Saturday, May 10, 2008


18. This number represents certain milestones. For someone my age, it represented being able to drink alcohol legally. It meant that I could sign (most) legal documents as an adult. It meant graduating high school and starting college.

For this woman, 18 represents quite a different milestone. She has 17 kids, and number 18 is in development.

She is 41 years old.

I have read certain things in history regarding women who would bear this many children. The results were often not pretty. Now granted, medical care has advanced greatly, and women can be closely monitored and cared for in such a way that reduces (but does not eliminate) their chances for a successful and healthy pregnancy. Still, being pregnant 18 times does give one pause for thought. Having one child can be hard. I can't imagine what having 17, and soon to be 18, can do to a woman physically. I helped deliver enough babies as a paramedic to see firsthand what women go through. However, as Robin Williams once said, if men want to experience childbirth firsthand, they should try passing a bowling ball through their ass.

Perhaps as A) I am not a woman, and B) My wife and I do not have kids, I am ill prepared to comment on this. However, it does pose an interesting question: Do women (and by in turn, couples) who chose to bear this many children face the same kind of stignma as couples that chose to have no children? I ask this as, for a great while, we would face a certain degree of scrutiny, my wife and I, over the fact that we made a conscious, well thought out decision not to have kids.

I would suspect that the same kind of decision making goes in the opposite way, with folks like Mrs. Duggar. At least I think it would. Reading the article however, I am not quite sure. There is a sense of them playing "roulette" in a way.

"She and her husband, Jim Bob Duggar, said they'll keep having children as long as God wills it."

I wonder when the time comes to stop wondering what God wills, and to start exercising that free will that we were supposedly endowed with. I don't fault them, or chastise them for their belief in God. I do wonder if they take into account the physical toll all this is having on her.

In the end I suppose it all comes down to their own personal choice, just as it was our own personal choice. I just wish how people would stop saying how life and marriage is not as fulfilled without having kids. We still hear that from time-to-time. Life and marriage is what you make of it, kids or no kids.

Then again, my wife is just happy she can keep the plants alive...........


battlemaiden said...

I participated in several discussions about this over the weekend.

I think it's disgusting. I think Mommy Dearest should keep her legs closed and Daddy Jim Bob should show his wife some respect. She is not just a baby-making machine. Can you believe she's been pregnant non-stop for almost 20 years? Enough is enough. They make a pill for that.

My mother's cousin converted to Mormonism. After she had her first child, her doctor told her not to have any more, for fear of endangering Cousin Ellen's health. So she went to a Mormon doctor instead, who told her to have alllllll the kids she wanted. She has 7 now and some extremely complicated health problems on top of it.

Holly said...

I about fell off my chair when I read this piece, Mr. N. I grew up Mormon, and thought I was familiar with big families: I had a friend who was one of 13 kids; and my uncle and aunt had 11 kids, in 16 years.

I don't think these huge families are good, for anyone, really: the parents, the kids, the planet. It means sharing limited resources--of wealth, of time, of affection--among groups so large the resources become inadequate. My cousin T, who was the oldest of the 11, played mommy to all her younger siblings because the real mom was always nursing babies and changing diapers. And the youngest ones were all so desperate for the attention of their father (who was rarely around, because support a family that large takes a lot of money) that they'd seek out other forms of male attention--including kinds that bordered on sexual. One of the grossest things I have personally witnessed was watching my 14-year-old cousin flirt with my 60-year-old socially awkward father, who was more uncomfortable with the situation than the rest of us.

Mr. Nighttime said...

While not exclusive to Mormonism, the most common place I would see a similar type of family set-up is in the Hasidic Jewish community, where large families also abound. While I have never seen upwards of this many children, (10 or more) it is still not unusual to see a minimum of 4-5, and I have see upwards of 8 children in these families. The reasons for them are usually the same; no birth control based on religious restrictions.

This said, Jewish custom and law differs in one respect: It is the life of the mother that is paramount, not the life of the unborn child. The mother can always have more children, if needed. If it comes down to a situation where both are at risk, the effort is made to spare the mother.

Holly said...

Just to clarify: Mormons don't have any religious prohibition against birth control. A fairly common rite of passage for Mormon girls is getting a prescription for the pill six to eight weeks before the wedding, so they won't get pregnant right away.

Instead, Mormons have big families as a deliberate choice, for a bunch of reasons, one of is that they're encouraged to give bodies to the spirits up in heaven waiting to be born--it's this whole complicated view of human beings as eternal, meaning that they existed as versions of themselves even before being born. And it's considered a righteous thing to let as many of these children as possible grow up in Mormon homes.

Mr. Nighttime said...

Hmm....sounds almost like a belief in some form of reincarnation....

Holly said...

sounds almost like a belief in some form of reincarnation....

