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You Have 8 Children? Don’t You Know What Causes Those?

Master of Public Administration. Married with 4 boys and 4 girls. Wealth of humorous, faith-filled, and fascinating experiences.

Our Family

Ortega Family: 4 boys and 4 girls

Ortega Family: 4 boys and 4 girls

8 Children? Why?

Whenever I am asked if I have a family, I tell people there are 10 of us. We have 4 boys and 4 girls. I have 8 children!

Their responses include, "Wow!" "Don't you know what causes them?" "Do you watch TV at all?" "Are you Mormon?" "Is that a daycare?"

My answers include, "We are still 61 shy of the world’s record!" "Yes, we are Catholic. I have one wife and one marriage.” “Yes, I have a few theories about what causes them." "We do have a TV and we watch it. "That's not a daycare, that's my family!"

But the two most important questions are, "Why?" and, "How do you do it?"

How Many Children Are Too Many?

One of the most important conversations we had during our engagement was about how many children we should have. I said I would like to have two children. She said three. I said OK.

And that's what we agreed to when we were first married. God obviously had other plans.

Artificial Birth Control: The Pill is a Known Carcinogen

At first, we were using artificial birth control. We both had religious and health concerns. We knew that the Catholic Church taught that artificial birth control is unacceptable. I had learned in biology class that the pill can cause a fertilized egg to be flushed outside of the body. That horrified me.

The pill can render the user infertile. It is a class 1 carcinogen, meaning it is KNOWN to cause cancer like smoking cigarettes or being exposed to asbestos. I certainly did not want that kind of risk for my wife. We signed up for natural family planning (NFP) classes.

Wedding Photo: Cutting Cake Together

Married on 5/29/93

Married on 5/29/93

Natural Family Planning

I had reservations about practicing NFP. I thought, "Isn't there a high failure rate with the so called rhythm method?

Our instructor explained that NFP is not the rhythm method. It is not a counting method. It does not assume that a woman's body has regular menstrual periods. Instead, it assumes that most women's periods are not regular. It identifies signs of fertility (or infertility) by observing and charting a woman's natural bodily changes (presence or absence of mucus) on a daily basis.

We learned that becoming pregnant while trying to postpone children is not a failure, but a wonderful grace. The term, “Contraception failure rate" implies that the goal is to prevent life. Children are not a "failure." Children are not a disease to be eliminated by pills. Children are a gift from God.

”He needs to get fixed“ is also a troublesome statement. This “advice” implies that there is something broken, that there is a problem to "fix." Fertility is not a problem. It is a blessing.

The instructor showed me how I needed to allow God to work on my view about children, my body and our ability to procreate. I needed to be even more "open" to children.

We learned a new acronym, "SPICE." Couples need to develop the spiritual, physical, intellectual, communicative and emotional aspects of their lives.

  • Spiritual-Spend time praying together.
  • Physical-Go for a walk. Hold hands. Dance.
  • Intellectual-Read and discuss a book.
  • Communicative-They say the average couple only talks about 5 minutes a day with each other. Try and develop more communication.
  • Emotional-Share your feelings.


Trying For Our First Child: Infertility?

After a year of practicing NFP, we were ready to start our family. The method helped us to identify signs of fertility (presence of mucus), an ideal time for conception. But no mucus was observed, a sign of infertility.

Weeks and months went by with no signs of fertility or pregnancy. We were trying, but no children. We were growing more and more concerned. I had wondered if my wife had been rendered infertile by using the pill.

We turned to prayer. We were active with a Catholic Charismatic community. We told the prayer team that Nancy was having, "female problems." They laid hands and asked for the anointing and healing of the Holy Spirit. We were comforted and went home with a sense of God's healing presence.

The next day we had a God moment. A miracle! For the first time, Nancy’s body showed signs of fertility! Praise God!

Mom! Dad! We're Gonna Have a Baby!

After nearly 2 years of trying, the Lord answered our prayers. Nancy and I were going to have our first child! We scheduled an ultrasound. I will never forget that day.

Nancy was on the examination table. When the image of our child was on the screen, the song, "Heaven is a Place on Earth" played over the hospital speakers. I was filled with unspeakable joy. The song was perfect timing!

Ooh, baby, do you know what that's worth?
Ooh, heaven is a place on earth
They say in heaven, love comes first
We'll make heaven a place on earth
Ooh, heaven is a place on earth

-Belinda Carlisle

Nancy and I called our parents and all of our close friends and family. We're going to have a baby!

Our First Miracle: Alissa at 3 Months

whats-it-like-raising-8-children

Children born on Christmas, Mother’s Day and Good Friday

Alissa was born in September of 1996. Noelle was born on Christmas of 1997. Our son Michael was born in 1999, Hannah in 2001, Ben on Good Friday in 2003, Dominic on Mother's Day in 2004, Grace in 2007 and Isaac in 2011. (We are not trying to cover all of the holidays).

With NFP, you can choose to space your children by using days of infertility. Each couple is asked to continue to be open to children with each marital act. If you are not open, you are asked to wait for an infertile day or abstain. You can go for a walk.

There are times we did NOT want to go for a walk!

Demanding Way of Salvation

To marry and embrace the fruits of marriage is to choose a particularly demanding way of salvation.

— Richard Gaillardetz

Large Family Sacrifices

It's a sacrifice. My wife is a saint. We are called to lay down our lives for one another.

The early days of diapers and car seats were exhausting. We had a strong church community and friends and family who helped us. We are blessed to have had two wonderful girls born first. They were able to babysit the younger ones.

Time management is key. Excel spreadsheets and extra large calendars line the refrigerator. There is a chore chart. There are so many magnets and papers on the refrigerator, we hope it doesn't tip over! We have to schedule school activities and sports, music and our spiritual exercises. We also have to schedule one-on-one time with each child.

When we had 7 children, I used to say we had one child for each day of the week. On their day, they get to decide the dinner menu or choose a book or special way to spend individual time with mom and dad.

Bil Keane/AP modified by David Ortega

Bil Keane/AP modified by David Ortega

God Helps us to Raise 8 Children

There is a saying, “It's hard to stumble if you are on your knees." Raising a large family is possible by the grace of God. He sends His Holy Spirit to be our Advocate.

The family that prays together stays together are words to live by. We do our best to make it to church on Sunday and have regular family prayer time. We pray the rosary regularly. Our children especially like the Easter Vigil celebration because the faithful enter the church with candle light. After the service, we gather in the parish hall to recognize any newcomers to the church and play cards.

Easter Vigil Celebration with Family

whats-it-like-raising-8-children

Electronic Games vs Board Games

All of our children have electronic devices. We can message several children at one time: Meal plans, picking someone up, changes in plans, reminders, news items and more.

The down side is that they spend a lot of time on them. We try to find ways to “fast" from our electronic devices. We play card games like revolution, hearts, and kings in the corner. We play board games like Monopoly. If using our electronic devices, we find games we can all play like Among Us, Spyfall and HeadsUp.

In the summer, we like to get outdoors to bike, fish, hike or visit a park. We play Frisbee, carpet ball, bocce ball and prison ball.

Family Playing Prison Ball

Open to God and His Plans

We have no immediate plans for additional children. However we continue to remain open to God and His plans. We remain humble and dependent upon Him. We trust that He will continue to provide. The sacrifice of time and finances are great ones. But He has not let us down so far!

Jeremiah 29:11

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a future full of hope.

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