LAND O'LAKES — Who could blame the Rev. Ron Aubin for needing crib notes? He's baptized countless babies over the years, but this was his first time performing the sacrament on sextuplets, all dressed alike.
"I've done twins," he said just before the ceremony began Saturday at Our Lady of the Rosary Catholic Church. To help him out and increase the cute factor, each Byler baby wore a white keepsake bib embroidered with the name and date. The five boys, Brady, Eli, Ryan, Jackson and Charlie, wore them over new white suits and ties from Sears, while lone girl MacKenzie wore the same white gown used by 4-year-old sister Zoe and 29-year-old mom Karoline.
"It's official. We're going to heaven," said great-uncle John Ahr, as he cuddled godson Eli.
The babies were baptized with water and anointed with oil after Aubin stressed to family members their responsibility in setting a Christian example.
"It's where you're going that the six of them are going," he said. "You didn't bring these six babies into the world to be lost."
The baptism was a rare public appearance for the Wesley Chapel brood since they were delivered by caesarean section Sept. 1 at Bayfront Medical Center. Almost three months premature, they weighed between 2 pounds, 5 ounces and 3 pounds when they became Florida's first set of live sextuplets. The last baby, Charlie, was sent home the day before Thanksgiving.
Since then, three of them, Charlie, Jackson and Ryan, have been hospitalized a few days for pneumonia. Otherwise, all have been healthy, though Charlie and Jackson still require oxygen. Brady, the heaviest of the bunch, now weighs more than 16 pounds. MacKenzie, the smallest, weighs at least 12 pounds.
"They're all smiling and laughing, all teething and drooling," Karoline said.
Karoline and her husband, Ben, 31, have new nicknames for some of the kids. Ryan, once called "the perfect baby," is now known as "Cryin' Ryan."
Brady is called "Melon" because of his big head. Jackson, the "Drama Queen," is still a mama's boy. MacKenzie has a smile like the Joker in Batman.
Two nurses work from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. each day. They attended the baptism.
"I feel like an aunt," said Judy Solbiach as she coaxed a smile out of Ryan. "I don't feel like a nurse."
Lisa Buie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 909-4604.