World’s First Surviving Septuplets – Look At Them 20 Years Later

Imagine being told you’re having a baby… The excitement, the elation, the slight fear, and nervousness. Now imagine being told you’re having seven babies. It’s probably impossible to imagine the kind of feelings you’d be going through, finding out that you were soon to have 7 kids all at once! However, this is exactly what happened to one family in Des Moines, Iowa and they became a worldwide sensation.

Bobbi And Kenny McCaughey’s Lives Would Change Forever

Kenny and Bobbi were desperate to expand their family, but Bobbi was born with some problems that might prevent them being able to get pregnant. They exhausted all of their options so turned to hormone therapy, using the fertility medicine Metrodin. They had no idea if it would work or not, but they were willing to give it a go, they had nothing to lose.

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The Big News

When Bobbi went for her regular check up and scan, the doctors found something quite strange in her womb. Something that was extremely rare and that they had not seen before.

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Huge News

Not one, not two, not three, but seven embryos were seen on the scan. There were seven children growing inside Bobbi McCaughey. Kenny and Bobbi declined selective reduction to give their babies a better chance, saying they would put the decision in God’s hands.  News quickly spread and The McCaughey family were quickly thrust into the limelight. The parents received plenty of media attention from the press. Some people thought they were selfish for not taking the selective reduction route, as it meant that there would be a better chance of all the remaining babies to live healthy lives.

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Big Donations

After news of the birth spread, and during the first years of the babies’ lives, the McCaughey family received an incredible amount of donations. Some of these included a 5,000 square foot house, nanny services, a year’s worth of free mac and cheese from Kraft, diapers, and a van. Bobbi and Kenny couldn’t believe how generous everyone had been, after breaking the news that they were having septuplets.

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A Quick Birth

Understandably, both Kenny and Bobbi were worried about the upcoming birth. They spent a lot of time with doctors, discussing the best way forward. On November 19, 1997, all seven babies were born 9-weeks early. The birth took place via cesarean, and each baby was delivered within six minutes of each other. They ranged in weight from 2lb 5oz up to 3lb 4oz. Only time would tell what would happen.

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Meet The Babies

All seven babies made it through the birth; four boys and three girls. Luckily, Bobbi and Kenny were armed with a list of names for their new brood. In order we have Kenny (Kenneth) Robert who was the heaviest baby, Alexis May, Natalie Sue, Kelsey Ann (the lightest baby), Nathan Roy, Brandon James, and Joel Steven.

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Meeting Celebs

After the septuplets were born, they gained even more media attention. They were even featured on the cover and in a double page spread in Time magazine in December 1997 (a month after they were born). Bill Clinton, the President of America at the time, also called to wish the family well. They also met President George W. Bush along with making an appearance on The Oprah Winfrey show. The McCaughey family were famous, and making headlines all over the world.

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Cerebral Palsy

Unfortunately, as often happens with premature babies, not all were 100% healthy. Both Alexis and Nathan were born with cerebral palsy, which is a group of conditions that can affect both movement and coordination. Both Alexis and Nathan found it difficult to walk unaided but were healthy in every other way. Considering seven babies were squeezed into one womb, this could be seen as an absolute miracle. The McCaughey septuplets are therefore the worlds first septuplets to survive through infancy.

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Learning To Walk

Both Nathan and Alexis had to use walkers throughout the majority of their life, in order to be able to move around. However, Nathan wanted to teach himself how to walk. Every single day he would push himself to try and get better. He said, “I taught myself how to walk because I really wanted to learn. It’s just been getting better and better.” That’s dedication! Alexis has also not let her disability slow her down, despite still using a walker.

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Beauty Pageants

Alexis may suffer from cerebral palsy, but she hasn’t let her ruin her life. She started taking part in beauty pageants specifically for children with special needs. In 2013, she won the Teen Miss Dreams Made True award in Carroll. She also did extremely well in high school, finishing in the top 15% of the class. She has become a role model for many other young girls, proving that if you believe in yourself you can do whatever you put your mind to.

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Staying Out Of The Public Eye

After the initial chaos around the McCaughey septuplets had died down, the family decided to keep out of the public eye. Only around birthdays would Bobbi post an update on how the children were doing, trying to ensure they lived as normal a life as possible. The famous Dionne quintuplets wrote a letter to Bobbi and Kenny when their babies were born, warning them to avoid the pitfalls their parents fell into and keep out of the public eye. It seems as though Bobbi and Kenny were keen to oblige!

