When the nurse announced that Teri Schwandt’s newest child was a boy, everyone in the room chuckled a little. Not only is Tucker the 12th child for Teri and Jay Schwandt—he’s their 12th boy.
“I looked at my husband, and we exchanged a knowing smile,” Teri, 38, said on Thursday. “When they say it’s a boy, I think, OK, no problem. I’ve got this. We know what we’re doing.”
Tucker was born at Grand Rapids hospital, weighing 7 pounds, 12 ounces.
The Schwandts raise their troupe of boys in Rockford, in western Michigan. Tyler, is the oldest, at 21. Three of the boys will be in high school this year, with five more in lower grades. Three are still at home with Teri.
The family is Catholic, and Teri comes from a large family herself. It’s normal for religious families to have more children, but to have so many boys is unique. Teri’s sister, Kate Osberger, who lives in the Detroit area, has 10 children—also all boys.
“That’s amazing,” said Dr. Bob Barbieri, who researches fertility issues and is chairman of obstetrics and gynecology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. “This is a miracle. It appears there is some type of genetic determination in some families that have a lot of girls or a lot of boys. It’s not well understood. It’s more than a statistical oddity.”
But is it more than a cultural oddity? Although still extremely rare, even with talk of the end of the baby bust, families like the Schwandts and the Duggars, whose 19 kids became famous on a TLC reality show, may help change the American idea that small families are better. Even celebrity couples like Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt and Victoria and David Beckham are bucking the trend for small families.
Like other big families, the Schwandts maneuver the logistical challenges smaller tribes don’t face. Grocery trips can be a daily affair because school lunches often mean going through an entire loaf of bread. Their “big bus” 15-passenger van shuttles the family to events and Sunday Mass. At home, a half dozen of the boys sleep in two bedrooms with bunk beds. Teri has a rule of no more than one pair of shoes for each boy in the entryway. Once they hit sixth grade, the boys do their own laundry.
“Someone’s responsible for unloading the dishwasher and loading it,” said Jay, 39, who has a land surveying business. “Someone vacuums the stairs. We heat the house with wood. We’re cutting wood, hauling it, and stacking it. They may not like it but they know they need to pitch in.”
Teri said she’s only known the gender of two babies before they were born. Believing a girl might arrive this time, the family settled on Jaynie for a name, a play on dad’s moniker. When Teri was nine days past her due date, an irregularity for her, they thought maybe, this time, it would be a girl.
“He would love a little girl,” Teri said of her husband. “He’s never done a daddy-daughter dance.”
Since the family hasn’t ruled out the possibility of more children, he may yet get the chance.