A new word was added to my vocabulary: septuplets (so unusual a word is it that my spell check wanted to turn it into sextuplets). Along with others, I was rooting for the McCaugheys' babies, and the parents' genuine delight mirrored my own. I was delighted, that is, until--
I began to consider the toll on the lives of the parents taking care of seven babies. Just the number of diapers per day/week/month is staggering. And, during the school years, what about the evening hours needed to help with homework? And, then, there is the cost-dresses, tuxes, flowers-for prom night. Will community help, so forthcoming now, continue with homework?
I began to reconsider when a reproductive counselor stated that this was not a success but a failure of technology. She said that the intent of reproductive technology is to enable a couple to conceive a child, not multiple children, especially on such a massive scale. Also, with male sperm count dropping and women's increasing difficulty getting pregnant, I wonder if the impressive technological ability of the Iowa Methodist Medical center team that safely delivered and then sustained the septuplets is now playing catch-up with the problems technology is causing.
I began to groan as I heard about a black couple in Washington, D.C., who gave birth to sextuplets (an exceedingly rare occurrence) and got little media attention and few offers of community help.
Then I wondered if we have another case of "affluenza," the disease of wanting more and more and refusing to accept any material and physical boundaries.
Still, I thought, it is Christmas, that time of the year which is, as we often say, for children-and for adults who enjoy, even briefly, viewing the world through the anticipation and wonder of children. The McCaugheys' now have seven pairs of eyes through which to see the wonder of the starfilled sky, and seven minds which will come to know the 'hopes and fears of all the years,' and seven individual human journeys to trace. And, to its credit, the multibillion dollar, infertilitytreatment industry does its part to provide the McCaugheys, and others, with their dream of having a child, or children, of their own.
Someone in that small Iowa town took a paintbrush,
put a big "X" through its 3400 on its population sign
and, in a large red scrawl wrote-3407. Right on!
--Robert H. Tucker
22 December 1997