By: Kelly Banaski
There was once a time in American not-so-far-gone history when big families were the norm. It was not uncommon to go to church or work with someone in a family of six or more kids. Most women, even those who say they don’t want children, find some aspect of pregnancy endearing and happily embrace it, especially after it is over.
A small percentage of women love everything about being pregnant. So much so, they are addicted to being pregnant and become so at every opportunity. The most well-known example is most likely Nadya Suleman, who gave birth to octuplets after already having six other small children. More and more celebrities such as Mia Farrow and Angelina Jolie are showing the world what life is like with a ton of kids.
There are many reasons why families can grow so large and it isn’t always a baby addicted mother. Culture and religion are big players in the baby game. Catholic families, for instance, are usually large because of a historic opposition to birth control. Sometimes families feel called to help orphaned children and adopt or foster a houseful of kids every year. Lots of people just like kids and can afford to have them.
Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case.
Some people, almost all women, have a deep and abiding need to constantly be pregnant or have a newborn. While there is no medical term for this baby addiction, doctors have noted it time and again. We often see it in the news when women murder pregnant mothers to steal their babies or steal newborns from the hospital. Women can have this deep desire for more babies even when they have more children than they are capable of caring for.
Gayle Peterson, a family therapist in San Francisco and author of “Making Healthy Families”, explains that this need can exist even when the mother has postpartum and anxiety or is faced with taking care of disabled or terminal babies. Once the youngest child becomes a toddler, these women begin to seek ways to obtain a newborn. Sometimes by any means necessary and often by violence. This usually leads back to an issue of loss or abandonment in the woman’s own childhood. It boils down to an addiction like any other. These women are having babies like others self-medicate: to fill a need within themselves.
Unfortunately, it isn’t always easy to see the signs of a woman under this kind of duress. Depression can too easily be shoved under the rug as postpartum. Sadly, no one finds out she is suffering until there are too many children to care for or someone is hurt. Therapy can help explain how more children cannot fill the gaps left by a rough childhood. It isn’t easy to see that the longing for children is a product of a biological misfire and not at all the solution it seems to be. It takes years of psychological work before any real change begins.
Octomom, Nadya Suleman had a short career in porn before becoming a therapist and drawing her own portion of state assistance. Many young women, especially in urban areas where work is sparse, learn having children can lead to a steady income. Many are never taught anything else. Much like a personality disorder, these women are victim to a social disorder that encourages breeding as a way to survive.
In the meantime, what is happening to these children? Who is taking care of them? Who is footing the baby bill? If the mother is able to retain custody and work on her issues, she is usually on some kind of state subsidy. The job of childcare, however, most often falls to a family member or they go into state custody. No matter where they go, their existence is largely paid for by the taxpayer. There seems to be no viable solution to the problem of breeders and the huge amount of strain they put on the welfare system. Many argue toward a mandated child amount per person as in China. There are some social policies in place for welfare recipients, but none are doing the trick. The children keep coming and the bills keep mounting. You and me? We keep paying.
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