Quadruplets head to Elizabeth Forward's prom
Prom day can be taxing — both emotionally and financially — for students and parents. But Saturday at one Elizabeth Township home, multiply all of that by four.
Each of the 17 year-old Bakewell quadruplets — Gabey, Justin, Rachel and Derek (born about 30 seconds apart in that order) — will be attending the Elizabeth Forward High School Junior Prom at Sheraton Station Square.
While it's undoubtedly a huge day for the kids, it's potentially even more meaningful to parents Tom and Laura Bakewell, who view the event as a momentous, albeit bittersweet, milestone.
“For young kids — girls especially — this is probably the second or third most important day of their lives,” said Laura Bakewell, 46. “But it's also a sign that things will be changing next year, and I don't know if they've fully grasped what that means.”
Tom Bakewell, 49, a teacher at Mount Vernon Elementary, remembers as if it were yesterday when he and his wife first learned they were having multiple children. Originally, doctors in Indiana (where the couple lived at the time) told them they would be having triplets, not quadruplets.
“When we found out the genders, I remember telling my dad there's two girls,” Tom said with a laugh. “He said, ‘Awesome, there's two girls and a boy!' and I said, ‘No, there's two boys, too.' Then he said, ‘Don't go back. Who knows how many more they're going to find in there?'”
But Laura was a little more laid back.
“I always said, ‘Well, we're already going to have a bunch of kids,” she said. “What's one more?”
They quickly learned. Laura was bedridden for months after giving birth and her mother moved in with them to help for the first year.
“The hardest part was when they were all feeding,” Tom said. “It was just nonstop.”
Laura said, as they grew, things didn't become all that much easier.
“Anybody who has one baby knows when you go out, you're packing a diaper bag, extra diapers, diaper cream, extra formula and a change of clothes,” Laura said. “But we were doing all of that times four, so we really didn't go out all that often.”
All the kids knew was they always had at least three friends everywhere they went — and that isn't counting all of the curious onlookers and local media interested in their story.
“The newspaper followed them on their first day of kindergarten,” Tom said. “Every time they progressed to a new school building, it was kind of a big deal.”
In 2006, the family of six moved to Elizabeth Township near where Tom grew up in Forward Township, mostly for much-needed backup.
“We're extremely fortunate that we're able to provide for our kids,” Laura said. “But we also have a huge support system of grandparents, aunts, uncles and very dear friends who always want to help.”
Nowadays, it's mostly difficult getting everyone in the same place at once. While all four of the kids play soccer for EF, each participates in a second sport, too. Both boys play on the varsity baseball team, Gabey is on the swim team and Rachel runs track. Derek, a self-described geek, is very involved with the school's political science club, and Gabey, who her dad said has always been slightly more mature than the other three, is active backstage with the theatre arts program.
Although they each have their own circle of friends, the Bakewell kids — who don't always get immediately recognized as quadruplets anymore — remain exceptionally close.
“When we all go out somewhere, people think we're two couples on a double date,” Justin said.
Rachel adds that she hates when people refer to her and Gabey as twins.
“We're not twins,” she said emphatically. “We're quadruplets!”
That fact should be exceedingly obvious Saturday as all four frantically prepare for prom. Although there's fierce debate over who will likely take the longest to get ready (Mom said it will probably be Gabey), there's no denying the cost of sending four children to prom.
Here's the breakdown: $1,000 for two dresses, $500 for a limo, $450 for the tickets, $300 for two tuxedo rentals, $120 for flowers, $60 for the girls' shoes and $60 for hairstyling. That adds up to about $2,500 altogether — an amount everyone's been trying to keep from Tom.
But Dad said it's all worth it for what will surely be a priceless moment.
“After graduation next year, they're more than likely going to go their separate ways,” he said. “I don't know if they've really faced that yet. So this will be a day all of us will remember.”
Tim Karan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1970, or firstname.lastname@example.org.