Twelve - The Hayes Family

If you haven’t seen the Hayes brood around town, then maybe you’ve caught them on an episode of “Table for 12” on cable’s TLC station. After careful consideration, Elizabeth (aka Betty) and Eric Hayes decided to offer the nation a glimpse into what it’s like  running their very busy household. It’s laughter and lots of love that helps keep their sanity, not to mention “a little” organization. Each child has his or her own locker in a long narrow hallway, and laundry is sorted into various labeled bins. The Hayes is the  only family in the United States with two sets of twins and a set of sextuplets.
Living In Marlboro was lucky enough to be invited to the Hayes’ home.After 4-year old Rebecca, who has the prettiest blonde hair, was spoon-fed a pureed entrée (Rebecca has cerebral palsy) and a select few of the kids were tucked in, we sat down with Eric  and Betty at their oversized dining table. They are truly down to earth and committed to keeping their children grounded throughout this television experience.
Eric, who grew up in Marlboro, works with the Marlboro Township Police Department, and Betty, who brings new meaning to the title stay-at-home-mom, share the intimate details of their courtship, conception and birth experiences, the challenge of having a  special needs child, and what it is like having their day-to-day lives captured on tape for the nation to see.
The couple does not depend on the older children to help care for their younger siblings, but they say the kids understand that things will run more smoothly and quickly if they pitch in. This family is like a well-oiled machine. So sit back and get to know these  devoted parents and find out how they make it work.

LIM: Did you ever in a million years think your life would be what it is today?
BH: No, never in a million years!
EH: No…

LIM: Let’s review…two sets of twins and one set of sextuplets…that makes a grand total of 10 kids, none of who are identical. What are their names and ages?
BH: Well, we have Kevin and Kyle – they both just turned 13 in the beginning of May; we have Kieran and Meghan – they are 10; and then we have the sextuplets…Tara, Rachel, Rebecca, Ryan, Connor, and Eric John Jr. – they are 4.
EH: But we call him E.J.We don’t call him Eric.

LIM: Do you both rely on the older kids to help look after the crew?
BH: No.

LIM: No?
EH: We don’t rely on them but they do help on their own.
BH: We didn’t want them to lose their childhood. I didn’t want them to resent their brothers and sisters. We never force them to change diapers or do anything. If they help it’s 99% of their wanting to do it.
EH: Like right now with Kyle and Rebecca [during our interview Kyle was at his computer with Rebecca on his lap] it’s not a chore; he’s happy, he’s comfortable…she’s quiet with him. He has a little bond with her. He doesn’t mind; he’s hanging out on the computer. It’s not like he’s saying, “Are you guys done yet?” He’s happy, content… he’s okay.
BH: A lot of times they fight over her because they know that I’ll let him sit in front of the computer or the TV and do nothing while the others might be doing chores. I make the older ones do chores. They have to empty the dishwasher, take out the garbage...little  odds and ends around the house. So Rebecca is on the chore list in the sense of holding her while I make dinner. They will actually fight to see who gets to hold her.

LIM: Do they ever roll their eyes when you do ask them to do something?
EH: Oh yeah.
BH: Yeah, sure. But it’s not about doing chores for this family; they have regular chores.

LIM: Your kids must realize they are in a unique situation.
EH: They do. I think they realize…there are 10 kids here; we should help. That’s how they are raised.
BH: I think they realize by helping it speeds things along.
EH: The faster things get done, the faster they can do other things or go somewhere.
BH: But they also realize that in order to go somewhere, they have to help me get all their brothers and sisters ready to get in the car. They’ll help put shoes on, or get jackets…stuff like that.

LIM: Other than the older ones helping out, how do you keep it all together? I’m assuming organization and discipline is key.
EH: We are very loosely organized. It’s not like a strict military household here.We have a little calendar up on the refrigerator. It’s not very big, but if we look at the calendar and it’s not [on] there, you’re not going! So if you have an event you write it on the  calendar. Every day there is always something going on, so it’s nutty.

