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Sunday, February 01, 2009

Is There a Such Thing as Too Many?

If you haven't heard, a story hit the news earlier last week about a California woman who gave birth to Octuplets after only expecting seven. She asked for privacy, but more details have continued to leak including the following:

* The mother is 33 years old.
* She has six other children ages 7, 6,5, 3, and 2 year old twins, bringing the total number of children to 14 all 7 years and younger.
* One of the children is autistic.
* She declared bankruptcy earlier this year.
* She is unmarried. (It is unclear how she became a fertility patient and what methods of fertility treatments were used as the only information that is known to this point is based on the grandmother's statements).
* The grandmother isn't particularly supportive of her child's choices, but didn't want to kick her out as the grandmother's therapist recommended.
* She lives with her parents in a home, reported to be no larger than 1500 square feet.
* Her father is going back to Iraq to help "support" the children (me thinks he may have other reasons for wanting to leave the home).
* She has a degree in child development.

I've been accused of being 'chicken' when it comes to addressing the topics relating to large family. I was accused of this in the comments of a "Guest Post: The Real Subject We Can't Talk About." I'm hoping to get a little braver by using this ridiculous story as a starting point for some more frank discussion. Since the mother/family involved in this story is not Jewish, it is a little easier to be frank since they don't live next door.

So here is my still wimpy start to a discussion about family size and finances:

*Is there a such thing as too many children?
*Is there a such thing too many children too close together?
*Is there a such thing as not being able to afford to have children?
*Is the household situation ever bad enough to preclude having children? (I.e. marriage on the rocks, too much dependence on outside help including grandparents).
*Is there a such thing as too many children living in too small of a place?
*Is it a good idea to have more children when the demands of existing children are high (special needs, autism, downs syndrome)?
*Is it appropriate to continue to have children if going on welfare programs is the only real solution to feeding them?

My own answers are perhaps and/or yes to every single question. I love seeing large families that really have it together. But this story is so problematic, "mazal tov" isn't the response I'm having. And judging from the comments on this story all over the web, I don't think there is a taxpayer in the completely broke State of California that is screaming out "mazal tov" either. The only group that seems to think the story is cute in any way shape or form are those commenting at VIN and at Imamother who are still mad at Nancy Pelosi for her comments on contraception and reducing costs to the government. (I might completely disagree with her approach, but she is correct that the US and State governments are drowning under the weight of social programs).

Take this thread wherever you want to. I'm hoping my next few posts will be on the subject of DEPENDENCY. Unfortunately, the frum community has one again made their mark in the news in a story about welfare.

42 comments:

Esther said...

SL, I'm willing to be completely honest about "the thing we don't talk about". We have two children and can't afford to have more. I use birth control, and we used birth control between our two children as well. I would love to have a third child, but this is not even a consideration while we are having serious financial problems, because the community would have to cover the expenses. If our financial situation changed, we would consider one more child but only if we truly thought that we'd be able to support three kids.

Anonymous said...

Its the families own business (and possibly the neighbors) till I heard they are on welfare. If you have more kids after you can't afford the one's you have (systemically, not through a temporary loss of job situation or something like that) while on welfare, its stealing.

ProfK said...

Never let it be said that I'm too chicken to say what I'm thinking: yes, way too many people are having more children than they should be having, given who is going to end up supporting them, in all ways. Far too many people who have babies first and then think about (or maybe don't think about) the costs involved, both monetarily and physically and personally, as well as the costs to the community. Please, someone show me an actual halacha that says that a couple must have as many children as they are possible of producing. You won't find one. And no, birth control is not ossur, even if you need to speak to a Rav.

Back in the "dark" ages--as recently as pre-WWII--women had lots of pregnancies because the chance of a child's making it out of infancy were not great, never mind actually growing to adulthood. Multiple miscarriages were common. Burying many children was also common. Children died of mumps and measles and other childhood diseases that we now can protect against. Today, losing a child is the exception not the rule. Yet we are reproducing as if, c"v, we are sure to lose a few of the children we bear.

