Elena Pavia is 42 years old and has 13 children. When quizzed about their names and ages it takes some thought before rattling off the clan.
“Carlos is 23, Manu is 16, Bosco is 14, Pablo is 12, Beltran, Nicolas is 10, Elena is 8, Luca is 7, Lourdes is 5, Teresa is 4, Maca is 3, Jaime is 1 and Maximo is 6 months old.”
They’re all hers – blood of her blood, flesh of her flesh and no sets of twins! Many share her distinct physical features and personality traits. It’s obvious when you meet them that she’s the one who carried them in her womb and gave them life.
But despite the incredible number of children, in so many ways Elena is like most women who choose to have a family.
She’s young, attractive in body and spirit, intelligent, determined, courageous and humble; much like many mothers we know. But where Elena excels is in her capacity to love. She has a love with few limits, a love capable of loving devoutly her husband, his name is Manolo and is also 42 years old, and all 13 kids.
She’s not afraid of life, in fact she says there are few things better in this world than sharing in the miracle of life. That’s why she was happy to abandon her fledgling career in human resources to become a full-time mum.
But it’s been far from easy and there have been tragic and traumatic moments. In 2006, six months after she brought her sixth child, Beltran, into the world, he passed away unexpectedly from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), also known as cot death.
But like all great stories of redemption, it was through this terrible tragedy that she re-discovered her faith in God and wanted to be even more generous, more loving.
Once her life was based firmly in God the next shock was more bearable and quickly turned into her greatest joy; her 11th child, Macarena, was born with Down Syndrome.
Elena believes Macarena has been one her greatest blessings. When she’s having a rough day she only has to look at Macarena who’s almost always smiling to remember how good life is and that there’s nothing to worry about.
There are many more hurdles that come with being a mother of a large family. One mountain Elena is only learning to climb now is balancing her time between her teenagers who need a lot more emotional and psychological support and her toddlers and infants who needs are mainly physical.
So it’s not easy and that’s why she doesn’t say having heaps of kids is for everyone. She has friends who she feels two, three or four is definitely more than enough, any more and they may end up in a psychiatric hospital. But one thing she can’t stand is when people say no to children purely based off economic reasons.
She and Manolo came to Australia from Spain with their family (which was already large) in 2010. They had some money from selling their assets in Spain but no job prospects and to make matters worse Manolo couldn’t speak English. But they weren’t worried as money is for them the least of their worries.
And Elena wanted to share her secret formula for how to stay happy, joyful, stress free and preserve that youthful glow while being a busy mum. She says it’s all about waking up and asking the Lord Jesus for help to get through the day.