Thoughtful Thursday: Pond

March 11, 2010

Thoughtful ThursdayErnessa of Fierce and Nerdy and 32 Candles sent me a New York Times obituary about a very fertile woman. The matriarch left behind 15 children, more than 200 grandchildren, and too many great-grandchildren to count — totaling around 2000 descendants. Her high rate of reproduction was a direct response to the Nazis’ genocide of Jews, and is not so unusual among some Hasidic sects.

Of course, I thought of what this family means for those of us who are fertility-challenged, and how an infertile member of that family might feel being surrounded by siblings with a dozen children each.

It also raised an issue that I’d already been thinking about.

How many is too many?

This woman apparently could keep track of everyone’s name and face, but that’s probably about it. She couldn’t possibly attend everyone’s piano recitals or little league games. I wonder if she knew anyone’s interests or personality. Her social calendar was so busy that she needed one of her sons to track it.

DH’s grandmother has one child, two grandchildren, and currently two great-grandchildren. If you add in the respective spouses, she has 8 people to keep track of. I’ve wondered whether, when my nephew Murphy is born in a couple of months, how that will affect her attention to Burrito and Tamale. I believe that the love won’t be diluted, but there’s only so much attention to go around, right? Or, DH’s father is wholly devoted to Burrito and Tamale. Will he still feel the same way when the 10th grandchild is born? Can he possibly feel the same way? Or are the first ones really the most special?

That’s certainly true in my family. My grandmother has 4 children and 20 grandchildren or great-grandchildren, not including spouses. She doesn’t always remember my birthday or DH’s name. On the other side, there are so many that I literally cannot keep track. I couldn’t even give an estimate of how many grandchildren and great-grandchildren are in the family.

Thanks to infertility, the issue of having too many children has not been a concern — except for the higher order multiples scare when my betas were sky-high. Even so, it’s something that I’d been thinking about already when Ernessa sent me the article. Earlier that week, the topic had come up for me in a rather silly way: I was singing the song Rubber Ducky to Burrito at bathtime.

Rubber ducky, I’d like a whole pond of…
Rubber ducky, I’m awfully fond of…
You.

I got stuck at that line. I was singing to Burrito as if he were the ducky, and I couldn’t even utter the words that I’d like a whole pond full of him. For one thing, he is a unique individual, and even if I had another son, he wouldn’t be “another Burrito.” When DH’s sister found out that she was having a boy, she said, “I’m so excited to have my own Burrito!” which I didn’t like at all. Murphy is not another Burrito, he is Murphy, and he deserves to be treated as more than a pale imitation of his (admittedly incredible) cousin.

Uniqueness aside, I don’t want a whole pond of Burritos. I wouldn’t want a whole pond of unique little boys either, but maybe a bathtub full? A sink full? I just don’t know. Already with two babies I feel like there’s never enough time, never enough attention to go around. As an only child with doting parents, I know that I have a skewed sense of what family dynamics are supposed to look like. I have one son and one daughter, which is more than I thought I’d be fortunate enough to have. I can wrap my mind around having one son and one daughter. If I’d had two sons or two daughters I would have adjusted to that too, but that’s not my reality. But what if, in some alternate fertile reality, I had four boys? Eight boys? Sixteen boys? And then those sixteen boys each had an average of, let’s say, four children, totaling 64 grandchildren? And then each of those 64 grandchildren had 4 children, totaling over 300 descendants? Could I really know them as individuals? Would I be able to sing Rubber Ducky to each one of them, even once?

How many is too many?

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18 Responses to “Thoughtful Thursday: Pond”

  1. ^WiseGuy^ Says:

    How many is too many?

    I think you have covered this in a TT a few months back.

    My paternal grandmother had 6 children. Her youngest died when he was a toddler. But she raised her kids well, and from what I hear she ‘knew’ her kids.

    My maternal grandmother had four living children, and lost two babies right after they were born. But the four kids were raised well too.

    I have been raised in a set of two – me and my bro.

    DH has been raised in a set of two – he and his bro.

    I think that previously women had little control over their reproductive ability and so every year yielded kiddos, till either the consummation deal broke, or the lady grew old enough to not bear kids.

    We, in this generation, have significantly more control.

    I visualize myself ideally at 3 and practically at 2. And I know that God Willing, I may stop at 2.

    How many is too many for me? As many as Mumtaz Mahal: 14! Anything above 8 would be ginormous…..

  2. Michele Says:

    I dont know the answer… Peter and I dont believe in birth control, so, assuming our infertility ever got resolved (which medically speaking, seems pretty improbable), we are open to however many children God blessed us with. We also plan to adopt when Bobby and Maya are older.

