Super-parents Gil and Kelly Bates love babies so much, they can’t stop having them.
The couple, from Tennessee, U.S., celebrated the birth of their 18th child a month ago and are already praying for more.
The Bates look set to become the biggest family in the world one day, and are one baby behind the Duggars of Arkansas, who have 19.
‘We will have many more children if God allows it,’ said proud dad Gil, 45, a tree surgeon.
‘Children are a blessing and God has blessed us many, many times.’
Devoted mum Kelly, 43, said: ‘We just love children and every baby brings extra joy to our family. The most exciting time is when a new baby comes.
‘We all wonder are the boys going to be ahead, or are the girls going to be ahead?’
The couple married 23 years ago, and Kelly has been pregnant for almost every year.
Their massive brood range includes Zach, 21, Michaela, 20, Erin, 18, Lawson, 17, Nathan, 16, Alyssa, 15, Tori, 14, Trace, 13, Carlin, 12, Josie, 11, Katie, 10, Jackson, 8, Warden, 7, Isaiah, 5, Addallee, 4, Ellie, 3, Callie-Anna, 1, and Judson Wyatt, one month.
Dad Gil is busy extending their home which already has five bedrooms, eight bathrooms, two kitchens, a huge dining room with a 14ft table and its own nursery and a schoolroom.
The Bateses make many of their own clothes and refuse to have a TV in the house, spending their spare time playing games, singing and playing instruments.
At weekends they go out singing together at old people’s homes to spread goodwill.
Gil runs a tree surgery business with some of his older sons while Kelly, a housewife, teaches all the younger children at home.
The family gets through a massive amount of food each week–polishing off 48 eggs, four packs of bacon, 40 scones and two large loaves of bread each breakfast time.
‘The dining table is so big I can’t really hear the people at the far end,’ said Gil.
The house has four huge washing machines and two industrial dryers to cope with the seven loads of washing that needs to be done every day.
‘The kids are very responsible and caring of each other,’ said Kelly.
‘I hardly even cook these days.’
Gil and Kelly met at college in South Carolina in 1986.
They married in 1987 and Kelly fell pregnant soon after.
‘I didn’t want any children at all when I was younger,’ said Kelly. ‘I wanted to be a career woman. I didn’t enjoy babysitting. But over time God changed my heart.’
After Gil finished college, the babies came thick and fast. For the first 15 years Kelly was pregnant every single year.
‘I was pregnant more than I wasn’t pregnant,’ said Kelly.
‘I always loved having lots of brothers and sisters,’ said Zach, the eldest, 21, who is a volunteer fire fighter, as well as working for his dad.
‘There’s always someone to play with. There’s always a friend. I don’t know what being lonely feels like.’
After the couple’s 16th child, Ellie, now three, Kelly suffered two miscarriages.
‘That was one of the hardest times in our lives,’ said Gil, who has delivered 11 of his children.
Doctors told Kelly that the miscarriages were caused by low progesterone levels so, after some hormone replacement, she fell pregnant yet again.
Baby number 17, Callie-Anna Bates, was born on August 2, 2009.
On September 15, 2010 Judson Wyatt, the family’s eighth boy and 18th child was born.
The brothers and sisters sometimes argue but the Bates’ say they are usually one big happy family.
Nathan, 17, said: ‘None of us would change our family for the world.
‘It’s currently eight boys and ten girls.
‘We’ve got a bit of a race going and Mom needs to have two more boys to settle it.’
The Bates family (from left to right) Ellie, Addallee, Isaiah, Warden, Jackson, Katie, Josie, Carlin, Trace, Tori, Alyssa, Nathan, Lawson, Erin, Michaella, Kelly holding Judson Wyatt and Gil holding Callie-Anna.