The World’s First Surviving Septuplets, Now They’re 20 Years Old

Published on January 20, 2018
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Every day, around 353,000 babies are brought into the world. The miracle of childbirth has become so common that sometimes we forget how incredible it really is. When a couple was faced with the hardship of battling for pregnancy, they thought they would never have their moment to rejoice in the miracle of life. Being devout believers, they trusted that whatever the reason for their battle for a baby, it must have been sent from the heavens. Then the unthinkable happened.

The McCaugheys

Bobbi and Kenny McCaughey tried for a long time to have a child. Bobbi herself was born with a malfunctioning pituitary gland which causes fertility issues. But in 1996 they had a baby girl and they named her Mikayla Marie. They suddenly had hope that they could possibly have another baby.

The McCaugheys

The McCaugheys

Seeking Help

After all the trouble Bobbi and Kenny went through to conceive Mikayla Marie, they figured it would be best to seek help. They went to see a fertility treatment specialist who pointed them to Metrodin. This medication assists to stimulate ovulation which in turn helps a woman become pregnant. And she did.

Seeking Help

Seeking Help

Not Only One

On one of their trips to the doctor’s office for a check-up on the baby, something unexpected happened. Bobbi and Kenny waited for the doctor to return with the results of her scan. When he did, their jaws hit the floor. The scan didn’t show just one baby. The scan showed SEVEN babies!

Not Only One

Not Only One

Selective Reduction

The couple was ecstatic and they couldn’t believe their luck. But there was something that they needed to know about the septuplets. Giving birth to so many babies was both risky to Bobbi and to all 7 babies.

Selective Reduction

Selective Reduction

Accepting The Risk

The doctor explained the complications to the joyous couple. He explained that they had the option to terminate a number of the embryos in order to give the others a definite chance of survival. Bobbi and Kenny looked at each-other, and decided that they would go ahead with the full pregnancy, despite the risks.

Accepting The Risk

Accepting The Risk

Out In The Open

It didn’t take long for the news to spread of the couple that was risking the birth of septuplets. Both the media and the public wanted to hear about the parents who used fertility treatement to get pregnant and then became pregnant with seven babies. Most of the public was supportive, but at the same time, others were critical of their decision.

Out In The Open

Out In The Open

Not Alone

For those of the public who were excited and supportive of Bobbi and Kenny, action was their next move. Kraft stepped in and donated a year’s worth of mac n’ cheese. Another company donated diapers, and then the unthinkable – they were given a 5,000 square foot house!

Not Alone

Not Alone

More Gifts

The house was an overwhelming gift, but the generosity didn’t stop there for the McCaugheys. A donation came through, and it was a van so that the parents would be able to drive their septuplets, and current baby, around with ease. Another organization planned to donate a year’s supply of groceries for the family. Everyone jumped at the chance to help them, and their septuplets hadn’t even been born yet.

More Gifts

More Gifts

Unnerving The Nerves

As anyone could understand, the weeks and months leading up to the birth were riddled with stress. There was constant excitement for the couple, but there was also worry. No matter how excited they felt, they couldn’t shake the nervousness from their minds.

Unnerving The Nerves

Unnerving The Nerves

An Early Surprise

There was no better way to dive right into it than by having to go to the hospital earlier than they expected to. Nine weeks before her due date, Kenny rushed Bobbi to the hospital to have a cesarean birth. On November 19th, 1997, all 7 babies were born within six minutes of each-other. From a family of 3, they catapulted to a family of 10!

An Early Surprise

An Early Surprise

Meet The Babies

The septuplets were made up of four boys and three girls. Can you imagine what the task of naming (and remembering) the babies was like? These are their names: Kenny (Kenneth) Robert who was the heaviest baby, Alexis May, Natalie Sue, Kelsey Ann who was the lightest baby, Nathan Roy, Brandon James, and Joel Steven. Did you get that all?

Meet The Babies

Meet The Babies

Eating Problems

When the septuplets were born, two of them needed to eat through a tube. Natalie had an issue with acid reflux which resulted in terrible pain when she ate. Lexi suffered from a muscular disorder that caused her to eat with difficulty.

