When Carrie Belle and her partner, Jennifer Klawitter, were looking to have children, they did not care how many they had. Having spent two years trying to conceive, Belle was taking fertility medication that increased her egg production, and thus multiple children were likely.
She and Klawitter joked that they wanted twins, but little did they realize that they would end up with twice more than they had expected.
Two weeks into her pregnancy, they went in for an exam and discovered, not two, not three, but four heartbeats. Klawitter was more excited than a child on Christmas Day. Belle, who was the surrogate mother, cried tears of joy.
“We’re going to need a bigger car,” were the very first words from her mouth.
Two years later, Belle remains busy at their Davenport home taking care of her four bundles of joy, three girls and one boy, while her partner supports them though her job at Walt Disney World.
Though the four toddlers are quadruplets, being fraternal, they are easy to tell apart. Even if they appeared identical, their personalities are anything but.
The first child, Sophia, is the leader of the pack who can be a boss at best, a bully at worst. Olivia is a hyper little diva who screeches whether she is happy or mad. Emily is calm, sensitive, and easily frightened by large costumed characters. Noah is the man of the house with a laid-back personality in contrast to his drama queen sisters.
As for their mother, Belle is a New York native who moved to Florida 12 years ago. She met her partner, Klawitter, 10 years ago at Disney, where she has worked for the past 18 years.
The two of them had a wedding ceremony at St. Petersburg in 2006. They legally married in Washington, D.C., a few years later.
Ever since she was little, Belle has always loved children and desired to become a teacher. She spent several years teaching in the Bronx before moving to Florida, where she taught in several schools. Her last position before becoming pregnant was as a kindergarten teacher at Horizons Elementary School in Davenport.
Both she and her partner have been wanting children for several years, but kept prolonging it to spend more time together. Realizing neither of them were getting younger, Belle decided to start conceiving around age 33.
“I always loved kids, and I consider it God’s joke that he gave me all four at once,” Belle said.
Despite being pregnant with quadruplets, her pregnancy was hardly a challenge for her. In fact, it went by so quickly for her, with her giving birth three months early, that she hardly remembers it. At 21 weeks, she was placed on bed rest in the hospital, where time flew by until she went into labor six weeks later.
She has since quit her job as a teacher to remain at home, as it would be more affordable than day care, even with two incomes, she claimed.
Their day begins bright and early at 7:30 a.m., with their hungry cries being their mother’s alarm clock. Once they have been changed, feed, and dressed, they are taken into the backyard to play or outside for a walk.
The four spend more of their time indoors safe within the confines of their baby barrier, which has since taken up most of the living room. Even though their mother buys four of every toy, they still manage to fight over them. Often these squabbles end with bite marks.
With her partner working at Disney, Belle and her family are huge Disney fans, and have frequented the parks several times. The quadruplets had their first birthday party at the Crystal Palace at the Magic Kingdom.
Ideally, the couple had imagined taking one child regularly to Disney World, but now that they have four, their park visits are less frequent. Now when they visit the resort, they try to take along two other friends in order to keep all four children under control.
With four children, the couple rarely go out as often as they used to, but they have since discovered that they much prefer staying at home and spending time with them.
Four times the attention and everything else
Having four children means buying four of everything. Rather than simply buying one cute outfit that they find at the store, they have to buy three more for the other three children, and this is the same with everything else they buy.
By far, ensuring that all four children receive equal attention and care is the most challenging aspect.
“The biggest challenge since day one has been dividing your attention among all four,” Belle said. “It is really hard to give each one the individualized attention that they need when there is three more pulling on you at the other side.”
Thankfully for them, they have a wide range of support from family and friends. Much of their support has come from their home church, Community of Faith United Methodist Church, which has supported them both spiritually and financially.
When the quadruplets were born, their biggest expense was diapers; but because of the generous donations from their church, they never had to buy any their first year.
Often when Belle is alone, one of her friends from school will come a few days during the week to help care for the babies until Klawitter returns home later in the evening.
“Even complete strangers have come up to us and said that they are praying for our babies,” Belle said.
Despite living in a red state, this lesbian couple and their quadruplets have experienced mostly tolerance and acceptance within their community. Their biggest setback is with the looks they get in public. Having quadruplets, they have come to expect such looks, and even tolerate questions about who is the mother; but what gets tiring for them are complete strangers who request photographs.
Having more than one baby in their life has shifted their perspective in life. What was once all about them and each other has changed to their four children. Things they used to do before having children they no longer do, but they have since realized that those things no longer matter.
“Our life revolves around them, but I would never have it any other way, because things you used to think are most important are not anymore,” Belle said.
Whereas Belle once fretted about keeping everything neat and organized, having four children that can easily tear up the house in less time than it takes her to clean it up has allowed her to become more lax about tidiness.
“Every parent knows the chaos that I face, but it’s really just a quarter of it,” Belle said.
For her, four children may mean four times the effort, but it also means four times the love, and she would not have it any other way.