In 19 years of practice, Wisconsin obstetrician Dr. Ken Merkitch had never experienced anything like it. He wasn’t just seeing double, he was seeing octuple.
In one 24-hour period beginning last Friday and ending early Saturday, he delivered four sets of twins and nine babies overall at Gundersen Lutheran Hospital in La Crosse, Wis.
“It started out very quiet,” Merkitch told TODAY co-host Matt Lauer on Wednesday. “Then the first couple had called, the Davises, and very active labor, and then everybody came in. As one couple was getting ready to deliver, the next would call and come in, so it was sort of steady throughout the day.”
Merkitch, who can’t remember ever delivering even two sets of twins in one shift, smiled broadly as he spoke, surrounded at the hospital by the four happy couples who contributed to the special day, along with six of the infants. The final set of twins, born seven weeks prematurely, stayed in their incubators.
“All went very well,” Merkitch reported. “Every couple did absolutely fantastically — couldn’t ask for better people. The babies are doing well.”
Sarah and Mark Davis were the first couple to check in on Friday morning. Already the parents of twin 5-year-old boys and an 11-year-old boy, the Davises had decided not to learn the sex of their twins before they were born, but they really wanted a girl. And they got one — Samantha, born at 11:23 a.m. — along with a fourth boy, Maxwell, who followed eight minutes later.
“We are very excited to have a baby girl,” Mark Davis told Lauer. “That was one of the reasons we wanted to have another child. Both of us wanted a baby girl, and we finally had one and now we’re done.”
Merkitch had an eight-hour wait before delivering the next set of twins to DelaRae and Colin McHugh, who added nonidentical twin girls, Marisa and Makenna, to join their two sons, ages 10 and 14.
“I’m kind of a boy guy myself, but I’m pretty happy with the girls,” Colin McHugh said. “We have a 9-year-old boy who always wanted to be a big brother, and now he’s twice that, I guess.”
Like the Davises, the McHughs said they’re calling it quits.
Next in the delivery room were Annie and Steve Mach, who were expecting their first children. At 1:04 a.m., Annie Mach delivered a son, Milo, followed seven minutes later by daughter Maggie. To add to the day’s wonder, the Mach twins came in at exactly the same size and weight — 18.3 inches and 5 pounds, 12.7 ounces.
Annie Mach reported that the last four days have been “pretty sleep-deprived, but very, very exciting. We’re thrilled to have a little boy and a little girl.”
Finally, at 3:23 and 3:24 a.m. Ayden and Avery Smith made their appearance seven weeks ahead of schedule.
Their father, Aaron Smith, almost missed their arrival. He had gone deer hunting about two hours away from home. During the day Friday, his wife, Carissa, had called him several times to tell him she wasn’t feeling well. He asked if he should come home, but she told him to stay on his hunting trip.
“I didn’t think I was going to be delivering,” she told Lauer. But by late that night, the first-time mother realized it wasn’t false labor but the real thing. “I had to call him and rush him into town around midnight,” she added. “He made it just in time.”
Gundersen Lutheran Hospital’s maternity department delivered 1,627 babies in 2006. Among them were 31 sets of twins — or one set about every 12 days. Delivering four sets in one day, Merkitch said last week, “is something I don’t think I’ll see again.”
In addition to the twins, Merkitch delivered one other baby for a total of nine on the day. Of the woman who had just one child, he joked, “We referred to her as the lazy mother.”