Welcome to a new series: mums we love – and we’re sure you will too! We can’t think of a better time to kick it off than during our #monthofmummyhood initiative!
Wendy and her family live in Brisbane, Queensland. For the past 24 years she has been in baby/toddler mode and has given birth to 14 singleton children (so no twins or triplets!) – seven sons and seven daughters. She’s been a teen mum, a 20s mum, a 30s mum and a 40s mum. Amongst all the joy a large family brings, she has also endured her fair share heartache and challenges: miscarriages, a stillborn daughter, Breeze, and a diagnosis of Down Syndrome for her youngest child, Naomi. Somehow she finds time to write to other large families through an old-fashioned Penpal system, washes the footy jerseys for the sports teams on top of her own endless piles of laundry, and manages to carve out a little time for each child to make them feel special. She considers herself “boring” but with a Harley-Davidson motorbike sitting alongside her 14-seater minibus, a fierce determination to make a wonderful life for her family, and an incredible attitude to life, parenting and the future, we are in awe of her and think her anything but boring! Meet Wendy!
Tell us a little about life as a mum of so many!
"I have given birth to 14 children - all singletons who currently range in ages from 24 years to two years. I have seven sons and seven daughters and ever more than two of the same sex in a row - how cool is that? The smallest age gap is 11 months, while the biggest is just over two and a half years. Having six children was always my dream. Whilst other girls dreamt of their future careers or travel. I knew my calling was to be a Mummy of many. When I had six children the yearning for more was still there. I had plenty of love, time and patience to give so continued allowing my body to be blessed with more precious children."
Do you have ANY time for anything else in your life?
"My life revolves totally around my Children and I don't mind one little bit. We are an active family so have been involved in a number of different sports over the years. Our chosen sports this year however are basketball, soccer and rugby. I help out when and wherever I can with canteen, fruit duties and the washing of jerseys. I love simple trips to the beach, picnics, going for walks, exploring somewhere new - always lovely places to visit here in Queensland, taking photos. I also love connecting with other large family mothers like myself in Penpal form. Receiving hand written letters is really special and a welcomed break from bills!"
How many children are still living at home?
"As of this year my fourth adult child moved out. It's just not the same as having everyone under the same roof! But, three of my grown babies live together and only a few streets away so i see them every other day - just the way I like it."
What kind of car (or cars?) does a mum of 14 have?
"I drive a 14-seater minibus and I also own a Harley-Davidson. Two xxtremes I know!!! I've always loved Harleys but don't ride as much as I'd like. One of my adult sons rides it more than I do. He thinks Mum bought him a Harley. Lol. My five eldest children all have licenses and drive now which is scary. You never stop worrying about your babies - however grown they may be!!"
How do you survive a day? How many coffees are required?
"It's my norm. It's all I know. Surprisingly I don't drink coffee or even tea. In fact I've never tried them. A sneaky piece of chocolate often keeps me motivated. I don't watch TV nor have I ever had Netflix, etc. I do my daily chores and try not to ever get too far behind."
How has your parenting style adapted over the years?
"I think my parenting has pretty much stayed the same over the years. Although the older kids tell me I'm a lot less strict. I haven’t been out of baby/toddler mode for 24 years now. I know no different and just go with the flow."
How do you share yourself between so many?
"Honestly I don't know. I just do. One son is my weekly grocery shopping helper. He loves that role and his one-on-one time with me. I find teenage boys love to chat in the car and off load on their way to sporting practice. Younger ones have my undivided attention during the day – we go to Playgroup weekly and do other activities. Often children will jump into my bed for light-hearted chats. They all know I've got their backs and we work through things together. There is always a sibling to confide in as well.”
Like many mothers, you've experienced the heartache of losing a child. Can you tell us your experience with loss?
"Growing my family certainly hasn't been without heartache. I have endured 5 miscarriages and the birth of a Stillborn baby girl along the way. I had 10 healthy children and was 10 weeks pregnant with baby number 11 when I was given a heartbreaking diagnosis for my unborn daughter. The notes read: INCOMPATIBLE WITH LIFE - ANENCEPHALY. The sonographer said she couldn't give me anymore information but told me to go straight back to see my Doctor. I remember the Doctor saying that she'd booked me in for a medical termination at the Gold Coast Hospital. I declined and walked out of that office never to return. No one had even properly explained what exactly was wrong with my baby or given me any information on her condition. I went home and did my own research after crying hysterically in the car that is.
Google was absolutely terrifying, the images were horrible and not respectful at all. I found more comfort and understanding from Anencephaly groups on Facebook from others who had already gone through losing their child or were walking the same journey I was about to embark on. I came to discover that Anencephaly is a very serious Neural Tube Defect where a portion of skull is missing from on top of the head. There are no survivors in Australia and only a handful around the world and they are unfortunately very disabled.
Despite all this I wanted to give her a chance. I already loved her and was determined to carry this beautiful little girl for as long as possible. I wanted our family to be able to make special memories with her and to give her a lovely meaningful name. BREEZE HONOUR was chosen. Breeze - a cool breeze calms you down and makes you feel nice. We would always think of her when the wind blows. And Honour - I was chosen to carry this sweet baby. It was an honour to love and protect her for as long as humanly possible.
I was referred to Maternal Fetal Medicine for the duration of my pregnancy. I had lots of scans and it was always lovely seeing her little face. All of her other limbs, organs, etc were perfectly formed. She moved around lots just like my other children had. The pregnancy progressed well but I was carrying a lot of excess fluid which made even the simplest of tasks hard work as I was always out of breath. I had a routine hospital appointment at 36 weeks gestation where it was discovered that Breeze's heartrate was the same as mine. It was time to meet my baby sooner rather than later if I wanted a chance to see her alive. A scheduled induction was performed the following morning. It was a very long labour - 12 hrs. My heart wasn't ready. I wanted to keep her safely inside me and not push her out.
