By: Jessica Weinberger
It’s a boy.
Jay and Kateri Schwandt have rejoiced over that phrase 13 times in the delivery room through their 22-year marriage. With 13 sons ranging in age from their eldest, Tyler, 23, down to Francisco, 4 months, cradle Catholics and NFP users Jay, 41, and Kateri, 40, are at the helm of a statistical conundrum.
But at home in Grand Rapids, Mich., Jay, an owner of a commercial land surveying company, and Kateri, a stay-at-home mom, consider their time on the national stage as a chance to highlight their Catholic faith and the joy that comes from following God’s plan.
What’s it like living in a home with 13 boys?
It’s chaotic. My wife says it’s like living in a locker room! Our boys play hockey and football, and during the school year they have homework and need help. By 11:30 at night, we’re exhausted. Because of the different ages, dynamics and personalities, there’s always something going on or breaking. We couldn’t do this without the help of the older boys, and my wife is the glue that holds us all together. We have two in college now, and our oldest son just got engaged, so we’re going to have a daughter-in-law, which is the closet, I think, we’ll ever get to a daughter.
Have you used natural family planning to practice abstinence and avoid pregnancy throughout your marriage?
We do practice NFP. Initially, we were young and had three children. I knew that we didn’t believe in birth control, but I was going to law school and she was in graduate school, and we wanted to avoid pregnancy. So we took the classes, and it worked!
The day that Tucker was born, number 12, I was getting a portion of the catechism sent everyday via email. That day, the email focused on how many children a good Catholic family should have. It said as many as God plans for you to have and realistically what you can financially support. I keep that as a reminder for when people give us a hard time. We can handle it and not everyone can.
Why have you chosen to not contracept?
It’s because of our faith and our beliefs. My wife’s biggest role model is her mom, and she had 14 children and lived a very faithful and spiritual life. When we first started dating, Kateri had talked about being a nun. She’s been very strong in her faith from day one, and that’s a big part of it.
What graces and blessings have flowed from the decision to adhere to the Catholic Church’s teaching on birth control?
The biggest joy is seeing all of the boys together. It’s just so rewarding to us. When we go to Mass on Sunday, we all go together. [We are adjusting to that] unit of all 15 of us changing, with a few going off to college and one getting married.
Do you believe God designed for you and your wife to have all of these boys?
There’s no doubt in my mind. I wouldn’t have it any other way ─ being married for 22 years with 13 kids and happier than ever before. We are raising 13 boys, and we are thankful for it every day.