The McCaughey septuplets on the set with Oprah. The show, celebrating the babies' first birthday, will aire on Thursday Nov. 19, 1998. (Photo supplied by the show)
The McCaughey septuplets on the set with Oprah. The show, celebrating the babies’ first birthday, will aire on Thursday Nov. 19, 1998. (Photo supplied by the show)

So Many Diapers

With many babies comes alot of responsibility – and a lot of things to buy! According to Bobbi and Kenny McCaughey, during the earliest months of their lives, the babies were getting through 52 diapers every single day. That’s a full-time job in diaper changing! Not only that, but the septuplets were also drinking 42 bottles every day. We can’t even begin to imagine how expensive that was for the McCaughey family. Luckily, they had a plan.

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Buying In Bulk

As the donations started to die down and the freebies ran out, the McCaughey family found life difficult trying to support eight growing children. They resorted to buying everything they could in bulk, in order to become more budget-savvy.  They can spend on average $300 each month on groceries. That is about normal for a family of 4 in America, so they’re definitely making significant savings.

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Growing Their Own

The McCaughey family also tried to be as savvy as possible by growing their own foods. Bobbi and Kenny cultivated the garden of their free home – which they still live in – so that they can grow everything they need to keep their family fed. Fresh produce, such as fruit and vegetables, is grown in the garden for the household. This is another way for them to keep their grocery bill down as low as possible.

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Buffet Meals

With 10 people to feed, mealtimes as one would imagine can become a bit overwhelming. According to the McCaughey family, the only way they can actually feed everyone at once is in a buffet style. Bobbi says that they usually dish up plenty of food, that everyone can then help themselves. The family enjoys all sitting around the table together and talking about their days. We can imagine that gets quite loud!

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Turning 13

When the McCaughey triplets turned 13, in 2010, TLC made a documentary about their lives so far and their thirteenth birthday. Ann Curry, from the Today show, had been following the septuplets’ story for most of their lives. It only made sense then, that she would be the one to put together the documentary which was titled, America’s Septuplets Turn 13. It aired on TLC on December 28, 2010, a month after the septuplets blew out their 91 candles from seven different cakes!

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Going To High School

The septuplets even though known to the world, wanted to live as normal a life as possible, which meant going to high school all together! All seven of the siblings attended Carlisle High School in Carlisle, Iowa in 2012. Imagine how much attention they all got on their first day of school – and how difficult it was for all of the teachers to remember all of their names! High School is a difficult place to navigate with many roaming bullies, but they managed to stick together and thrive.

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Getting Jobs

Kenny McCaughey was keen to teach his children about the value of hard work when they attended high school. If they wanted nice things then they had to work for it. Most of the septuplets got part-time jobs while at high school, in order to buy themselves things like cell phones and tablets. “We were taught if we want something, we have to work for it,” Kenny Jr. once told NBC news.

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Turning 16

When the septuplets turned 16, they all hit the headlines again. While they were good at keeping a low profile throughout the majority of their high-school lives, there were some milestones that the rest of the world wanted to celebrate with them. It’s around this time that their father told them all they could get jobs, especially if they wanted driving lessons and cars. Buying 7 cars was probably out of the question for the already financially strained McCaughey family!

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Teenage Life

The press filmed the septuplets once again as they experienced the hardest part of growing up, with many admitting to be going through what most teenagers go through. Some were learning to drive, others had fallen in love and were in relationships. Having seven moody teenagers was probably difficult for Kenny and Bobbi, however, they never let it show. In fact, they’ve always come across as a pretty perfect family despite their struggles.

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In The Band

The kids grew up well behaved and kept themselves involved at high school, with all of them joining the school band! With all 7 of them playing together during halftime at football matches, they should have renamed it the McCaughey band… When the septuplets finally graduated high school, Bobbi told Today, “Everything is a last. The last marching band performance.” We have a feeling the mom of 7 was feeling quite nostalgic during that interview.

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Keeping Busy

It wasn’t just the school band that kept these kids busy, however. All had their own hobbies and unique interests. Some took part in cross country, others were in the choir, one of them wrestled, another played soccer, and another one entered speech contests. Bobbi said of her busy children, “It’s fun to see the work pay off.”

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Turning 18

As the septuplets got older, they started their own journeys into adulthood. The end of school was around the corner, and each wanted to become their own person and find their personalities and lives away from their siblings. Their parents watched as each of the children started making decisions about what they wanted to do in the future. Some already had their own goals and aspirations, others weren’t so sure. Giving life advice to one child is hard enough, but helping out with 7 must have been difficult for Bobbi and Kenny. The septuplets turned 18 (and blew out 126 candles) on November 19, 2015.

