First, I don’t necessarily feel I have a large family. I don’t know when I will think that title fits, but it was bestowed upon me by the general public when we had three kids and now, at five, I still don’t feel it fits. Larger than average, I’ll admit, but not yet large. Maybe I will never feel like it fits.
People ask us these questions. Sometimes, they are genuinely curious about what it is like to be inside one of *those* families. Sometimes, they are being butt heads. Sometimes, they just don’t know what to say and feel like they have to say something.
1. Are they all yours?
Yes, they are. No one in their right mind would round up the neighborhood kids for a trip to Costco. Clearly, they all look similar enough that it is safe to assume they are, indeed, siblings. But yes, all ours.
2. Are you done?
Well, the baby won’t be moving out for at least 17 more years, so it is safe to say we’ll be in this parenting gig for at least that much longer. So, no, not done.
3. Are you going to have more?
See, I think this is what you meant in question 2. The honest truth is that we don’t know. Given my age and health, I’d say it is likely that we’ll have more, but who knows? We do not plan our family. Yep. You read that correctly. We see the eternal impact of whether or not another soul exists as being slightly above our pay grade. So, we leave that in much more competent hands, God’s. Feel free to ask him. “Dear Lord, will the Godbold family have more children?” Let me know what He says.
4. Did you plan to have this many?
We do not plan our family. That is not to say each child is an “oops”. We don’t believe such things either. We are open to God’s blessings at any time and we fully participate in His creative work in our marriage.
5. Yeah, but, did you want this many?
We accept what God gives us. Right now, that is five. And each of them is very much wanted and very much loved. Do you want God to bless you and work in your life? We see this as being part of that.
6. Did you always see yourself having a large family?
When we were in pre-marital counseling, The Pastor said he wanted 2, a boy and a girl. I told him I wanted 10. I didn’t say that because I actually thought we’d end up with 10 kids, but because I am an anarchist at heart, so when the culture tells me 2, I feel the need to show them up. I didn’t really SEE myself with any kids, or even being married, though I was getting married. My mind just never works like that. I hope for the future, but never actually see it unfolding inside my brain until I am there. I’m weird like that. The Pastor said 2 because at the time, he bought that cultural lie that 2 kids was perfect. He should tell you about that inner change in him sometime over on his blog.
7. Did you come from a large family?
No. The Pastor is an only son of an only son of an only son. He has one sister. I have two brothers.
8. Do you know what causes that?
Actually, we do. And I think if more people thought about the creative work of God in their marriage a little more, they’d be far less stressed out and likely have a few more kids, too. In marriage, we find that God creates new souls through love. How amazing is that? I feel very honored to be a part of something so eternally significant. We choose not to separate ourselves from the procreative nature of God in marriage. We leave ourselves open to allowing God to bless our union. (Please know that I am not saying the only purpose of sex is procreation.)
9. Do you need a hobby?
I have plenty, thank you.
10. Are you against birth control?
“Birth control” is such a broad term. Here is where I stand (and The Pastor has his own thoughts on this, his are more philosophical. Maybe he’ll share them with you sometime.). Hormonal birth control (pill, patch, ring, embedded in your IUD) kills women. Strokes, heart attacks, blood clots, murderous rage (kind of joking on that last one). It isn’t good for you. It isn’t worth the risk to me and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. You take it if you want, but seriously, read up and know the risks. It isn’t even all that effective for those risks. No thanks. So, what about copper IUDs? Nope. They kill babies. I believe life begins at conception, so clearly I would not choose an IUD. (And don’t be delusional about Mirena IUDs. They combine the bad of a regular IUD with hormonal birth control, so you’ve got double trouble going on there.) (And yes, I am aware not everyone is on board with the life beginning at conception thing, but we’re talking about me and my choices here.) What about condoms, spermacide, sponges, films, diaphrams, etc.? Sometimes we try to contol nature to such an extent that it begins to control us. But no, I am not using any of those or okay with using any of those personally. What about natural family planning? I would say this would be the best option across the board, and the one I would recommend to women who come to me asking my opinion on the subject. (Taking Charge of Your Fertility is an excellent book about NFP or FAM, whichever you happen to us. NFP= No intercourse on fertile days if you are avoiding pregnancy. FAM= using an alternative method like condoms or sponges or voodoo on your fertile days if you are avoiding pregnancy.) But for us, the conversation usually goes something like this:
“Do you want to avoid getting pregnant this month? My fertile days are coming up.”
