DANVILLE — When you’re a dad with twins or triplets, you barely get a good night’s sleep.
When you’re a dad with teenagers, you’re still up at all hours — waiting for them to come home.
“The worry never stops,” said Darren Dohme of Broadlands, father of triplets.
Such is a father’s fate — no matter how many children he has.
Three sets of parents shared their views on raising multiples following a recent reception for the “Magnificent Nine” at Carle Foundation Hospital.
The reception brought together two sets of twins and one set of triplets who were all born during a 24-hour period on Jan. 9 and Jan. 10, 2001, at Carle. The family of another set of twins, formerly of Champaign, did not attend the event.
The nine babies and their parents received national attention 18 years ago. Now, they have graduated from high school and are making plans to attend college or work in the fall.
The families making up the “Magnificent Nine” are:
• Dave and Kacy Harris of Georgetown, with identical twin daughters, Mariya and Taelyn.
• Kristin DePratt of Danville and her late husband, Chad Gard, with twins Quinn and Carrigan Gard.
• Darren and Julle Dohme of Broadlands with triplets, Caroline, Jacob and Dylan.
• Jennifer and Jeff Ekstam, who have moved out of state, had twin boys, Daniel and David.
If the nine babies’ births happened today, there would be a frenzy on social media, and the children would have been Facebook friends. However, all of the teens said at the reception that they had no idea they were such celebrities as babies.
“It’s such a big deal for the parents, but they’re oblivious to it,” Kacy Harris said, referring to the young people.
The nurses haven’t forgotten that day, either, and several attended the recent reception.
“It was a once-in-a-lifetime event,” said Twila Blum, a registered nurse at Carle. “It was an amazing day.”
Tina Fehrenbacher, RN, told the teens, “I remember you guys all wrapped up like beans. It was a day to remember.”
Jacob Dohme said he and his siblings didn’t know about the historic day until they were 10, adding, “I didn’t realize what a big day it was.”
Dylan Dohme said it wasn’t until they turned 18 that the full impact sank in.
After the excitement of the media interviews wore off in 2001, the reality sank in as the parents tackled the task of raising multiples.
People painted a nightmare picture of raising twins, Dave Harris said, but, “It was nowhere as bad as people painted the picture. It’s only a small phase of life. It does improve.”
He recalled he and Kacy sitting in rocking chairs, with one daughter each, into the night. There were some long nights, he said, and he often slept on the couch.
The Harrises already had one son — Ashton, now 20 — and now have a total of nine children, including another set of twins. The others are: Bryson, 14; Nolan and Nevin, 12; Tucker, 9; Korie, 4; and Finnley, 3. They lost Kai as an infant in 2013.
One good thing about being up at 3 a.m. with the babies, Dave Harris said, is that it was a bonding experience.
“People say, ‘I don’t know if I could do your lifestyle,’” he said. “But, it’s just how we have always rolled.”
He and Kacy work together, and also, every child becomes part of the team.
Kacy said, “We put God first and put a priority on our relationship with each other and with the kids. We want to encourage them to be close to each other.”
Their twin daughters graduated from First Baptist Christian School, and will join their older brother at Bob Jones University in South Carolina this fall. Mariya will major in biblical counseling and Taelyn in health science. The girls have been working and also have scholarships to cover expenses.
Kristin DePratt and Chad were surprised when they learned that they were having twins. Kristin had gone in for a regular appointment, when the doctor said he noticed two babies in the sonogram.
“He said, ‘Do twins run in your family?’ I said ‘no,’” she recalled.
“That was such a shock to find out we were having twins.”
It was difficult in the beginning to handle two babies at once, she said. Chad was working, so she let him sleep as much as possible. He died in 2010, when the twins were in the third grade.
Now, with teenagers, it’s still difficult, she said, but it’s a different kind of difficulty.
“The worries change, but they never go away,” she said, adding that her parents, Jim and Diana Carey, continue to worry about her.
As for advice to others with multiples, Kristin said, “Stay positive. You will survive.”
The twins graduated from Schlarman High School. Carrigan will attend St. Ambrose University in the fall, but is undecided about her major; Quinn is working at Stout Construction.
The twins said it was nice that Carle was having a reunion for the young people.
WORK, BUT FUN
Darren Dohme said about having triplets, “It was scary. It was an extreme life-changing event. It was a lot of work, but a lot of fun.”
It was exhausting, he said, remembering there was always so much work to do with the laundry, dishes, bottles and so on.
When the triplets were a month old, he and his wife were so tired that they were arguing over what to have for dinner. Then, there was a knock on the door, and a church member was standing there with a meal, he said with a smile.
Now, he doesn’t have to get up for a 2 a.m. feeding. But a couple of months ago, he tried to stay up until midnight, when Caroline was supposed to be home from prom.
“They used to get you up all through the night. Now, we’re up waiting on them,” he said.
The triplets graduated from Heritage High School last month, and all plan to attend Parkland College. Caroline will pursue nursing; Jacob will study agriculture; and Dylan will be in the diesel mechanics program after training with the National Guard.
All have distinct personalities and interests, Julle Dohme said. Jacob is the people-person; Dylan is more reserved; and Caroline is a social butterfly.
“It was great. It was fun,” their mother said.
TEENS HIT IT OFF
At the start of the reception, the teens didn’t know each other, although a couple had played soccer together. Carle did have a reunion for the families when the children were 1 year old.
By the end of the afternoon, the seven young people were exchanging information and planning on keeping in touch.
“The teens really hit it off,” Harris said. Although they’re going different directions, they can stay in touch through social media.
“They clicked together,” DePratt said. “That was neat to see.”
Julle Dohme said, “They have a bond they never knew about. It would be nice if they became friends.”