September 18, 2018

An Unmet Need for Family Planning

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I’m reading a magazine to pass the time in my gynecologist’s office when I stumble upon the incredible “historical record” of one 18th century Russian peasant woman who reportedly gave birth to sixty nine children between the years of 1725 and 1765 (without fertility aids, of course).  Apparently, she did this with 27 multiple birth pregnancies and with only two lost in infancy.

“Not possible,” says my gynecologist when I share the figure with her.  That was my reaction too.  Nonetheless, even if the figure was doubly exaggerated, that still leaves a staggering number of children that the human body can create, and a puzzling question as to why any woman would want that many children.  Was she looking to start her own sports league or productive work force for the family business?

According to Yahoo, the “modern” record for the most number of children born to one woman goes allegedly to a Chilean woman (now in her mid 60’s) who delivered 64 babies, though the article qualifies that Chilean birth certificates are “something of a less-than-serious concern in Chile.”

Most number of children to one father, you ask?  The last Sharifan Emperor of Morocco, Mulai Ismail(1646-1727) reportedly sired somewhere around 800 children with 500 wives – a busy man indeed.  One wonders how he had any time to run an empire and one can well imagine many other legendary rulers throughout history who must have had impressive fleets of children as well.

Here are a few more staggering reproduction figures:  The youngest woman to give birth was, in fact not a woman at all but apparently a five year old Peruvian girl who delivered her baby boy by cesarean in 1939 in a small Andean village.  The community thought she had an abdominal tumor.  A pituitary malfunction was speculated to have caused the onset of her menstruation at three years of age.  The baby lived and welcomed his brother thirty three years later.  If this story is true it is disturbing by so many accounts but what I wonder is did they find  the man who molested her and cut off his nuts?  Unfortunately not –  the father remained a mystery.

The youngest father on record?  A twelve year old boy from England who had a son in 1998 with his fifteen year old girlfriend.

Oldest Father? A ninety three year old Australian man who died at one hundred. The oldest mother was a Spanish woman who had fertility assistance in producing twins at sixty seven in 2006 (which of course sparked international controversy).

Here’s another disturbing statistic:  According to Guinness World Records, in 2010 the “youngest identified group of drug addicts:” Unlucky babies born to young mothers in rural Afghanistan who are addicted to heroin and opium from the abundance of poppy crops in their country.  In addition to passing the drugs along to fetuses in-uteri, mothers are known in rural regions to blow heroin spoke at the babies to calm them and relieve pain.  The U.S. State Department “has categorized them as the youngest drug addicted group ever found for which there are no established treatment protocols.”

Finally, according to Nicholas D. Kristof in an Op-Ed article of the New York Times this past Mother’s Day, “215 million women worldwide have an ‘unmet need’ for family planning, meaning they don’t want to become pregnant but aren’t using effective contraception.”  He continues: “The Guttmacher Institute, a respected research group, estimates that if all the unmet need for contraception were met, the result would be 94,000 fewer women dying of pregnancy complications each year, and almost 25 million fewer abortions each year.”

I ask you:  Do these figures not call out a need for affordable birth control and accessible family planning education worldwide?

 

The Right To Breed Again and Again and Again…

Me During a Polar Plunge Defending the Right to Birth Control

Me During a Polar Plunge Defending the Right to Birth Control

My friend’s neighborhood is awash in whispering.  The local mothers are passing along word that their neighbor is having – gasp — her tenth child.

“She is a wonderful mother and her kids are all quite lovely and well behaved,” my friend qualifies to me, but adds: “but honestly, what was she thinking, having another child?”

There it is, out in the open:  Mothers chiding mothers for taking things too far.  The local mothers gossip amongst themselves, wondering what would possess an educated 21st century woman in a well-to-do suburb to have so many children?

The answer?  Religion, perhaps.  The woman is apparently devoutly religious.  They mothers settle on religion as the likely overriding push for their friend to continue her own baby boom.  But can her decision to continue the growth of her family at an exponential rate come from some other psychological yearning?  Maybe.

