Gail Carpenter defied the odds by having triplets in 1978.
That year, less than one-half percent of all U.S. births resulted in triplets or higher numbers of multiple babies, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.
Gail was pregnant with the triplets at age 25, while the odds of bearing multiple children are considerably higher for mothers over age 45.
She was not on any fertility drugs, a frequent reason for multiple births.
Family history of multiple births?
"None, on either side," Gail said. The only indicator that Gail Carpenter may have been carrying more than one baby was her waistline. Two months into the pregnancy, she couldn't fit into her jeans.
"I was in tears," she said. "I thought I was having an elephant."
Gail and her husband, Bill, embraced the situation. They bought three cribs and three high chairs. For support from other parents of multiples, Gail joined the Tampa Parents of Twins and Supertwins organization.
Gail and Bill, who also have a 23-year-old son named B.C., made sacrifices to give their kids a private education.
"We spent in private school what most people pay for mortgages," Gail said. "I said to them, "I don't have money for your college education."'
The Carpenter kids took Gail's "life is a job" mantra and ran with it, earning full scholarships to Emory University in Atlanta.
"I did not make rules unless they needed rules," she said. "I never told them, "You have to go to bed, you have to do your homework.' Your job is to do your homework. You go to bed when you're tired."
Gail is a proud, bragging mother. And she is not surprised by her daughters' graphic career paths.
"They've always liked blood and guts," Gail said. "As long as they're happy with what they're doing, I'm happy for them. If they want to dig ditches, I'm happy."
- Times researcher Cathy Wos contributed to this report.