is when you can use the article "a" as in "a baby," as in a singleton, a solitary, a lone baby.
The last time Ruth Good showed up at Greater Baltimore Medical Center she delivered five. This time, the mother of quintuplets is expecting one more.
"Children are a blessing," she says. "Why would you ever say no to a blessing?"
They know that some mothers and fathers might roll their eyes after hearing about the Goods' growing family. Ruth and her husband, David, both a young-looking 32, have heard the naysayers before.
There was that rude woman, a guest at a friend's wedding, who shouted at Ruth, "Are you brain-dead?" Or the male acquaintance who put it even more succinctly to her husband: "Are you crazy?"
For the record, they are neither. But it's not always easy to explain why the parents of quints decided that five isn't enough.
"A big family doesn't scare us," says David, smiling at the understatement. "I guess we're of the opinion that unless physically Ruth shouldn't have children or we come up against a reason why we shouldn't have children, there was no reason to say no."
"It's a step of faith," adds Ruth, whose latest is due March 18. "I knew that God wanted us to have more."
Most everything in the Good household revolves around faith and children. Raising quintuplets demands nothing less.
You can mark the date when everything changed -- Jan. 25, 1995. Before, they were a young couple training to become missionaries, uncertain whether they could even have children. After, they are a family of seven -- thanks, in part, to the modern miracle of fertility drugs.
In the nearly four years since that day, there have been countless thousands of diapers, bottles of formula, jars of apple sauce, boxes of Cheerios. Relatives and friends pitched in, as did volunteers from their church, North Harford Baptist in Jarrettsville.
It's not always been easy -- like the time two years ago when stomach flu sidelined practically the whole family.
"There were days when I thought, not one more," Ruth says.
But somehow they carried on. And miracle of miracles, things got easier. One by one the children became potty-trained -- an event even the average parent can appreciate (let alone multiplied by five). They needed volunteer help less often. Suddenly, raising five seemed a bit less daunting.
Although the Goods had tried and failed to have children for seven years before visiting a fertility specialist, they suspected they could now have a child without such assistance. After more than a year of trying, they succeeded.
"When the announcement was made at church, you could hear a gasp from the whole congregation," recalls Jean Minton of Jarrettsville, a longtime family friend. "You stand in awe thinking of it."
Of course, the children were among the first to be told. The three girls -- Katelyn (the budding perfectionist), Amanda (the social butterfly and CNN anchor) and Patty Lynn (who likes to gather things) -- immediately decided that the baby would be a girl.
The two boys -- Nathan (the affectionate one) and Phillip (the sensitive musician type) -- voted for a boy, albeit without quite as firm a resolve as their sisters, their parents acknowledge.
All five seem pleased that company is coming. At this point, the baby's gender is unknown and prospective names have not yet been selected.
"When the calendar turns two times, it will come out soon," Patty Lynn tells a visitor to the Goods' York County home.
"The baby's going to grow up and be taller than me," Phillip chimes in. "It's going to be a big boy."
"I'm going to help feed the baby," counters Amanda. "Also, I'm going to push the baby stroller."
Of course, as quickly as the subject of a baby is raised, the childrens' conversation turns to pressing matters involving toy tractors, coloring books and dolls. Such are the ways of almost-4-year-olds. Still, their parents are confident the children are ready to be big brothers and sisters.
"It's going to be good for them," David says. "It kind of takes them out of the center of attention somewhat and that's something they could use."
Make no mistake: The Good children are not spoiled and do not run wild through the house. From the beginning, their parents knew they needed to run a regimented schedule -- and the success of that system is one of the things that makes a sixth possible.
Here's morning: Breakfast is served at 8 a.m., book time runs from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m., the art supplies come out at 10:30 a.m. while a video is popped into the VCR at 11:30 a.m. so their mother can get the noon lunch on the table.
The afternoons are just as programmed -- with the inclusion of a two-hour nap. If the schedule sounds a bit like nursery school, it's no coincidence: The Goods made a study of some local preschool habits before adopting it.
Discipline is gentle, but firm. If a child misbehaves, he or she is often taken immediately to a quiet room to discuss the offense. The children have been trained not to speak all at once, and to dress themselves in the morning.
The family room is dominated by a toddler-scaled table where all can work. On the kitchen chairs sit five identical booster seats, and beside the kitchen table is an entire note board devoted to the children's art work. The refrigerator handles photos only: It's hardly big enough for five Rembrandts in training.
Toys are generally stored in sealed containers when not in use. The house is kept tidy -- as are the two bedrooms where the children sleep.
Much of this structure can be credited to Ruth, family friends say. The former music teacher's natural gift for keeping order -- for harmony, if you will -- has served the quintuplets well.
"Ruth is calm. She has energy and she's devoted to the children," says Dana Lanchak, 28, a friend, former neighbor and mother of two. "I've learned a lot from both of them, but I couldn't do what she does every day. I'm not sure I'd have the discipline."
David's parents found out about their latest grandchild from Amanda, the articulate one. When she made the announcement (and they figured out it was true), Grandpa almost dropped a box full of spaghetti sauce he was carrying into the house, Carol Good recalls.
"It's only one this time -- at least I hope they're not keeping a secret -- but I know it will be an adjustment," she says. "There's so much joy and love in that family, anything is possible."
One of the best things about the pregnancy has been how much easier -- and less risky -- it is to carry one baby instead of five. Morning sickness was lighter -- and better yet, Ruth wasn't forced to stay in bed after her 20th week as she was four years ago.
"I can be positive and not dwell on the bad things that can happen," she says. "I think there was even a month in there where I forgot I was pregnant -- I mean after morning sickness passed."
The Goods are no longer celebrities in their small town. Local media attention pretty much dimmed after the first year -- perhaps not too surprisingly in an era of septuplets and octuplets.
What they have to do each day seems routine -- at least to them. David's salary as office manager in his family's steel fabrication plant is supplemented by donations of food and clothing from family and friends.
Volunteers still help out around the house for a couple of hours each week. David's parents give them Friday night off so they can get out of the house together.
And so the decision to have another child came down to this: What's one more? If a family can handle quintuplets, how much more challenging can life get?
Which, of course, begs another question: Is this the last one?
Their answer is a familiar one: Maybe, maybe not.
"I guess we'll cross that bridge later," David says.
Pub Date: 01/24/99