Many of us would love to have a baby, some of us even two or three. But what about having seven of them? It might sound manageable, but now think about having all seven of them at the same time. In the age of medical innovation, fertility treatment has aided many women in getting pregnant. This is the story of a couple who couldn’t have a baby, and then had seven. The years have passed, and now those little septuplets are young adults, making them the oldest surviving septuplets. What a journey it has been for the McCaughey family.
It seems natural to have a baby, and recently it has become natural to take advantage of medical innovation to help you get there. In the case of women who can’t fall pregnant, there are some different methods of getting there. Fertility treatment isn’t uncommon and it is practiced in many countries across the globe. Even though it is an accepted method in many places, there are those that aren’t in favor of it. Some religious groups believe that it is against God’s will to interfere with the natural course of creating life. Their claim is that if God wants to give life he will, and if it is not meant to be then it will not materialize.
But then there are people like Bobbi and Kenny McCaughey. They believe that God gives each one of us the opportunity to make the most of any situation. If the answer comes in the form of medical aid like fertility treatment, then that’s the answer they choose to follow. In the end that is the answer that followed and the results were miraculous. To this day they wish to share their story so that others can find hope and direction, no matter what they’re going through.
This is a story about facing one’s greatest fears and overcoming them when the odds are against you. It is an inspiring story about love, family, and one’s faith in God, good will or whatever they have chosen as their life compass. This story will make you smile, it will make you cry, and it will make you think about what’s most important to you in your life. The miracle of birth is exactly that – a miracle. Where are these babies now, 21 years later? How have the past 2 decades affected this family? Let’s find out…
Meet The Parents
In 1996, Bobbi and Kenny McCaughey received a blessing in the form of a baby girl. Their daughter, Mikayla Marie truly was a blessing since they had had trouble getting Bobbi pregnant. Bobbi suffered from a malfunctioning pituitary gland which caused her fertility troubles. Their daughter truly was a miracle baby.
A few months after they had Mikayla, the couple decided that they would try to have another baby. This time a specialist convinced them to look into the benefits of fertility treatment. The specialist encouraged them to use Metrodin which acts as an ovulation stimulant, helping a woman to fall pregnant. There was a chance of having another baby for Bobbi and Kenny.
One Isn’t Enough
After some time had passed, the McCaugheys went back to the doctor for a scan. When the results came back, the couple was absolutely astonished. There wasn’t just one embryo growing inside of Bobbi, there weren’t even two. Bobbi was pregnant with SEVEN babies! It was more than just exciting and overwhelming for the couple, it was also dangerous for Bobbi.
The news of the babies caused a bit of a stir. Fertility treatment had helped her fall pregnant, but fertility treatment had also presented them with a major issue. Some people suggested that the couple look into “selective reduction” which is the process of eliminating some embryos in order to afford others a greater chance of survival.
Taking The Risk
It was a stressful time for Bobbi and Kenny. On the one hand they wanted to ensure that they would save however many babies as they could, on the other hand they were potentially endangering the others. In the end they decided to keep them all.
In their hometown of Carlisle, Iowa, news of their decision was spreading fast. Heaps of people got together to help the McCaugheys, understanding that getting seven babies at once was going to be a great challenge. Companies and organizations stepped in and donated all different kinds of things, like diapers, nanny services, a van and even a year’s worth of mac n’ cheese.
Kenny and Bobbi were overwhelmed by all the gifts and donations they were receiving. However there was one gift that was unparalleled and they wouldn’t have expected it in a million years. They received a massive 5,000 square foot house for their “family-to-be”. And to top it off they would receive a year’s supply of groceries too.
There were so many preparations to be done before the babies were born, and they felt that they had no time to do everything. On November 19th, 1997, Kenny rushed Bobbi to the hospital – it was 9 weeks early and she had to have a Cesarean birth. And then within 6 minutes of one-another, the septuplets were born. From a cozy family of 3, their family burst into 10.
Meet The Babies
The litter of septuplets was comprised of 3 girls and 4 boys. Bobbi and Kenny had prepared names for their new babies and here they are: 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?
Where Are They Now?
You’ll be delighted to hear that all seven of the babies grew up into healthy young adults. 21 years later, the seven brothers and sisters are still growing accustomed to the attention that their unique family is receiving, but they are still one big loving and supporting unit. But how were things along the way as they were growing up?
