By CHIP CIRILLO, Courier Correspondent
Edith and Gary McReynolds were hoping for a baby boy back in 1996, but they got a whole lot more than that.
Edith was 3 months pregnant when she went to a checkup in Nashville that included an ultrasound scan. The doctors gave the couple some stunning news.
Quadruplets were on the way.
"Actually, I thought they were joking when they told me that," Edith said. "I was pretty much in shock for about a week, at least."
Her surprise was understandable, considering the odds of having quadruplets are one in 800,000, according to ABC News.
On Nov. 7, 1996, Edith gave birth to two boys and two girls: Erin and Kristen and Garrett and Marshall. At Cannon County High School, they are known as the quads.
The basketball gene appears to be strong in the quads, who are all seniors. Erin is a point guard on the girls team, which is off to a 7-1 start after making it to the Class AA quarterfinals last season.
Garrett is a forward and Marshall is a guard on the boys team, off to a 6-2 start after setting a school record for wins (27) last season.
Kristen is manager of the girls team, but she is also a member of the soccer, tennis and cross country teams.
Gary, the quads' father, was overwhelmed when he found out four babies were on the way. The couple already had a 2-1/2-year-old daughter, Kayla, and Gary had a daughter by a previous marriage.
"It was probably the hardest thing I ever did," Gary said. "I cried for about two weeks. I was worried about their future and their health and the burden. I thought, 'How in the world am I going to raise four more kids?' "
Quadruplets are considered high-risk preg-nancies, adding to the pressure. After spending one month at Centennial Hospital, Edith delivered the quads in a C-section procedure.
"It was just like picking watermelons out of a watermelon patch," Gary said. "They were just handing them out. Luckily, they were all healthy and we've really been blessed with the four."
Born about one minute apart, the babies were initially labeled A, B, C and D. Marshall was A, Garrett--B, Erin--C and Kristen--D. The boys weighed 5 pounds each and the girls were 3 pounds apiece.
Edith's pregnancy lasted 35 weeks, five weeks shorter than normal. The quads made their presence known throughout the pregnancy.
"It was really strange when you'd be lying in bed and you could just see all kinds of motion," Edith said.
Gary and Edith used an assembly-line method to feed the quads with the same spoon and bowl. It was nothing to go through 64 milk bottles a day.
They also used an assembly-line technique to change diapers, going through a case per week.
Quad parents change about 30,000 diapers before their children are potty trained, according to the about.com website.
"I can remember seeing Miss Edith and Mr. Gary, their parents, at church when they were little and my mother-in-law making the comment to Miss Edith, 'Bless your heart and the laundry you must go through,' " Cannon County boys basketball coach Matt Rigsby said. "These kids were 2, maybe 3, 4 at the most. As a father of a 2-year-old and a 4-year-old myself now doing laundry every day of my life, I can only imagine what it would be like raising four at a time like that."
Edith and Gary were lucky to get an hour of sleep nightly during those early years as the babies would wake each other up.
"All four of them didn't sleep one complete night until they were 3 years old," said Gary, who works at Nissan. "That was very stressful and tiring."
One parent or relative would stay up all night with the quads during the first four months.
"There were a lot of all-nighters," Edith said.
Edith quit her job 19 weeks into her pregnancy and remained at home after the quads were born to take care of the babies.
A trust was set up at a bank to help the McReynolds. Walmart donated diapers. A formula company donated milk.
The quads were close as youngsters and they remain that way today. Auburntown Elementary School had only one classroom so the quads were together all day from kindergarten through eighth grade.
The boys used to play in a Smyrna youth football league and the girls were cheerleaders.
Not getting all the attention was initially an adjustment for oldest daughter, Kayla. She told her mom she only wanted her to bring one of the quads back from the hospital after they were born.
"I was like, 'Mamma, I just wanted one,' " Kayla said. "Then she brought them home one at a time. I guess by the time she brought the girls home I was like, 'When is it going to stop???? "
But Kayla, now a nursing student at Tennessee Tech, grew to enjoy being the boss.
"I was real protective over them, being the big sis," Kayla said. "It was a huge change for me. I went from all the attention being around me to four new babies at home. It was really surprising. But it was so much fun. It was like I had my own real live baby dolls."
Edith has photos of Kayla pushing the quads around in her play stroller. Kayla wanted to help change their diapers and feed them.
Only 418 sets of quadruplets were born in 2005, the latest year data is available, according to about.com.
"When you really think of the odds it's really cool," said Erin, who averages 11.2 points and 5.8 assists per game. "I feel really lucky."
The quads have their own distinctive personalities: Erin is shy, Kristen is more outgoing; Marshall is funny, Garrett is more serious. They're easy to tell apart physically.
Edith said birthdays are like Christmas with all four quads getting gifts.
"It's pretty chaotic," Erin said. "It's always a mix-up about what order they're going to say the names, like Happy Birthday to Erin, Kristen or Garrett, Marshall first. We usually just have one cake and all of us just blow out the same candles."
The quads often wore similar clothes until about fourth grade. One year they all wore red clothes for their school pictures; another year they wore blue. One Halloween they dressed as pumpkins and another they were Teletubbies.
Companionship is one of the best perks of being a quad. The kids always had someone to play with as youngsters, making it easier on mom.
"Wherever you go, like to a new school, you always have a best friend," Erin said. "Like coming in to high school I didn't know where I was going to eat lunch, but I knew I always had my brothers and sisters to talk to."
There are also drawbacks to being a quad.
"It's never about you," Erin said. "Like especially on your birthday, you think it's about you. But it's not so bad. I guess you just get clunked in with all of them. So I'm thinking my wedding day will be just about me instead of my birthday."
Kristen describes birthdays as a "huge party" with a lot of overlapping friends.
Kristen said one drawback of being a quad is the constant comparison to each other, which can create pressure. But they also support each other, which is a benefit.
Kristen admires her soft-spoken mom for handling the enormous responsibility of quads so well.
"I look at mom and I think she's just so strong and I kind of think that God gave quadruplets to the one that he knew could handle it," Kristen said.
Kristen's best friends are senior identical twins Katie and Sarah Hickman.
Food never goes to waste at the McReynolds' home in Woodbury. When Edith makes a pie, it barely lasts through one meal. Life runs at a hectic pace with four siblings the same age.
"There's definitely never a dull moment with the quads and there's always a lot going on," said Marshall, who averages 7.1 points per game. "Me and Garrett, we usually did everything together (when we were younger). We were basically the same person. We wore the same clothes, played the same sports and the girls did the same thing."
Marshall finished 14th at the Class A-AA cross country meet with a time of 17:22.97 in November. Erin took 25th with a 25:11.96 in the girls race.
Sharing was engrained into the quads at an early age.
"Every time I get something I usually have to share it with my brother and every time my sister gets something she has to share it," said Garrett, who averages 8.6 points per game. "My parents put a big deal on making us share, not being selfish."
Gary and Edith, who are divorced now, are regulars at the quads' basketball games. Judging by the coaches' accounts, they did a wonderful job raising their children.
"All four of those kids are first-class kids and they're all unique, and they all do their own thing," Cannon County girls basketball coach Michael Dodgen said. "They're all good athletes in whatever sports that they're involved with. All four kids have been raised the right way. They're good academic kids and they're good people that represent your high school."