When Bobbi McCaughey gave birth to seven kids in 1997, she made headlines across the globe. Today, all seven of the McCaughey septuplets are in the spotlight, though the 20-somethings are all in very different places in life. We’re now catching up with the family we couldn’t take our eyes off of just before the new millennium, and we’re amazed at how they all turned out.
Prior to November 19, 1997 — the day the McCaughey kids were born — no one had successfully given birth to septuplets before. All pregnancies of 7+ children had involved the loss of at least one child, and Bobbi McCaughey worried she might suffer a similar fate. All her babies were born 9 weeks prematurely. They all lived.
Earlier, when ultrasounds revealed septuplets, Bobbi and her husband Kenny McCaughey (pronounced McCoy) were stunned. Bobbi had been undergoing treatments for infertility, and according to doctors, her ovaries became over-stimulated. She and Kenny declined selective reduction, opting to “put it in God’s hands.”
The Iowa couple already had one daughter, Mikayla Marie (pictured here), who was born in January 1996, and a family of ten — two adults, eight kids — sounded lovely. As the septuplets entered the world one by one via C-section, Kenny watched, describing the intense delivery room as “quite a sight to see.”
Over six minutes, doctors successfully brought these babies into the world — four boys and three girls. Kenneth Robert, at 3 pounds and 4 ounces was first. Next was Alexis May at 2 pounds 11 ounces, followed by Natalie Sue, Kelsey Ann (who was the smallest at 2 pounds, 5 ounces), Nathan Roy, Brandon James, and Joel Steven, who weighed in at 2 pounds 15 ounces.
Maybe you were raising children of your own in 1997, or perhaps you weren’t even born yet. But we’re all familiar with the challenges of caring for one child or two. Now, add six or seven more, and you have the McCaughey family. Surprisingly enough, the family felt there was never “a worst part” of their time together.
As Bobbi and Kenny adapted to their situation, they revealed the babies went through roughly 40 diaper changes every single day. There was also the challenge of feeding each baby, bathing them, and trying to get them through the night with a little bit of sleep. The parents needed help from outside sources.
“…early on we had so much help from family and friends,” Bobbi said in 2015. “If there was anything we needed, there was always someone there who was willing to help us.” Soon, as the McCaugheys became celebrities, they started getting help from more than just friends and family.
See, even though they were given privacy by their suburban neighbors, the McCaugheys were placed front and center on national magazines like Time and Newsweek (the latter of which edited Bobbi’s teeth for the cover photo, which caused a minor controversy). This led to attention both good and bad.
A flood of support came from across the country. The McCaugheys were given a van, nanny services, a large house that was completely paid for, and even a call from Bill Clinton! The greatest gift of all was from the State of Iowa, which gave the kids full-ride college scholarships. Some folks were outraged.
“In the beginning, for every ten letters we would get that were happy for us, we’d get one letter accusing us of exploiting the kids and being selfish to waste the world’s resources on a family this big,” Bobbi said on the ten-year anniversary of the birth. “Our neighbors never gawked… But we had complete strangers come around to the back door, knock, and ask if they could hold a baby.”
The McCaugheys received a letter from the Dionne quintuplets — the first known quintuplets (five babies) to survive. They were born in 1934, and they warned Bobbi and Kenny to keep their kids out of the national spotlight. For the most part, the new parents took this advice, doing just a few rare interviews following 1997. This piqued public curiosity.
For decades, people across the United States wondered what became of the septuplets. Were they well-rounded kids? Did they take Iowa up on those full-ride scholarships? Or were they struggling to get by like so many other children who were raised in a spotlight? Only in recently did we get some solid answers.
Here’s what we know: All seven septuplets went to Carlisle High School in their hometown, and they graduated in May 2016. Diplomas in hand, they determined their own futures. Each sibling took a unique route.
After attending Des Moines Area Community College, Kenny Jr. started vocational school for the building trade. Further away from home than anyone is the outgoing athlete, Brandon, who enlisted in the US Army and was deployed overseas. As for the other siblings?
Like her “older” brother, Alexis passed up on the full-ride university scholarship and registered at the Des Moines community college. The remaining four septuplets, Natalie, Kelsey, Nathan, and Joel, chose to attend Hannibal-LaGrange University in Missouri, which also offered full scholarships. Their majors reflected their personalities.