Here’s what I wonder:  If I stand for a woman’s right to reproductive freedom, which I do (see picture above) must I commend a woman no matter her choice – no children or ten?  Shouldn’t a woman have the right to birth control – or not-  if she so chooses?  How many children are too many?  How man children can a family have before it taxes the parents to the point of incompetent parenting or irresponsible civic member?  How many children should one community have to support from one family?  Should public schools impose an extra tax on families with more than a certain number of children in the local system? Moreover, when a woman has ten children (or more – I’m picking a random number here) is it always her choice, or is it sometimes her husband’s or her religion’s or her family’s or culture’s choice?

As always, especially here, I navigate some tricky waters.  Isn’t this all worth some debate though?

I have had many friends from large families (of five or more siblings) and they all defend their experience in a those families as very rewarding.

With fertility treatments on the rise and on a technological fast forward treadmill, should we expect multiple births, or multiple multiple births to be the norm?  Will huge families make a comeback?  Are they already making a comeback?

Okay, I’ll stop asking so many questions.  My take:  This all needs to be discussed and debated.  Public institutions, communities, friends and neighbors should review the merits of very large families (or for that matter, childless families).  More research should be done to understand the physical, emotional, psychological, and civic consequences of multiple offspring.  Only then can parents make informed decisions about the number of children they should (or shouldn’t) have for the benefit of themselves, their offspring, their communities and the world at large.

 

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Vicki Larson: How Not To Save A Marriage

READ – Vicki Larson: How Not To Save A Marriage.

Thanks to Vicky Larson and GINK – green inclinations, no kids for bringing us another compelling story, and an appropriate follow-up to the earlier WNK piece by Vicki Larson:  Are Childless Couples Headed Toward Divorce? Vicky is a great researcher and thinker, and certainly a conversation starter. She has responded to comments from our writers and readers, so don’t be afraid to share your own questions or thoughts.

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Five Reasons Childfree Adults May Be Happier Than Parents

"Psychology Today" magazine... Could...

Click Here for the full article: Five Reasons Childfree Adults May Be Happier Than Parents | Psychology Today.

This post may be worth revisiting, especially for those uncertain about having babies, or how doing so may affect their life and relationships.

To sum it all up, don’t have a child because you think it will bring you happiness or improve your marriage. If you’re not content with your life prior to kids, this discontent will likely continue after the child is born. Plus, it’s important to recognize the challenges that parenting will bring. There are positives and negatives in every life choice, and it’s important to weigh these out as you create the landscape of your future.

Psychology Today is an excellent resource for a variety of perspectives and studies.For more information search “parenting” or “childfree” on the Psychoogy Today website. There are many compelling pieces by Ellen Walker, Ph.D., author of Complete Without Kids.

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Get Your Freakon(omics)!: “The Economist’s Guide to Parenting”

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Freakonomics » Freakonomics Radio, Hour-long Episode 2: “The Economist’s Guide to Parenting”.

Unless you have a lot of time to geek out on Freakonomics, you can skip the radio show and just skip to the text below. Taken from a transcript of the show, this exchange serves as an appropriate follow-up to the Freakonomics on fatherhood post. According to these economists, the increase in parenting duties for college-educated mothers, and the cause, is even more freaky/intriguing:

RAMEY: So, in the 1980’s, the average, young, college-educated mother spent thirteen hours per week on childcare.

DUBNER: That’s Valerie Ramey again. She and her husband Gary, also an economist, analyzed data from the American Time Use Survey.


RAMEY: Now, it’s 22 hours a week. So, the amount of time has increased by nine hours a week.

DUBNER: Nine hours. So, that’s about a seventy percent increase, that’s a huge increase.

RAMEY: It’s a huge increase.

RAMEY: Now, what’s interesting is over this same time period, the wages of college-educated women have really increased. So, the opportunity cost of time has increased at the same time they’ve decided to spend more time taking care of their children.

