Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Four little ones all grown up

Quadruplets, born premature, ready for life off the farm

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JEFF DE BOOY / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Heather Lavich holds quadruplets (from left) Janelle, Gregory, Maryn and Myles, born Aug. 17, 1996.

CARBERRY -- Gregory Joel (three pounds, two ounces at birth) was wearing a sharp suit with a green dress shirt.

Maryn Elizabeth (two pounds, 15 ounces at birth) wore a pale blue mermaid dress, covered in sequins.

Myles Anthony (two pounds, four ounces at birth), like his older brother, had a similar dark suit, only with a shirt a lighter shade of green.

Janelle Anetta (two pounds, 13 ounces at birth), had a billowing golden gown.

The Four Little Miracles, all grown up, all graduating from Carberry High School. The Lavich quadruplets, who almost 18 years ago were born 10 weeks premature, were standing on the steps of a church along with their classmates, joking, giddy and all dressed up.

In the crowd of locals lining the town's main drag, father Ed and mother Heather (taking pictures) were left to reminisce. They were reminded of a photo of their newborns sprawled on the floor between mom and then six-year-old sister Caitlyn that appeared in the Free Press on Dec. 29, 1996.

"Our little peas in a pod," smiled Heather. "That seems like a lifetime ago. We were joking today, they didn't come with a manual. You just have to go with the flow.

"It's been a journey, but I'm so proud of them. The fact that they're here and they're healthy and made it to graduation..."

Not just graduation, of course. In September, Greg, Maryn and Janelle will be leaving the only home they've ever known for Winnipeg, where they will all be attending courses at the University of Manitoba. Freshmen.

"It's going to be really weird, like locking the doors," Maryn said. "Simple things. But more exciting than scary, I think."

The quadruplets, along with Caitlyn, were raised on the family dairy farm. They shared chores, tending to the 42 cows "morning and night."

Said Greg: "Living in the city compared to the country is probably going to be the biggest change for us. I'm excited, but I'll probably miss the whole farm environment. Being in the city will be completely different."

Myles will be enrolling in a technical college in Brandon, where he'll room with Caitlyn, who is entering her final year in education at Brandon University.

"I've been kind of half-mom, half-sister. Best friend, too," said Caitlyn, while scrambling to take photos of her siblings in their Graduation Day best.

"I'm so proud. It's such an awesome day of accomplishment for them. I can't wait to see what happens next."

Caitlyn couldn't help but reflect on the early days, when Mom and Dad came home with an entire brood.

"It was a long time ago, but I think I have memories of each stage of their lives," she said. "Going from babies to toddlers to nine and 10 years old to teenagers, now graduating and moving on. They're all completely different. They all have their own personalities, so it's been nice to watch them grow and change throughout the years.

"I think that's what been most interesting so far. You have a brother and sister and you watch them as they grow, but you get to compare four at a time."

Caitlyn, now engaged, will probably be moving with her fiancé, an RCMP officer, to Russell next summer. Bottom line: The Lavich home in Carberry is soon about to become one empty nest. Heather doesn't hesitate to concede what family member is going to grapple most with an empty home.

"Me," she said, smiling. "Without a doubt. Hands down, for sure. I'm pretty close to them. We're a tight family. It will be a learning curve, just as it is for everybody when they have kids who leave home."

So looking back, does 1996 seem like a lifetime ago? Or just yesterday?

"It changes from time to time," Heather replied. "Really, it has gone very quickly. But if you put me back to the terrible twos, I might have a different opinion. The puberty stage was a little busy, too. But, no, it's excellent. They've grown into great young kids."

"The last few years we've been preparing for this. You have to," added Ed. "They're adults now, all grown up and healthy. But it flew by really quick if you look back. As four little babies in diapers running around the house to where they are now is huge. A lot of good memories and good years in between. But before we knew it they were in Grade 12."

The Lavich quadruplets attended classes together. They did their homework together. They went to parties together.

"We don't know anything different," Maryn said.

And while three of the siblings will be remaining under the same roof, the prospect of packing their bags for the big city where they were born 18 summers ago -- on an operating table at Health Sciences Centre -- is not without trepidation.

"I'll have to adapt," Janelle said, "but I'm excited to experience something new."

But if the Lavich family has proven anything, it's that they are adaptable.

"There were days we were wondering (if they could do this)," Ed admitted. "But one day at a time. Get through this day, and we'll deal with tomorrow tomorrow. But we did it."

All those birthdays. All those Christmas mornings. The scraped knees and broken hearts. Summer nights at the lake and winter mornings in the dairy barn.

Now Graduation Day.

The father was asked if there were a lot of misty eyes.

"Yes," he agreed. "And for good reason."

randy.turner@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 26, 2014 A6

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