Sweet and perceptive Alexis focused on early childhood education. Quiet and reflective Joel studied computer information systems alongside determined Nathan. Kelsey majored in public relations, and the high-achieving perfectionist Natalie majored in exercise science. Parents Bobbi and Kenny discussed these decisions in 2015.
Bobbi shared with Today, “In some respects it’s been fun because Kenny and I have been able to do a lot more things, just the two of us, but at the same time I kind of miss the business of having everyone at home. When they are home, it’s really enjoyable and something we look forward to a lot.” Even the oldest daughter, Mikayla Marie, has found success outside the nest.
When she was 19, Mikayla (pictured as a toddler) married, and a year after that, she had her first child, Becham. The septuplets were officially aunts and uncles, and the next generation in the McCaughey family began. Bobbi and Kenny dote on their first grandchild, though they don’t see him as much as they’d like.
That’s because Mikayla is also far from home in Missouri, living with Becham and her husband. She still brings little Becham over to see grandma and grandpa every now and then, and Bobbi and Kenny jump right back into parent mode — with a few noticeable differences.
“The love for them is the same, but the responsibility is so different” Bobbi shared. While the parents are becoming more used to time with each other and their grandchild, their young children are making new memories of their own.
For Alexis, Joel, Nathan, and Kelsey, going away to college was a big change. “It was a difficult transition to be away from our parents and be outside of Iowa” Kelsey said, “but I think that we all did welcome it.” They were all given a chance to find themselves.
Aside from their studies at Hannibal-LaGrange University, Alexis, Joel, Nathan, and Kelsey are also busy making new friends, networking with professionals, and doing a little community service on the side. They look forward to reuniting every year on their birthday over Thanksgiving break, but their childhood home has changed.
Just two years after leaving their home for school and service, the McCaughey septuplets were given some big news from their parents. Bobbi and Kenny felt their house was too big for two, so they would sell. However, they didn’t want to give it away to just anyone. The parents wanted the house to go to a good cause.
So, in 2018, Bobbi and Kenny met officials from the Des Moines nonprofit, Ruth Harbor, which provides housing and support to young mothers of unplanned pregnancies. The nonprofit was looking for another home to expand its program, and the McCaughey’s felt that their home would be ideal.
Bobbi and Kenny were proud that their home would carry more happy memories for others in need. “Nothing would please us more than the idea of our home being used as a place of refuge to others in need,” Bobbi said. As the McCaughey clan continues to grow — now Natalie and Brandon are married — people can’t help but admire how well-rounded they are.
That’s because whenever we see a huge family, we can’t help but think of 19 Kids and Counting, the famed TLC reality show that brought the Duggars into the public conscious. The Duggars were swiftly canceled after ten seasons when the skeletons in their closet finally saw the light of day.
The founder of the Labor Sit midwife service, Jill Duggar even assisted in the delivery of Gideon – the son of her sister Joy-Anna – in 2018. However, some fans have wondered whether she’s truly equipped for such a role. Jill’s midwife education doesn’t actually extend beyond the CPM competency certificate. And most people in that field also have to study for the Certified Nurse Midwife license before finding a job.
Jeremy Vuolo is the minister husband of Jinger Duggar, and he goes to drastic measures to maintain his purity. Apart from email, he reportedly doesn’t use the internet at all. Appearing on a Little People, Big World podcast in 2019, Vuolo admitted that he hasn’t been able to access the world wide web on his phone for roughly six years. He said, “I don’t want all that temptation in my hand.”
We all know the majority of reality TV is semi-scripted. But even so, you wouldn’t expect a charity event to be staged just for the cameras. Yet, that’s exactly what the Duggars were accused of doing in 2015 at a thrift store in Arkansas. The family were seen handing out food items to those in need during one particular episode. But those grateful recipients were allegedly fans who’d been prompted by producers to act like they were impoverished.
In 2017 Jill’s husband Derick quoted a scripture passage on social media which led many of his followers to believe he was coming clean about an affair. Taken from Proverbs 6:32, the post read, “He who commits adultery lacks sense; he who does it destroys himself.” The following day Derick paraphrased Proverbs 7:4 with the words, “To keep you from the forbidden woman, from the adulteress with her smooth words.”
