Walking into her ranch-style home, you might not even know this woman has children. The carpets were clean and free of crumbs (unlike mine), the kitchen counters were actually visible (unlike mine) and there were no toys strewn all over the living room (unlike mine). It was relatively quiet (unless you count my little critters running around) and there was a general sense of calm (again, unless you count my little critters running around). Yes, you might think it’s a kid-free home, until you turned and saw nine perfectly-spaced 8×10 picture frames on her wall, one for each of her children. That’s right. Nine children lived in this home and not only was it clean as a whistle, but the children were well-behaved and the mom seemed…drum roll, please…sane.
So, how does Angie Doffing do it? “Oh, I just take it one day at a time.” This was her one piece of advice. Nothing earth-shaking, nothing complicated. She’s genuinely happy, and humble. So humble. That’s the thing that struck me the most about her. If I’d birthed nine children (and was still thin and gorgeous), I would wear a Super Woman cape, and ask people to bow down. Yep, I would.
But not Angie. She seems somewhat amused that she ended up having such an enormous family, as it wasn’t necessarily what she had in mind for her life. She wanted maybe four or five kids and said, “If anyone had told me as a young woman that I would have nine children someday, I would have told them they were crazy. I guess we’re just fertile.”
A smile crept onto her face when asked to name each of her children. There’s Christina (23, getting married in July), Nick (22, works in commercial graphics in Kansas City), Lauren (21, enrolled in Dental Hygiene program at Wichita State) Stacy (20, enrolled in nursing program at Wichita State), Emily (18, will attend Wichita State on track scholarship in the fall), Rachel (15), Matthias (13), Ben (11) and Kelly (10). That’s nine children in 13 years, and no multiples! Seriously, I would not only wear that Super Woman cape, but demand a trophy, from somebody, for cranking out all of those babies!
As if raising nine happy children wasn’t enough, Angie and her husband Dave have faced challenges no parent wants to go through, severe and nearly fatal health complications with their sixth child, Rachel. Before she was even three months old, she’d undergone two heart surgeries for a rare condition called Tetralogy of Fallot With Pulmonary Atresia. It was touch and go for awhile, and at one point, Dave prayed for peace should it be his daughter’s time to go. Mercifully, she made it through those (in addition to one more heart surgery at age seven, and one for scoliosis this past year) and today she is a thriving 15 year old. She will also need one final heart surgery in a few years.
Now, I know what it’s like around my house when only one of my children is ill. It can be crazy. Add eight more children into the mix, and my brain just starts to overload. Rachel’s condition meant round-the-clock care, feeding tubes, heart monitors and their trip to Michigan for her first surgery was the first time either Angie or Dave had flown. When asked how she handled the stress and strain, Angie’s answer came easily. “We had an incredible support network of family and community,” she replied. “They cooked meals, watched the other children, and just kept things running. We’re immensely grateful.”
But aside from family and community support, organization, and thrifty shopping practices, the biggest source of strength for the Doffing family is faith. Throughout the home were images from the Catholic tradition, and Angie credited Dave’s role as a spiritual leader as a source of inspiration. I know how much help from above is needed in my own home, so I imagine that four times as many children means at least four times as much prayer.
Something struck me as I talked with this soft-spoken, yet lively, mother of nine. Often, those unfamiliar with this style of family make dismissive remarks such as, “You know, one of those big Catholic families.” As if somehow, the family is one massive clump, and each child isn’t unique and loved. I can assure you this isn’t the case in the Doffing family, or in any other super-sized family in my hometown (a family with nine kids isn’t that uncommon around here). They say when you have more than one child, your love isn’t divided, but multiplied.
In Angie’s eyes, love x 9= a house full of happiness, laughter and support.
Momazing Mondays: I’ve decided to put my creative skills to use and tell the stories of mothers who are truly unique, inspirational and amazing. If I have enough stories, I’d like to post one at the beginning of every week. Please send me an email at catherine DOT poland AT gmail DOT com if you know of a momazing mother.