The Birthing Staff
Not a single one of the staff members at their hospital had ever been a part of such a massive birth. A couple of days following the birth, all the staff members who made the McCauheys’ miracle come true, came together for a historical picture.
By the time news of Bobbi’s early labor spread to the press, there was a race to get the first coverage of the story. The camera crews literally camped out in the parking lot of the Iowa Methodist Hospital Center in Des Moines, waiting to get the first pictures of the septuplets, but they would have to wait a lot longer than they had anticipated.
Leaving The Hospital
After an exhausting three months and ten days, the McCaugheys were eventually allowed to leave the hospital. It took a team of people to get the couple and their septuplets out of the hospital to their van without being mobbed by reporters. It was a happy day for everyone.
It wasn’t just the hospital staff and their friends that kept them safe, the police did too. When they came back to their house, there were police officers that held post and they would remain there until they moved to their new house.
It seemed like local publicity was as far as their story was going to go, but they were wrong about that. In December 1997, their story reached the ears of Time Magazine and they asked Kenny and Bobbi if they could feature their story. The couple agreed.
Originally Bobbi and Kenny thought that reporters were the only ones who wanted to meet them and hear their story, but then their story exploded. In December 1997, Time Magazine featured their story.
ABC News was thrilled to become the first TV station to get a full, undisturbed feature of the McCaugheys. Before that, most of the reports just came from assumptions and rumors that people started to spread in order to have a story.
Roses Come With Thorns
Just like any situation, with good coverage, bad coverage comes too. The family even received “hate mail” from some members of the public who accused them of having too many children. Others went as far as to say that the number of children would be harmful to the environment. Regardless of what negative feedback they received, they were over the moon.
Taking A Break
It was very tempting to become “celebrities”, but after the initial buzz died down, the McCaugheys decided that it would be best to keep a low profile and lead a normal life. So have they accomplished that feat now, 21 years later? Do the babies live a normal life? But first, we explore the great reason for this decision, which came from the Dionne quintuplets, who had a warning for them.
In 1934, the Dionne quintuplets were born to Elzire Dionne in Onario, Canada. The children were exploited; used as an attraction that robbed them of their childhood. And it was because of this that they warned the Bobbi and Kenny about the negativity too much exposure could lead to.
Load After Load
Pursuing privacy was becoming a challenge, but they were able to achieve it. Having said that, there was still a lot to do around the house. Laundry was a daily activity, and most times more than once a day. In order to accommodate their 17 weekly loads of laundry, the couple had to invest in two washing machines and two dryers.
Babies In Bulk
Doing laundry was only side of the challenge they faced. The babies, as babies do, were pooping a fortune and needed constant changing. Can you imagine how many diapers they used in a day? The answer is approximately 52! In addition to the diapers, the babies needed around 42 bottles every single day.
Can you even begin to imagine what feeding the newborn babies was like? Bobbi bravely pumped enough breast milk for the babies until they hit the 3-month mark. On a weekly basis, they believe that they consumed something like 4 or 5 gallons of milk a week!
It took Bobbi and Kenny just four days to potty train their first daughter, Mikayla. Of course it was very different with the septuplets, and after a couple of months of training passed, they realized what they were in for.
If two parents alone had to care for the septuplets and another child, they surely would not manage. Thank goodness the couple had the help of about 70 volunteers coming in on a daily basis. They helped with feeding, changing diapers, cleaning and playing with the septuplets.
Of course it was wonderful to get so much assistance from the public. However when family came to help with the children, it was so valuable to the couple. Michelle, Bobbi’s sister plays with one of the babies.
The Big Sister
Even though Mikayla Marie was a toddler herself, she took on some responsibilities of her own. She would help her parents feed the little ones, and she would also play with them. What a great older sister she was.
But even with all the help they received from friends and volunteers, maintaining a household with 8 children was quite costly. It required meticulous financial planning and smart budgeting, but the couple made it work. Buying in bulk became the new norm for Bobbi and Kenny McCaughey and they managed to reduce their monthly grocery spend to approximately $300.
Even though the entire neighborhood knew about the birth of the septuplets, seeing them all together was something else. With strollers that seemed “futuristic” because of their sheer length, heads were always turning as they walked along.
The family didn’t stop there when it came to reducing costs. They decided that they could start their own vegetable garden and have vegetables right outside their front door. This was just another great way to cut down grocery shopping costs.
