- Are the Carlson Septuplets real?
- Where did you get the idea for this site? Was this site inspired by the birth of the McCaughey Septuplets?
- But what is the purpose of this site? Are you trying to accomplish something here?
- Tell me about the history of this site. How long has it been on-line?
- Is this site just for kids? For all ages? Kid-safe?
- There are other septuplets in the world, aren't there? The Carlsons couldn't be the only ones.
- Aren't identical septuplets a bit unrealistic?
- Why did you name the Septs with all the same first letter? Do you support real multiple birth parents doing that?
Not necessarily. If I were the parent of real multiple birth children, I would want to name them with separate initials. However, multiple birth children are sometimes given the same initials by their parents, or rhyming names, or alphabetical names, or some other kind of themed names. As part of the things they have to go through as famous multiple births, I wanted the Carlson Septuplets to have to deal with this.
Though I want to portray Mr. and Mrs. Carlson as good, loving parents, don't assume that everything they do is something I am trying to endorse. I have them do things that I know real parents of multiplets have done, and I explore how the Septuplets deal with those choices. You can decide for yourself whether these things are positive or negative.
- I can't believe you're promoting fertility drugs and women having huge multiple births. Don't you know the human population is already reaching dangerous levels?
- Babies born in large groups are often disabled. Why didn't you give any of the Carlson Septuplets a disability?
- How often do you update this site? You haven't added anything in ages! Have you lost interest?
- I have another question.
No. The Carlson Septuplets are fictional characters. If you are an observant reader, you'll spot this written in many places throughout the site, but judging from the e-mail I get, a lot of people are still confused about this. I'm flattered that my stories are that believable, but I don't want anyone to feel mislead.
This, of course, is why we don't have any real photographs on the picture page, to directly answer the most common form of this question that I hear.
Actually, I created the Carlsons in 1994. The McCaughey Septuplets were born in 1997. I originally drew Megan, Melissa, and Mary as a set of triplets as minor characters for another story, but after thinking about it a bit, I decided that the idea of identical multiple births would be interesting as its own story. I went to the local library and read up on the subject, and that's how I discovered the saga of the Dionne Quintuplets.
The story of the Dionnes is a real tragedy. Born May 28, 1934 in Ontario, Canada, the five genetically identical girls were the world's first surviving quintuplets. After they were almost sold to the circus, the girls being taken from their parents and made wards of the province, which put them on display as a tourist attraction, "Quintland," which rivaled Niagara Falls in popularity at its peak. For more on the Dionnes, I recommend the site Quintland.
My grandma was growing up when the Dionnes were popular, and she remembered being fascinated by them. When I told her I was reading about them, she told me all sorts of delightful things she remembered about them as children, though as an adult she also learned of the horrible things that were done to them.
That made me think: what if the Dionne Quintuplets had been born today? How might they have dealt with public attention? What would it be like to be born in the world's largest set of multiplets? What if you all looked alike? That's what inspired the Carlson Septuplets' story. Admittedly, the Carlsons' story is much happier than the Dionnes: in particular, I left out the family problems the Dionnes faced, choosing instead to give them a loving family like the Dilleys, whose story I read at the same time as the Dionnes'. (The Dilley kids were America's first surviving sextuplets, born in 1993. The creative, loving family that the Dionnes lacked I instead modelled partially off of the Dilleys, though the sextuplets were still very small when I created the septuplets and later this web site. I admire their family very much, and I have tried to give many of the admirable qualities they show to the Carlsons as well.) The story of the world's largest set of multiple births and being identical, however, is straight out of the Dionne Quintuplets' story. It is intended to be an exploration of what it would be like to be one of very high order look-alike multiple births, subjected to extreme curiosity and public attention from a young age.
The purpose of this site is entertainment. As I believe that the most worthwhile entertainment also promotes discussion of important issues, you could say that is a secondary purpose of the site. I have no political or commercial purpose. I am not here to promote or raise money for real multiple birth families. I am not here to climb on a soap box regarding the ethical issues that are raised with the topic of multiple births. I do cover some of the most common ones later in the FAQ anyway, because I keep being asked about them. Some may also be addressed in the stories, but that is intended merely as one family's attempt to deal with them, not as a condemnation of any family that came to different conclusions.
Exploitation is a sensitive issue among multiple birth families after what happened to the Dionnes. I hope people will not consider this page such an exploitation. The fictional Carlson sisters provide a way to explore this unique situation without invading any real people's privacy. Fortunately this isn't a frequently asked question, but I have wondered if some people would be sensitive to this. I hope no one does.
