With four excited little girls under two, Sean and Lisa Kelly are expecting Christmas Day to be rather hectic.
Their quads – the first ever born in Britain who are two sets of identical twins – are the children they thought they’d never have.
The two pairs, Hannah and Jessica, and Annabelle and Heidi, were conceived during a third attempt at IVF and, growing from two implanted embryos, were born at odds of ten million to one on December 27, 2009.
I feel lucky every time I look at them,’ said Mrs Kelly, 36.
Mrs Kelly, of Billingham, Cleveland, who also has a ten-year-old son Cameron, admits she struggles to tell the girls apart, relying on their temperaments and, in one case, a freckle to identify them.
Here, using all her tricks, she got them in order for a Christmas photo, from left: Annabelle, Hannah, Jessica and Heidi.
Mrs Kelly and her husband, 37, an electrical designer, from Billingham, Cleveland, had simply wanted a sibling for their son Cameron, now 10.
After failing to conceive naturally a second time, they spent £9,000 savings on fertility treatment and were shocked when doctors broke the news they were expecting quads.
Says Mrs Kelly: “Two embryos had been placed back into my uterus but everyone was stunned when both of them grew into two sets of identical twins. Even doctors couldn’t believe it.’
Despite all the odds, however, after a problem-free pregnancy the girls, born at 31.5 weeks were healthy. Identical twins Heidi and Annabelle each weighed 3Ib 3oz while twins Hannah and Jessica, who are also identical, weighed 2Ib 11oz and 2Ib 10oz respectively.
And now all of the girls are walking, talking and climbing – and they’re developing their own individual little personalities.
Explains their mum: ‘Heidi is the most dominant and probably the naughtiest as she is always up to something and her twin, Annabelle is very placid.
‘Sean and I can’t tell Jessica and Hannah apart just by looking at them – so Hannah, whose only difference is a freckle behind her left knee – wears a bracelet. But Jessica is super lively and always on the go while Hannah is more timid and loves sitting on my knee.’
On a normal day their mother, who fits part time work around her husband, goes through 20 nappies, two packs of wet wipes, eight pints of milk, 2Ib of potatoes, puts on four loads of washing and does several hours of tumble drying.
She says: “We’re on our second washing machine and tumble drier in less than two years. And I shop every other day for food – my bill comes to around £200 a week.’
The couple cook all the family meals from scratch.
And she manages their wardrobe by buying identical outfits – although buying the same for four children means a dress, cardigan, tights and shoes for all of them often tops £150 a shop.
She explains: ‘I do feel very proud seeing them all dressed in the same little outfits. ”
Meanwhile, the family also possesses a quad buggy with two seats in two rows from America, which just about fits into their Espace car.
In the evening, baths are taken in twos with the girls going to bed around 6.45. ‘Sean and I often don’t eat until 9.30pm ,’ she sighs, ‘it is tiring because obviously we are also busy with Cameron taking him to friends and after-school events.
‘But despite that, we adore having a big family. And I only have to see the girls in their cots asleep looking like little angels to forget even the busiest and most fraught days.’