When a couple is trying to become parents, whether it’s the first time or not, they are filled with nerves and excitement. It’s always a miracle when a couple finds out they’re actually having a baby. But what would it be like to have two babies at once—twins? What about three? Four? Five? Six? The couple in this miraculous story ended up with seven! The chances of this happening are quite low and, sadly, the chances of all seven babies surviving are even lower.
The Expecting Parents
Kenny and Bobbi McCaughey became parents for the first time when their oldest daughter was born in 1996. This new baby girl, Mikayla Marie, was born with a malfunction in her pituitary gland, which caused Bobbi to begin to experiences fertility issues. Despite that, the couple started trying to get pregnant shortly after Mikayla’s birth.
Bobbi and Kenny had already had difficulty while trying to conceive Mikayla, so they turned to fertility treatment as a way to help get pregnant again. It was recommended that they try Metrodin, which assists in the process of conception by stimulating a woman’s ovaries. The treatment seemed to be working and the couple felt like they were very close to adding one more member to the family.
…And Maybe More Than One
Once Bobbi found out she was pregnant, they visited a doctor for an early check-up. When the results came back from the fertility treatment follow-up, they found out there was not just one embryo growing inside Bobbi. Not even two, three, or four. Bobbi had seven embryos, which was both shocking and terrifying. Bobbi knew this huge piece of information would also come with a lot of health risks.
Even though there was a chance that all seven embryos would develop and that Bobbi and Kenny would end up with seven healthy new babies, there is always a serious risk associated with multiples. Doctors recommended that they try selective reduction as a way to protect the embryos that are more likely to survive as a way of getting as many healthy babies as possible.
Running The Risk
Bobbi and Kenny understood the risk associated with keeping all seven babies and they chose to take the risk with the hope of adding seven new members to the family. They did not want to even approach the idea of losing one of their seven babies.
Once Bobbi and Kenny decided to take a chance and keep all seven babies, news of their story and decision spread quickly. The media, the public, and their friends and family were all interested in learning more about the family and this monumental decision to move forward with a pregnancy of septuplets. There were plenty of people who didn’t support the couple’s decision, but they held strong in their choice.
Help From The Community
With the quick spreading of the news of these septuplets, a lot of individuals and organizations came together to help out the quickly growing family. They got small donations of essentials like diapers and nanny services. Kraft gave them a year supply of their famous macaroni and cheese and one group organized a brand new 5,000-square foot house. Bobbi and Kenny were tremendously grateful for everyone’s generosity.
A Couple More Gifts
On top of all the amazing gifts and services people gave to Bobbi and Kenny, they were also given a beautiful new van. The next day, they also found out that they’d be getting a year supply of groceries for their family! They felt like they were being blessed over and over again by caring and kind people, most of whom they didn’t know personally.
Stress And Nerves
The period of time leading up to the birth of their septuplets was stressful and nerve inducing. The couple was excited beyond belief, but they were about to do something that literally no other parents had ever tried. They were counting down the days to the due date, experiencing fear coupled with excitement.
Ready To Meet Their Family
Bobbi and Kenny were told that they had to go to the hospital 9 weeks early for a meticulously planned Cesarean section. With a team of doctors on call, all seven babies were born within six minutes of one another on November 19, 1997.
Meet The Septuplets
Bobbi gave birth to three girls and four boys. Luckily, they already had names in mind for all the little ones. They named their boys Kenneth Robert, Nathan Roy, Brandon James, and Joel Steven. The girl babies were named Alexis May, Natalie Sue, and Kelsey Ann.
Natalie was born with acid reflux, which caused pain and discomfort while she was eating. Lexi had a problem at birth as well, but it was a lot different. It turned out that Lexi had a muscle disorder that prevented her from eating easily. Both little girls started their first few days eating through a feeding tube.
The Medical Team
Delivering seven babies at once is not an easy or typical task. The medical team that performed Bobbi’s C-section made history for their hospital, their town, and the world! After two days, when the babies were all stable and cared for, the whole team of doctors and nurses posed for a group photo.
Even though the news media was caught off guard by Bobbi’s early delivery, they soon caught wind of what had happened at the Iowa Methodist Hospital Center in Des Moines. The news teams swarmed the hospital, trying to get as much information as they could about the septuplets. They would be disappointed to discover they would not be getting much of a story for some time.
