Mother of Fourteen Offers Opportunity of a Lifetime
Submitted by: Shelltown Productions Ltd
(OPENPRESS) September 15, 2009 -- You may think that giving birth to 14 children is a remarkable achievement. But for 50-year-old Patricia Sparkes, it's just the tip of the iceberg.
As Patricia Sparkes stared lovingly down at her newborn daughter, Lydia, tears of pride welled in her eyes. Treasuring the moment, she studied every minute detail - her perfect, plump face, her tiny finger nails. It was one of the happiest moments of her life.
Patricia is no stranger to happiness. As a mother of 14, she can name 13 equally joyous times in her life. 'I love children and the incredible feeling you get when you meet your baby for the first time,' she explains. 'Cradling my youngest child Lydia was no different to holding my first born. Every birth is as special as the last.'
One of five children, Patricia started her large family at the age of 17. She recalls: 'I always wanted children and was delighted when I first fell pregnant. 'Everything went smoothly, I found the whole experience magical. I loved feeling the baby move inside me, knowing it was a new life.'
When Andrea, now 32, was born, Patricia found being a first-time mum more difficult than she'd anticipated. 'Everyone warns you about the sleepless nights, crying and round- the-clock feeds,' she explains. 'But I didn't realise how hard it could be until the baby arrived. 'Babies don't come with a manual telling you how to bring them up, like all parents I had to learn as I went along.'
But as Andrea grew, things didn't get any easier. 'She would scream so much she'd have nosebleeds and would repeatedly bang her head on things,' Patricia reveals. 'She wouldn't look at me or let me cuddle her. It was heartbreaking. 'Doctors put it down to bad behaviour, but I knew it was more than that.'
Patricia insisted on further investigation and eventually it was confirmed that Andrea was autistic. 'I was shocked and upset, but also relieved,' she says. 'At least now I could learn about her condition and how to deal with it and move on.'
Soon after, Patricia fell pregnant with her second daughter, Christine, now 28. Looking after two babies came as a surprise. 'It was so much easier second time around,' Patricia smiles. 'It's still tiring and hard work but I knew what to expect - I was more prepared.'
Patricia loved being a Mum to her two girls, but when her first marriage broke down, she began to think her baby-making days were over. Then she met her second husband and it wasn't long before they decided to have more children.
Nicola, now 25, arrived next, followed by Holly just a year later. With four young children, Patricia then discovered she was expecting twins, Anthony and Liam. Bethany, 20, Miranda, 19, and Dominic, 17 then arrived in quick succession.
'The more children I had, the more I wanted,' Patricia grins. 'I loved being a Mum to all those lovely little people. It's such a buzz having all their different personalities around the house.'
As Patricia watched her family grow, her son Dominic began to have fits as a baby. "We discovered Dominic had epilepsy and was also autistic,' Patricia explains. 'It was a huge blow, but I could cope better with it this time, as I had a better understanding of the condition."
Things became much worse when Patricia's marriage hit the rocks and she was left to fend for herself and her nine children, while pregnant with her 10th child. 'For a time I felt very sorry for myself,' she confesses. 'I would cry myself to sleep, worrying about how I'd cope on my own. It was a daunting time.'
But the self pity didn't last long. 'I knew I had to pull myself together and get on with it. I reminded myself they were my children, my responsibility - it was my duty to protect them.'
Patricia decided to leave her home in Lancashire and start a new life in Northern Ireland. 'I had to do it for the children,' she insists. 'We weren't living in a nice area, I got a lot of abuse just because I had so many children. 'People would shout at me in the street, call me names - I wasn't prepared to bring them up there.'
Patricia boarded a ferry to Ireland with her 10 children. 'It was a frightening step to take,' she admits. 'But I had to be strong for the children.'
The family soon settled into their new lives and Patricia was busy raising her huge family single-handedly. Her days consisted of changing nappies, making beds, preparing meals, washing, ironing, school runs and helping with homework.
'Despite having ten children running about I felt lonely,' Patricia reveals. 'But I didn't have time to even think about romance. 'I did worry about the lack of a father figure, particularly for the boys. 'I'd find myself kicking a football about with them while tea was cooking, trying to be a Dad for them, too.'
