Take it one day at a time, mom of six tells parents of Vancouver sextuplets

Canadian Press/January 9, 2007
By Camille Bains

Vancouver -- Tina Otten's six kids are busy chatting in the background as their mom recalls the "crazy" roller-coaster emotions she experienced after their high-risk births almost three years ago.

"I always said I wanted six but I never said at one time!" Otten said Tuesday from her home in Granite City, Ill.

The three boys and three girls - Tyler, Joshua, Jacob, Isabella, Madison and Rileigh - will turn three on April 9 and also have a six-and a five-year-old sister, said Otten.

She said she's been thinking about the couple who had sextuplets in Vancouver this past weekend.

Otten said she would tell the parents, who want to remain anonymous, to take the stressful situation one day at a time as doctors look after their premature babies, born weighing about 1.8 pounds each.

"It was just nuts. It was just crazy. You never knew from day to day what they (doctors) were going to say or what you were going to walk in and see because every day they were hooked up to something different," she said of the feeding and intravenous tubes and heart monitors her babies depended on.

"You can have so many things just come together and they can get healthy so quick and then they take two steps back."

Otten's babies were born when she was 30 weeks pregnant, 10 weeks shy of what's considered full-term for a mother carrying one child.

Each infant weighed between 1.13 and 2.15 pounds.

Otten said she took fertility drugs for each of her three pregnancies because she couldn't conceive naturally.

Doctors advised her to consider so-called selective reduction - aborting some of her babies - to possibly maximize the chances of the others surviving.

"I told them don't ever say that again," Otten said.

"I said I just don't want to hear it. I mean, if this is what God put in my hands this is what I have to do. And if He believes I shouldn't have all these kids then He can take them and they can die in His hands and whatever else. I'm not going to decide."

Doctors say having sextuplets naturally is extremely rare, something that happens once in several billion births and that it's likely the Vancouver sextuplets were conceived through the use of fertility drugs.

The Vancouver parents are Jehovah's Witnesses and could have chosen fertility treatment because the religion allows the use of such reproductive measures, said a spokesman for the religion.

Mark Ruge, of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Canada, said couples who can't conceive naturally are free to turn to modern techniques in their quest to become parents.

"The Bible doesn't comment on that subject at all and in Bible times there was no such technology," Ruge said from Georgetown, Ont.

"On matters other than what's stipulated in the Bible, it's up to a person's conscience or their free choice.

"There are a multitude of procedures and treatments out there to help us and so we want the best for us and our children," Ruge said.

That also means the religion has no issues with the feeding tubes and other technology that will be required to keep the babies alive until they are able to eat and breath on their own.

Ruge said the use of fertility drugs is not considered in the same category as the faith's prohibition on blood transfusions.

Jehovah's Witnesses cite a passage in the book of Acts that says to "keep abstaining from . . . blood" as a commandment from God to refuse blood transfusions, even for their children.

Prof. Arthur Schafer, director of the University of Manitoba's Centre for Professional and Applied Ethics, said while Jehovah's Witnesses say fertility treatment is OK based on the Bible not mentioning it, blood transfusions are also not dealt with in the Bible.

"Is there any consistency? I don't think so," Schafer said.

"Their interpretation may be puzzling or difficult to defend but given how they interpret the Bible they are following God's wishes in both cases," he said.

Jen Luloff, the mother of quadruplets in Plattsville, Ont., said she too was advised by doctors to abort two of her fetuses but chose not to.

"We believed if it was meant to be they would come," Luloff said as her kids, who will turn three on May 21, were singing while finishing their lunch.

Luloff said she took fertility drugs because she couldn't get pregnant otherwise.

But multiple births run in her family. Her mother is a twin and lost sextuplets conceived naturally.

Luloff's kids - Morgan, Owen, Hayden and Simon - are all healthy and happy.

She said the parents of the Vancouver sextuplets are likely overwhelmed.

"It's probably just hit them once they actually were born. With these guys, it didn't really feel real until I saw them . . . all these doctors pulling out all these babies."

Gail Moore, a spokeswoman for Multiple Births Canada, said parents who have a whole big bundle of joy arrive all at once need a lot of support from the community.

She said that in the past, national organizations stepped up to help families but now that's no longer the case because of the increasing number of multiple births.

Moore, who has twins, said she recently got the cold shoulder from a large car manufacturer when she asked about a discount program for families coping with several kids born at once.

"I was basically told that this is not a disease and this is a choice your community has made and we're not about to hand out money to that kind of a cause," she said from New Liskeard, Ont.

Moore said the greater number of multiple births in the last few years isn't just from women undergoing fertility treatment.

Women are having babies later and older women tend to conceive multiples.

Healthier and heavier women who are pregnant with multiples are also getting better health care than in the past, Moore said.

Women who have pined for a child for years need as much support as possible from the community because they've already endured so much emotional and financial stress just to have kids, she said.

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