Program Note: Be sure to tune in for Randi Kaye's full report tonight on AC360° at 10 p.m. ET.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/02/19/randi.octuplets.1.jpg caption="Randi Kaye with the family of octuplets in Texas."]
Randi Kaye | BIO
As you may know, I have been covering the California octuplets' story for AC360° and I was curious what life might be like for the octuplets as they grow up.
My curiosity took me to Texas this week to visit with the first octuplets born in this country. They live about an hour outside Houston.
Nkem Chukwu (pron: In-Kem Chook-woo) gave birth to her octuplets back in 1998. One of them, the smallest of the bunch, died about a week later at just 11 ounces, but the surviving octuplets just celebrated their tenth birthday. Amazing!
The first thing you notice when you walk into their six-bedroom home, which was donated to them all those years ago, is how much it's run like a business. The childrens' grandmother earned the nickname "Commander in Chief" because she lives with them and she keeps the household running smoothly. I watched as she ordered them all to clean their plates after dinner. She also developed a color-coded system to make getting ready for school easier. They all wear the same color every day of the week. They wear red on Monday, maroon on Tuesday, yellow on Wednesday and it goes on from there.
That speeds things up in the morning when you're trying to dress so many kids for school. In addition to the seven surviving octuplets, Nkem and her husband had another daughter six years ago. They used fertility drugs for the octuplets but not for their other child. Nkem told me she was shocked when she got pregnant with their youngest.
The parents and the kids in Texas told me they pray for Nadya Suleman's children every day. Mrs. Chukwu said the fact that Suleman, the California octuplets' mom, used In Vitro Fertilization and had eight more children even though she could barely afford the six she already had, was her choice and they can't speak for her. But they do hope and pray that her children survive and are healthy. When I asked Nkem if she believes Suleman had the octuplets in the hopes of making money on endorsements and book deals, as some critics have suggested, she would only say that she had her children out of "love" and wasn't sure of Suleman's intentions. When asked about the death threats against the California mom, the Chukwus just said that was sad.
The Chukwu octuplets have seen pictures of the California octuplets on the news. I asked them what advice they have for the Suleman children as they grow up. They told me those children "have to learn to share" and they shouldn't "be mean to each other." The Chukwu octuplets told me they all love each other and are good friends. I asked the kids if they want any more brothers and sisters and they were quick to say "No!"
The kids in Texas say people stare at them all the time and the California kids will have to get used to that. And people always ask if they're twins or triplets? (They don't all look alike.) When they say they're octuplets it usually takes some explaining and they sometimes have to spell it out for people.
I asked the Chukwus what it takes to raise so many children, since we know Nadya Suleman has been using food stamps for the last 18 months to try and raise the six kids she already has. Well, they didn't talk money but dad works two jobs to provide for the family and mom is a stay-at-home mom. She told me sometimes she has to go to the grocery store three times in one day because they're always forgetting something or running out of something. And, she told me, the children drink two gallons of milk a day and go through three boxes of cereal a day - and that's just breakfast. No wonder it's so expensive to raise so many kids.
The hardest part about this story shoot, I must say, was learning all the kids' names. It took me a few times but I finally got it. You can see how tough it was in our story tonight on AC360°. You'll get a good laugh!
If you want to check out the Chukwu octuplets you can do so on their web site.
Anderson Cooper goes beyond the headlines to tell stories from many points of view, so you can make up your own mind about the news. Tune in weeknights at 8 and 10 ET on CNN.
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