Three days after Christmas, Pleasant Grove’s Gardner Quad Squad will celebrate their first birthday.
“Obviously it’s a big deal,” said Tyson Gardner, the father of the quadruplet girls. “We’re probably done having children. The doctor said it’d be a bigger miracle for Ashley to get pregnant again than it was having the quads, so we’re savouring every moment. This will be our last first birthday party, so we’re going all out.”
The party’s theme is Under the Stars and will include outdoorsy, woodsy decor, such as white lights hanging from the ceiling and a little tent for the girls’ presents.
Each girl will get her own personalized cake and individual gifts, something Ashley said she’s done on purpose.
“They are their own person,” she said. “I want to make sure they know they are not just part of a group. They are allowed to be who they want to be individually. They don’t always have to share everything.”
The celebration will mark the milestone of the girls making it to their first birthday and doing so in style, Tyson said.
“They are so healthy and happy — it’s been an incredible year for them,” he said. “They’ve grown and developed so well that the doctors are blown away.”
Because they were born three months early, the girls’ development has been tracked according to their adjusted age, but at their next checkup, milestones will be marked according to the 12-month chart, Tyson said. It’s a huge accomplishment and blessing to have such healthy babies who don’t look or act like preemies, he said.
The girls — who were about 2 lbs. each at birth — are growing, each weighing between 18 and 22 lbs. They all crawl and have recently started pulling themselves up on furniture. Indie is the only one left with a gummy smile, as the other three have at least one tooth.
Scarlett is the best eater and will devour anything put in front of her, Ashley said. Indie is the pickiest, and prefers sweet potatoes, bananas and anything the adults are eating.
“We went out for Chinese food and I ordered egg drop soup,” Ashley said. “Indie ate half of it.”
Indie, who used to be known as the feisty leader of the pack, is now the calm baby who likes to quietly play with her toys or crawl to her spot in the living room and do her own thing. She’s independent and loves to explore, and, according to her parents, she’s their most friendly and social baby who loves to smile.
Her twin, Esme, is known for her funny faces and for being interactive and playful. Esme is also independent, but the difference is that Esme will vocalize her independence.
“Esme is our best talker, she always has something to say,” Tyson said. “If she wants something, she’ll go get it. She is hilarious — our resident comedian.”
Scarlett, who from one-month-old was nicknamed the diva, is now the quietest of the bunch. She is sweet, snuggly and a bit mischievous, Ashley said. Her twin Evangeline, who used to be the mellow one in the pair, is now a bit of a drama queen. She’ll go from laughing and smiling to crying hysterically for no reason.
“The other day I went into her room and she was pouting for no reason,” Ashley said. “But when I looked at her, she smiled. Emotions just spill out of her.”
As different as they are in personality, the girls still share a lot of commonalities — especially each set of twins. For example, Scarlett and Evangeline had the same bottom tooth pop up at the same time, Ashley said. In the middle of the night, Ashley will often check on the girls and find the other set of twins, Indie and Esme, in the same sleeping position in the same corner of their separate cribs.
“There are all of these sayings about twins and it’s so fun to watch it all unravel and be true,” Ashley said. “The girls are mirror twins.”
In the public eye
After a year of caring for two sets of twins, the couple has four times the experience of midnight feedings, teething and sleep training — all topics they get lots of advice about from their followers.
“It’s always good to hear people’s advice, and a lot of it I really appreciate,” Tyson said. “I think people want to be helpful, but you take it with a grain of salt. For first-time parents it’s natural to be nervous and doubt yourself, maybe wonder ‘Am I going to be a good dad or mother?’ For me, as soon as the babies came home parental instinct just kicked in and you know exactly what you’re doing.”
Some people may shy away from the spotlight, but to the Gardners, it’s the new normal.
“This is our life,” Tyson said. “It’s normal to wake up and have hundreds of Facebook messages. It’s normal to post a picture and get 20,000 likes in a couple of hours. It’s normal for us because so many people love these girls.”
During the past year and a half, more than 500,000 people have joined the Gardner journey as the couple has posted about infertility struggles, prenatal surgeries, hospital bedrest and life in the NICU.
“Our followers have been there for all of our struggles and now they’re here for our joyous occasions,” Tyson said. “They feel like [the girls] are a part of their life. Honestly, we think of them as our social media family.”
Thinking back to October 2014 when then pregnant Ashley underwent emergency surgery to cure Indie and Esme of twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome, the Quad father got a bit choked up.
“People are incredible,” he said. “We had so many prayers coming in. We really felt like we had a lot of these people carrying us from one moment to the next, kind of like angels.”
The Gardners continue to share updates on the girls on their popular A Miracle Unfolding Facebook page, as well as on a recently started vlog. Additionally, the Gardner family will be featured in a new TLC show coming in early 2016.
“We’re so excited for the premiere of the show,” Ashley said. “We’re going to have the best home videos ever.”