‘How do you AFFORD them all?’ Our lifestyle isn’t for everyone.’: Mom of 10 says ‘I’m exactly where I want to be’

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Trigger Warning: This story contains mention of miscarriage that may be triggering to some

“Wanna know something funny? I wrote this whole article with the ‘Instagram’ mom in mind. I kept rereading it and realized, it’s not really accurate. It’s not accurate because I wanted it to be the best version of my story, but to be honest, that’s just not me. The version of me that I am today includes the dirty details. So, I’m going to include it all. I’m going to include the good time and the bad times in hopes you are reading this and you’re able to relate.

I have lived A LOT of years in my time. I feel like there are two versions of me. There is me before and Amber 2.0. I am 38 years old and I feel like I have lived it all, and I am truly appreciative for each and every thing I have experienced because it has made me into the mom and woman I am today. So, with complete humility, here is the candid truth about my life with 10 children.

family of ten outside posing
Once Upon a Thyme Photography

My journey into motherhood started before I was ready and much too young. Often, people will tell me I look much too young to have 10 children, and the fact of that is, I am. I had my first child when I was 18 years old. He was the result of a passionate teenage relationship. My first labor and delivery were as expected. Full of pain, medication, doctors, episiotomies, and hospital restrictions. But at the very end of it all, I had given birth to a healthy son I named Carter. I grew up a little, got a job, finished school. My son’s father and I broke up and we continued on with parenting. When I was 21, I met an amazing man running across a beach stark naked.  The guy was crazy and full of life. We dated, we fell in love, and we got married. He was 9 years older than me and was excited to start a family of his own. He was adopted and had never met or known people he had shared blood with, and I think that played a large role in him wanting a big family.

Brooke was born in 2004. My labor and delivery was a dream. At 38 weeks, I had some minor twinges and decided to go to the hospital to have them checked out.  My husband begrudgingly called his boss and joked around I thought I was in labor and he would be into work a little bit late. We went to the hospital and my daughter Brooke was born 45 minutes later. No bright lights, no epidurals, no stitches, episiotomies… just a bit of laughing gas and she was here. 2 hours after she was born, I was able to walk with her down to the waiting room and introduce her to family—that’s how good I felt. My son was now 4 and in kindergarten, so I had time to adjust to being a mom of two. I never breastfed my son so I was learning to breastfeed with my daughter. I visited a lactation consultant at the hospital who taught me all the important holds, how to latch, and so on.

At my 6-week postpartum appointment with my family doctor, he strongly recommended I resume birth control pills because I was young and could become pregnant again quickly. I did as he suggested and nearly immediately my milk supply dropped. I struggled with feedings. My baby girl would wail, I could tell she was unsatisfied and not getting enough to eat. Eventually, with a heavy heart, I turned to formula. I felt like a total failure. All the magazines at the time were reminding me breast was best but I just couldn’t provide for my daughter. I wish I could tell my sweet young self not to worry so much about that. As long as she’s healthy and fed, that’s what is important. Shortly after Brooke’s birthday, I learned I was expecting again. Baby number three would be joining the family. My husband was ecstatic. He wanted six children, I agreed to four… so we were well on the way.

Emma’s birth was much like Brookes’s. Hospital birth, OB, no medication. I brought her home and almost immediately she cried through the night. Every night. In fact, she spent hours upon hours each and every day crying. Those first 6 months after she was born remain a blur. I remember sobbing in the shower. I remember chasing a toddler, staying up with her all night, and waking up early to see my little guy off to school in the morning. I remember returning to work early to pay the mortgage. I wish I could have better prepared myself for the transition between two and three children, but I never could have known. Somehow I survived, and somehow I ended up pregnant when Emma was about 7 months old. The pregnancy ended up being nonviable. That was the term they used. I was nearly 12 weeks pregnant so I thought that had meant I was in the clear, but it turned out, that’s not exactly how that works. I was pregnant with triplets, and none of the babies had a heartbeat. I was whisked off to an immediate D&C and left confused, sad, and relieved all at the same time.

I got pregnant again a few months later and lost this pregnancy at around 7 weeks.  This happened two more times over the next 3 years. Eventually, I would be referred to a fertility specialist. This seemed crazy to me. I had three babies, I had no issues getting pregnant. Why should I push my luck? I just really felt like I need this fourth and final baby in my life. I had my first appointment and the doctor told me he thought I should see a more skilled specialist. I set the next appointment and in the meantime took a much-needed family vacation to Disney. While there, I got pregnant yet again. Only this time I made it to 14 weeks, and then 24, and then 38 weeks. In 2010, I gave birth to the most perfect little newborn I would call Addison. Another drug-free delivery. I labored in the tub at the hospital, enjoyed a little laughing gas, and pushed out a perfect little squish. Suddenly, I was a mom to 4.

mom holding her newborn girl
Courtesy of Amber Ethier

I never thought I would get to this point. Honestly, we worked so hard to make her I think we forgot to live. Trying to conceive took a toll on me and my marriage. After Addy’s first birthday, we ended our marriage of 8 years. This is the part I often leave out. I don’t know why. I think because I have to openly admit I failed at marriage. I did. I failed at something that comes so easy to others. But, like I said, I’m going for transparency here. I grew up with my husband. I told you, he was 9 years my senior so our divorce was devastating. I lost my home, our perfect family, our life we had built. I lost the family I had grown to love.

