True Life: OIOm 24 and Love Having 13 kidsO; When Kelley Bretnall, 24, Babysat for Her neighbourOs Children, She Never Guessed sheOd Be Falling into the Parent Trap Waltons-Style I and She couldnOt Be Happier

The People (London, England), October 16, 2005 | Go to article overview

True Life: OIOm 24 and Love Having 13 kidsO; When Kelley Bretnall, 24, Babysat for Her neighbourOs Children, She Never Guessed sheOd Be Falling into the Parent Trap Waltons-Style I and She couldnOt Be Happier


Byline: AMY BRATLEY

OBalancing 10 loaves of bread in the overflowing shopping trolley, I pushed the heavy load around Asda in Southend.

OFeeding the 5,000?O joked the cashier as she scanned 30 tins of beans and 10 litres of orange juice.

OJust my 13 kids,O I smiled.

Ringing through my pounds 400 weekly grocery shop, the cashierOs eyes nearly popped out of her head.

I was used to the reaction. At 24, no-one can believe IOm mother to 13 children. And although seven of them are stepchildren, I love and care for all of them with my partner, Aubrey, 46.

I was 15 when I first met Aubrey.

Back then, in 1996, he was 39, unemployed and married to Lydia, then 31. They had seven kids and lived next door to me and my mum Lisa, now 49, in Southend.

I occasionally babysat the children.

But life wasnOt perfect next door.

Lydia was often to be found in the street, drunk and angry. OSheOs got some problems with alcohol,O Aubrey confided. OSometimes itOs tough for the kids.O It made me sad for them all. I felt touched Aubrey had told me and was happy to help. Besides, with my six brothers and sisters I was used to the bustle of having lots of kids around.

Then, after 10 years of marriage, Lydia suddenly left Aubrey and the kids. It was October 1996.

OShe said sheOs not coming back, that she canOt cope with the kids,O Aubrey said, shell-shocked. OHow am I going to cope?O

With his seven kids I Lee, 11, Wayne, 9, Rebecca, 7, Luke, 4, Maria, 3, Neil, 2, and Ryan, 1 I he had seven reasons to be very worried.

OIOll help you,O I said. I was 16, had left school and had no career plans, so spending more time at AubreyOs was no problem.

You could regularly find me next door, getting the kids into their blue and yellow uniforms, preparing toast and cereal for them, or running errands like shopping and taking one to the GP.

OWhereOs Mum?O the younger kids would ask.

OShe needs some time on her own,O IOd always reply, giving each of them a reassuring cuddle.

A year of helping Aubrey and seeing how caring he was with the kids made me view him differently. I fell for him. It wasn't a rush of love, it was more like a slow burn.

OWeOre doing all right, arenOt we?O he asked one night as we sat on the sofa after IOd got the kids to bed. OThanks for all your help, Kelley.O Then, suddenly, we were kissing. And it felt right.

Six months later, I moved next door to AubreyOs. OAre you sure you can handle all those children?O Mum asked.

But she was great, she fully understood I loved Aubrey, that he and the kids came as a package and I was already part of all their lives.

Initially, the kids were wary of me. But gradually they saw me as part of the family and grew in confidence.

OAubrey!O I shouted, one December morning in 1997, OIOm pregnant,O I grinned, as he rushed to the bathroom.

Goodness only knew where weOd put the baby. We hadnOt planned to have any more children, weOd used protection. And with nine of us in the house, where would we squeeze another baby?

The shocks kept coming. OYouOre expecting twins,O said the doctor at the Royal London Hospital, Whitechapel, at my six-week scan.

How would we afford twins I Aubrey was still out of work?

OWeOll cope,O Aubrey soothed. And after a complicated birth, our beautiful girls, Sherri and Sherrel, were born. They were a handful, but we coped.

Even when I had Byron, now 5, within two years, we managed.

Then, one night in January 2000, as Aubrey went up to bed, he complained of chest pains before collapsing.

Sobbing, I called an ambulance, asked Mum to look after the kids then went offf with Aubrey to the Royal London Hospital.

ODonOt die,O I prayed as the doctors explained heOd had a serious heart attack. For two long weeks Aubrey fought his way back to health. …

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