Real Life

REAL LIFE: “I have 21 kids!”

Most families stop at two or three kids, but for these 21 siblings it's the more the merrier.
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Sue Radford, 43 shares her incredible real life story;

Peering down at her squished little face, I kissed her button nose.

“Oh she’s just perfect,” I sighed happily.

My husband Noel expertly took our new bundle, Bonnie Ray, into his arms.

“Time to take you home little one,” he grinned. He strapped her into her capsule for the car and checked I was ready to go.

“Bye Sue and Noel,” a midwife called as we walked to the hospital car park. “See you again next year?”

“Oh no, definitely not,” Noel laughed.

We drove the short distance home.

“It’s weird to think this will be our last trip back from the hospital,” I said to Noel. He smiled and nodded.

At our house, we were met at the door by eager faces.

“Your brothers and sisters can’t wait to meet you,” I told my precious bundle.

They were all jostling each other to take a closer look.

“Form an orderly queue,” I said.

I wasn’t joking.

Bonnie Ray completes our brood

You see, Bonnie Ray didn’t just have one or two other siblings.

She had 20, and they all wanted their first cuddle with her.

I lined them all up on the sofa so they could pass their newest sister round.

“I’ll be very careful,” promised Ellie, 13.

“I’m next,” pouted Aimee, 12.

“I’m going to put the kettle on,” I called out and headed to the kitchen for some peace and quiet.

Those two things were in short supply in our household but we loved it really.

Noel and I hadn’t set out on having so many children.

I had my first child aged 14. We raised him as teenage parents.

Then we got married and had our second child, Sophie, when I was 17.

Noel and I thought we’d stop after two or three.

Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that we were both adopted but I found once I had three children I just wanted more.

When we got to our ninth child, Noel went for a vasectomy but the urge was still there for more babies.

For both of us. So he had it reversed.

Throughout all our babies, Noel always worked. We were never bludgers. We just loved having children.

We love our huge family and wouldn’t have it any other way

We became famous six years ago when a documentary was made on us called 15 Kids and Counting.

That feels like a long time ago. After Archie, our 20th, we definitely thought we were done.

It felt like a nice round number to end on.

But then I fell pregnant one more time.

Now, our eldest two have flown the nest.

Christopher, 30, has a daughter of his own Maisie and our eldest daughter Sophie has three children.

So while my own children were producing kids of their own, I carried on having more!

Now, nineteen of them live in our ten-bedroom converted care home.

They are Chloe, 23, Jack, 21, Daniel, 19, Luke, 18, Millie, 17, Katie, 15, James, 14, Ellie, 13, Aimee, 12, Josh, 11, Max, nine, Tillie, eight, Oscar, seven, Casper, six, Hallie, three, Phoebe, two, and Archie, one and newborn Bonnie.

Four years ago I suffered a stillbirth when I was 21 weeks pregnant.

That baby, Alfie, has been looking down on Bonnie.

They had the same due date.

I think Bonnie has a strong connection to Alfie.

Baby names became harder to agree on!

Picking names got considerably harder the more children we had.

We wound up using up all our favourites and then the names I liked, Noel didn’t, and vice versa or the ones we both liked the kids didn’t.

It was quite a minefield.

When I thought of Bonnie, thankfully everyone instantly agreed.

We have to run our home like a military operation.

Every day involves ferrying children to three schools and a pre-school, churning out loads of washing and coping with three kids under four.

Back in our routine I turned to Noel one afternoon.

“Those two days in hospital with Bonnie were like a holiday,” I joked, stuffing another load of dirty clothes and sheets into the washing machine.

He grinned.

“That’s the only chance we get to have some time alone together,” he replied. “No wonder we kept having more kids.”

We do nine loads of laundry every day, using 30 bottles of washing liquid a month and go through four toilet rolls a day.

I have to admit, putting all those clothes away is a task I detest.

After an early start in the bakery we own, Noel is home by 7:45am to help me get the kids dressed and off to school.

We lay their uniforms out the night before and breakfast is staggered into two shifts.

Meal times are done in military style

Six of our kids are at the same primary school ten minutes away and five are at high school. Noel drives a minibus and because it carries more than nine passengers it’s allowed to use the bus lanes.

The youngest ones, Oscar, Caspar, Hallie and Bonnie stay at home with me although Oscar goes to kindy in the afternoons.

We feed the family on about $500 a week.

We eat pasta or I cook a large meat and vegie stew.

We go through 10 litres of milk, three litres of juice and three boxes of cereal a day.

The kitchen is the heart of our home and the kids love to get involved.

I started teaching them to help me chop and grate from a young age. We form a production line and get on with it.

We go through 10 litres of milk, three litres of juice and three boxes of cereal a day.

Bath time starts about 6pm.

The younger ones are in bed by 7pm and the older ones by 9pm.

By 10pm Noel and I are ready to turn in too.

As parents, we might struggle to get a minute to ourselves but having kids around is the best part of having such a large family.

No one every gets lonely – there’s always someone to play with or talk to.

It’s expensive having so many children but we ensure they don’t miss out.

We spend $175 per child for birthdays and the same on each at Christmas.

We do so out of our own pocket.

We also go on a big family holiday every year.

We’re proud to fund our big family ourselves with our business.

Someone worked out that I’ve now spent a total of 811 weeks pregnant!

I’d say that’s enough now. I’m ready to enjoy my children and grandchildren.

“You say that every year,” scoffs Max.

“Yeah, you won’t stop at an odd number,” Sophie agrees.

But Noel and I insist that Bonnie has completed our family.

It has to come to an end at some point!

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