SL, you like to do figuring. How much does a family need to make in order to afford on their own to pay yeshiva tuitions for 10 children a year? How about to feed, clothe and all the other expenses? Know many people who make that kind of money? Hilary Clinton is fond of saying that "It takes a village to raise a child." I'm afraid I don't buy into that if what I am being asked to do is fund the necessities for parents who assume that someone else will foot the bill for their procreating. And I'm just a touch too cynical to believe that "God will provide" for most of these large families. I feel more like the prospective father in law who told his wife that he had been elevated to "god-dom." She asked him how. He answered "I asked the boy how he was planning on supporting our daughter and he answered me that God will provide. First time I've ever been called god." Frankly, I'm not looking to join the Almighty in supporting everyone else's children.

Zev Hecht said...

Tough Questions. I honestly feel that every situation is different, and no blanket statement can cover all. Certainly in chareidi neighborhoods it is more socially acceptable, and even somewhat commendable to have more kids than you can afford or have room for.

Likewise, in the trailer parks of California there is little excuse for how they treat their kids. No single mother can properly care for 14 young children. Good for you for having the courage to bring up this difficult issue!

Encourage everyone to make a RESPONSIBLE choice, not based on social pressures.

As an aside, my wife and I are avid readers and occasional commentors on this blog. I just started my own blog I think you would enjoy, it's about marketing in Israel and how it affects our lives here.

SephardiLady said...

ProfK-I hve to say, when the women requested privacy, I was half expecting her to be frum. The big surprise of this news story was that this was a single mother, 33 years old, who has SIX other kids already. There really is nothing cute about this story because I have no idea how even a parent loaded with support and MONEY could ever hope to give 14 children 7 and younger, 8 of whom are the same age, what they need.

What are the costs for a family of 12 (10 kids): A LOT. Tuition would be a minimum of $100,000 per year if we still can pretend there are schools charging only 10 for elementary and high school.

Zev-Thanks for introducing yourself. Certainly no blanket rule, but I think we can all view this as a circus show that is getting worse and worse by the day.

Anonymous-You bring up an interesting point about the neighbors. No matter how good this mother will be, I can only imagine there will be property damage incurred upon the neighbors properties. On top of that, I have no idea how any neighbor would be able to sell a property if the buyer knew that a family of 14 kids lived next door. That brings up a lot of interesting issues.

Esther-I hear you.

ora said...

I find it hard to extrapolate from this case to the general issue of having children. This wasn't a case of deciding not to prevent conception, this was a woman deliberately getting pregnant with OCTUPLETS (!!!!) because -- I have no idea what "because" would lead a person with 6 young kids to seek fertility treatments, let alone the kind that lead to multiple births.

But there's a huge difference between preventing conception and just not actively seeking it. Both halachically and emotionally.

Anyway, to the more basic question. I think this is "The Real Subject We Can't Talk About" for a reason. A good reason. That being: it is none of anyone's business what other people are or aren't doing with their reproductive organs. It is not my business whether my neighbor next door with two older kids is on birth control or if the neighbor with three young kids is on birth control or if either of them should be. It is just not my business at all. Nobody should be talking about how other people have too many kids, IMO that's just sick. You can decide for yourself whether or not you think your kids should or shouldn't have been born, but please don't start thinking you can make those calls for me or for any other woman on this planet.

Now, choosing how to distribute communal funds is a different issue. But even there it quickly gets sticky. What's worse, a family that had a sixth kid and now needs communal aid but the father was a big-shot lawyer and they used to be able to afford it? Or the family that's limited themselves to three kids but still needs help because they chose to go into low-earning professions? If you decide that anyone who has a kid while on community aid gets cut off, who gets to investigate whether or not the mother is lying when she says the birth control failed (and you thought tuition boards were nosy...)? Who will be put in charge of deciding when to cut people off from funds? I doubt the rabbis who aren't encouraging birth control are going to agree that anyone who has more kids shouldn't get tzedaka--so where does that leave you? Giving up, or ignoring the rabbis altogether?

I just don't see any practical point to this discussion, and I see a lot of ways people could get hurt. Every individual can decide whether or not to help large/growing families in need (although I suggest they learn the halacha very well before cutting any poor person off from maaser funds). But there's really no benefit or purpose to talking about how irresponsible certain people think certain other people are, which seems to be the way this debate is destined to go.

(And in case someone argues that the discussion is necessary to "raise awareness" or "help people understand the consequences of these decisions"--the basic fact that more kids need more money is not news to anyone. Even those with 10 or more kids. Believe me, not even the most naive young couples are having babies because they think it will be easy and cheap.)

ora said...

