“‘Bless your heart.’
‘I can barely handle my two. I don’t know how you handle 9.’
‘Better you than me.’
‘You know there are ways to prevent that.’
‘Why would you want to bring more lives into this awful world?’
‘I guess that’s the way you want to live your life…’
Listed above are common reactions from strangers and family members when we talk about the number of children in our family. Unless you’ve lived it, I suppose it is quite difficult to fathom how one couple, at the age of 31, can not only have 9 biological children, but also do so without being admitted to an institution.
This was never the story I imagined for myself after I encountered my first boyfriend at 14. That experience drove me into a self-hate spin of depression, where I made a few more questionable choices in boyfriends before being accidentally introduced to the man who would change my heart regarding love. And who would, ultimately, become my husband and the father of our wonderful, spunky, passionate, and very loud children.
Almost exactly 12 years ago from the time of me typing this, I was a very determined young woman who had recently graduated high school. I had plans. I was enrolled in a private college, and my plan was to become an interior decorator, embracing a long-distance relationship with my boyfriend, Richard. I had the grades and the scholastic brain, and I knew I was going places.
I would love to take you back to that fall, where the crunching of leaves beneath boots, the crisp air filled with the promise of cooler temps to come, and the sound of football helmets clashing reminded all of us our favorite Michigan season was upon us. There was but one tiny hiccup in that season.
Unlike ever before in my life, the smell of stadium popcorn forced me to snag a bag during each game while I watched Richard play every Friday. It was a very confusing craving I couldn’t trace until one morning, scared beyond my wits, I stared blankly at a positive pregnancy test. All of the thoughts of failure raced through my mind. I had no clue how I was going to successfully move away from the father of my baby, pursue my career dream, cheer for the college, and continue on the path everyone expected of me.
One thing remained true for Richard and I; we were keeping and raising our child, no matter what the sacrifice. Before conceiving this child, we had both come to know Christ and knew letting go of this baby wasn’t on our list of to-do’s. We would raise him together, no matter what it took. That meant I would redirect my plans and no longer head off to a college so far away. Instead, we started our life together in the basement of his parent’s home.
That first year came with financial struggles, relationship hurdles, arguing matches, and many pains. We had been attending an awesome church I found after graduating, but during a moment of confusion, one of the staff members spoke some cruel words to us. It caused us to question our presence in that body and leave. Later, we would find out their feelings didn’t reflect the lead pastoral staff, and an apology was made on their behalf. However, during the early days of our new parenting journey, we were doing it alone, without the help of a church body.
Truth be told, we were naturals when it came to loving on our son and taking care of him, but we were young and selfish, which led to most of our struggles. From a personal stand point, I was terrified of love. Due to my experience being sexually abused and then entering into sexual relationships very young, I had a very confused picture of love. By the time I met Richard, I had vowed to never date another guy seriously again. My plan had been to become a career-woman, where I would eat Chinese take-out every single night. Should I have wanted a child, I assumed I would waltz into the nearest doctor’s office and demand he grab a turkey baster and get the job done, so I could bring forth a child on my own without the burden of a male partner. Obviously, that plan never prevailed, and I thank God for it.
As you might suspect, this new journey as a mother opened my eyes to a world I had forgotten existed, a life I had dreamt of as a small child. It began to awaken the desire in me to become the mom and teacher I imagined from the days of my youth, the days before bad men tainted my world view.
At one point, I left Richard due to our excessive fighting, but we worked through those struggles and a new piece of our story was forming. I began to feel a strange sensation in my womb building, a sensation I had felt only once before. Only this time, we already had a child who was 6 months old. My now fiancé was working hard to provide, while also going to school. I was working a full-time job at an apartment leasing company, and I was shocked to tears over that positive pregnancy test with our second child.
Excitement was nowhere on my list of emotions. I was broken. Once again, we had conceived a child outside of wed-lock and I was terrified of how we would provide for two children who would be 14 months apart. It also didn’t help that our second pregnancy came with some complications; ones that threatened my life and terrified both Richard and I. Armed with the scary diagnosis of complete placenta previa, I made the choice to head back to church. It was there I found hope and peace when everything was uncertain. Soon Richard would return with me, and we would be compelled by God to set a date and get married, instead of keeping the money in the savings account in case I had to go on months of bedrest.
