Craig and Kimberly Fugate were expecting to come home with triplets when Kimberly went into labor in February of last year. Instead, the couple brought home identical quadruplet daughters.

“The babies were the biggest surprise of my life,” said Kimberly, 42. She and her husband were surprised when the doctor initially told them they were expecting triplets, but they certainly weren’t prepared for the shock of having quadruplets. “I have more feet,” the doctor said after three babies were born. The fourth baby had somehow been missed on ultrasound.

“It’s a lot of work taking care of even one baby, let alone four, but I don’t mind,” said Kimberly. “It’s a lot of fun, and they make it all worth it. Just getting up in the morning and seeing the smiles on their faces, hearing them coo at me and listening to them babble at each other — the joy is overwhelming. I know every mom is partial to her babies, but I feel like I have the prettiest babies with the prettiest smiles. And those dimples…. I couldn’t imagine my life without [the babies].”

Kimberly found out she was expecting Kenleigh, Kristen, Kayleigh and Kelsey at 13 weeks. The quadruplets were born at 28 weeks and 1 day, leaving the family minimal time to prepare.

“I didn’t have a whole lot of time to comprehend that I was having [them], said Kimberly. “Everything happened so fast. Sometimes, I still have to pinch myself and wonder, ‘Am I dreaming or is it real?’”

The quadruplets were born over two months early and weighed between 2 and 2.5 pounds. Because of their critical status, they spent more than two months in NICU and needed help breathing.

“There were a lot of very scary moments, and their first few months were like a roller coaster,” Kimberly said. “One baby might be having a good day but another having a bad day. There were times when I feared for their lives. Several of the girls’ heart rates dropped, and I held my breath as I watched two be resuscitated. Kayleigh needed eye surgery before she came home.”

Kimberly stayed at a nearby Ronald McDonald house so she could be near the quadruplets. “Even though my blood family wasn’t there with me, the other parents of ill children staying at the Ronald McDonald House became like family,” she said. “And the NICU nurses were awesome. When I cried, they cried. They always told me, ‘We’re going to get through this. We’re going to make it.’”

Much to their parents’ relief, the babies are now home and doing well. They are learning to sit on their own and are teething. They also enjoy each other’s company.

“You can see they really know each other,” Kimberly said. “When they babble, it sounds like they are having a conversation. I put two babies on the couch recently, and one turned and put her arm around the other, like she was hugging her.”

Sometimes having quadruplets is challenging. “They are calm, happy babies,” Kimberly said. “But sometimes, if they are all crying at once, it can be stressful. I try to get them what they need as quickly as possible and keep them entertained. Though I’m tired, I think, ‘This too shall pass.’”

The Fugates’ older daughter, Katelyn, 11, is a big help with her baby sisters. “She helps in the evenings with baths and feedings,” Kimberly said. “She helps get them to sleep. She plays with them and keeps them entertained. I also have my family nearby to help if I need it.”

Because there are only 60 or 70 sets of identical quadruplets worldwide, the Fugate daughters are minor celebrities. “I feel like I won the lottery,” Kimberly said. “We received a lot of attention after the babies were born, and their Facebook page has more than 77,000 likes.

“Wherever I go, people ask me, ‘How’s your babies?’ I don’t feel any different, though. I tell people, ‘I’m not the celebrity, the babies are.’ That’s because they’re the rare ones. I’m just so proud to be their mom.”

Besides writing, R. McKinley loves reading (especially historical fiction and science books), playing piano and flute, being involved in politics and community, working out, enjoying nature, and hanging out with four wonderful cats.