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Inside 'Jon and Kate Plus 8'

In the Beginning
Jon and Kate always wanted to have children; they just didn’t plan on having eight.
Jon and Kate always wanted to have children; they just didn’t plan on having eight.
Discovery Channel/Laura Pedrick

Jon Gosselin was working at a hotel in October 1997 when Kate, a nurse, visited a friend who also worked there. The chemistry was instant between them when they were introduced, and Jon split with his then-girlfriend. The couple married June 12, 1999, in the garden of a friend's home and honeymooned at Disney World. At the time, Jon was 22 and Kate was 24, and she wanted to have a child right away. However, she discovered she had Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, which would make conception difficult, if not impossible. "Basically, I didn't ovulate and would need help getting pregnant. So we decided to check out a fertility doctor."

Kate had intrauterine insemination, which involved implantation of Jon's sperm via a catheter. She compares the procedure with in vitro fertilization, stating "there are no eggs removed or put back, as with IVF." She became pregnant on the second attempt, and gave birth to Cara and Madelyn on October 8, 2000. When the girls turned one, she started thinking about having another child. As with the twins, the second fertility treatment worked, but this time the news was a shock.

"I will never forget this day as long as I live," Kate vividly recalls. "There were seven sacs with four yolk sacs, or babies, in four of them. At the count of four, I was scared. At five I started crying and at six, I was shaking, absolutely sobbing. We were told that there was a possibility of four, but we were truly unaware that there were seven on the day that our procedure was done, or we would not have gone through with it," she emphasizes, noting that one of the embryos didn't develop. Eliminating any of the eggs was not an option. "We were absolutely opposed to reduction."

Kate went on bed rest at seven weeks and was hospitalized at 20 weeks. The sextuplets were born just shy of 30 weeks on May 22, 2004, weighing around five pounds each (2.27 kilograms). Kate weighed 205 pounds at the time, and later had a tummy-tuck to tighten the stretched skin and muscles in her midsection. Both she and Jon had lost their jobs, compounding the financial strain, and they relied on an army of dozens of volunteers that helped with feedings and diaper changes. "There were days I just wanted to cover my head with a pillow. But I knew my babies were counting on me, and I had to keep it together," Kate remembers.

Rescue came from an unexpected source: reality TV. A news report about the Gosselins had reached a Discovery Health channel producer, which led to the special "Surviving Sextuplets and Twins" in May 2006 and its sequel the following year. Their popularity made a series a no-brainer for Discovery, and financially enticing for the family. Also, "we didn't have time to film and we like having pictures and video," adds Jon, who'd landed an IT sector job. But having cameras in their home and following them around four days a week definitely took getting used to.