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This mom of 12 has been pregnant during 16 of the last 19 years

Iris Purnell was expecting a baby every year between 2004 and 2019.
The Purnell family. 
The Purnell family. Courtesy of Iris Purnell
/ Source: TODAY

It should come as no surprise that Iris Purnell sometimes feels phantom baby kicks. The 38-year-old mom of 12 was pregnant every year between 2004 and 2019.

“When we’re all out together people will ask, ‘Is this a school field trip? Are they adopted? Are they really all yours?’” Iris told TODAY Parents, with a laugh. "They also want to know about our living arrangements and if we drive a bus."

Iris was 21 when she gave birth to her first child. A few months later, she met her husband, Cordell “Storm” Purnell, and they went on to welcome 10 more kids. Storm also has a son Junior from a previous relationship. 

Together, the Lancaster, California couple are raising Malikhai, 17; Junior, 16; Jahni, 15; Trinity, 13; Messiah, 12; Josiah, 10; Love, 9; Seven, 8; Michael, 6; Royal, 5; Heavenly, 4; and Hope, 3.

“I always thought I’d have two — a boy and a girl,” Iris revealed. “But this is so much better.”

The Purnells frequently share videos on social media of their family performing joyful choreographed dances. 

“We have dance battles with each other all the time,” Iris said. “We’re competitive!"

They’re also extremely organized. As Iris explained to TODAY, “you have to be when you have so many kids.”

The Purnells hold one family meeting per day, where they pray and study the Bible. It’s also a time for family members to address any issues. Iris encourages them to speak up if they need one-on-one time with Mom or Dad.

“We’ll discuss business ideas — and I’ll ask them hypothetical questions like, ‘If I were to give you $1,000 per week — what would you do with it?’” Iris said. “I’ve always encouraged them to think outside the box."

The older children all pitch in on household chores. Iris said Michael, who is starting first grade, just asked if he could take on a responsibility. 

“He wants to sweep the carpet on the stairs,” Iris shared. “When I said, ‘Yeah, you can have that job,' he was so excited.”

Iris, who is going to school for graphic design, had her tubes tied in 2019.

“My husband felt strongly that I needed to give my body a rest. He was worried something would happen to me,” she said. “I’m finally coming to terms with the fact that I won’t be bringing any more children into the world. I enjoyed the whole process.”