Story Time

Remember the most famous sixes in the world. See them 30 years later

Janet and Graham Walton wanted children more than anything in the world. They were having issues conceiving, but they didn’t want to give up. They turned to for utility treatments, but even after twelve attempts, they were still having no luck. They decided to give it one more shot and they were granted a miracle. Janet became pregnant with the child she’d wanted for so long.

They were thrilled. But at one of their doctor’s appointments, they found out they were getting a lot more than they bargained for. The doctor revealed to them that they were expecting not just one child, but sex tuplets that’s six babies. After they realized that she was carrying so many children, they admitted her to the hospital so she could be medically supervised. They were worried that she’d miscarry the children, so having her remain in the hospital made the most sense.

The pregnancy went as smoothly as you could hope, and in the 31st week of pregnancy, the babies were born. On November 18, 1983, the Waltons welcomed their six daughters hannah, Ruth, Lucy, Kate, Jenny and Sarah, making them the world’s only known set of all girls sexuplets. The happy parents went through more than 100 diapers a year and could hardly find time to sleep. With six kids, there was always another baby to feed or diaper to change. As the girls grew up, there were six schedules to maintain, but it was still everything the Waltons wanted.

Both of them agree it was a momentous day, but Janet and Graham Walton, parents of the world’s only all girl sex couplets, can’t quite reach a consensus on what was the most remarkable about the October morning last year when they became first time grandparents. Graham remembers the drama and farce. Janet was delayed getting to the hospital because of what I now refer to as the exminster incident. He says a roll of carpet fell off the back of a van in front of her as she was driving into Liverpool. She was panicking about being late.

Meanwhile, Sarah, the first of their six tuplets to bless them with a grandchild, was caught up in a minor palaver at the hospital. Sarah was being taken to the operating theater for a cesarean section when the scrub nurse, or was it the surgeon, got stuck in the lift with her, begins Graham. That lift story is just wrong on so many levels, interrupts Ruth, who, like her father, is a natural joker. Sarah wasn’t stuck in it at all. Well, someone involved in the operation was trapped in a lift.

And, says Graham. While Janet, serene calm and unerringly confident, rolls her eyes and smiles, she remembers only the everyday wonder of her granddaughter Georgie’s birth. I’d seen Sarah early in the morning, and an hour and a half later, there she was holding her baby, a beautiful little girl with big dark eyes and a lot of hair. It’s a miracle, isn’t it? I took the first photo of Georgie half an hour after she was born.

She was perfect. So tiny. She weighed £7.06 and a half ounces at birth. Sarah was only £2 5oz at birth, so her little girl was three times as big as her mum. Yet I couldn’t believe how delicate and small she looked.

I felt a tremendous surge of protective love. It flooded into me the moment I saw the pictures from her first scan. I texted all the family, it’s a girl. Well, the Waltons don’t do boys, do we? I even learned how to send a group message.

Apparently, everyone keeps telling Janet, there’s no one more experienced at motherhood than you. But when my girls were born, I knew absolutely nothing, she Says I had no time to prepare. I hadn’t even seen a midwife or been to an antenatal class. The incident, my multiple pregnancy was confirmed at eight weeks. I was whipped into hospital and stayed there until the birth.

Janet and Graham had given up hope of conceiving a child of their own. In fact, they were poised to adopt, believing the fertility drugs she’d been taking would never work. When she became pregnant with six girls, the sex uplifts hannah, Ruth, Lucy, Kate, Jenny and Sarah, born in Liverpool on November 18, 1983, remain unique. No other set of female six tupples has ever survived and the world has watched them grow into adulthood with thrilled wonderment. Those of us who have experienced parenthood on a more modest scale can only marvel at the epic task that confronted Janet and Graham after they were born.

When Georgie was born to Sarah and her fiancee Kieran, the restaurant manager, on October 7 last year, janet’s mind cast back to the day 31 years earlier, when she became a mum. Georgie was born on a Tuesday and by Friday she was home. In contrast, it was six weeks before our girls came home. They’d been in the special care baby unit and we brought them back to at a time Janet remembers from the start, it was absolutely full on daunting. Looking back, I don’t know how we managed.

Honestly, I don’t. We lived through those early years in a blur. We had no time to think. We were just doing. And the only regret is that there wasn’t enough time to enjoy them as much as we’d have liked.