Finally Going Home
It was nearly three and a half months before all seven babies were healthy enough for Bobbi and Jenny to finally take them home. Filled with emotion, the new parents placed each of the seven babies in their new van to head home. Media teams were surrounding them—everyone wanted to catch a glimpse of the new family members!
Before the family even arrived back at home, local authorities helped them set up some extra precautions due to the popularity and widespread knowledge of their story. Police officers were posted outside the family’s home to ensure that Bobbi and Kenny would be able to get all the babies inside safely. Shortly after they had their whole family at home, Bobbi and Kenny were ready to relocate to their new home!
A New Home
The family of ten attended a beautiful ceremony for the unveiling of their new 5500 square foot home. The company responsible for the gift, Clarke Companies, sent their Chairman, Lloyd Clarke, to hand the keys over to Kenny. It was an exciting day for everyone, especially the family!
Bobbi and Kenny were under the impression that it was just local new stations that had an interest in their story. But in December 1997, they were featured in Time Magazine. This would ultimately be the first of many national media stories featuring their family.
Once ABC News Prime Time picked up the story of the McCaughey’s, it was only a matter of time before other stations did as well. ABC was the only station to get original content and an on-camera interview with the family, so most coverage that followed was re-reporting of the original report.
The Ugly With The Good
Even though the family had a lot of supporters and allies, some people were very negative toward Bobbi and Kenny. People said that having that many kids was not good for the environment. Even with plenty of negative comments, Bobbi and Kenny knew they had made the right decision and they were loving time with all their new babies.
A Break From The Media
After the initial burst in media attention, the McCaughey’s chose to take a break from the media. They decided, to keep it simple, they would appear in the media once each year to celebrate the septuplet’s birthday. This decision was heavily influenced by the cautionary tale of the Dionne quintuplets.
The Dionne Quintuplets
Born in Ontario, Canada in 1934, the Dionne identical quintuplets were raised in an untraditional and strange environment, not by their mother, Elzire Dionne. Within days of their birth, they were put on display and used as tourist attractions. The surviving quintuplets were very eager to warn the McCaughey’s about the risk associated with overexposure.
“Loads” Of Chores
Bobbi and Kenny were out of the public eye, but they were not out of things to keep themselves busy. They had literal loads of chores to accomplish each day, doing up to 17 loads of laundry each week! To keep up with all the cleaning, they had to have two of everything—washing machines, dryers, etc.
The septuplets were using more than 50 diapers every day. They were also drinking more than 40 bottles each day! Bobbi and Kenny quickly realized that this daily routine was unsustainable and very expensive. So, they started working on a plan.
Caring for all those babies alone proved an impossible task. The family relied on up to 70 volunteers every day—people who could help with tasks like changing diapers and feeding the babies. Just changing diapers could take up to nine volunteers in one day.
Help From Everyone
There were a lot of babies, but luckily also a lot of help. Everyone wanted to join in and do his or her part. Even the construction workers who were building the new family home got to hold the babies. This was one of Bobbi and Kenny’s favorite moments in their septuplets early life.
Even though Bobbi and Kenny loved having people from the community come to help out with their babies, they really loved getting help from loved ones. This beautiful photo shows Bobbi’s sister, Michelle, with one of the babies.
Big sister Mikayla was also interested in lending a helping hand! She had seven younger brothers and sisters to look after. She helped out by feeding the septuplets, playing with them, and supporting her mom and dad whenever she was able to.
Buying In Bulk
The McCaughey’s chose to start off by buying all their baby supplies in bulk instead of running out to re-supply on an as-needed basis. They would also search for all the best deals and discounts to find amazing prices. The family spent an average of $300 on groceries each month, which is not bad at all considering they had 10 mouths to feed!
The whole neighborhood knew about the septuplets, but Bobbi and Kenny were still able to garner a lot of attention when they went on family walks around the neighborhood. They used a completely unique set of strollers, each with four seats in one straight line.
The McCaughey’s didn’t just reduce their grocery bill by buying in bulk. They also grew some of their own produce in a backyard garden. This was able to help them subsidize their grocery bills and enjoy delicious, fresh fruits and vegetables.