What came next was nothing short of miraculous. Two weeks after we set our wedding date, I went in for another ultrasound. To the astonishment of the technician, my placenta had not only moved a little bit, it had moved all the way up and back, to the very top of my uterus. The previa was completely healed and we had no further complications.
It was this event in our lives that shifted our view of God from one where we were testing out this ‘faith in Jesus’ thing to, ‘Yes. We are all in, 100%. We are ready to give our lives to follow Him,’ knowing He was faithful as we walked in obedience.
It was after that wild experience I felt God begin to put something so odd and crazy on my heart. When I shared it with Richard, my now husband, he snorted at me and told me it was rubbish. But I knew with every fiber of my being, we needed to say yes to this. We needed to say yes to trusting our fertility to God’s timing and plan. Instead of arguing with him, I left Richard alone to pray over the idea. I knew, in order to take this leap, we would have to make the leap onto the same page together. He hadn’t a clue why I would want to do that. We had a boy and a girl at that point, so ‘we had the perfect family and didn’t need any more children.’
I spent a month praying God would remove the desire from my heart or change my husband’s opinion to align with mine. Thankfully, Richard spent that time praying and digging into scripture. His sole purpose was to find verses to deliver a ‘nope, that’s not gonna happen,’ with some Bible to back it up. The truth was he would come to me and tell me he found nothing in scripture to retort my wild idea, and we jumped in with every part of us and have never looked back.
So, what does that look like over the course of the last 12 years? I don’t have the space here to write out every story of God’s insane and infinite and magnificent power we’ve witnessed through our family.
Our next child would result in miscarriage, which caused me to feel broken and confused. I didn’t understand why God would allow that to happen to us when we were obeying His call. But then, we would conceive our twins, and I would understand a different perspective of God’s that I never knew. Without that heartache, I wouldn’t have my girls, or empathy for other women who’ve lost.
Our twins would be followed by another loss.
Again, it broke me. But I found comfort in knowing I wasn’t in control of the plan, and I let go of my expectations and trusted God to reign freely in whatever plan He had.
Our 5th child we would bring to life on this side of eternity, came with a journey long enough for a book I hope to write one day. My water broke at 22 weeks. I spent 2 weeks on bedrest at home with 4 kids, 4 and under. Then, we spent 8 weeks separated, with me in a hospital bed, begging God to bring my boy into the world, strong and healthy. The cesarean that ended his pregnancy broke me in ways I never imagined and left vivid scars in my mind that wouldn’t be healed until my 9th child. That season taught me to truly let everything go and trust God has everything in balance, even when it doesn’t appear so. Today, that little boy is 7 and already has an incredible story to share with the world about God’s goodness and faithfulness when everything seems bleak. After Malachi, our births would space out a bit, without any help of our own.
In time, we would expand our home again. That pregnancy was incredibly uneventful, but my labor was a VBAC, which was hard fought for after 48 hours of labor from the moment my membranes ruptured. By the time it came for me to bring her forth, twirling into this life, I had nothing left but my faith God had promised He would see us through. As Klaira took her first breath, she came into this world with a fist pump, to which I am certain was a celebration of the victory we won together.
After her, we would add singletons, Julia and Stephen, to our family — as lucky number 7 and spitfire number 8. Owen would swing in to become our 9th child, whose birth was a cesarean that helped heal some of the trauma I didn’t know I had from our 5th.
Whatever children lay on our horizon, my heart is open to them. Our home is open to them. We are ready to say yes to any life God would bring into our family, because love and people are what really matter. Our family isn’t complete. I know that not because I’m some crazy lady with a kid-collecting complex, or a person with a religion whose church demands she have a ton of children. I’m not the young mom who thinks I will keep having children every 18 months until I hit menopause.
I’m just a follower of Jesus, passionate about proclaiming what He has done in my life through the gift of motherhood. And my goal is always to surrender my life to whatever He has for me, trusting He will close my womb when it’s His time, just as He has always led us in each step of our journey.”
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