This Mom Has 14 Kids. Here’s How She Runs a Smooth Household.
Karen Derrico, star of ‘Doubling Down With the Derricos,’ shows us how she and her husband manage their large family
“One, two. This way, now come on,” Karen Derrico says, encouraging her children as they dance down the family Soul Train line in their North Las Vegas home in tonight’s premiere of Doubling Down With the Derricos on TLC. The kids spin and show off their footwork. Dance is one way Karen keeps her 14 kids occupied. “We dance every day, throughout the day,” she explains.
Dance is also what brought Karen and her husband, Deon, together, years before they started their family. The two met in a Detroit club when Karen was supposed to be at church. “The Lord works in mysterious ways,” Karen says on the show, which has been in development and production for more than a year. And she’s not just talking about crossing paths with Deon. Karen is also talking about her journey with motherhood. After two miscarriages before successfully giving birth to the oldest Derrico child, plus a diagnosis of secondary infertility, which affects approximately 3 million women in the United States, Karen says she prayed that her dreams of “having as many children as God would allow” would come true. They did.
These days, Karen, 40, and Deon, 49, enjoy busting a move with their 14 naturally conceived children: singletons Darian, 14, and Derrick, 10; eight-year-old twins Dallas and Denver; six-year-old quintuplets Deniko, Dariz, Deonee, Daician, and Daiten; two surviving three-year-old triplets (their brother passed away shortly after birth) Diez and Dior; and one-year-old triplets whose names we will learn on the show, which also chronicles their arrival.
“People look at us now and say, ‘You have all these children. It must have been an easy journey.’ But it was not easy,” Karen tells ZORA. “[When I had the two miscarriages], I had a lot of questions like, ‘Why is this happening to me?’ No one in my family had this recurring loss, and no one could talk to me about it.”
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During Karen’s first full-term pregnancy in 2006, she was under the care of a high-risk specialist who discovered that she had a short cervix, a condition that makes it difficult to carry pregnancies to term. She was given progesterone, a hormone used to treat her condition, put on bed rest, and carried her daughter for 37 weeks. For every one of Karen’s five successful pregnancies after that, Karen had to have a cerclage — a treatment for a short cervix that involves using sutures or synthetic tape to help reinforce the cervix during pregnancy. From there, she continued giving birth without incident, for the most part, with the exception of terrible morning sickness. She has successfully given birth six times. Karen’s reason for so many multiples is overactive ovaries, which causes the release of multiple eggs per cycle.
“I don’t think it really hit me that [I was unique] until the last set of babies. I know it sounds strange, but I think it was something about that second set of triplets that has now made me realize this is a big deal,” Karen says. “Then I find out that I have overactive ovaries.”
Another factor for Karen’s expansive family: She and her husband come from large families, with several multiple births running on both sides. Stats were also in Karen’s favor. African American women have a higher chance of having twins than any other race, and the odds increase over age 35. Overall, according to the CDC, twin births have nearly doubled over the past four decades, while triplet and higher-order births quadrupled due to the rise in fertility treatments. Though Karen wasn’t exploring fertility treatments when she was trying to conceive, she was committed to her faith.
“It has just been a miracle for me to be able to conceive. I’m tiny, so that was a huge factor. [When I was pregnant with the second set of triplets,] the doctor said, ‘I don’t know if you should continue the pregnancy, because you’re so tiny,’” Karen recalls. “And I said, ‘God gave me these babies, and I’m going to carry it out. I’m not ending a pregnancy. I’m not doing selective reduction.’ I’m just very faith-based with that, and thank God we prevailed and they’re all here, healthy. We had one that passed away, but I don’t hold a grudge or get angry. That is my testimony, and that was my test.”
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Life in the Derrico household can be hectic. But Karen and Deon manage it well. Karen has a background in early childhood education, and Deon is an entrepreneur with multiple focuses on real estate investing, barbering, and cosmetology. All of the above require discipline and skill sets that come in handy for rising at 8 a.m. to begin the assembly-line process of preparing for the day: family meals, homeschooling, lessons in financial literacy, and more — with the oldest children pitching in to help their younger siblings when they can. Karen, a former flight attendant who describes herself as a “proud stay-at-home mom,” stresses that with so many people living under one roof, clear and effective communication is what gets them through their days.
“We let them know there’s 14 of ya’ll and two of us. With my early childhood background, I’ve been in those classrooms with one teacher for 20 children. So I felt like God was always preparing me for this, and I never knew it,” Karen says. “I find things that are age appropriate and on their level, and I talk to them that way. Then we also have each one teach one.”
“You’re going to see a really large family go through our challenges and ups and downs. But the way we deal with it is with love.”
Karen says she and her husband “don’t do tantrums” and have established that they are the “king and queen” who run the household under a strict daily routine. But the love is abundant and always there.
“We don’t ever want any of our children going outside of the house seeking love and validation for themselves. It starts right here,” Karen says. “They don’t ever have to search for love. They have enough right here.”
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Though she enlists the help of her oldest child, Darian, Karen is careful not to make the 14-year-old feel as though her responsibilities exceed that of a sister. “There’s a balancing act with her, because I don’t ever want her to feel like she’s Mommy,” Karen says. “I’m Mommy, she’s still a teenager, and we keep things appropriate for her.”
An integral part of the family is Karen’s mother-in-law, Marian Derrico. She moved from Deon’s native Detroit to assist the family. (Karen’s own mother can’t make it as often as she’d like due to caring for the 90-year-old family matriarch in their hometown of Kingstree, South Carolina.) Whenever they need some time alone, Marian is ready to provide at least a couple of hours of relief under the condition that they “don’t bring home any [more] babies.”
“She gets her little jokes in, [but] she gives us her days that she wants to give us. We don’t even ask,” Karen says. “We also get time when our children are in bed,” which is typically after 8 p.m. “[Deon and I] need our time to recoup, watch TV, and replenish. Sometimes it doesn’t require going out of the house. It’s just simply having the house quiet so you can hear your own thoughts. And that’s exactly how we do this. We know it’s 14 children, and we don’t trust our children with anyone other than our mothers. We just find time to make it work.”
Family costs run high. Karen, who breastfed all of the kids, told People that the family spends between $2,500 and $3,500 on groceries every month and go through 15 boxes of waffles and 20 rolls of toilet paper in a week.
Though Karen and Deon have a lot to manage under one roof, they have not ruled out the possibility of having more children. The Derricos prefer to leave the option open, because they have faith that whatever will be will be.
“It’s up to God, but you have to stay tuned [to the show] to see,” Karen says. “You’re going to see a really large family go through our challenges and ups and downs. But the way we deal with it is with love.”