For at least four months, the folks of Carlisle kept a little secret: Bobbi McCaughey was expecting seven babies.
But when the pregnancy for the 29-year-old stay-at-home mom entered its 28th week _ when doctors believed the fetuses had reached a viable stage in the 40-week gestation period _ lips started to loosen in this Des Moines bedroom community of 3,200.
"I imagine at least half of the town knew and kept quiet," said florist LaVena Owens, who sent flowers to Mrs. McCaughey's home and hospital room with discreet delivery men. "These aren't just people, these are friends. That's the way our town operates."
Word leaked to media Wednesday about the rare event. There are no known living sets of septuplets in the world; the last septuplet birth in the United States was in 1985.
"We didn't mean to be ornery, but we had to get them to the 28th week," Owens said. "We got to that magic 28th week, the whole town could take a sigh of relief. That's how it leaked out."
While Mrs. McCaughey's due date is not until mid-January, she went into the hospital Oct. 15, and husband Kenny, 27, a billing clerk at a car dealership, said the babies could be delivered next week.
The McCaugheys are well-known around town through church activities and civic events. Their next-door neighbor Kay Thompson said she was bursting with the secret for months.
"She didn't want the media to know. She was in bed, she didn't want excitement," Ms. Thompson said. "I can understand that. She's a very sweet girl. I respect their privacy. . . . But I was dying to tell."
Doctors are encouraged by the progress of the McCaughey fetuses. McCaughey said all are in good condition and each weighs more than 2 pounds.
Mrs. McCaughey had been taking the fertility drug Pergonal, which was prescribed because the couple had trouble conceiving their first child, Mikayla, who is nearly 2.