When Diamond Harris, 34, and Christopher Harris, 35, considered having a sibling for their then 6-year-old son DeWayne, they had no idea what was about to happen. The couple had problems getting pregnant at first and turned to fertilization treatments. Within a few short weeks of going through artificial insemination, they discovered they were pregnant. Not with one, two, or three babies but six children all together. The Harris' are now the proud parents of the only living set of African-American sextuplets in the country. Now that their kids are rambunctious seven-year-olds, the Birmingham, Alabama, couple can offer some perspective on how they've made it this far. ESSENCE.com spoke to the busy pair about their hectic lifestyle raising six kids and a teenager (their oldest son is now 13), what they think of the "Octomom," and the important message they want to send to Black fathers everywhere.
ESSENCE.COM: When did you find out you were having six babies?
DIAMOND HARRIS: Throughout the pregnancy, the doctors kept scanning five heartbeats. When they first told me, I started to panic. It wasn't until I started delivering the babies and they went to pull out the afterbirth that they felt another head. That's when they realized it was actually six.
CHRISTOPHER HARRIS: When she first found out about the five, I was at work. She called to tell me and my immediate thought was I was going to get my son and daughter in one swoop. But the more I started to think about it, the more I started to worry about how am I going to provide for these people? Once they got here, it was like, well, what can we do now? We're like Nike and we just do it. We stopped thinking about how hard it was going to be and started thinking about what's next and staying ahead of the curve.
ESSENCE.COM: How difficult was your pregnancy?
DIAMOND: It was hard because I'm not the kind of person who can be still for very long. I had a pulmonary embolism from carrying them and lost a lot of blood and weight. I only gained 40 lbs.and I carried them 26.5 weeks. I was in the hospital for five out of my six months of pregnancy. Then I was in labor for about a week. The doctor came in one morning, checked me and said it's time.
CHRISTOPHER: They had a team of about 35 doctors and nurses. Diamond had a C-section and as they came out, I named them. We had discussed the names prior but we only picked five—Kiera, Kaylynne, Kaleb, Kobie, and Kieran—but sure enough there was a sixth child, Kyle. I was thinking, Wow! One more! I didn't know what I was going to do with five—let alone six. It took me a while to be completely okay with the idea of being a parent of that many children at once.
ESSENCE.COM: How do you guys keep a sense of sanity raising that many kids?
DIAMOND: The older they get, we just say it's different, not harder or easier.
CHRISTOPHER: We don't look at it as if we're being martyrs or examples. We're just being parents, doing what God has put in front of us to do. I do say it's hard to keep the sanity as far as what's going on every day. It's easy to get depressed, but we have our personal set of cheerleaders who encourage us and give that extra push and support and that helps so much.
ESSENCE.COM: What do you think about Nadia Suleman, the "Octomom" who now has 14 children?
CHRISTOPHER: For a long time, her situation made me sit and reflect on our situation. I was finally getting a sense of what people were probably saying about us. We decided that we wanted just one more child and ended up with sextuplets, and I'm telling you just one child requires a lot of time, dedication and patience. It's going to be so hard for her to get the things that she needs by herself and I think she's taken on a situation that's going to require more than she realizes.
ESSENCE.COM: What is it like it going out in public with your children?
DIAMOND: A lot of people might think it's bad but we use the arm bands to keep them all together, because the way we see it, we want to make it home with all of our kids. So we teach them to get up against the wall, especially when it gets chaotic.
ESSENCE.COM: How have the kids connected as sextuplets?
DIAMOND: They used to have this "multiples language" when they were younger, where they would talk to each other. And they will instinctively know when one of them is missing. For instance, if Chris takes Kaylynne with him to the store, the others will walk in the house and automatically know she's missing. I had a stressful day once when I didn't count them all. We went into the house and I started passing out cookies. I had a set of cookies leftover and one of the kids said Kaleb hasn't gotten his cookies yet. We looked all over the house for him. I had everyone looking under beds, hollering and screaming his name. Come to find out, Kaleb fell asleep in the van and didn't get out! Now, we count at least twice wherever we go.
ESSENCE.COM: The thinking is that many Black men aren't hands-on when it comes to parenting. What message would you like to send to brothers who aren't stepping up to the plate?
CHRISTOPHER: I have a very deep issue with this because I didn't meet my father until I was 31 years old. I remember on my graduation day, waiting for him to show up and I said to myself, Never will my children want their father to be there because I will be there. I can't imagine not being involved. A lot of these men can identify with what I am saying. They didn't like that feeling and they shouldn't want that on their kids. I'm going to teach my sons all that I know, but my daughters have to see what a good man looks like and I try to be that person for them so that when they get grown, hopefully they will be able to make smart decisions.