First surviving septuplets– Where are they 20 years later?
A couple couldn’t have any children, and then a miracle happened and they had a daughter. But they would never have believed what would happen when they tried for a second child and received septuplets instead. The road to this unique birth was anything but easy. This is a story about faith, miracles, and what true love means even in the face of the most difficult times.
Meet The Parents
Bobbi and Kenny McCaughey fell in love, got married and decided to start a family. The only problem was that Bobbi was born with a malfunctioning pituitary gland and as a result she suffered from fertility problems. In 1996 they were blessed with a baby girl, and they named her Mikayla Marie.
After Mikayla had grown up a little, Bobbi and Kenny decided that they were going to try again for another baby. A specialist advised that they explore the options of fertility treatment. The proposed option was the use of Metrodin – a drug that stimulates ovulation which in turn helps a woman fall pregnant.
One Isn’t Enough
The couple didn’t know what to expect from the fertility treatment. When they went to their doctor for a regular scan, they received results that would completely blow their minds. The specialist said that they weren’t having a baby, no, they were having seven! It was the first time that the McCaugheys had ever heard the word “spetuplets”.
Although there was huge excitement surrounding this news, there was suddenly the revelation that it could be dangerous for both Bobbi and for the babies. One expert explained to the couple that they might need to look into the possibility of “selective reduction” – a process that eliminates some of the embryos in order to save others.
Taking The Risk
With so many emotions and options coming at them from all angles, Bobbi and Kenny needed to make a decision. After considering all the dangers around keeping all seven embryos, they decided that they were going to risk it all and have all seven babies; they were going to have septuplets.
Lots Of Attention
Even though Bobbi and Kenny were sure about their decision, others were not. Many people from the public criticized the couple, telling them that it wasn’t their choice to decide to keep all the babies. But nevertheless, the couple fought on and moved forward.
When the news spread across their hometown of Carlisle in Iowa, the community started to offer their help. No-one had ever heard about anyone giving birth to seven babies, so they realized that the McCaugheys would need all the help that they could get. Donations poured in – endless supplies of diapers, free nanny services, a year’s supply of mac n’ cheese, and even a van to fit the whole family into.
They didn’t know how to show just how grateful they were for all the gifts they got; they were truly overwhelmed by it all. But then they received a gift they could never have expected, a huge 5,000 square foot house, just for them! And just when they thought that was it, they got a year’s supply of groceries.
Running On Nerves
Understandably the days before the huge birth were filled with anxiety. They realized the risk of going through with such an irregular birth, and they couldn’t help but feel nervous every now and then. But even then, they were more excited and hopeful than anything else.
As Bobbi was nearing her due date, preparations for the septuplets was fully underway. But then, unexpectedly, on November 19th, 1997, Bobbi was rushed to the hospital. There were still 9 weeks to go until she was supposed to give birth, but the septuplets were ready to come into the world. Without a doubt Bobbi had to undergo a Cesarean birth, and all the babies were born within 6 minutes of each-other.
Meet The Babies
From a small family of just 3, the family was suddenly made up of 10! There were 3 boys and 4 girls, and their names were given: Kenny (Kenneth) Robert – the heaviest baby, Alexis May, Natalie Sue, Kelsey Ann – the lightest baby, Nathan Roy, Brandon James, and Joel Steven. Name tags, anyone?
It was absolutely mind-blowing that all the babies survived the birth, but there were some issues at first. Lexi was born with a muscular disorder that caused her pain and difficulty when she ate. Her sister, Natalie suffered from acid reflux and also caused her pain while she ate.
The Birthing Staff
Hearing of the birth of septuplets is one thing, but being one of the hospital staff to help deliver the babies is another. Two days after the birth of the McCaughey septuplets, the entire team of hospital staff got together for this memorable picture.
There was a scramble among journalists to get to the hospital when they heard that Bobbi had gone in for early labor. The parking lot of the Iowa Methodist Hospital Center in Des Moines was littered with journalists who camped out there. It was turning into a rather big story.
Leaving The Hospital
The camera crews and journalists would have to wait a lot longer than they had anticipated. it took three months and ten days for Bobbi to eventually get the green light to leave the hospital. The couple didn’t walk out of the hospital alone, rather they were accompanied by a team to protect them from the eager reporters.
Once they managed to safely get to their new van and out of the hospital’s parking lot, it was up to the police to ensure that they stayed safe. Outside of their house police officers ensured that they weren’t bothered, and that would last until they got their new house.
