Monday, December 21, 2009


There were 12 children in our family. My father wanted 13, but one of my mother's babies was stillborn, so he never got that last child. I was the youngest to arrive alive and healthy, so if Mom and Pop had practiced birth control, or if abortion had been available then and my mother decided to take advantage of it, I would not be here to write this post.

If we had all been born a little later, perhaps we could have earned millions of dollars in a Reality Show. It could have been titled Daisy and John Plus Twelve. We'd have all become world famous and had enough money for shoes.

Having babies has become a national fad. On one hand, we try to persuade teenagers to take vows of Abstinence and not have babies until later in life. On the other hand, the "moral values" of the last few years have encouraged wives to stay at home and pop out babies with gleeful regularity.

Hollywood has led the country. The movie magazines and tabloids are filled with pictures of Suri and Shiloh and Violet and whoever. These cute little fashion models and pictures of pregnant celebrities have led the country on a baby-making spree. With our country's population hitting more than 300 million, not counting about 20 million illegal immigrants, many of them pregnant, this population explosion may lead us to problems we just didn't have before. We may not have enough fuel for our cars. We may not have enough food to eat.

The truth is, large families grow up and become even larger families. My own family is so populated that I have relatives I wouldn't recognize if I walked by them on the street. The kids I grew up with now have great-grandchildren and some of them may even have reached great-great status. At one Christmas gathering, I passed out envelopes filled with money and it wasn't until the party was over that I learned that I had given an envelope to a complete stranger, who was somebody's friend and had tagged along to enjoy the fun.

Now, if you follow the news and the television shows, we have a family with nineteen children. Then, too, we have Octamom, who had eight babies at one time. If my mother had done this, it would have saved her a lot of time, and I wouldn't have been the youngest child, but rather the same age as my brother, Harry, who was 25 years older than me.

Now, a lot of people can't join in the fun and have their own babies, so they have gone the route of surrogates. They pay huge amounts of money and cover the bills of a woman willing to have a baby for them. Sometimes, the sperm used is the father's, but more often it is from material used from a Sperm Bank, and these children usually never know who sired them. There is also adoption and many put Ads in the paper, hoping to find a baby needing a home.

The trouble with adoption is that everyone seems to want blue-eyed, blond newborns and few are willing to take in the troublesome older children who may have behavior problems. As a result, we have thousands and thousands of foster children with no takers. They stay in various homes, often running away, until they are eighteen and considered adults. In their search for babies. many couples take the foreign route, which involves going through bureaucratic procedures and making heartrending visits to orphanages filled with abandoned children.

Then, too, there are the clinics where female eggs are fertilized, then placed into the wombs of women who desperately want children. These eggs are prone to multiply, so often twins or quads or even more babies appear. This is what happened to Octamom. This is what happened to Kate. Spare eggs are kept around in the clinics, lest the couple decide to have another child. Eventually, the unused, unwanted eggs are incinerated. This is a farewell to the precious Stem Cells that could save the life of a Parkinson's patient or someone with some other fatal disease.

I remember the day when the birth of Quints in Canada caused a National uproar. With great curiosity, we followed the path of these five children, watching them grow, marveling at the fact that five healthy babies could encompass one birth.

We figured it out once and came to the conclusion that my mother had spent more than nine years of her life pregnant. Since pregnancy isn't the most comfortable time of life, this is a lot of time spent being uncomfortable. She gave birth to twelve children and I was the only one with a doctor on hand. The others had the benefit of my sister-in-law, Lily, who had no training as a mid-wife, but must have stepped forward to do what she could.

Women my age now have grand-children and great-grandchidren. We also frequently have an assortment of stepgrandchildren. Some of them have stepgreatgrandchildren. I have talked to women who had to count on their fingers the number of grandchildren and stepgrandchildren they have, since divorces and separations took so many former stepgrandchildren out of their lives. We don't live today as my parents lived, with the family gatherings every Sunday to enjoy each other. Now, families often live in different states and visits are few. Times have changed and not all for the good.

I love babies and especially toddlers, but the smaller the number, the greater the pleasure. If you get two or more toddlers together, the energy released could fuel the nation's furnaces with no trouble at all. I used to play ball with my grandchildren, but now I hobble to the nearest chair and wheeze.

This always brings back memories of my Pop with children surrounding his chair. We would play with Uncle Hubert and chat with Uncle Bud, but it was Pop whom we ended with, a huge pile of young children, giggling and milling around. Some sat on his lap and some hung over his chair, playing with his hair, laughing as he poked at them, enjoying the show.

"You're a Goodenun!" he's say, and none of us knew what he meant, but to be called a Goodenun by Pop was a special reward indeed!

Scientists now are recommending that people simply replace themselves and stop having families that our food and energy supply may not support. This is probably wise advice, but I cannot help but cheer the fact that it wasn't advised years ago, when our huge and growing clan made the ancient boards of the farmhouse shake and the joy of togetherness fill our hearts.