DUBNER: So, to an economist, like you, that has to be a little bit baffling, yes?

RAMEY: Yes, it is a puzzle.

DUBNER: After declining for decades, the amount of time that parents spent on childcare started to rise in the 1990’s and then skyrocketed in the 2000’s, especially among college-educated moms. Why? The Rameys found a surprising answer: college. Specifically: the increased competition for kids to get into good colleges. These high-end parents weren’t simply babysitting; they were chauffeuring their kids to the kind of extracurricular activities that look good on a college application. The Rameys called it the rug-rat race. You want to know the strangest part? Valerie Ramey was a prime offender — until her family put a stop to it.

 

 

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Freakonomics » The Divergence of Fatherhood: Feast or Famine

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Freakonomics » The Divergence of Fatherhood: Feast or Famine.

Indeed, most fathers (63%) say being a dad is harder today than it was a generation ago.

Many people point to the economy when it’s time to blame something for more childfree families. The Freakonomics folks offer some enlightening statistics about the challenges of fatherhood in our age. Is this a job you want today? Would you accept it if the demands were more like dad’s in the 1960s?

In 1965, married fathers with children younger than age 18 living in their household spent an average of 2.6 hours per week caring for those children. Fathers’ time spent caring for their children rose gradually over the next two decades — to 2.7 hours per week in 1975 and three hours per week in 1985. From 1985 to 2000, the amount of time married fathers spent with their children more than doubled — to 6.5 hours in 2000.

 

Only about one-in-four adults say fathers today are doing a better job as parents than their own fathers did. Roughly one-third (34%) say they are doing a worse job, and 40% say they are doing about the same job.

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Video Vasectomy Shocker: A Survivor’s Tale of Survival

Jason Jones conducting an interview for The Da...

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A Survivor’s Tale of Survival – I Survived – The Daily Show with Jon Stewart – 08/04/11 – Video Clip | Comedy Central.

This isn’t just another vasectomy story. Ot is it? Jason Jones is seeking a cure for a “disease” that makes him exhausted, fat and dirty?

Jason Jones narrating: “The doctor held my life in his hands.”

Jason Jones: ”Would you say I have a larger than average vas deferens?”

Surgeon: “You have a great size vas deferens

Jason Jones: “Thank you Dr. Weiner

Vicki Larson: Are Childless Couples Headed Toward Divorce?

Marriage and divorce rates in the US, 1990-200...

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Vicki Larson: Are Childless Couples Headed Toward Divorce?.

“People assume children are the glue that holds a marriage together, which really isn’t true. Kids are huge stressors,” says Scott, head of the Childless by Choice Project whose documentary on childfree couples was just released. “Despite that, there is a strong motive to stay together. The childfree don’t have that motive so there’s no reason to stay together if it’s not working.”

This article is great, really layered and probing. It answers a lot of questions about who is “childfree”, why, and what the impact of such status on their marriage may be. However, there may be some confusion, or even unintended/inaccurate conclusions, as all couples without children are lumped into the “childfree” category, including couples frequently categorized as “childless” (those who want kids but cannot conceive) that “make up the bulk of the childfree” in this story.

As I read the article I wondered how many of the divorced couples were simply victims of a decision to marry too early. According to Elizabeth Gilbert’s Committed, the rate of divorce among people that marry before 25 is astounding. I also hoped for statistics comparing older married couples. How do those who CHOOSE not to have kids compare to couples with empty nests at the same age? When the decision  for parents to divorce can be made without complicating child rearing, like the childfree by choice, then who APPEARS to be more successful or happily married? (Not that remaining married is an accurate indicator of “success”) When I was in college, my parents finally divorced, and there was a rash of divorces among my friends’ parents as well.

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What if…Oprah had kids?

Mary Cassatt (1844–1926), The Bath Oil on canv...

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I admit that sometimes I think, ‘What if I had kids?’  Would I be a better teacher? Or a better person? Would I write better children’s books? How different would my life be now?

