Former high-school sweethearts deliver a classroom – Meet the McGhees of Ohio

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Ohio, USA — Mia and Rozonno McGhee hold a montage of their sextuplets in the nursery of their home. The babies, born June 9, are still at the hospital but are expected to come home in the next two weeks.

One bedroom, three cribs, six babies.

The quarters are close but manageable, as the biggest of the McGhee sextuplets has yet to top 5 pounds.

Figuring out how to provide enough diapers, clothing and a vehicle that can accommodate six infant car seats is another matter.

“We have the love,” Rozonno McGhee said, smiling yesterday at his wife, Mia. “We’ve always had that part.”

Mr. and Mrs. McGhee were high-school sweethearts at Linden-McKinley who relied on each other to navigate a difficult adolescence in a tough neighborhood. He was 20 and she was 18 when they married 11 years ago, their only dream to stay together and raise a family.

After unsuccessful attempts to have children, the North Side couple turned to fertility drugs. Mrs. McGhee gave birth to twins prematurely last year, and both infants died.

When an ultrasound during her next pregnancy revealed multiple heartbeats, she felt devastated again.

“They advised us to do the selective reduction,” she said. “We couldn’t.”

The McGhees knew they would struggle to afford an instant family of eight. He is a carpet- and upholstery-cleaner; she is leaving her job at JPMorgan Chase to care for the babies.

The halving of their income comes at a time when the community and corporate support that used to accompany multiple births seems to be wearing thin.

Mrs. McGhee said Ohio State University President E. Gordon Gee sent six Buckeyes onesies, and the Columbus City Council gave them a certificate honoring the city’s first – and Ohio’s second – set of sextuplets. But they have received nary a donated diaper, and a fund set up at Chase bank after the babies’ birth on June 9 remains empty.

“It’s taken such a turn,” said Janet Bleyl, president of The Triplet Connection in Spring City, Utah, a national support network for multiple-birth families. “There isn’t the help out there that there used to be. The public just doesn’t get involved much anymore.”

That is, Bleyl and others say, unless the storyline is negative or bizarre, such as the “octomom” who already had six children and then gave birth to eight at once.

The McGhees, who did not call T he Dispatch, say they haven’t received return calls from the few corporations and elected officials who were contacted on their behalf. That’s in contrast to the avalanche of publicity and donations that flowed in 1997 to the McCaugheys of Iowa, who received everything from a van to a lifetime supply of diapers and even college scholarships for their septuplets.

Gretchen Slaughter said there was little business interest when she and her husband, David, went home to Marietta in southern Ohio with their quintuplets in 2005. But living in a small town helped.

“My parents moved in with us, and the community had a little baby shower,” Mrs. Slaughter said. “Senior citizens stood outside Walmart and had bake sales, and they were able to collect enough to purchase a used 15-passenger van. I don’t know what we’d have done without it.”

Mr. McGhee, who is trying to grow his own carpet-cleaning business, said he doesn’t like seeking help. But he knows that Rozonno Jr., Isaac, Josiah, Elijah, Madison and Olivia – who likely will begin leaving Ohio State University Medical Center in the next two weeks – don’t care about pride.

He said a woman recently asked how his family was adjusting to all the attention. When he said there hadn’t been any, “she cried,” Mr. McGhee said. “She couldn’t believe it.”

Mrs. McGhee said she is staying positive. The babies are healthy, and she trusts that the hard times are temporary.
“I’m happy,” she said. “I have a family.”