May 16, 2022

Couple from Mali celebrates the first birthday of their nonuplets

The day after the leak of the US Supreme Court’s draft of a repudiation of Roe v. Wade, Mohammed VI Arby, Oumar Arby, Elhadji Arby, Bah Arby, Kadidia Arby, Fatouma Arby, Hawa Arby, Adama Arby and Oumou Arby celebrated their first birthday in a hospital in Morocco. (Mohammed VI was named after the King of Morocco.)

The world’s first set of nonuplets are in “perfect health”, their father, Abdelkader Arby, an officer in the army of Mali, told BBC Afrique. “They’re all crawling now. Some are sitting up and can even walk if they hold on to something.”

Their mother, 26-year-old Halima Cissé is healthy and happy. “It’s not easy but it’s great,” said Mr Arby. “Even if it’s tiring at times, when you look at all the babies in perfect health, [in a line] from right to left we’re relieved. We forget everything. “

The couple already had a three-year-old daughter, Souda.

Last year Mrs Cissé was flown from Timbuktu, in Mali, to the Ain Borja clinic in Casablanca, ahead of the birth. Ultrasounds had indicated that there were seven babies, but, to the doctors’ astonishment, nine emerged — four boys and five girls. They were born at 30 weeks by caesarean section.

“They all have different characters,” said Mr Arby. “Some are quiet, while other make more noise and cry a lot. Some want to be picked up all the time. They are all very different, which is entirely normal.”

According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Mrs Cissé’s nonuplets are the most children to survive a single pregnancy. There have been other nonuplet births, but all of the children died. Apparently hers were conceived naturally, without fertility drugs or IVF.

The previous record holder was Nadya Suleman, an unmarried American woman who already had six children and then gave birth to octuplets in California in 2009. All of her offspring were conceived with IVF. (Her doctor was expelled from the American Society for Reproductive Medicine afterwards.) Public reaction was hostile – why is taxpayers’ money being thrown away on “Octomom”, people asked. Miss Suleman received death threats.

In Mali the Arby family has become a national celebrity. As Mr Arby told the BBC: “I hope God blesses everyone who doesn’t yet have children — that they can have what we, the parents of nonuplets currently have. It’s beautiful, a real treasure.”