“I don’t know. What do you think?”
“Well, I think it’d be nice to have more space between babies. But what if I miss my window? What if these are the last months of my fertility? What if we miss out on the kid that could possibly be this month? What if this kid is the next John Wesley? Or Mother Teresa? Or he is just a really awesome cook? What if we never have anymore and we never get to do another first birthday party or see a first smile or hear a first word? What if the baby days are behind us?!”
“Uh. So you want to try for another baby?”
“I never said that. Having a baby hurts. But what is some pain in relation to an eternal soul in existence? But we’d have to pay for another birth! And we’ll need a bigger car! And I’m pretty sure our baby swing has forever bitten the dust.”
“This is above my pay grade. Seriously. Let’s just forget this whole conversation ever happened.”
“Okay. Not trying. Not preventing. Sounds good to me.”
“Good. Planning is too stressful.”
11. Are you Catholic? Mormon?
I find it slightly sad that we assume only those two religious groups might have a larger than average family. We are Evangelical Christians, Protestants, Methodists, Free Church Wesleyans, Wesley Armenians, Holiness People. I know many of my Protestant brothers and sisters do not like to think about the ethical or moral implications of birth control. I know many of them don’t l ike to think, period. (A jab, I know. I’m sorry. Not sorry enough to delete it because I do think you need to think more about what you do and what that says about your faith and your Lord.) We believe children are a blessing. (And we really believe that, we don’t just say it.) We choose to remain open to God and allow Him to bless us as often and much as He so chooses. Not sure why you think you have to be Catholic or Mormon to have that kind of faith.
12. Are you trying to be like the Duggars?
No. I’m also not trying to be like my neighbor, my friend, or some random actress I’ve never met. I’m sure I’d get along fine with the Duggars, but every family that is larger than average is not trying to emulate a TV show family. Every blended family is not trying to be The Brady Bunch. Every stay at home mom is not trying to be on Desperate Housewives. Every mom of multiples isn’t trying to be John & Kate Plus 8. Just because some portions of our lives are similar, does not mean we want to BE them. I haven’t watched enough 19 Kids and Counting or even read Michelle Duggar’s book to even know how much of our beliefs are in line. Good for them, though, being willing to accept the blessings of God despite the critical and hateful toward families culture we live in.
13. How many do you want to have?
Again, not a planner. I’m not trying to achieve some perfect collection of little people who look slightly like me but more like The Pastor. I’m not aiming for a baseball team or a football team or any other kind of sport’s team (though a family folk band would be pretty awesome, gotta admit). We will have however many children God gives us. That might just be 5, and I am cool with that. We’ll talk in 20 years when my childbearing days are behind me and we’ll see how many we ended up with. (I should also note, our openness is not limited to biological children. We would happily take in foster or adoptive children if the Lord laid that on our hearts.)
I’m going to get even more personal here for a minute and share with you our story. We tried for 2 years before having our first child. After a year, we began the whole slew of fertility testing. In the end, the doctor we were seeing told us we needed to decide how far we were going to take this medically because the next step was IVF. We prayed. We had prayed and cried out to God for 2 years to give us just A child. All numbers were forgotten and we would have felt blessed to just be given one. We decided not to go the IVF route. We absolutely felt that for us it had become an issue of who we would put faith in, God or man. (I am not saying this becomes the case for everyone and know some very faithful couples who have conceived their precious children through IVF. But for us, it became an issue of faith and we knew it.) We decided to trust God. We decided we were done with trying. We began looking toward adoption, thinking maybe a closed womb was a sign that God had a different path in store for us. Boy did he! In July 2005, I quit seeing my fertility doctor. I quit taking my fertility meds. And we up and moved to Mississippi for The Pastor to go to seminary, since clearly we had some time before becoming a family with children. In August, I got pregnant. No drugs. No doctors. No “trying” really. (Some of you understand the land of OPKs, pregnancy tests multiple times a day, and obsessing over every twinge and half symptom.) Once our beautiful baby girl was born, how could we then say, “Thanks God for this blessing. We’re so glad we trusted you. Now we’re done with that because we don’t trust you to give us a reasonable number of children in the timing we deem reasonable.” We couldn’t. We left it in His hands. And 15 months later, He blessed us again. And 22 months later, again. And 23 months later, again. And 24 months later, again. He gave us the child we so desperately longed for and then multiplied it by 5! From infertile to 5 children, why would I take back over when He is clearly doing a much better job than I was? And how could I say, “Thanks for all you’ve given me, but enough. I’ll take it from here.”?