The McCaughey’s took care of the septuplet’s day-to-day needs, but also made sure each baby had regularly scheduled visits to the doctor to assess their growth and progress. It wasn’t easy, but Bobbi and Kenny wanted to make sure each baby was healthy and cared for.
Their Own Language
When they were toddlers, the McCaughey septuplets developed their own language that no one else could understand. This phenomenon, called cryptophasia, is normally displayed in twins or triplets. They grew up to speak perfect English, but it was noticeable into their pre-K days.
Every birthday was a huge celebration for the McCaughey’s. Bobbi and Kenny were always so grateful to have healthy children, so the septuplet’s birthday was a way to honor that. Bobbi and Kenny thought every birthday was a way of knowing that they made the right decision to keep all seven children.
The septuplets were so popular that even the President of the United States wanted to meet them. During the year of their birth, Bill Clinton called to congratulate the parents and, years later, the McCaughey’s would meet George W. Bush Jr. in person.
Everyone was interested in meeting the septuplets in person. Terry Branstad, the governor of Iowa at the time, went to see the kids and even gave Kenny Jr. a kiss on the cheek.
7 Kids, 4 Candles
When the septuplets turned four years old, their parents gave them a cake with four candles instead of 28. It seemed more reasonable and Bobbi and Kenny wanted to make sure the kids learned to share. Having so many brothers and sisters meant that they would not always get exactly what they wanted.
Like any group of children, particularly siblings, each of the septuplets formed his or her own personality traits that made them completely unique from one another. Kenny Jr. comes across as the funniest; Joel and Natalie are the most studious, and Brandon is the most brave.
When they turned eight years old, Bobbi and Kenny agreed to let them pose for a photo that would go on the cover of Ladies’ Home Journal. Bobbi and Kenny also gave an interview where they could offer advice to other parents.
George W. Bush Jr.
The small children had no idea who they were meeting when their parents dressed them up for an outing to meet President George W. Bush Jr. in person. President Bush spent a lot of time trying to get to know the children. Some were perfectly well-behaved and interested in talking and others were ready to leave. It was all very typical for kids their age.
Too Much Coverage
While other large or unique families agree to be the topic of reality TV series, the McCaughey’s chose not to. They wanted their lives to be as normal as possible, hoping that would help their septuplets feel normal as well. Of course, there were some exceptions to their quiet life.
A Birthday Celebration!
Since Bobbi and Kenny had agreed to step out into the public for the septuplet’s birthday each year, they allowed Ann Curry to cover a special feature on The Today Show. The feature was to cover the kids’ birthdays and this time, they did get their own candles! As part of the celebration, the kids got to blow out all 91 candles to mark their 13th years.
High School Experience
When it was time to choose a high school, all seven kids wanted to go to Carlisle High School in Carlisle, Iowa. Obviously, they were the center of attention on their first day of school in 2012.
Band Of Brothers (And Sisters!)
Once people got used to the septuplets all being in the same high school, the septuplets had another surprise: they all started playing in the school band! Every one of them played in the band during school football games.
To Each Her (Or His) Own
While they all shared a common hobby of playing musical instruments in the school band, each kid also had a hobby of his or her own. Some enjoyed singing in the choir, some joined the wrestling or cross-country teams, and others participated in public speaking. Many talents and skills among the group of seven!
To try to keep up with their growing kiddos, Bobbi and Kenny started providing buffet-style meals at home. Plus, once the kids got older and more capable, they started to assist with the food preparation and organization of some meals.
A common challenge of multiples and premature births is the potential for some children to develop some kind of illness. Two of the septuplets, Alexis and Nathan, were both with cerebral palsy. This chronic condition can impact their coordination and ability to move, particularly walking.
Step By Step
Alexis and Nathan were meant to use walkers to get around. Nathan thought he might be able to teach himself how to walk. He practiced every day, pushing himself harder and harder until he did indeed reach his goal. He said, “I taught myself how to walk because I really wanted to learn… It’s just been getting better and better.”
Making A Difference
Despite her cerebral palsy, Alexis worked hard to make a difference in the world. She even won the “Teen Miss Dreams Made True” award in 2013 and, the same year, finished in the top 15% of her class.
