The father of a world-record brood of nonuplets has spoken about the experience of raising nine miracle babies as they celebrate their first birthday.
Kader Arby, 36, along with wife Halima Cisse, 27, from Mali, set a new world record last year when Halima flew to Casablanca, Morocco to birth a whopping nine children at the Ain Borja hospital.
She displaced ‘Octomum’ Nadya Suleman, who gave birth to two eight babies in 2009, the previous record holder.
The nonuplets were only taken off a ventilator in August, five months after they were born, and are now each healthy and happy in a flat close to the hospital in Casablanca with their mother and a team of round-the-clock nurses on hand.
‘The nurses help with the nappies — that is not really my area,’ Arby told The Times.
‘They have been bottle-fed since the beginning following the recommendation of the doctor. What kind of person could breastfeed nine babies at the same time?’
The brood of five girls and four boys were joined on their first birthday party by big sister Souda, three, a complement of hardworking nurses and lots of cake and candles to be blown out.
Kader Arby, 36, with wife Halima Cisse, 27, from Mali, pose with their nine nonuplets on their first birthday May 4 in their Casablanca apartment funded by the Malian government as the babies
Each was dressed in their finest, with boys Oumar, Elhadji, Bah and Mohammed VI in baby tuxedos, and girls Adama, Oumou, Hawa, Kadidia, and Fatouma wearing dresses and tiaras for their first birthday party
Each was dressed in their finest, with boys Oumar, Elhadji, Bah and Mohammed VI in baby tuxedos, and girls Adama, Oumou, Hawa, Kadidia, and Fatouma wearing baby dresses and tiaras for the occasion.
Spirits were high and everyone looked delighted to celebrate a minor miracle after fears that there was a less than 50% chance that any of them would survive.
Getting them all to sleep at the same time is perhaps the biggest challenge, according to Arby, who serves in the Malian military. It is only the second time he has been able to visit his offspring from him.
Their favorite cartoon is Baby Shark, which is often the best way to keep the piece among them.
It was just a year ago that they emerged into this world from a fraught labor weighing between 1lb 2oz (500g) and 2lb 2oz and delivered by a squad of ten doctors, 25 paramedics and 18 nurses.
Arby spoke of the difficulties of looking after so many babies, pointing out that even just one is usually a challenge.
I have explained how each one has a unique personality, with some needing more attention, some needing to be held more and others more easily upset.
Kader Arby, serving in the Malian military, has fathered a record brood of nonuplets (NINE babies), born last May in Casablanca, Morocco
Arby explained how each nonuplet has a unique personality, with some needing more attention, some needing to be held more and others more easily upset
Halima Cisse, 27, (left) is pictured with her husband Kader Arby, 36, (right) and their nine babies in Morocco last year
Amongst the record breaking nonuplets, are five little girls that Ms Cisse has dressed in pink and gray and all blue babygrows around six
In the brood of nine babies, there were four boys, all pictured together here in camouflage babygrows at the hospital last year
The baby girls left to right are: Adama, Oumou, Hawa, Kadidia, and Fatouma. The boys are Oumar, Elhadji, Bah, Mohammed VI in August last year
‘They are all very different, which is entirely normal,’ he said.
The care bill so far is approaching the equivalent of £1million, and most of it has been picked up by the Malian government.
Halima almost died from blood loss during the delivery after suffering a hemorrhage of her uterine artery.
Doctors estimated that her belly alone weighed almost 30 kg, made up of the babies and amniotic fluid.
She gave birth by Caesarean section, accompanied by her sister, Aisha, while her Kader initially stayed behind at their home in Timbuktu, Mali due to Covid restrictions.
‘Giving birth to one child is hard enough but having nine is unimaginable,’ Halima said previously.
‘It’s astonishing the amount of work that is involved in looking after them. I’m grateful to the medical team that are doing all the hard work and the Government of Mali for funding this.’
Describing the birth, Halima said: ‘As the babies were coming out, there were so many questions going through my mind. I was very aware of what was going on and it seemed as if there was an endless stream of babies coming out of me.’
Proud parents Ms Cisse and Mr Arby were pictured after the birth wearing facemasks earlier in the babies development but were prevented from getting their pictures taking with all nine of their babies because they were still too weak and staying in incubators
After a tough start to life, all born prematurely in May and having to be kept under close observation, they have all put on weight and, now live with their mother and a team of nurses in an apartment near the hospital
She had initially spent two weeks in Point G Hospital in Bamako, Mali’s capital, before she was transferred to Morocco thanks to the intervention of Mali’s then President of Transition, Bah N’Daw.
This is why one of the boys is called Bah. Another is named Mohamed VI, in honor of the King of Morocco.
The brood are the third instance of nonuplets but the first in which even one of the babies survived.
Doctors had ruled out a full-term pregnancy as too risky for Halima — the babies had no digestive tracts to absorb food, some of them had underdeveloped livers and kidneys, and all were immunodeficient.
Kader, who is a devout Muslim, said: ‘My wife is an only child while I have eight brothers and sisters. There is nothing in our family history to explain how this happened other than Allah’s grace. These children are a gift from Him’.
There is no date yet for when the family will return to Timbuktu as Mali has undergone its second coup in quick succession.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.