Call Jenny Masche the Marathon Woman. As the mother of 1-year-old sextuplets, that’s what her daily life is like. And somehow during that first year of organized chaos, she also managed to train for and run a real marathon.
But how could a mother of one newborn, let alone six, find the time and energy to train for and run a 26.2-mile race?
“Because they’re good sleepers,” Jenny Masche told Meredith Vieira during an exclusive interview on TODAY Thursday in New York. “As soon as I put them down at 7 o’clock at night, I’d literally throw my running shoes on and my friend and I would go and run for like two hours.”
Jenny was holding one of the sextuplets, Bailey, as she spoke. Her husband, Bryan Masche, held another, Cole, and grandparents Laura and Bill Masche and Sue and Bob Simbric held the other four — only one of whom was sleeping.
The babies were tired and some of them were fussing, but Bryan Masche said that the amazing thing about their first year is discovering “just how good they’ve been. They don’t fuss a lot. They’re not really big complainers. They’re just really good babies. They sleep well. It really is less scary than I made it out to be in my mind.”
A difficult delivery
Savannah, Cole, Grant, Molli, Bailey and Blake were born on June 11, 2007, by Caesarean section after 30 weeks of gestation. Jenny went into cardiac arrest during the delivery and nearly died.
“It was really scary because I thought, ‘Am I going to be healthy now to take care of six babies?’ ” she said, choking up at the memory. “I remember my body was trembling, my lip was trembling and being terrified.”
As the babies spent their first weeks of life in neonatal intensive care, Jenny stayed in bed, recovering from the trauma of the birth. “I was on bed rest for so long, all I could imagine was being able to run again,” she said. “I said, ‘When my kids turn 1, I’m running a marathon.’ ”
So, on May 31, less than two weeks before the sextuplets’ first birthday, Jenny entered the Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon in San Diego. Her husband ran with her, and waiting for her at the finish line 5½ hours later were her children.
“There was no way I was getting out of that,” Bryan said of his participation in the race. “I couldn’t let Jenny run the race after heart failure and sextuplets and a year later be on the sidelines cheering her on.”
Pushing past the walls
“The marathon was so fun for me — until I hit 21 miles,” Jenny recounted. “Then you hit a wall. You push through and you’re so exhilarated.”
It’s not unlike raising six children through the first year of life, she added. “I hit walls taking care of them sometimes. I don’t want to get out of bed. But then you push past them and there’s something exhilarating on the other side.”
It has been a lot of work, the Masches admitted. “Laundry is a never-ending process,” Jenny told TODAY. “We get them up, we feed them, change them, play with them, go for a nap, get them up, feed them, change them, play with them, they go for a nap. The routine is definitely the key to our success.”
The Masches and their parents briefly introduced each baby to TODAY viewers.
Jenny held Bailey. “We call her the boss,” she said. “She’s very strong-willed. She’s very mature for her age.”
“This is Cole Robert,” Bryan said. “He’s one of the easiest babies. He’s a snuggler. We call him ‘Cocoa Chopper’ because he’s got four teeth coming in.”
Sue Simbric held Blake: “He is the rabble-rouser of the group. He’s the first to do everything. He gets into everything. He doesn’t think before he acts. He just goes for it.”
Her husband, Bob, was next up with Savannah Jane: “She’s the firstborn.”
Laura Masche introduced Molli: “She’s a sweetheart — very, very mellow.”
Finally, Bill Masche would have had Grant smile for the camera, but the baby was sound asleep. “He takes after me,” the proud granddad said. “He likes to sleep a lot.”
An exciting marathon
The Masches’ gratitude for their bounty of babies came through clearly. “It may be the marathon of life, but it’s an exciting marathon,” Bryan said. “How many people get to go through the experience of having six kids the same age just to see all their different personalities?”
Jenny told Vieira that she believes that having her heart fail during delivery was actually a gift from God. “I’ve just felt so privileged to be here to be their mom, to get to take care of them. I count it a blessing that he allowed me go through that, because this year has just been such a joy,” she said.
The kids go through at least 30 diapers a day, Jenny Masche said. And they’ve already learned to wait their turns.
“If you have one baby, you get to focus on one baby,” she said. “They have to take turns; they have to be really patient.”
The sextuplets each weighed between 2 and 3 pounds at birth. They came home over a period of several weeks after their births. Cole, who needed minor surgery to correct a hernia at his belly button, was the last to come home.
Today, the toddlers each weigh at least 20 pounds and are thriving.
Their parents wouldn’t change a thing.
“When you first hear you are going to have six babies you think, this is impossible, we’re never ever going to survive this,” Jenny told TODAY. “It’s actually been just a wonderful adventure.”