LIM: So how do you keep it all together?
EH: One day at a time…
BH: Yeah, one step at a time.
EH: You just do it. Some days aremore heavily loaded with stuff to do; you work it out. I mean, there is no secret.

LIM: How do you sit down to do homework with the kids?
BH: I sit with the younger kids; the older ones do it themselves.

LIM: Where do the younger ones go to nursery school?
BH: Busy Bear Nursery, behind Saint Gabriel’s Church.

LIM: So it’s nice…you get a little time during the day.
BH: It’s like what Dory would say from Finding Nemo…“Just keep on swimming.” That’s my mantra when I get overwhelmed.

LIM: Let’s talk about how you got to this point after having two sets of twins. You decided to have more children, so am I correct in assuming you used fertility drugs?
EH: Yes.
BH: Yes. I will try to sum up these questions for you. I had three brothers and no sisters. I grew up [and] knew what it was like being the only girl. They would all play together and it was difficult. I saw the same pattern happening withMeghan and her three  brothers. We just wanted to go for one more. I just wanted to have a sister for her, so really, that’s why we went that way.
EH: And again…we knew it might have been a brother, but we also knew it might be twins due to our track record.

LIM: And both sets of twins were from fertility drugs too?
EH: Yes.
BH: But as far as fertility…I have all of the components; my eggs just don’t get big, so I just need hormone therapy. I think a lot of people have the misconception that we did in vitro…we did not do that.We did some injections to make my eggs get big and then  once they get big enough…you know you are watched by a doctor…
EH: You are monitored….you go back every 3 days and then baboom! Do the injection, get the blood work, then you release the eggs. Then we had to have intercourse every other day for 5 days.

LIM: So you knew there was a risk of having multiples?
BH: Well, we also have multiples in the family. On my side I have four sets of twins, and on Eric’s side he has cousins who are twins.

LIM: You had your first set of twins 13 years ago, followed by the second set just 2½ years later.When the doctor told you that you were carrying six embryos what was your reaction?
EH: We knew we were pregnant…we had done a pregnancy test and the thing was bright as can be! So we went to the doctor and they said there were three sacs, but there were others that weren’t big yet, so possibly five. We went back the next week and they  said yes, there were five. A lot of times the body will absorb them, so we weren’t too worried right away. So we went back the next week, and that’s when we found out there was a sixth. We knew the embryos were a little bit bigger (it was a little bit later) and  they were not going away, most likely. That’s when we had an interesting ride home.

LIM: What was the ride home like?
BH: It was kind of surreal. You know I cried a little and laughed a little. I remember thinking, 'What the heck were we going to do?’ A lot of thoughts were going on.

LIM: Overwhelming?
BH: Oh very!

LIM: And not knowing what to expect?
EH: We actually played it that way. At that point, in the United States there were only seven surviving sets of sextuplets. In the year that we had ours there were, I think,  four sets that year. Ours were the 11th set to have been born in the United States. The point is  [that] there weren’t that many that survived. So we just went on with our lives and we didn’t focus on it.

LIM: Any bed rest?
BH: No. Everything with my pregnancy seemed to be fine.
EH: As time went on and we got to 20 weeks things were pretty smooth. There were no issues. And then we were like, uh oh! We didn’t buy anything, set up a room, we didn’t do anything. We didn’t tell anybody.We only told our family and  very close personal  friends; nobody else knew. Then we were like, 'How much are cribs, and what do we need?’

LIM: Was selective reduction ever a consideration?
EH: We talked and talked and it wasn’t an option for us really.
BH: Over dinner one night with the four kids I said to Eric, 'Pick one. Who would you not want to be here?
EH: Even Rebecca who is missing part of her brain…there was no way to tell…so basically the doctors told us whoever was closest to the needle. Even if we reduced down to triplets it may have been Rebecca.
BH: They told us they would try to pick the “healthiest or best ones.” I consulted another doctor…
EH: The fact of the matter was at the time she was 4 pounds 3 ounces’ she wasn’t small. Connor and Rachel were the two smallest ones, and they are two of the most vivacious.
BH: They are amazing.
EH: Sometime in utero she [Rebecca] was either cut short of oxygen, blood, sugar, food…something…and part of her brain didn’t form. There was no way to tell.

