Headlines and news stories were not how Steve and Stephanie Powell planned to celebrate the birth of their quintuplets Oct. 28, 2001.
But that’s what happened.
It was impossible to keep the arrival of the first surviving quintuplets in Kentucky a secret. People wanted to know about Jacob, Chloe, Ella, Samuel and Jackson. The Commonwealth celebrated as well as members of Southeast Christian Church, where the Powells are longtime members.
Eighteen years later, the Powell quints are graduating from homeschool. All five already are taking college courses.
Like thousands of other students across the country, the Powells will graduate without the usual fanfare due to COVID-19—no big parties or ceremonies. They might have a gathering of family and friends in June or July.
In the fall, the Powells are headed to Bellarmine University where Ella and Jackson will study nursing and Jacob, Samuel and Chloe will study business.
It’s almost impossible to get this crew to complain.
“We like being quints,” Samuel said. “We were never bored growing up. We always had each other; always something to do.”
Favorite childhood memories include afternoons in the backyard, which they called Woodland Creek, archery on the basement wall, sliding down the stairs in life jackets “just because it seemed cooler that way,” playing dodgeball and rock climbing and competitive soccer when they were older.
There was never a lot of “stuff.” Not much television or electronics, toys or activities besides Bible Bowl and Speech and Debate competitions. Chloe said they are grateful that they learned to speak in front of a group.
Bible Bowl participants for seven years, the Powells memorized more than 6,000 Bible verses.
The Powell kids are one of only 100 sets of quintuplets in the U.S.
There’s no script for raising quintuplets. Steve and Stephanie did it the “old-fashioned” way: kids worked for what they wanted, no one was allowed to whine or complain, they prayed together, attended church together and served at nonprofits around Kentucky.
Jacob said say they watched their parents model authentic faith.
Younger brother Henry was born when the quints were 8. He came into an almost perfect world where five older siblings clamored for time with him.
All five land on the single hardest time in their lives as July 6, 2014, when Jacob was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. He endured chemotherapy, complications and more than 100 transfusions without complaining or asking why.
“That wasn’t the mindset we were raised in,” he said. “I remember thinking I was glad it was me and not Ella. I had to swallow 20 pills a day. She can’t swallow pills.”
He’s now been cancer free for five years.
The quints got jobs at 15 and opened savings accounts. Now the Powell driveway is filled with used cars they bought with their own money. They also bought their own cellphones.
Over the years, people are curious. Just how do you raise five babies at once? It’s hard to imagine dealing with multiple strollers, five high chairs, five bikes and cribs, homeschool and activities.
The thought terrifies most mortals. Truth is, it terrified Steve and Stephanie, too. But it was never the work. The biggest challenge was meeting the needs of each one.
“Each child is unique, so meeting each child’s needs was a challenge that required diligence,” Stephanie said. “They each have different gifts and struggles, so no two conversations were identical.”
Now that the quints are adults, the Powells could breathe a sigh of relief, relax and do some things they’ve always wanted to do. That’s not the plan.
After a family mission trip, Steve and Stephanie applied to adopt a child or sibling group from Haiti.
“Even though we are far from perfect parents, we do think that God has taught us a lot about children and parenting and so why not choose to serve the Lord through adoption,” Stephanie said. “We know parenting is challenging but also so unbelievably rewarding. What a blessing it is to be able to provide a loving, stable home for an orphan.”
Looking back, the quints are most grateful for their parents.
“They raised us to know the Lord and put us in programs that challenged us to understand for ourselves to believe what we believe,” Chloe said.
And Steve? He has just one regret.
“I can’t believe how fast these 18 years have gone by,” he said. “I’d give anything to have a week back to experience it all again.”