Childbirth is known for being a long, drawn-out, painful process. It usually involves hours of agonizing pain, with the end result of a long, hard push to get that one child who will be the blessing of dreams. Afterwards, it seems odd that there was a whole person inside of the mother.
But one woman had quite a different experience. She had not one, but six babies inside her!
Did you ever grow up wishing you had a twin?
The idea of having a twin always seemed like the coolest thing. You could have an instant best friend and get to hang out all the time.
Plus you would be the same age, obviously, so you’d have loads in common and be allowed to do things at the same time. There would be no more fights about differences in bedtimes or allowances dependant on age.
The twins we saw on screen made it look super fun.
Being an identical twin seemed even better than a regular (fraternal) twin, with infinite opportunities for tricking people.
Presumably watching things like The Parent Trap, Mary-Kate and Ashley, Sister Sister, or Suite Life of Zack and Cody has some responsibility for us thinking these things.
But being a twin is quite uncommon.
Only 34 out of every 1,000 births result in twins and it is more common if it runs in the family, through the maternal line.
So although it seems cool, if twins don’t run in the family, having twins is fairly unlikely.
Different factors cause multiple births.
It is not only if there is a history of being a twin that it becomes more likely, though. Multiple births (i.e. twins or more) are more common when the mother is older, and the likelihood can be affected by her height, weight, race and how many children she has already had.
However, the biggest influencer for multiple births is whether or not the conception is somehow assisted.
Assisted conceptions help turn women into baby machines.
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Assisted conceptions could be in the form of In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF), or in the form of taking fertility medication, to stimulate ovulation etc.
IVF conceptions are eleven times more likely than a natural conception to lead to a multiple birth. In fact, around 16% of IVF pregnancies result in multiple births.
Multiple births increase the risk for the mother and each child.
Carrying a baby puts a woman’s body and mind through a lot of stress. Suddenly the body has to cope with a whole extra life that is trying to grow inside it.
In the case of multiple births, food has to try and reach each baby, all while the mother has to cope with the size of her new body.
Babies need to spend as long as possible in the womb.
The stress of multiple babies means that they are usually born before they reach the end of the full gestational period. It is often closer to the 32 week mark, but this can make a big difference. They need as much as they can in the way of nutrients while they are in the womb, before they come out into the world.
At the full 40 week gestational period, the rate of stillbirths is just 1.2 per 1,000. But for babies born at 24 weeks gestation, the rate is 356.4 per 1,000.
But sometimes people defy the odds.
One woman has just defied the odds and given birth to six children. Despite giving birth before reaching the desired 32 weeks, all six babies somehow seemed to be healthy.
But that’s not even the craziest part.
What a hero.
Not only did this hero successfully give birth to six healthy babies, she also pushed them all out in just nine minutes.
The odds of successfully giving birth to sextuplets stand at just 1 in 4.7 billion.
Who is this champion mother?
The mother of these six children is Thelma Chiaka. She gave birth at the Women’s Hospital of Texas.
It was actually already known for being the hospital that delivers more babies than any other hospital in the state. But now that number has gone up quickly!
It was a proud day for the hospital too.
The hospital itself broke the news to the world about this incredible feat.
Childbirth can be risky at the best of times, but helping a woman give birth to six healthy babies was a great bit of work from everyone at the hospital.
Are the sextuplets all identical?
No, not generally. In this case, there are two sets of male twins and one set of female twins. So there are three sets of identical twins altogether!
Someone needs to tie some different coloured string around each of their wrists now before it all gets too confusing!
They are still a little small.
An average baby weighs between around 5.5lb-10lb, but in the case of multiple births, it is usually a lot less. These sextuplets were born weighing between 1lb12oz and 2lb14oz.
Although that is tiny, it is not uncommon in multiple births, especially as they are often born prematurely. Luckily, they are all doing well and seem to be healthy. They just need a little time to grow.
It’s an effort to come up with six names.
Normally, parents spend months trying to think of a baby name. Some babies spend their first couple of weeks without a name while the parents try to decide what will suit them best.
But this mother has to come up with six names! So far she has decided to call the two girls Zina and Zuriel, while the boys remain unnamed. Hopefully she’ll think of four more names beginning with Z!
Six babies are just so many.
Six babies is a lot to handle. They will never be able to just grab a cab or sit at a small table in a restaurant. Even fitting on the sofas to watch TV will need some serious organization!