Just wanted to add, in light of the original case -- I do think there's room to debate the use of fertility enhancing techniques/technology to have enormous families, whether it's something simple like not nursing in order to get pregnant again ASAP or something high-tech like implanting 8 frozen embryos. Nature's limits are there for a reason (not talking about infertility here, just the natural upper limit that keeps women from having 10 kids in under 3 years).

nava said...

While I also have no problem with large families I do have a problem with the abuse of fertility treatments in our country. Most other countries refuse to transfer more than one at a time, and now in some places insurance is agreeing to pay the cost if only one is transferred at a time. Causing someone to become pregnant with this many children at once is dangerous and negligent, risking not only the health but the lives of mother and children. I have no idea why a mother of 6 (also through fertility treatment) would have been 'allowed' (because yes, a doctor somewhere had to agree to this procedure) to have more than was safe implanted.
The problem I have with this story isn't having 14 kids; it's having 14 kids under 7 through artificial means, risking leaving 6 of them motherless if something had gone wrong, and not having the means to support them while continuing to willfully produce more, just because she "is obsessed with having kids". I would think "obsessed with producing kids" is more accurate, but I don't know here personally, so I don't know what kind of a mother she is to her older children.
I understand the heartbreak of many going through treatments just to have one; this however just strikes me as insane.
As for your questions: to all of them, well, I would say it depends. On a lot of things.
As for the last question though; I think having more children in order to get more welfare is wrong. My family did have to use welfare for a while, and there are many families out there who honestly need it. Milking the system is wrong, but I don't think it's a symptom of large families. It's a symptom of a certain mindset; that of "the world owes me; I'm going to do whatever I want". That isn't trusting G-d; that's being, well, a jerk. Well, maybe not always a jerk; I suppose there are some out there doing this that don't understand how what they are doing is bad, but I would think they are the exception.

Esther said...

Ora - I agree that it's not anyone's business to be looking at what their neighbors are doing, but that's actually what many peoples experiences have been as a frum person, but in the opposite direction. People get into other people's business when they don't have a ton of kids. I know couples who suffered from infertility, then suffered additionally when people made nasty remarks to them about why they didn't have kids. (And these were people TRYING to have more children.)

In addition, what I think DOES need to be discussed is that it is halachically acceptable to use birth control. I don't agree that "everyone" knows this.

I think there are a lot of people whoa re having kids that they can't support either because they have been pressured by people in the community, or because they honestly believe that they aren't allowed to consider it. Because no rav (yet) has publicly started encouraging people to consider birth control, it is still up to each couple to approach their rav, and if they don't understand that the rav will likely tell them to go ahead with birth control based on their circumstances, or if they think birth control is a dirty word or only for non-religious people or that their neighbors will judge them, they won't even ask the shayla.

All of the above is not to judge each individual situation where the couple may have considered their options and decided how they are going to budget in order to afford more kids. if you can do this, and if you have the personality and desire to raise a large family, I think that's fantastic. But it's unfair to have those kids and then expect someone else to support them, and it's unfair to pressure other people to do the same thing.

tesyaa said...

I took one of my kids to Barnes & Noble today and while he was reading I browsed through a book written by the Duggars -- they're the people in Arkansas who have 18 kids.

(As an aside -- does anyone else remember when reading in a bookstore without buying got you dirty looks? Nowadays the big stores are set up so you can read as long as you want, in comfort. But I digress...)

The basic tone of the book was that all their good fortune was from G-d, from their many children to their considerable business success, and implied that you can have whatever you want if you only have enough faith and pray enough.

They make a point of not having babysitters or other help, yet they obviously have a tremendous support system of grandparents, aunts, etc. who helped them after the births and help them today; plus, of course, their older daughters who "buddy" the younger ones and clearly do a lot of childcare and cooking. When they only had 5 kids or so, they were fortunate to discover that their kids' piano teacher just loved doing laundry, and she volunteered to come to their house twice a week and do tons of laundry! She continues to do so to this day! How many of us have this mazal!