14. How do you feed them all?
With food. *chuckle* We go to multiple stores. We take advantage of Costco a good bit. Amazing deals to be had at Costco. We also take monthly trips to Trader Joe’s. I wish they’d build one closer because they are amazing! We used to make weekly trips to Trader Joe’s, but it got to be a little much for us. I also shop at Kroger and Whole Foods. Whole Foods has an amazing bulk section. Dried beans of all varieties, rice of all kinds, spices at unbelievable prices! You’d be amazed. Once upon a time, I coupon shopped, but I find it more expensive than just making most things from scratch and using Costco. Convenience foods are mostly out. A single box of PopTarts is one breakfast here. A box of Little Debbies is one snack. Making your own is healthier anyway. Plus, have you ever tried to flip through coupons with 5 kids in a grocery store? Here are a few recipes and cookbooks to check out. You can also follow me on Pinterest for more recipe ideas. I usually double recipes, though sometimes a single recipe will make enough for all 7 of us. (Since 5 of them are children, after all.)
Bean by Bean.
Pioneer Woman Frito Chili Pie.
Pioneer Woman Cajun Chicken Pasta.
15. How do you afford them all?
There is this crazy belief in our culture than children are ridiculously expensive. But really, they aren’t. Other than his birth, the baby hasn’t cost me anything. I breastfeed, which is free. I use cloth diapers, which I hand down from kid to kid. (I pay roughly $300 for diapers every 3-4 kids.) Sure, my grocery bill is higher, but it is still well within the reasonable realm. So, we may have to be vegetarians 2-3 nights a week. It is better for our health anyway. Really, I sometimes wonder how people without 5 kids can justify certain purchases. $200 on a car seat isn’t so bad when it goes through 3 kids. $100 on a 16” bike, then $100 on an 18” bike, then $100 on a 20” bike- not so reasonable with one kid. When you know 5 will go through them, not so bad. No, our children will never have huge trust funds and a free ride to college (on us, at least), new cars when they turn 16, or 5 gaming systems. But they exist. And they are loved. And that is enough, I think.
16. Where do they all sleep?
People think we must live in some mansion. We don’t. We have plenty of room in our 4 bedroom (3, actually. A basement room 2 floor from a bathroom hardly counts, folks.) 2.5 bathroom rental house is plenty big enough for us. We have the master bedroom where The Pastor, the baby, and I sleep. We have a crib in there, but honestly, he never sleeps in it. Imo has her own bedroom, being the only girl, but Ransom usually sleeps in her room because the boys bother him. (They talk while they go to sleep and they get up 2 hours before Ransom likes to get up.) And then we have the boy’s bedroom, where we have two twin beds and a toddler bed (because I did not plan ahead). Eventually we’ll put two sets of bunks in there, but right now, we’d prefer them to be closer to the ground. Closet space is really what you should be asking about! That is what large families have so little of. Finding places to sleep is easy. Bunks, trundles, triple bunks, day beds- you have plenty of options. Closets are where we are lacking. Of course, you know how kids are- you put them to bed in their bed and they end up on one blanket on the floor, sleeping under the bed, in a siblings bed, or in my floor. I think they’d be happier if I just lined some mattresses up along the floor for one giant kid bed.
17. What kind of car do you drive?
This is why I think we’re not a large family yet. We still fit into a mini-van. MINI! That should say something. A large family cannot fit into a MINI van. We have a Dodge Caravan- I think it is Grand. The Pastor went and got it from a used car lot with zero input from me days before the third was born. (Likely because I had a massive freak out, crying that the baby had no where to sit to come home from the hospital, since we had a 4 passenger Honda Element at the time.) I have 2 booster seats and a Sunshine Kids (now Diono) Radian on the back row and a Sunshine Kids (now Diono) Radian and a Combi Coccoro in the middle Captain’s Chairs.