Have you ever heard of cryptophasia? It’s the language that twins and triplets speak. They create their own kind of language that no-one else can understand, except for them. In this case it wasn’t twins or triplets, but septuplets that had learned to communicate in a special language of their own.
Clothing For Septuplets
The septuplets were growing at a rapid rate, and clothing left behind by their first daughter Mikayla would not be enough for all seven children. But out of nowhere came a miracle that would help them tremendously. Carter’s, a children’s clothing company promised to give the family clothing until the kids’ 5th birthday.
Of all the Americans who wanted to meet the septuplets, perhaps it was the biggest surprise when the President of The United States shared his interest. President Bill Clinton called the McCaugheys to wish them well. It would be a few years later that the following president, George W. Bush, would meet the septuplets too.
On the phone with Bobbi McCaughey, President Clinton had a compliment that she didn’t see coming. He said to her, “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.”
Taking a look a little more local, even the governor of Iowa, Terry Brandstad, was interested in the septuplets. Brandstad was thrilled to meet the children, as you can clearly see as he pecks Kenny’s cheek.
4 Candles For 7 Kids
What’s a birthday party without a cake with candles? For the McCaughey septuplets there was just one cake for the kids, and it only had four candles. Kenny and Bobbi wanted the children to understand that it was important to share with their siblings.
Exactly like any children in a group, they are all different in their own unique way. The general way they looked at the septuplets was the following: Kenny Junior as the comedian, Joel and Natalie as bookworms, and Brandon as the brave and stubborn one.
The Naughty One
For Kenny Junior, he was something of a mischievous child, always getting up to trouble. Bobbi would affectionately call him the “pint-sized explorer”.
But even with having 8 children in the house (and an exceptionally naughty one), Bobbi and Kenny ensured that they still had special time just for themselves. These date nights were reserved for Fridays and they actually managed to keep to them most of the time.
There were other ways the parents characterized the septuplets. Alexis as “sweet and perceptive”. Joel as “quiet and reflective”. Kelsey as the “sporty fashionista”. Kenny Jr. as the “go-getter”. Nathan as “determined”. Brandon as “outgoing and athletic.” Natalie as the “high-achieving perfectionist”.
A Special Trip
If you thought date nights were something impossible that the McCaughey parents pulled off, then you haven’t seen anything yet. The whole family took a vacation to Disney World in Orlando… wow!
On The Cover
As a way to help other parents with children (especially those with more than one), Bobbi and Kenny agreed to be featured in Ladies’ Home Journal magazine on the septuplets’ 8th birthday. In addition, the kids posed for a picture that would become the cover of the magazine.
George W. Bush
In 2001, the children were privileged to go and meet the president. Although they had been told about the trip before, they still weren’t overly impressed since they didn’t know what a president was. President Bush was delighted to meet the kids, though.
Too Much Attention
Offers came to Bobbi and Kenny from different TV networks who wanted to turn their home into the set of a reality TV show. The parents rejected the offers because they didn’t want the septuplets to grow up any different from other children.
It’s Your Birthday!
Kenny and Bobbi agreed to allow the press to report on the kids at their birthdays. Ann Curry of the Today Show became their go-to person. She even created a special feature when the children turned 13. For this occasion the young teens got 91 candles, and what a sight it was to behold when they blew them all out.
High School Days
The first day of high school for the septuplets was quite overwhelming, and not just for them. When they first walked through the corridors of Carlisle High School in Carlisle, Iowa, everyone turned their heads. But soon enough they would fit right in and make new friends.
Band Of Brothers And Sisters
The septuplets made sure to leave a lasting impression when they went to high school when they ALL joined the school bad. That meant that every time there was a football game on, all the McCaughey septuplets played together.
Each To Their Own
It’s no surprise that aside from playing in the school band the kids all had hobbies of their own. Some continued with music and joined the choir, others took to wrestling and cross-country, and some even went on to do speech contests. The McCaughey kids were a team to be reckoned with.
But their special skills didn’t end at their extracurricular activities at school, they continued during dinner time at home. Each time dinner needed to be prepared, all the septuplets swooped in to help, making sure that their routine buffet dinner was a success.
Not Always Easy
Even though the children were always there for each-other, there were difficult times that they faced too. When children are born prematurely, babies can face some serious health problems. Two of the McCaughey children, Alexis and Nathan were born with cerebral palsy.
