I am 38 years old, and I have given birth to a baby every 17 months for the past 24 years.
I’m the mum to Britain’s biggest family.
Total, my husband Noel and I have 16 children. I fell in love with Noel when I was very young. In fact, I was only 13 years old when we first got together. Noel was three years older than me, and we got to know each other through my brother because he and Noel used to hang around with each other as they had the same interests in motorbikes.
After a couple of months of going out with each other, we found out that I was pregnant — at the tender age of 14.
It did come as a surprise as we thought we were being careful.
When we found out, we were actually more bothered at what would happen to our relationship with each other than what our parents would say. I was about three months pregnant before I told my mum and dad. I was so scared as all we wanted was to keep the baby and stay together as a couple. Both Noel and I had been given up for adoption, and we were determined to keep our child.
My mum and dad took the news as well as could be expected as did Noel’s. We weren’t allowed to see each other for a while, well until the dust had settled a bit. I had a fantastic doctor as a teenager back then. Ultimately, my physician did advise my mum to keep letting Noel and I see each other. Everyone knew that keeping us apart wouldn’t be good for either of us — as we would just see each other anyway behind our parents’ backs — and also for the sake of the baby.
I was about five months pregnant when I left school.
I used a home tutor until I had my son Chris. After a few months, I went back to school to finish off my exams. Noel was a trainee chef and wasn’t earning much money so he left that and got himself a job in a bakery to earn a decent wage. When Chris was about 18 months old, Noel got a small flat of his own so he could sell his motorbike and be closer to work. Also it was somewhere we could spend time as a little family through the day.
I went back to my mum’s and dad’s in the evening, but having our first “home” gave us good insight into how we would do living together. After about a year, we just wanted to be together all the time. When I was 17, we got our first rented house together. It was brilliant. We just loved being a family and spending time together.
Then, when I was 19, I became pregnant again with my first daughter Sophie. Noel and I were both absolutely over the moon and just couldn’t wait for her to be born.
When we first found out that she was a girl, it felt like we finally had the perfect family!
We both loved being parents: the nurturing, the closeness and most of all, the love for one another. We decided we wanted to have another baby, so 18 months later along came Chloe. Then along came Jack 18 after that! By this time Noel had swapped bakery jobs a few times and had worked his way up to managing a bakery of his own.
I know it’s hard for some people to understand, but for us we honestly couldn’t get enough of being parents.
It just felt so fantastic that we decided we wanted to carry on having more.
In order to help fund our life choice we bought our own bakery so we could earn more money to support it. By now we were living in a three-bedroom house that we had bought with four children and another one on the way. So we sold up and moved 25 miles away to be closer to work and to find a cheaper house.
We now had a four-bedroom house but after 12 months we had to move to an even bigger house. The next one still only had four bedrooms so we converted the garage into a bedroom. After a few years, we unsurprisingly also outgrew this house as we now had nine children so up it went for sale and sold after only a few days. Except we were stressed — we hadn’t yet found anything big enough for us within our budget.
Luckily only a few weeks before we were due to move out of our house, we found a care home that was selling up. This house was perfect in size. It has 10 bedrooms, three bathrooms, a huge kitchen and dining room, although we did have to spend a lot of time and money making it into the home that we want. But ultimately, it’s been worth it.
Not long after we bought the house I fell pregnant with Ellie, number 10.
We thought: “Well, what’s the point of having a house this big without filling it with children?” I kept up the parenting pace, and six more kids came along, one every 17 months after that. It’s not always so easy financially, of course. Every week we spend about £300 on groceries. Every day, my family drinks 18 pints of milk and downs three loaves of bread.
Today, our family totals: Chris, 24; Sophie, 19; Chloe, 18; Jack, 17; Daniel, 15; Luke 13; Millie, 12; Katie, 10; James 9; Ellie, 8; Aimee, 7; Josh, 5; Max, 4; Tilly, 3; Oscar, 2; and Casper, 1.
Over the years, we have had numerous rounds of bedroom swaps to make room for everyone. Sophie and Chloe have both left home now, so we only have 14 living at home, and four of them have a bedroom of their own. (Two years ago, Sophie had her own child, making us grandparents!) As for the rest of the kids, they get to share. We have one bedroom with a six-bunk in it but more than often when we go to tuck them in, we will find them all in one or two of the beds, snuggling together.
As I revealed on our family blog, last year my family experienced one of its most devastating hardships when I lost a baby through miscarriage. But over time, I have healed and am so grateful for the care and support of our large and loving family.
Of course, I’m always being asked: Will we have any more kids?
And my motto is: Never say never.