Lion of Zion said...

someone on imamother wrote that she can't imagine having 8 toddlers. my favorite comment was the response, from a woman who said she can't imagine having 8 teenagers

IVFer said...

nava: as someone who, sadly, knows more about infertility treatments. The vast majority of centers in the US are also moving towards transfering one, depending of the woman's history. That word "depending" is the key word. I believe it is cruel to tell a woman who had 3 failes IVFs that she can't transfer more than one. Especially because in the US there is almost zero infertility coverange from insurance. Remember that one IVF cycle costs between 7K to 15K and upwards. The only way to make sure clinics don't transfer too many to to guarante some sort of infertility coverage (like Israel does).
Regarding this particular case, as someone who has benefited from the latest infertility technology, it pains me to hear people say things like you said. (don't worry, i've heard much worse).
if it was IVF then someone should sue that clinic. In the past maybe 10-15 years almost all cases of higher order multiples (above 4) are from irresponsible IUI. Basically, they give a woman hormones to produce eggs, the goal is between 2-4 TOTAL, When a woman produces more than that the doctors cancel the cycle, AND THEY TELL THE COUPLE TO NOT HAVE RELATIONS. Sometimes couples decide to, well, not follow the doctor's orders, (same thing for fetal reduction).

triLcat said...

First, I'm going to assume that we're not getting the accurate story - a doctor who transferred 8 embryos in an IVF would lose his license.
While single embryo transfer is becoming the norm, 2 and even 3 embryos are still transferred in some cases. (the norm used to be 4)

I'm not even going to begin to go into the dangers of a pregnancy like that.

On the other subject, though, I agree that no one should tell you how and when to reproduce, but that's based on the assumption that you're not going to ask them for help.

I agree that a situation can arise where someone who was able to provide is suddenly unable to provide - they lose a job, are sick, etc. These are the cases that tzedaka is for.

It's not right for a person to *plan* their family based on the tzedaka they plan to receive, or to have children that they have no plan for how to provide for.

How the community can make planned families the norm is another issue. Right now, the norm is to have as many as possible, which is simply not feasible in our day.

If parents choose to live in a smaller house and send their kids to public school in order to be able to afford more kids, that's a valid choice.

It's not a valid choice for me to have another child and to put that child's education/housing/whatever on someone else's tab without consulting with that person first.

The community/government shouldn't have to pay for an individual's poor choices.

tesyaa said...

I don't think there's any regulation that would cause an IVF doctor to lose his or her license for transferring 8 embryos. Reputation is another matter, and this mother is hiding the doctor's identity as well as her own. She came to the hospital where she delivered already 3 months pregnant.

Commenter Abbi said...

I'm trying to figure out how "pru u'revu= one boy + one girl" transmogrified into "even if you have multiple boys and girls, you must get a heter for birth control/to stop having kids". Is there any halachic basis for having to consult a rav after you've fulfilled P'uR?

Lion of Zion said...

ABBI:

hiddur mitzvah?

rosie said...

I read about a fertility clinic in Japan that is very popular because they only charge $3000 per IVF attempt. They do not stimulate ovum production. They extract one ovum, implant one embryo, and if it works, deliver one baby. They only have a 30% success rate for live delivery but at least they don't spoil the health of the mother with excess hormones.
High order multiples are premature and require a lot of care even after leaving the hospital. I would be very surprised if the social service department did not get involved. A family with 14 small children, including an autistic child, 2yr old twins, and 8 premies, need at least 4 or 5 caretakers around the clock. It is estimated that the 8 infants will need $7000 per year just in diapers. This lady will have to let every reporter buy her story in order to afford that. The babies can generate income as ad models, etc. She already needs a 15 passenger van to take the family anywhere!
As far as the mitzvah of reproduction, I was told that lacking the means to support the child was not a reason for BC because parnassah is in the hand of Hashem.
Sending children to public school may be free to the parents but the tax payers pay for every child that attends. At this point, there is no maximum number of children per family that the state will agree to educate but all children cost society something. This being the case, we cannot say that we don't want to have children on the tab of those who don't agree to pay. Society supports the needs of children. As long as that is the case, it would be a hard case to make for curtailing Jewish births due to lack of funds.

triLcat said...

rosie: society has agreed to pay for public schooling, and they haven't capped families for that purpose.

It's different from forcing someone to pay for something they didn't agree to.

Ariella said...

There are major halachic ramifications for the choice made, so it really is something that needs consultation with a competent halchic authority. What some people assume to be the norm is not necessarily what is required by halacha -- and that could go either for a chumra or a kula. I do believe that pirya verivya is still a merit beyond the minimum requirement. But that does not mean that any form of family planning is across the board assur for all in all situations. I've come across books that lump all family planning in one category of forbidden when, in fact, much depends on the children one already has -- one of each, according to most is necessary to be yotzeh pirya verivya -- method, situation, etc.

