For many of my grandparents’ generation, the Biblical words, “Be fruitful and multiply,” were more of a command than a suggestion.
Grandma and Grandpa Medina complied, delivering 16 children, of which my mother Marie was the oldest daughter. Six remain, most in their nineties, and most of the others lived into that decade as well. And a few of them procreated so efficiently that in the ‘50s it was fairly safe to tell people, “I’m related to half of Santa Fe. If it’s a Medina, there’s a good chance it’s a cousin.”
But that was back in the ‘50s, when Santa Fe’s population was around 25,000, a figure close to the number of exempt employees currently on Gov. Richardson’s staff, not counting his security force.
Like many of my generation, the last-surviving cadre of grandchildren, we self-regulated. Accordingly, none of my siblings even came close to the dozen children my Aunt Stella in Santa Fe delivered. Imagine how much more populated the world would be if every generation, on average, set out to have even more kids than they have siblings or aunts and uncles.
About 30 years ago, when the Zero Population Growth movement was much more militant, people were shamed if they had more than two children. The idea was simple: Every married couple had only two kids — to replace the parents, and so on.
Like a number of families we were close to, we were amazed at the number of “second families” people were having. Here’s how: Have two kids, and when they’re practically grown, have one more.
One adherent to the you-should-have-only-two philosophy told me in a slightly deprecating tone, all about three couples we both knew who had a child on the way, to be greeted by siblings 10 years older.
I felt guilty because only that week my wife discovered that we two/too would be having a third child nine months down the road, creating a 10-year gap between the oldest and the youngest.
We take childbearing seriously.
So does Nadya Suleman, 33, who by any measure already had a large family just a couple of weeks ago. Though were was no father to be found, she delivered six children and was at the point where most mothers would say “no mas, es todo, ya basta.”
Convinced she just couldn’t get enough of that wonderful stuff called birthing, she delivered a record — count ‘em — eight babies Jan. 26. Syndicated columnist Ellen Goodman called it a “very exciting day,” and “a feat for which the 46-member medical team at the California hospital expected kudos and high-fives.” The in-vitro fertilization — the planting of a litter — must have been performed with the confidence that “if some of the embryos don’t ‘take,’ others will, and better be safe than sorry.”
OK, she already has six little ones; she’s not married (that doesn’t seem to be a pre-req anymore), and she delivered the octuplets all at once, ranging from 24 ounces to a “healthy” 3 pounds 4 ounces. Her parents, by the way, last week filed for bankruptcy.
Does medical science think of her womb as some kind of experimental, prototype garden in which to plant all the embryos that fit? Is her uterus such that some embryos might grow, some might not? Isn’t a family of six for an unmarried mother sufficient?
So now that she’s about to raise a whopping 14 children we wonder how taxpayers will feel about helping pay the estimated $3 million hospital and after-hospital bill.
The notion of improving the odds by planting eight embryos is the kind of reasoning players use when they surround themselves with a half dozen Bingo cards for each round, when everyone else in the room has done the same.
The passage in Genesis assuredly didn’t mean for us to conceive and deliver children by litters. And it’s fortuitous that a medical board is questioning the medical practices of Dr. Michael Kamrava, believed to have done the honors, not only for these bundles of joy but for the six others.
Super Mother, who said in an interview aired Monday that she was “fixated” on having babies, can’t really count on endorsements to set her and them up for life. Unlike the time in the ‘30s, when the Fischer and Dionne Quintuplets arrived, for example, sponsors are looking the other way.
Back then, companies that manufactured baby products, diapers, nursing formulas, detergents and baby clothes were eager to feature the five new arrivals. Their frequent appearances in national magazines, newsreels and commercials helped them maintain a fairly opulent lifestyle.
That doesn’t happen anymore. In the early ‘70s, a young man at Highlands, who had been my high school student in Cuba, N.M., became the father of triplet daughters. At the time, the odds for that were 1 in 18,100. The event made barely a ripple, except for a lot of bluster by church groups that they provide a pram built for three — a project they dropped shortly after Robert and Carol’s daughters entered kindergarten.
The recent development perpetrated by Suleman and her obstetrician makes one wonder if someone has published a new edition of the Genesis 1:28 pronouncement: “Be fruitful and multiply — exponentially!”
Genesis says, “God looked at everything He had made and He found it very good.” What must God be thinking now?
More is better?
Art Trujillo is a copy editor at the Optic and a contributing member of the newspaper’s Editorial Board. He may be reached by calling 425-6796 or by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.