When one Alabama couple set out to have another child to join their three boys, they had no idea that instead of adding just one bundle of joy, they would be adding six!
Courtney and Eric Waldrop, 35, recently found out they would be welcoming sextuplets into their family. And while the news was surprising, it was also frightening, says Courtney, a first-grade teacher in Albertville.
“I was scared to death,” Courtney tells PEOPLE. “I’m a smaller framed girl, and my first thoughts were on how I was going to successfully get six kids here without something happening to them or me. There was a lot of fear. We didn’t know what to do or think.”
The love birds have been together since they were middle school students and have always known they wanted a big family. The couple married in 2004 and welcomed their first son, Saylor, now 8, in December 2008. He was followed by their twin boys, 5-year-old Wales and Bridge, in January 2012.
Along the way, Courtney experienced several heartbreaking miscarriages, but was able to have the twins with the help of fertility treatments.
At the start of 2017, the couple decided to try having another child without the assistance of treatment. Courtney became pregnant within a month but lost the baby to another miscarriage.
“It was devastating because I can get pregnant so easily, I just can’t hold on to them,” Courtney says. “It was upsetting, but we had experienced it before and I knew I had a medical issue that contributed to it.”
The couple knew that if they were going to have more children after Wales and Bridge, they were likely going to have to rely on fertility treatments again.
They contacted their doctor, who put them on a low-dosage treatment that was supposed to minimize the chances of Courtney having more than two fetuses. However, Courtney became pregnant and was shocked to find out during a May ultrasound that she was carrying six fetuses. The moment was clouded by the dangers that doctors laid out to her, such as the extremely high risk that the babies will be born prematurely.
Mothers carrying multiple fetuses have an increased chance of delivering via c-section, with risks including strokes, high blood pressure spikes, UTIs, gestational diabetes, and placenta issues, according to the American Pregnancy Association.
With that, there was soon talk of going through with selective reduction, a procedure that reduces the number of fetuses to increase the chances of survival for the others.
“Our faith in God is very strong, and we never would have thought we would have considered that,” Courtney explains. “But with the risks involved, no doctor could sugar coat what could happen. The risks are real for me and for the babies.”
It is a difficult decision for any parent to make, but Courtney says she and Eric eventually decided to let faith guide them through the process.
“We are strong in our faith, but you never know how you’re going to feel when you’re actually in those shoes,” she says. “When we let it go and turned it all over to [God], those fears—though we know the risks are still there—were lifted from us. They were haunting us and it was in our every thought.”
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A few weeks later, during another ultrasound, the couple would marvel at images showing the fingers and toes of their six future children, and it gave them some relief about their decision. But Courtney says her worries will continue until she has her babies in her arms.
On August 26, Courtney’s friends in their tight-knit Albertville community will hold a nighttime 5k run to raise money for the family. Just before the run, colored smoke bombs will be released that will reveal the sex of the babies—and the couple will find out alongside their friends that very night.
Courtney praises her community, and her husband, for being with her every step of the way.
“It’s been an incredible journey filled with all emotions—fears, excitements, worry, happiness—everything,” she says. “There is just a lot of uncertainty that we won’t be able to clear until they get here.”
As far as thinking of names for the six babies, Courtney isn’t thinking too much about that just yet.
“I just want them to be healthy, healthy, healthy,” she says. “That’s all I can ask for.”