Mum-of-seven Jen Hogan tells us what it’s like to have a large family in 21st century Ireland:
Ever since I was a little girl and for as long as I can remember I have wanted a big family. Surprisingly as a child I was never bothered with dolls especially, but I knew that children were a big part of my plan in life. I was the sort of person who liked to browse in Mothercare just to admire the tiny little clothes. The fact that little clothes were my point of focus shows I really hadn’t a clue what I was getting into!
I met my husband at university and by the time I was 24 we had bought a house, got married and baby number one was on the way. Every aspect of pregnancy fascinated me and I couldn’t get enough of the parenting magazines and books that were available. I excitedly looked forward to each and every doctor and hospital appointment just so I could hear my baby’s heartbeat and learn about their size and position. I still couldn’t really believe that I was really growing a little person. In the summer of 2001, my beautiful baby girl was born and my life as I knew was turned on it’s head!
Motherhood was nothing like I expected. I had never even held a baby before and the constant stream of feeding, crying, pooping repeat blew me out of the water. The first few weeks passed by in a blur of exhaustion and there were times that I wondered what on earth I had done. Thankfully as I started to find my feet and learned to cope without sleep, I realised that this gorgeous, demanding bundle of pink was the best thing ever to happen to me. I knew, if I was lucky enough, I wanted to do this again.
And do it again we did but it was not as straightforward as it might have appeared to some. In between the birth of my next six children I had four miscarriages which left me distraught and utterly heartbroken. I learned that pregnancy didn’t guarantee a baby and I spent subsequent pregnancies anxious and worried until I held my newborn in my arms. Each time I was handed a new precious bundle I was eternally grateful for their safe arrival and forever appreciative of my good luck. As my luck held out, my family grew and so it began.
Families have gotten smaller, this is undeniable. People are having less children for many different reasons, some by choice, some by circumstance. A third child tips the balance in the children’s favour. For the first time ever, you have more children than hands. It’s unchartered territory and you’re relying on someone to behave! Four children and you’re going against the norm. Logistics and practicalities come more into play and you may need to consider a mom-mobile type car. On the plus side you’re already used to the lack of hands so the transition can be sometimes smoother. Five children upwards – people start wondering, “what’s wrong with you??!”
I have had all sorts of questions put to me as to why I have worked my uterus so hard. Two people asked if it was driven by religious beliefs. It is not. Many more have suggested it’s because of my uneven gender balance. I’ve explained here that had gender been the driving force, I’d have stopped after two. I had a much more socially acceptable “gentleman’s family” then. The reason I have such a large family is much more simple. It’s because I love children and I’ve been fortunate enough to have seven. Getting there and the journey since hasn’t all been plain sailing. Rearing children is very hard work, we all know that, but I never take my good luck for granted. I count my lucky stars every day that this crazy, hectic, exhausting, life full of love is mine. Being a parent is a privilege. A privilege that I have been blessed with seven times. A privilege denied to many.
Originally posted 2016-11-10 16:00:36.