The emotions that accompany motherhood can be overwhelming for any pregnant woman. But for first-time mom Bethani Webb, all of the joy, fear, excitement and trepidation was multiplied four-fold when she learned she was expecting quadruplets. What’s more, there would be a further surprise in store when the mom-to-be finally reached the delivery room and, one by one, she looked into the faces of her newborn babies.
The Webbs are a typical couple from Northern Alberta, Canada, and their love story begins like many others. Tim and Bethani got hitched in their early twenties, and like many a normal couple who are very much in love started thinking about having children.
As it turns out, however, things started happening faster than they’d anticipated: shortly after their wedding in June 2015, in fact, Bethani fell pregnant. The couple had been planning to wait at least 12 months before having their first child, but life, as they say, happens while you’re making plans. Still, it was great – if unexpected – news for the young couple, who looked forward to starting their own little family.
So, on the day before Christmas Eve 2015, the first-time parents attended a routine scan. And it was then that the nurse delivered some unexpected and pretty awesome news. It wasn’t quite the early Christmas present the couple had been preparing for, and the twosome were completely floored as a result.
The first clue that something was up came when the nurse asked if the couple knew of any multiple births in either of their families. The expectant pair said no, unsure of what was coming next. The nurse then drew their attention to the monitor.
As Bethani recounted to Canada’s Global News, “She turns around to the screen and she says, ‘There’s one baby, there’s two, there’s three and there’s four…’” “That’s when I just about fell over!” Tim added.
And when the excited couple announced the news to their families, they were just as stunned. No wonder: according to Dr. James Bofill of the University of Mississippi, the chance of anyone conceiving quadruplets without the aid of fertility treatment is roughly one in 729,000!
Aside from having to quadruple their preparations for the new arrivals, however, the pregnancy went well. During that time, moreover, the Webbs got some more news: Tim was going to be seriously outnumbered, because all four of their babies were female! Then, just a month after that bombshell, Bethani arrived at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Edmonton, Alberta, in preparation for the births.
Because she was having quadruplets, doctors had advised a cesarean section at 33 weeks, and Bethani would gave birth via cesarean to four cute and healthy little babies. But as each of the girls arrived, and the newborns were lined up next to each other, everyone was stunned.
If the odds of naturally conceiving quadruplets are small, then the likelihood of the Webbs’ new discovery was nigh-on miraculous. Because incredibly – and by a chance of one in over 15 million – the four newborn girls were all identical.
Tim told Global News, “It was kind of like a magic show, because they’re pulling out one, two, three, four… It was kind of surreal.” Once the magic show ended, of course, the couple had to name their new arrivals – and they chose the names Emily, Grace, McKayla and Abigail for their little girls.
The ecstatic dad later said, according to the Edmonton Journal, “I feel overwhelmingly awesome that the babies are here. I feel blessed. Relieved, too, because you worry with multiple births. There’s risks… but all of it was perfect.”
And while multiple births might mean less sleep and more diapers, there is, at least, one big advantage when it comes to choosing names. “It was nice that we didn’t have to pick our favorites,” Bethani told Global News. “We could pick four we liked, we didn’t have to choose just one.”
And the naming, it seems, proved a lot easier than actually telling the girls apart. That said, immediately after the birth each girl was placed in her own tiny incubator, making it a little easier to differentiate one quadruplet from the others.
Distinguishing the girls from one another outside the incubators, however, proved slightly more problematic. Speaking to CTV News, Bethani revealed, “Right now I’m glad they’re separated so we can tell them apart. But even just holding two side-by-side, I can’t tell them apart at all.”
New mom Bethani, however, also divulged to CTV News that their individual personalities couldn’t be more different, and in time that will most certainly help to tell them apart. She described Emily and McKayla as chilled out, and Abigail – the smallest of the four despite being the eldest – as feisty. Grace, meanwhile, is “kind of a character.”
The couple does have a plan in place to help them differentiate between each girl now that they’re home, however. Bethani and Tim will color-code each one with hair accessories and bracelets! And they’ve even considered painting their toenails to tell each one apart.
Undeniably, there’s a lot for the new parents to adjust to, and so the pair have moved in with Tim’s mom for a helping hand. They even have the 820-strong population of Hythe, Alberta – their hometown – behind them, too.
As Tim told the National Post, “The community held a fundraiser which brought in approximately $50,000, and there’s a GoFundMe [site] set up by friends.” The couple have been so overwhelmed with the generosity of the community, in fact, that they’ve even had to turn to a local church in order to house all the gifts.
Raising quadruplets is a daunting challenge, but the Webbs are still more than willing to take it on. Proud dad Tim told Global News, “I’m looking forward to the memories and how close they’ll all be.” Bethani, meanwhile, concluded, “It’s going to be crazy the first few years… [But] it’ll be very exciting.”
