Having a large family can be overwhelming for any parent, but what about seven babies born at the same time? That is precisely what happened to the McCaughey family 21 years ago. On November 19, 1997, Bobbi McCaughey made headlines when she delivered the world’s first surviving set of septuplets. The arrival of Alexis, Kenny Jr., Kelsey, Natalie, Brandon, Nathan, and Joel in Des Moines, Iowa, was heralded as a medical miracle.
The McCaughey turn 21 this year and are ready to take on the world. The seven siblings have already accomplished multiple milestones between them, such as going to college, being in the military, and paying their way. Their parents, Bobbi and Kenny McCaughey, are now empty-nesters and have recently sold the seven-bedroom home the septuplets grew up to a Des Moines non-profit that provides support and housing to young mothers of unplanned pregnancies.
The Beginning of It All
In 1996, Bobbi and Kenny McCaughey, a seamstress and car dealer worker from Carlisle, a town just outside of Des Moines, were the proud parents of daughter Mikayla Marie, who was born on January 3 that year. The pair had had difficulties conceiving because Bobbi has pituitary gland problems.
According to the Pituitary Society, women with hypopituitarism have a hard time getting pregnant, and if they do, they need to be monitored closely. Fortunately, Mikayla Marie was born safely, and both she and her mother were thriving. The successful birth of their daughter convinced the couple to try to expand their family and give Mikayla a little brother or sister.
Meet the Parents
Bobbi and Kenny McCaughey were an utterly normal couple from Carlisle, near Des Moines, Iowa. Bobbi was a seamstress and was known for her quiet, shy personality, while Kenny had worked at a car dealership before shifting to a powder-coating factory in Des Moines at the recommendation of a friend in 2000 after the kids were born. Not much is known about their life before the period of the pregnancy and birth of the septuplets, mainly because the two were regular folks.
KENNY, BOBBI & MIKAYLA (Photo by Ambassador/Sygma/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images)
Both of them are Baptists and have always had a close relationship with the church. Little did they know before 1997 that their faith would be put to trial spectacularly, leading to debates and controversies all over the world.
Giving Fertilization Treatments a Chance
Bobbi and Kenny McCaughey decided that hormone treatment be the best way to have their much desired second child. As such, they went on and used the fertility medicine Metrodin, a treatment that can help those with fertility problems become pregnant by stimulating ovulation. Dr. Katherine, a reproductive endocrinologist in Des Moines, supervised Bobbi during the fertility treatment and warned them that a side effect of fertility drugs could be multiple pregnancies.
Bobbi and Kenny McCaugheySource: travelfuntu.com
In approximately 20% of cases, women who conceive following treatment with Metrodin have twins or triplets, or even more in some rarer cases. The McCaugheys were also advised that multiple pregnancies often end in miscarriage or even stillbirth. Not only that, but the risk multiplies with the number of fetuses.
How Do IVF Treatments Work?
Infertility treatments had come a long way since the 1970s when they first became available to the general public. In about 80 percent of the couples who are infertile, the cause is an ovulation problem, a blockage of the fallopian tubes, or a sperm-related reason. In approximately 20 percent of the cases, the cause of infertility is unknown. There are multiple ways to treat infertility, with in vitro fertilization being the most common of them. The first so-called “test-tube baby,” Louise Brown, was born in the UK in 1978.
A selection of IVF hormone bottles and syringes are seen, at the Science Museum on July 23, 2018, in London, England. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)
Unlike in the case of artificial insemination, during which conception usually happens except for the fact that the sperm is placed in the uterus via a medical procedure, IFV requires the egg and sperm to be combined outside the body in a laboratory. Once one or more embryos are formed, they are placed inside the woman’s uterus to develop. Because IVF is an expensive and complicated procedure, only 5 percent of couples that are infertile try it. Since its introduction in the United States in 1981, more than 200,000 babies were born via IVF.
Were the McCaughey Septuplets Born via IVF?
Even though IVF is the most common type of fertility treatment for women who have trouble conceiving on their own, the McCaughey septuplets were not born via IFV. They were the result of Bobbi McCaughey being born with a malfunctioning pituitary gland that produced too little follicle stimulating hormone. After more than a year of trying to conceive her second child, Bobbi’s doctors prescribed her Metrodin, a powerful fertility drug that is rich is stimulating follicle hormone.
Bobbi McCaughey and babiesSource: travelfuntu.com
What happened next was somewhat unclear and puzzled the doctors. It seems that Bobbi’s ovaries overreacted to the drug and she became pregnant on the first try. When the first six-weeks ultrasound was taken, it showed no less than seven fetuses.
How Does Metrodin Work?
Also known as urofollitropin, Metrodin is a purified form of a follicle-stimulating hormone that has its origins in human urine. The drug is administered via subcutaneous injection to assist with ovulation and fertility, in combination with human chorionic gonadotropin. The dosage requires adjustment for each patient, according to their response, and the drug is often complementary to in vitro fertilization methods.
Anabolic SteroidsWORGL, AUSTRIA – DECEMBER 13: Anabolic steroids, performance-enhancing drugs and a syringe in a vial photographed for a feature on December 13, 2017 in Worgl, Austria. (Photo by Simon Hausberger/Getty Images)
The drug has multiple known side effects, with the most common of them being bloating, pelvic pain, and increasing the chances of multiple pregnancies. Treatment with Metrodin in women with ovarian cysts can lead to an increase in them. Vaginal bleeding may occur during treatment, a sign of the excessively rapid growth of the endometrium, often associated with an excess of estrogen production induced by urofollitropin.
How Do Multiple Births Occur?
Multiple pregnancy cases that cause complications are quite common, and there are many dramatic examples of children who do not reach adulthood. However, the story of the McCaughey family of seven is a beautiful testimony of what many call a miracle.
This undated screen grab shows the cell-division of two fertilized human embryos during the first 24 hours of embryonic development following IVF treatment at a private clinic in London. (Photo by Jim Dyson/Getty Images)
Multiple births are not as uncommon in the modern world as they once were, mostly because of the innovations in fertility treatments. Twins are, of course, the most common occurrences, with approximately 1 in 30 US births being a double one. Next come triplets, with women having a 0.1% chance of having them. As the number of babies grows, the chances of having them get smaller. For example, there is a 0.0078% chance of having four babies (quadruplets) and a 0.00092% chance of having five babies (quintuplets) or more.
