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story.lead_photo.caption Liv Paggiarino/News Tribune From left, Christina Brauner, Amber Smart, Carrie Brauner, Amanda Schwartze, Danielle Douglas and Brittnie Brauner stand for a portrait on March 10 at Memorial Park.

The Brauner family is so large, you'll lose count several times trying to tally up the faces in a group photo. They're certainly large enough for a family Facebook group.

And now, for the second time in just two years, they're simultaneously adding six more to the lineup over the span of roughly five months in what they've aptly termed "Brauner Baby Round 2!"

It's 5 p.m. on an overcast Wednesday in March, and the six women trickle in, some holding their bellies, others the hand of a little one. There's a flurry of hellos, shared laughter and dazzling smiles that light up Memorial Park where they all crowd onto the picnic tables — two, put together, to comfortably fit them and their bellies. Brittnie Brauner, due just two days later, lets out a little sigh upon sitting down. Her belly peeks out over the edge of the table.

Amber Smart, Amanda Schwartze, and Brittnie, Carrie and Christina Brauner all already have at least a little one. For Danielle Douglas, however, this round is her first.

"Whenever (Brittnie) announced (her pregnancy) in our family Facebook group, everyone was commenting, 'Who's joining the train?'" Danielle laughed. "It's a running joke. We all kind of kept quiet for a while, because we didn't want to announce it right away."

And though this time was "kind of a surprise," Brittnie said, one by one, they joined the train, following her lead — which, they all pointedly remark, was also started by Brittnie in 2019.

Though the simultaneous second baby "explosion" is a shock to the people who hear about it, Amber said, people's shock tends to turn to intrigue.

"They actually are really shocked by it, but they like it," she said. "They're like, this is so crazy but so cool!"

It's not new to them, though.

"The patriarch of the family, Joe, he passed away (in 2020)," Brittnie said. "And he had six kids."

From there, the family snowballed and grew exponentially with each new generation. Perhaps they wanted to build a really good volleyball team, which worked, if their numerous meet-ups per month in the summer to have massive volleyball tournaments are any indication.

Perhaps it's just what has always been their go-to. Christina quotes her husband, Derrick, who she said is "really excited, because he liked being close with his cousins growing up."

Danielle, though, jokes her husband "complains" about the large family "frequently."

"It's a little overwhelming when you first show up," she laughed.

But as a first-time parent, Danielle said she and her husband are appreciative of the accompanying five couples.

"We have a bigger support system than we would by ourselves," Danielle said. "It's a little chaotic to think about, but it's helpful to know that we have five other men, even if they've already had children, to know (my husband) can go to them and say, 'Hey, how do I do this' being a first-time dad."

Carrie, who is having her second child, is just as appreciative.

"Even though it's our second and her fourth and her third," she said, pointing to the others, "we certainly don't have it all figured out, that's for sure."

"It's just the fact that we're all together in this together, that we all get to do it together," Amber said.

Her words followed by a chorus of agreement that ripples down the table.

Protected by their varying stages of pregnant bellies, the wee babes are likely on the same wavelength with their adolescent years together on the horizon, and for the rest of the family, "all together in this" might take on a different meaning.

Have the young mothers thought that far, you ask?

"Chaos," they said in unison.

"At least we'll have a good support system!" someone chimed in from the end of the table.

The six 2-year-olds are already chaos at their get-togethers. Amber is thankful some of them have larger homes to host the group, but with these six upcoming additions, they quip they might have to start looking into renting an Airbnb.

Being all within 30 minutes of one another, it might not be too difficult.

The six women also grew up together, attending the same handful of schools in the area or as longtime friends since their teens. Now, they'll get to offer that same experience to their children — laughing, they apologize in advance to their children's teachers: "Poor teachers!"

As each woman gives birth through August, they'll celebrate by gathering to take a photo, creating a domino effect until the last momma has her baby in her arms. This year, it'll be trickier, Amber said, as some of their due dates are merely days apart. Carrie and herself, she said, are only about a week apart.

But at the end, they'll once again have six newborns, each sporting a colorful onesie and tiny socks or a bow far too big for their small, delicate bodies lined out on a blanket as with the first round of babies.

And it'll probably get shared into their Facebook group and all over Facebook, where grandparents will coo and parents will proudly recount their sweet memories and the ones to come.

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