It is a rare event in the United States, indeed in the world -- the birth of sextuplets. Out of more than 4 million births in the U.S. in 2005, just 85 deliveries involved five or more babies.
Making the occasion rarer recently was the birth of two sets of sextuplets just 10 hours apart.
On June 12, Ryan and Brianna Morrison of Minnesota became parents of four boys and two girls, born after just 22 weeks in their mother's womb.
And in Phoenix that same day, after just 30 weeks of pregnancy, Jenny Mashe gave birth to three boys and three girls.
The joy of the birth announcements, however, was tempered with news that three of the sextuplets born prematurely to the Morrisons died. Lincoln Sean Morrison died Friday, following the deaths of two of his brothers, Tryg and Bennet, on Wednesday.
The three surviving babies remain in critical condition in the neonatal intensive care unit at Children's Hospital in Minneapolis. Hospital officials say no further information will be released. The babies' weighed between only 11 ounces and 1.3 pounds at birth.
An "extremely premature" infant -- 22 weeks or less-- has about a 1 percent to 10 percent chance of surviving according to the American Medical Association. At 25 weeks of gestation, the odds increase to between 50 percent and 80 percent.
If a fetus can remain in utero until 30 weeks, the odds of surviving increase dramatically -- to better than 90 percent.
"There's a small amount of room for hope that at least one of the babies might survive," University of Iowa pediatrics professor Dr. Edward F. Bell told the Minnesota Star Tribune. "There's a handful of 22-week old babies have survived, but it is a rare event."
Both sextuplets mothers consulted fertility doctors to become pregnant.
Brianna Morrison and her husband, both 24, reportedly spent more than a year trying to conceive and then began taking fertility drugs, in particular Follistim, which cases the ovary to produce an egg. In some women, the ovaries release many eggs at one time in an "over response" to the drug.
The life-threatening risks to mother and child, and the life-long problems that a multiple-birth child can face if they do survive, have some in the medical profession questioning the wisdom of "fertility on demand."
"This is a serious medical complication [multiple births from fertility drugs] and predictably leads to extreme prematurity," suggested Dr. Richard J. Paulson of the USC Keck School of Medicine.
"It's one of the worse things that could happen to you," said the infertility specialist.
Others question why a woman in her early 20s who had been trying to get pregnant for about a year did not have other options, like trying longer.
Jenny Mashe, 32 and her husband Bryan, 29, used artificial insemination to conceive and were shocked when an ultrasound revealed she was carrying six fetuses.
Both the Morrisons and the Mashes were approached by their doctors about the option of "selective reduction" -- the aborting of all but one to three of the fetuses.
The intention is to increase the likelihood the remaining unborn children will survive, thrive and be delivered full term.
Both families declined, chosing to leave the outcome "in God's hands." The Morrisons are committed Christians who met at Bethany College of Missions and married in 2005.