Many mothers endure a few pregnancies, and are more than ready to be finished with the whole baby-making experience. Other women love being pregnant, and relish every moment of having a life growing inside their wombs. Some ladies spend a large chunk of their lives with a baby on the way. However, for a small percentage of mothers, having a big family is more than just a way to enjoy many children. In fact, according to Gayle Peterson, a family therapist and author of Making Healthy Families, pregnancy “can be an addiction.”
Another expert on the subject, Dr. Sudeepta Varma, a psychiatrist at New York University Medical Center says, “There are many rewards of having children…as health professionals, we become concerned with respect to behavior that provides initial pleasure but eventually is spinning out of control.” Varma asks some good questions about the motivation behind having a large family, and if the children are suffering as a result. He says, “Are neglect, abuse, emotional disturbances in children more likely in a situation like this? It’s definitely possible.”
“It’s really important when you have children to have resources. Not just financial resources but emotional resources,” adds Nadine Kaslow, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Emory University in Atlanta. She continues, “I do think there are people who always want to have a baby around. But it’s one thing to love babies and another to keep having babies.”
Women who appear to be addicted to pregnancy, sometimes labeled bumpaholics, often have baby after baby without fully realizing the ramifications. Dr. Shari Lusskin, director or reproductive psychiatry at NYU Langone Medical center sheds light on the fact that women choose to have large families for many different reasons, and not always because they are addicted to being pregnant. She shares, “They run the gamut from women who are personally and culturally inclined to have larger families all the way to women who have a pathological need to have more children.”
Whatever their reasons, the following 15 women have had baby after baby, and they all have one thing in common: they have been pregnant for most of their child-bearing years. Read on for some astonishing true stories of women who really have been pregnant pretty much their whole lives.
15 Emanuela Darrigo
Emanuela Darrigo is one of many women who participated in “The Great Stork Derby” in Toronto, Canada in the 1930’s. Never heard of it? Basically, a well-respected and revered lawyer Charles Vance Millar passed away of a heart attack, leaving behind in his Will a hefty sum of money “to the mother who has since my death given birth in Toronto to the greatest number of children as shown by the registrations under the Vital Statistics Act.”
The Will continued, “This Will is necessarily uncommon and capricious because I have no dependents or near relations and no duty rests upon me to leave any property at my death and what I do leave is proof of my folly in gathering and retaining more than I required in my lifetime.” Basically, whoever was able to give birth to the most babies in the ten years following his death would be rewarded with a big chunk of change.
In the event of a tie, the money was to be split between the mothers. As a result, many struggling couples in the Toronto area got to work making babies. Among them was Emanuela, who was an early contender with 12 children, but, sadly, didn’t end up winning the prize. At least she still had her priceless babies.
14 Cathy Arndt
Cathy Arndt is the proud mother of 14 children. She has 13 sons and one daughter with her husband, Rick. Rick has said of their sizable tribe, “It wasn’t really a conscious plan to set a record or anything…It’s hard to get over the stereotypes until people get to know us better.”
Rick doesn’t feel the size of his family has caused his children to lack attention in any way. He has also shared, “Everyone is an individual. We’ve had an only child 14 times. To us, each one is an only child.”
The family resides in Millstadt, Illinois, and in their day-to-day life, a dull moment is hard to come by. Rick has mused, “We love the life. It’s a challenge. You get the same 24 hours as everyone else.” Fun fact found on the Arndt family’s website: if everyone in the family was to stand on one another’s shoulders, they would be almost three-fourths as tall as the Statue of Liberty. Now there’s an accomplishment.
13 Nadya Suleman
Nadya Suleman, a.k.a. Octomom, is the mother of 14 lovely children between the ages of 8 and 14. She gained fame after giving birth to octuplets in 2009, and later for a scandalous nude photo shoot and sex tape. Since then, Suleman, who now goes by Natalie, has changed her focus.
Of her life, she says, “Every day I wake up around 5 and get the kids ready for school. I work with Aidan, who’s 11 and is disabled, to get him ready, and one of my twins [Calyssa, 9] is autistic so I give her extra nurturing and attention. Then are four school drop-offs…It’s non-stop.”
Suleman continues, “I’ve always engaged in open, honest communication. There’s no topic that can’t be discussed. I’m very open with them about my past. What bothers me and hurts me is the fact that people assumed I was a bad mom. I do everything. I don’t have any help. I’ve had no nanny since my eight were about 2.”
12 Miriam Heppner
Miriam Heppner is the mother of 16 biological children, and 16 adopted children, making the family’s total number of kids a whopping 32. Miriam and her husband, DuWayne were approached by TLC about having their own reality show, but declined. They later agreed to appear on an episode of Kids by the Dozen featured on the network.