When an egg either separates into two or more embryos or more than one egg is fertilized, multiple births happen. If an egg splits into two or more embryos, the twins will share the same genetic material, which makes them identical. On the other hand, if more than one egg is fertilized in the womb, the fraternal fetuses will share just 50% of their genetic material. They will be the same as siblings, just born at the same time.
Now That’s Some Big News
When Bobby went for her six weeks scan after she found out that she was pregnant, the doctors couldn’t quite believe what they found in her womb. There were not one, not two, but seven living embryos that were growing at a steady pace. Each of the fetuses visible on the sonogram had its tiny sac of amniotic fluid. Dr. Hauser was stunned, and she later told the press that she couldn’t wrap her mind around it for a reasonable length of time. Bobbi and Kenny were just as surprised as the doctors and had to take some time to wrap their head around the news.
DES MOINES, IA – NOVEMBER 20: Iowa Methodist Medical Center senior vice president, Sharon Simmons, (L), and fertility specialist, Katherine Hauser, leave a news conference in Des Moines, Iowa, after Hauser answered questions regarding her treatment of Bobbi McCaughey, mother of septuplets.
This was one of the first cases of this kind in the history of fertility treatments, primarily because it was not the result of multiple embryos planted into Bobbi’s womb via IVF. According to an article published in The Hastings Center Report, “Medical Miracle or Medical Mischief? The Saga of the McCaughey Septuplets,” this pregnancy should not have happened.
The same article states that good medical practice regarding fertility treatments mandates that the number of eggs a woman produces should be closely monitored and if the number of eggs released is too high, and the risk of multiple pregnancies is high, the woman should refrain from sexual activity and try again at a later date. For reasons that are unknown, this did not happen in the case of Bobbi McCaughey, hence her pregnancy with seven babies.
Debating Selective Reduction
Because multiple pregnancies frequently and in miscarriage, Dr. Hauser recommended the couple to consider selective reduction, which is a medical euphemism for the procedure of aborting one or more fetuses so that the others can have a better chance of being born safely. Septuplets have been delivered several times in history, but in all cases, some of them or have only lived just a couple of days or weeks.
Moreover, this type of pregnancy can also have an unwanted impact on the mother’s health, increasing the risk of potentially fatal blood clots, bleeding or swelling of the ovaries, and severe fluid retention that may lead to heart failure in rare cases.
DES MOINES, IA – NOVEMBER 21: Bobbi and Kenny McCaughey appear before a press conference 21 November at the Blank Children’s Hospital in Des Moines, IA. Bobbi, who delivered septuplets two days ago, said she was anxious to be able to hold all of her babies. (Photo credit should read JOHN RUTHROFF/AFP/Getty Images)
For all these reasons, doctor Hauser and doctors Paula Mahone and Karen Drake, the McCaugheys’ perinatologists, explained Bobbi and Kenny that the standard option in such a situation was a selective reduction. However, the couple was deeply religious Baptists, which means that they were utterly opposed to any form of abortion. They told reporters that selective reduction wasn’t an option for them and that they put their faith and that of their babies in the hands of God.
By conventional medical standards, they were taking a huge gamble with the lives of all seven fetuses, but according to them, Bobbi and Kenny were living their faith.
Donations Start Pouring In
When news of the miracle pregnancy traveled around the world, people from all backgrounds started to donate things that would be useful for the unexpectedly large family. The donations began pouring in well before the babies were born and continued years after that. From a free house with new appliances and furnished nursery to a lifetime supply of diapers, a 15-seat van from Chevrolet, a furnished nursery, a year’s worth of free mac and cheese from Kraft, and free cable television for seven years, the McCaugheys were flooded with goods and services.
CARLISLE, IA – NOVEMBER 21: This 21 November photo shows the Carlisle, Iowa home of Bobbi and Kenny McCaughey and their first daughter Mikayla. (Photo credit CHRIS STEWART/AFP/Getty Images)
Bobbi and Kenny couldn’t believe how generous people could be after they have received so many gifts. Their tiny two-bedroom ranch was no place to raise eight children, so the incoming mayor in Carlisle promised to build a house on a plot of land and fill it with appliances. Several local banks opened accounts for the couple to hold the seemingly never-ending donations.
Controversies Surrounding the Pregnancy
When the septuplets were born, the doctor who provided the McCaugheys with fertility treatment and assisted the birth was the subject of sharp criticism. Multiple reasons let to the controversy, the first one being that the McCaugheys shouldn’t have been accepted as patients because their daughter was less than one-year-old, and the couple was simply too impatient about their ability to become pregnant again.
THE MOTHER OF THE MCCAUGHEY SEPTUPLETS (Photo by Ambassador/Sygma/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images)
Since the couple already had a baby without any medical help, many felt that their problem wasn’t infertility, but impatience. Moreover, the McCaugheys stated that they couldn’t afford a second fertility drug injection that cost about $3,000, which attracted more criticism, with media wondering how the couple thought they could have a high-risk pregnancy and seven additional children if they couldn’t even afford fertility drugs.
A Historical Birth
However, just about everyone in the world now knows, the couple’s faith was rewarded. The seven babies emerged from Bobbie’s womb healthy and safe via cesarean section. The doctor who delivered the babies, Paula Mahone stated just after the birth: “I didn’t think we’d have this kind of outcome. It just strikes me as a miracle.”
Bobbi (pictured) and her husband Kenny declined selective reduction after learning they were pregnant with seven children following fertility treatment, saying it was ‘in God’s hands‘. Photo Credit: SIPA PRESS/Rex/ShutterstockSource: dailymail.co.uk
For many people, seven healthy babies born at once were clear testaments to the marvelous workings of God, or nature, depending on their faith and point of view. The birth of the septuplets demonstrates the promise of modern fertility treatment, but also its downfalls. Multiple babies are nearly always premature, and the septuplets were no exception to the rule. Moreover, when they survive, they face a large number of potential problems later in life, and some of the seven babies would then face health issues.
The Babies Are Here
The septuplets were born nine weeks premature via cesarean section, and their weights ranged between 2 pounds, 5 ounces to 3 pounds, 4 ounces. The Caesarean section was performed shortly after noon on November 19, 2007, and a team of more than 40 specialists was involved in the process.