What if certain childfree female role models throughout history had had kids? Would their lives have had the same focus?

What if Oprah Winfrey had kids? Would she have felt the need to educate hundreds of African girls?

What if Mary Cassatt had kids? Would she still have created countless paintings and pastels of mothers and children?

What if Condoleezza Rice had kids? Would she have felt differently about sending other people’s children into war?

What if Florence Nightingale had kids? Would she have been the “lady with the lamp” running from patient to patient night after night?

What if Sally Ride had kids? Would she have been the first American woman astronaut?

Do you need to be a mother to have empathy? To better understand children or humanity?

Do you ever wonder ‘What if I had kids?’

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Ann Landers on Childfree Families

Ann Landers: It's OK to not want children

Ann Landers: It's OK to not want children

Sometimes it’s important to analyze artifacts, decrypt opinions, interpret statements. And sometimes it’s important to step aside and let the evidence speak for itself.

The latter was my reaction when we received this old, yellowed news clipping from a reader. A quick search online turned up a copy of the the original text which I’m including below to make it a little easier for you to read. The piece is tongue-in-cheek, and all the richer for it. Enjoy!

Dear Ann Landers: I have four children, all grown up, married and on their own. They were quite a handful to raise, but they turned out great.

I have a fond recollection of a column you printed a few years back about the joys of having kids. Our two oldest children now have kids of their own, and I think they would appreciate a good laugh.

Will you please run that column again?

Reader in Gary

Dear Reader: It’s one of my all-time favorites too. Thank you for asking.

Musings of a Good Father on a Bad Day

There’s nothing sadder than the childless couple. It breaks your heart to see them stretched out, relaxing around swimming pools in Florida and California, suntanned and miserable on the decks of boats, trotting off to enjoy Europe like lonesome fools–with money to spend, time to enjoy themselves and nothing to worry about.

Childless couples become so selfish and wrapped up in their own concerns that you feel sorry for them. They don’t fight over the kids’ discipline. They miss all the fun of “doing without” for the child’s sake. It’s a pathetic sight.

Everyone should have children. No one should be allowed to escape the wonderful experiences attached to each stage in the development of the young. The happy memories of those early years–saturated mattresses, waiting for sitters who don’t show, midnight asthma attacks, rushing to the emergency room of the hospital to get the kid’s head stitched up.

Then comes the payoff–when the child grows from a little acorn into a real nut. What can equal the warm smile of a small lad with the sun glittering on $1,500 worth of braces–ruined by peanut brittle–or the frolicking, carefree voices of 20 hysterical savages running amok at a birthday party?

How sad not to have children to brighten your cocktail parties–massaging potato chips into the rug and wrestling with guests for the olives in their martinis.

How empty is the home without challenging problems that make for a well-rounded life–and an early breakdown; the end-of-day report from Mother, related like strategically placed blows to the temple; the tender, thoughtful discussions when the report card reveals that your senior son is a moron.

Children are worth every moment of anxiety, every sacrifice. You know it the first time you take your son hunting. He didn’t mean to shoot you in the leg. Remember how he cried? How sorry he was? So disappointed you weren’t a deer. Those are the memories a man treasures.

Think back to that night of romantic adventure, when your budding, beautiful daughter eloped with the village idiot. What childless couple ever shares in such a wonderful growing experience? Could a woman without children equal the strength and heroism of your wife when she tried to fling herself out of the bedroom window? Only a father could have the courage to stand by–ready to jump after herThe childless couple lives in a vacuum. They try to fill their lonely lives with dinner dates, theater, golf, tennis, swimming, civic affairs and trips all over the world.

The emptiness of life without children is indescribable.

See what the years have done. He looks boyish, unlined and rested. She is slim, well-groomed and youthful. It isn’t natural. If they had kids, they’d look like the rest of us–tired, gray, wrinkled and haggard. In other words, normal. (Chicago Tribune)