After I created the Carlsons in 1994, I wrote stories about them for my own enjoyment. In February 1995 my dad introduced me to the Internet, and I immediately wanted to know how to put things on-line. Eventually I learned how, and on July 11, 1996, the Official Carlson Septuplets Page debuted on the Internet. (By coincidence, the first full day the Septs were on-line was their 14th birthday.) At that time, if you searched for septuplets on AltaVista, you got 13 matches; none of the others referred to human septuplets. So I guess I was the first person to use that term on-line! Kind of a claim to fame, huh? Since today when I search, I find thousands of results.
The site eventually grew from a single page with a paragraph introduction to each Septuplet to the site you see today. Along the way we've had some great milestones. The birth of the McCaughey Septuplets, of course, was the biggest one: in anticipation of their birth, the people at CNN were looking for related stories. A producer there found my site, and a few days later they were at my house filming a segment for a show called "The Computer Connection." My short clip also showed on CNN Headline News and CNN International. You can watch that here. A reporter from the Des Moines Register also interviewed me about the Carlsons over the phone that week.
Another milestone came early in 2000, when the Carlson Septuplets were asked to be included in Software 2010's World On-Line Digest, a newsletter and CD-ROM distributed around the world to people without Internet access, allowing them to browse family-friendly web sites.
We've also been on SoundBytes Radio (listen to our clip here), won a web award from the Los Angeles Times, were mentioned in the Philadelphia Inquirer, and were even alluded to in a Life Magazine article about the McCaughey family.
In the future, the Carlson Septuplets site will remain as long as I have web space and a connection, and I don't forsee ever losing those barring some grave catastrophe. So stay tuned, because even though we have periods of stasis, we plan to be around for quite some time.
I intend for this site to be for all ages, and when I say that, I don't mean for it to be a euphemism for "just for kids." I'm happy to say that people from age 4 to 44 (I'm not making those ages up!) have written to me to tell me they've enjoyed my site, so I hope those of you who might be turned off by an overall G-rating will give it a chance if you're interested in multiple births in general.
I have stories about the Septuplets at all different ages, from birth to post-college graduation. One challenge with this is that by not limiting myself to a target audience age, I might end up with older readers thinking the site is just for kids while parents are concerned that it's not meant for their young children and end up with no readers at all. Even so, I want to write stories that are interesting to older people but safe for younger people. Some writers think that's impossible, but judging by your comments, I think I may have managed to pull it off, and that's one of the things I'm most proud of about this site.
Parents of younger children may want to skim through the stories; occasionally there may be some scenes that younger children may find frightening. I mark these with PG ratings on the story index; unmarked stories are rated G. I might at some point present slightly controversial material or touchy subjects (such as my story that refers to the aftermath of the Columbine High School shootings), so of course you should use normal caution if you have young children.
When I created the Carlson Septuplets in 1994, there were no full sets of septuplets living.
The first recorded septuplet birth in the United States was to Sandra Cwikielnik on October 1, 1966. None of the babies lived more than a few hours. (Thanks to Bill Cwikielnik for this information; he has shown me newspaper clippings about his family's case to verify this oft-overlooked story.)
A relatively famous case (the only I know of after the Cwikielniks in the United States) is that of the Frustaci Septuplets, born on May 21, 1985 in California. People Magazine's June 10, 1985 cover story focused on these babies. Patricia Ann, Richard Charles and Stephen Earl were the only babies to survive; Bonnie Marie, James Martin, and David Anthony lived only a few days, and Christina Elizabeth was stillborn.
Septuplet births were extremely rare up to this point, but due to fertility drugs (which were responsible for all of these sets, though not for the Carlsons: see question 11 for why) they are becoming more frequent. The first septuplets in the world to survive were the McCaughey Septuplets, born November 19, 1997 in Iowa. Shortly after that, a set was born in Saudi Arabia with all seven surviving; another set has since been born in Saudi Arabia, though the number of full surviving sets of septuplets is still very low. (I am unable to determine how many survived in all the recent births of septuplets, so I'm not sure exactly how many there are.) There is also a set of seven surviving octuplets (the Louis/Chukwu Octuplets, born in December 1998 in Texas), though there are no full sets of octuplets or more surviving. Coincidentally, the second set of septuplets born in the US since the publication of this site was born on July 12, 2001: the Carlson Septuplets' nineteenth birthday!