Feeding Tubes

Feeding Tubes

Hospital Staff

As anyone could imagine, giving birth to seven babies would require a little more than just one nurse. Not only was this septuplets birth the first for the parents, but it was for the entire birthing staff too. Two days after the babies were born, each and every staff member who helped came together for this incredible photograph.

Hospital Staff

Hospital Staff

No Sleep

Even though the press was following Bobbi’s pregnancy, they were taken by surprise when she went into labor early. Camera crews and reporters swarmed to the Iowa Methodist Hospital Center in Des Moines, each one hoping to get the first story back to their headquarters.

No Sleep

No Sleep

Discharging From Hospital

It was by no means a normal birth, and therefore it took a good while for the babies to be healthy enough to go home. In fact, it was after 3 months and 10 days when they got the green light. As Bobbi and Kenny made their way to their new van, cameras and reporters swarmed them, trying to get the first pictures of the babies.

Discharging From Hospital

Discharging From Hospital

Police And Security

They drove home to their small house, since they still hadn’t moved to their new home. Police officers stepped in to ensure that they had safe passage home, as well as to ensure that the family wouldn’t be harassed. The police even put up a post outside of the house just to make sure that they would have their privacy.

Police And Security

Police And Security

The New House

Eventually, when everything was furnished and ready for the new family of ten, a special ceremony took place. Their brand new 5500 ft² (511 m²) house stood waiting for them to make it a home. Clarke Companies Chairman Lloyd Clarke handed the keys of their new home to Kenny in the garage of the house.

The New House

The New House

Magazine Publicity

For the start, the McCaughey’s story seemed to only circulate within their county. But then, when they were least expecting it, their story flooded the greater media. Time Magazine featured their story in December 1997.

Magazine Publicity

Magazine Publicity

ABC News

But it didn’t stop with Time Magazine, in fact their story just spread to other news networks. ABC News Prime Time became the first television station to cover their story. But the funny thing was that many different news networks were covering the story, simply by copying others’ reports.

ABC News

ABC News

Not All Good

Even though the McCaughey’s miracle story brought so much joy and attention, there were still some negative responses. Some critics argued that having septuplets wouldn’t be right for the kids, or that it would hurt the environment. Despite all the love and hate mail they received, their happiness was unhindered.

Not All Good

Not All Good

Getting Away

At some point Bobbi and Kenny decided that it would be best for the family to step out of the limelight. They wanted to have a normal and private experience with their new babies. They decided to only make public appearances for the babies’ birthdays. But it wasn’t a decision they made on their own, they had an influence.

Getting Away

Getting Away

The Quintuplets

The Dionne quintuplets were born in Ontario, Canada in 1934 to Elzire Dionne. They grew up in a difficult environment, being used as a ‘circus-like’ attraction for tourists. They rushed to warn the parents of the septuplets of the harm that too much exposure could cause.

The Quintuplets

The Quintuplets

A Serious Load

With so many babies in the house – being 7 new ones and their one-year-old – laundry was a part of every day. In fact laundry became such an important task that it occurred about 17 times a week! The family was forced to buy two of everything, including a washing machine and a dryer.

Serious Load

Serious Load


Lots Of Poop

With so many babies eating so much, they were making their way through something like 52 diapers on a daily basis! It makes sense, seeing as they consumed around 42 bottles every day. Everything about the septuplets was becoming costly, so the McCaugheys needed to make a plan.

Lots Of Poop

Lots Of Poop

Pumping Milk

Bobbi had a task that most new moms would not be prepared for. She breastfed her babies from their birth until they were 3 months old.

Pumping Milk

Pumping Milk

Potty Training

It took Bobbi and Kenny just four days to potty train their eldest daughter. But it was definitely more challenging withthe septuplets. They braced themselves because they knew it would take them a couple of months.

Potty Training

Potty Training

Volunteers Help

It wasn’t just the money that was tight, it was lack of sleep, the need to work and the care of the babies. But the couple wasn’t on their own. In fact they were fortunate enough to have about 70 volunteers help them on a daily basis. One heck of an operation.

Volunteers Help

Volunteers Help

Everyone Wants To Help

It wasn’t that everyone just wanted to help the parents out, it was also that the septuplets were so adorable. Even the construction workers building the McCaughey’s house helped out with the babies. This is one of Bobbi’s and Kenny’s favorite photographs.

