Doctors methodically delivered a mother's seven babies, five boys and two girls, just as they had repeatedly rehearsed. Then came the eighth.
The surprising sixth boy and eighth child made Monday's mass birth not just remarkable but historic.
"It is quite easy to miss a baby when you're anticipating seven," said Dr. Harold Henry, chief of maternal and fetal medicine and one of 46 doctors, nurses and assistants who delivered the children by Caesarean section at Kaiser Permanente Bellflower Medical Center. "Ultrasound doesn't show you everything." Just five minutes after the first birth, the unexpected eighth baby came out at 10:48 am.
"My eyes were wide," Dr. Karen Maples said.
It was just the second live octuplets birth in US history. Doctors said the babies _ who weighed between 1 pound, 8 ounces (0.69 kilograms), and 3 pounds, 4 ounces (1.47 kilograms) _ were born nine weeks premature but described their condition as stable. Two were placed on ventilators and a third needed oxygen. "The babies are all doing well, and the mom is also doing well," Henry said. "There were no complications from the surgery to the best of my knowledge."
Hospital officials would not release the mother's name nor say whether she had used fertility drugs.
They did say she planned to breast feed all the children. "She's a very strong woman, so she probably will be able to handle all eight babies," said Dr. Mandhir Gupta, a neo-natologist who cared for the infants.
The mother checked into the hospital in her 23rd week of pregnancy and gave birth seven weeks later. The babies _ dubbed with the letters A-through-H _ will probably remain in the hospital for at least two months and the mother should be released in a week, Maples said.
The world's first live octuplets were born in March 1967 in Mexico City, but all died within 14 hours, according to Encyclopedia Britannica.
The United States' first live octuplets were born in Houston in 1998, three months premature. The tiniest died a week after the birth. The surviving siblings turned 10 in December. Their parents, Nkem Chukwu and Iyke Louis Udobi, told The Associated Press that they were delighted to hear another mother managed the same feat.
"It's a blessing, truly a blessing," Chukwu said. "We'll keep praying for them."
Dr. Richard Paulson, director of the fertility program at the University of Southern California, said the latest births likely resulted from the use of fertility drugs, and that the children could face serious health risks.
"It's a risky decision to try to have all eight babies," said Paulson, who had no role in the delivery. "I would not recommend it under any circumstances, but I respect a parent's decision." The Bellflower medical center, located about 17 miles (27 kilometers) southeast of Los Angeles, has an advanced neonatal unit. The most infants previously delivered at the hospital was five, the Los Angeles Times said.