Nonuplets For Mother’s Day–Oh, Baby, Baby, Baby, Baby, Baby, Baby, Baby, Baby, Baby!

This past Sunday, Mother’s Day, afforded the opportunity to specifically celebrate the moms and the mother figures in our lives. For one mom, the day took on added significance this year. A Malian woman expanded her family five days beforehand. She didn’t add one child to her brood or even two. NINE little ones, nonuplets to be precise, prematurely entered the world to give their mom quite the surprise gift for Mother’s Day.

We’ve all heard of triplets and quadruplets and possibly even quintuplets. But nonuplets? I’d never heard that word before. For word nerds like I am, you may be interested to know the term “nonuplets” comes from the Latin word “nonus” meaning nine. Actually, my thought when learning nonuplets were a thing was that I wanted “non-a” that. Giving birth to NINE babies in one sitting–or lying as the case may be? Nope. Producing one baby at a time was difficult enough for me. Whew!

If you’re thinking nonuplets are pretty rare, you’d be correct. This particular situation is the first time on record a woman has given birth to nine surviving babies at one time. Two previous sets of nonuplets have been documented. One set was born in Australia in 1971, but two of the babies were stillborn. In 1999, a Malaysian woman delivered nonuplets, but none of the babies survived more than six hours.

What’s even more amazing about the Malian nonuplets is there’s no indication their birth mother, 25 year old Halima Cisse, conceived as the result of any fertility treatment. Apparently the nonuplets are Demonstrative Exhibit A for the proposition humans can, on their own, indeed have litters. In contrast, the infamous Octomom, Nadya Suleman, a single American woman without a job, produced octuplets (that’s 8 babies for any prefix-challenged readers) back in 2009. Her babies (litter?) were conceived as the result of fertility treatments, specifically IVF. Her octuplets all survived and are now 12. (Oh, my! Eight children to be in their teens at the same time????)

So why was the birth of nine babies a surprise to this Malian mama? Certainly her pregnancy would be clear if she was carrying that many at one time. Well, doctors only saw seven fetuses on the ultrasound. Numbers eight and nine were an unexpected bonus at the time of delivery. Perhaps the statement, “But wait, there’s more!” was heard in the delivery room.

Although the mother lives in Mali, one of the world’s poorest countries, she gave birth in Morocco. Why was she traveling abroad while experiencing a high risk pregnancy? Her pregnancy, in fact, was the very reason she had to leave Mali to deliver. Her home country was not equipped to provide the special care required, so the Malian government ordered their pregnant citizen to be transferred from a Malian hospital to Morocco for such care. Halima was flown to the North African country in late March and admitted to a private clinic, Ain Borja, in Casablanca.

Halima’s pregnancy was no piece of cake. She spent two weeks in the hospital in Mali before her admission to the Moroccan clinic where she arrived at 25 weeks into the pregnancy. With full gestation set at 40 weeks, that point in the pregnancy was very early. A dangerous premature delivery was feared imminent. Thanks to the nonuplets, their mother had gained between 66 and 88 pounds consisting of babies and amniotic fluid. Who knows how much she would gain if she went full term. Alas, we’ll never know as Halima began having contractions at 30 weeks.

The babies’ delivery was quite the operation–literally. Ten doctors and 25 paramedics were assembled to assist with the C-section. That must have been one BIG delivery room to fit such a crowd inside. Tensions were high as each fetus faced 50% odds of being stillborn. Their mom had a rough time, experiencing heavy bleeding requiring a blood transfusion. Five boys and four girls emerged, all weighing between 1.1 and 2.2 pounds. Five of the babies were immediately hooked up to ventilators after birth, and all were placed in incubators due to their weight. These incubators will be their homes for the next two to three months.

Meanwhile, back in Timbuktu (yes, really), Halima’s husband, Adjudant Kader Arby, keeps the home fires burning. He is caring for the couple’s older daughter and not fretting about the babies’ future. He’s expressly stated that he’s not worried, noting “God gave us these children. He is the one to decide what will happen to them.” While I don’t know the medical prognosis for these numerous little ones, I do envision a future for them involving lots and lots of diaper changing and feedings for their parents to handle. Not sure if a Sam’s Club is located in Timbuktu, but the nonuplets’ parents will definitely need to buy in bulk.

Raising multiples, especially nonuplets, is undoubtedly a daunting task. Thankfully, multiple births in the United States are rare; per 2019 data from the CDC, only 87.7 births out of 100,000 in this country were triplets or more. My own family claims one of these rare events as I had triplet uncles. Although fraternal, they looked identical as kids and would switch identities as it suited them to the great frustration of my dear grandmother.

Because of this family history, my biggest fear with my first pregnancy was having triplets. I’ll never forget the amused response of the medical staff member on base when I asked if I could be carrying triplets. He said, “Ma’am, you be waaay bigger if you were having triplets.” In light of Halima’s weight gain and pregnancy complications, I’m blessed to say I only carried one baby at a time. Nonuplets make for interesting news but for a difficult pregnancy and motherhood.

Just WONDER-ing:

Have you ever heard the term nonuplets before? Have there been any multiple births (triplets or more) in your family? If fertility treatments are utilized, is it responsible to attempt multiple births? How many babies is enough for one pregnancy?

2 thoughts on “Nonuplets For Mother’s Day–Oh, Baby, Baby, Baby, Baby, Baby, Baby, Baby, Baby, Baby!

  1. I have to admit I was non-plussed when I read about this. Having taken Latin, I was able to figure out what “non” meant. As a veterinarian, I have delivered nontuplets via C-section, although there wasn’t nearly the fuss associated with my efforts, nor did I have that many personnel in the operating room to assist. LOL.


  2. Wow! Delivering nonuplets sounds like a great story for writing a vet tale. What type of animal were you working with then? If you neutered enough squirrels, you may not have to be delivering any of them. LOL Thanks for reading and commenting!


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