December 11, 2015

Twenty Something / Christina Capecchi

Thirteen sons, no daughters, no reality TV shows

The wedding that Tyler Schwandt and his fiancée are planning could’ve been broadcast on national TV. But he’s perfectly content with a quieter, more intimate wedding Mass.

The 23-year-old Catholic from Rockford, Mich., has the distinction of being the firstborn of 13 boys, the family whose improbable boy streak went viral with the 12th pregnancy and generated another round of stories when a 13th son arrived in May. Crews from “The Today Show” and “Good Morning America” were at the Schwandts’ six-bedroom brick home before they had returned from the hospital, citing statisticians who set the odds of 13 consecutive boys at 1 in 8,000.

Each boy has felt like a one-in-a-million blessing to Jay and Kateri Schwandt, whose openness to life is rooted in their Catholic faith.

Ty absorbed those values his entire life, and considers his family the best marriage-prep he could’ve hoped for. He’s been changing diapers since third grade, and has a knack for getting a baby to sleep. When asked what he wants to do when he grows up, Ty has always offered the same answer: be successful, be happy and be a dad.

Growing up with so many brothers brought a series of practical jokes and broken windows, including one instance when the family’s pole barn didn’t have a single intact window, thanks to errant hockey pucks. Stuffed with backpacks and bunk beds and mounds of hockey pads, their house has been liked to a locker room by Kateri. Ty loves it.

He and his fiancée, Bailey, a 20-year-old college junior, plan to learn natural family planning before their July 2016 wedding. She has one sibling and used to imagine having two kids of her own one day, but has since raised it to four—a number Ty still considers far too low. “God has a plan for us,” Ty said. “I’ll be happy with whatever we’re blessed with. Every time we get on that subject, Bailey says, ‘Please, just give me one little girl.’ ”

After the birth of their 12th son in 2013, TLC offered the Schwandts a reality show. Jay and Kateri sat down to discuss the prospect with their older sons one autumn evening before supper, hashing out the pros and cons.

“I was never intrigued,” Ty said. “I liked the attention, but I never loved the attention, and it almost lasted a little too long for me. I’d rather live a simple, happy life. You see ‘Kate Plus 8,’ and the Duggars and all those other shows. They make a good run and then, in the end, they come crashing down. It wasn’t worth trying to be the exception.”

The money TLC offered didn’t justify the cost it would come at, Ty felt.

Surely the camera crew would’ve gravitated toward the handsome firstborn, turning his engagement into a major storyline and reducing the wedding sacrament to a heavily-marketed, special episode.

No thanks, says Ty. “We want our wedding to be intimate. I’m glad we’re able to keep this in the family.”

Just reading the online comments strangers have written about his family is enough to make his stomach turn. Saying no to reality TV, as he sees it, is a yes to privacy, serenity and family. He has total confidence—and a measure of relief—in their decision to decline.

“I’m very thankful for it because I don’t know how well I’d be able to take it. My biggest concern would be all of the little boys. They would grow up in front of cameras. I feel like they would never become who they really are.”

Watching their lives unfold as he begins a family of his own leaves nothing to be desired. It is the adventure of a lifetime.

(Christina Capecchi is a freelance writer from Inver Grove Heights, Minn., and the editor of

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