Everyone Wants To Help

Everyone Wants To Help

Aunts

It touched Kenny and Bobbi that so many people had come forward from their community to help. It was even more touching when Bobbi’s sister, Michelle came up just to help with the babies. You can see her playing with one of the babies.

Aunts

Aunts

The Big Sister

But it wasn’t just the adults who got to help out with the cute septuplets. Their eldest sister, Mikayla, was quick to take on the responsibilities of an older sister and swooped in to help. She may have been young, but she was tuned in.

The Big Sister

The Big Sister

The Plan

In order to accommodate their economic situation, Kenny and Bobbi started to buy products in bulk. They hunted for deals and discounts at the supermarket. One of the deals they always joke about was when Bobbi managed to buy 60 pounds of hamburgers, simply because they were at a discounted price. They reduced their monthly grocery budget to $300.

The Plan

The Plan

Futuristic Strollers

Even though everyone in the neighborhood knew about the septuplets, people still turned their heads every time the family went for a stroll. It wasn’t an ordinary sight to see such long strollers, especially with so many kids!

Futuristic Strollers

Futuristic Strollers

Growing Their Own

Shopping in bulk was only part of their solution to cutting down costs. The next step was to grow their own produce. We’re not talking about cows, but fruit and vegetables in their own backyard.

Growing Their Own

Growing Their Own

Septuplets Check-Ups

There was so much that needed to be done for the babies. One such thing was the regular check-up at the doctor’s office. The doctor constantly needed to see how the septuplets were doing.

Septuplets Check Ups

Septuplets Check-Ups

Most Important Meal

We all know that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but not everyone loves to eat it. Luckily for the McCaugheys, it happened to be the septuplets’ favorite meal.

Most Important Meal

Most Important Meal

Cryptophasia

We all know about “goo-goo’s” and “ga-ga’s”, but the McCaughey babies had their own version of it. They created a language that they spoke amongst themselves that no-one else understood. This phenomenon is called cryptophasia – the language that twins or triplets (or septuplets in this case) create that only they can understand.

Cryptophasia

Cryptophasia

Throwing Birthdays

Every year on their birthday, they had a party. It wasn’t just a party, it was a joyous celebration thanking God for the miracle that became the septuplets. Each year was a reminder that they made the right decision to keep all seven of the babies.

Throwing Birthdays1

Throwing Birthdays

Dressing Up

Dressing the kids was easy and fun. All the boys wore the same outfits, and all the girls wore the same outfits. But when it came to shoe sizes, that was where the challenge was since they didn’t all have the same sizes.

Dressing Up1

Dressing Up

Clothing For Septuplets

Having to buy clothing for all the children as they grew up was going to cost the couple a fortune. But Carter’s, a children’s clothing company came to the rescue. They offered to provide clothing for the children until they turned 5.

Clothing For Septuplets

Clothing For Septuplets

The Presidents

The news of the babies’ birth spread everywhere, even to the White House. The president of the United States of America, Bill Clinton, called Bobbi and Kenny just to congratulate them on the special birth. Later they would meet President George W. Bush too.

The Presidents

The Presidents

Clinton’s Compliment

President Bill Clinton didn’t just congratulate the family, he even said to 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.”

Clintons Compliment

Clinton’s Compliment

The Governor

Presidents and even governors too. The governor of Iowa, Terry Branstad, drove to the McCaughey’s house to see the children. He was so emotional about his visit that he even landed a little peck on little Kenny’s cheek.

The Governor

The Governor

4 Candles For 7 Kids

When we first think about what their fourth birthday party would look like, we imagine 7 cakes, or 28 candles. But this family was different. Bobbi and Kenny wanted to teach their kids that they should share. A life lesson they would take with them throughout their lives.

4 Candles For 7 Kids

4 Candles For 7 Kids

Each Their Own

Like all kids out there, they each have their own personality that makes him or her unique. Kenny Junior is considered the joker, Joel and Natalie are the bookworms and Brandon is the bravest, and most stubborn.

Each Their Own

Each Their Own

The Naughty One

Although they were all different in their own way, one child will always be remembered for his mischievousness. That would be Kenny Jr. and his parents always said he was a “pint-sized explorer”.