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Graduating High School

The moment that made Bobbi feel nostalgic finally came around. All seven of the children graduated Carlisle High School in May 2016. As they wore their signature black and red graduation gowns, to take their picture with the school principal, Bobbi and Kenny couldn’t help but feel a little pang of sadness. “It’s sad to see things end,” Bobbi told Today, “but there will be lots of firsts coming.” Their graduation plunged the McCaughey septuplets back into the limelight again, with the press desperate to cover their incredible journey.

In this Sunday, May 22, 2016 photo, the McCaughey septuplets, the world's first surviving septuplets, from left, Nathan, Kenny Jr., Joel, Alexis, front, Principal Matthew Blackstone, Brandon, Kelsey and Natalie, pose for a picture after graduating from Carlisle High School, in Carlisle, Iowa. (Rachel Mummey/The Des Moines Register via AP) MAGS OUT, TV OUT, NO SALES, MANDATORY CREDIT
In this Sunday, May 22, 2016 photo, the McCaughey septuplets, the world’s first surviving septuplets, from left, Nathan, Kenny Jr., Joel, Alexis, front, Principal Matthew Blackstone, Brandon, Kelsey and Natalie, pose for a picture after graduating from Carlisle High School, in Carlisle, Iowa. (Rachel Mummey/The Des Moines Register via AP) MAGS OUT, TV OUT, NO SALES, MANDATORY CREDIT

Goals And Aspirations

Interestingly, all seven of the septuplets have different goals and aspirations in their lives. For example, Nathan has a strong interest in science and is hoping to pursue a career in that field. Alexis was the top of her high school and wants to become a teacher and work with children. Kelsey, the smallest of all the babies, has a passion for music and wants to continue to study it in college. Every single child, however, all has a goal for the future.

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Different Career Paths

Each of the seven children have all made their own choices in life, along with the help of their parents and their older sister. And it’s interesting to see how unique each one is, even though all so close and born from the same embryo.

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Free University Places

When they were first born, the septuplets were offered an extraordinary opportunity – scholarships for the Hannibal-LaGrange University in Missouri. In fact, the State of Iowa offered them full scholarships to any state university of their choosing, too! Only four of the septuplets accepted the generous offer from Hannibal-LaGrange, however; Natalie, Nathan, Kelsey, and Joel. Each sibling is now studying to fulfill their aspirations

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Des Moines College

Both Kenny and Alexis decided that they wanted to study at their local college in Des Moines. Kenny Jr. is attending the college in order find a career in the construction industry. Alexis wants to become a teacher. She graduated at the top of her high school, despite battling cerebral palsy, but wanted to stay close to her home for further learning.

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Joining The Military

The only person we didn’t mention before was Brandon. Why didn’t he take the full scholarship? Brandon had always been passionate about the military. In fact, from the young age of three, he had been obsessed by all things Army. He decided that instead of going to college, he would enlist in the United States Army, where he is now in training. An admirable choice.

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Growing Up

The McCaughey septuplets are now 20-years old and realizing their dreams in their colleges and universities. Each has said they’ll probably not talk about their bizarre upbringing unless people ask so that they can pave their own lives without being a ‘talking point.’ Over the next two years, most of the septuplets will have graduated college and will be paving their own path into adult life. The world’s first, surviving septuplets are doing more than just surviving – they’re thriving!

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Real Empty Nesters

Now that all eight of their children are out of the house, the loving parents of the septuplets are still adjusting to the fact that they do not have seven to eight mouths to feed every day. In an interview given to NBC about the kids leaving the home, the parents say that while it may be easier now that the children have left in terms of not having to buy as much and spend as much money, but it is in some ways more difficult, as they worry for each of their children.

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Against Selective Reduction

There is a movement in the United States which aims to get people to have less children. They advocate for people having more than triplets to terminate a few of the fetuses. However, despite the complexities of the arguments, the McCaughey family is against selective reduction, saying “Well, come to our house, and tell me which four I shouldn’t have had!”

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Not Worried

When asked whether or not the septuplets would be sad to see each other go, they said they would miss each other, but all in all, they are not too worried. After all, they were around each other all day every day, and they are all ready to go out into the world and pursue their own careers and see how each one flourishes. Imagine their family whatsapp chat.

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Enjoyed Growing Up

The eight McCaughey kids never really felt as if they were closed in In fact, they thought that it was awesome to be able to grow up with so many people in the house. They said that they really enjoyed the fact that there was always someone to hang out and play with. It sounds like a pretty fun childhood to us to be quite honest.