Seven babiesSource: travelfuntu.com
It took six minutes for the three girls and four boys to be taken one by one from the womb. One of the boys was in critical condition, and all of them were in a serious condition immediately after the birth, as noted by the doctors at the time, and they were all placed on ventilators in the neonatal unit. The boy was taken off the critical list hours later and upgraded to severe.
The Eyes of the World on Des Moines
The entire world held its breath waiting for the delivery of the babies in Des Moines. The pregnancy had already captured worldwide attention, and it gained recognition not only because it represented the advancements made in the fertility treatments, but also because it was a high-risk event and everybody wanted to see how the seven babies would fare.
DES MOINES, UNITED STATES: US President George W. Bush greets five of the Bobbi & Kenny McCaughey 4-yr-old septuplets as he meets the family when he landed at Des Moines International Airport shortly before going to the Iowa State Fairgrounds 14 August, 2002, in Des Moines, Iowa.AFP PHOTO/Paul J. Richards (Photo credit PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)
After the septuplets were born, they attracted even more media attention than the pregnancy. They were featured in Time magazine in December 1997, just a month after they were born. The president of America at the time, Bill Clinton, personally called to wish the family well. As the children grew, the media remained interested in them, and they continued to appear in magazines and at various events, with Oprah welcoming them on her show, and President George W Bush meeting them at the Des Moines International Airport in Iowa in 2002.
Whom Were the Kids Named After?
Bobbi stated in a column that finding names for seven kids at once is easier than choosing one for a single baby. That is because the couple had the occasions honor both their families at the same time, and also select some names they liked but did not have a family connection. Alexis is named after Bobbi’s sister and grandmother, Natalie after Kenny’s mother, Nathan after a deceased uncle, and Kelsey Ann after Bobbi’s mom middle name. Kenny Jr. was named after his father, while the two other brothers, Brandon and Joel, have names that are not connected to anyone in the family.
ES MOINES, IA – NOVEMBER 19: Members of the media report the birth of septuplets 19 November outside Iowa Methodist Medical Center in Des Moines, Iowa. (Photo credit CHRIS STEWART/AFP/Getty Images)
Bobbi and Kenny finalized the list of names before the birth, and Kenny had it in his wallet when Bobbi went into labor. As the kids emerged from the womb, he reeled off their names in a moment the medical team found heartwarming. Bobbi would later say that naming the babies before they were born helped her in her belief that all of them would be born healthy and grow up to become individuals with unique personalities.
The Teeth Touch-Up Controversy
After the babies were born, the media featured the photo of the parents relentlessly. The happy couple even made the front page of Time and Newsweek magazines and were caught in a touch-up controversy through no fault of their own. Newsweek magazine felt the heat from readers and other media outlets after enhancing the photo of the most famous parents in the country.
Media coverageSource: travelfuntu.com
The debate of the computer-edited photos started after Newsweek published a front cover featuring Bobbi and Kenny McCaughey smiling. Bobbi revealed small, straight teeth on the cover, but it turned up they were photo-edited to appear whiter and straighter after Time magazine published a similar photo that was not enhanced. Newsweek’s president and editor in chief, Richard M. Smith, declared that the picture was not enhanced to deceive the readers, but merely because they wanted to go with the best version of the photo shoot they had. Nevertheless, the debate showed how right the McCaugheys were to try and keep their family life private.
Not All Is Rosy – Cerebral Palsy Doubts
After six months, two of the septuplets were monitored for cerebral palsy, as they were developing at a much slower pace than their siblings. While Kenny, Kelsey, Brendan, Natalie, and Joel were zooming all over the place at the family’s house, Alexis and Nathan weren’t doing so well. The doctors suspected that the two had cerebral palsy, a chronic disorder in which the brain cannot control all the movements of the body.
Nathan McCaugheySource: travelfuntu.com
This condition is quite common in babies resulted from multiple births, and it also occurs at a slightly higher rate with premature babies. Nathan and Alexis were both premature and the result of multiple births, so a physical therapist and teams of pediatricians monitored them closely. Two of the babies were having a hard time pushing up on all fours and rolling onto their stomachs. At the time, their mother tried not to worry and told the press that ““Even if they have something that is long-term – and I would hate to see that happen and I’m sure we would have some difficult and troubling days ahead of us if it did – I know we’ll be given the strength to deal with it.”
A Diagnosis Is Confirmed
Unfortunately, the doctors’ worries were confirmed, and Nathan and Alexis were both diagnosed with cerebral palsy. The babies found it difficult to learn to walk, and it turned out that they had to use walkers throughout their life. At present, Alexis it’s still using a walker, but she did her best not to let her disability interfering with life. As a child, she took part in beauty pageants specifically designed for children with special needs. She also won the Teen Miss Dreams Made True award in Carroll in 2013 and finished in the top 15 percent of her high school class.
Alexis McCaugheySource: travelfuntu.com
On the other hand, her brother Nathan made incredible efforts to teach himself how to walk and is now able to move around without help. At one point, he told the press: “I taught myself how to walk because I really wanted to learn. It’s just been getting better and better.” There is no cure for cerebral palsy, but physiotherapy and occupational therapy are available to help individuals with the condition have an independent and healthy a life as possible.
What Is Cerebral Palsy and How Does It Affect Quality of Life?
Cerebral palsy is a non-hereditary (non-progressive) pathological condition with various neurological disorders. An exact cause is not always found for those who are suffering from the condition, but it is related to being born premature, perinatal hypoxia, brain trauma, and neonatal jaundice. The degree of neurological involvement is severe in one-third of cases and moderate in one-sixth of cases.
McCaughey SeptupletsSource: travelfuntu.com
Cerebral palsy is the most common type of movement disorder in children and has been documented for more than two millennia. One of the first known cases was presented in the work of Hippocrates in the 5th century BCE. Even though the central feature of cerebral palsy are movement problems, other issues such as learning or talking difficulties and sometimes epilepsy also occur in those diagnosed with this condition. Studies have also shown that more than 40 percent of people with cerebral palsy also have problems with their vision.