When Seven Turn Sixteen
The septuplet’s sixteenth birthday was an important occasion. The public really wanted to know how they were doing and what they were like. Since Iowa allows teenagers to start driving at age 16 that meant the septuplets could all reach that milestone in the same year. It would be pricey, but their dad had a plan to make sure they could afford up to seven kids driving at once.
Kenny instilled in his kids from a young age that they were to work for anything they wanted bad enough. Kenny felt like he would use their teenage years to make sure they really understood the lesson of hard work. To NBC News, Kenny Jr. said, “We were taught if we want something, we have to work for it.”
Normal Teenage Kids
Shortly before they turned 18, the news media checked in on the septuplets to see what they were up to. They were living normal lives, very similar to any other teenager. Some had already fallen in love, some were learning how to drive, some had part-time jobs. They all came together to form a powerful and kind group of young people.
When they all reached their 18th birthday, it was a huge milestone for parents and kids alike. Having just one teenager is a struggle for any family, but having seven at once is extreme. Bobbi and Kenny were grateful to have been able to give advice to their teens and see all of them mature into adults.
All seven of the septuplets graduated in the same ceremony in May 2016. As Bobbi and Kenny watched their seven exceptional high school graduates walk across the stage, they realized how far they had come as a family.
A New Chapter
Watching all of her septuplets get dressed in graduation robes and mortarboards Bobbi recalls, “It’s sad to see things end, but there will be lots of firsts coming.” Want to know where everyone ended up next?
Close to Home
Kenny Jr. and Alexis decided they wanted to stay closer to home and go to their local college in Des Moines. Alexis had graduated at the top of her high school class and wanted to pursue a career as a teacher.
The Army Man
Brandon enlisted in the United States Army, a choice he made after years of planning. In fact, he wanted to be in the Army since he was three years old. He became an expert in carbine and pistol shooting. He had even been offered a full scholarship to study near his hometown, but wanted to go down the path he felt he was meant to pursue.
Serving His Country
Brandon served in the 75th Rangers Regiment and still serves his country to this day. He even found love along the way!
Kenny Jr. pursued a career in carpentry and found a lot of success. He even goes beyond the call of duty to help out with projects he does not get paid for.
Working For His Family
When his big sister, Mikalya, had her first baby, he decided to hand craft the furniture they’d need for the new addition. He built a beautiful and well-designed kitchen table with sleek benches to match.
Missouri’s Hannibal-LaGrange University offered all seven kids a full scholarship right when they were born. They also got full scholarships to any state university in Iowa. Eighteen years later, Kelsey, Joel, Natalie, and Nathan chose to enroll at Hannibal-LaGrange and are still studying there today.
From a young age, Lexi wanted to work as an educator to young people. She now gets to pursue that dream and she is truly loving her experience so far. Lexi posts about her experience on social media and seems to be someone who will go on to do great things.
Nathan always wanted to pursue something that allowed him to apply his skills and interests in science. Though that path is not perfectly clear, he is sure to excel and go on to a successful career in a scientific field.
As each of the septuplets was determining what made them truly happy, Kelsey discovered her deep love of music. She is still studying at Hannibal-LaGrange University, but recently posted on social media that she might release some of her own music soon.
The Computer Guy
Joel developed a similar interest to Nathan and became really interested in science. He just found a passion in a different type of science—computer science. Hopefully he’ll end up in a job he’s happy with post-graduation.
Natalie shares more than DNA with her sister, Alexis. Like her educator sister, Natalie also wants to go into the education field. She aims to be an elementary school teacher and is working her way toward that career.
A Natural Bond
During a post-graduation interview, a TV interviewer asked the septuplets about their plans for life after school. The interviewer wanted to know if the siblings were at all worried about losing their tight bond. The septuplets laughed in unison and admitted that, while it might be difficult at first, the distance wouldn’t do anything to lessen their unbreakable bond.
Bobbi and Kenny experienced an entirely new chapter of their lives when their older daughter and all seven septuplets left the house. For years, they had eight additional mouths to feed and a whole family to nurture. They were concerned about the well-being of each of their children, but they were thrilled to let them all be independent.
