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January 31, 2009

8 is WAY more than enough

-11 Even though the number of children one has should be a strictly personal decision, we all know it gets second-guessed by other people. I suspect it happens more when your number is at the extremes. As the mother of an only child, I'm familiar with the questioning and judgments that come with "fewer," and I'm sure it happens at the other end of the spectrum too - because I've engaged in it. A mindset that considers one child the "right" number can have a hard time grasping how anyone could manage, let alone want, five, or six, or ten(!) children.

This week, a Southern California woman gave birth to octuplets. Early news reports focused on the medical accomplishment - all of the babies were delivered healthy and seemed to be thriving, including the "suprise" eighth one (the doctors were prepared for seven) - and didn't divulge too much personal information about the family. But people are curious, and before long details began to leak out. At this point, it's still hard to be sure of what's fact and what's rumor, but these are a few of the things on the "fact" list: the mother is in her early thirties, used fertility drugs to conceive - and already has six children, including one set of twins. If eight is WAY more than enough, then what the heck is 14?

It's mind-boggling, mostly, especially considering that the mother is apparently a single parent who lives with her own parents, in addition to her children. It's not clear exactly how this family is supported, but it's a good bet that the taxpayers and social services of L.A. County will be helping them out, if they aren't already. It's also not clear why a relatively young, (apparently) single woman who had already carried five successful pregnancies would have taken fertility treatments. It's definitely not clear how much her doctors knew about her circumstances or how involved they were in creating this pregnancy. There's a lot we still don't know, so we speculate about her reasons and her motives and her doctors, and we're concerned about what will happen to all of those children.

I grew up Catholic, and Catholics are legendary for large families. I went to high school with a girl who was, at the time, the oldest of 18 children; I heard there were a couple of more before the wife put a stop to it. (Rumor had it that she got a priest's approval to get a divorce, which is highly unusual, but apparently she had done her part to propagate the faith.) Friends who knew the family told about their tiny, crowded house, the amount of food they consumed (two full gallons of milk every morning!), and, especially, how little money they had and how much their parish church helped them out.

I don't know if the Octuplet Mom has a church to help her and her 14 children, but they're going to need all sorts of help, from wherever they can find it. Then again, maybe she's planning for them all to get rich and famous just because of their story, and that would take care of everything. I don't get it, though. I don't get wanting to have 13 or 14 children in the first place, and I really don't get wanting to bring children into this world without knowing you can support them and raise them well. If you're not equipped for that, maybe any is too many.

An original Los Angeles Moms Blog post

Florinda Pendley Vasquez, mother of one and stepmother of two, also blogs at The 3 R's: Reading, 'Riting, and Randomness.


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