They’ll need hours to just read their report cards or go to parents evening! It’s definitely going to be tough to try to raise six children and give each one enough attention.
Who has the time to have sextuplets?
In fact, it is estimated that a parent would need to spend 394 hours a week to look after sextuplets. That’s an average of 56 hours a day!
Talk about not having enough time in a day.
It’s going to cost a fortune.
Adding one extra baby to your life is already a pricey business, but to add six is almost impossible to fathom.
It is estimated that just for the first year of their life, having sextuplets would set you back at least $55,000. This includes over $5,000 on diapers alone!
Having sextuplets is very unusual.
Medicine is improving all the time, but less than a hundred years ago it was even rare for triplets to survive.
In 1983, there had only been four sets of sextuplets ever recorded, with all six surviving. Now it is thought that there have been at least thirty-five sets in which all six children have survived infancy.
One set of sextuplets even had its own TV show.
Jon and Kate Gosselin had twins in 2000, and then sextuplets in 2004! They were filmed sporadically from 2007 through to 2017, although it got a little trickier after Jon and Kate got divorced.
It seems like raising eight children is just as tough as it sounds.
Septuplets are even less common.
While there have been 40-50 reported pregnancies of septuplets, there are only three known cases in which all seven babies have survived infancy.
With the advancements that have taken place in medicine, hopefully more babies will have a better chance in future.
Multiple babies are popping out all over the place.
Just one month ago, a woman in Iraq successfully gave birth to septuplets. That’s right, she had seven babies living in her tummy!
She gave birth naturally to six girls and one boy. It sounds like one of them could become quite the prince in that situation!
It was the first time in the country.
The nation celebrated their successful birth with great joy, as it was the first time in Iraq’s history that this had happened.
However, she is probably feeling the strain right now. She is only twenty-five years old, and has seven babies on her hands, all needing twenty-four hour care. It’s not an enviable position to be in.
There was a first time for octuplets too.
There have been less than twenty recorded cases of octuplets in the world, and, sadly, none of them have involved all eight children surviving.
In 1998, the Chukwu octuplets were born in Texas, but, unfortunately, one baby died a week later. However, over twenty years later, the remaining seven are healthy and well.
The Suleman octuplets are still going strong.
In 2009, Nadya Suleman gave birth to eight babies, and they all survived infancy. However, her case caused some issues. She already has six children and used IVF to obtain her later children.
Her parents have said that she cannot afford to raise so many children and doesn’t pay towards them, so they have to look after them instead. Grandparents often wish for grandchildren, but caring for 14 children at retirement age is a lot to take on!
But there are definitely some positives to having sextuplets.
With six different kids, you can have pretty much any amount of dreams for their futures, and there would be enough children for each of them to come true!
Whether you were hoping for an artist, an engineer, a doctor, an author, a lawyer, a teacher, or a marine biologist, between them, they could do it all.
Growing up in a pack has some serious advantages.
They are never going to have to be the last one picked for a team, or sit on their own at lunch time, because they will always have each other.
Plus, you know that you’ll have at least a couple of them around when you’re older in life, so they can take good care of you in your old age!
It would be great if they could be into sports.
If they were all super sporty, they could form a whole ice-hockey team, or a basketball team, with a reserve! Plus, they’ll be able to practice playing 3 vs 3.
It would be so much fun. They could become the new Williams sisters, but three times over!
The record for the biggest family was set back in the eighteenth century.
From 1725 through to 1756, a woman near Moscow gave birth to sixty-nine children, sixty-seven of which survived.
She had sixteen sets of twins, seven sets of triplets, and four sets of quadruplets. It’s enough to fill a whole school! That’s the sort of story that reminds you how wonderful the invention of contraception is.
Raising sextuplets will be raucous.
Thelma Chiaka is going to have some tough days ahead. Cheaper by the Dozen might make it look like it’s all fun and games, but raising several children at once will be exhausting and expensive.
These next four years before they are old enough to go to school, in particular, will be all-consuming.
Time brings change.
These days, medicine is sufficiently better than it once was so hopefully the sextuplets can make it through their infancy without any serious complications.
When they are older, Thelma Chiaka will have a whole pack to love and cherish. Plus, she got it all done in one go. In fact, she got the first part done in just nine minutes! Hopefully the rest of it can go just as smoothly.