Months later, on a rare night out while visiting her mum back in Lancashire, Patricia met Bernard, 39. 'I'd had a couple of drinks when I noticed a man across the bar. He was so handsome and our eyes kept meeting,' Patricia giggles. 'He came over, we got chatting and just clicked - I felt like I'd known him my whole life.' 'I don't think he believed me at first when I told him I had 10 children - I think he thought I was trying to put him off.'
The couple kept in touch and took things slowly at first, but the long distance relationship was hard and soon Patricia and Bernard decided they wanted to be together. Bernard moved to Ireland and they married in 1998.
'Bernard and the children got on well straight away,' Patricia smiles. 'I was so happy. Bernard was so supportive, my best friend and to top it all - a great Dad too. 'I was delighted when he suggested having another baby."
It wasn't long before Patricia was expecting Oliver, now ten. As the family continued to expand, Patricia was thinking of ways to entertain her brood.
'I'd often jot stories down for the children, make up characters, then we'd all sit around while I told them a story,' Patricia says.
One day, as Patricia cooked an egg she came up with the inspiration for her children's book - Shelltown. 'I noticed one egg had a peculiar shell, all lumpy and wavy,' she explains. 'It gave me the idea for a character - Grandpa Crinkly, the oldest egg in Shelltown. The other characters grew from there."
Patricia would write bits in the little spare time she had and her picture story book entitled Shelltown 'The Meggabike', was published.
Since then, Patricia and Bernard have gone on to have three more children, William, 8, Beatrice, 7, and Lydia, now 5.
After 14 natural births, Patricia insists labour doesn't get any easier. 'People say the more children you have the easier it gets, but that certainly wasn't true in my case. 'Every birth was tough, but wasn't enough to put me off having more. The reward at the end is so fantastic.'
Remarkably, Patricia has maintained her svelte UK size 8 figure, with exercise and a healthy diet. 'I think it's very important to look nice and smart,' she says. 'I like to make an effort, wear nice clothes and feel good about myself. Having a large family doesn't mean you should let yourself go.'
Patricia's looking after herself even better after two recent health scares. April 2006 she was rushed to hospital with a suspected life-threatening pulmonary embolism and in the same year she spent Christmas Day in hospital, where a crash team had to revive her after she suffered fits and lost consciousness.
Despite all this, she picks herself up and carries on. 'I don't think of myself as a Supermum,' she explains. 'Whether you have one, two or fourteen children we're all the same. 'I've coped because I'm very organised and like to think I'm loving, caring and understanding.'
Patricia is also ambitious and hopes her Shelltown stories will soon be made into an animated TV series. Her husband Bernard gave up his job in Telecommunications and set up a small Production Company and managed to persuade singer Ronan Keating to join the production team and provide the voice for one of the main characters (Splat), as well as write and sing the theme tune for the series. A costume of the lead character 'Splat' was a huge hit when it appeared in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade in 2007.
She doesn't rule out the idea of more children either. 'It'd be wonderful to have more, but it's down to my biological clock,' Patricia says. 'I'd hate to think my baby-making days are over, but you never know what will happen in the future.' 'I'm just lucky to have been blessed with 14 wonderful children. I'm very proud of them all.'
The couple have recently completed a 28 day tour of the UK to promote an amazing chance of a lifetime!!!
The opportunity to be the voice of a cartoon character and share in the profits of their new children's animation!
En route they have been visiting Children's Hospitals and libraries, to donate copies of Patricia's book, Shelltown the Meggabike (ISBN 0-9551766-0-3), and show the animation pilot, but most of all they have put some smiles on some faces of some very sick children……
The winner of the prize will receive a two percent share in the Royalty Rights of 'Shelltown' and the opportunity to voice a character* in the animation. This means the lucky recipient will be cast alongside Ronan Keating, Johnny Vegas, Julian Fellowes and Sir Kenneth Branagh.
The competition will raise £75,000.00 for charity. This amount will be split equally between UNICEF, The National Autistic Society and the Marie Keating Foundation.
The charities that will be benefiting are close to Patricia's heart as two of her children are autistic, and with children being the main focus of her life UNICEF was an also natural choice. Finally, as cancer took the life of Ronan's mother so the foundation he set up in her name was also very fitting.
The auction will also raise the production costs for the Shelltown cartoon series and it will be the FIRST time in the world that the budget of any production will have been raised in this way.