In a small house in the University’s Northwood V development, four small girls sat in four small chairs, temporarily distracted by the large purple dinosaur on the television set.
As soon as the first few bars of the Barney theme song played, they started singing along. Chairs were soon pushed out of the way as the 2-year-old quadruplets – Magdalena, Ignacia, Sofia and Javiera Cooper – grabbed each other’s hands and danced in a circle.
Their parents, Andres and Michelle, clapped their hands to the beat and looked on with pride.
Andres Cooper is a second-year economics doctoral student. He is a graduate student instructor for Economics 101.
And he’s the father of quadruplets, actually two sets of twins.
Magdalena, the first born, is the most independent. Her twin Sofia is the smallest and most mischievous. Javiera is the leader who does everything first. Her twin Ignacia is the youngest, a born dancer.
Their father, who must balance life as a student, teacher and father, admits that some weeks, he has to spend a large portion of time away from home, leaving most of the responsibilities for his wife.
“With my wife’s support, this is possible,” he said. “We can survive.”
But the family always comes together on the weekends. They often take trips to local parks and museums and have visited the Toledo Zoo and Cedar Point Amusement Park.
Weekdays begin for the family when the girls wake up at 7:30 a.m. After Luisa – the nanny the Coopers brought with them from their home in Chile – dresses and feeds them, the girls play together. The day continues with multiple feeding and nap sessions until 9:30 p.m., when the girls are placed in their cribs and the house is finally quiet.
While life with four small children is chaotic, the Coopers don’t seem to mind.
“With kids, you have to assume you can’t control everything,” Cooper said. “It’s almost easier with four because you’re more prepared.”
Cooper arrived at the University of Michigan in fall 2004 after applying to several American universities.
Michelle planned to stay behind in Chile. But a week before Andres left, the Coopers learned Michelle was pregnant with fraternal twins.
During a routine check-up a month later, doctors noticed that there were not two but four heartbeats.
Andres Cooper remained at the University for one term before returning to Chile for New Year’s in 2005.
But a few days before Andres was set to return to Ann Arbor, Michelle began feeling ill. During the subsequent hospital trip, the couple learned that the babies were supposed to be born in the next couple days.
“We had several months to figure it all out,” Cooper said. “But it was still a shock. I mean, from zero babies to four.”
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Coopers were the 52nd couple in the world to have quadruplets from two embryos.
On Jan. 6, 2005, the quadruplets were born prematurely. The smallest weighed 1.8 pounds, the largest 2.1.
They were kept under observation in incubators for several months after their birth. Eight surgeries later, they were ready to go home.
Cooper took the next year off from the University to stay at home with his family.
In December 2005, they relocated to Ann Arbor so he could finish his studies.
The Coopers say things are better here. While they speak fondly of Chile and their families, they agree that life in a quiet three-bedroom house on North Campus is better than the noise and pollution of city life back home in Chile’s capital, Santiago.
After he completes his PhD and his contract as a GSI expires, Cooper and his family plan to return to Chile. There, he will work for the government, which is currently helping to fund his education.
Although both parents said they would love to send their children to daycare, they said the average cost is too high at $1,000 per child per month at local centers.
“It feels like we already have our own day care center here,” Andres Cooper said.
– Sara Kase contributed to this report.