When I finally accepted the fact that it was time for her to go, I gave a big sigh of relief and birthed her into this World. She unfortunately passed away seconds beforehand. The midwives placed a little beanie on her head and placed her on my chest. She was warm and beautiful. She smelt like a regular newborn and it was heavenly.
I spent two nights in hospital with Breeze by my side. She had a little cooling pad. I hardly slept. I took in every little detail, every feature. I took photographs, videos, I have snippets of her hair, hand and foot casts, etc. Precious mementos to keep. Some family members came to visit. Some of the older children, the ones I knew who would cope.
We held a 'Celebration of Life' for Breeze a few weeks later and made it really fun. We asked everyone to wear the colour green which is the awareness colour for Anencephaly. We had a lovely service with a slideshow. The children were involved in reading poems and the lighting of candles. We had food, a jumping castle and released live butterflies. It was all about her no matter how brief her time was. She is a part of our family and always will be.
I could have easily fallen in a heap but made a conscience decision not too. I had so many little ones who depended on me. We have photographs of Breeze around the house and believe we'll be reunited in Heaven someday. I pumped my breastmilk for 6 weeks. Heck, I needed those feel good hormones. They absolutely helped me cope. Her ashes are inside a Teddy Bear that we like to include at certain celebrations."
Could you share your family's experience with having a special needs child?
"I have been fortunate to have had three babies since losing Breeze - Elijah, Piper and my youngest little sweetheart Naomi who happens to be rocking an Extra Chromosome. Down Syndrome that is. I felt pressured into doing a NIPT test due to my age this time round so I agreed. The results came back high risk for having a baby with Trisomy 21. The only way to know for sure was to have an amnio or CVS but this wasn't something I was prepared to do. I didn't want to risk losing my daughter who would be loved and valued regardless. I was once again referred to Maternal Fetal Medicine and had lots of scans where no heart or other defects were detected. So we weren't sure if my baby had Down Syndrome or not. Only birth would tell. At 36+4 I went into labour. Believe it or not it was Breeze's 5th Heavenly Birthday. The one day in the world I didn't want her to come. I was placed on a drip to slow contractions and hopefully hold her in a little longer. Two days later it was push time. It was during strict Covid Hospital Regulations and within minutes she was born. I could tell by her facial features that she had Down Syndrome. Nurses said it would be confirmed by bloods.
I cried, I was overwhelmed, I was alone. Naomi was checked over and was healthy. Her sugars were a little low and a drip was inserted but no other interventions were needed. We roomed together. A lovely social worker came and spoke to me. She helped me with resources and contacts. Naomi breastfed well and we went home two days later. Although Naomi was my 14th child she made me feel like a new num all over again.
Initially there were lots of appointments and therapy sessions. The Paeds are extremely happy with Naomi's progress and commented that she is exceeding their expectations and is absolutely thriving. Her siblings absolutely adore her. She's a real joy giver and mood lifter.
I feel very protective of Naomi and am learning how best to advocate for her. Inclusion is all everyone wants and being a brand rep for Bedhead Hats was a dream come true. Her little face should be seen. There are lots of services out there that offer support and have been very beneficial. I feel like there is more acceptance these days of people with special needs. My children get very excited when they see people with Down Syndrome on television and in catalogues."
Favourite thing about being a mother? "EVERYTHING - It's an honour and a privilege. I love doing life with so many unique people. I love the cuddles, the laughter and the fun."
Least favourite? “The laundry - my goodness it never ends! And the noise level sometimes - seven sons, say no more.”
What kind of me-time do you get? “I take a bath, kids pile in. I take a shower, same deal. My bed isn't off limits either - apparently it’s the comfiest! My children don't go to daycare or preschool so there are always children about. I do stay awake on Facebook/Instagram some nights when the house is quiet but that's about it!”
What do you wish for your children? “To be happy kind human beings. To have good health and to live their dreams. To always know how loved they are.”
Best advice for new mums? “Smell your newborns head. Oh my goodness, their scent is divine. Wish someone could bottle it up. Go with the flow - some days run smoothly; others don't. Also fresh air and sunlight do wonders.”
How do you know if you’re done having babies? “I don't think I'll ever have the 'done' feeling others speak of. If I was to fall pregnant again I would be ecstatic. I honestly wish I could have babies forever!”
FAVE BEDHEAD PRODUCTS
Kids Swim Legionnaire, from $28.95 "They are quick-drying, chlorine-resistant, they stretch beautifully and provide fantastic coverage of the ears and neck. We swim often and they are brilliant."
Swim Wet Bags, $14.95 Naomi has regular Hydrotherapy sessions. We use these to carry her towel, swim nappies, etc to each appointment. They are a great size, have a waterproof lining so keep her damp belongings concealed. It also has a label for her name.
Originals Ponytail Bucket Hats, from $32.95 How cool are these? So clever! They keep sweaty hair away from the neck and off the shoulder. They look great too. So many beautiful designs!"
Entire Heritage range, from $34.95 Heritage hats have to be the prettiest of all. They are lightweight, reversible and sme of the ladies/girls are very feminine. They look classy and can be used for a more sophisticated outing/event.
THANK YOU WENDY FOR TAKING THE TIME TO SHARE A LITTLE OF YOUR BUSY LIFE WITH US! WE THINK YOU'RE AMAZING! FOR A LITTLE PEEK INTO LIFE WITH 14 KIDS, FOLLOW WENDY ON INSTAGRAM @WENDYMUMTO14