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Monday, November 4, 2013

The Annandale quads are growing up

Sharee Gates in back with her quads, left to right: Carter, Sam, Grace, and Gage.

The kids in one of Annandale’s rarest families are thriving. At 10 years old, the Gates quadruplets are doing well in school, playing sports, and enjoying life with their friends and one another.

There are two girls, Carter and Madison, who goes by her middle name, Grace, and two boys, Sam and William, who goes by his middle name, Gage. None of them are identical.

Their mother, Sharee Gates, isn’t aware of any other quads or higher-order multiples in Northern Virginia. The chance of having “natural” quadruplets is about 1 in 700,000, although they are more common with fertility treatments. As of 2007, there were approximately 3,500 sets of quads recorded worldwide.  

Carter, Grace, and Gage are in the same fifth-grade class at Corpus Christi School in Bailey’s Crossroads. Sam, the youngest, is in special education at Camelot Elementary School.

Sam was also the smallest, at just 2.12 pounds at birth. He was born with a couple of extra fingers and toes, which were removed. As a newborn, he developed hydrocephalus, which caused delayed intellectual development. The others were between 3 and 3.4 pounds, and all of them spent a month in the hospital before their parents were allowed to bring them home.

They were born eight weeks early on April 15, 2003, in Alabama, where Sharee and her husband were living at the time.

They had been trying to start a family for five years when they started seeing a fertility specialist.“I gave it one year. If that didn’t work, we would explore other options,” Sharee says. Just before the year was up, she learned she was pregnant.

Then, at six weeks, she found out there were three to five fetuses. “That shocked me,” but when four heartbeats were confirmed at eight weeks, she was already prepared for multiples.“Four was no big deal for me, but it was a shocker” for her husband, she says. He just couldn’t deal with it. They eventually divorced, and he stayed in Alabama. Sharee and the babies—they were four months old at the time—moved back to Virginia.

They are living with Sharee’s parents in the same house in Annandale where she grew up. Having her parents there 24/7 has made caring for the quads so much easier, especially when they were little, she says. She works part time as a payroll administrator for a consulting company and is home when the children get home from school.

Each quad has a unique personality, Sharee says. Carter is “a drama queen, very loving and the most even-going.” Grace is the “mother hen with an old soul. She is the most mature one and loves to be around adults.”

Sam goes to Grace when he’s upset and sad and goes to Carter when he wants to have fun, she says. They call Sam “Little Elmo,” because he’s very sweet and has a great laugh. “He’s very strong. He was my fighter from day one,” she says. Gage is the shyest one, but he’s also “a little devil with a little sparkle in his eye. He likes to be rough and get away with stuff.”

The four of them get along very well together, although there are the typical conflicts that go along with being in a big family, Sharee says. They also have their own friends and take part in lots of activities, including soccer, running club, and track. In the summer, the girls are on the swim team at Holmes Run Pool.

When they were infants, they were very good about napping at the same time, she recalls, although raising quads was challenging, to say the least. During the first year, they had to be secluded to prevent them from getting sick, so they weren’t allowed outside and no one could come in to visit them.

Sharee made things a little easier by color-coding their milk bottles, clothes, medicine, and other items—pink for Carter, purple for Grace, blue for Gage, and green for Sam—and they sometimes still dress in their own colors.

They got to be easier when they were toddlers, she says. “Watching them get to know each other and watching them play and interact was so much fun.”

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