The Big Sister
Are you wondering what happened to Bobbi and Kenny’s oldest daughter, Mikayla? She grew into a mature and happy young woman. She’s married with a child of her own and went to school at Des Moines, then Arizona State University.
Big Bridal Party
When Mikayla tied the knot, it was a huge celebration for the entire family. She fit in so well with her younger siblings growing up that they all had a special part in her wedding day. All of her seven siblings were in the bridal party and all of her sisters were her bridesmaids, standing next to her on the biggest day of her life.
Next Step For Dad
After all of the kids moved out, Kenny was looking for a way to fill up all his free time. He finally found a new hobby, and it’s one you wouldn’t expect. He got really interested in motorcycles! He started to buy used bikes, rebuild them, and ride around the country.
Bobbi and Kenny definitely ended up in a space that was way too large for just the two of them. They thought it was best to sell the house, but then they started to think about all the possibilities for the future. They still wanted a place for all the kids to stay, after all.
Years earlier, when the doctors introduced the idea of selective reduction to Bobbi and Kenny, they knew it was not the right move for them. They held firm in that everything happened for a reason, including the number of babies that resulted from their fertility treatment. They looked back with a lot of gratitude for how everything turned out.
Symbols of Hope
Bobbi and Kenny stand firmly by their decision to use fertility treatment and keep all the babies. They’ve become strong opponents to selective reduction and say, “Well, come to our house, and tell me which four I shouldn’t have had!”
The Family Story
Shortly after the septuplets were born, Bobbi and Kenny took some time to write down their story in a book named “Seven from Heaven.” They told the story of their family, including their deep-rooted religious beliefs about how God brought them together and provided light in a situation that could have ended badly in more ways than one.
A Lifetime of Photos
Even though Bobbi and Kenny didn’t want their seven children to become a media spectacle, they still wanted to make sure their lives were well documented. They allowed certain photographers to come in each year to get some professional photos of the kids. They used a company called Gamma Press starting in 2001 and moved on to Polaris Images after. They had one last photographer to take the photos of the septuplets as they got older.
A Picture Is Worth 1000 Words
A group of three photographers, Holly McQueen, Andrea Melendez, and Rodney White, took some nice candid shots of the everyday life of the McCaughey septuplets. These photos served the family as a beautiful overview of their life together, but also a collection of photos unique to the history of the American family experience.
Since the family got a group of annual portraits, the images are one of the best ways to track the growth and development of each child (and parent!). It may be difficult to tell the children apart at first, but from the top left, this photo shows: Kelsey, Kenny, Natalie, Mikayla (the big sis!) Alexis, Brandon, Nathan, and Joel.
Balls of Energy
It is never easy to take a photo of an energetic child, but there are six extra challenges added in when it’s a group of seven children! It took a lot to make sure all seven children were ready for their close-ups and still able to act natural in front of the camera.
A lot of people ask if the septuplets had a normal childhood and, for the most part, their experiences were like those of most other American children. Together, they made up their own games or played common indoor games. They also loved playing outside, on the deck or in the yard.
Growing Up With Video Games
Though it was mostly the boys, a lot of the septuplets enjoyed playing video games. Bobbi and Kenny thought that the kids would just enjoy playing video games while they were children but, like many other teenagers and young adults, that was not the case.
Grown Up With Video Games
This photo is from 2006, continuing to play video games into their young adulthood. They seem to be enjoying it just as much as when they were kids!
After All These Years
Back in 1997, Ann Curry from the Today Show visited the family’s home to cover the birth of these amazing septuplets. She continued to visit throughout their children to check in and see how the family was doing. Ann Curry came back in 2016 to check in and learn about how the family had been all those years. There was so much to learn and so much to catch up on.
Will They End Up With Multiples?
Just because they come from a family of multiples, does not necessarily mean that the kids will end up having twins, triplets, or more when they’re ready to have children. Bobbi and Kenny utilized fertility treatment, which doesn’t have an influence on the genetics of the babies born after use of the treatment.
It Was All Worth It
Looking back on their lives with eight children, Bobbi and Kenny later said that they wouldn’t change a thing. The McCaughey’s provide the world with an important lesson on making it through the difficult times. They don’t regret their decisions and, even during times of hardship, they feel like their lives were truly blessed.