Apparently, Michelle doesn’t appear to believe in equal rights for the LBGTQ community. In 2015 she encouraged her fellow locals to oppose an anti-discrimination law called Ordinance 119 which allowed transgendered individuals to use the restroom of their choosing. The matriarch sent out a robocall to local residents which said, “I doubt that Fayetteville parents would stand for a law that would endanger their daughters or allow them to be traumatized by a man joining them in their private space.”
One of the many accusations Derick has leveled at his father-in-law revolves around contract negotiations with TLC. In 2019 he alleged to his Twitter followers that Jim Bob had sorted out financial terms with the network without his family knowing. Derick also claimed that he and wife Jill never received a cent for allowing the cameras to film the birth of their son.
In order to keep his identity on OkCupid a secret, married man Josh used a picture of Hollywood DJ Matthew James McCarthy on his profile. Unfortunately for Josh, his catfishing landed him in court in 2016. James sued him on the grounds that both his emotional wellbeing and professional reputation had suffered as a result of the media attention. However, the judge ended up ruling against him the following year.
In 2015 PETA demanded that Derick say sorry after he uploaded a video in which he appeared to be aiming his sled towards a cat. Jill’s husband can be seen barreling downhill in the snow shouting, “Move, cat” at a nearby feline in the Instagram clip. The animal rights organization subsequently responded, “I hope you’ll publicly apologize for your actions and remind your followers that Jesus’ command to ‘do unto others’ includes all of God’s creatures.”
According to Derick, his wife Jill has to ask her father permission to see her family. In December 2019 Derick wrote on Instagram, “We’re not allowed at the house when JB isn’t there.” He also claimed that midwife Jill had to wait to enter the family residence even when her sister went into labor because she didn’t have the go-ahead from Jim Bob at the time.
Also known as the Quiverfull Movement, the Christian Patriarchy is a fringe movement which believes that women should be entirely subservient to men. According to reports, the Duggars also subscribe to this theory and are friends with one of its most vocal advocates: former Vision Forum Ministries president Doug Phillips. The latter was forced to resign from his position of the Vision Forum Ministries after he admitted to adultery.
In 2009 Michelle protested against a Fayetteville business’ application for an alcohol licence. She told 40/29 News at the time, “Personally, I don’t think alcohol needs to be convenient. I think it needs to be placed in a place where adults can get to it and they will have a choice to get it.” But Michelle came under fire from other locals who argued that she was ruining the store owner’s livelihood.
Derick Dillard has often threatened to expose the Duggars’ secrets in a book. But his father-in-law seems determined to prevent this from ever happening. According to reports in May 2020, Jim Bob is thinking of suing the husband of his daughter Jill to ensure that his family don’t get caught up in any more controversy.
Of course, this may be a little TMI for some. But in a 2018 chat with People magazine, Amy revealed that she and husband Dillon King enjoy a very healthy sex life. In fact, she claimed that the pair are often at it like rabbits. Amy was also happy to confess that she and Dillon also like to “keep it fresh [and] keep it wild.”
In 2019 reports emerged that Jinger had been disowned by her father over her move to Los Angeles. Often seen as the most rebellious member of the family, Jinger hadn’t been on particularly good terms with Jim Bob for years. An insider claimed to The Hollywood Gossip a year later that the patriarch had since reunited with his daughter, but only out of fear that he would otherwise be portrayed in a negative light.
Jessa’s husband Ben Seewald may share many of the family’s religious beliefs, but it’s a different story when it comes to politics. Raw Story reports that Ben has previously lent his support to Black Lives Matter, remarked upon the hypocrisy of anti-abortion campaigners and revealed that he didn’t vote for Donald Trump to become president. And these are all viewpoints which sit at odds with the Duggars’ conservative stance.
In April 2020 the Duggar family took to Instagram to wish Jill and Derick’s son Israel a happy fifth birthday. Michelle also stopped by to see to mark the celebration with her grandson. However, Jim Bob was nowhere to be seen, leading some to believe that the patriarch had snubbed the celebrations due to his ongoing beef with Derick.
Michelle’s apparent homophobia surfaced once again when she reportedly got an openly gay crew member fired from the production of the Duggars’ reality show. The matriarch found out about the man’s sexuality after allegedly asking producers whether New York City was “overrun by gays.” After being confronted directly by Michelle about the issue, the individual was apparently dismissed “due to causing conflicts with the talent.”