Early in their marriage, Dr. Lawrence Whaley and his wife, Marsha, talked of running an orphanage in a 3rd world country. Those plans never came to fruition, but they have dedicated themselves to loving and caring for children.
After having five biological children, they adopted seven more. Their twelve children, nine boys and three girls, range in age from four to 21. Ten live at home, and two are in college.
Dr. Whaley entered medical school with thoughts of becoming a medical missionary. He chose to complete residency training in both internal medicine and pediatrics, so he would be prepared to care for adults and children. During his residency, he even spent two months in Nigeria.
After his training, he and his wife pursued work in medical missions, but the dream was never realized. Instead, with their plans thwarted, Dr. Whaley practiced in Waco and Stephenville before opening his current practice, Internal Medicine & Pediatrics of Burleson.
Two years after having her fifth child, Mrs. Whaley browsed online at overseas adoption agencies for children with medical needs. She was curious and thought they might adopt sometime in the distant future. She was surprised to get a call the next day about a child. Although that child got adopted by another family, they learned about a girl from Russia with a hole in her heart who also needed a family. She had a sister, and the Whaley's agreed to adopt them both. During the adoption process, they also met a boy who needed a home, so in 2001 they added three children.
“We barely tapped on the door and it fell open for us,” said Mrs. Whaley. “All of our adoptions have been this way.”
Since then, they adopted four more boys: three adolescents from Russia and Ukraine, and a toddler from Guatemala after Hurricane Stan and the landslides of 2005 left the country devastated.
So, will they adopt more children?
"We don't have any definite plans to adopt more, but then again, we didn't have definite plans to adopt the first seven. We assume our family is complete, but we have thought that after each adoption," said Mrs. Whaley.
“I tell mothers of two children that my life is easier than theirs, but they don't believe it. With ten children at home, we’ve got plenty of hands to share the work. All the kids do housework and chores, and with so many children, there's not a lot of work I have to do,” said Mrs. Whaley, who still does most of the cooking and home schools four of the children.
Dr. and Mrs. Whaley admit that raising twelve children has plenty of challenges. Some of their adopted children have special medical needs or had difficulty with attachment.
Also, "cheaper by the dozen" might apply at the bakery, but not at home. "Keeping everyone fed and clothed does present some financial challenges. I don't buy new cars, but my perspective is that I'm investing in something more important," said Dr. Whaley.
Keeping food in the house is a never-ending struggle. Mrs. Whaley explained, “I always take help with me to the grocery store, and at times we’ve filled as many as five carts. I keep an eye on expenses, so when something is on sale, I might empty the whole shelf. Still, two days later, we seem to be out of food again.”
Just like food, quiet times and places are also in short supply. Mrs. Whaley, a musician and composer, makes time to play and compose. Music is a family priority: all of the children are in various stages of learning an instrument.
The Whaley’s do laundry every day, plus make a weekly catch-up trip to the laundromat for 10 to 12 loads. “We’ve learned to make life simpler by having a basket of white socks and a basket of black socks. Otherwise you could spend an entire day just matching socks,” said Dr. Whaley.
Although the challenges are many, the blessings are even greater.
"When I wake up in the morning, I know what I am supposed to do. I know I'm making a living for a purpose," said Dr. Whaley.
Both Dr. and Mrs. Whaley love children and enjoy watching them grow, deepening their relationships with the children, and observing the bonds between the siblings.
"Having more children in the home gives me more time to develop into the person that God called me to be. Plus, it postpones the empty nest syndrome for quite some time," said Mrs. Whaley.
"Being in a large family gives you more perspective on helping other people. Because so many have needs, you quickly learn to be unselfish," added Dr. Whaley.
Mrs. Whaley said, "I often tell God I'm the least qualified person to be doing this. But it's so fun. With God's help, you can do a whole lot more than you can imagine."