The Family Yearns for Private Life
After the initial media frenzy that surrounded the birth of the septuplets and the health scares that followed the next year, Bobbi and Kenny decided that their children should have a normal a life as possible. As such, they decided to keep out of the public eye for the most part. There were updates on how the children were doing around important birthdays, but that was mostly it. The couple received a letter from the famous Dionne quintuplets, who congratulated them and warned the couple to avoid the pitfalls they did as and advised the McCaugheys to keep their lives as private as possible.
Oprah appearanceSource: travelfuntu.com
Before the McCaughey septuplets were born, the Dionne quintuplets were the first set of quintuplets who have survived their infancy. The five identical sisters were born in Callander Ontario in 1934, and they were two months premature. They all survived to adulthood, even though one of them died in 1954 at the age of 20. The five girls were taken from their family and placed into the care of doctors only to be later turned into a tourist attraction. They were only returned to their parents at the age of nine, but after that, they were subjected to years of abuse by their father and his five other children. The sister later sued the government for compensation for the abuse they suffered as children, and they were awarded $2.8 million in 1998.
Their letter read:
“Dear Bobbi and Kenny,
If we emerge momentarily from the privacy we have sought all our adult lives; it is only to send a message to the McCaughey family.
We three would like you to know we feel a natural affinity and tenderness for your children. We hope your children receive more respect than we did. Their fate should be no different from that of other children. Multiple births should not be confused with entertainment, nor should they be an opportunity to sell products.
Our lives have been ruined by the exploitation we suffered at the hands of the government of Ontario, our place of birth. We were displayed as a curiosity three times a day for millions of tourists. To this day we receive letters from all over the world. To all those who have expressed their support in light of the abuse we have endured, we say thank you. And to those who would seek to exploit the growing fame of these children, we say beware.
We sincerely hope a lesson will be learned from examining how our childhood experience forever altered our lives. If this letter changes the course of events for these newborns, then perhaps our lives will have served a higher purpose.
Sincerely, Annette, Cécile and Yvonne Dionne”
Bobbi and Kenny were happy to oblige and followed the advice they received from the surviving Dionne sisters. They mostly kept their septuplets away from the public eye by making sure their public appearances were kept to a minimum and not allowing the press to photograph them apart from special occasions such as the moment they turned 13 or when they finished high school.
Sweet Dreams for the Septuplets
In celebration of the septuplets’ second birthday, a lullaby album was released featuring songs by Ginny Owens, Cindy Morgan, Chris Rice, and more. Bobbi and Kenny McCaughey were featured on the album singing “Tis So Sweet,” and multiple tracks were entitled “Sleepy-time suite” with the septuplets being featured on the tracks. The London Philharmonic Orchestra features on the soundtrack as well.
MCCAUGHEY’s SEPTUPLETS (Photo by Ambassador/Sygma/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images)
The album proved to be a success, and it remains a popular choice for lullabies to this day.
The Family Adjusts to Life in Bulk
Bobbi and Kenny revealed some of the practical aspects of raising seven babies at the same time. During the first months of their lives, the seven babies were getting through more than 52 diapers a day. Not only were the parents on the diaper changing duty at all times, but they also had to prepare over 40 bottles of milk every day.
Besides the time it takes to prepare bottles for seven babies and change their diapers regularly, raising the septuplets also posed financial difficulties. Because it was increasingly difficult to support eight growing children, Bobbi and Kenny needed a plan. Their solution was to start buying everything they could in bulk and rely on products that were reduced or on things they could get on coupons. They also started to grow their vegetables and fruit to keep their grocery bills as low as possible.
MCCAUGHEY’s SEPTUPLETS (Photo by Ambassador/Sygma/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images)
At one time, Bobbi remembers, she bought 60lbs of hamburger’s because they were on sale in her local grocery store. Their strategy worked, and they managed to spend about $300 a month on groceries, the average for a family of four in America, which means they were making important savings.
Feeding a Family of 10
Preparing food for a family of 10 is no picnic. Because mealtimes are bound to become hectic in this situation, the solution Bobby came up with was to serve the food in a buffet style. With help from the kids, she would prepare plenty of food, and everyone would help themselves to it. “We do cook just about every night,” Bobbi said in an interview, “preparing dinner in multiple pots and setting them out on the counter for everyone to serve themselves.”
Mealtimes were undoubtedly fun in the McCaughey household, and the parents mentioned that everyone loved to gather around and talk about their day over food. When the children were grown, that is. Until them, mayhem was the word to define mealtimes.
Early pictures the media took when the septuplets were under one-year-old showed them aligned in highchairs ready to be fed. Their parents mentioned in later interviews that they were spoon-feeding them with the help of volunteers, as it was impossible to keep them still and feed them at the same time on their own.
According to Bobbi’s column in American Baby, some of the staple foods in their house were sandwiches, spaghetti, meats, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and cereals for breakfast. She wasn’t one to indulge picky eaters and stated her firm belief in uniformity when it came to food, which meant that everyone ate the same thing in the McCaughey household.
How Does Taking Care of Eight Small Kids Even Work?
Bobbi and Kenny’s life changed forever with the birth of the septuplets. They had to become more inventive, more organized, find additional sources of income such as paid public appearances by Kenny and writing a column for American Baby by Bobbi, adding extra locks to the doors so the little ones couldn’t escape, and paying hundreds of dollars a month in health insurance.
In an interview for NBC when the septuplets turned 4, the parents offered lots of details of what it means to be the parents of eight children under the age of 5. They mentioned how it would become increasingly difficult for them to stop the little ones from climbing, to fall, and to hide in the most unexpected corners of their big house. Bobbi and Kenny discussed how difficult it was not to worry about the safety of the kids every waking moment.
THE MCCAUGHEY SEPTUPLETS AT HOME (Photo by Ambassador/Sygma/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images)
Bobbi said ” “You can’t live your life being paranoid, either. You know? I mean sometimes when I go to bed at night, I lay there thinking, ‘Now if we have a fire, how are we going to get out of here?’ You know, if we can’t get out the windows, then we have to go out on the deck upstairs and go out in the garage, and Kenny gets down, and I drop the kids to him one-by-one. And I go through this in my head over and over and over. And I finally have to say, ‘quit it and go to sleep.’ I mean you have to reach a point where you have to trust that God’s going to take care of you.”
Even though even though Bobbi mentioned at one point that she would have liked to add yet another baby over eight existing ones when the septuplets turned five, she told NBC that she wouldn’t have another one at that point, because she couldn’t imagine her going back to the diapers and the cribs.