LIM: Describe your feelings on delivery day, Betty.
BH: It was good (laughs). You know, I actually like being pregnant. The third time’s the charm. That day was interesting because it started off with the doctor who was in telling me that they had seen something in my blood levels, so I needed to be checked out  by an ultrasound. When they laid me flat on my back with that much weight bearing on my stomach, and all the pushing on all my organs to get in there…it was a very taxing morning.

LIM: Which hospital were you at?
BH: Monmouth Medical Center. I had just finished watching “Vegas” on a Monday night. I got out of bed to go to the bathroom and when I did, my water broke! I found that the contractions this time weren’t as bad… It was pretty cool. The doctor was talking to me  about what type of incision to make and I would just breathe and work through the contractions. Before we knew it, it was 11 or 12 [at night]; then I had the babies at 1 am.
EH: The delivery part was quick. It was 2 minutes and 47 seconds! It was one baby out at a time…clipped and labeled…I couldn’t even get pictures.
BH: They basically took them to the NICU right away. I think they expected the babies to be very small…most multiples weigh about 2 pounds when they are born. Mine weighed in at 3 pounds 9 ounces to 4 pounds 10 ounces. So I had very high birth weights  for a sextuplet delivery.
EH: Each cord was clipped and each child was marked Baby A, Baby B, Baby C…
BH: My mother said one of the greatest things was when they brought the first baby out. She opened up the doors and heard clapping! All of the people who were working on the delivery were clapping.
EH: They had put a team together of about 45 people.

LIM: How did the naming process go down?
EH: We printed out all of the Social Security names for that year. She took a list. I took a list.
BH: We started crossing off until we got down to 20 names each. We kept what we both had on both lists.
EH: We would slowly trade back and forth…we kept crossing off.
BH: So when the babies were finally born and we were looking at them…I had said before we gave birth [that] the last baby boy out would be Eric John, Jr.
EH: However it worked out; when I was little I had blonde hair like him, and I was just the spitting image. It was just weird how that worked out.
BH: So that was an automatic. Then Ryan sounded like an Irish fireman, and Ryan was the biggest of the boys, so he got that name, which left Connor. So Connor was named Connor, and then the girls… Tara had red hair; for some reason Tara sounded very  Irish. With Rachel, she was the smallest girl and I was a big fan of the show “Friends” and a big fan of Rachel; she looked petite, so that’s how she got her name. And Rebecca got Rebecca.

LIM: Let’s talk about Rebecca…she’s pretty special. Tell us about the Cerebral Palsy.
BH: Oh yeah. At the time we didn’t know how special she was. She stayed in the hospital about a  week longer than the rest of them because she had some feeding issues that we didn’t know  about. You know, in the beginning it was a challenge. She’s a challenge every day, but I can’t imagine life without her. If you ever want to just sit and snuggle with somebody, she is the best  person to do that with. You know that she really enjoys it. It’s very special.

LIM: Does she pose any challenges to the family?
EH: She’s a big challenge. Everything is a challenge…feeding her, keeping her happy, getting her to sleep….she’s a challenge every single day.
BH: Hoping that she’ll sleep through the night…she still gets up. But you know, anyone with a special needs child, they know how hard it is. I’m not going to say it’s a walk in the park, but she brings me great joy!

LIM: Does she have a specific life expectancy?
EH: No, there is no way to tell, because her condition changes all the time. So far it’s been improving on most things. She doesn’t have any to have them they can be very detrimental to her health. We have to monitor her and keep an eye on everything…her bowel movements, her feedings… everything. It’s just day by day; she has severe CP. But there are kids that live with CP for 40, 50 years, so there’s no telling.
BH: And you know if she outlives us she has nine other brothers and sisters who love her and will take care of her.

