Be careful what you pray for. We went through nine years of infertility and had at least 11 miscarriages. But I kept praying to become a mother. And God certainly answered my prayers—and then some—because now we have 12 children!
When you have a dozen children, life is a little hectic. We do five loads of laundry every day. We spend over $1,000 each week on groceries and have four full-size freezers in our garage to store food. We recently purchased 12 lockers so the kids have their own space for their coats, backpacks and all their shoes. We need a 15-seat passenger van to go anywhere. I go to bed at 11 each night and wake up at 4 in the morning to get everything done. It’s amazing what you can get done if you’re on the go for 19 hours each day! Our days are loud and full of chaos, but they’re also meaningful and full of love.
We became known as The Dougherty Dozen in a fairly unique way. During the pandemic lockdown, we were losing our minds because we were all quarantined together. Imagine all of us in the same house 24 hours a day for months on end. Since the kids were doing their school work from home, we were forced to upgrade the wi-fi in our house to a business account because we were using so much bandwidth. It was getting a little claustrophobic in our house and our nerves were frayed, so I started making silly videos to entertain our family and make them laugh. Just for fun. I then posted a fast-motion meal prepping video to Tik Tok and it went viral, and we became somewhat of a social media sensation. Now we post videos nearly every day of what our life is like. We are real and authentic, and our lives can be messy. We’re just trying to do our best, and hoping to inspire others along the way.
We can certainly see God’s hands in every phase of building our family, from the moment my husband and I met. We were both at other colleges and decided to transfer to the same college at the same time and enroll in the same special education classes. What are the chances?
After a very long infertility battle, we decided to build a family through adoption. We adopted a five-year-old son and that same week he proclaimed I had his sister in my tummy. Little did we know that six days later, we found out we were finally pregnant.
Several months after adopting our first son, we discovered he had fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD). It’s a condition where alcohol passes from a mom to a baby’s body through the umbilical cord. Children with FASD can have poor executive functioning skills and are prone to explosive rage, anger issues and trouble with transitioning. We had no idea that he had FASD, and wondered what we had gotten ourselves into.
But we dove headfirst into researching and reading about FASD, and tried to figure out how to best meet his needs. Slowly, he began to trust us. We dealt with it through medication, supplements, therapy and a lot of prayer.
We also realized his behaviors did not phase us as parents. God prepared me for dealing with a child like this early in my life. My brother had bipolar disorder. It was common for my brother to have explosive outbursts, so I wasn’t flustered when our son was doing this. I grew up with this behavior and thought it was normal. And my husband wasn’t rattled; he was raised by a single mom who had to work three jobs to make ends meet. He is determined to be the great father that he never had.
Realizing that we were able to help our son become happy and healthy in spite of his diagnosis, we started to become more aware of children in the foster care system that suffered from FASD and were not having successful placements. We were known in the DHR community as the couple that might be open to taking care of kids with FASD. Throughout the years, we kept getting asked if we could take care of one more child with FASD. We could have said no since life was finally getting settled, but we always want to walk the walk and not just talk the talk. The guiding Bible verse for us as a couple is John 14:18 which says ‘I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.’ And one of our personal mottos is: “There’s always room for one more!”
All eight of our non-biological children have been affected by FASD to some degree. Some of the children we have adopted have been extreme cases and have been classified by DHR as “unadoptable”. Some were placed for adoption with other families but ended up back in the Foster Care system because these families were unable to handle their FASD-related behaviors. But we don’t see them that way. They are all God’s children.
Our Christian faith is central to how we are raising our kids. We try to teach them kindness, acceptance and inclusion. To love people as they are and not judge them. We need to look past people’s faults and know that everyone needs a friend. If Jesus loved the least of these, then so can we. And a lot of times, we ourselves are the least of these.
I know it’s been said that God won’t give you more than you can handle. But on those extremely hectic days with 12 kids, He obviously thinks too highly of us as parents!
(Photo credit: Macpherson Photography)