The World’s First Surviving Septuplets – 20 Years Later

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Imagine getting pregnant, going to the doctor for a checkup, and receiving news that you are carrying not just one or two babies but seven of them? Yes, you heard that right – seven babies. I imagine you would take it with a lot of mixed feelings – excitement, shock, joy, uncertainty, and so on. Conceiving twins, triplets or even quadruplets is exciting but has very rare chances of occurring. Having septuplets is even unimaginable!  Twenty years ago, that happened to Bobbi and Kenny McCaughey.

The family living in Des Moines, Iowa, United States had one daughter, Mikayla Marie, born in 1996. They had experienced fertility challenges before their daughter was born since Bobbi had a failing pituitary gland. The pituitary gland helps to control the body’s functions by producing hormones into the bloodstream. So, the birth of Mikayla was a miracle in itself. Still, the couple wanted a much bigger family and opted for fertility treatment, but they obviously didn’t anticipate a family that big at one go.

Bobbi and Kenny McCaughey with their first daughter Mikayla Marie

Statistics about Twins, Triplets and Multiple Births

Having more than one baby occurs when an egg either divides into more than one embryo or when a sperm fertilizes more than one egg in the womb. If an egg splits into more than one embryo, which is a random rare occurrence, the babies will share same genetic material, making them identical. In the case of more than one egg being fertilized, the babies will not share 100 percent genetic material and will result in a fraternal birth. The chances of having twins, triplets or multiples are influenced by many factors.  The statistics of having multiple births and anticipating your own odds of making it in the multiples birth lottery is an interesting topic.

Over the past few decades, the chance of having an identical set of twins is estimated to be about 3.5 out of every 1,000 births globally. The chances are low as only about 12-18 in 1,000 people are naturally conceived twins. In the U.S., twin births are estimated to be about 35 in 1,000. Fraternal births have increased to about 77 percent in the last three decades due to fertility treatments. A fertility treatment is thus one of the factors that could result in multiple births, which is the route that Bobbi and Kenny McCaughey took.  Other factors could be hereditary.

Fertility Treatment

Desperate to add to their small family, the McCaughey’s decided to go for fertility medicine. Such treatments fuel the ovulation and can help people with fertility issues conceive. Afterwards, while going through regular checkups and scans, the doctors realized that Bobbi was carrying, surprisingly, seven embryos. It was a medical miracle!  Although multiple births occur while on fertility drugs, seven is just too big a number. Occasionally, doctors’ recommend a selective reduction to increase the chances of survival since multiple births are plagued with complications, which the McCaughey’s declined.  To them, the best way to handle it was to leave it in God’s hands.

The famous magazine cover

Seven Bundles of Joy

On November 19, 1997, and nine weeks early, all seven babies were born via cesarean after the McCaughey’s had spent a lot of time with the doctors and frequent checkups. The babies were born healthy within six minutes with each one ranging between 2lb 5oz and 3lb 4oz. It was a wonder what will happen to the world’s first surviving septuplets. The world was eagerly watching as the family received a lot of media attention as soon as the news broke out about the seven embryos.

Meet the McCaughey’s septuplets

All the babies – four boys and three girls – made it through the delivery, ready to face life. I guess the McCaughey’s must have gone on a name search mission with news of expecting seven babies at a go. They had all the babies’ names ready at birth, including Kenny Robert, Alexis May, Nathan Roy, Natalie Sue, Kelsey Ann, Brandon James, and Joel Steven in order of birth.

52 diapers and 42 bottles everyday

The family received a lot of donations from several well-wishers, including a house, nanny services, diapers, a van, and more.

The birth of the septuplets gathered media attention, making the McCaughey’s famous with a feature in Time magazine, President Bill Clinton wishing the family well, meeting President George Bush, and appearing on The Oprah Winfrey show.

Although all the kids were healthy, Alexis and Nathan had difficulties walking as they were born with cerebral palsy – a condition that affecting coordination and movement.  Nathan taught himself how to walk while Alexis walks with the help of a walker. The McCaughey septuplets are thus the world’s first septuplets to survive and thrive through infancy.

Thirteenth Birthday

Teenage Life

The family ensured that the media did not interfere with their normal life and kept a distance. The septuplets had a normal life growing up and attended Carlisle High School in Carlisle in 2012. They were also part of the school band.

Graduating High School

Going through high school was pretty normal for the seven siblings who graduated in 2016 with different goals and aspirations.

McCaughey septuplets pose for photo with the Principal, Carlisle High School in May 2016

The Septuplets 20 Years Later

20 years later and thriving in life, the McCaughey septuplets have different career paths.  Alexis and Natalie want to become teachers someday. Kenny’s passion is in the construction industry. Both Joel and Nathan are passionate about computers and majoring in computer science. Brandon is passionate about the military and is a US army ranger while Kelsey wants to pursue music. And let’s not forget the sibling’s firstborn sister, Mikayla who is now married with her first child – she seems to be enjoying life.

20 years later and thriving