The town of Norwich, Kansas — population 450 — is about to get even smaller.
Earlier this month, the Headrick sextuplets, whose birth made national headlines in 2002, graduated from Norwich High School, and come fall, the siblings will be heading off in different directions.
It's understandable that their parents, Sondra and Eldon Headrick, are experiencing a range of emotions.
“I can’t even put into words how proud we are of them,” Sondra, 51, told TODAY Parents. “But at the same time, you know, we’re a little sad.”
Sondra said she finds comfort in knowing that the 18-year-olds are continuing their education in Kansas.
Ethan is headed to Wichita State University to study technical networking, while Sean will major in cyber security at Cowley College. Grant, who is the most outgoing of the boys, is taking a gap year.
“He’s going to continue working and figure out what he wants to do next,” Sondra explained.
Jaycie, the class salutatorian, will study elementary education at Pratt Community College. Her sisters Melissa and Danielle are attending 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.”
Sondra predicts that the first couple of days will be “an awakening” for Ethan, Sean, Grant, Jaycie, Melissa and Danielle.
“They’ve always been together,” she said.
Sondra and Eldon, who are also parents of 22-year-old Aubrianna, were desperate to expand their family in 2001.
The couple tried intrauterine insemination (IUI), where doctors inject sperm into the uterus, but the first two attempts were unsuccessful.
On September 12, 2001, one day after the 9/11 attacks, they went in for their third IUI procedure.
“It was our last chance,” Sondra revealed, noting that they were not considering IVF.
A few weeks later, fertility specialist Dr. David Grainger informed Sondra and Eldon they were having sextuplets.
“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.’”
That’s when Grainger smiled and started counting heartbeats on the sonogram, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.
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.
The pair spent two weeks deliberating. At the time, only about a dozen sextuplets had survived as full sets, according to the Associated Press.
“We did a lot of thinking,” Sondra said. "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.”
Sondra was 31 weeks along in her pregnancy when she welcomed the sextuplets via C-section on April 6, 2002. The smallest, was Sean who weighed 2 pounds, 10 ounces, while Grant, the largest was born at 3 pounds, 11 ounces.
"They were healthy," Sondra said.
The Headrick clan was complete.