Is anyone else dismayed or distressed by the story of the California mother of six young children who recently gave birth to eight more babies?
The six boys and two girls only weighed in at between 1 pound, 8 ounces, and 3 pounds, 4 ounces. They were born the end of January, ten weeks premature, and will be in incubators for at least the next two months.
The births have been greeted by a frenzy of media coverage, essentially turning the mother and all her children into overnight celebrities. According to various news reports, the mother is already negotiating with Hollywood to sell her story – which forces me to ask, "Did she do it for the money?"
She certainly could not have done it because having fourteen children under the age of seven is as easy as a walk in the park. As a mother of two kids who are almost three years apart in age, I can testify that raising any child is a challenge, let alone 14. This mother's life is more complicated than many, given the fact that she does not appear to have a partner who will share the financial and social challenges she will face raising all these children. The family previously filed for bankruptcy; it's not clear if the mother is employed, but even if she is, it will be hard if not impossible for her to return to work with so many children to care for. Sure, the neighbors will pitch in. I suspect it will never be enough.
What about the octuplets' health? Most medical professionals worry that extreme multiple births pose unnecessary risks to the infants involved. After birth, they may suffer respiratory illness, brain damage, or worse.
"When we see something like this in the general fertility world, it gives us the heebie-jeebies," said Michael Tucker, a clinical embryologist in Atlanta and a leading researcher in infertility treatment. Tucker added that in his opinion, "if a medical practitioner had anything to do with it, there's some degree of inappropriate medical therapy there."
Apart from obvious questions like how one mother could breastfeed eight babies, I'm wondering generally about the care of all these kids. Who's going to change all those diapers?
Speaking of diapers, what kind of impact are all these people going to have on the environment?
At a time when the world is focused on reducing carbon emissions, conserving water, and economizing on resources, this one family is multiplying its immediate impact on the planet by 14 times. Let's go back to the diapers a minute. The average baby uses 10,000 diapers in her lifetime. These eight babies will generate a pile of dirty diapers 80,000 strong. Shouldn't this woman have been more responsible when it came to controlling the size of her environmental footprint?
Obviously, I wish this mother and her family well. But as she fields tv-of-the-week movie deals and corporate offers to clothe her kids, I can't help but worry about the impact the spotlight on the octuplets will have on others who are considering having children.
Though much of the world is focused on population control, here in the U.S., large families are being made to seem increasingly glamorous.
Brad Pitt's and Angelina Jolie's growing family regularly makes the cover of People magazine. Everyone wants to know: is Angie pregnant AGAIN? How many more kids will they have before they finally say stop? Stay tuned.
Jon & Kate Plus Eight have turned having a big brood into a cottage industry, complete with their own tv show on the Learning Channel and related product endorsements.
Could there be a correlation between all this on-camera glitz and the fact that the number of women having three babies is at its highest level since 1990; fourth births are at their highest level since 1980?
Yes, it's fun to ooh and aah over the miracle of eight babies being born at one time. But we do those kids, their siblings, and other children in the world a disservice if we don't also take the opportunity provided by the occasion of their births to reaffirm a commitment to reasonable population growth.