ANNAPOLIS, Md. - At first, Allen and Mary Voelcker thought their obstetrician was joking.
As he gazed at their first sonogram, the doctor told them to guess how many children they were expecting.
"Twins," said Allen, 34, who was not really surprised about a multiple pregnancy. They knew the chances for it were relatively high, as Mary was receiving fertility treatments and Allen is a twin himself.
The doctor shook his head.
"Higher," he said.
"Triplets?" Allen Voelcker said.
That afternoon earlier this year, they learned they were expecting quadruplets _ only the second set ever delivered at Anne Arundel Medical Center. Their little family, which also includes their 3-year-old son Tyler, would more than double within the year.
"My first coherent thought was, `How are we going to fit all of those car seats into one vehicle?'" said Mary, 30.
In just a few days, Mary and her husband will begin working out all those logistical details as they get their first chance to take at least two of the newborns home from the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
She had the four babies _ Alexis, Allison, Daniel and William _ on Nov. 1.
"It took a team of 20 nurses and six additional staff members, including doctors, to complete the delivery and care for the babies," Betsey Snow, senior clinical director of women and children's services at AAMC, said in a release. "We arranged pre-assigned teams to attend to each baby."
The quadruplets, born nearly two months before their due date, are being kept at the hospital until their bodies can regulate their own temperatures and until they have successful feedings.
The Voelckers hope to be together with all four babies at home as a family by Thanksgiving.
"I can't say it has really sunk in yet," said Allen, a computer programmer from Kent County. "It was a relief to know (the pregnancy and delivery) was finally over."
Now comes the fun part.
To prepare, the Voelckers have gotten four car seats and four bouncy seats, Mary said. "They get eight feedings a day, so that's 32 bottles."
She added: "We estimate we'll probably use about 1,000 diapers a month."
They originally wanted four or five children. Both come from families that had five children and they liked the idea of a big family, Mary said. In 2010, they'd even built a new house with five bedrooms.
"But when I had trouble getting pregnant, we figured we'd have only one or two more children," she said. "After we built this big house, we thought, `What are we going to do with all this space?' It just worked out."
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were 313 quadruplet births in the United States in 2010. The rate of births that involved triplets or higher is about 138 per 100,000.
That rate of multiple births has increased in the United States in recent decades, experts say, partly due to more use of fertility treatments.
Mary said she has been focusing on taking one day at a time and getting as much rest as she can before the babies come back to their home.
The Voelckers, Allen said, have already begun enjoying little differences between their children, like the way Allison enjoys cuddling and how Daniel, when he cries, sounds exactly the way their older son Tyler did as an infant.
Both parents said they feel as ready as they'll ever be.
"Really, how do you prepare for four?" Mary said, shrugging as she took a break from visiting her newborn quadruplets at the hospital recently. "I guess we'll find out."
Information from: The Capital of Annapolis, Md., http://capitalgazette.com
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