Dealing with Nathan’s and Alexis’ Special Needs
While their five siblings thrived, life was not that generous with Nathan and Alexis, the two of the septuplets who were born with cerebral palsy. They began to exhibit feeding problems about a month after the delivery, and Alexis had to be fed through a tube for several years. Both Nathan and Alexis remained behind in their physical development and were diagnosed with cerebral palsy when they were 18 months old. Moreover, Alexis was diagnosed with hypotonic quadriplegia, which led to muscular weakness in the legs, and Nathan with spastic diplegia, which led to spasms in the legs.
THE MOTHER OF THE MCCAUGHEY SEPTUPLETS (Photo by Ambassador/Sygma/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images)
The parents were crushed by the diagnosis at first but stated that their faith kept them strong. They worked with pediatricians to help the kids to overcome their physical challenges, and the therapy offered good results from the first years, so Alexis and Nathan could enjoy their childhood like the rest of their siblings.
Spare the Rod and Spoil Your Child
In the same interview, the McCaugheys sparked a bit of controversy by telling the world they weren’t ones to shy away from spanking their children. In the words of Kenny, “[the Bible makes it] pretty clear: ‘spare the rod and spoil your child.’ Moreover, I know that it’s not a very popular thing. I know many people have said; you know that severe spanking is, you know, abuse and stuff like that, well we don’t do that.”
THE MOTHER OF THE MCCAUGHEY SEPTUPLETS (Photo by Ambassador/Sygma/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images)
The couple also stated they weren’t fans of hitting their kids, but that they would do a type of “controlled” spanking. “Maybe like two or three swats is all,” said Kenny. “Because for me, I was spanked as a kid. For me that was the best way — one of the best ways to learn was through consequences of wrongdoing.” The couple believed that their children would someday appreciate the methods their parents used to teach them right from wrong.
It’s All About Teaching the Kids Responsibility
Having eight children in the house is a terrific incentive to teach them about responsibility from a very early age. The parents started to assign them tasks when they were about four and were happy to announce that they rarely forget to pull their dishes into the dishwasher without being told to do so. Kenny told NBC News that he and his wife “made it less of a chore and more of an honor or something — a privilege to do. ‘Hey, you can be a big boy or girl if you do this.”
THE MCCAUGHEY SEPTUPLETS AT HOME (Photo by Ambassador/Sygma/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images)
The parents believed that it was imperative to start teaching the young ones responsibilities and make them proud of themselves for completing their chores. Their strategy was based on every young child’s eagerness to please. When the septuplets were five, their parents’ main worry was how to strike the correct balance between demanding obedience and encouraging independence.
Living Arrangements for the Kids
With eight kids in the house, sharing is something that goes without saying. Better Homes and Gardens presented the McCaughey kids’ rooms in their magazine, showing just how their living arrangements work. The rooms were designed by designer Jodi Mensing, who opted for colorful patterns to suit the gender and taste of each of the kids.
THE MOTHER OF THE MCCAUGHEY SEPTUPLETS AND HER SISTER (Photo by Ambassador/Sygma/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images)
According to the magazine, Alexis, Kelsey, and Natalie, the three septuplet sisters, shared a large room with three beautiful lilac twin beds. A touch of cottage charm was achieved with the help of delicate florals, stripes, and dots. The girls’ room also featured a wicker play table and bench set for the sisters to read and play. Mikayla’s room featured a pretty magenta canopy, a pink chair, and a dressing to match her outgoing personality. On the boys’ side, a pirate-themed room with storage drawers below the deck and ship like beds made their childhood an adventure.
Raising the Septuplets in the Christian Faith
It didn’t come as a surprise that the McCaugheys decided to raise their children in the Baptist faith. After the birth of the septuplets, Kenny served as a deacon at the Baptist church in Carlisle and traveled to Haiti on a church mission’s trip. Their faith has always been a central part in the life of the McCaughey family, and as such the children started attending Sunday school from an early age. In one interview, Kenny mentioned how there was always a limited coverage of their religion in the media, but this didn’t mean they weren’t raising the kids to become proper Christians.
Meal timeSource: travelfuntu.com
Several media outlets presented them as Christian fundamentalists over the years and condemned them for their decision not to undertake selective reduction, but the couple has always defended their faith and repeatedly shared their belief that the children were all a gift from God. It was only natural for them to raise their kids in the same manner.
The Joys of Homeschooling
Bobbi and Kenny McCaughey thought that school took so much of a kid’s day with things such as music and art projects that the eight siblings were already doing at home. For this reason, they decided to homeschool their children. They started by choosing a curriculum to structure the kids’ learning, opting for a Christian-based one. They requested all the materials they needed, including student handbooks, workbooks, teacher’s manuals and more, and sent the kids’ work to be graded by a teacher.
There are three options for homeschooling in Iowa, including yearly testing, a teacher that visits a couple of times per year, and homeschool assistance programs that put parents under the thumb of the public school. According to Bobbi, the family was happy to use a supervising teacher that was there for them every step of the way.
An Adventure on Its Own – Traveling with Eight Children
Most families can’t wait for summer to begin so that they can go on family trips. However, when you have eight children, preparing for the trip is an adventure on its own. Bobbi and Kenny used to pack one bag per child when they were small, and in addition to that, each kid had their small carry-on bag for their snacks and books. The McCaugheys weren’t fans of taking toys on trips, which is entirely understandable.
If packing was not too big of a challenge, getting through security at the airport with the little ones was an entirely different story. In her column, Bobbi recounted how the family went to Disney World one summer, so they had to fly to Florida. Besides the parents and kids, Bobbi’s sisters Barbara and Michelle, Kenny’s mother and stepmother, and two other friends were in the entourage. Mayhem is an excellent word to describe the confusion that aroused at the airport when it came to checking tickets and going through security. Moreover, the seats on the plane were scattered all around, so some of the passengers who were already in their seats had to be reconfigured.
It’s Holiday Time in the McCaughey Household
The McCaugheys used to celebrate Christmas three times a year – once in their home with Bobbi’s parents and siblings, a second time with Kenny’s father and his stepmother, and a third time with his mother and her family. Because of their religious approach to Christmas, the parents decided not to expose the kids to the story of Santa, but the little one still received gifts, but only in the range of $30-40 per person.