Miriam became pregnant with her first child when she was still a teenager. She and her then-boyfriend DuWayne decided to get married, and the rest is huge-family history. They have said of their large family, “Yes, they are all ours. No, we did not plan to have 16 children. And no, we are not a perfect family. Life has not always been as bright as this picture.”
11 Wendy Jeub
Wendy Jeub has 16 children with her husband, Chris. The couple has chosen to homeschool all of their offspring and currently reside in Monument, Colorado with their clan. They are a devout Christian family and have said their decision to have a big family is a part of “God’s plan.” Of their parenting experiences, the couple has said, “We’ve experienced great joy mixed with our share of challenges. Like it or not, this is our life and we’re quite honest about it.”
The family was also featured on TLC’s show Kids by the Dozen where they gained a small measure of fame. Since the show aired in 2007, one of the Jeub’s daughters, Cynthia, has come out with accusations that her parents were physically and emotionally abusive to her and her siblings during their childhood. Wendy and Chris have never made an official comment on Cynthia’s accusations.
The prolific parents are authors of the book Love Another Child. In the book, they share, “You will often hear us say, ‘There is never a dull moment in our household.’ There’s not! Seriously, we haven’t been bored in years!”
10 Lucy Timlek
Lucy Timlek gave birth to 16 children during the 1920’s and 30’s, and was lucky enough to reside in Toronto during the time of the previously mentioned “Great Stork Derby.” At the close of the contest, on Halloween of 1936, 6 women were tied for first place. All of them had given birth to nine children in the previous decade. Timlek claimed to have given birth 10 times, but couldn’t prove all of her children were born within the identified time. Debates were had on whether children who were stillborn or born to unwed mothers should count.
In the end, at the close of he contest, Timlek and her husband split the winnings with three other women: Kathleen Nagle, Annie Smith, and Isabel MacLean. All four families received checks for $125,000. That’s about $2 million today. No big deal. Timlek’s husband quit his job and the family moved into a larger house. No other evidence exists that they began enjoying an extravagant lifestyle after their win, but with 16 kids, weekly groceries most likely cost a pretty penny.
9 Livia Ionce
Livia Ionce and her husband, Alexandru currently reside in Abbotsford, British Columbia with their 18 biological children. They are the proud parents of 10 girls and 8 boys, and it’s believed they are currently the biggest family in all of Canada. The couple’s youngest child, Abigail, arrived in 2008 when Livia was 44 years old. Alexandru has said, “We thank God all of them are healthy and happy.”
The family came to Canada from Romania in 1990, and didn’t plan to have a huge family; it just happened. Alexandru has shared, “We didn’t discuss it. Life goes ahead and we didn’t stop it. Children are a blessing from God, and we have lots of blessings and feel blessed.”
Despite this family’s impressive size, they aren’t the biggest biological family to ever reside in Canada. Beatrice and Leonard Collins have them beat. The Peterborough, Ontario natives had an impressive 19 children which included 3 sets of twins before Beatrice passed away in 2010.
8 Kelly Bates
Kelly Bates and her husband Gil are the proud parents of 19 little darlings, born between the years of 1988 and 2012, meaning Kelly had a bun in the oven for the better part of 24 years. The family’s crazy daily life is featured on the reality show Bringing Up Bates, which appears on the UP network.
The family’s website shares, “God has blessed us with 19 children. We’re not a perfect family! We have the same struggles that other families have, only multiplied! But in spite of extra laundry, extra chores, extra diapers, and extra noise; we have an extra measure of laughter, an endless supply of fellowship, and an added dose of faith to get us through it all!”
7 Michelle Duggar
Michelle Duggar is the mother of 19 children with her husband Jim Bob: Joshua, twins Jana and John-David, Jill, Jessa, Jinger, Joseph, Josiah, Joy-Anna, twins Jedidiah and Jeremiah, Jason, James, Justin, Jackson, Johanna, Jennifer, Jordyn and Josie.
Her large brood gained fame after they were featured on the hit TLC television program, 19 Kids and Counting. The show was canceled in 2015 after the shocking news surfaced that the family’s oldest son, Josh, had sexually abused young girls, including some of his sisters, during his adolescent years.
Michelle had a baby on board from 1988 until 2009, with a few short breaks here and there. Despite the the traumatic early arrival of her youngest daughter Josie due to a struggle with preeclampsia, Duggar got pregnant for a final time in 2012 at the age of 45. Tragically, Michelle lost the baby to miscarriage after doctors could no longer find a heartbeat.
