EGG HARBOR CITY, N.J. — Last summer, Marian Stefanski got a taste of what life will be like once her quadruplet daughters go off to college — and she didn’t like it.
The 17-year-old quads — Monique, Mercina, Mikila and Morgan — spent two weeks at basketball camp. As the high school juniors drove away, their mother wept.
“I was the one that cried,” said Marian, a resident of Mullica Township in Atlantic County.
“They were driving away in their car going, ‘Bye, Ma,’ and I’m going, ‘Oh my God, there they go.’ I tell my husband (Michael) all the time, it’s a good thing I like you, because I’m going to be with just him.
“It’s crazy, cool. They’re wonderful kids and they attract wonderful kids.”
Since the quadruplets were born on April 1, 1995, the Stefanski household has been in constant motion — all day, every day — except when the girls are asleep, at school or playing basketball.
Everything is an adventure, from grocery shopping to Sunday breakfasts — where it’s easy to go through a carton and a half of eggs — to summer barbecues and swim parties with the girls’ multitude of friends.
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“I look at other people and they have a 12-year-old, a 15-year-old, 16, so it’s a gradual step,” Michael Stefanski mused. “We always have at least seven or eight kids at my house, four of which are mine, and my house is very active.
“Then it’s going to go to nothing at once.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Vital Statistics Reports, 313 sets of quadruplets were born in the U.S. in 2010. That number has steadily decreased from the 510 sets born in 1997, the same year as the Stefanski quads.
According to multiples.about.com, the state with the highest population of quadruplets is New York, followed by New Jersey and Pennsylvania. There are about 3,500 sets of quadruplets worldwide; only 60 or so are identical.
Multiple Births Canada (MBC) estimates 90 percent of quadruplet pregnancies are the result of fertility assistance.
Quadruplets can be fraternal, as the Stefanskis are, identical (monozygotic) or a combination of both.
Quadruplets can be all male, all female, or a combination of both.
The Stefanski girls, all members of the Cedar Creek High School varsity basketball team, love playing together.
“It’s been interesting,” said Cedar Creek coach Francine Raph, who guided her team to the Group 1 state title last season.
“It’s great because they all pretty much play different positions. They know how each other plays because they’ve been playing together for so long, so it makes my life a little easier that way.”
“I think being a quad builds our chemistry, especially on the court,” said Mikila, a 5-foot-5 shooting guard. “We all know what each other is going to do.
“It helps us as a team and makes our whole team a family.”
“I like it,” said Monique, a 4-9 guard with an effervescent personality who is the lone blonde in the group. “It’s like having three best friends with you all the time. It’s like a party every day. A sleepover every night. Someone’s always there to talk to you about something.
“They can hold your secrets and you can always trust three people.”
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Marian and Michael, both natives of Monmouth County, had tried for years to have children. They finally attempted in vitro, which produced their girls.
“In vitro was at its peak,” Michael said. “The last doctor we spoke to said, ‘I think you’re prime candidates for in-vitro fertilization.’ So we contacted a doctor in New York and the second time it worked.”
Marian, who is a secretary at Cedar Creek, just wanted four healthy babies. She got them.
“They were three months premature and were supposed to stay in the hospital until they matured,” she recalled. “They were out in a month.”
Same but different
Though born on the same day to the same parents, the quadruplets have their differences in appearance, height, mannerisms, interests and personalities.
“Morgan is the crazy one, but she’s focused,” Michael said. “Monique, she’s the girly-girly, but she’s the one if you mess with her sisters on the court, she comes after you to get revenge.
“Mikila, she’s very serious and determined. Mercina, she’s got one of the biggest hearts. She’s like someone left over from the ’60s.
“They are all good girls. They care about people.”
Mercina, the team’s 5-foot-2 starting point guard, said that off court, she steps back and watches her sisters because “they’re crazy.”
“I’m definitely a different person on the court,” said Mercina. “I’m the boss on the court.”
Mikila, a 5-5 shooting guard, also is a standout tennis player, and while she enjoys being a quadruplet, she wants to do something on her own.
“It’s like one of those things you can’t explain,” she said. “You just grow up with three people and I just feel like there’s a bond that can never be broken.
“It’s just something so special that not everyone can share.”
At 5-8, Morgan Stefanski is the tall one. She starts at forward for Cedar Creek.
“I guess it’s from my dad, because he’s like 6-2,” Morgan said. “My mom, she’s maybe 5-3. If my mom wasn’t so short, I would’ve probably been taller.
“Me and Mikila both like Monmouth University, but she’ll say, ‘I don’t want to go to college with her. I want to be by myself.’
“I don’t know where we’ll end up, but I’m sure when we come home for holidays and stuff, it’ll still be the same and we’ll all be close.”
Monique, who was born first, doesn’t start games but does play and calls herself “the risk taker.”
“Everyone assumes we’re all the same,” Monique said. “But once you meet us, it’s like four different personalities. I’m definitely the most outgoing. Morgan’s like the freak; Mercina is quiet, but once you get to know her, she will talk to you and Mikila, she’s calm and to herself.
“I want to be like Oprah, but my show’s going to be called ‘Mo-prah,’ ’’ Monique added. “Mercina wants to be a writer. Morgan wants to be some kind of doctor.
“Mikila, we all say she should be a lawyer because she’s always got an argument for something.”
The sisters share a black PT Cruiser; its license tag says, of course, QUADZ.
Mercina calls the car their “trademark” and said everyone around town knows where they are.
“We can’t drive to school, but we all drive one car,” said Mikila, the last-born of the quads.
Shop 'til you drop
When you have four children, let alone quadruplets, bills can add up quickly. And trips to the grocery store are an adventure.
“We all go grocery shopping with my mom and it’s crazy,” Morgan said with a laugh. “Literally, like two carts full of stuff, but it’s all stuff we need.
“We’re a big family and we always eat together every night, so that’s good.”
By then, Michael is home from his business, Quad Kitchen Design, LLC, named, of course, for his children.
“Everything in our family is ‘Quad this, quad that,’ ” he said.
“It’s an adventure,” said Marian, who said the family spends about $1,200 per month on groceries. “The weddings they talk about. I’m like, ‘Hold on, I’ve still got college.’ Even when we need sneakers, it’s a big job. Grocery shopping, for just milk and eggs, it’s $150. I’m constantly buying and buying. They can eat like you don’t know.
“I was so blessed. Once and done now. I don’t have any boys, but I have a lot of boys at my house, whether it’s boyfriends or just friends. They get along with everybody and it attracts a big crowd.”
Last season, the quadruplets experienced the ultimate thrill — together — when Cedar Creek won the Group 1 state title in girls’ basketball.
Their father got them involved in basketball when they were very young.
“I wanted them to do a sport,” Michael said. “There was only one sport I could come up with where I didn’t need a field or specialized equipment. I just needed a hoop and a basketball.
“They got a state title. My next goal is to get them into college playing ball.”
Cedar Creek was only in its second year of existence and the quads helped the squad make history.
“Winning a state title, especially with my sisters, is great because it’s something that we all dreamed of when we were in eighth grade,” Monique said.
Cedar Creek star forward Kristine Miller calls the quads a big asset to the team.
“It’s cool to see how close and how similar they are, but how different they are.”
Morgan said winning a state title with her sisters is something she won’t forget.
“After the game, we all hugged and cried and said that we finally did it.”
Said Mikila: “I think (playing together) brings us closer together.”
“There are other quadruplets out there, but not all of them win a state championship together,” Mercina added. “Every day at practice, I look up at the championship banner with all of our names on it.
“It just motivates me.”