Many of the gifts the kids received for Christmas were handmade by Bobbi and other relatives and included baked goods, knitted jackets, and creative memory books. In the words of Bobbi, “For us, the holidays are really special because they celebrate the birth of Christ and provide everyone with a special reason to gather as a family and enjoy being together.”
The Septuplets Turn 13
In 2010, the septuplets turned 13, and TLC made a documentary about them, called “America’s Septuplets Turn 13.” Airing on December 28, 2010, the documentary shows how the septuplets celebrated turning into teenagers, including their cakes with 91 candles. New details about their family life transpired from the documentary, including how they used to do ten loads of laundry per week and own two dishwashers, two refrigerators, and two freezers.
The kids are shown doing their chores, with parents finally being able to enjoy some free time for themselves. “It’s so nice to say, ‘Kids, we’re going out for a while. Don’t kill each other. Find supper, ‘” Kenny McCaughey said in front of the camera.
Time for High School and Work
The next time the septuplets found themselves again in the spotlight was when high school started. All seven of them went to the same school, the Carlisle High School in Carlisle, Des Moines in 2012. All of them did well in school, and they all graduated in 2016.
Their parents were keen to teach their kids the value of hard work, and as such, the seven siblings had to take jobs if they wanted anything else than the essentials their parents provided for them. The septuplets were taught that if they wanted something, they had to work for it, so most of them got part-time jobs to buy themselves things such as tablets and cell phones. They also paid for driving lessons themselves and started to save for cars, because their parents couldn’t afford to buy them vehicles.
In an interview they gave when they turned 16, the septuplets mentioned how some of them had fallen in love and were in relationships. They all went through everything teenagers do, including learning to drive and having love troubles. All of them joined the high school band and were playing together at half-time during football matches.
Some of the septuplets had other hobbies such as cross country, wrestling, or singing in the choir. They also entered speech contents, and some of them played soccer. Their mother, Bobbi, was thrilled to see her children so busy, as it made her feel all her hard work paid off.
Graduating High School
The graduation of the McCaughey septuplets put the family in the spotlight again. The papers rushed to publish their story once again, and the picture of all seven siblings in their red and black graduation gowns made its way in newspapers and magazines all over the world. The siblings pose with their principal after walking across the stage and receiving their diplomas with all the other students of the Carlisle High School Class of 2016.
All seven of the McCaugheys – Kenny, Kelsey, Natalie, Brandon, Alexis, Nathan and Joel (pictured with school principal in the suit) graduated from the Carlisle High School in Iowa. Photo Credit: Rachel Mummey / The RegisterSource: https: dailymail.co.uk
Natalie and Alexis McCaughey were among the students that were recognized as part of the National Honor Society. Natalie also graduated in the top 15 percent of the class. After the ceremony, the siblings hugged and celebrated with all their classmates before reuniting with their parents for a group photo that ended up being quite an emotional moment.
The Septuplets Go on Different Career Paths
Even though the family declined any press coverage in the week before the graduation, they talked with the press after the event, and let the entire world know their plans for the future. They shared their dreams with NBC News and stated that they thought it would be good for them to go on their separate ways from now on, after 18 years of living together and going to school together. “It will definitely be different and weird, but I feel that it will be good for us to get out of our comfort zone and meet new people,” Kelsey said.
McCaughey kidsSource: travelfuntu.com
On the other side of the barricade, their parents Bobbi and Kenny had opinions of their own regarding the seven siblings leaving the nest. “It will be weird at first,” their father said. “It will be easier in the sense of (less) groceries and more freedom to do things, but harder in the sense of wondering how each is doing with classes, basic training and just daily concern for his or her well-being.”
The septuplets were confident they had the right skills for entering adulthood thanks to their parents who did their best to teach them everything there is to know about what expects them outside the family while shielding them from the public the best they could. In the words of Kelsey: “I think that we are extremely prepared and know what we are going into from the guidance from our parents. They have taught us well, and from not having all the fame that we could have had, we have learned to be normal and to live life and just be a normal family.”
The College Experience
When the septuplets were born, they were offered a full scholarship to Hannibal-LaGrange University in Missouri. Moreover, they were also provided a free ride to any state university in Iowa, courtesy of the State of Iowa. Natalie, Nathan, Joel, and Kelsey decided to go to Hannibal-LaGrange and believed that time spent away in Missouri would be great for their development as fully-functional adults.
McCaughey kidsSource: travelfuntu.com
Alexis and Kenny Jr. decided to remain closer to home and went to a college in Des Moines. Alexis started to train to become a teacher with a focus on early childhood, wishing to give children the necessary boost on life from the very beginning, whereas her brother Kenny Jr. became interested in the construction industry.
The Military Beckons
Brandon was the only one of the septuplets who wasn’t interested in going to college. Instead, he decided that he should devote his life to his country, and as such, he joined the United States Military. It was not a rushed choice, because it appears like Brandon has always been interested in the military and knew he wanted to serve his country from a very early age. He also enjoyed wrestling and finished advanced training for the military before the age of 19.
Brandon was accepted to Ranger school and went on to become a United States, Army Ranger. His social media profiles show him as an expert in shooting pistols and the carbine.
Dealing with Cerebral Palsy Later in Life
As mentioned above, both Nathan and Alexis were born with cerebral palsy, and they underwent surgeries as children to help them walk. While Alexis still uses a walker, her brother learned to walk on his own and was happy with the outcome. In an interview for KCCI, Nathan talked about how he and his sister didn’t want their health condition to stop them from enjoying life to the fullest.
McCaughey kidsSource: travelfuntu.com
He added: ” “Me and Lexi are done with surgeries and checkups, and unless we need something, we’re completely done with it. I feel like I’m the king of the school like I’m a senior now. I can rule over anybody.”
But What About the Parents?
After all their eight children went out of the house, Kenny and Bobbi McCaughey are the definitions of empty nesters. According to an interview given to NBC about all of their children leaving home, the couple said that even though it is now more comfortable because they don’t have to prepare food for 10 or worry about grocery shopping for everyone, it is far more difficult to handle the situation because they fear for each of their children and don’t have the opportunity to see them every day to see how they are doing.
