In the rarest of the rare cases, seven premature babies were born on Nov. 19, 1997, at a hospital in Des Moines, Iowa, setting the record as the world’s first septuplets surviving birth. They weighed between 2 and 4 pounds (approx. 1 and 2 kg), and they owe their mutual existence to their parents’ decision of not opting for selective reduction.
The couple, Bobbi and Kenny McCaughey, first had a daughter named Mikayla. But later, since Bobbi was born with a malfunctioning pituitary gland that could not produce enough hormones to stimulate ovulation, she was injected with a fertility drug, Metrodin.
The treatment turned out to be more than successful, as she learned that she was pregnant with seven children. When the doctors advised selective reduction, the couple declined, saying it was “in god’s hands.”
The birth of the septuplets caused quite a media frenzy. President Bill Clinton personally called the family to congratulate them, and Oprah welcomed them on her show.
Bobbi and Kenny received both positive and negative responses. Some were appalled at the parents for bringing so many children into the world, while others were extremely supportive.
The McCaughey family received generous donations including a 5,500-square-foot home, a van, a year’s worth of Kraft’s macaroni and cheese, and two years’ supply of free diapers. They also received free trips to Disneyland and Majorca.
The McCaughey septuplets were given a full ride to Hannibal-LaGrange University in Missouri as well, which some of the children are cashing in 18 years later, according to the Des Moines Register.
The years have flown by.
Eighteen years later, Kenny, Kelsey, Natalie, Brandon, Alexis, Nathan, and Joel went their separate ways, as they have all graduated from the Carliste High School in Iowa. All seven walked the stage to receive their diplomas in their black and red gowns!
Fast-forward to November 2018 and the McCaughey septuplets celebrated their 21st birthdays.
“I think that we’re all becoming very independent and finding our different talents and different skill sets,” Kelsey, the fourth-oldest of the septuplets, told Today. “It’s cool to celebrate this different milestone.”
Kelsey, who was the smallest baby at 2 pounds 5 ounces (approx. 1 kg), along with Natalie, Nathan, Joel, and Alexis, are currently attending Hannibal-LaGrange University. She majors in public relations.
Natalie studies exercise science and would like to pursue teaching. She plans to tie the knot with fiance Shawn Geralds in May 2019.
Nathan and Joel are majoring in computer information systems, while Alexis, who suffers from cerebral palsy, is pursuing early childhood education.
Brandon has hoped to join the army since he was 3. He is now living his dream, deployed overseas serving in the U.S. Army. Once he returns home from deployment, he will marry fiance Alana Hale.
Meanwhile, Kenny Jr. is still living at the family’s home in Iowa. He is working with the Des Moines cabinet company after completing his studies in the building trades at the Des Moines Area Community College.
Having to go separate ways after growing up together in Iowa for 18 years was a “culture shock” for the seven siblings. “It was a difficult transition to be away from our parents and be outside of Iowa, but I think that we all did welcome it and just really created new friendships and met new people in a new environment,” Kelsey said.
Left alone with his thoughts, Kenny, their proud father, who works for a metal-coating company, said he made sure he has given the right values to his children and taught them the importance of hard work.
“My fear has always been that they see our jobs and think that’s all they need for nice stuff,” the dad told the Des Moines Register. “I’ve given them the cold, hard truth slowly. No way could I afford this home on my salary. If you want something, you have to work for it.”
The parents credited the septuplets’ success to their faith in God and to the help and support from friends and family.
Closely connected emotionally, the siblings will always be identified as “the septuplets.” The septuplets are now carving out their own niches, but holding on to the love and camaraderie they learned to value as a family. They were extremely grateful to have each other around always.
“We’re not only siblings, we’re also best friends,” Natalie said. “I know that we’re all just really thankful for the relationships and the bonds that we do have.”