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How We Have 18 Kids And Blending Our Families

Written by: Jenn Taylor, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

 

As a Mom of 18, the question I get asked the most is - “Are they all yours?” - or a version of that question. Did you have all of them? Did you adopt? Is it a blended family? Some questions have been direct, forward, and rude, but most have been curious. It seems to be human nature to put people in a box or figure them out in a way that makes sense, and - quite honestly - 18 kids is tough to make sense out of. Some days, even for me.

An OB/GYN told me at the age of 15 that I should expect infertility and the possibility of not having children. I have always been thankful to him because that conversation set the stage for the years to come. I did go through infertility - 7 day-surgeries and the maximum amount of meds that could be prescribed. I stopped the infertility train right at the point where invitro was on board - and bravo to those women who step on board and take that ride, as I knew it wasn’t my path. I did become pregnant while weaning off the meds, and I knew in the future, if pregnancy didn’t happen naturally, I wouldn’t have more biological children.


When my first daughter was born, she had a lung disease. They whisked her away immediately, and I didn’t hear anything for over 7 hours. When the head neonatologist came to my room, she told me that my daughter was the most critical in the NICU, that she wouldn’t live through her first 72-hours, and that I would hold her for the first time after she died. I could sit by her bedside but couldn’t touch her and had to remain quiet so she wouldn’t use any calories - which were now precious energy. I’m happy to say she is now 29 and one of the most incredible human beings I have met.


I did get pregnant six more times, gave birth to 3 more daughters, and lost 3 pregnancies. After the birth of my first daughter, I knew that if I became pregnant, those were the “extra” kids. The children you don’t expect but are ecstatic you have. What I felt was my calling was to become a foster Mom. To make a difference in the life of a child who has had a tough start in life. A childlike I had been. I had been blessed with a third-grade teacher who made such an impact on my dysfunctional upbringing that I knew I wanted to do the same. I wanted to pay forward the feeling of someone showing me I had worth.


I was a foster parent for 12 years in total. In the first 9 years (while also going through those pregnancies), I adopted four children and had another two that were long-term - one in foster care and one who was a foreign exchange student from Germany. I went through a divorce, and during the next 3 years of foster care, I adopted one more and had three long-term.


If you’re adding as we go - that’s 14 children total. Kids got older, a couple moved out, circumstances changed, and I had 9 living at home. That oldest daughter of mine - who was then 20 - and a mutual friend started fixing me up on dates. One of those dates was with Dane. Dane and I texted for a week and had one phone call before we met, and from the moment we met in person, we have been together.


Dane had been married and divorced when his first three children were small. He remarried and had one little girl who was 2 when his second wife died. His youngest was just turning 4 when we met. I had one child move out and shortly after, he and his four kids moved in - for a total of twelve living at home. I’ve never had more than 12 in the home at once, although there have been years when 9-12 kids were under my roof.


Another question I’m asked often is if it’s hard being a blended family, having step-children or foster children. Yes. It is hard. But not necessarily because of where they came from. Raising kids is hard - period - regardless of the number or where they come from. Certainly, some situations create added stress or challenges, but for me, raising them has been about them, not their situation. The relationship I have with each child is unique due to their circumstances and personality, and that’s what it is my responsibility to foster.


Having a husband who co-parents with positivity and support has been vital as the communication he and I have is what keeps our family together and cohesive. That doesn’t mean we always agree. That means we discuss the needs of many very individual humans with different pasts and make decisions together. We also defer to each other when either of our ex-spouses is involved, and sometimes co-parenting means agreeing to disagree with love and support.


I’ve now had over 29 years of experience parenting. I’ve parented through nearly every tough situation you can imagine. Now that almost all the kids are adults, I can have discussions about what things went well and why, what things I might have done differently and why, and they’re open to discussing their perspectives.


I have really outstanding relationships with most of those eighteen kids. I’ve built a coaching business for Christian women based on all the skills and certifications I learned while parenting these amazing humans, and I’m embracing the season of life where there is one child left at home, and I am called Gramma. It’s been an amazing, crazy, fun adventure that I wouldn’t trade for anything.


As the kids have grown into adults and moved out, not only are they close with Dane and me, they’re close to each other. Although my family was built on an amalgam of “yours, mine, foster, adoption,” in my eyes, they are all the same. We treat them as such, which has gone a long way in our successful blending of families. Through the good, the bad, and the ugly, they are worth it to me.


And to answer the question, I get most often - yes, they are all mine.


For more info, follow Jenn on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and visit her website!


 

Jenn Taylor, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Jenn Taylor is Mom of 18 (yes, 18 kids!), a Transformational Coach for Christian Women, and the host of At A Crossroads with The Naked Podcaster - a 4-year podcast to uplift others in their struggles. Her goal is to help others get through life’s struggles faster, easier, and with more support (and joy!).


Jenn is also a motivational speaker, has written the blog "Mom’s Running It" for over 9 years, and is a published author of a self-help memoir "Hello, My Name Is... Warrior Princess" - which she will email to you as a pdf for free. She is also married to an amazing man in Reno, NV, is a runner, minimalist, and healthy lifestyle enthusiast.


If you’ve attended events or heard speakers in the past and gotten excited about making changes only to return home and have felt frustrated at not knowing how to implement the information, you’ll love working with Jenn!

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