In 2017 a family’s heritage no longer has to be a mystery. Yes, thanks to advances in the fields of genetics and technology, scientists can test your DNA for a small fee and tell you where you came from. All you have to do, in fact, is send in a sample of your saliva.
Which brings us to this intriguing story. After she’d received some surprising information about her roots, one San Francisco mom’s DNA test led her to conduct an experiment of her own. You see, she wanted to see if these DNA testing kits really worked as promised. And she’d use her own quadruplets to put the accuracy of the results to the test.
It all started when Amy Jones thought it “might be kind of fun” to know where her family came from, she told San Francisco’s KPIX 5. She relied on Ancestry DNA, a website where users create an online account, mail in a test tube full of saliva to be analyzed and then receive their genetic information electronically.
And the results that she received surprised her. “I called my mother, I called my father, and I said, ‘Listen, we’re Irish!” she recalled. “And they said, ‘Are we really?’ And I said, ‘That’s what it says. So, I’m assuming that’s right.’”
But even with the results in front of her, Jones still wasn’t certain that the genetic testing was as accurate as promised. That’s why she devised a scheme to corroborate her DNA results with the help of her four children, who just so happened to be multiples.
Yes, Jones’ four children are quadruplets. In fact, they’re two sets of twins born at the same time: Gabe and Seth are identical twins, while Hugh and Katie are fraternal. Together, they make up the Jones Quad Squad. And it was they who provided four sets of shared DNA that could help determine the accuracy of two sites: Ancestry DNA and 23andMe.
Paying close attention to the finer details, Jones worked with San Francisco news outlet KPIX 5 to make sure that the experiment was as blind as possible. Indeed, together they sent in the children’s DNA samples with different names and ethnicities marked. And they even went so far as to mail them from different cities in order to hide the fact that the samples were from relatives.
But when the Jones family received their results, they were once again surprised by the varying information that they received. That wasn’t due to the identical twins’ tests, however, which returned almost exactly the same results at approximately 71 percent northwestern European and almost 7 percent British and Irish.
Jones was, however, shocked to see that her children were deemed to be even more Irish than she was. Remember, that was the result that led Jones to question her own test in the first place. “They were even higher than I was, that really surprised me,” she said.
And then there were Katie’s results. Katie, fraternal twin to Hugh, had a much higher British and Irish ancestry line than any of her brothers. But while this may give the impression that the tests were inaccurate, DNA expert Dr. Ruth Ballard told KPIX 5 that this was totally normal, especially for fraternal twins.
Dr. Ballard said, “You would expect there to be differences, and I would have been very surprised if this had come back without any.” She explained that, while identical twins are born with very similar DNA, fraternal twins have greater genetic differences, because one might take more of their DNA from a particular parent.
Moreover, with her quadruplets’ results in hand, Jones could breathe a sigh of relief about her own DNA breakdown, which she had once questioned. “It makes me feel a little bit more certain about the test results,” she said.
And Dr. Ballard agreed with Jones, having told KPIX 5 that DNA testing sites such as Ancestry DNA and 23andMe tend to provide accurate breakdowns of a person’s ethnic background. Furthermore, the DNA expert said that these results will improve further as a greater number of samples are accumulated and the data available to the geneticists increases.
And while Jones did learn that she could trust the results she received – her heritage was likely Irish, after all – there were some interesting findings about genetics testing in general. For one thing, Ancestry DNA linked users with other potential family members who had also been tested by the site’s scientists.
In fact, even with fake names, Jones’ children were linked to her profile as potential family members. And as for the children’s profiles? Well, Ancestry DNA also informed them that Jones was their mother, as she had previously submitted her own genetic information to the company. This is known as the DNA Match feature, although the site did not ask for permission to link the Joneses with other potential relatives.
“That concerns me,” Jones told KPIX 5, after seeing that information on her profile. The mom of four then explained that she had only wanted to find out her genetic breakdown. In fact, Jones never considered the possibility that her DNA would be used to link her to other Ancestry DNA customers.
Ultimately, though, that wasn’t such a big deal for Jones. After all, the linked DNA came from her own children, whom she knew shared some of her genetic code. But Dr. Ballard warned that other users should in effect prepare themselves for anything once they use such a service.
For instance, Dr. Ballard pointed out that the matching feature could re-connect sperm and egg donors with their biological children, whether they wanted to find them or not. Other users, meanwhile, may find out that they were adopted if their DNA does not match their parents’ in any way. “It can show non-paternity and other issues in your family,” she explained.
After KPIX 5 inquired about this feature, Ancestry DNA announced that it would make the DNA Match feature an optional part of the genetic testing process. But even with that safety net now in place, Dr. Ballard implored any users of the website to understand what they were agreeing to when they send in that test tube.
“I do caution people to look at those privacy settings and decide how much information they want to give,” Ballard warned. With thoughtful consideration, though, a family heritage test could be interesting for those unsure of where their roots lie. And it seems that Jones felt the same way, saying, “I thought that might be kind of fun to know where I come from.”