In 2002, the Headrick family made local and national news – after trying for more children using intrauterine insemination, their family grew exponentially by six! The Headricks had given birth to the Kansas’ first set of sextuplets. Now 18, the Headrick kids made the headlines again – as the state’s first sextuplets to graduate from high school.
The Headricks come from a small town, Norwich, Kansas, with a population of 450. It is no wonder that the birth of the children made such a huge impact.
In 2001, Sondra and Eldon Headrick were desperately trying to give their daughter Aubrianna, now 22, a sibling. The couple tried intrauterine insemination, but the first two attempts were unsuccessful. Intrauterine insemination is a fertility treatment where doctors inject sperm into the uterus to increase the chance of fertilization.
The Headricks went for their third intrauterine insemination procedure on September 12, 2001, the day after the 9/11 attacks. Revealing that they were not considering IVF, Sondra said, “It was our last chance.” A few weeks later, Sondra and Eldon were informed by fertility specialist Dr. David Grainger that the intrauterine insemination procedure was not only successful, it was also historic.
“We were in his office and he goes, ‘This has never happened to me before,’ and I was thinking, ‘What has never happened?’ I had a lot of things going through my mind,” Sondra recalled. “Then he said, ‘You’re having multiples.’ I told him, ‘I’ve always wanted twins.’” Grainger then smiled and started counting 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 heartbeats on the sonogram.
Sondra and Eldon were in shock. “They gave us options and a lot of material to read about higher order multiples and the outcomes,” Sondra said. At the time, only about a dozen sextuplets had survived as full sets. They spent a couple of weeks deliberating their precarious situation.
The pregnancy was risky, but they didn’t like the thought of eliminating some of the fetuses to give the others a better chance. One night, Sondra had a dream of six healthy, screaming babies. She shared, “We did a lot of thinking. But I just knew that it would work out. I had great doctors and I believed in them. I believed that God would take care of us.”
Born at 31 weeks at St. Joseph Regional Medical Center in Wichita – Grant, Melissa, Ethan, Danielle, Sean, and Jaycie completed the Headrick clan on April 6, 2002. The smallest was Sean, who weighed 2 pounds, 10 ounces, while Grant was the largest, born at 3 pounds, 11 ounces.
The first sextuplets born in Kansas history, they garnered national attention, received lots of gifts, and even made an appearance on a national talk show when they were 7 months old. Local newspapers recorded their milestones, though the children have little recollection of their moments of celebrity.
According to Grant, “Most people find it interesting. But we really don’t get that much attention from it right now. It’s not a big thing.”
For Sondra and Eldon, the sextuplets’ childhood was more of a demanding, expensive blur, and it went by quickly. The parents work two jobs to support their huge family. At one time they spent $30,000 for six pairs of braces, and will now be supporting their children through college.
Comprising 22 percent of the senior class, the Headricks graduated from Norwich High School, and will be moving into different directions soon. Ethan will be studying technical networking at Wichita State University, while Sean will major in cyber security at Cowley College. Grant, the most outgoing of the boys, plans to take a gap year.
Sondra explained, “He’s going to continue working and figure out what he wants to do next.”
Jaycie, the class salutatorian, will head to Pratt Community College to study elementary education. Melissa and Danielle will both be at Hutchinson Community College for graphic design and animation, respectively.
“Melissa and Danielle won’t be roommates but they want to be on the same floor so they can check on each other,” Sondra said. “The girls are really extremely close. They’ll stay up late talking about everything.”
Understandably, the Headrick parents are going through a range of emotions. “I can’t even put into words how proud we are of them,” Sondra said. “But at the same time, you know, we’re a little sad.” The two do find comfort in the fact that their children are continuing their education in Kansas.
It will be quite a change for the Headrick household, particularly since only Ethan will continue to live at home. Sondra said she’s going to miss having them around. “I do like this age right now because we can have conversations, and it’s a fun age for them. But I’m looking forward to seeing what the future brings for them.”