Bobbi continues her work as a para-educator for children with special needs and continues to attend church. According to his social media profiles, Kenny McCaughey enjoys life as an empty nester by riding around the United States on his motorcycle. Moreover, who could blame him? After 20 years of rearing his children, he enjoys life more than ever because he has lots of free time on his hands. Both parents continued to give interviews and participate in anti-abortion and anti-selective reduction rallies.
McCaughey FamilySource: travelfuntu.com
Even though the family has received propositions to take part in a reality show, then decided not to go this route. When asked why there has never been a reality TV show about the septuplets and their nothing but ordinary life, their father replies that he had no interest in doing that because he wanted to offer his children the opportunity to grow up as normally as possible under the circumstances.
Seven from Heaven
In 1998, Bobbi and Kenny McCaughey published a book called ” Seven From Heaven: The Miracle of the McCaughey Septuplets” in which they shared their experience as parents of septuplets in their first year of life. In the book, the couple reveals how they started with a battalion of volunteers who were happy to help when the babies were born but managed to cut the help to just two volunteers after a year.
The book also describes a typical day in the life of the family. In their first year of life, the septuplets would rise before 7 a.m. and have breakfast, then go on to take three naps at 9 a.m., 1 p.m., and 4:30 p.m. A meal followed each of the naps, and just before 7 p.m., the little ones would have a bath and go to bed for the night.
Seven from HeavenSource: bookdepository.com
The parents said that the babies were not difficult ones and they were happy about this. “A lot of credit has to go to the kids,” their father said. “They’re not gripey kids. They don’t cry a lot. When they need something is when they cry or when they don’t feel well. We might have a different story if we had a kid that cried for months on end.”
“Seven From Heaven” was also full of anticipation for the little ones to grow up and go on having all the milestones parents expect from their kids. Their parents said: “It’s so neat to watch them meet the next developmental milestone. Every day, ‘Is this the day when Kenny takes a step?’ It will be so neat to sit back and watch them all run to the next room or look out and see them playing on the deck or running around outside.”
Selling the House Where the Septuplets Grew Up
The McCaugheys decided to sell the enormous house they received as a gift when the septuplets were born. The couple agreed that it was time to downsize, as their kids are no longer living with them. In February 2018, it was announced that the couple had signed a purchase agreement to sell their home to a Des Moines nonprofit that provides support and housing for mothers of unplanned pregnancies. The sale of the seven-bedroom, a five-bathroom house that was custom built for the McCaugheys was confirmed by Mark McDougal, the executive director of Ruth Harbor, the nonprofit that bought it.
Septuplets House(Photo: Stoneman Sher, Copyright 1998 Des Moines Register, SYGMA)Source:desmoinesregister.com
Ruth Harbor’s online announcement about buying the property had an explanation from Bobbi McCaughey” “As our kids are leaving the nest, it seems to be the right time to start a new chapter. We have been blessed to receive such a wonderful gift, and nothing would please us more than the idea of our home being used as a place of refuge to others in need.”
A Property Fit for a Good Cause
The property was given to the McCaughey family as a gift by the Clark Company in 1998. The home has more than 5,500 square feet of living area, a spacious family room, and a huge kitchen. The interior and exterior of the property were the setting for numerous local and national media interviews near the septuplets’ birthday. According to country records, the home was assessed in 2017 at $433,100, but it went on the market for $415,000. Ruth Harbor has not disclosed the actual selling price.
McCaughey kidsSource: directexpose.com
Executive director Mark McDougal mentioned that the property is an excellent choice for the Ruth Harbor organization. “Not only will the Carlisle home provide more beds and enable us to serve more women and babies, but it will also allow us to dedicate each home to the specific needs and training that are unique to each program. We anticipate that the McCaugheys have built many memories in their home. It seems wonderful that new and continuing memories will be built by more young moms going forward — for themselves and their children — when they have engaged in the Ruth Harbor program,” he said.
Mikayla Marie’s Journey
Because of all the buzz surrounding the birth of her siblings, Mikayla Marie was often overlooked, even though she sometimes appeared in the media together with her famous brothers and sisters. Mikayla was almost two years old when her very famous siblings were born, and according to her mother, the transition from being an only child to becoming the big sister for seven babies was smooth because she was so little.
Bobbi recalled in her column that Mikayla was indeed affected by the birth of the septuplets, but no more than any other toddler is when a new brother or sister joins the family. As such, she regressed a bit, and she wished she was the center of her parents’ universe again by asking when the babies would go home, but she adapted quickly and thrived together with them.
Many people want to know what happened to the oldest McCaughey offspring, and even though she keeps her alive mostly private, her social media accounts show that she is doing well. Mikayla Marie studied at the Des Moines Area Community College and the University of Arizona. As of 2018, she is married and has had her first child. The picture she shares on social media shows that she still has a very close relationship with her sisters and brothers.
Will the Septuplets Have Twins of Their Own?
Many people have been wondering if the septuplets would go on to have twins of their own. It is common for twins to have twins of their own, but in the case of the McCaughey septuplets, they were not the result of a genetic coincidence.
Since they were born as a result of IVF treatment, they are likely to have just about the same chances of giving birth to or father twins like any other person who was not the result of multiple births. If, of course, any of the septuplets decides to undergo fertility treatment, the story may repeat, but their chances are not multiplied by the fact that they were the result of multiple births.
Fun Facts About the McCaugheys
Bobbi’s weekly journal which she wrote for American Baby is full of previously unknown facts about her family. Few people know that she was born in Alberta, Canada and that her Christian devotion is a result of her being the daughter of Baptist minister Robert Hepworth. Her sister, Barbara and her brother-in-law Neil arranged a blind date for her, and this is how she met Kenny. They got married in 1992. Before she had the septuplets, Bobbi was a professional seamstress, but few people know that she initially considered a career as a secretary or a nurse.
Her skills as a seamstress came in handy after the septuplets were born, and she even used the little ones’ nap times to sew all the dresses for the maids of honors and attendants for her sister’s wedding.
Kenny and Bobbi McCaughey
Bobbi pumped milk for all her children until they were three months old, and after that, the family started to consume up to five gallons of milk per week. All the boys wore identical outfits until they turned five, and so did the girls. In their first year of life, the septuplets used up to 170 diapers every week.