As a result of their cerebral palsy, both children needed walkers to get around. Nathan’s ailment was less severe so he forced himself to walk without it. He said, “I taught myself how to walk because I really wanted to learn. It’s just been getting better and better.”
Alexis cannot however walk without her walking aid, but that doesn’t mean she can’t achieve greatness elsewhere. In 2013 she won the title of “Teen Miss Dreams Made True”, and she finished in the top 15% of her class.
When their 16th birthday came around, the press wanted to know how they were doing. For one they had started driving lessons, which was a great step into their young adulthood. But driving lessons would be costly for each child, so Kenny Sr., their dad, came up with a plan.
Dad’s notion was that the kids should work for what they want. So he helped the septuplets look for and find jobs and quickly they learned the value of working for your own money. In an interview with NBC News, Kenny Jr. explained the ideology in the home, “We were taught if we want something, we have to work for it.”
Just Normal Teenagers
Even though they were septuplets, they were just normal teenagers getting on with their lives. Some of the teenagers had found love interests, others were working part-time jobs and others were getting their driver’s license.
18 At Last
Turning 18 seemed like a monumental moment in their lives… and not just in the septuplets’ life. Bobbi and Kenny were also having a hard time fishing out advice to all of the children at the same time. Giving advice to a teenager is difficult as it is, can you fathom what doing so for 7 would be like?
Graduating At Last
Their dreams came true in May 2016 when the septuplets graduated from high school. With the constant buzz of activity from their birth until their graduation, it became the first time for Bobbi and Kenny to actually reflect on what they had accomplished.
Coming Full Circle
The septuplets’ graduation was obviously an emotional day for all of them, but especially for Bobbi. When she looked at her kids in their robes and graduation hats she really felt it. “It’s sad to see things end, but there will be lots of firsts coming.” What happened after they graduated?
Keeping It Local
Following their high school graduation, each of the children went off into his or her own direction. Kenny Jr. and Alexis kept it local and signed up to study at their local college in Des Moines. Alexis actually graduated top of her class in high school.
The “brave child”, Brandon has enlisted in the U.S. Army and is very successful there. Apparently it has been his dream to serve in the military ever since he was a young boy – three years old, to be exact.
Serving His Country
Since joining the military, Brandon has been placed in the 75th Rangers Regiment and is achieving great things there. It just goes to show that when you put your mind and heart into something you can achieve anything.
As we’ve said, each of the seven septuplets is different in their own unique way. Kenny Jr. is the one with the gifted hands. His passion lies in carpentry and he has already completed some beautiful projects.
Work For Family
Kenny Jr. has not only made some impressive wooden pieces to sell, but he has also made for his very own family. One of his proudest works was a kitchen table that has a couple of benches to accompany it.
As part of another initiative to help the McCaughey family, the Hannibal-LaGrange University in Missouri offered scholarships for all the children. But they weren’t the only ones to offer free education to the family. The State of Iowa gave the septuplets the choice to study at any university in the state. In the end four of the kids (Natalie, Nathan, Kelsey, and Joel) chose to study at Hannibal-LaGrange.
Lexi has found her passion in early childhood education and she is determined to be a success in this field. Lexi frequently uses her social media accounts to share her progress with her friends and followers.
If any one of the septuplets knows about science, it has got to be Nathan. He has always been the “Einstein” of the group and now that he is studying towards becoming a scientist, it’s set in stone.
Perhaps there’s a number of musicians for each group of children. Kelsey is the musical child in the family, and she’s studying music at Missouri’s Hannibal-LaGrange. Can we look forward to an album release any time soon?
The Computer Guy
Nathan isn’t the only one of the McCaughey septuplets who has his eye on science. Joel is also into science, but he’s into computer science and it’s quite different. Regardless of what it is, we’re sure he’ll do great things.
There seem to be many similarities when it comes children born as part of multiple births. Natalie resembles her sister Alexis, not just in her looks but in her passion to educate others. She is studying to become an elementary school teacher.
Too Close To Separate
Following the McCaugheys’ graduation, a reporter interviewed them and asked how they felt about the fact that they would be splitting up. They said that they weren’t worried about losing their closeness. They said that they would be physically apart, but that’s it.