  3. Elana Kahn Says:

    How many is too many? Well that is different for everyone, and I feel it is that person’s decision and his/hers alone. It is not my place to tell someone how many kids to have, BUT I feel that if someone does not have the finances to keep up with having a huge family then there is such a thing as “too many” for them. For me personally, I would like either 5 or 6 kids, and I think that’s a pretty good goal considering that I am not a “fertile” who gets pregnant the first time having sex after delivering a baby. I think I should be able to swing 5 or 6 kids before I turn 35…or 40.

  4. a Says:

    I think this is definitely a 21st century issue. With birth control available, and no stigma attached to not being married by the time you’re 21, and less stigma attached to single parenting, choosing the number of children you want to have is a side benefit to progress. As stated above, in the past, you got however many children you got.

    I would like to have 2 children. I’m pretty sure I will only have one child.

    I noticed that my sister was fairly normal (i.e. the same) when she had 2 children, but when the third came along, she became kinda crazy. Scheduling became a major deal, she’s always busy, there’s never time to just sit and relax at her house. I see that with many of my friends. With 2 kids, life doesn’t change much. With 3 kids, everything changes. So, for me, 3 kids is the point where resources (money, time, attention) become strained.

    Is 3 too many? For me, yes. For others? Probably not.

  5. jill Says:

    Definitely an individual choice that can vary widely. I wouldn’t have wanted more than 3 or 4 if IF hadn’t thrown a wrench in the works but, at this point, I would be very happy with 1 or 2.

    I do question the ability to really be an available, quality parent when the kids get in the number of 8, 10, 12…. I love to watch that certain reality show about the family with 19 and, if things are close to how they’re portrayed, I think their kids are being raised well. But do they each really have quality time with their parents? I just don’t know if that’s possible.

    I think a family loses something meaningful when there are so many decendants that the grandparents aren’t able to get to know their grandchildren.

  6. BB Says:

    I thinks its a personal choice, but with todays fast paced life and lifestyle 2-3 is probably it! Infant mortality was much higher in olden days, and that is probably one of the reasons why everybody had more kids… also, I have heard some real old ppl say that more the hands, more the help… and that was probably true for the agro based lifestyle.

    I believe that every child is unique and needs the individual attention from their parents/family. and that is just not possible with a huge family!

    BTW, I purchased the breastfeeding bible Carrie and you had suggested… was an easy read, so fortunately I could get through it quick! It was definitely worth buying… Thank you so much for reco’ing it. I will be taking it to the hospital with me for ref and to seek help from LC if needed.

  7. Myndi Says:

    I’d have to say it’s a personal choice. So long as you can provide for the children you have, can adequately care for them, then who am I to judge? Everyone has different ideas about family-building and also, I think once you have children, your mind changes a little sometimes. Perhaps you imagined only having one but after having one think you would like more or maybe you wanted a dozen and find two are more than you can reasonably handle. For me, I think I’d like 4 or 5, but since I’ve not had more than one…I won’t swear that’s where I would end up even if I could because I don’t yet know what it is to raise 2.


  8. This brings up a few interesting points:

    1) Sibling attention vs Parental attention — I feel Betty absolutely needs a sibling because siblings are there for you in a way that friends and parents are not. I would feel terrible if something happened to me and Betty didn’t have a sibling. I cannot imagine going through the pain of my mother’s death alone. Also, my mother was from a big family (9) and her brothers and sisters LOVE being in a large family. It makes taking care of my grandmother easier. They are never lonely because they have each other. Also, people in our family who are shy like my sister don’t have to bother with making friends.

    2) The oldest daughter. However, the ugly truth about big families is that there is always an older sibling (usually a daughter) who has to grow up too fast and is always stressed out. I blame a lot of my mothers problems with anxiety on the fact that she was never allowed to go anywhere or do anything b/c she was always taking care of her brothers and sisters. She resented this role and was careful not to ever make me responsible for my little sister. She also got her tubes tied after two girls. In fact, none of my aunts or uncles had more than three children. Go figure.

    3) I agree that it’s a personal choice. I know how I want to raise my children and I cannot raise them in that manner if there are too many of them. So we’ll probably stop after two if the IVF gods are kind.

  9. Lavender Luz Says:

    Wow. Each one of those 15 children (from the obit) had an average of 13+ kids? Mind boggling.

    I wonder if there is a correlation between the size of one’s family of origin and the # of children one goes on to have.

    I came from a family of 3 (kids). I wanted a family of 2 or 3. 1 would be too few and 4 would be too many, for me.

    Hence the boggle.

  10. Rebecca Says:

    I’m an only. One would be plenty – I’m not sure I could deal with siblings arguing.

