Several weeks ago it was reported that Annegret Raunigk of Germany, age 65, is expecting quadruplets. She has already 13 children (the oldest of which is 44) and 7 grandchildren.
I don’t believe it is anyone’s right or business to meddle into someone’s decision to procreate. One should be entitled to have as many children as they see fit, granted they have the ability and means to care for them. I suppose the question then is: what exactly constitutes an appropriate and satisfactory level of “ability” and “means”?
The Duggar family, of “19 Children and Counting” fame, are often criticized for their choice in having such a large family although they’ve maintained that they have always been comfortably able to afford and care for each child (and for what its’ worth, this appears to be true). But for the parent(s) that continues to procreate even after receiving financial assistance for existing children, the majority opinion would likely be that the decision to further procreate be halted if financial means are not adequate. While there will always be unforeseen circumstances that require people to (rightly so) rely on government assistance, the common implication is that it be used as a temporary means to get you back on your feet rather than relied upon as a permanent solution. As a general rule, one should probably not consider having children without being in a reasonable position to provide basic feeding, clothing, and sheltering of the child.
And once you’ve decided that yes, you can comfortably afford a child, your next question may then be whether you are physically and emotionally able to care for the child. I admit that is what most raised my eyebrows in the case of this 65 year old mother. For the majority of women, menopause occurs around the age of 50, as the body’s natural, biological decision that it is time to stop bearing children. I do wonder why one who has reached this stage in life naturally, at the appropriate age, and having already borne children, would question this and decide to alter the course simply because their youngest child “wanted a younger sibling”. Even the Duggars stated that they would stop having children “when God wanted them to” which one would presume to mean after Michell Duggar enters menopause and her body tells her that she is no longer physically able to do this anymore.
A quadruple pregnancy would be a dangerous, high-risk gestation for a fit woman of 25, let alone 65. Even if Ms. Raunigk is very fit for her age, it seems like such a unnecessary risk to self to have taken, not to mention the increased risk of birth defects and handicaps that occur in babies born to mothers of advanced age. Certainly there are risks to both mother and child at any age, but that doesn’t necessarily make it any more sensible to do when you already know the odds are stacked highly against you. And once those babies are here, can you truly claim to have the same stamina and wherewithal for child rearing that you did at 30? I wouldn’t question the love you would have for the child, but can you honestly say that this child would have the same devotion and attention that you gave to your previous children when you were 30 years younger? Is it fair that because you have so many children, you may have to enlist Michelle Duggar’s “buddy system’ in which older children are paired with younger children to assist in their primary care? Sure, children in families must learn to help out and pitch in. That all families work together and it is a team effort is certainly an important lesson to impart, but it’s not fair to older children to essentially be tasked as “parents” when they should be mostly free to enjoy their youth, and it’s not fair to younger children that they may not get as much deserved time and attention from the actual parent. I have to work to make sure I provide adequate and equal amounts of time to just two children, it can be a little tough to believe anyone who claims this is simple to do with 13 (soon to be 17) children!
These are the types of questions that come to mind when I read stories like this in the news. And it is not at all my intention to judge, harshly or otherwise; it’s more so that I am simply just honestly curious as to the thought process taken to arrive at such a monumental decision and if these were same basic questions that the parents themselves pondered. But at the end of the day, whether or not the Duggars truly spend adequate time with each individual child and/or whether Ms. Raunigk will be fit and able to see her newest additions through to adulthood, I’m sure none of the children would regret ever having been born. Children are a blessing and that is regardless of any potentially questionable circumstance through which they may have come to be. I wish the best to them all.