The Naughty One

The Naughty One

Date Night

It’s incredible to know that even with so many children and so many responsibilities, the McCaughey parents found time to do something special together once a week. Bobbi and Kenny made Friday nights their date night.

Date Night

Date Night

Parents’ Perception

Bobbi and Kenny summarized how they saw each child – Alexis was “sweet and perceptive”. Joel was “quiet and reflective”. Kelsey was the “sporty fashionista”. Kenny Jr. was the “go-getter”. Nathan was “determined”. Brandon was “outgoing and athletic.” Natalie was the “high-achieving perfectionist”.

Parents Perception

Parents’ Perception

A Special Trip

Bobbi and Kenny managed to even treat their children to a special trip to Disney World in Orlando. All the septuplets, plus Mikayla, their eldest, enjoyed the wonderful experience.

A Special Trip

A Special Trip

Ladies’ Home Journal

On the children’s eighth birthday, their parents gave Ladies’ Home Journal consent to have the kids feature on their magazine’s cover. They even answered questions in an interview with the answers being published in the magazine, hoping to be a help for other parents.

Ladies Home Journal

Ladies’ Home Journal

It’s Your Birthday!

Keeping to their word of remaining under the radar apart from birthdays, Bobbi and Kenny McCaughey allowed Ann Curry from the Today Show to make a special feature when the septuplets turned 13. It truly was a special sight to behold when the 7 teenagers blew out all of their 91 candles.

Its Your Birthday

It’s Your Birthday!

Starting High School

When high school came around, all of the septuplets attended Carlisle High School in Carlisle, Iowa. As you would have guessed, they were the center of attention from day one. 2012 was a milestone in their lives.

Starting High School

Starting High School

Band Of Brothers And Sisters

It must have been quite a sight to behold when the septuplets walked down the school corridor together. But it was surely more exciting when they all joinedthe band together… and played together.

Band Of Brothers And Sisters

Band Of Brothers And Sisters

Buffet Dinners

Having dinner buffet style seems kind of fun and interesting. Well, the McCaughey family decided to make this their default dinner plan because it was easier and more convenient. As the kids grew up, they all started helping with preparing the food and cleaning up afterwards.

Buffet Dinners

Buffet Dinners

Difficult Conditions

When a child is born prematurely, the baby can sometimes face difficult health issues. Two of the septuplets were born with cerebral palsy – Alexis and Nathan. This condition has a negative effect on a person’s co-ordination and movement, which in the children’s case meant they would have trouble walking.

Difficult Conditions

Difficult Conditions

Staying Determined

For a big part of their childhoods, Nathan and Alexis needed walkers to move around. But Nathan didn’t want to settle for that kind of mobility, so he started to push himself. Every day he tried more and more to walk without an aid. “I taught myself how to walk because I really wanted to learn. It’s just been getting better and better.”

Staying Determined

Staying Determined

Moving Forward

Alexis unfortunately suffers to a slightly worse degree than her brother. But despite this, she excels greatly. In 2013, Alexis made her mark when she won the “Teen Miss Dreams Made True” award. And back at school she was making waves when she finished in the top 15% of her class.

Moving Forward

Moving Forward

Sweet Sixteen

Having one child turn 16 is quite an operation, now think of 7 of them. But turning sixteen brought about new challenges, like the kids having to take driving lessons. It was going to be a costly exercise, so dad stepped in and made a plan.

Sweet Sixteen

Sweet Sixteen

Looking For Jobs

Kenny Sr. himself had been taught that in order to get what he wanted, he needed to work for it. He passed on this valuable lesson to his children at this moment in their lives. Kenny Jr. told of the lesson he and his siblings learned from their dad, “We were taught if we want something, we have to work for it.”

Looking For Jobs

Looking For Jobs

Normal Teenagers

With the days leading up to their 18th birthday, the press was interested to know what the septuplets were up to. The reports they came back with were quite normal. Some of the septuplets had found love, others were driving and working part-time jobs. They were like most teens.

Normal Teenagers

Normal Teenagers

Graduation

When the special day came in May 2016, Bobbi and Kenny couldn’t believe that their seven “babies” were actually graduating from high school. This marked a major milestone in all of their lives. The septuplets were over the moon and ready to take on the next stage of their lives.

