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Nov 19, 2013| Courtesy by : http://www.pmln.us/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/article-2509531-197E0F1E00000578-573_634x466.jpg
By LYDIA WARREN
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.
At the time of the conception of both Mikayla and the septuplets, Bobbi McCaughey was undergoing treatments of an ovulation-stimulating drug called Metrodin, which primes a woman’s eggs for successful conception. But while it often takes repeated doses to get pregnant, with the septuplets, Bobbi conceived the children on the first treatment.
A Time article about the family noted that while doctors can carefully control the number of embryos they insert with in-vitro fertilization, fertility drugs are basically a roll of the dice.
She had been warned that in around 20 per cent of cases, women had seen multiple births – but they were shocked to learn she was carrying seven babies.
While septuplets had previously been delivered, none had lived beyond a few weeks. So the McCaugheys’ doctors suggested they undergo ‘selective reduction’ – in which several of the fetuses are aborted so the others have a better chance at being healthy.
But the couple are religious Baptists and opposed to abortion so did not even consider the procedure.
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.
Both of the children had surgeries, including a spinal surgery to help Nathan walk, over the years but they are doing well, the Des Moines Register reported.
Alexis has also started taking part in beauty pageants for special needs children, taking the 2013 Teen Miss Dreams Made True award in Carroll.
‘It feels really awesome,’ Alexis told the Carrolls Paper at the time. ‘I love just interacting with all the girls because they’re really nice.’
Amid the life lessons and support from their parents, the teens are also battling classes at school.
Last year they began high school and have become fully immersed in activities; all are part of the band and perform at halftime at football games.
Happy and healthy: Natalie, left in hospital and right today, is a promising student and hopes to teach
Strong: Brandon, pictured left and right, enjoys wrestling and hopes to join the military after graduating
Tiny: Kelsey was the lightest baby at 2lb 5oz but she now enjoys soccer and wants a career in cosmetology
Hard workers: Kenny, left, also enjoys wrestling at school, woodworking, fishing and playing the drums
Fighter: Alexis, who suffers from cerebral palsy, is in cheerleading as a manager and hopes to teach
Impressive: Nathan, who also has cerebral palsy, hopes for a career in science after school
Last but not least: Joel was the 8th to be born, weighing just 2lbs 15oz. He now runs track and plays trombone
Five have run cross country, another wrestles, one plays soccer and another enters speech contests, while six were on the honor roll, the Register reported.
‘It’s fun to see the work pay off,’ Bobbi said of her children.
As their lives have become busier, they have fallen from television screens and magazines – from Time magazine to Dateline NBC – that they regularly graced throughout their childhoods.
While Bobbi said she missed the media, the children are less bothered.
‘It was kinda cool but in other ways I never liked it, all these cameras following you around everywhere,’ Nathan said.
The family are also well aware that they luckily avoided the days of reality TV and didn’t get sucked into appearing with their children on a show to help pay the bills.
Putting their former celebrity behind them, the children are now considering their futures.
Brandon plans on going into military service after school, while Kenny hopes to work in construction, Nathan in science, Joel in computers, Kelsey in cosmetology and Alexis and Natalie in teaching.
But while they admit it’s a transition phase, they know one thing for sure.
‘You never have to worry,’ Kenny Jr. said, ‘that you are alone.’