I was nearly 30 years old and living with my four children in my mother’s basement apartment. How humiliating. I lost my job because I no longer had transportation. Things were tough. I look back at that time and I know I learned a lot, I know I grew from it, but I also see so much wasted time. While my little ones were growing I spent so much time away working. Our mortgage was big, and my husband and I would work opposite shifts to make ends meet and to afford our life. We took our kids to Florida. We had a trailer, a hot tub, two vehicles. That all cost money, and I worked for it.

photo of Disney castle
Courtesy of Amber Ethier

Now, here is where Amber 2.0 begins. My house sold—I came out with a check for just over $100 made out to me. I enrolled in college and I began to focus on myself. How could I properly care for anybody else if I couldn’t care for myself? I started working out, spending time with friends, getting out with my children. I was happy again. There is such a thing as happiness after divorce. Shortly after this, I met a man I wanted nothing to do with. He was weird and awkward and the total opposite of anybody I had ever dated. But, he was sweet and kind and exactly what I needed at the time. I’m ashamed to say, I got pregnant after about 6 months of dating him. We decided we could do this. We could be a family and add another little one to our brood. So, in 2013, all while being a full-time student in college, with the help of midwives, we welcomed Sarah… on Carter’s 13th birthday.

Shortly after Sarah’s birth, Eric popped the question. We went to this romantic little Indian restaurant where he had arranged for them to bring out a giant potato version of the Taj Mahal featuring my ring… how could I say no? We sped up our wedding date, as Eric’s mother was, unfortunately, losing her battle to cancer. We had a beautiful wedding, 3.5 weeks too late. I think when Eric lost his mother he just wanted to be surrounded by family, and he made that happen. We got pregnant on our honeymoon and we welcomed our daughter Finlea in 2015. This was my first home birth. It wasn’t meant to be that way, but I have quick labors. I felt a twinge, then a pain. I got into the tub to better assess the situation and within minutes, my baby girl was born. Unassisted! In 2016—just 13 months later—we welcomed our son Nolan… the first boy in 16 years!

husband and groom on wedding day
Courtesy of Amber Ethier

In 2018, we had another home birth, planned this time. A lovely water birth with a midwife who knew how I labored. She had clothes on her dresser waiting for me. 18 minutes from start to finish. Elliotte was baby number eight and my husband and I swore she was our last. We have this running joke with our friends every time we went on vacation we came back pregnant, and it was true. We went on a cruise and came back pregnant. In 2019, there was Miller. I gave birth to him all by myself in our tub. My midwife showed up 20 minutes later… not by a lack of trying, things just moved so very quickly. After Elliotte’s birth, Eric and I decided we wanted to live our life… like really live it. We had both realized the value of life and time and we wanted to experience all that life had to give. So we decided to sell everything and travel  North America in our RV. 3 months after Miller’s birth, we did just that.

family of 10 getting an RV
Courtesy of Amber Ethier

We traveled to Ontario, Alberta, and British Columbia. We spent a month on the beach in South Carolina. While in South Carolina, I became pregnant again, this time with twins! Unfortunately, this pregnancy ended in a traumatizing miscarriage. I hemorrhaged and had to receive a blood transfusion… I nearly died. I remember the nurses wheeling me to the room and thinking, ‘Well crap, I’m not ready for this… I can’t believe this is how I go.’ Honestly, that day still haunts me. That was January 2020. We traveled more. We made our way to Florida and were en route to California when the pandemic happened. This opened a whole new can of worms on our family. Canada is still quite cold in the spring and our home was our RV.  We found an Air B&B and amongst the uncertainty, craziness, and reality of the situation we became pregnant with baby number 10.

woman in hospital gown
Courtesy of Amber Ethier

Our newest baby girl is just 6 months old. As I write this, she lay sleeping next to me. We called her Jasper after the national park in Alberta, one of the most beautiful places we have ever seen. My husband and I often sit and reflect on the life we lead. 10 children! That is a lot. People often ask us, ‘Are you done yet?’  ‘How do you afford them all?’ ‘Do you know what causes this?’ We know our lifestyle isn’t for everyone, but the same could be said about everything. I am 38 years old and I have lived my life with my small family, working every day, paying my mortgage. Fancy car, fancy things, debt. I did that. I asked my boss for vacation time and I worked to live. I felt fulfilled. I never knew I wasn’t until Amber 2.0 was created. Eric and I decided to have a child at a difficult time and then it just expanded. Is our life perfect? Heck no, it’s far from it. There are times when the chaos is so crazy we both look at each other and just laugh. But I can say for certain I do not regret a thing.

family portrait- 10 kids
Heart of Hearts Photography

Our children are amazing, each and every one of them. I know each and every one of my kids. I know their favorites, I know their personalities. Their favorite foods, shows, toys, etc. Carter made me a mom, Brooke made me a family, Emma made me a warrior, Addy made me a fighter, Sarah made me a different person altogether, Finlea made me a new family, Nolan made me a thinker, Elliotte made me love myself, Miller made me a bada*s, and lastly, Jasper made me balanced mama.

In my time, I have learned not to sweat the small stuff.  To appreciate those little moments. I can remember cradling a newborn Carter like it was yesterday and now he’s nearly 21, before my very eyes. I’ve learned self-care is essential, not selfish. That there are no guarantees in life. I have learned everybody’s journey is different and not to be so quick to judge. Our life is far from traditional, but it is exactly where I want to be.  It’s full of hugs, love, and a ton of kiddos. I hope wherever you are in your life, you find what truly makes you happy!”

family of 10 posing outside
Heart of Hearts Photography

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Amber Ethier from Ontario, Canada. You can follow their journey on Instagram and Youtube. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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