  11. Mel Says:

    I think if you can afford it and it’s sustainable in terms of your ability to give attention, the sky is the limit. But then I see the Duggars and I think, “damn, what an enormous family. Is that truly good for society at large?” But what’s the tipping point in terms of resources?

    I think I could handle 5. I don’t think our house could, but I have the emotional ability to handle 5.

  12. coffeegrl Says:

    I have no idea what the perspective of one of those “nearly forgotten” children or grandchildren might be. I have one sibling. My husband has two siblings. Between the 2 of us, my parents are likely to not get more than 4 grandkids – very easy to manage and remember and smother with attention. With my husband’s family, I’d say odds are that there will be 6+ grandkids for his parents to keep on top of and I think they struggle with the 6 they’ve got currently. Not sure how they’ll manage with more. BUT I think that’s really about their personalities (my in-laws’) and that other grandparents would handle 6 with ease….

    For me, I don’t know that I could manage more than 2 small children at one time, but if their ages were more varied, I’d like to think that 4 would be do-able, fun, loving and fulfilling for all involved. Of course given my “advanced maternal age” I’m not sure that’s a reality either.

  13. Photogrl Says:

    I came from a family of four. But I watched how my mother related to her 3 siblings and kinda felt cheated that I only had one sibling.

    I always wanted 3, yet honestly felt that if were were lucky enough to finally concieve #2 we would be done.

    Now, when I think about what to do after the twins come, I’m perplexed. Will 3 be our family? Will I be ready to be “done”? Am I just crazy for even thinking we might want one more?

    I guess only time will tell.

  14. Jules Says:

    How many is too many?

    Well the Duggars aren’t content with 19 & there are plenty of families out there with a dozen or so.

    For us, we wanted 3 (that was before infertility). Both of us were one of two, but I just like the number 3, as there was an extra one.

    After 5.5yrs of TTC, one would have been enough, but some how we hit the jackpot with 2 & still have 2 embryos remaining, so we may actually achieve that magical 3.

    Honestly, I can’t fathom a large (Duggar sized) family. How do you find time to spend time with each individual child? How do you find time to spend with your partner? And more importantly, how do you find time to spend with yourself?

  15. staciet Says:

    Interesting question. When I was growing up, I only wanted to have one child. I so envied my friends who were single children. I was never close to my brothers, and they were so much older than me. It was just like they were there to annoy me!

    But, I was overjoyed with the thought of having twins. I loved the idea that they would have someone their own age to play (and fight) with on a regular basis.

    But I want another, and I think we could easily parent another well. But…would that child be like me and wish he or she was an only child because he/she is the odd man/woman out? So, now I think 4 would be a good number of kids.

    Now my house might not be big enough, and the money would be tight, but we could do it!

  16. Ana Says:

    Good question, but hard to answer—I think there are advantages and disadvantages at both sides of the spectrum. As a kid, if you are one of a few (or the one and only, as my little monkey is right now—first & only child, and grandchild on either side…first greatgrandchild on one side, and the first after a LONG hiatus on the other) you get a LOT of individual attention & doting. But you miss out on the chaos & excitement of siblings/cousins, being part of the gang. Plus, there is the obvious burden of being the carrier of so many hopes & expectations for an entire family! My husband is an only child, and I see that is tough for him in some ways.

    I have one sibling, but I always wanted more. I thought 2 was boring, and 3 would be a great party. Thus, I always wanted to have 3 children. My husband agreed on that number. Didn’t QUITE work out as planned! Right now we are happy (and overwhelmed) with our one, but I know I am going to want to try for another at some point. Three, proabably never gonna happen, but I hope for at least two!


  17. As most of the others have said, it’s a very individual choice. I admire the courage of women (and men) who have many kids. Before TTC/IF etc I always thought I wanted 3 to 4 children. Then IF hit and I realized I would already feel very blessed with one. Then I became pregnant and because everything went so well the 3-4 idea came back, even though I knew that it might not be possible with our IF history. Then our son was born and the feeling didn’t change much until he was about 3 months old and I hit a very difficult (mainly sleep-deprived) period of about 4 months where I couldn’t imagine being able to cope with another child. Now things are much better and I can dream about a sibling for my son again, but I’m thinking more about a total of two children than four… But I think I will not know how many is too many until I’m actually there. So we’ll see how far my courage (and overcoming IF) will bring us.


  18. Oh, and I forgot… my grandmother once said that of her four children, she could only keep three of them in her mind at a given time (so one was always missing from her thoughts). My mom was the ‘good girl’, so the others always got more attention because they caused more trouble. So did my grandparents have one child too many? Or were they just too close together in age? Who knows… I think they all turned out pretty well and all have memories of a lovely childhood.


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