In R' Avinar's Etzem Metzamay, there are collected questions and answers. One was from a mother of 2 or young children -- all of the same gender -- who was pregnant with a third. She was asking if she could put off the next one with the rationale that such would allow her husband to learn more or for longer. His response was that if the one she gives birth to is of the other gender, she could use birth control pills (the method favored) but if it was another of the same, then she would not be allowed to try to prevent conception. Granted, this woman did not say she was on public assistance or exhausted to the extend to which she could not cope. I don't know if the reply would be different if she had claimed such a situation.



But I do know someone who had a procedure to increase fertility after she already had a few boys. While she had not had the requisite one of each, I really think it was her own desire to have more children that impelled her. I highly doubt any halachic authority would say it was required to have such an elective procedure (not IVF or such)to try for the girl.

Lion of Zion said...

ARIELLA:

it's interesting to hear rav aviner's perspective (which from his answer i assume goes back to the מחלקת of בית הלל and בית שמאי on this issue). SL had also cited him recently in another post.

unfortunately he is completely irrelevant to most readers here, and certainly to the the specific communities that i think we are delicately trying to avoid naming.

rosie said...

triLcat, who is being forced to pay for someone else's kids? If the government has no limit on how many children in a family up to age 5 get WIC, taxpayers are still "forced" to pay it. We taxpayers are "forced" to pay for education, even if a family is large. With private school tuition, if a committee of overcharged parents were to state that they are pulling out if they have to shoulder the burden of other large non-paying families, no one could force them to keep their kids in the school. If someone wants to give tzedukah to a struggling large family, no one is forcing them to do so. People may pressure others to give extra tzedukah or pay huge tuitions to offset the poor, but that is pressure, not force. I am "forced" to pay taxes and have little say over where the money goes (I can vote but be outvoted), but if I choose to ignore the poor, I won't end up in jail. (Maybe gehinom but not jail).

IVFer said...

rosie: "They extract one ovum, implant one embryo, and if it works, deliver one baby. They only have a 30% success rate for live delivery "
they are called natural ivf or mini-ivf. Doctors don't like to do it because of the very low success rate (10%) and you still have all the procedures (retrieval and transfer)
30 % success cycle is considered good. Top clinics have about 40%.
for comparison, a fertile couple has about 20% chance each month of getting pregnant.

Shoshana said...

I feel very strongly that this question is not one for public discussion but rather should be addressed to a rav. We are not in a position to pasken for ourselves and that is why one must have a rav - whom they know and trust and who knows them well too - to make these decisions with compassion and halachic guidance. I know that many couples struggle with this issue greatly and to move it into the court of public opinion only increases their pain. It would be very appropriate for a vaad harabbonim to make themselves available for discussion in this area.

Anonymous said...

I think it's social pressure, not halachic pressure. Many couples see other families with 5,6,7 kids and decide to have one more. (Of course this reasoning is ridiculous since everyone's circumstances are different.) I see this in LWMO, where the rav's psak is not asked for, as much as anywhere else. The total numbers may be different but the patterns of behavior are the same. Sisters and sisters in law often compete too -- how can any onlooker say otherwise?

SephardiLady said...

Shoshana and Ora-I am considering your comments. Maybe the subject is completely inappropriate.

On the other hand, comments like anonymous's have a hint of truth in them. There is incredible social pressure to have more children (yes, even amongst the modern Orthodox). I have been asked numerous times, "so, when's the next one?" (I was even asked this in the doctors office by a nurse, which was unprofessional, but I don't blame her since the office is filled with Jewish mothers who are having more), as well as put up with diatribes against the evils of family planning.

ora said...

SephardiLady--
Sorry if I came across as harsh, I definitely don't fault you for mentioning the issue.

