Carissa and Patrick Douglas pose with 12 of their 13 children (and one on the way). mddphotography

Family with 14th child on the way pulls together in faith

  • September 11, 2020

The thought of 14 children would be inconceivable for most couples these days but for Carissa and Patrick Douglas it’s a dream come true.

On their third date after meeting in June 2001 at a preparation retreat for Pope John Paul II’s 2002 World Youth Day visit to Toronto, Patrick asked how many children Carissa wanted. Hesitant to confess she hoped to have a dozen, she offered him two answers.

“As many children as God will trust me with,” she said.  

As he hugged her tight, she also whispered, “The other answer is 12.”

“You won’t believe this, but I’ve always wanted 14 kids,” he told her.

To Carissa’s surprise Patrick had been inspired by a family of as many children he met on a visit to Ireland as a child.

By the time World Youth Day came around in July 2002, the couple was married and pregnant with their first child. Number 14  is expected January 2021.

“I return fondly to that moment each time our family grows,” said Patrick, associate director of Family Life and Special Projects at the Archdiocese of Toronto. “It reminds me of how God is faithful to the desire He places in our hearts, a dream that began for me at the age of 12 after meeting a very warm and joyful family with 14 children.”

In their seven-bedroom home in Georgina Ont., their nine girls and four boys are roomed in groups of two or three depending on age and gender. Carissa says while it was all-consuming in the early years of their marriage when they had just a few young children, it has gotten easier the larger the family has grown as they now have “a lot of happy hands” to help out.

“It’s like building a fire where in those initial phases of trying to get the fire going, you have to constantly feed it, build it up and give it a lot of attention,” she said. “But once you get it going, you just kind of get to sit back and enjoy the warmth. That’s kind of where we’re at right now. It’s just enjoying the fruits of it.”

Given their family size, the couple have found it easier to homeschool which Carissa says has made their children’s schedules more manageable. Though extra-curricular activities like martial arts and swim classes were paused due to quarantine restrictions, Carissa says COVID-19 has not impacted them as much as other homeschooling families given the built-in community they have going. Also, with her husband working from home and saving precious time not having to make the hour commute to and from Toronto, the family has been able to enjoy more together time.

“It simplified things so that we were just able to kind of focus on everything around the house and take that time to kind of enjoy each other,” said Carissa. “Even larger families who homeschool still can get very busy running outside with the extracurricular things so (quarantine) made things a bit quieter.”

A published author and illustrator of her own line of Catholic children’s books and teen novels under the Little Douglings brand, Carissa uses the time her children work on their school assignments and projects to work on her own writing and drawings. The premise of the series is a group of children given a mission from God and He sends them a saint to assist them along the way. She recently completed writing a novel entitled Lair of Illusion featuring St. John Henry Newman.

With the line of books, Carissa is happy to give parents something enjoyable for their children to read while reinforcing the values they hope to instill. The series was picked up by an American publisher a few years ago.

In a world where many women feel they need to choose between a successful career and having lots of children, Carissa says she is grateful to be in a position to challenge perceptions of what is possible for mothers with a family her size.

“It’s crazy, I just finished my next novel and it’s due to come out around the time baby number 14 is going to be delivered,” she said.

“It has been a very fruitful life.”

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