Octuplets? Outrageous!

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.

Baby hand 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.

Brangelina 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.

11 Responses to Octuplets? Outrageous!

  1. monica February 6, 2009 at 8:06 am #

    It is very strange how this woman looks similar to Angelina Jolie—however there are differences—she does not have Angelina’s money, her motivation, her power, or an equally providing husband, and a house to keep her children in with room and then some….

  2. Mary February 6, 2009 at 9:46 am #

    I was stunned as well at this news. My first thought is that she is an emotionally immature person to make this choice, as given her support structure, there is no rational reason to add more children to the mix.
    My second thought was how emotionally disturbed were the doctors who agreed to participate? It’s risky for the mother and children and yet they ELECTED to do it anyway.
    “She didn’t want to lose her eggs”? I’ve lost about 540 eggs if you add up the months in my life. That’s called letting nature (and common sense) take it’s course.

  3. Jenn (The Green Parent) February 6, 2009 at 11:02 am #

    I see where you’re coming from on this Diane, I really do. But I can’t help but wonder who gets to decide what the right number of children is for “reasonable population growth.” Is it two…a mom and dad “replacing” themselves in the world? More? Less? I know there are many that would argue that bringing any child in to this world is damaging to the environment and therefore selfish and destructive. So while I also wonder how this woman can possible take care of 14 children under the age of seven, I also firmly believe that it is treading on dangerous ground to set limits on reproduction. What one family sees as reasonable, another family may find excessive. And who knows, maybe this woman is a staunch Democrat who will raise a brood of environmentally-conscious children to counter the offspring of a whole neighborhood of planet-trashing SUV driving kids.

  4. Beth Terry, aka Fake Plastic Fish February 6, 2009 at 11:56 am #

    Amen. Thanks for speaking out on this controversial issue. While some environmentalists spend time arguing about which method of birth control is the greenest, I say ANY method that works every time is one of the best things we can do for the planet. This story is just sad.

  5. Misty (MyInspirationLounge.com) February 6, 2009 at 7:53 pm #

    Thank you for this post. I have been needing to vent on this one. I agree that the media and these shows have fueled this issue for a long time. They are estimating these births and hospital care will cost California over $1 million…this would be taxpayers covering this! I doubt the mom is willing to hand over all the money she will make from the interviews and photos. And we all know as moms, there is no way that 14 kids will get the attention, education, and love that they need. It is hard enough to provide everything for two kids! There has been a lot of public backlash on this so it should be interesting to see what comes of it.

  6. Diane MacEachern February 7, 2009 at 2:51 am #

    Thank you for all the comments.Re Jes’ question, who gets to decided how many are too many? Ideally, it would be the parents, who in the interest of their entire family, would know when to say “enough is enough.”

  7. mother earth aka karen hanrahan February 7, 2009 at 6:37 am #

    can you imagine this home when they all become teenagers??

  8. Diane MacEachern February 7, 2009 at 8:32 am #

    Karen,
    Good point! It will be a mad house.
    I don’t know, maybe somehow, they’ll all hang together, and create their own incredible, indestructible, resilient tribe. I certainly hope so.

  9. Alline February 7, 2009 at 11:02 am #

    This story seems incredibly sad to me, and incredibly selfish. A child is a gift to be treasured and taught and listened to – I cannot imagine how any of this will happen; how will they even all be fed and changed? Once the initial hoohah is over and the crowds fade away, it’s going to be a completely different story – I shudder at Karen’s thought of 14 teenagers. Raising one or two or three children is all-consuming, and to do it right it probably SHOULD be – raising 14 is an impossible task, even for the most well-adjusted and cognizant of people. And how stunningly irresponsible to expect California to foot the bill…I agree with Jenn (just who decides how many are enough?) but what ever happened to common sense?

  10. Anna(Green Talk) February 7, 2009 at 11:44 am #

    I find the whole story very sad for everyone. Sad for the mom, sad for the kids, and sad for the taxpayers. I have four kids and it is more than a handful.
    I question the doctor who let this mom put 8 eggs into her womb with the possibility of rupturing her uterus and not taking into account she already had 6 other young children. Where was his ethical responsiblity to make sure that she was emotionally okay to have these children? Who can handle 8 babies and 6 under 7 without a tremendous support system?
    She says in her interview with Ann Curry that she was filling a void. You don’t have babies to fill a void. I think her doctor should be called on the carpet.
    As for the cost of these children, premature children could suffer learnng issues, developmental delays, and a host of other health related issues. How will she deal with this? Rely on the schools to deal with them with their own budget constraints? Someone at home will have to help them as well. I am speaking from experience with four kids with dyslexia who have received both private and school tutoring.
    If she wanted the other 8 kids, she should have had them one by one, not 8 at a time, if at all. How about donating her eggs to those who can’t have children at all? There is a concept.
    I do agree with Jenn, that no one can decide how many children enough is enough as each one is a blessing. As Alline, said you have to use common sense what is best for your children as well as yourself. I believe what is best for your children come first before yourself in that category.

  11. Tracy February 7, 2009 at 1:33 pm #

    This is completely crazy that this lady was allowed to have 8 more children. I am sure that she will be living off the government before we know it if she is not already. Her doctor should have his license taken away. Just because someone wants a child should not mean that they get to have one. Especially that many at one time. It is sad when there are people out there who actually can afford to have children but can’t get pregnant but yet this women who so clearly should not have anymore is allowed to get pregnant. What is this world coming to when as a government we have somehow allowed it for people who are living on welfare and getting government assistance to have so many children. I am sorry but I am tired of my tax payer dollars being used with such disregard.

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