6 Mary Jonas
Mary Jonas was the mother of 33 children, 30 of whom were sets of twins (she had 15 pairs in all). Even more astounding? Each set of twins was made up of a boy and a girl. Although all of Mary’s children were born alive, sadly, most of them did not live to adulthood. Only 10 remained at the time of their father’s passing in 1892.
Mary won a free life-time subscription to a popular magazine of the time, “Tit-Bits” after winning a contest searching for the woman who was “judged to have contributed most to the population of the Empire.”
The gravestone of Mary and her husband, John Jonas reads, “John Jonas, who died 24th February 1992, aged 78 years, also Mary Jonas, the beloved wife of the above, and mother of 33 children, who died December 4th, 1899, aged 85 years.” May they rest in peace.
5 Maddalena Granata
Magdalena Granata of Nocera, Italy reportedly gave birth to a whopping 52 children. A Xaples correspondent shared with a Paris Journal of the phenomenon, “About 2 or 3 stations beyond Pompeii, in the City of Nocera, lives Maddalena Granata, aged forty-seven, who was married at twenty-eight, and has given birth to 52 living and dead children, 49 being males. Dr. de Sanctis, of Nocera, states that she has had triplets 15 times.”
Wow. Now that’s impressive. It’s a well-known fact that birth control wasn’t really an option back in the olden days, and it’s possible Granata was a very fertile woman who got pregnant every time her husband had a twinkle in his eye, or maybe she was an undiagnosed bumpaholic. Lusskin has said of why certain women can’t get enough of being pregnant, “Having a baby makes them feel like somebody loves them. They get attention from people around them. It is something exciting to plan for.”
4 Mrs. Gravata
Mrs. Gravata was an Italian mother who gained fame in October of 1923 after it was reported in the newspaper that she had given birth to 62 children. Among her brood were 2 sets of triplets, 1 set of quadruplets, 1 set of quintets and 1 set of sextets. It is believed that all of her children were born healthy, but no one knows for sure how many of her offspring lived into adulthood.
Dr. Grace L. Keenan, medical director and CEO of Nova Medical and Urgent Care Center in Virginia doesn’t think every woman who gives birth to a large amount of babies is addicted to pregnancy. In fact, she thinks it’s much more complicated than that. She has said, “We have a child because we want to matter to someone and be loved by someone. How a person decides to live her life is her decision. Some people could view getting pregnant as filling an emptiness. But it’s an individual judgment call.”
3 Mrs. Kirillov
Mrs. Kirillov was a humble peasant woman who lived in the 17th century, and raised her family in the small Russian village of Vvedensky. She reportedly gave birth to 57 children, but was only pregnant 21 times. She is said to have had 10 sets of twins, 7 sets of triplets and 4 sets of quadruplets.
In 1775, her husband Yakov Kirillov was presented to the Queen’s Court for recognition of his achievements in fatherhood. In addition to the 57 children he had with his first wife, whose name was never recorded, he also had 15 with his second. Despite claims that the first Mrs. Kirillov was the mother to 57 beautiful babies, no official records exist on the matter. Tragic. If you’re going to give birth to more than 50 babies, people should at the very least remember your name, and give you credit for your efforts. Just saying.
2 Leontina Albina
Chilean Leontina Albina was married in Argentina in 1943, and claimed to be the mother of a staggering 64 little ones, including 5 sets of triplets, although only 55 of her baby’s births were documented. It has been reported that Leontina actually gave birth to her 55th child at the age of 55, after which she had 9 more children. Unfortunately, no records can be found for her final 9 deliveries.
If Albina did indeed continue to have children into her 60’s, she not only set records for how many children she had, but also for how late into her life she continued to give birth. Whatever the truth, the fact that she had a documented delivery at the age of 55 is pretty damn impressive in and of itself.
1 Mrs. Vasillyev
Mrs. Vassilyev holds the current title of “Most prolific mother ever” in the Guinness Book of World Records. She lived in Russia in the 18th century. Between the years 1725 and 1765, she gave birth to 69 children over the course of 27 pregnancies. She allegedly had 16 sets of twins, 7 sets of triplets and 4 sets of quadruplets.
Love being pregnant? Considering having a big family? Lusskin suggests, “It should be a family decision. Make the decision together with your husband, and make sure you do it at the right time for both of you. And be in the best emotional shape you can be in before embarking on another pregnancy.”
Another way to ensure having a lot of kids doesn’t take too much of a toll is to plan ahead, and make sure you are in the right frame of mind to add another child to your life. She concludes,”There are plenty of women who don’t think about the social or emotional impact of having a baby.”
Sources: Mom.me, StepbyStep.com, 5Viral.com, HuffingtonPost.ca, Torontoist.com, NBCNews.com, NYDailyNews.com, ABCNews.go.com