Published: 12 February 2015
Janet had been told she couldn't have children, so she and her husband Graham were overjoyed to find out she was pregnant. Then they told it was not just one baby, but six!
On 18 November 1983, Janet Walton gave birth to the world’s first all-female sextuplets: Hannah, Lucy, Ruth, Sarah, Kate and Jennie.
Janet takes us through the reality of parenting six children of the same age – the extreme sleep deprivation, the bottle-feeding, and later the chaotic routine of getting six girls to school on time. As they grew up, Janet learned to keep a sense of humour through the teenage tantrums and boy trouble, and she watched her little girls blossom into individual, confident young women. She has loved every minute.
Six Little Miracles is the heartwarming story of six special little girls who captured the hearts of the world when they were born. Hannah, Lucy, Ruth, Sarah, Kate and Jennie, still the only all-girl sextuplets in the world, were born in Liverpool on 18 November 1983 and their mother, Janet, tells the story of their birth and what it was like for them growing up in the spotlight.
I remember watching the documentaries shown every Christmas when the Walton girls were quite young, and I was always amazed at how calm their parents seemed amidst all the chaos. Six Little Miracles takes us through Janet’s formative years, revealing how she liked to approach things in a practical way, which goes a long way into explaining just how she was able to stay so calm. What Janet couldn’t have known at that time was she was really learning the life skills that would prepare her for the most important job she would ever have: being a mother to sextuplets. Janet’s own life takes up a fair chunk of the book to start with but I think it is vital as it lays the foundations upon which this family is built and gives us an understanding on just how Janet was able to cope with her pregnancy and caring for her babies.
Although Janet retains a sense of privacy with intimate details being withheld, emotions are still laid bare as Janet describes how each failed attempted at fertility treatment left her feeling devastated. After three years of heartache, Janet and Graham were resigning themselves to becoming adoptive parents when they hit the jackpot with their last ever treatment. Janet and Graham’s joy soon turned into trepidation when scans revealed there were six babies growing and the medical staff felt it would be safer if Janet remained in hospital throughout her pregnancy. Determined to deliver all six of her babies safely, Janet chose to do everything she was told and settled in as a longterm resident with a remarkably calm demeanour.
The medical jargon is kept to a minimum so you have to read between the lines to get a sense of how much danger there was for Janet and her babies as no one knew whether any of them would survive. Even though the outcome was obvious, I still felt myself getting caught up in the drama of the fight to stop Janet going into labour too early to ensure the girls would be a decent weight by the time they were born. Janet’s relationship with her doctor, Sam Abdulla, was based on mutual faith and I could feel the genuine trust Janet had in this man who had her life, as well as the lives of her babies, in his hands. The moment of the birth is very emotional and I was so choked up, I could barely read the words for the tears. As the babies were taken into the special care unit, I think Janet plays down the seriousness of the situation a little too much but there are hints that she may have not been privy to everything that was going on, possibly because of her own fragile health at the time.
The next few chapters deal with the aftermath of the birth and the media frenzy that can only be equated to the recent royal births. While Janet and Graham had no intention of exploiting their children, they had to make some hard decisions as the cost of feeding and clothing six babies was going to be astronomical. In the hopes of keeping some of the media at bay, exclusive deals were made with The Mirror Group but Janet and Graham seriously underestimated the interest the world had in their babies, and even their christening turned into a circus. I really admired how Janet and Graham handled the whole situation and if the media were given access, it was always on their terms and with the welfare of the children at the forefront.
Janet zips through the girls’ childhood fairly quickly and before you know it, they are heading to their first day at school. I would’ve loved a few more anecdotes of them as babies but the book would probably have been twice the size as a result! The cover shows the girls on their first day at school and Janet describes a lovely story about how she was determined they would express their individuality by wearing different coloured socks. The Waltons are a very close family and if blogging had been around in Janet’s day, she would’ve been a great Mommy blogger – if she’d found the time of course.