Empty Nest Syndrome
All at once the atmosphere in the McCaughey house changed when the septuplets went off to college. It wasn’t just the septuplets, their eldest daughter was also out of the house. Bobbi and Kenny couldn’t help but feel alone in a huge house.
The Older Sister
Speaking of Mikayla, many of us have been wondering where she is. She found the love of her life and married him. Not long ago the couple celebrated the birth of their first child. Whether they worried about it or not, they didn’t have septuplets of their own. She studied both at Des Moines and Arizona State University.
When Mikayla got married, it was obviously a big day for her, but also for the whole family. Mikayla happily included her siblings in her wedding party, and all of her sisters took part as birdesmaids.
What About Dad?
Even though his wife was having a hard time with all the kids out of the house, Kenny was actually starting to take advantage of the change. Since he has found himself enthralled with a new hobby – motorcycles. Talk about having a second “youthhood”.
Together Bobbi and Kenny McCaughey started to think about the practicality of having such a big house. It was the place where their children grew up and where they believed dreams came true, but for just two people the house was way too big.
Finding A Buyer
After much debate and consideration, the couple decided to sell the house. In February 2018 a buyer came forward and matched their offer. It was time to say goodbye to the enormous 7-bedroom, 5-bathroom house.
The buyer who was interested in the house wasn’t just any buyer though. A non-profit organization by the name of Ruth Harbor helps young women with unplanned pregnancies, so the McCaugheys felt like they were selling it to the right people. Bobbi remarked, “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.”
Dodging A Bullet
Every single day, Bobbi and Kenny McCaughey think back to when “selective reduction” was brought up to them. No matter what, they believed that fertility treatment was God’s way of sending them the babies that they deserved.
Since Bobbi gave birth to the seven children, as a couple they firmly stand behind those who don’t agree with selective reduction. For those who do believe that it’s a better route to go, the couple proudly says, “Well, come to our house, and tell me which four I shouldn’t have had!”
Their Own Book
The septuplets’ birth was a gift from God, they believe. Not long after the babies were born, the McCaughey parents wrote their own book called, “Seven From Heaven”. Their book expresses the hardships that they faced, their journey with fertility treatment and how they kept their beliefs above it all.
The McCaughey parents were happy with their decision not to have their children in the limelight. But they did give some leeway to three photographers to capture their kids at different points during their lives. These photos would serve a powerful collection for the family to treasure forever.
Photographs For Memory
The McCaughey septuplets were an American-life history piece from start to finish. Andrea Melendez, Holly McQueen, and Rodney White all photographed them just going about their daily business. These pictures serve as a wonderful memento for the family and for all Americans.
Every year the children would pose for the photographers and have their portraits updated. Have you been paying attention? Can you name them all? Starting at the top left and going clockwise: Kelsey, Kenny, Natalie, Mikayla (the eldest) Alexis, Brandon, Nathan, and Joel.
So Much Energy
We all know that taking photos of children can be quite a challenge as they’re so energetic. But just for a moment think of the skills and perseverance the photographer would need to capture perfect photos of the septuplets.
The McCaugheys have been asked many times whether the septuplets had a regular childhood or not. There’s good reason to believe that they did not, but for the most part they actually did. The youngsters were very creative at times, and other times they simply played outside like other kids.
Video Games Then
Having said that they enjoyed being outdoors, it’s important to mention that they also loved playing computer games inside the house… well at least the boys did.
Video Games Now
When they say that boys will be boys, they mean it. Even years after the previous photograph was taken, the boys got right back into it in 2006 as this photo proves.
Through The Years
In 2016, Ann Curry from the Today Show followed up on the septuplets. She had always been a central press figure in their upbringing. There had been a few years that she didn’t check in with the children, and in 2016 they were no longer just children.
Will They Have Twins?
Many people have been wondering about the future of the septuplets. The big question is, “Will these children have multiple births at the same time too?” Medical experts say that it isn’t related since it isn’t hereditary. It was the fertility treatment that caused Bobbi to have so many babies.
A Worthwhile Journey
Looking back at their entire journey, Bobbi and Kenny got an interesting question – would they change anything about their situation. The answer will not surprise you – they said ‘no’. This amazing couple can teach us all a valuable lesson about family, decision-making, undying belief and life as a whole. Life is difficult, and that won’t change. But the more we give, the more we get – sometimes seven times more.