A mum-of-16 helped deliver her daughter’s baby on the dining room floor while waiting for an ambulance.
It was a first for Jeni Bonell, who told The Mirror she is ‘used to giving birth to babies, not catching them’.
She said the birth of Zariella was a ‘special’ moment for her family, with her husband also offering a helping hand during the delivery.
The couple, from Toowoomba, Australia, have a total of 16 children, aged between 32 and seven.
Describing her granddaughter’s birth, Jeni, 52, told The Mirror: “I delivered her myself on the dining room floor. It was so special.
“To have that honour of holding my granddaughter when she entered the world was amazing.
“I didn’t have it on my bucket list but it probably should have been. I am used to giving birth to babies, not catching them.”
Jeni said she was talking to her daughter Brooke about going back to hospital when things escalated and she began to give birth.
Brooke had already been sent home from the hospital once that day as medical staff had told her she was still ‘too early’.
“Everyone else went to sleep and I stayed up with my daughter helping her breathe though her contractions,” Jeni said.
“Then she had some big contractions and things went full steam ahead. We did what we had to do.
“We phoned 000 and an ambulance was on the way. A lady was talking to us over the phone but it happened so fast I wasn’t concentrating on what she was saying.
“I have delivered 16 of my own babies so I got the gist of what would happen.”
After ‘catching’ her granddaughter, Jeni made sure the umbilical cord was not wrapped around her neck and checked that the newborn was breathing, before finally turning to face her husband.
She added: “I looked over at my husband with my mouth open like ‘what the heck just happened’.
“He was remarkable, he didn’t panic. He grabbed a towel and wrapped the baby up.
Jeni and her electrician husband Ray were left beaming from ear to ear after the birth on September 7.
However they have not always had such positive experiences with pregnancies.
The mum-of-16 told The Mirror that she has actually been pregnant 23 times – but suffered seven miscarriages.
She still marks the birthdays of each of her ‘angel babies’ by lighting a candle or having a moment’s reflection.
Jeni said: “If you have a big family you are more likely to face it a few times. I haven’t fallen pregnant again since our last loss when I was 46.
“Miscarriages are a taboo subject to talk about but so many people go through it. We have been very open and talk to our kids about it.
“We still celebrate those babies, they are still a part of our family. Each of our lost babies have an angel baby name.
“On each of their birthdays I will often have a little chat about it or light a little candle. It’s a little way of remembering for our family.”
She said it is important for people who have lost their babies to be able to speak to their family and friends about it – and to seek professional help if necessary.
The Bonell Family)
Jeni has now accepted she will probably not have any more children due to her age.
“We would love to have more but age is going to catch up eventually,” she said.
“We might have to wait for some grandchildren. We welcomed our first grandchild in 2019.
“We’ve said there’s no pressure on the kids to have children but if they had three each that would be 48 grandchildren.
“That would make a lot of fun for us. I hope there are always some little feet running through this house.”
Jeni is sad that almost half of her children have now flown the nest, leaving just nine at home.
However, she is enjoying being a grandmother, which means she gets ‘all the snuggles and the good stuff and can then hand them back to their parents’.
If more of Jeni and Ray’s children have their own kids, it could make Christmas even more tricky as the family already struggle to fit everyone in the house.
Jeni said: “We used to sit under the Christmas tree and hand out presents.
“But last year we had so many of us here we had to take all the gifts outside and sit out the back of the house and open them all out there.
The Bonell Family)
“We’ll be opening them in the garden again this year as we’ve got even more people coming – around 30 so far.”
Jeni and Ray are parents to Jesse, 32, Brooke, 30, Claire, 28, Natalie, 26, Karl, 25, Samuel, 23, Cameron, Sabrina, 20, Tim, 19, Brandon, 17, Eve, 15, Nate, 14, Rachel, 13, Eric, 11, Damian, 10, and seven-year-old Katelyn.
They are also the grandparents of Levi, two, Aurora, two, Remington, one, Xavier, eight-months-old, Robert, eight-weeks old, and seven-week-old Zariella.
Jeni, who usually spends around £232 on her weekly shop, said it is not always easy to be mum to so many children – and admitted she has made mistakes like every other mother.
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Recalling a particularly memorable blunder, she said: “I left one of the children at home once during a school drop off.
“We got to one of the schools and I realised I’d left one behind. Our kids think it’s funny to answer on behalf of another when we do roll calls on the bus.
“We did a roll call that day and one of them answered for the other but they weren’t on the bus. After that I started actually looking at them to make sure they were there.”
The mum found it difficult to homeschool her children during the lockdowns in Australia and she now has a newfound respect for teachers.
“I was teaching kids from Year 12 to prep level. We didn’t have enough technological equipment, there weren’t enough computers to share around,” she said.
“Keeping everyone on task and motivated was tough. I now realise how much effort it takes to teach little ones, but we got through it.”
Jeni has also had to fight cancer during the pandemic after being diagnosed with kidney cancer earlier this year – four years after she beat thyroid cancer.
Surgeons removed a tumour from her kidney in February.
She said: “I had open surgery and have got an eight-inch scar. It took months to get back walking but I am good now.
“I can say I am cancer-free at the moment.”