True Story: I Have 12 Siblings

This is part of our True Story interview series, in which interesting/amazing people tell us their stories. This is the story of Ashley and her family. And, yes, that’s really them in the above picture.

How many children are there in your family? There are thirteen of us: four boys and nine girls. The age range is twenty to two years old. There is about a year and a half to two and a half years between each child, with one set of twins.Where do you fall in the order of things?

I am the oldest of all the kids, the one that got to be the guinea pig. I tested the boundaries while the rest of them watched me, saw what the consequences were, and then did it themselves!Could you tell us about your parents’ decision to have a family of this size?
Like most newlyweds, my dad originally swore that he was never, ever having kids. But of course they did, and after my sister Abby they decided that they weren’t having anymore children. But my mum really likes babies, so they had an “accident” baby, Allison, and after that they just kept having kids, I guess.

My parents definitely see children as a blessing, not a hardship. I know it has been hard on my parents, and they’ve made many sacrifices for us, but I think that if they had known this was what it would be like, they would have still had us. Well, most days they would have still had us. 🙂

My sister Talia has colpocephaly, genetic disorder, as well as a seizure disorder, GERD, a tumor in her brain (made of fat so it’s benign), requires oxygen, and a ton of other things. Because of all these issues, she is eternally a toddler, stuck the size of an 8-9 month year old and about the same developmentally, although she is crawling now! She is so, so sweet and happy.

Tell us how you fit everybody under one roof!
My dad really likes to build things! We have lived in the same house since I was six; a three bedroom, two and a half bath ranch on almost three acres of land. As the family grew, so did the house. He built a beautiful foyer, a front room, a wrap-around porch, put in a staircase, a front room, an office and eventually a library. It’s ginormous – four bathrooms (two are usable) and twelve bedrooms.

How do people respond when you tell people you have twelve siblings?
“What??! Are you guys like mad religious or something?” Or they say something crude about rabbits. Most people take it in stride, I don’t usually tell people when I first meet them. To me, my siblings aren’t a number; they are people, names and personalities, it isn’t really a big deal to me!

Do you think having this many siblings impacted your relationship with your parents and your brothers and sisters?
I think that I have a good relationship with most of my family. I think that if I had fewer siblings, life wouldn’t be as much fun as it is. I call my Mum at least once every two days. I get along alright with most of my siblings though my sister Alissa is too cool to hang out with me right now and my brother David and I have never gotten along. I’m so much older than most of my siblings, I know that I will never be as close to them as I am with my two sisters Alissa (17) and Abby (14).

I can’t imagine life without my brothers and sisters. There wouldn’t be Talia or Torrey; I would miss Noelle’s awesome fashion sense, and Autumn’s sarcastic personality. I wouldn’t be as food conscious from having Caden around who is allergic to corn, wheat, soy, citrus, and oats, or anything with histamines in it. I wouldn’t have the twins, Maddie and Grace to be my little copycats. I am glad my parents had them all; I would probably have ended up as one of those selfish, “daddy pays for everything” rich bitches, instead of a thrifty, d.i.y., creative lady that I am.

What are the benefits and draw backs to being part of large family?
I was homeschooled until college, so I could never get away from my Mum, never. I was with my family all of the time, and I enjoy being alone, so for me it was hard being around people all of the time.

Being a part of a family, large or small, is hard; it takes a lot of work to not go crazy. I have a good family: a solid relationship between my Mum and Dad. They really do care about us, enough to make our lives miserable when they think we aren’t up to snuff. We never went hungry and I always had someone to be with if I got lonely or bored. What more could you want?

How many children do you want to have?
I don’t know yet, I want to wait until I am out of school to start having kids. I figure I will start having kids when I’m about 26 so that gives me a few years. But I cannot wait to be pregnant, to be a lifegiver, to have a body swollen with baby goodness. I know that I don’t want as large as a family as my parents have, but I also believe that every person conceived has a life force, a personality, so that makes it hard to pick low numbers when thinking metaphorically about children. I’ll just have to wait and see how much it hurts to give birth before I decide how many times I want to go through with that!

Are any of you from large families? Any questions for Ashley?

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  1. Chrissy

    I have always envied those that had large families… I only had one brother and he was younger… Now that he is gone, I wished I had had another sibling…BTW, did both parents share in teaching the kids to drive?

    • Immoreuselessthanlatin

      I like this.I think it’s interesting though as my mom also had 13 siblings.