LIM: Gosh, you don’t even think about that…
EH: You don’t because you don’t ever want to think about that.

LIM: When you brought the sextuplets home did you have anyone to help get you through the baby stages?
EH: Well, we brought two home first.
BH: Ryan and Connor came home first, on Wednesday. Then, that Saturday they hit us with Tara, Rachel, and E.J., then Rebecca came home the next week.
EH: It was funny because when the first two came home we were like, ?No problem!’
BH: I remember this, it’s so easy!

LIM: Then you turned up the heat a little bit…
EH: [Laughs] Yeah, we had a lot of friends and family help.
BH: PTA women…people from the schools would help out.We had a big turnout.
EH: We had about a hundred people that would come in and out ’round the clock. The front door was open and people just came in. We actually had  to turn people away.

LIM: Could you nap…get any sleep?
EH: In the evening one of us would go to sleep at 10 o’clock and then, for the 1 am feeding, one of us would stay up for that while the other would sleep until about 5 o’clock; we would switch off like that.

LIM: So you never considered having a nanny live here?
EH: Nah.We couldn’t afford something like that; that would have been impossible.
BH: Eric’s mother works and my mother has her husband, but my mom came every day. She would fill in when others couldn’t.
EH: She was the boss; she knew exactly what to do. We actually had a dry erase board that was color coded with matching bands for the kids. Every time they ate or went to the bathroom, had diaper rash, took medicine it was written down. I was the scheduler  while Betty took care of the kids.

LIM: And you had to work, right?
EH: I did. I left in August and I came back January 1st. The guys I work with donated hours to me. That was nice.

LIM: It must take you plenty of preparation to get everyone out of the house to go somewhere. Do you use one vehicle or two to get around?
EH: We have a 15- passenger van. Well, the kids are pretty good when they know they have to get it together to get out of the house.
BH: Except Rebecca. I still have to pack a bag for her. But everybody else gets in and buckles up.

LIM: How often to do you get to go out as a family?
BH: Not much. I mean we did go to dinner a couple of weeks ago…church.We went to Niagara Falls in the spring. Here and there…if we made more of an effort, maybe we could get out more. But the kids are happy with a little trip out.

LIM: You certainly have a lot going on. Just looking after 10 kids is enough to tip the anxiety scale, but you’ve also thrown live tapings of your day-to-day life on TLC for “Table for 12” into the mix. How did you land this stint?
BH: Well they called us. We were on “Good Morning America” and I guess they saw the program and got in touch with them to call us to see if we’d be interested. Eric was on board. I was the hold out. But it’s getting better. I’m getting used to it.

LIM: Are you both private people?
BH: I am. Very! Each week, I cringe; it really bothers me.

LIM: When did you get the phone call?
BH: Last August.

LIM: Tell us about the production process…
EH: It’s not as big of a deal as you would think. There are small hand-held cameras; we are usually mike’d up with wireless mikes.You just go about your business. It’s what we do every day. There is no script; we have never read one word from anything. If  there is an event or function going on…food shopping, the mall…we’ll do that.
BH: They’ll call us up and say, “What are you doing this week? What’s on your schedule?” They’ll ask if they can come down and film it.

LIM: There’s an allure with multiples families on television…“John and Kate Plus 8” is the lead-in show to “Table for 12.”
BH: They are the king and queen…
EH: They are the big deal.

LIM: Is there any competition to be the better show?
BH: No, not at all. I’m happy to let them be the king and queen!
EH: No, they have put in their dues and they are getting beaten up right now (referring to allegations of infidelity). Whether or not it’s true, nobody should have to go through what they are, but the fact of the matter is they are a popular family in the public eye. That’s  what we worry about.
BH: If anything, it’s a learning situation for us.

