Most women I know who already have two or three kids are reluctant to go for more. Not just because it would be a financial burden. Or a major lifestyle change. Or because they don’t want to relive the sleep-deprived newborn days. Or even because of their age or any of the other countless reasons why people stop procreating. For lots of women out there, it’s because the mere thought of carrying a baby for 40 weeks is reason enough for them to close up shop for good.
Not the case for Kelly Bates, a 44-year-old stay-at-home mom who has been pregnant every year for the past 22 years. And, get this: she’s not opposed to having more! Bates and her husband Gil Bates (not to be confused with Bill Gates) have 18 biological kids ranging in age from 22 years to 11 months. The family of 20 lives together in a five-bedroom home near Knoxville, Tennessee. They are praying for more children (not just the parents but the kids, too!).
Once you pick your jaw up off the floor, know that the Bates are evangelical Christians who don’t believe in the use of birth control, according to ABC News. When asked if she’d have more children, Kelly Bates tells ABC News, “Whatever the Lord desires. We decided, a long time ago, to let the Lord decide how many children we would have.” Adds Gil, 46: “It would be like saying more blessings.”
To put it into perspective, Kelly has endured labor and delivery 18 separate times (there are no multiples in the mix). Not just that, she also delivered all 18 babies vaginally and 14 were home births (no epidural in sight).
It’s quite a feat, to say the least. Though it hasn’t always been easy. ABC News reports that Kelly had two miscarriages before her last two successful births, and she started a hormone therapy to maximize her chances of carrying to term.
Honestly, I get moody sometimes having to share a bedroom with my two kids while we’re on vacation. (Just kidding – sort of.) Hearing about the Bates family certainly puts it into perspective. Clearly this lifestyle is not for everyone (or really most people, if we’re being honest), but it is pretty incredible that each of these children is growing up with a whopping 17 siblings. To each his own, is my opinion. Though I personally am ready for a nap just thinking about this massive fam.