Published: Thursday, May 15, 2008
ABBOTSFORD — Eighteen roses fill a vase in Livia Ionce’s living room — one red flower for each of her 17 children, and one for the baby she’s expecting in July.
The birth will make her B.C.’s most prolific mother in the past 20 years.
Livia smiles at the mention of the Mother’s Day bouquet and what the unfurling blooms represent.
A more permanent representation of her family hangs on a nearby wall. The photo shows the Abbotsford woman and her husband, Alexandru, surrounded by their increasing family.
“We never once in our life planned how many children we should have. We always left it in God’s hands,” says Alexandru, shrugging his shoulders as he looks at the photo.
So far, that has meant 18 babies in 24 years for the 51-year-old Romanian immigrant and his 44-year-old wife.
The couple celebrated their 24th wedding anniversary on Tuesday. Plans to go out for dessert were postponed when their youngest daughter, Paula, came down with the flu.
“We will go another time,” says Livia.
The couple’s 17 children range in age from 23 years to 20 months — nine girls and eight boys.
None are twins and all were born naturally, except four-year-old Filip, who was born by C-section. He sits quietly beside his mother during the interview and smiles when he is mentioned.
The couple’s seven-bedroom home, while neat and clean, is full of life. The children share bedrooms — and two bathrooms — without much complaint.
“It’s fun,” says 22-year-old Alexandra. “My family is something I wouldn’t change if I could.”
The well-spoken nurse’s aide says the most common question friends ask her is how she remembers all her brothers’ and sisters’ names. She shakes her head at the question and says it’s no problem — especially since the entire family is involved in naming each new arrival.
The Ionce household appears to run on organization and love.
The children are close and, without a TV, spend much of their free time playing together and doing their assigned household chores.
Livia does most of the cooking. Two whole chickens are roasting in her oven during the interview. She plans to make rice later.
“I thank God we have never had to go to bed hungry. We have always had enough,” says Alexandru, admitting times were difficult when an accident at a factory left him without the use of his right hand for months.
The family’s darkest days came two years ago, when diabetic neuropathy prevented Alexandru from working at his construction job. While doctors said the pain was chronic, the family prayed for him and he says now he has no pain.
Health is something Alexandru and Livia do not take for granted, mentioning it numerous times in conversation.
“At this point, my wife feels good,” says Alexandru. “God gave her a healthy body and, because we trust God, we let God decide what will happen.”
When asked if the couple plans to have more children, he says simply: “We don’t want to stop life, because life comes from God.”
NINE GIRLS AND EIGHT BOYS
The Ionce children, in chronological order:
Alexandra : 22;
Paula: 20 months.