Getting The House
Finally the day came when the McCaughey family could move into their new house. It wasn’t a basic move to the 5500 ft² (511 m²) house, there was a special ceremony too. All gathered in the garage of the house, Clarke Companies Chairman, Lloyd Clarke, happily gave the house keys to Kenny as everyone smiled with excitement.
In December 1997, Bobbi and Kenny got quite a surprise when Time Magazine contacted them about doing a story on them. Suddenly they realized that the septuplets weren’t just famous in their town, but across the country.
Although there were many reporters and news agencies reporting the septuplets’ story, many of them hadn’t actually covered the story themselves. ABC News Prime Time was officially the first TV station to feature their story, but the rest of the reporters were essentially just copying whatever they had heard from there.
Roses Come With Thorns
With all the coverage that they were getting, the McCaugheys were bound to receive some negative feedback. Some people accused them of “harming the environment” by having too many children. But despite these negative remarks and accusations, Bobbi and Kenny could not be brought down.
Taking A Break
Bobbi and Kenny had become so caught up in all the hype of their miraculous birth. But it was high time they decided to start leading as normal a life as possible, and that included being private. They decided that they would come out into the public eye for the children’s birthdays and not any time else. It was the Dionne quintuplets who helped them reach that decision.
The Dionne quintuplets warned the McCaugheys about the dangers of overexposing their children to the public. They themselves were born in 1934 in Ontario, Canada and grew up in a difficult environment. The children were exploited and became something of a circus attraction for the public which severely harmed the children. Bobbi and Kenny decided to focus on the kids and their day-to-day needs.
Load After Load
It was a time for the parents to learn about the different challenges they had to face. Laundry was a big project that took up a big part of every single day. In fact on a weekly basis they were doing around 17 loads of laundry, and just to keep up with the work, they needed to buy two washing machines and two dryers.
Babies In Bulk
If that’s what the daily laundry was like, can you imagine what the daily diaper count was? On average the septuplets were using up about 52 diapers every single day, and they were drinking around 42 bottles.
Bobbi really had a physically draining experience with the septuplets. She needed to personally pump the breast milk for all of the babies, meaning that she would have to provide 4-5 gallons of milk a week, and this lasted until the babies were 3 months old.
Potty training for a child can be done in short space of time if you do it right. The McCaughey parents did it right with Mikayla, their eldest, and she was ready to go in four days. But potty training seven children at the same time was a completely different ball game, and they accepted that it would take at least a couple of months.
There’s no need to say it, but just two parents would never manage to care for the septuplets and their one-year-old daughter alone. Volunteers made up of friends, family and other good Samaritans came to help with cleaning, changing, playing and looking after the babies.
Everyone Wants To Help
The volunteers who came to the family’s aid were not always what they would expect. Even the construction workers touching up the McCaugheys’ house were keen to help, and they took turns holding the babies and looking after them.
Of course the impact of the public’s help was incredible, but when it comes to family it simply incomparable. Here Bobbi’s sister, Michelle, plays with one of her sister’s babies. Michelle became an aunt to seven babies in a matter of moments.
The Big Sister
Even though there were around 70 volunteers who came to help, there was one special youngster who made it her duty to help too. Mikayla Marie, their first child, would help feed her younger siblings and play with them.
The help that the McCaugheys received was a complete blessing. But there were other challenges they were facing with 8 children under the age of 2 years in the house. One of those issues was the financial strains, so the couple made a plan to buy in bulk which reduced their monthly grocery spending to around $300.
Even though the neighborhood where the McCaugheys now lived was used to the idea of septuplets being around, it still kept them amazed each time they saw them. Each time someone took the septuplets out for a stroll in their limousine-like strollers, people’s heads turned in amazement.
Buying in bulk was just the start of their cost-reducing plan. The next step was creating their very own vegetable garden. This was a game-changer that allowed them to grow, pick and eat their own vegetables.
It was the parents’ duty to constantly take the children to the doctor for a check-up. This wasn’t like bringing up a regular child; this was bringing up seven children, all of the same age, all at the same time. The septuplets were constantly under observation.
Most Important MealWe are all aware that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but we didn’t know that it also happened to be the McCaughey twins’ favorite meal too.
Do you believe that babies have their own language? Well the truth is that they actually do, and it’s called ‘cryptophasia’. This language is used by babies who are twins or triplets, or septuplets in our case. The septuplets communicated with each-other in a language that no-one else understood.
Each and every one of the birthdays the septuplets celebrated was a special day. They weren’t just birthdays, they were an opportunity to thank God for giving Bobbi and Kenny an incredible gift that they could never have expected
Each year the children reached their birthday, it was a call for celebration. However their birthdays weren’t just celebrations, they were also an opportunity to thank God for being healthy and happy. Each year was another sign that the McCaugheys made the right decision by keeping the babies.
