Life as Quadruplets

The Mathias monozygotic miracle

By Harriet McElveen Rice

Photography by Jeff Amberg

On Feb. 16, 2000, Dr. Charles Shipley delivered to Allison and Steve Mathias not one but four healthy baby girls. Four little girls who were conceived without fertility drugs via one egg that split four ways creating four identical miracles – Emily, Anna, Mary Claire and Grace. According to national statistics, the chance of “monozygotic quadruplets is one in 15 million. As of 2007, there were about 3,500 sets of quadruplets that had been identified worldwide and only around 67 sets were monozygotic.” Needless to say, Steve and Allison’s lives were never going to be the same.


Allison Mathias (right) watches her daughters as they play a musical video game.

Today, the quads have become celebrities. They were part of a holiday commercial for Target in 2005, were on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” in 2007, appeared on “Oprah” in 2008, and more recently were part of a televised documentary on the Discovery Health Channel called “Super Quads.” However, winning $250,000 on America’s Funniest Videos for their video, “Laughing Quads,” was probably their most exciting moment in the spotlight. The family’s story and some of their favorite YouTube moments can be found on their website,

Now that the quads are 12 and growing more independent, it would seem that Allison and Steve would find life less stressful. Allison good-naturedly scoffs at this notion, quickly pointing out, “Life isn’t easier; it’s just different. We now have four pre-teen girls, which means four times the drama. There is always a battle going on over clothes and personal space.”

To help alleviate some problems (like not putting away clean clothes or, worse, putting clean, folded clothes back in the dirty laundry basket) each girl has a designated day to do her own laundry, and Friday is chore day. This helps Allison tremendously, but unfortunately it does not prevent the girls from wearing each others’ clothes without permission. They are still working on that one. And with all five girls, including Allison, sharing one bathroom, there is a constant struggle over space and time.

“We just leave one problem behind and pick up another,” Allison says.

Allison and Steve started the girls in pre-school at their church, Lexington Baptist, as soon as they were old enough to attend. Now they attend Lexington Middle School.

“School is a big thing,” Allison says. “It has allowed me to work part-time from home and have some alone time.”

“Other than school, 95 percent of the girls’ time is spent with Steve and me,” says Allison. Steve, an IT analyst, and Allison have to work to find ways to spend time together as a couple. One way they do that is through running. Steve is a runner, and he has recently become Allison’s running coach, plus they are part of a running club at church.

There is no doubting where Allison and Steve find their strength. “Our faith,” Allison boldly says. ”God wouldn’t have given us this if He didn’t think we could do it. This has been a way for Him to show His strength and ability to grow me. It’s also His way to hold us up and show that He can control anything. And I know we have a hard time trusting Him, but He always provides … like when we won the money on AFV.”

The quads are typical pre-teens. They are all still sweet, Allison says, “But where they did not question us when they were younger, they are now questioning us about everything.” The girls’ moods also affect the entire household. “It helps when they are in good moods, but if one is in a bad mood, it disrupts our entire lives … and they absolutely feed off of each other.”

The girls giggle when they describe some of the reactions they get from strangers. Anna says, “I get a kick out of people trying to guess what kind of multiples we are.”

Emily laughs and says, “One day in the mall, two girls asked if we were like quadtriplets.” Mary Claire says, “Someone actually screamed and then began laughing hysterically … it was kinda creepy.” Grace says, “But most of the time people say, ‘Oh my gosh!’ And then start staring.”

Although they are well adjusted to their notoriety, the girls feel that middle school has brought them a little more normalcy, since they are spread out among classes and each has her own set of close friends, even though they all have friends that overlap. The quads are smart, polite, comfortable with themselves, and they are wonderful conversationalists. Allison is adamant in saying, “There is nothing I would change about this adventure!”

How alike and different are the quads? Allison describes each girl’s personality as follows: “Grace is a social butterfly, Emily is confident and sweet, Anna is funny and talkative, and Mary Claire is our firecracker.” Emily, Anna and Mary Claire all say their favorite music group is The Beatles, while Grace prefers Adele. They all say their favorite book is the Warrior Cats series. Emily, Anna and Grace claim that their favorite school subject is science; Mary Claire prefers orchestra. Their answers to the following questions reveal a little about each one’s personality.

What is your favorite hobby or activity?
Mary Claire: “Drawing and writing.”
Grace: “Tumbling or cheerleading.”
Emily: “Playing my cello.”

Anna: “Horseback riding.”

What do you enjoy doing most with your sisters?

Mary Claire: “Tutoring them on their drawing skills.”

Grace: “Going back in the woods and playing, and also playing at the barn.”
Emily: “Jumping on my trampoline.”

Anna: “Just hanging out with my sisters.”

What is your favorite food?

Mary Claire: “That’s hard. Macaroni and cheese.”
Grace: “Fried chicken or chicken wings.”
Emily: “Cheesecake!!”

Grace: “Subs.”

What makes you the most angry?

Mary Claire: “When my sisters are mocking me and when they annoy me.”

Grace: “When my sisters take my clothes without my permission and wear them.”
Emily: “When someone messes with my cello and either tunes it so badly that I can’t tune it back or causes a string to break.”

Anna: “When my sisters take my stuff.”

Do you have any future goals or dreams yet?

Mary Claire: “Yes. I want to finish the book I’m writing and be a good artist.”
Grace: “Not yet!”

Emily: “No.”

Anna: “I want to work harder to get into more horse shows.”

If you were handed $1 million today and told you have one week in which to spend it, what would you do with the money?
Mary Claire: “Buy art supplies and a kitten and give the rest to my parents.”

Grace: “Give it to my parents and let them use it.”

Emily: “Buy a new car – ­­a convertible – buy a new cat and a lifetime supply of cat food and litter. And dog food for the dogs and feed for the horse. Then donate the other half to charity.”

Anna: “Give some to charity and use some for stuff that I need and want.”

«  back to issue