Last night in the first of a three-part series on Channel 4 exploring large families we met Sue Radford and husband Noel (left) and their 14 children as well as another couple, Mike and Tania Sullivan, parents of nine (although during filming Tania gave birth to twins so is now a mum of 11.)
Firstly I do believe that more women, if they were not restrained by practical issues such as where to sleep everyone, buying a bigger car and the general cost of having a large brood, would have more kids.
That said, when I think of a large family I think of a mum of five or six children – not 15. And in fact two scenes from the programme last night stuck out in my mind. The first was Sue, then pregnant with number 15, and Noel doling out dinner for 14 children as well as themselves. Quite how they can face this amount of cooking and washing up every single day is beyond me. But you had to hand it to them. Their children came over as delightful, as did they as parents. They didn’t even look tired, despite the fact that for the few hours the older ones are at school, Sue goes off to help Noel in his bakery.
The second scene was when, having packed 120 T shirts, the whole family jetted off to Lanzarote. The air hostess’s face as she sorted through such a pile of passports was a picture (how awful to have to apply for so many!) and Noel and Sue literally had to keep watch on the beach every second. It reminded me of the time I accompanied one of my children on a school trip – the worry of losing one child was massive and yet I don’t think I was responsible for anything like 14 children.
However, it was clear despite needing to go out in a minibus, Sue and Noel absolutely adore having so many children. Interestingly both of them were adopted as children and admitted this might play some role in why they both felt driven to keep adding to their family. Sue said they would never be lonely. Her older children agreed as well as being addicted to buying a new pushchair every year, their mum was addicted to babies and they couldn’t imagine her ever stopping.
The other mum featured in the programme – Tania – also agreed there was something terribly addictive about babies. As she cradled newborn twin baby girls, she confessed there was nothing to beat the moment a new baby is handed to you in the delivery room. If the success of Channel 4’s other series One Born every Minute is anything to go by, she is not alone – many would agree with her bringing a new life into the world is very special.
Like Sue, Tania, who’d also had eight miscarriages, could also not rule out having another baby – despite the very real medical risks that increase with giving birth to so many. As Catholics, who don’t believe in using contraception, it seems very likely that Tania will add to her brood of 11.
The only question that wasn’t asked was what happens when you can’t have any more babies? Maybe being a gran will compensate. But you couldn’t help but wonder how as being pregnant was so important to them, each woman would eventually cope with the fact that one day one baby will be their last. If your whole world for so long has revolved around having babies, that will surely take some coming to terms with.
The second part next week looks as sibling rivalry and meets the Lewis family who have 12 daughters and the Bland family, where children from different relationships struggle to live harmoniously under the same roof.
Find out more: Click on the photo to go to Channel 4.
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