It’s all over the news today that yet another woman gave birth to a large number of multiples – this time sextuplets. I am somewhat frustrated by this story for a number of reasons, and none of them have anything to do with my own miscarriages. In fact, because of my history, I am far more likely to be sympathetic to someone trying desperately to have children. I will say, though, that there has to be a line; I am not for having children at any cost. I will never condemn anyone’s motivation for choosing to have a lot of children at one time, but I think this story provides a lot of weighty issues anyone dealing with fertility issues must contend with.
The article I read this morning was short on details, and I honestly wasn’t interested enough in this family to watch the press conference video attached to the article I read. The details that were provided were that the babies were delivered at 27 weeks, and that the multiples were the result of fertility treatments. Very generally speaking (and not very scientifically speaking), sextuplets only happen if a large number of embryos are implanted via IVF or through the use of a drug like clomid that increases egg production, which might cause multiple eggs to be released and fertilized at one time. From my research, very few doctors are going to implant more than a few embryos at one time because of the risks involved in carrying multiples; obviously pre-term labor is an issue, but gestational diabetes and preeclampsia are significant risks to the mother’s life as well.
I would secretly (okay, maybe not so secretly) love to have twins. My personal grocery store prophetess thinks that God should bless me with twins to make up for our losses, but that’s a whole other post about entitlement thinking… As badly as I want to have children, and as badly as I would love to have twins, I would never consider allowing a doctor to implant more than two or three embryos if we did IVF. Our fertility specialist has a one more/one less policy, meaning that after they review your case and suggest a procedure for IVF, you as the patient can choose to implant one more or one less embryo than they recommend, and they usually recommend one or two. Our bodies are just not built to sustain these crazy pregnancies of quintuplets and sextuplets and septuplets. So, without considering the possible medical problems you are setting up for the babies, you are first and foremost putting your life in extreme danger. As an overweight person, I cannot throw too many stones here, but you can’t deliver healthy babies if your body fails before they can be safely delivered.
The risk involved for the babies is even greater since they are almost always delivered extremely early. Although modern medical science can do amazing things, and there are gazillions of miracle babies who survive pre-term delivery, there are always extreme risks: lung development, brain damage and a host of growth and developmental problems. I cannot imagine willingly choosing those risks for my children. These newest sextuplets were delivered at 27 weeks, so while they are certainly medically viable, they are all on ventilators and “continue to be at very high risk for complications.” In all likelihood, they will be in critical care for weeks, if not months. I really do not understand why someone would willingly and somewhat intentionally put a child through such an experience. There is no way that a doctor implants a large number of embryos or puts someone on clomid without explaining the risks involved, so this family did not go into any fertility treatment blind.
On the other hand, one of the comments on the article left by a member of the general public implied that the woman was irresponsible for not aborting some of the embryos once it became obvious that six of them had implanted. I could never do that, either, so if I somehow ended up with six implanted embryos, I would not be able to choose to end any of their lives. If this woman was taking clomid or something like it and accidentally ended up with six babies, I would not have aborted any of them, either.
The bottom line for me is that once you decide to be a parent, which is a conscious decision if you are undertaking fertility treatments, you must begin to think like a responsible parent about your prospective children. How could you knowingly risk their lives BEFORE day one? As a parent with no living children, I could not ever allow my desire to give birth to my own child overtake the health and well-being of any prospective children. There are too many children extant who need good and loving homes for me to be so selfish. This woman already has a 16 (or 18 – I wasn’t paying enough attention) month old, so she had a child of her own. Understand very clearly that I am NOT saying that she should have been content with just one child if she and her husband wanted more than one child. I know that nothing can replace the experience of carrying your child and delivering your child. However, if my options were to endanger my own life and risk six babies having serious health problems their entire lives or to not have any children at all, I would choose no children. Again, there are too many kids out there who need homes for me to justify that on any level, which means, yes, at some not-too-distant point we will make the decision to stop trying and adopt if we continue our current trajectory.
The last thing that bugs me is the press coverage, not that there is press coverage (Who doesn’t want to hear about sextuplets these days?? Uggh!), but that the parents so readily participate in it. Another illustrious commenter suggested that this family can now star in their own TLC reality show. I’m sure that the Gosselins and the Duggars only have their children’s best interests at heart by participating in reality shows that put their lives on display and make them part of the media circus; surely they must be putting the salaries towards college educations and activities that will enrich their children’s lives. Something must be worth allowing the media to document and the whole world to watch virtually every moment of their children’s lives. Imagine having ALL (or most) of your awkward growing years be public property. I for one was horrified if the dog stared at me when I hit puberty; I could not have survived in the Gosselin/Duggar reality world. All of my cute and awkward moments made for a great photo montage at our rehearsal dinner, but I was old enough to appreciate those moments and not be horrifically embarrassed about having photographic proof that I not infrequently wore underwear on my head (seriously – nothing covers hair rollers better than bloomers 🙂 ). I love that I am able to share the lives of my friends who blog about their families, and some people might consider that an invasion of a child’s life; the scale of what is shared is wholly different and filtered by people who love them rather than film crew editors. While I’m sure the reality parents have considered whether or not their children want to participate, I still sincerely question the motives of any parent who puts their child on display in such a public and prolonged manner. Given the number of child actors who have serious issues stemming from growing up in the public eye, I wonder what we as a society are doing to this generation of reality kids. I personally can’t watch most reality programming; much of it is staged to be melodramatic, and I get enough reality dealing with my own life. The few reality shows I watch are So You Think You Can Dance and Project Runway; I have enough trouble keeping up with my own family and friends to start investing time in the lives of people I haven’t met and really don’t care about. I don’t even watch American Idol; it’s just not my thing. I can’t and won’t judge the content of the Gosselin’s and Duggar’s shows, but if you do watch them, what do you think? Is what you’re seeing really in the best interests of those children? If it’s not, is it really in your best interest to continue to watch it? We all rubberneck to watch a train wreck, but should we? What do you think about the frequency of such high multiple births and the attention that gets focused on them? I am now stepping off my soapbox and handing it over to you. 😉