Graduation

Graduation

18 At Last

When the septuplets eventually turned 18, it was a major point in theirs and their parents’ lives. Giving advice to a single teenager is difficult, but can you imagine what it must have been like giving advice to 7 of them? And how difficult it probably was seeing as they were all the same age at the same time.

18 At Last

18 At Last

Mommy’s Feelings

Bobbi looks back at the septuplets’ graduation and recalls how she felt at that moment when she saw them dressed up. “It’s sad to see things end, but there will be lots of firsts coming.” So where did they all go after their graduation?

Mommys Feelings

Mommy’s Feelings

Staying In Town

Alexis and Kenny decided to study at Des Moines, their local college because it was close to their home. Alexis graduated at the top of her class in high school and wants to become a teacher.

Staying In Town

Staying In Town

The Soldier

Ever since Brandon was a three-year-old, he wanted to become a soldier. His dream eventually came true and he enlisted into the Army Rangers. He is now an expert in pistol and carbine shooting. talk about becoming a star in his trade!

The Soldier

The Soldier

The Carpenter

Kenny Jr. was always a hands-on child, and that really showed when he became a carpenter. When the septuplets’ older sister gave birth, he made it his job to build them a kitchen table and two benches to accompany it.

The Carpenter

The Carpenter

The Students

When it was time to go to school, the Hannibal-LaGrange University in Missouri offered the septuplets scholarships. Additionally, the State of Iowa offered the kids full scholarships to any state university that they wished to attend. Natalie, Nathan, Kelsey, and Joel took Hannibal-LaGrange’s offer and continue to study there now.

The Students

The Students

The Educator

Lexi always had a dream to get involved in early childhood education. For her that dream became a reality when she started studying, and she takes no time off from showing that off on her social media pages.

The Educator

The Educator

The Scientist

Nathan isn’t a nerd, but he is a scientist… or maybe he’s both. Just like his siblings, he has always known what he wants to do and science is just that. Even though he hasn’t chosen an exact path yet, we’re sure he’ll excel and succeed in whatever he does.

The Scientist

The Scientist

The Musician

It’s true that every child has his or her calling and Kelsey was no different. She was the musically-inclined child. Today she is studying music at Hannibal-LaGrange University in Missouri. Maybe we’ll get to hear a release of hers soon.

The Musician

The Musician

The Computer Guy

Like Nathan, Joel has a clear interest in science, but his interest has a slightly different direction. Joel finds his passion in computer science. No-one has any doubts about how he will find success in this field.

The Computer Guy

The Computer Guy

The Teacher

Perhaps it’s not surprising when one septuplet is like another. Natalie is like her sister Alexis, in that she wants to become a teacher too. She is studying towards becoming an elementary school teacher.

The Teacher

The Teacher

Inseparable

Everybody wondered how the septuplets would deal with the distance that would grow between them when they all went their separate ways. The septuplets had a good giggle at the question, and reassured the public that they weren’t worried at all. They expressed that they were happy to each have their own space, but of course they would miss each-other.

Inseparable

Inseparable

Empty Nest Syndrome

As any parent could imagine, it was difficult for Bobbi to see the kids all leave the house and grow into adults. The difference for her and Kenny was that for them it all happened at the same time. It wasn’t like any family when gradually, one by one, each child grows up and leaves the house.

Empty Nest Syndrome

Empty Nest Syndrome

Where’s Their Older Sister?

While we’re all hyping around the septuplets, some are still wondering what happened to their eldest sister, Mikayla. Well, she is happily married with a child of her own. She graduated from Des Moines and then moved to Arizona State University to continue her studies.

Wheres Their Older Sister

Where’s Their Older Sister?

Her Bridesmaids

Many people have wondered how Mikayla fit in with the septuplets. Well, if her wedding was anything to go off, then seeing her sisters as her bridesmaids should be enough. She is definitely one of the gang, and they all feel that way.

Her Bridesmaids

Her Bridesmaids

And Dad?