I think sometimes couples can get a distorted perception of community pressure based on their situation. Someone who isn't pregnant within the first year of marriage might have people glancing at her stomach, asking meaningfully if anything's new, asking directly when they plan to have kids, etc, and assume there's a lot of pressure to have kids. In the meantime, someone in the same community who has a child 9 or 10 months after the wedding is getting comments like, "wow, you really couldn't wait, huh," or "didn't you want some time to get to know each other" or "how can you afford it," or whatever else, and assume having "too many" kids or "too close together" is frowned on. I think to a certain extent the issue isn't pressure in any one direction but just general nosiness, which (IMexperience) isn't unique to the frum community but does tend to be more noticeable because people are more likely to speak their mind (also there's more of a sense that we're family in the good and bad sense, the bad sense being everyone in each other's business).

Esther said...

SL - I don't see how this topic is any different than any other that you discuss. Th topics on your blog relate to factors that affect people's finances, and the consequences of doing things "just because" or "because everyone does it" and not considering the financial consequences of making a given choice.

For a given married couple, they have to make decisions about - how much to spend on a wedding, whether husband should work, whether wife should work, whether to pay for private school tuition, whether to try to have more children, whether to keep chalav yisrael, whether to live in a big or small community, whether to send the children to camp, etc. Each of these is a decision and a choice, and one that affects one's finances. obviously there will not be one right answer for everyone - but what I appreciate about your perspective is that you point out that each of these is a financial choice that must be accounted for in one's budget and lifestyle. Why would family size be any more taboo to discuss than yeshiva tuition or any other expense?

Shoshana said...

SL

I also want to say that I am not at all criticizing you for tackling the subject. It is vital. I'm just trying to emphasize the "ortho" part of the subject of the "nomics." One of the reasons that people are so susceptable to comments and community pressure is due to the fact that they are not halachikally grounded. Their Judaism is a "lifestyle" choice in which everything is relative and often as materialistic as the surrounding non-Jewish culture. On the other hand, so many Torah-observant people today are newbies with no family support or formal education to ground and guide them in these issues. So they are either overly fearful of going against Jewish societal expectations (such as large families) or overly fearful of relying on the rabbinical establishment to guide their life choices.

nuqotw said...

I think that even if we can't "pasken for ourselves", that's not the issue here. Social issues, especially the touchy ones, need to be brought into common conversation and people need to rely on their own good sense to address issues that are not clearly determined by halakha. If we don't talk about them, that's when social pressure really starts to mount.

(And yes, there is such a thing as too many kids. Parents are people too, and have only so much time, money, etc. One should consider one's resources when having a family. If I weren't frum, I would definitely consider a larger family that I will. Frum kids cost more.)

Commenter Abbi said...

"(And yes, there is such a thing as too many kids. Parents are people too, and have only so much time, money, etc. One should consider one's resources when having a family. If I weren't frum, I would definitely consider a larger family that I will. Frum kids cost more.)"

Which is exactly what I don't see many if not most charedi rebeiim taking into account, which i why I think the whole "you can't pasken for yourself" with regard to children a bit of a sham. I know a family with FOUR children with CF, 7 in total (the father runs a kollel, so i think he's sufficiently proficient enough to open a sefer and find the halachic basis to STOP having children). The mother said the last 2 were birth control "accidents" (not sure how you can have two accidents, but i guess it's possible). When the parents asked about tying the tubes after the last c section- the rav's response: "Let's not be too hasty" (!!!!!)

Sorry, that's not about the parents' needs, the children's needs or klal yisrael's needs or halacha. This is simply about rebbeim being in control.

What rubs me wrong about the insistence on consulting with a rav is that at the end of the day, the rav is not there with you paying the tuition bills, doing the laundry, dealing with learning disabilities, drug problems, medical problems. I think that far too many families fob off these major decisions on rebbeim but are then left holding the bag and wonder how things went so terribly wrong with their families. Um, maybe you weren't cut out to have 10 children?

At the end the day, parents have to realize that they and they alone shoulder the responsibility for raising the children that they choose to have for the rest of their lives.

Dave said...

My personal story:
We have ba"h 4 kids, and the youngest is turning 3, so we're at the point where most in our circles would be talking about (or just having) another.
But consider this:
Today my wife took my oldest for an EEG to rule out possible neurological causes for her ADD-like symptoms. She has already been diagnosed with an emotional disorder for which she goes for treatment once a week. I had to miss some work because our youngest has a sleeping disorder, and was up during the night and woke up only at 9:30 (as she very often does), so I had to be here. Tomorrow I'm missing some work because we have to meet with a psychologist who just evaluated a third child of ours, after the teachers noticed suspicious behavioral patterns. And our fourth has already been diagnosed ADHD. He's on ritalin in school, but is literally climbing the walls (I kid you not) when he gets home.