The instant my multiple pregnancy was confirmed at eight weeks, I was whipped into hospital and I stayed there until the birth, when, Sarah says, Georgie was awake in the night. I’m so tired. I don’t say anything, but I remember back to our girls early years. For two years, Graham and I only slept for a couple of hours a night. It was very difficult, a constant round of nappy, changing and feeding.

And we couldn’t learn from our mistakes because we experienced everything at once. The weaning, the potty training, the first steps it was a constant onslaught. We worked out that we used 11,000 nappies a year. Chips and Graham, aged 64, who took a year off from his job as a painter and decorator when his daughters were born to help look after them. Now equipped with three decades worth of anecdotes on sharing a house with seven females, he also gives after dinner talks.

We used to go through cases of telcom powder, he says. It was as foggy as Victorian London in our house when they were babies. But they don’t use tailk now, do they? He seems mildly put out by those days when the air was dense with powder. We’ll forever be consigned to sensory memory, but it gets them reminiscing.

Just because we had six babies at once, it didn’t mean we were imprisoned in the house, he recalls. We got out. Jane and I both took a double buggy and a baby each in a papoose. If anyone was visiting, they’d push the third double buggy. I love those early years so much.

I couldn’t say one phase was better than the others, but there was always so much to do. We didn’t enjoy it as much as we would if we had one at a time. With grandchildren, you have time. Looking fondly at his granddaughter, he adds, whenever I see babies, I wish I could go back and do it all over again. Janet, who’s now 62, looks stricken.

She’s just retired from her job as fundraising administrator for the neonatal unit at Liverpool Women’s Hospital. Georgia was born there and is looking forward to the novelty of devoting some of her spare time to just their one cherished grandchild. There’s nothing quite like being a grandma, is there? She says. I think you do have the best of them and I feel privileged.

Right from the start, I’ve had a bond with Georgie. Karen and Sarah came around when she was just a few weeks pregnant and said, We’ve got some exciting news. There was this big love and lots of cuddles when she said she was pregnant. And because I’d worked at the hospital, I drove them in for Sarah’s first scan at eight weeks. Karen popped his head around my door and said, Come and have a look at this.

It was such a miracle. I saw the scan picture there she was, a proper little baby. I had a cry. Hopefully I’ll be there for some more milestones. It was fabulous to see Georgie’s first smile.

I think she recognizes voices now. She seems to change every day and she’s so content. She’s joined the library. She goes swimming. It tickles me.

Sarah takes her to a little baby group with other new moms. She already has a busy social life. The first time I babysit, I was a little bit apprehensive, but it’s instinctive. You just remember what to do and I tell Sarah there’s no right or wrong way. I never push my views.

I chat away to Georgia when I’m looking after her. Auntie Katie will be coming later. Or I wonder what your mummy is doing now. It doesn’t really matter what you say, as long as you’re engaging them. And I’ve already bought her a book of stories and nursery rhymes, because there’s nothing more rewarding than snuggling them down in bed and reading to them.

Honestly, I just don’t know how they did it. Everyone says it’ll be nice for Georgie to have a brother, but I definitely don’t want six. I couldn’t cope. When I visit, all the sisters have convened at the family home, the warm and welcoming seven bedroom house in Wallacey Mercy Side, where they grow up. It’s the third time I visited them and I never failed to think how different, how fiercely individual they all are.

All but Hannah have moved away now. But apart from Jenny, who lives with partner Matt, a catering manager in Leeds, they all live within a stone’s throw of Mum and Dad’s. I can’t remember a time when the house ever felt empty. There’s always someone dropping by for tea, says Jan, who seems perpetually to keep a vast VAT of food bubbling on the hub. Meanwhile, Georgie, sweet tempered and quick to smile, is being passed between her doting ants like a parcel in a party game.

She’s just enveloped in all this love, smiles Jan. I’m sure she’ll develop great social skills too, because we talk to her all the time. Sarah, practical and sensible, like her mum, worked as an administrator in a medical center before she had Georgie. Now she’s taking a year’s maternity leave. She and Karen have just bought their first house together.

Eventually we’ll get married, she says. I wouldn’t bother if I were you. You can live in sin with my blessing. And save me a few bob, jokes Graham. When his girls were newborns, any visitor was presented with a baby and a nappy to change, because the practical tasks were relentless.