Taking care of the septuplets required incredible management skills. Even the president of the United States, Bill Clinton, recognized this, as he famously told Bobbi: ” “When those kids all go off to school you will be able to get a job running any major corporation in America. You will be the best-organized manager in the United States.”
Bobbi’s Advice for Mothers of Multiples
Bobbi McCaughey is probably the most qualified woman in the world to advise how to raise triplets or even more babies at the same time. Her column in American Baby included all kinds of advice for new mothers in the same situation, ranging from putting all the children to the same schedule to scheduling time alone with their partner.
5 monthsSource: hyperactivz.com
According to Bobbi, mothers of multiple newborn babies shouldn’t forget to take care of themselves. It is essential to eat right and get enough sleep, so the babies don’t have a cranky person as a mother. Accepting whatever help comes their way is also essential for parents. Friends and family should always be welcome to take care of the babies for a couple of hours or help with chores around the house. Finally, Bobbi’s advice is to take each day as it comes, because handling each new situation as it happens is the best way not to feel completely overwhelmed.
How Does Having Septuplets Affect Married Life?
Having a baby puts a strain on any relationship, but having eight under three at the same time is like a nuclear bomb for a marriage. Many people have wondered how Bobbi and Kenny managed to keep it together and remain a happy couple after they were blessed with the septuplets. In the words of Bobbi, it takes much work for a relationship to survive this kind of strain, but in the end, the experienced strengthened their marriage.
She advises parents in similar situations to communicate their needs and accept the limitations of their spouse and always schedule some time alone together. When the children were little, Bobbi and Kenny used to hire extra help on Friday nights so that they could go on a date. Bobbi was also candid in her column about the struggles she and Kenny faced when she was pregnant with the septuplets and Kenny had to take care of their baby Mikayla and his wife at the same time, as she was confined to bed during the last months of pregnancy.
Are There Other Septuplets in the World?
There are no other recorded cases of surviving septuplets in the world, but in January 2009, Nadya Suleman gave birth to octuplets in Fullerton, California. Nadya is currently an American media personality, but at the time the octuplets were born, she was unemployed and on public assistance programs and had six other young children. This was the reason the public reaction was not as positive as it was for the McCaughey septuplets.
Nadya Suleman conceived the octuplets via in vitro fertilization (IVF), after she divorced her husband, Marco Gutierrez. The reason for the divorce was multiple failed attempts to have children. Because Nadya was desperate to try IVF and her husband refused to take part in the procedure of making “test tube babies,” they went on their separate paths. Nadya went on with IVF treatments and gave birth to a total of six children from five pregnancies before a final round of IVF resulted in octuplets.
The Octuplets and Media Attention
The birth of the octuplets in 2009 caused an international media frenzy. However, unlike in the case of the McCaughey septuplets, the response of the public was mainly negative, and the mother even received death threats.
There were no donations for the family, and minor protests took place outside the Suleman home. The octuplets could not come home with their mother in the first months until she bought a new house, and there were discussions of losing custody because Nadya didn’t have the means to raise all her 14 children. In the end, the family was reunited, and the media dubbed Nadya “Octomom.” She went on to appear on multiple television shows in the US and the UK and was featured in numerous magazines. Accusations of neglect surfaced in 2012 when Nadya went bankrupt after accumulating debts of up to $1 million.
What Is Selective Reduction?
The McCaughey family is known for their anti-selective reduction views, but what exactly does the procedure entail? Also called selective termination or multifetal pregnancy reduction, this is a medical procedure that reduces the number of fetuses in a multifetal pregnancy to a singleton or twin pregnancy. The term selective termination is generally used when the targeted fetus shows signs of a disease and the term selective reduction refers to situations when the termination of fetuses is done for non-medical reasons.
mandy-allwood babies funeralSource: huffingtonpost.co.uk
Some of the main reasons for this practice include medical ones, in situations where the life of the mother is in danger due to the multiple fetuses, or when some of the fetuses do not thrive as they should, putting the other ones in danger as well. However, there are also non-medical reasons behind the procedure, including the inability of the mother to handle more than one or two babies, financially or emotionally.
Selective reduction generally takes place in the first trimester of pregnancy, and the most common method for carrying it out is the injection of potassium chloride into the heart of the fetus. The procedure has a degree of risk of the other fetuses as well.
Selective Reduction and Ethical Questions
Just like abortion, selective reduction raises quite a bit of controversy, even though the procedures are not quite the same from a medical point of view. Bobbi McCaughey cited her religious beliefs when she decided not to intervene and leave the fate of her unborn babies in the hands of God. In her case, all ended well, and the family went on to be a happy one.
Others have not been as lucky as the McCaugheys, however. In 1996, Mandy Allwood, a British woman, made headlines by refusing to terminate any of the eight fetuses that were growing inside her womb as a result of fertility treatment. Her gynecologist advised her to terminate six of the fetuses selectively, but she refused. It all ended in tragedy after 18 weeks, when she miscarried three of the fetuses, and a week later all of the rest.
A Gamble That Paid Off
Bobbi McCaughey gambled as well, but in her case, the media and her family considered that their faith was their ally. Multiple magazines adopted the religious vocabulary used by the McCaugheys, with Time saying that their faith and a gamble on fertility drugs won them a seven-figure jackpot, and People magazine saying that “define the medical odds, Bobbi and Kenny McCaughey clung to their faith and were rewarded – time seven.”
However, the couple’s decision to reject for a reduction quoting faith in God attracted criticism as well. The Washington Post published a column by Richard Cohen who wrote that “It has become commonplace in this country to use religion as an all-purpose excuse for not using your head.” Nevertheless, the McCaugheys continue to speak against selective reduction despite the complexities the debate, and they famously said in an interview “Well, come to our house, and tell me which four I shouldn’t have had!”
The story of the McCaughey septuplets is still a comforting one for many people around the world who are curious to know how the most famous siblings in the world are doing later in life. We’ll probably get updates on their lives as they get older, as the media will undoubtedly be keen to follow up on their story. Their parents want everyone to remember that the septuplets were a miracle from God, and whether or not you believe that, their birth surely isn’t short of amazing.
The happy photos showing the eight siblings growing together in a completely normal American setting have warmed everyone’s hearts, and even though the septuplets are so famous, their development followed the life script of every other American kid. Now that they turned 21, the world is their oyster, and we can’t wait to see what life has in store for the McCaughey family.