Counting their blessings Community: How does one set of parents care for five babies? Ruth and David Good had a lot of help from their friends.

Catching Up With... the Good quintuplets

December 07, 1997|By Stephanie Shapiro | Stephanie Shapiro,SUN STAFF

At first, as they stir one by one from their afternoon nap and nestle in their mother's lap or cling shyly to their father's leg, the Good children don't overwhelm a visitor with the daunting notion of raising quintuplets.

But gradually, as Katelyn, Patty Lynn, Amanda, Nathan and Phillip stray from their parents to find a fire truck, a toy tractor or a soccer ball, the Good household becomes a cartoon-like blur of activity and noise.

Ruth and David Good, calm, low-key, keep watch, administering hugs and gentle admonitions as needed.

When their children turn 3 Jan. 25, the Goods, both 31, will celebrate along with the North Harford Baptist Church community in Jarrettsville, which has pitched in to feed, change, clothe and tend the Good children, who live in rural Gatchelville, just across the southern Pennsylvania border.

In her faith in God, and in the warmth of the congregation in which she grew up, Ruth Good believes her family has much in common with America's latest celebrity parents, the McCaugheys, the Iowa couple who gave birth to septuplets in November.

Support staff

Long after the Good babies left Greater Baltimore Medical Center in 1995, after the media had retreated and the public began looking elsewhere for its good-news hit, a support crew of 40 church members, children to seniors, continued to assist the Goods. The slightly sensational aspects of rearing quints -- those "They sure are cute, but I'm glad they're not mine" murmurs that attend an event like this -- were insignificant to the Goods. And though they solicited contributions from formula and baby food companies, it wasn't their nature to aggressively seek advertising opportunities or talk-show appearances to support the family. As they saw it, their work was cut out for them, whether it was newsworthy or not.

And as she opened her house to an endless rotation of assistants, Ruth Good, a private person more accustomed to giving than receiving, says she found herself fully comprehending the mystical concept of "the body of Christ." For it took everyone, and everyone's strengths, to sustain the children and spell their parents.

At North Harford Baptist, it is unspoken; support is there for you when you ask for it. The body of Christ is not just a phrase uttered in a sacrament, it is a living, breathing organism that embodies Christ's teachings. As the congregation came together at the Goods' Victorian farmhouse, members proved and perpetuated the Bible's primary significance in their lives.

Before the babies slept through the night, church members were there around the clock, and until September, they arrived daily. Only then did Ruth Good decide to wean herself from daily help.

"I was a little nervous, hesitant to say goodbye," she says. But, "It was time to let go." So far, it's gone well, Good says.

"I couldn't have done it earlier, and for the kids' benefit it wouldn't be good. They needed the nurturing and attention I couldn't give alone."

Now, someone comes once a week to allow her to catch up on chores. And David Good's parents give them a weekly night off.

Even with help, Ruth and David Good still had to establish a firm daily regimen for the quints. Ruth reads everything she can get her hands on and communicates with other parents of "multiples."

From the beginning, she has run the children's schedule with military efficiency. After they were born, for example, the children were fed promptly every four hours, with no feeding on demand. By the time they were 5 months old, they slept through the night. And now that their body rhythms are in sync, they nap faithfully at the same time every day, a feat that might confound a less disciplined parent of an only child.

During the day, Good, who plans to school the quints at home through 12th grade, runs the household like a preschool. When they awake at 6: 30 a.m., she combs her daughters' long blond hair and pulls some back into little topknots. Her own hair is short and permed. Then Good helps the children get dressed, often in clothing passed along by a family of quints in Frederick County, who also have three girls and two boys, just a year older.

Breakfast is at 7, followed by playtime until 9: 30 a.m. on the carpeted floor of what was once the dining room. Then, Ruth reads a Bible story, and the children can look at books or listen to music.

She has created geometric shapes on the carpet with masking tape, and each child has an assigned shape. There are two extra shapes for when the Goods' two young cousins come for play group twice a week.

Toy rotation

The Goods go regularly to the public library, where Ruth Good checks out 40 books each time. She also leads the children in movement exercises, giving them a chance to hone their large motor skills with galloping and jumping, and learning to keep the beat to music.

Every three weeks or so, Good rotates the children's toys, so they don't pile up into a huge mountain. What's not in use is stored away elsewhere in the house.

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