In theory, we're into large families and bringing as many frum Jewish children into the world as possible. But right now, we just don't think it would be responsible given what we're dealing with at the moment.

And I haven't even mentioned anything about finances...

rosie said...

I have seen several instances where it was known that if a child was going to be born to a particular mother, it would be crippled, the rabbis told the parents to avoid pregnancy. This was also true if the children were all born with emotional disorders. I have also seen though, where parents who did not know what rabbis to consult were told to continue having children, even though they were coming out with birth defects. In this regard, not all rabbonim are created equal. It pays to search for a rabbi who is known to be versed in medicine as well as halacha (but don't go heter shopping).

tesyaa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
tesyaa said...

Dave, Rosie--
as a parent with several kids in similar situations as Dave's kids, I will say that when I had my younger children it was not clear that there was a disorder with one of the older kids, certainly not a familial disorder. In retrosopect, it's possible we missed some signs, but these are not clear cut diagnoses, even today.

Dave, we've also done 3 EEGs and have 3 kids with IEPs. I hear where you're coming from.

Shoshana said...

"I have also seen though, where parents who did not know what rabbis to consult were told to continue having children, even though they were coming out with birth defects. In this regard, not all rabbonim are created equal. It pays to search for a rabbi who is known to be versed in medicine as well as halacha (but don't go heter shopping)."

This was exactly what I was getting at. People don't know how to find and consult a rav appropriately and then can be left with a less than satisfying result.

Commenter Abbi - the example you gave is so extreme that it hardly applies to anyone in this discussion. And it is unfortunate that every time someone wants to make a comment they resort to exposés from the chareidi world. I think most people struggling with this issue are like Dave and tesyaa. Average yidden who are hoping for a good family life and need support.

In fact, it is clear to me from the subsequent comments that mine was completely misunderstood. My intention about not paskening is to realize that we are often harder on ourselves than we would be if we had good halachik guidance. Asking a competent and supportive and educated rav can relieve a lot of self-imposed pressure.

Commenter Abbi said...

Responsible parents decide for themselves what is right for their family, possibly with some consultation from a rav. But ultimately, I maintain it is up to parents to make the final call based on their own family's specific circumstances. And the reason for a lot of mess in the charedi and Jewish world in general today is because families have abdicated this responsibility. I also believe that many rabbonim paskening today don't have family or communal interests at heart.

I didn't know we were discussing examples that only apply to the specific people in this discussion. I thought we were discussing how families are overwhelmed by having too many kids. I think my example applies to the latter to a T.

I'm sure the example makes you uncomfortable because of its absurdity.

And why do people bring up charedi examples? Probably because they are usually the most extreme and the least grounded in common sense (ie: my story). It would be very hard to imagine an MO family in a situation similar to the example I brought up.

ProfK said...

Those commenting on this issue might find it interesting that at least one shul is sponsoring a discussion on the topic.

*Sunday, Mar. 22*
Congregation Bnai Yeshurun - 641 West Englewood Rd., Teaneck, N.J.

*8:00 PM - Rav Mordechai Willig - "Perui U'revu" - How Many Children and
When?
8:45 PM - Rav Hershel Schachter - Halachic Issues of the Tuition Crisis*

Commenter Abbi said...

I do find it interesting. As I said to SL, it's a long way for me from Ranaana to Teaneck.

And I reiterate my point from above, I'm not surprised that an MO shul and YU rabbis are discussing this topic.

Ariella said...

Do note that R' Willig himself had at least 8, maybe even a dozen kids. I don't know the actual figure.

Avi said...

ProfK, these shiurim are recorded and posted to Torahweb.org. I live in Teaneck, though, so I'll try to attend in person.

Lion of Zion said...

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090206/ap_on_re_us/octuplets

Anonymous said...

I didn't read all the comments yet, but did anyone mention the bankruptcy? You go bankrupt, you're ALREADY a drain on society-- you shouldn't be allowed to have more children if you've recently gone bankrupt. (in my opinion).

Yes, I'm against abortion. So have the baby. Then let the government take it away and give it to a family on one of those huge adoption waiting lists. Yes, it would be a horrible thing to happen--- you could have practiced birth control in the first place.