LIM: So no hair, no makeup, no scripts. Is it awkward or are you used to it now?
EH: At first it was a little weird. We’re used to it now.
BH: The first shoot we ever did was going to buy back-to-school shoes. We had first tried to go to Payless®, but they needed to have clearance and wouldn’t let us, so the producers said we were going to the mall. We said ?The mall?’ So there we were going to  Stride Rite, through the parking lot, past the Cheesecake Factory…
EH: People were clapping and cheering!

LIM: You are now celebrities!
BH: I’m like, 'Just keep walking. Look straight ahead!’ [laughs]
EH: That was a rude awakening into the world of reality TV!
BH: Now we’re getting better.

LIM: Do you get to see the show before it airs?
EH: No…nothing.

LIM: Anything in particular that you or the kids don’t like having taped?
EH: We have set boundaries. We have some rules that they have to go by.
BH: They aren’t allowed in our bedroom. We told the kids if there is anything you would be embarrassed by in  school don’t tell the production crew about it.
EH: No nude shots! On one episode, Tara was in the bathroom and it was our first time for the 1-hour special. She had diarrhea and she took her clothes off. When we saw it, it was blurred out. There were some negative blogs about it, so no nudity at all!

LIM: How do you handle some of the negativity on the blogs?
EH: We don’t really read them. I really don’t care what people say, but if she gets on, and whatever is said makes her angry…
BH: Some things like, “Their house is custom. Look at the granite! How can they afford that?” I am like please…we got it down the road. Eric practically installed it himself!
EH: Or they have made comments that our kids are hideous! But there have been so many wonderful things said.

LIM: Do you get any backlash about the use of fertility drugs? There is entire sector that is completely against it.
BH: I had two situations in our lives. Eric’s cousin Tina was a foster mother. I saw what she had to go through. It’s a doable thing…a great thing. But just by watching what she went through…I also knew that we already had four kids at that point; it’s tougher to  become a foster parent unless you have room to house, so I knew the problems we would face with the foster care system if we pursued it. My brother adopted two children from Russia. I had seen what they had to go through and the amount of money they  had to put out to get their two sons. We knew we had the ability to have children. I know people have asked, “Why didn’t they adopt?” “Why didn’t they become foster parents?” There were reasons why we didn’t go those routes; we thought about it, but it really  wasn’t the best option for us.

LIM: Eric, you had mentioned on the phone that you are getting ready to shoot the next 13 episodes. When does that start?
EH: Next weekend…Memorial Day weekend we will pick it up.

LIM: How long of a break did you have?
BH: Two to three weeks!

LIM: Obviously the show’s ratings must be doing pretty well?
BH: I guess; they don’t really tell us.
EH: Well, it’s not really based on that. We signed for 26 episodes.

LIM: Will you continue to do the show if they want you back?
EH: We’ll see what happens after the next 13 episodes. If the kids say to us that they don’t like it anymore we can’t do it.

LIM: What sort of feedback do the kids get from their peers?
BH: Not much.
EH: They got some response from the 1-hour special, and now it is what it is. The comments have been pretty quiet.

LIM: Have any of the kids expressed an interest in acting?
BH: Kyle has expressed an interest, but it’s not because of the show. The show isn’t really acting. He does do plays.
EH: He’s right up there on stage; he’s not afraid.

LIM: Switching gears…where did you grow up, Eric?
EH: Right here in Marlboro.

LIM: You’re a lifer, huh?
EH: Yup!

LIM: And Betty, where did you grow up?
BH: In Aberdeen.

LIM: How and when did you meet?
BH: A mutual friend introduced us in 1988, when we were 21.
EH: Actually it was a friend of hers that she worked with who knew my uncle and some of my family. She came over one day and I was like…

LIM: Helloooo Betty!
EH: [Laughs] Oh yeah.

LIM: Do you both come from large families?
BH: No. I have three brothers and myself.
EH: No.

