CLEVELAND, Ohio (Christian Examiner) -- Five years after a viral photo of six sleeping babies captured the hearts of Americans, the McGhee sextuplet family is back on the air, showing the daily challenges and blessings of raising so many children of the same age.
The unscripted show "Growing Up McGhee" premiers on UP television June 8 (9 EDT), giving viewers a peak at the lives of parents Ro and Mia McGhee and their six kids – who were quiet and adorable babies in that 2011 picture but are now energetic and talkative kindergarteners.
"The whole thing started as a picture that went viral," Mia McGhee told the Christian Examiner. "It feels like God's hand is all in this."
That picture led to an appearance on "The Oprah Winfrey Show," and soon they received a series on OWN, "6 Little McGhees." But OWN chose not to renew the series in 2014, and this year the McGhees landed on UP, a network with a solid lineup of family-friendly programming.
And while some people might wonder why a family of six children would want cameras in their homes, Ro and Mia McGhee say they have good reasons.
"Wherever we go, people want to know, 'How do you make it?'" said Ro, who wants the series to encourage people and make them think: "If they can make it through it with six kids, we can make it."
The audience, he said, is "going to see a family that loves God, values, morals and integrity."
Mia said she wants people to appreciate the blessings of a large family.
"Children are a gift from God," she said.
The Christian Examiner spoke with Ro, a minister, and Mia about their family and the series. Following is an edited transcript:
Christian Examiner: How did you end up with sextuplets?
Mia: We were married for about 10 years, and we had never gotten pregnant. So we went to see a specialist, and we found out I was lacking a hormone. They suggested a follicle-stimulating hormone drug. I got pregnant with twins, and at five months I lost them – miscarried them. They were underdeveloped. I was really down, and my husband was down. And about six months later I got pregnant again – originally with seven. It was three girls, four boys. I lost a girl, Naomi, at 23 weeks. The rest of them, I delivered at 27 weeks and four days. We were under the impression that the most we would have was triplets – and that is exactly what the doctor told us. But God had a different plant.
CE: What was your emotional state when you found out you were pregnant with seven?
Mia: Honestly, I was devastated.
Ro: When I first found out, I couldn't understand it. And then I realized that children are a blessing from God. I prayed for these kids, and now they're here. It was kind of like I was being ungrateful to God. I had to say: God won't give us so much that we can't handle. I surrounded myself with positive people, and they continued to encourage us. It took a village to get us through.
Mia: The doctor's response [in seeing the ultrasound] was, "This is horrible." Those were his exact words. It just sapped our spirit. We were going to church faithfully, and we were tested. And then a good friend came over, and we told her about the ultrasound, and she spoke a couple of words of life to us. We really repented, saying, "God, forgive us."
CE: Were you fearful that your life was in danger with seven? Or that the children wouldn't survive? Or that you couldn't take care of all of them?
Mia: All of that. We only had a two-bedroom house. We never planned for six, seven kids. I was in school to be an attorney, and so there were a lot of different things going through my mind. And I didn't believe in abortion.
Ro: Six kids were not in the budget, at all. It was just so overwhelming. For 10 years, it was just me and Mia. When you sit back and think about six bottles and six diapers – as the provider and protector, I wondered, "How can I watch over and provide for so many children?"
CE: You said it takes a village to take care of that many babies. Tell us more about the village.
Mia: It was a lot of people – especially at the beginning. We had a round-the-clock schedule, with a team of people. Even third shifts. Can you imagine going from zero children to six? We're not like other parents with sextuplets, who had one or two at first. We didn't have any. We were learning.
CE: How often are cameras in your home?
Ro: They pretty much work around our schedule. They might be there for a week, and they'll be off for two weeks. You don't even notice them. They're like family with us, and they respect our wishes.
CE: We live in a society where large families are looked at as odd. Do you hope your show helps people see the blessings of a large family?
Mia: Absolutely. Children are a gift from God. We are representing what a family is and we are representing Christians. The whole thing started as a picture that went viral. It feels like God's hand is all in this. It truly is a privilege to represent God on a national level.
Michael Foust has covered the entertainment industry for more than a decade. Follow him on Twitter, @MichaelFoust