Around 8 p.m., Erich and Sally Richardson often have one baby out of four who is fighting to go to sleep. On average, the Richardsons’ nightly routine putting four infants and one toddler to bed takes 1 ½ to 2 hours.
After delivering quadruplets in March, the two parents are outnumbered by their offspring. The Richardsons went from a family of three to a family of seven in a matter of months and are still learning how to balance life with five kids under the age of 3.
“One (child) is really, really easy,” Erich said.
“I could take care of twins no problem,” Sally said. “Maybe even triplets — I can handle that, no problem. It’s that fourth child that’s really just the wringer."
Erich, the head coach of Sheyenne girls swimming and diving team, and Sally, a science teacher at Liberty Middle School, had been up since 6 a.m. on a Sunday working their other full-time jobs, as caretakers of Virgil, Jax, Kit, Ruby and Elsie.
Erich and Sally knew there was a chance for quadruplets as a result of infertility treatments. But they never expected they would be buying four cribs instead of one, or maybe even two.
In the Richardsons' case, five eggs went through, and four took.
“When we found out there was four we were a little blown away,” Erich said.
Juggling teaching, coaching and parenting four babies and a toddler isn’t easy. But the Richardsons are getting their routine down pat.
Erich stays home with their five kids during the day when Sally is at school, and when she gets home, he heads straight to the pool while she takes over.
In the morning, Sally wakes up between 5 and 6:30 a.m. to help take care of the kids until she has to get ready to go to work. Erich is a full-time dad until about 3:55 p.m. when he goes to practice.
“It's kind of a constant rotation during the day,” Erich said. “Because each kid is a little bit different.”
All five Richardson kids — Virgil, Jax, Kit, Ruby (the quadruplets, who are all fraternal) and 2-year-old Elsie — have different schedules when it comes to naps. The family of seven’s nighttime routine has gotten better within the past month, but there’s almost always one straggler in the schedule.
“Like right now, we have three downstairs asleep in their crib,” Erich said during an interview with the Pioneer. “And we have one that we couldn’t let cry it out because she'll wake the other babies. So she's up here.”
It takes a village to raise five kids, four of whom are infants, and Erich and Sally take whatever help they can get.
Sally’s parents, who are retired, live less than two blocks down the street. And Erich’s parents live around four blocks away. They set up a couple days a week for one set of grandparents to take the kids.
“Even on the days that they’re not planned, they’ll say, ‘Hey, we’ll take one kid,’ or, ‘We’ll take the toddler and go run errands for a couple hours.’ Even those little things help,” Erich said.
Sally's fellow teachers set up a meal train for the Richardsons, and swim parents whose kids graduated in recent years volunteer to babysit.
"We really appreciate the community support, it's been overwhelming and is ongoing and consistent," Sally said.
Though, the hardest part of raising quadruplets and a toddler is the constant guilt, Sally said, of trying to divide her time and attention equally between her kids.
“Spending so much time with one kid that's needing more attention versus the one that's being easy who barely gets picked up that day," she said. "Whereas the toddler is developing by the minute. So making sure she's getting all of her needs met, especially with her intellect and vocabulary, making sure she doesn't learn swear words as often," Sally joked.
Both Erich and Sally have an aquatic background, so it’s only a matter of time before the quads and their older sister learn the breaststroke.
The two were rival coaches a few years ago, with Erich at Sheyenne and Sally the head coach of the Packers across town.
“They’ll get a little homeslice of swim lessons whether they like it or not,” Sally said.
But, the official timeline of when swim lessons will start is once the kids can actually get themselves into a swimsuit, she said.
The Richardsons have documented their journey with Virgil, Jax, Kit, Ruby and Elsie, from pregnancy to postpartum on their blog, https://www.fargoquads.com/.