  2. molly YEH!

    wow that is absolutely amazing. sometimes i can't even handle two sisters!! i bet always having friends round the house to hang out with was a blast though!

  3. Renai

    My mom grew up with nine siblings, most of which had kids and lived in the same town. So I grew up with a ton of cousins around alllllll the time. They all felt like siblings, although I can't imagine having all of us in one house.

  4. Jennifer

    I really liked this interview, but the fact that her mom really likes babies and that's the driving force in continuing to have kids does kind of bother me.

    I am glad she is happy with her life and her family, though.
    I would hate for her to feel out of place and unappreciative of her family…

    Nice interview. 😀

  5. Kylie

    Another excellent interview, Sarah!

    I'm the oldest of 4 children, my dad is from a family of 5, and my mom is from a family of 10! That's quite an age range between your siblings, Ashley. I appreciated that you mentioned the normal sibling dynamics and occasional personality conflicts that occur within families of any size. It's much more refreshing to hear that rather than "OMG We're Just Like the Waltons!!" Now that you're living away from home, is it a hard adjustment when you go home (and vice versa?)


  6. Vanessa

    I'm an only child, and I never really wanted a big family. I think once or twice I thought about how nice it'd be to have a cool big brother, but that's all. I enjoy my privacy and alone time. Great interview, though– really interesting to read.

  7. screwdestiny

    Oh, giving birth hurts like hell. But the pain is something you forget after a few months. So you can't really go off that.

  8. Sara Katherine Staheli Hanks

    I'm a little confused by the remarks in an earlier comment from Jennifer, "… the fact that her mom really likes babies and that's the driving force in continuing to have kids does kind of bother me."

    I guess I just don't understand where the bother comes from in that idea. Is it because it doesn't account for her dad's feelings or desires? Because it seems selfish of her mom? I'd love a little elaboration there.

    I know my mom loved having babies and would have had many, many more had it been possible (I come from a family of 5 kids, but my mom had several miscarriages and couldn't keep going through that heartache). It seems totally reasonable that a woman who DIDN'T love babies would be justified in using that as a reason to not have many kids (or any at all), so how's it different to use a love of babies as reasoning for giving birth to several?

    Great topic, Sarah Von! I'm especially fascinated with Ashley's answer to the final question, so kudos for asking that.

  9. Carole

    My husband is next to me in bed as I type this and I hope he doesn't see this, but I secretly dream of having this many children. Any chance I could sneak that past him?

  10. ms.ashley

    The desicion to have this many children was made by my parents, so as thier daughter I only know what I have been told about why they have this many children. I forget that when I write that people do not get the inside jokes of my family, so I should not allude to them. Yes, my Mum and Dad were not going to have anymore, and maybe my Mum did sneak one past him, probably not the whole story, but, I do know that they don't regret having any of us(most days), and that whatever the outcome, they love all of us and provided us with a good upbringing.
    Carole, I wouldn't make any MAGOR desicions without consulting the hubbie, like"forgetting" to take the pill.
    Jennifer, people have babies for all sorts of reasons, trying to keep a marriage together, wanting a companion, because they like having babies, I am not a mother yet, so I cannot fully comprehend what compelled my Mum to have so many babies. But I am thankful she did.
    To be honest I don't really know my Dad's feelings on this, except that he feels like an inadiquate father sometimes(which he is definatly not), and that he loves us, and most of all that he and my Mum have a good(sometimes stormy, like all relationships) marriage.

  11. Carol

    I am the oldest of 10 children and my husband is the second oldest of 10 children. My parents worked very hard to support all of us. My dad was a farmer and my mom worked in a factory. I am truly grateful for all of their hard work. My siblings are all very accomplished individuals. Two are doctors, three are teachers,two are CPA's-one with his own very successful business,two are farmers (although their set-up is huge compared to our family farm) and one is a manager in charge of marketing for a pharmaceutical company.
    Growing up I didn't always appreciate a big family but I do now!

  12. Anonymous

    my mom has 12 siblings, she and her twin is the youngest, my moms name is grace and her twins name is Odessa, we call her rebug, but anyways I bet its neat having that many siblings, their was 9 girls and 4 boys, I only have 1 brother, I wish I had that many brothers and sisters, I enjoyed reading everyones comment and your story, family is the best thing ever.

  13. Anonymous

    I have 10 siblins and unlike them it’s absolute hell. No privacy, no fun board games, just screaming fighting and a whole lot of violence. My life is miserable.

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