Mormons would recoil at that, because reincarnation suggests that you change identity, and get more than one shot at being human. Instead, in Mormon thought, you're always you: you were you before you were born; you'll still be you even after you die; and no matter how sick or old you were when you died, you'll look like a young, healthy version of you (as long as you're white--if you're not, you'll be given a skin transplant, courtesy of god, who is white himself) for the rest of eternity.

It's tied to the idea that the spirits who inhabit human bodies aren't created when a baby is born; instead, they're created by god in a separate process--one that, not coincidentally, involves copulation: that's right: Mormons believe god has sex, which is why he needs a bunch of wives to screw around with, which is why Mormon theology claims that polygamy is a celestial law.

I'm not saying it's sound logic; I'm just saying it's the logic employed.

Mr. Nighttime said...

Well, skin color aside, (which is a whole separate issue) the idea of deities having sex is nothing new of course, though it is something that would be found to be abhorrent to the standard ideal in the Judeo-Christian-Islamic concept of God. One only need to look at the Greek and Vedic system to find that gods (and goddesses) have quite the libido.

I find that I rather like the Hindu concept of an impersonal god, one that is transcendent of names and forms. As is stated in the Upanishads "The tongue has never soiled it with a name."

While by any strict definition of the word, I am an atheist: I do not believe in a literal God. I do believe that there are things outside the realm of the human mind, that science and religion have no answer for. I see the idea of God as a metaphorical concept, God being a word for that which represents the ultimate ground of being.

There is a Hindu saying that I rather like: "When you stand before a mountain, or a sunset, or the beauty of this or of that, and you proclaim 'Ah!'; this is participation in divinity."

There are many primary cultures that adhere to this idea as well. I rather like it.

AnneDroid said...

#"There is a Hindu saying that I rather like: "When you stand before a mountain, or a sunset, or the beauty of this or of that, and you proclaim 'Ah!'; this is participation in divinity." There are many primary cultures that adhere to this idea as well. I rather like it."

It's lovely. Thanks for that. As I can't sing to save my life, although I faithfully attend, and enjoy, church, I do find that I truly worship when I stand before a mountain, or a sunset, or the beauty of this or of that, and I proclaim, "Ah!" - then I am really worshipping. I am hugely blessed to live near beautiful countryside and even the commute to work affords many such opportunities.

Re the 18 kids, BLIMEY! The food bills! The laundry! The squabbling!

I'm interested, btw, that you and your wife faced "a certain degree of scrutiny" over your decision. That would chime with my brother-in-law and his wife's experience. Our decision to have four kids was also met with some odd comments, including from my mother-in-law who seemed to have forgotten that she had four kids herself.

Guyana-Gyal said...

In my grandmother's time women used to have up to 20-something children.

But now, women here who go to baby-clinics are being taught about contraceptives, and some are waking up to the realities of what too many children can do to the body and the budget.

There are still those who have 6, 7 children [without thinking why, or because they are poor and illiterate, etc], and you'd find other women getting really angry with them for having children they can't take care of.

It's something that really hurts, to see poor children on the streets, begging, because their parents just had them then can't afford to look after them.

That's some crazy choice to have 18 [or more] children. I hope they're happy as a family.

gemmak said...

I like yourself chose not to have children. It was a decision not made easily and given a great deal of thought from many points of consideration. To this day I will never be sure I made the right decision, though in the main I consider that for me I did but what I do know is that I didn't bring a child into this already over-populated world without knowing I was able to bring it up suitably. Sadly too many children suffer as the result of these very big families and I suspect that whilst many are wanted and well cared for, too many are born out of ingnorance, lack of responsibility or pure stupidity.....and yet it's those like myself that spend years getting sideways glances because of our choice and being called 'selfish'!

Mr. Nighttime said...

"and yet it's those like myself that spend years getting sideways glances because of our choice and being called 'selfish'!"


Welcome, and thanks. Yes, indeed, isn't it hypocritical that those of us who choose to not have kids can be labeled as selfish, and those who breed on a yearly basis are hailed? Is there not a certain degree of selfishness on their part as well? Unless they are comfortably well off, have hit the lotto, or have some other kind of large river of income, then I find it very selfish on the parent's part to have this many kids. It works both ways in my book, but like I said, this is still their choice....

hma said...

""We've had three in January, three in December. Those two months are a busy time for us," she said, laughing." I can only assume she was laughing b/c after having put her body and mind through the trauma of having 17 children, she has obviously gone quite insane. I wish I could come up with some very clever comment here, but I'm just shuddering at the thought of 17 children. Now, I don't have any kids...I'm ambivilant about whether I want them. I have a cat, and I can barely afford her vet bills. It boggles my mind how anyone would want to have 18 children. My best friend has a 7-year old and after about an hour with him I'm about ready to go nuts. More power to her, I guess...