The trick to maxing out a minvan is in narrow seats (Combi Coccoro, Diono Radian, Evenflo Amp, Britax Parkway) and seat belt extenders. (We bought ours from the company More of Me to Love.) Seat belt extenders make buckling the booster seats in possible. Is this ideal? No. But it works and is reasonable safe. If you want to comment and tell me how I shouldn’t be using these, feel free to donate $30,000 and we’ll happily accept and purchase a larger vehicle. For now, this works well for us. Now, should God bless us with a sixth, we’ll have to be van shopping.
I do have a few complaints for car companies. First, why do you put carpet in a minivan? You know we’ll be tossing goldfish crackers, french fries, and chocolate milk back there. You know crayons will drop between the seats, suckers will fall from tiny hands, and dirt will be caked onto cleats. Why torture us with the carpet? Check out the Honda Element’s flooring. That is what minivans should have! (2) Why only 3 LATCHES and why the ridiculous one in the back BETWEEN two seats? How hard is it to just put a LATCH on each actual seat? Why the strange between two seat LATCH? Torture. Again. Think things through guys! Hire a mom to help you plan these things out.
18. Do you just love kids?
I think all children are a blessing from the Lord, but I am not, at all, a “kid person”. I like MY kids. Liking my own children is much different than saying I like ALL children. All children are a blessing and I do my very best to treat them like the little people made in God’s image that they are. I’m actually pretty good with kids. But I am not a kid person. (And I have met a great many “kid people” who are not parents.) You don’t have to have the gifts and disposition of a preschool teacher to be a mom to many. You just have to treat them as people, love them, and be yourself with them. I am a mother. I am not a collector of children. I do not long to be a preschool teacher or babysit the neighborhood.
19. Do you have a TV?
Yes. Not a very large one. And no cable, but we have Netflix, Amazon, and some Roku channels. I’m not sure what TV has to do with the number of children we have. Do you regularly substitute TV for intimacy with your spouse? How is your relationship?
20. How do you do it?
I usually want to tell you about the birds and the bees when you ask this, but I know that is not what you’re getting at. I did not wake up one morning with 5 kids waiting to be fed in my kitchen. They came to me one at a time with time to adjust and prepare and learn as I go along. I have not always been a patient person, having five children will teach you something about patience. I have not always know how to let go of small things that don’t matter, having five children will teach you about letting go of the small stuff. I am not super humanly organized, though I am more organized with five than I was with one or two. One by one, these kids are teaching me to be a better person. I am grateful for that. Parenting is a 24 hours a day gig- be it one kid or 10. Yes, we learn better how to fill and balance those 24 hours as we go along, but we are all putting in our all 24 hours a day. (Even when we are sleeping! My brain sorts some burdens out for me while I sleep quite often, so I consider that productive time. Plus, I’m on call.)
21. Don’t you need to rest between babies?
I’m never sure how to take this. But to answer you, these are my childbearing years. All the years of my life will not be like this. I maintain my health, and I accept and embrace my role during this phase of my life. These are my years to bear children. One day, these years will be passed, and my body will rest- well, not really, it’ll simply move to the next phase. But bearing all these children is actually medically beneficial to me! What?! Having 5 has lowered my risks of ovarian cancer. Breastfeeding 5 has lowered my risks of breast cancer. This is what I was made to do. To quote Ina May Gaskin, my body is not a lemon. My Creator is not some careless mechanic. When my body is ready to bear another child, it lets me know. I ecologically breastfeed- meaning I feed my baby around the clock and bed share with him. When he stops eating so much at night, it send my body a message that he no longer needs me so much, and we are ready to carry another. It is amazing how God created us. While my little one needs me, I don’t cycle. They naturally space themselves.