LIM: How many children did you think would have made your “ideal” family when you first got married?
BH: We never thought about it like that.
EH: We never said let’s have two…let’s have three. We just knew that we wanted to have kids. We had the twins, and then another set. We never knew anything different than having two at a time.

LIM: Do you ever have any alone time?
BH: When we go to bed.
EH: At night. We DVR shows in our room so we can watch TV.

LIM: Do you ever get a babysitter and have date night?
BH: My mom comes over every morning to help get the kids ready for school. I hate to ask her too often. It’s a challenge to watch all the kids.
EH: We have never hired a babysitter. If we wanted to seriously go out to dinner, we would have to have at least two; somebody has to really watch Rebecca and they would have to know CPR. So there are issues, and the costs would really add up, so at the  end of the night when we get into bed it’s like…aaahhh.

LIM: But don’t you need some time for yourselves?
BH: Every week Eric plays softball and I go out with my girlfriends every last Friday of the month.

LIM: Let’s talk about your actual
home. Eric, I understand your grandmother owned this house?
EH: My grandmother passed away and I bought it from my aunt and my mother.

LIM: Obviously there had to have been some structural changes along the way?
BH: The original house is still intact.
EH: We just built out both sides.

LIM: And you did most of it yourself?
EH: I did a lot of it…at least 25%of the work. Then I hired contractors, like for the addition.

LIM: Eric, what is your role with the Marlboro Township Police Department?
EH: I am a patrolman, but my assignment right now is as a school resource officer; I work in both middle schools with the 6th through 8th graders.
LIM: So the kids know that they really can’t get out of line (laughs). No, really, are you strict at home?
EH: Nah. You know I gotta say a lot of the stuff that we do is by love and laughter. There is a lot of humor going on here.We are not strict at all, which may be bad, but…

LIM: Betty, obviously you have one heck of a job!What did you do in your “pre-multiples” life?
BH: I didn’t have a career. I kind of had some small jobs here and there. I did a little bit of office work, and then we started having kids.

LIM: It’s a big job!
BH: But one that I think I’m pretty good at.

LIM: You seem very calm…
BH: You know…I don’t mind it.

LIM: How do you keep things normal for your not-so-typical family?
EH: We’re a family. We just have more people; but we have three groups of ages, so it’s really like having three really challenging kids! They go through the same milestones at the same time.
BH: As far as the show goes we tell them all the time, ?We’re nothing special.’ We don’t expect any sort of special treatment, so I think it keeps them grounded.

LIM: Preparing a meal must be like having a small party, with so many mouths to feed.
BH: We still have very picky eaters here, so I’m really not cooking in bulk.
EH: We do use a lot more food though…

LIM: Ragu is a sponsor of “Table for 12.” Do you eat a lot of pasta with sauce?
EH: Yes we do! Some of the kids like the sauce and some don’t.

LIM: It can’t all be so easy. If you had to name one frustration, what would it be? Sorting socks in your house would certainly make me crazy!
BH: I just don’t like fighting…the childhood bickering. That drives me crazy!
EH: For me it’s getting them to clean up after themselves! It’s like “Family Circus.” They leave a trail behind them constantly!

LIM: If you could, would you change anything?
EH: No.
BH: I have learned to appreciate my own mother more.

LIM: How would you say your lives have changed since doing the show?
BH: It’s still so new. Little things happen, like when we were at the Wendy’s® drive-thru and some woman yelled out her window, “Hi Hayes family.”We just cracked up!
EH: We’re not stars.We’re just us.

Favorite Restaurant: Betty – La Cashina Eric – Captain Ed’s
Favorite Movie: Betty – Pride and Prejudice (the series) Eric – I can’t even tell you the last time I saw one
Favorite Music: Betty – U-2, Joe Cocker, Bob Seger, any pop music Eric – Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin
Pet Peeve: Betty – people who litter Eric – not being able to find the TV remote
Three people you would like to have dinner with: Betty – my husband, my husband, my husband Eric – my wife, my wife, my wife

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18 Jul 2015

By Gayle Davis