Image: Bobbi McCaughey
Bobbi McCaughey in this video image from an exclusive interview with NBC News' Ann Curry, which was broadcast on "Dateline NBC."
msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 11/26/1997 5:08:00 AM ET 1997-11-26T10:08:00

In an exclusive interview with “Dateline NBC,” Bobbi McCaughey, mother of the only surviving septuplets, described her journey from “sheer terror” upon hearing she was carrying seven fetuses, to immense relief when she heard one of her children cry upon entering the world.

The "Dateline" video broadcast on Nov. 25 showed all of the septuplets, each the size of a half-loaf of bread and with hands tinier than fingernails. They began life nestled among blankets and fuzzy animals, with wires running from monitors attached to their chests and their eyes covered to protect them from the glare of bright lights.

Asked by NBC correspondent Ann Curry what her reaction was when she learned from Dr. Katherine Hauser after an ultrasound scan that she was carrying seven fetuses, McGaughey replied, “sheer terror.”

“At first it was just like, ‘God, why have you done this to us?’” the 29-year-old mother of eight said.

But she said acceptance came quickly: “Any child is a gift from God, whether it’s one at a time or seven at a time. It didn’t take very long — just a few weeks — to get used to the idea that we’re going to have a very big family.”

In an emotional, tear-filled interview, the McCaugheys said their unshakable faith in God and their church helped them through the pregnancy, and some frightening moments.

One week, doctors could only find six heartbeats, and McCaughey cried as she recalled possibly losing one fetus. Then, one fetus was not bathed in enough amniotic fluid and church members began a “prayer chain” — calling one another — and the danger passed.

McCaughey said she “cheated a lot” during the months when doctors had instructed her to remain in bed. For his part, Kenny McCaughey described his wonder as his wife grew bigger and bigger, saying, “I just thought, man, she must be uncomfortable.” Her waist eventually grew to 55 inches.

Finally, after just over 30 weeks, Bobbi McCaughey said the time had come to bring her children into the world. “I just said, ‘Kenny, I just cannot be pregnant one more day.’”

On Nov. 19, the day of the delivery, she prayed for what she had prayed for all along: healthy babies. “We’re supposed to pray believing, but sometimes the believing is really hard,” McCaughey said, her voice cracking.

SILENCE KINDLED FEARS

All seven babies were born in six minutes. Her eyes filling with tears, McCaughey recounted how the first two septuplets born by Caesarean section made no sound as they entered the world, leading her to fear the worst.

“I cried longer than she did,” she said, referring to the third septuplet, Natalie Sue, who was born yelling.

“When she cried ... at least I knew that one of them was OK.”

Bobbi McCaughey returned to her home, about 10 miles south of Des Moines, on Sunday after 37 days in the hospital.

The infants will have to remain in the hospital into January, but the McCaugheys said they already are getting to know their children, and that distinctions and idiosyncrasies are emerging: Alexis is annoyed by noise and wears ear muffs at all times, Natalie Sue is pretty, Kelsey has a temper, Brandon is steady and stable, Nathan is the calmest, Kenneth is a leader and Joel is a fighter.

Monetary donations to the McCaughey septuplets can be sent to: The McCaughey Babies, First Bank Iowa, P.O. Box V, Carlisle, Iowa 50047; or c/o Hartford Carlisle Savings Bank, P.O. Box D, Carlisle, Iowa 50047.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

© 2013 msnbc.com

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