It’s difficult to be a parent with a full house and then in a flash, have everyone move out. Kenny McCaughey on the other hand, took advantage of his free time and took on a new hobby – motorcycles. Aside from scrapping them and rebuilding them, he has ridden around the United States and plans to continue doing so.

And Dad

And Dad?

Too Much House

After spending years together in the big house that they received as a gift, it’s time for them to move. Bobbi and Kenny have decided that without all the kids in the house, it doesn’t make sense to keep up such a huge house. It’s not going to be easy parting from the house and the memories it has been a part of.

Too Much House

Too Much House

Finding A Buyer

In February 2018 the McCaughey family found a buyer for their huge house. They needed to downsize, so leaving the 7-bedroom and 5-bathroom house was a blessing for them.

Finding A Buyer

Finding A Buyer

Giving Back

Ruth Harbor was the one who came forward to make the purchase. The non-profit organization gives support to young women who are riddled with unplanned pregnancy. Bobbi was so pleased with the idea and she said, “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.”

Giving Back

Giving Back

Writing A Book

After the babies were born, Kenny and Bobbi McCaughey wrote a book called “Seven from Heaven”. The book included many subjects, like how their unwavering belief in God brought them happiness and hope in a situation where the odds were against them.

Writing A Book

Writing A Book

The Collection

Despite not wanting to have the kids in the public’s vision at every moment, Kenny and Bobbi still wanted a photography collection of the kids. The parents gave permission to a few companies like Gamma Press and Polaris Images to photograph the children. Three main photographers had the honor and privilege of taking the septuplets’ photos as they grew up.

The Collection

The Collection

Making Memories

Holly McQueen, Rodney White and Andrea Melendez, were the lucky photographers to take “normal, everyday” life pictures of the septuplets. The photographs they snapped would become the vivid memories that both the septuplets and their parents could share for years to come. It has become one of the most beautiful “American life” collections of all time.

Making Memories

Making Memories

Perfect Portraits

beautiful portraits became an annual project. Here they are, from the top left and moving clockwise, we have: Kelsey, Kenny, Natalie, Mikayla (the big sister) Alexis, Brandon, Nathan, and Joel.

Perfect Portraits

Perfect Portraits

Energetic Bunch

Let’s take a moment to appreciate a photographer who has enough patience to photograph one child. Now imagine what it must be like to do the same with 7! These skilled photographers wanted the septuplets to behave as naturally as possible.

Energetic Bunch

Energetic Bunch

Playing Outside

It has been many people’s question whether the children had a regular childhood. In most ways they did. The children often found creative games of their own, and other times they just played with whatever toys they had.

Playing Outside

Playing Outside

Video Games Then

Like most boys, the McCaughey boys loved playing video games. Bobbi and Kenny believed that their boys would outgrow their love for video games… but they were wrong.

Video Games Then

Video Games Then

Video Games Now

Who would have guessed that the boys would be at it, exactly as they were as kids. This picture comes years later and as we now see, they’re pretty much the exact same.

Video Games Now

Video Games Now

As Time Goes On

The Today Show‘s Ann Curry took the McCaugheys story on back in 1997. She made it her job and personal goal to check up on the kids throughout their growth and childhood. In 2016 she caught up with the crew once again, and it was a very emotional meeting.

As Time Goes On

As Time Goes On

Against All The Odds

Bobbi and Kenny constantly flash back to that day when they decided they were not going to do selective reduction. It was a difficult decision, but when they look at the risk they took and at the faith they had, they know that keeping all 7 babies was the right decision.

Against All The Odds

Against All The Odds

Speaking Up

Even after they faced criticism for potentially putting their babies at risk, Bobbi and Kenny feel content with their decision. To anyone advocating for selective reduction, they say, “Well, come to our house, and tell me which four I shouldn’t have had!”

Speaking Up

Speaking Up

Will They Have Twins?

So many people are asking the question of whether the septuplets will have multiple births themselves. Most experts agree that they probably will not. The reason being that Bobbi fell pregnant because of the use of fertility treatments.

Will They Have Twins

Will They Have Twins?

It’s All Worth It

Every time Bobbi and Kenny get the question of whether they would ever change their situation, “no” is the answer. They can teach us all something important about life and faith. When you expect little, sometimes you receive more… a lot more.

Its All Worth It

It’s All Worth It

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