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Mikayla

Something that we wanted to know was what ever happened to the oldest McCaughey child, Mikayla? Well, as it turns out, she seems to be doing really well for herself. She is married and has had her first child. She studied at both the Des Moines Area Community College as well as Arizona State University. She also seems to still have a very close relationship with all of her brothers and sisters. In fact…

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Kenny Jr. The Carpenter

Nowadays, Kenny is deep into the carpentry business. He has set about and built an entire kitchen table and benches for his older sister and her new addition.

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Kenny Sr. Is Keeping Busy

Now, what is a man to do once he becomes an empty nester? He has finished rearing his children, they are all out of the house, and now he has all of this free time on his hands. Kenny McCaughey fulfilled his life long dream of buying a motorcycle, and rode around the United States.  Good on ya Ken.

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Ranger Brandon

When Brandon said that he wanted to join the United States Military, he did not make the decision lightly. He knew what he wanted. In the end, all of the hard work really paid off. Brandon is now a United States Army Ranger, and he is an expert in pistol shooting as well as carbine shooting. He is looking slick in his uniform. We are all proud of you Brandon!

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Kickin it with Kelsey

Kelsey seems to be enjoying her time at Hannibal – LaGrange University, doing everything from pumpkin picking and hanging out with friends – at least according to her social media page. It even seems as if she has a new beau. What’s college without at least a little bit of romance, right? Well, all we know is that she is definitely, absolutely finding time to study, so don’t worry Kenny and Bobbi!

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Selling the house

Despite receiving their huge house as a gift, the McCaughey family is intending on selling their abode. The house was not on the market for a long time yet offers are already starting to flow in from everywhere. He may be wanting to sell his house since, due to its enormous square footage, he may have to pay a lot of taxes on it. But where will his (invariably) dozens of grandchildren stay?

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Ms. Lexi

Lexi is following her dream of learning and working in early childhood education. She seems to be having the time of her life.  It also helps that her sisters all get together often. We wish her the best of luck as she continues her education!

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Natalie

Natalie seems to also be thoroughly enjoying her time in Missouri at Hannibal – LaGrange University. She seems to be doing a lot of work with her sister at their local child care center and having a great time with her friends. On top of all of this, it appears as if Natalie is an avid hiker, appearing in multiple photos with her father and her family on hikes around the State of Iowa and other places in the mid-west.

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No Reality Television Show

Many big families have decided to go the route to reality show stardom in order to show off their sometimes dozens of children off to the rest of the world. Sometimes, it is just to show off a few children (Kardashians anyone?). But the McCaughey family decided to forego that route. When asked why there has never been a reality television show about the septuplets (despite all the offers), Kenny Sr. replied that he wanted his kids to grow up normally.

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Twins For The Septs?

A lot of people want to know – with so many brothers and sisters, will the septuplets be more likely to have twins then a single child birth? Well, the answer is probably no. The septuplets were not born due to a crazy genetic coincidence between Bobbi and Kenny Sr. They did in vitro fertilization, fertilizing multiple eggs in the hope that at least one of them would become a child. Incredibly, every single egg fertilized became a child.

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How Much Is Their House Worth?

The McCaughey home which is currently on the market is worth approximately $370,000, and if you are a big family, this house will definitely suit your needs. This 4800 square foot home has six bedrooms, several bathrooms, a finished basement, and a giant three car garage.  If you have 8 kids, this is the house for you!

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Personality Types

When the septuplets were younger they were asked about each other. They were asked which one of them was the “class clown,” who was the most bookish, who was the most sporty, etc. While Kenny Jr. has maintained his role as the comedic one in the family, the well read title has passed from Natalie to Joel. Unsurprisingly, current United States Army Ranger Brandon was voted as the most stubborn and fearless, maybe that is why he thrived in the army.

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Keeping Private

In addition to refusing to be put on television as reality tv stars, the McCaughey family also decided that they would not let international newspapers follow the family throughout their lives. The family wanted to remain as normal as possible, and for their kids to stay humble. It was because of this that the family really stopped doing television or newspaper interviews for the kids at around the age of 14. The last time a big media fuss occurred was on their 18th birthday.

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Volunteers

The McCaugheys had a giant web of support. They had people from all over the country offering kindly to help take care of all of the children. All in all, there were 35 people volunteering their time to help take care of the kids, all of whom would work on rotating shifts of four to five hours.

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