Since the Carlson Septuplets were created and on-line before any of these few real sets of septuplets were born, they are the only septuplets in their story. As I mentioned earlier, I modeled their story off of the Dionne Quints' story, and they were the only set of quintuplets (not counting the Diligentis born in the 1940s in Argentina, who were kept something of a secret by their parents to avoid the kind of attention the Dionnes recieved) until they were adults. Please think of the Carlsons as living in the same world as us where all the same things happen, except for the births of extremely high order multiplets. I'm sure there will be another set of septuplets born in the Carlsons' world eventually, but I plan to use this in a story itself, and I don't wish to fictionalize stories of real multiple birth families, so it will be another pretend one of my own construction. Until a story might say otherwise, the Carlson Septuplets remain the only living septuplets in their story's universe.
Yes. The largest number of genetically identical siblings ever born is five. According to the on-line multiple birth encyclopedia Facts About Multiples, there have been seven documented sets of identical quintuplets since 1786. There are no reports of identical sextuplets or more.
Since I initially created this story to be a happier modern retelling of the Dionne Quintuplets' story, however, and the Dionnes were identical quintuplets, I wanted to add that element to the story. What if you were the world's largest set of multiple births, and you all looked alike? This situation has happened before, so this is what I am exploring in the story. The reality of seven identicals compared to a plausible four or five isn't really an issue for me.
If you're really feeling distracted by this, though, I've figured that maybe there could be some sort of recent genetic mutation that causes hyper-twinning of a zygote, causing it to split multiple times, not just once or twice. Of course, it doesn't really appeal to me to think of the Carlsons as mutants, but they themselves often are treated as though they are in their stories, and the scientists living in the world of their stories are certainly thinking about this, so I guess it works as a possible explanation.
On a related note, some experts believe that the Dionnes were originally sextuplets. The theory states that the original zygote split once, and then one of the resulting cells split again, creating three, and then each of those split, resulting in three sets of mirror twins. There is evidence suggesting that one of these was lost during the third month of Mrs. Dionne's pregnancy. So hey, maybe identical sextuplets have been conceived before, if not carried to term. That's almost seven, right? ;)
I am definitely not writing this story to suggest that everyone should go out and have septuplets. All I find interesting is the lives of the children once someone does have such a large group of babies. Indeed, I try to address the struggles such a family would face as well, not just the fun parts.
Moreover, the issue of fertility drugs is completely irrelevant to this story. Fertility drugs only increase the likelihood of a fraternal multiple birth. Since the Carlson Septuplets are identical, fertility drugs could not have been the cause of their birth.
On a more general note, it's well worth being concerned about human population growth. I don't mean to tell you that you flat-out shouldn't have more than one or two kids, but I've heard many young people who visit this site say they want to have enormous families one day, so I would like to encourage those people to read up on issues of sustainable population growth. Try this quiz for starters.
Of course, it occurs to me that it doesn't make a lot of sense to blame multiple birth families for the population crisis, because they most likely did not plan to have a bunch of kids at one time.
It is true that babies born in large multiple births are very likely to have disabilities. This is a very real part of many multiple birth stories, and should not be glossed over. I do not, however, feel comfortably portraying something as serious and sensitive as a severe disability in my story. I do not have any experience with such a situation. Though you might also note that I don't have any personal experience with high-order multiple births either, writing about a disability feels considerably more serious and has much more potential to hurt someone. I considered this to a great extent and hope that my choice will not hurt anyone.
I update this site as often as I can. I have been writing about the Carlsons since 1994 and publishing their stories on-line since 1996, and I have still not lost interest, so I forsee this site remaining active for quite a while to come. You might have noticed, however, that many of the Septuplets' stories are dated 1997 or 1998, while only a few are from the 2000s. This is not because of a lessened interest, but because I've had some pretty busy times in my life since then (particularly college and working abroad in Japan). There will likely be large periods of time when this site remains static. I have always come back from these periods with new material, however, and have no plans to shut this site down.
If you would like to be notified when I do update, we have an update mailing list which you can join. See the mailing list page for more information.
Please post any other questions you might have at the aforementioned Carlson Septuplets' forum. We love talking to new people there! The same is true for any issue I have mentioned here, or anything else you might have thought of on the subject of the Carlson Septuplets or multiple births in general. Please feel free to start a thread on any related topic, to ask a question, to post a comment, or to start a debate.