22. Were they all born naturally?
I understand the curiosity people experience when wondering if moms of many have these super easy pop ‘em out kind of deliveries, but this question still always confuses me. I never know if you’re asking if they were born vaginally or if they were born without intervention or if they were born without pain medication or if they picked their own birthday. So, the confusion on my face with this one is usually because I don’t know how to answer. All their births were different, and what I chose for the first two may not be what I chose for the next two. Their just different. And one person’s version of “natural” isn’t another’s. So, here is the birth scoop on my five.
Baby 1: I was told childbirth was going to really hurt. And that I could not prepare for it. And that while natural sounds best, most people just can’t do it, so have a back up plan. I was seeing a hospital based OB group. I didn’t consider a birth with anyone other than an OB in a setting anywhere other than the hospital. I was going to “try” naturally but get an epidural if I just couldn’t do it. At 35 weeks, my water broke on its own, an hour later contractions started, an hour later I was in the hospital checking in where they told me I would need to request my epidural in advance since no anesthesia was on duty, an hour later I requested the epidural after I was told 5 times I needed to ask BEFORE it started hurting “too bad”, 45 minutes later the anesthesiologist arrived to place my epidural, 15 minutes later the baby was born. The epidural was placed but not even test dosed. It was removed immediately after she was born. She was held in the nursery for 5 hours due to her size (5lbs2oz) and gestation. We stayed in the hospital for 4 days.
Baby 2: At 35 weeks, they found the baby to be breech (butt first). I wanted to try a vaginal breech birth, but the OB practice I was with did not do them nor did anyone in the area. At 36 weeks, an ECV (external cephalic version- they try to flip the baby from the outside) was attempted in the hospital. It did not work. At 37 weeks, my OB checked me and I was 4 cm dilated, so they sent me up for a c-section. I did have pain medication. (You’d be shocked at the number of people who ask if I had pain medication for my c-section.) I had a spinal and some IV pain medication. It is major abdominal surgery. Medication isn’t an option- you have to have it. He spent 10 days in the NICU with fluid in his lungs as a result of the c-section and not being squeezed in labor. (Labor is beneficial! Who would have thought? Those contractions are prepping the baby for life on the outside.)
Baby 3: My original OB did not do VBACs and became insistent on tying my tubes during my repeat c-section. I asked for the opinion of my perinatologist and he did not think tying my tubes was necessary. (I have a uterine anomaly. It isn’t very common or studied. So, my OB at the time thought I should not take the risk of the unknown and should end my childbearing. After all, who wants more than 3 kids?) I lost my trust as the OB continued to push for tying my tubes and I was not comfortable letting her cut me open, not knowing if she’d even listen to me saying no. So, I found another doctor who did VBACs. He was not scared of my uterine anomaly or of VBAC. And I had a successful VBAC with him. (Link to birth story.) I had AROM (artificial rupture of membranes- the use a sharp crochet hook looking thing to break you water in hopes that the extra pressure of baby on cervix without a cushion will speed up labor. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. It has its risks that you should definitely look into before agreeing to it.), membrane stripping (where they sweep their finger around the inside of your cervix in early labor, or sometimes before, in hopes to get labor going better), and a heplock. No pain meds. But the interventions were hardly natural. But the baby did come out vaginally. Put that in whatever column you think it belongs. We stayed in the hospital 5 days, thanks to an over zealous NICU.
Baby 4: Same OB in a hospital. Second VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean). Same interventions. Membrane stripping, AROM, and helplock. No pain meds. Hired a doula this time- made a huge difference in the experience. Stayed in the hospital 10 days because of a NICU with a god- complex.
Baby 5: Homebirth. It just made sense. No NICU to deal with. No where to go in labor. I had skilled midwives (one CPM, one CNM) come to me. No interventions for the actual birth. My placenta had to be manually removed, and I did have meds for the bleeding after, since the placenta got stuck. I took some Ibuprofen after he was born.
23. Are any of them twins? Triplets?
I hate disappointing people and telling them they are really just meeting 5 siblings, no multiples. People get so excited about multiples. But no, no multiples. They are 15, 22, 23, and 24 months apart in age. That does give me Irish twins, but not actual carried-at-the-same-time multiples. ` Sorry to disappoint.
Questions I did not cover? Leave them in the comments! Questions you get asked? Leave them in the comments or over on the Facebook page!