Monday, December 22, 2008

We two Ours 18

A friend recently sent me an email with the subject line. “And you thought one was bad.” The mail contained a link to an interview with Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar from Arkansas. Loving couple, realtors and parents to 17 children. That’s right — 17. As in a prime number following 16. As in a number following 16. As in Josh, Jana, John-David, Jill, Jessa, Jinger, Joseph, Josiah, Joy-Anna, Jeremiah, Jedidiah, Jason, James, Justin, Jackson, Johannah and Jennifer. I almost fell off my chair when a clip from a previous interview showed the couple tell their children (and millions of other Americans) that they were expecting Duggar 18 in 2009. I watched with mounting disbelief as the show host interviewed the couple and their brood of seven girls and 10 boys, asking them if they had picked a name for the next addition to their clan.
Jim Bob struck me as a little smug, as only a man who has successfully sown his seed 18 times can be. But it was Michelle who caught my attention. For a woman who had spent the better part of over two decades either pregnant, giving birth or getting pregnant, Michelle seemed worryingly cheerful. Chipper even. “Why would anyone in their right mind have so many kids?” I thought as I forwarded the link to friends. “They’re nuts,” I told myself. “And she needs a haircut.” After all, it’s one thing to find yourself pregnant with triplets, quadruplets or sextuplets, but it’s quite another to churn out kids like they’re going out of style along with pleather leggings and then say it’s God’s will. Seventeen kids in 20-odd years seem less ‘a blessing from up above’ and more ‘what happens when well functioning reproductive organs are put to use repeatedly sans contraception’. Now some might say, ‘What’s the big deal?’ After all, the world record for the most number of children is at 69. The mother of all these kids was the first of two wives of Feodor Vassilyev, a peasant from Shuya, 150 miles east of Moscow. In 27 confinements, this nameless woman gave birth to 16 pairs of twins, seven sets of triplets and four sets of quadruplets. How interesting that while Daddy’s name has survived all these years, all we know of the poor woman was that she was Biwi no 1. Closer home, our own grandparents effortlessly spawned offspring in the double digits. Again, it looks like the ladies had little to do but grin and bear it. As one friend’s grandmother succinctly put it, “He would come home from work and we would do it. And then I would be pregnant.” Nine times. In our ‘We two Ours one’ world, we tell ourselves that we place the limit at one or two children because we can give them more attention. While that may be true to some extent, I also think it’s because we can’t be bothered to have more kids. Children are expensive, time consuming and want to watch Sponge Bob Square Pants just when they’re going to announce the winner of American Idol. So, if it’s alright for some of us to decide to have none, one or two children, shouldn’t it be okay for others to have as many as they want? Is it alright to use words like crazy and sex-starved when discussing people with large families? Are they selfish for burdening an already crowded planet with more children? Is it fair to question their choices or ask them to consider adoption instead? I’m torn between filing the Duggars under ‘C for crazy’ and ‘N for it’s none of your business’. But maybe if people are putting their lives on TV shows and in the pages of a book, I can question their decisions. 17 Kids & Counting! premiered on TLC (The Learning Channel) in October 2008 while The Duggars. 20 and counting is in a good bookstore near you. ‘...and counting’ — That means there could be more on the way.

This piece appeared here.

12 comments:

inbavalli said...

The difference between my paati and Michelle is that paati had no choices like contraception and mega serials. And abstenance might have spawned "small houses". So yes, I would file the Duggars under "C for crazy" and "P for polluting the environment" (18 sets of diapers and counting).

Uh! Imagine teaching multiplication tables every year for two decades!

Annie said...

Oh they had the baby already...last week...it's a girl and well, they want to have more! I'm sure they are making big bucks from the TV show....no wonder they are able to manage so many kids!

Vijay said...

seriously, why would anyone want to do such a thing?

This 'boredom' excuse has made our population cross a billion. I keep thinking so often of how our country would've have been if we had a population proportional to our land area. How much ever I think, I'm not able to grasp the magnitude of the 'achievement' of our elder generations. The next most populous country 'US', has just one-third of our population. My GOD !!!

I don't know how these women can bear this year after year after year !!!

The Muser said...

In this day and age when there are so many choices , one can only wonder why they are still producing so many babies! And imagine , the poor woman's health..it has to get tiring at one point of time or the other!

Terri said...

Michelle probably last saw her feet in the late '80s.
I'd like to borrow some of the Duggars' energy and enthusiasm for sex.

SUR NOTES said...

unconnected to fertile ladies and having to brush seventeen pair of teeth: there is a christmas something for you on my blog. sorry fpor not actually meeting you in the real world! really wanted to.

apu said...

C for crazy, I have no doubt about that. As Inbavalli points out, this couple is actively choosing to burden the earth with more children, even when there is contraception available... if everyone thought this way, no amount of resources could support the population...

And oh yeah, Wish you a very Happy New Year...

Avanti Sané said...

yep...i had read the article and was suitably horrified too..
shudder shudder...

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