Several weeks ago it was reported that Annegret Raunigk of Germany, age 65, is expecting quadruplets. She already has 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 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, but they’ve maintained that they have always been able to afford and care for their own family, and for what its worth, this appears to be true. For the mother that continues to have more children even after she is receiving financial assistance for her existing children that she already cannot afford, the majority opinion would likely be that she refrain from having further children if she does not have the financial means to care for them. While there may always be unforeseen circumstances that require people to (rightly so) rely on government assistance, the consensus is that it should be a temporary means to see you back on your feet and not relied upon as a permanent solution. As a general rule, no one should consider having children if they don’t believe they are 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 have stated that they would stop having children when God wanted them to, which one would assume 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 make it any more sensible to do it when you 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? 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 learn, but it’s not fair to older children to essentially be tasked as “parents” and it’s not fair to younger children that they may not get as much love and attention from the true parent that they deserve. I have to work to make sure I provide adequate and equal amounts of time to just two children, I have a hard time believing anyone that says this is simple to do with 19, or 13 (soon to be 17) children! And even if you claim it’s truly possible, that you really can be there equally for all of them, well, wouldn’t that still be that much harder to do if you’ll soon be feeling the effects of advanced aging and therefore not able to care for them as well, possibly even dying while they are still relatively young? True, a child could end up motherless at any age due to any unforeseen reason, but again, why add to those probabilities with odds that are extremely high and not in your favor?
At the end of the day, these are the types of questions I do ask when I hear of situations such as these. It’s not my intention to judge, I just truly wonder as to the thought process that was taken, and would hope that these were basic questions that the parents would themselves have asked. But regardless of whether or not the Duggars truly spend adequate time with each individual child and whether or not Ms. Raunigk will be able and strong enough to care for her children and see them through to adulthood, I’m sure none of the children would regret ever having been born. Children are a blessing, regardless of the circumstances through which they may have arrived. I wish the best to them all.