PATTY Hernandez, 40, a cleaning business owner, lives in North Carolina, USA, with her husband and business partner Carlos, 39, and their 17 children.
Here she reveals why she doesn’t believe in contraception and whether she will have more children, even though her last pregnancy was her most difficult.
As I walked into the maternity ward with my husband Carlos, I was greeted by familiar faces. ‘Patty, you’re back!’ shouted a nurse.
But that wasn’t my second baby. With six boys and ten girls, it was my 17th.
I grew up with two siblings and always wanted to be a mother. Not long after Carlos and I met at church in 2006, we began trying.
It took us two years to get pregnant with our first, Carlos Junior, now 14, and when we married in 2010 we still only had him. But after that, I just wouldn’t stop getting pregnant.
Carlos was followed by Christopher, 13, then twins Carla and Caitlyn, 12 – my only cesarean birth as one of the twins was breech.
Then we welcomed Cristian, 11, Celeste, 10, Cristina, 9, twins Calvin and Catherine, 8, Carroll, 6, twins Caleb and Caroline, 5, Camilla, 4, Charlotte, 3, Crystal, 2, and Clayton, 1.
We never intended to have that many children, but since we don’t believe in the use of birth control, we let nature take its course.
Those early years flew by in a whirlwind of diapers, food, and laundry.
But I became a mother straight away and my aunt Maria helps with the children who adore her.
My pregnancies and births were easy at first, but now that I’m older, both are harder for me. My last pregnancy was the hardest. I was exhausted and getting through each day was a challenge.
I gave birth on February 26th this year after a 16 hour labor – the longest I’ve ever had. Carlos never left my side, he supported and encouraged me as he always does and eventually our beautiful boy Canaan was born weighing 7lbs 5oz.
After the birth I spent four days in the hospital, which felt like a holiday – it was nice to be looked after!
While Maria tended to the other kids, Carlos and I joked that being in the hospital was the only chance we had to sit down and really talk to each other.
Once we all got home, the older children were of great help, changing Canaan’s diaper and comforting him when he cried. Now, 10 weeks later, life is busier than ever.
During the day I stay at home and do the housework while Carlos works in our commercial cleaning. I run our five bedroom house like a military operation – that’s the only way I can get everything done.
Not only do we help with housework and take care of their siblings, but we also ensure that all children have the opportunity to play and be children as it is very important.
With 19 people in the house, feeding everyone and doing the laundry are the most time-consuming chores. I mainly cook and spend around £800 a week on groceries.
At the moment I have hundreds of clothes to wash – I fold and put away the laundry all the time. Like everyone else, I have bad days where I’m exhausted and just want some time to myself, but with so many kids, that’s just not possible.
When people find out we have 17 kids, they ask why, and I tell them they’re a blessing. Some are quick to judge and say I shouldn’t have any more children and we need to stop.
I calmly answer and say that we are a very happy family, my children are all lovely and amazing people and Carlos and I love watching them blossom.
Others leave nasty comments on the internet saying we depend on government support, which annoys me because it’s not true – we don’t get any help at all.
Although my last pregnancy was the most difficult, I have no doubts that I will be pregnant again very soon and Carlos and I will look forward to adding more children to our family.
My doctors have told me there are no adverse effects on my body and it’s up to me if I want more of it, so I’ll be doing just that until menopause stops me.
At the end of each day, after we’ve all had family dinner and the kids are in bed, at 11pm Carlos and I collapse onto the sofa, totally shaken but happy.
Sometimes we don’t have the energy to talk to each other, so we sit in comfortable silence.
But we always tell each other that we love them, and we’re lucky to have such a big, happy family.
By the way
The largest officially recorded number of children born to a mother is 69.
Sue and Noel Radford have the largest family in Britain with 22 children.