Bobbi and Kenny found themselves with some challenges they would have never expected to face. One of those challenges was keeping up with the septuplets’ wardrobes. While their ages were all the same, their clothing sizes were not.
Clothing For Septuplets
As the McCaughey septuplets grew more and more, there was a need for more and more clothing. Of course it was impossible for their older sister, Mikayla, to provide them all with ‘hand-me-downs’. But then Carter’s, which is a children’s clothing company, said that they would provide clothing for the septuplets until the kids turned 5.
As the children were growing up, the excitement and hype around them was not dying down. They knew that their news had really spread when the President of the United States, Bill Clinton, called Bobbi and Kenny to wish them well. In the coming years they would also meet President George W. Bush.
The phone call with President Clinton will always stick in Bobbi’s head just because of something he said to her. He earnestly said, “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.” She’ll never forget that call.
It wasn’t just the heads of state that wanted to meet the septuplets, the governor of their state as interested too. Iowa governor, Terry Branstad was thrilled to personally meet the McCaughey septuplets, and one of the kids was just as thrilled, apparently.
4 Candles For 7 Kids
For a birthday you have to have a birthday cake, and for a birthday cake you have to have candles. But when the McCaughey septuplets reached their fourth birthday they only had one cake with four candles. Why? Well Bobbi and Kenny wanted to teach their children the importance of sharing and being happy with what they had.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the septuplets each had their own personality. In their own way, each one brought something unique to the dynamic of their family. Kenny Junior was the one the family thought of as the clown, while Joel and Natalie were the “bookworms”. Brandon was the bravest, and funnily enough, the most stubborn.
The Naughty One
One of the children that really stood out, was Kenny Junior. He was what they called the “pint-sized explorer”, and he was everywhere he shouldn’t be. Kenny Jr. was by far the most mischievous one of the septuplets.
Together Bobbi and Kenny had their own way of defining each child and this is how they did it: Alexis is “sweet and perceptive”. Joel is “quiet and reflective”. Kelsey is the “sporty fashionista”. Kenny Jr. is the “go-getter”. Nathan is “determined”. Brandon is “outgoing and athletic.” Natalie is the “high-achieving perfectionist”.
Bobbi and Kenny realized that with so many children comes so much responsibility. But they needed to ensure that their love life was kept alive, and that was done by designating a specific night each week to be their “date night”.
A Special Trip
Who said that you can’t find time in a busy schedule to do something special with your kids? Bobbi and Kenny sure made that happen when they took Mikayla and the septuplets on a special trip to Disney World in Orlando.
On The Cover
Ladies’ Home Journal lucked out when the McCaughey parents agreed to have their children make the front cover of their magazine. The piece written about them on their 8th birthday, served as a help to other parents.
George W. BushLater in 2001, the septuplets had the honor of meeting President George W. Bush. The kids weren’t really sure who he as, but he definitely knew who they were. The meeting called for special outfits with all the boys matching and all the girls too.
Too Much AttentionAs the kids grew up, some television networks liked the idea of turning their family into a reality TV show. Bobbi and Kenny didn’t like the idea at all; they just wanted their kids to have a normal childhood, just like the other kids.
It’s Your Birthday!There were some exceptions to the amount of coverage Bobbi and Kenny allowed their kids to get. Their birthdays were an opportunity for the press to get a check-up with the septuplets. One lucky reporter was Ann Curry from the Today Show who made sure to check up on the kids whenever she could. On their 13th birthday she made a special feature and even made sure that they got 91 candles for the special occasion.
High School Days
When the day came for the septuplets to go to high school, everyone’s heads turned. Nobody had ever seen a set of septuplets walking through the hall of Carlisle High School. However it didn’t take a long time for them to make friends and fit right in.
Not Always Easy
Having a premature birth can sometimes cause some complications. IN the case of the McCaughey septuplets, there were a few. Alexis and Nathan were both born with cerebral palsy, which meant that the children would have trouble walking.
But their cerebral palsy was not going to stop the two of them from doing great things, even if they had to use walkers to move around. Nathan pushed himself to walk and moved himself closer and closer to his goal every day. He said, “I taught myself how to walk because I really wanted to learn. It’s just been getting better and better.”
Alexis has cerebral palsy to a worse extent but she hasn’t let that hold her back in any regard. She own the title of “Teen Miss Dreams Made True” in 2013 and has left a lasting impression on all she comes into contact with.
