Doctors were unsure if they were going to make it past their first few days, but now the McCaughey septuplets are celebrating turning 16 – and planning driving lessons, college degrees and careers. Kenny, Kelsey, Natalie, Brandon, Alexis, Nathan and Joel, the world’s first septuplets to survive infancy, are marking the milestone on Tuesday, November 19 at their home in Carlisle, Iowa. ‘It’s sad how quickly it’s gone,’ their mother Bobbi told a local newspaper of the past 16 years. Bobbi and her husband Kenny famously declined selective reduction after learning they were pregnant with seven children following fertility treatment, saying it was ‘in God’s hands’.
“I will always remember the day we found out there were so many,’ Bobbi told the Des Moines Register. ‘It wasn’t like “yoohoo!” There were so many doubts. To a lot of people this might sound trite, but God determined the outcome.’ Learning they had septuplets on the way sparked international headlines that would chart the children’s every move. After the babies were born nine weeks prematurely in Des Moines in 1997, joining their big sister, Mikayla Marie, news crews swarmed their modest one-floor home. Amid the media frenzy, President Bill Clinton personally called the family to congratulate the family, Oprah welcomed them on her show and companies and strangers scrambled to help out the couple.
Among the donations, they received a 5,500 square foot home, a van, a year’s worth of Kraft’s macaroni and cheese, diapers for the first two years and full college scholarships for any state university in Iowa. During the early months, the septuplets drank 42 bottles a day and went through 52 diapers. But over the years, the media coverage has waned and the coupons for free food have run out – encouraging the family to be frugal. And from their early teenage years, the septuplets have been helping out the family by carrying out chores, such as their own laundry.
The family still lives in the same house that was donated after the births and continues to use the same van. And while the four boys and three girls are looking forward to being 16 and driving, their father, who still works at a metal coating plant, warned that they can only have cars once they get jobs. He is also up against other teenage challenges. ‘The biggest challenge is making sure they keep up with certain things but not keep up with certain things, trendy things,’ Kenny said of his teenagers. ‘Three of them have cellphones and a couple have iPads.’ The family has saved to cover braces for several of the children and the medical needs of Alexis and Nathan, who were born with forms of cerebral palsy.