An Iowa seamstress gave birth to four boys and three girls on Wednesday, listening intently as doctors told her the condition and sex of each child. It was only the second set of septuplets known to be born alive.
Bobbi McCaughey’s septuplets, born two months early by Caesarean section, weighed from 2 pounds, 5 ounces to 3 pounds, 4 ounces. A medical team of 40 specialists helped with the delivery. All seven were in serious condition.
“All the babies are so well-grown, so well-developed, it just strikes me as a miracle,” said Dr. Paula Mahone, who helped perform the delivery at Iowa Methodist Medical Center.
It was only the second such birth in the United States. There are no known surviving sets of septuplets in the world.
The first baby - also the heaviest - was nicknamed “Hercules” because he “held all the others up” in a pyramid formation in the womb, Mahone said.
News of the delivery came from grandfather Bob Hepworth, who said his daughter was resting comfortably. “I’m probably one of the proudest grandfathers in this country at this moment,” he said.
His namesake, Kenneth Robert, was born at 12:48 p.m., weighing 3 pounds, 4 ounces. Alexis May came next at 12:49, weighing 2 pounds, 11 ounces, followed by Natalie Sue, 12:50, 2 pounds, 10 ounces; Kelsey Ann, 12:51, 2 pounds, 5 ounces; Brandon James, 12:52, 3 pounds, 3 ounces; Nathanial Roy, 12:53, 2 pounds, 14 ounces; and Joel Steven, 12:54, 2 pounds, 15 ounces.
One of the infants, Joel, was initially listed in critical condition but later was upgraded to serious. All of the babies are on ventilators.
“It is not at all unusual for babies delivered at this stage of pregnancy to be in critical condition,” said Dr. David Alexander, medical director of Blank Children’s Hospital, where the infants will be cared for. He said premature babies often need help breathing.
“I would ask that all believers across the world join us in praying for Bobbi and for the babies that their health will continue and only improve,” Hepworth said.
Doctors couldn’t immediately say whether any of the infants were identical.
Mrs. McCaughey, 29, gained 25 pounds during the pregnancy, or just 5 pounds more than the babies weighed.
“You have to take into account she has been in bed for a very long time and lost muscle mass,” Mahone said.
Mrs. McCaughey was given an epidural anesthetic and was alert during the delivery. Doctors told her the condition of each child.
“As we delivered each baby and saw the size of the babies and how vigorous they were, we were very, very happy,” Mahone said.
Mrs. McCaughey (pronounced McCoy) was in her 31st week of pregnancy, at least three weeks beyond the point doctors consider viable for fetuses. A typical pregnancy lasts 40 weeks.
The decision to proceed with the delivery was made Tuesday night as Mrs. McCaughey, whose due date was in mid-January, was experiencing contractions. She had been confined to a bed since the ninth week of the pregnancy and had been hospitalized since Oct. 15.
“She had had it, so we delivered,” said Dr. Karen Drake.
Mrs. McCaughey, who left her seamstress job before giving birth to her first child nearly two years ago, had been taking the fertility drug Pergonal. The drug had been prescribed because she and her husband, Kenny, had trouble conceiving daughter Mikayla, who’s almost 2 now.
The birth of septuplets is rare and serious complications are common. The only other known set to be born alive was in September in Saudi Arabia. Six of those children died, according to hospital officials there.
The last set of septuplets born in the United States was in May 1985 in Orange, Calif., to Samuel and Patricia Frustaci. In her 28th week of pregnancy, one was stillborn, three died within 19 days of birth and the remaining three had medical and developmental problems.
Multiple births typically do not go the full term, but doctors wanted Mrs. McCaughey’s pregnancy to continue for as long as possible.
In the tiny town of Carlisle, about 10 miles southeast of Des Moines, many of the 3,200 residents gathered around televisions to watch the developments Wednesday.
“It’s a double double double blessing plus one,” said Kay Thompson, a next-door neighbor of the McCaugheys.
Mrs. McCaughey and her husband, a billing clerk at an auto dealership, were advised early in the pregnancy that aborting some of the fetuses would increase the chance of survival for the others.
But McCaughey, 27, said their religious beliefs would not allow any of the fetuses to be aborted.
“God gave us those kids,” he said last month. “He wants us to raise them.”