Saturday, February 6, 2010

Are you done yet?

The cover story in People this week is about the Duggars. Seems like everyone knows who they are (the family with all those kids!), and most people have an opinion about them.

I've never watched their reality show on TLC. Pretty much everything I know about them is stuff I've read or heard on the news. I know they now have 19 children, the last one born a micro-preemie at 25 weeks gestation last December. I know she was born via emergency c-section, that she has had some setbacks due to her severe prematurity, has required surgery, will likely remain in the hospital for quite some time and may very well end up with life-long medical and/or developmental issues because of her severe prematurity. And apparently, Mom and Pop aren't necessarily finished having babies yet - despite all this, and despite the fact that Mom is now 43 years old.

It's easy to look at all this and be appalled. And a lot of folks are, apparently. People rail that they have too many kids! They're a drain on world resources! Nobody has the right to reproduce so prolifically when the world is already overpopulated! There's no way any of the kids get enough love or attention!

I'm not sure how I feel about the Duggars, but I feel like I'm supposed to have some opinion about it, given that I myself have more kids than the average woman.

My understanding is that the Duggars have been driven to have so many kids primarily by their religious beliefs. I cannot relate to that. I do not feel that I have been called by any Higher Power to keep reproducing until I can't anymore, nor do I believe that my childbearing destiny has ever been in divine hands.

But I can relate to just not feeling done. That's really why we have six kids - we, or more specifically I, especially with the last one, just never felt done. We certainly never set out to have six kids! I seem to recall that our initial intention was to have two more kids after we got married, which, including Kevin, would have made three. So we had Joey within the first year of being married, and then when we tried for that number 3, we got the two-for-one deal with the twins which put us at four. And after that, life was already so full and busy that one more didn't seem like a stretch at all. And then, just one more. And if I could? I'd have just one more again.

I have friends who knew with absolute certainty that one was enough for them, or two, or even three. When their last baby was born, they knew it was their last, and they felt at peace with that. I have often wondered if I am missing some off-switch when it comes to having babies, because I've just never gotten to that point where I know my last baby has been born, I'll never bear another, and I feel at peace with it. That's not to say that we will be having any more children; I don't think we will. The reasons (practical, financial, logistical, etc.) not to have any more finally outweigh the reasons to have another baby. Also, there is very little doubt that all the chemo and radiation Michael underwent made the decision for us. However, none of that means that I am completely at peace with it.

It is pretty unfathomable to me to have nineteen kids. Yowza. I truly wonder how her body has managed to withstand all those pregnancies, because I'll tell you, after five pregnancies, my body is . . . well, just not what it used to be. And I'm not just talking aesthetically, I'm talking, ummm, structurally. I think another pregnancy might cause my bladder to fall out. Anyway. And just the day-to-day reality of raising and caring for that many children? Seems inconceivable (no pun intended) to me. But who am I to say, or to judge? I have no doubt that there are people who look at me and wonder the same things, and make the same assumptions. But having six kids is my reality, and yeah, it's chaotic and sometimes crazy and overwhelming, but it's far from undoable or unfathomable. The Duggars take care of their own. They live debt-free in a humongous house they built themselves. I understand they have some kind of buddy system, where an older child is paired with a younger child, and that's how they make child rearing manageable. It's not anything I can relate to, but I guess it works for them. If the kids are getting their needs met and the family is not relying on handouts, I'm not sure what anyone's beef is with the whole thing.

It's true that our kids don't get as much one-on-one time and attention from me and Michael as they probably would if we had fewer kids. But I'm not sure that's necessarily a bad thing. Who says that's the key to a happy childhood? There are certainly positives to having a larger family: never being lonely, understanding sharing and compromise, a feeling of belonging to a greater whole. And yes, there are sacrifices we've had to make because of the sheer number of kids we have, like traveling, and like ever being able to go to the bathroom without somebody trying to barge in.

I can't speak for the Duggars. But for us? It's worth it. And I'd still have another if I could.


Mer said...

I'm with you Lisa. I'm currently pregnant with my fourth, which my mom has told me over and over again should be enough kids for anyone, yet I don't necessarily feel done. I don't know that we'll have any more kids any time soon, but I'm only 27 and have many years of fertility left ahead of me. I just can't imagine ever getting to the point of saying I don't ever want any more kids. People look at me like I'm crazy when I say that but it's true. I love having babies and growing our family. I don't think I'll ever be able to read a birth story or see pictures of newborns and not want to have another baby.

Brandie said...

We never planned on having a big family, but now we have 4 kids. Judging by people's reactions this is a lot. When I was pregnant with #3 our neighbor's daughter died. She was the youngest of 4. It was heartwarming to watch her siblings find comfort in each other. To be able to reminisce about their childhood together. We decided that having more children is just as much for them as it is for us.

As for the Duggars, if it works for them then that's all that matters.

Carla said...

I'm another one with that not done feeling. I always thought 5 was my number, but now that we've hit that, I feel, no, I know, that there is at least one more out there. 7 is starting to sound like my number. Financially, practically, logistically, now is not the best time, but.... who knows what next year holds?

Personally, I like the Duggars. Their beliefs are soooo incredibly different from my own, but they make their big family work. And I lvoe how their little ones run around the house and are loud and boisterous just like mine.

I am kind of hoping Michelle's fertility wanes. I think that this last baby was her body's way of saying throw in the towel already. You have too many babies still at home to risk your life for just one more.