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US

Seven surviving octuplets celebrate birthdays

father
Iyke enjoys playtime with his children  

December 20, 1999
Web posted at: 7:58 p.m. EST (0058 GMT)

From Correspondent Brian Cabell

LEAGUE CITY, Texas (CNN) -- Baby's first birthday is always a big deal for proud parents. But imagine the Chukwu home -- where seven surviving octuplets just turned one.

It's a house where everyone must watch their step with seven adventurous one-year-olds underfoot.

There's Ebuka, the first born, who arrived 12 days ahead of her siblings. Doctors managed to stop her mother's labor and the other babies were born by Caesarean section December 20, 1998.

 VIDEO
VideoCNN's Brian Cabell reports on the busy lives of the surviving babies and their parents
Real 28K 80K
Windows Media 28K 80K
 
  Octuplet Gallery
Seven Chukwu babies have made it a busy year for mom and dad
 

Then there's Ikem, one of two boys, who is going to be a doctor some day, according to his father. Gorom appears quiet and content, while sister Chima makes her discontent known loud and clear. Chidi is a rambunctious sort. Echerem is the biggest of the girls. And Jioke, the second boy, will one day be an engineer, according to his mother.

The eighth octuplet, Odera, died a week after her birth. Her Christmas stocking hangs at the mantle, alongside those of her siblings.

"One of them is now rejoicing with our Lord and she's always in our heart -- we think of her every day," her mother, Nkem Chukwu, said.

The octuplets' first names, listed in the order the babies were born:
  • Chukwuebuka Nkemjika ("God is Great"); nickname Ebuka (uh-BOO'-kuh)
  • Chidinma Anulika ("God is Beautiful"); Chidi (CHEE'-dee)
  • Chinecherem Nwabugwu ("God Thinks of Me"); Echerem (CHER'-um)
  • Chimaijem Otito ("God Knows My Way"); Chima (CHEE'-muh)
  • Chijindu Chidera ("God Has My Life"); Odera (oh-DARE'-uh)
  • Chukwubuikem Maduabuchi ("God is My Strength"); Ikem (EE'-kem)
  • Chijioke Chinedum ("God is My Leader"); Jioke (YOH'-kee)
  • Chinagorom Chidiebere ("God is Merciful"); Gorom (GORM)

    Each name -- from the tradition of the Igbo (pronounced EE-bo) tribe, a major ethnic group in the parents' native Nigeria -- translates to a specific attribute or act of God.

  • It's been a joyous, tragic and busy year for parents Nkem and Iyke, who underwent fertility treatments to become pregnant. Devout Christians, the couple never questioned why they were presented with all these babies.

    "No, we have never wondered, 'why?' because we don't have time to wonder," explained Iyke Louis Ubodi, who works 80 hours a week as a respiratory therapist at two hospitals.

    Meanwhile, 24 hours each day, his five daughters and two sons need bottles, clean diapers, mixed formula, naps -- and above all -- playtime.

    Fortunately, the husband and wife have help. They were given a new house by a mortgage company and other donors contributed clothing, toys and baby food.

    Nkem's mother, a family friend and several volunteers from the community help care for the youngsters. But the Chukwus feel they need more help for seven demanding babies.

    They hope several relatives in Nigeria will be able to get visas for a few months to help care for the children. But so far, they say, the U.S. government has not allowed the relatives to visit.

    mother
    Nkem hopes relatives from Nigeria will be able to come and help with the children  

    "They went for visas, they paid for visa fees and they were not given -- they were denied," said Iyke.

    The family said they've been told the U.S. State Department is concerned their relatives will stay in America. A concern, the family said, that is unfounded.

    In any case -- for the time being -- they'll have to press on without their Nigerian relatives.

    No vacations for these busy parents, no movies, no quiet dinners away from home. But don't get the impression they want an escape from the babies.

    "I don't like going away from them," said Nkem, "I only go out when it's necessary."



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