Seven babies! Miracle birth: Iowa couple's story prompts admiration, wonder and warm feelings.

November 21, 1997

IN "The Sound of Music," nun-in-training Maria incredulously exclaims, "Seven children!" when she learns the number of charges she will look after as governess. This week, thousands of Americans echoed those words in amazement after the birth of septuplets in Carlisle, Iowa.

Parents who have struggled through arduous weeks with one newborn could only imagine multiplying by seven the sleepless nights, feedings, diaper changes, crying and cost of baby clothes, supplies and college 18 years hence. But this is a happy story. If most people do not envy Kenny and Bobbi McCaughey, they feel warmly about the couple's miracle birth.

There is no ethics controversy over the use of a fertility drug: Bobbi McCaughey had difficulty conceiving the couple's first child. When, to their surprise, they found Mrs. McCaughey was carrying seven fetuses, they decided to keep them all. They behaved with dignity.

They sought no publicity and never tried to sell their story. They asked townspeople to keep quiet; neighbors protectively complied. The nation knew nothing about the septuplets until three weeks ago, which, given the human proclivity to share a secret, is almost as great a miracle as the birth.

The babies appear to have a strong chance of becoming the first set of seven to survive. Their mother carried them for more than 30 weeks -- an unusually long time when so many fetuses are involved. One hopes their future will be different from the unhappy one that awaited the Dionne quintuplets 60 years ago. International publicity turned their lives into a circus.

Today, the McCaughey babies are news. Tomorrow, let them be seven little boys and girls, raised by good parents in a village that knows how to take care of its own.

Pub Date: 11/21/97

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