Before anyone could blink, it was their sweet sixteenth birthday. Excitement was running high since they had started taking driving lessons; they were edging closer to adulthood. But driving lessons were expensive so their dad decided that it was a good time to teach his kids a valuable lesson.
Kenny believed that their children needed to learn the value of money and that it didn’t grow on trees. His son, Kenny Jr. told NBC News from his own personal experience, “We were taught if we want something, we have to work for it.”
Just Normal Teenagers
Despite having an incredible birth story and a very interesting upbringing, as teenagers they were just regular teenagers. Love was in the air for some of the, they were all finding jobs to earn themselves some money and then there were some who were already getting behind the wheel.
18 At Last
When the septuplets turned 18, life seemed to be very different… for their parents that is. Each parent wanted to offer life advice to the septuplets, and then they realized how challenging it was to do so for so many children and all at the same time.
Graduating At Last
In May 2016 the septuplets graduated from high school. Kenny and Bobbi found it surreal to see their “babies” graduating from high school since everything seemed to have passed them in a blur.
Keeping It Local
Like any high school graduates, the children all went off to find their calling. Alexis and Kenny Jr. went to school at their local Des Moines college. Did we mention that Alexis finished on the top of her high school class?
Keeping It Local
Brandon went to the U.S. Army proving that he truly is the brave one of the lot. It has always been his dream to become a soldier and that dream from when he was only three years old just came to life.
Kenny Jr. is a very hands-on person and made sure to put his expertise to good use. When he discovered that he loved carpentry he took it on with full power and now he has already added some crafty projects to his repertoire.
The McCaughey children were blessed with two special offers they received from different schools. It was the State of Iowa said that the septuplets could study at any university in the state of their choosing. Missouri’s Hannibal-LaGrange University offered all the children a scholarship to study at their institution. Nathan, Natalie, Kelsey and Joel all took up the offer at Hannibal-LaGrange.
Here’s another McCaughey child who excels at what she does. Lexi found her calling in early childhood education and that’s what she decided to go for. On occasion she shares her experience with the world via her social media accounts.
Oh yes, there’s a scientist in the McCaughey family too! His name is Nathan and he’s going to be the next Einstein… okay don’t quote anyone on that one, but we’re sure that he’s going to do great things.
What would a group of children be without a musician? After all they were all part of the school band, right? Kelsey is going to do amazing things after Hannibal-LaGrange.
The Computer Guy
Did we tell you that there was only one scientist in the McCaughey family? Well that would be wrong. Apart from Nathan there is also Joel. Although it’s important to say that Joel is studying computer science.
Natalie is headed for the stars too. She’s also going to make sure that children get there too. Her passion and talent is in the education of children and she’s going to be an elementary school teacher.
Empty Nest Syndrome
As all the septuplets moved on to the next chapter of their lives, Bobbi and Kenny felt as if they weren’t ready for their next chapter. From having a noisy and full house to having a quiet and empty house was no easy transition.
The Older Sister
We’ve spoken about the septuplets and where they’re landed up, but what about their eldest sister? First she studied at Des Moines and Arizona State University. Mikayla Marie has also fallen in love and gotten married, They’ve shared in the miracle of childbirth themselves.
Dodging A Bullet
Not a day goes by that Bobbi and Kenny don’t think about how lucky they are to have their children. They could have so easily taken the advice of the people who thought it was best for them to go for “selective reduction”.
But it’s not that they simply feel grateful for not having done selective reduction, they are staunchly against it. If anyone were to ask the McCaughey parents about it, they say their answer would be, “Well, come to our house, and tell me which four I shouldn’t have had!”
Their Own Book
It’s Bobbi’s and Kenny’s strongest belief that having the septuplets was a gift from God. They felt so blessed by the journey that had brought them their children that they even wrote a book about it. Their book is appropriately called “Seven from Heaven”.
Photographs For Memory
But it wasn’t just a book that served as a journal of their journey. Photographers Andrea Melendez, Holly McQueen, and Rodney White were granted the opportunity to photograph the septuplets and to this day these photos serve great memories to the whole McCaughey family.
Year after year the septuplets would sit in front of the camera and have their photo taken. Taking a look at this collage, could you guess who’s who? From the top left running clockwise: Kelsey, Kenny, Natalie, Mikayla (the eldest) Alexis, Brandon, Nathan, and Joel.
Through The Years
Years after she had covered the story of the septuplets, Ann Curry came back to see them in 2016. What a change it was for her to see the “kids” again, realizing that they were already far from the children she had once met.