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Birthing babies and other delights

people-magazineOkay, I know readers are getting testy about all of the Ted Kennedy coverage (believe me, it's wearing on me, too) but I have just one final story to highlight. It's not about Kennedy per se but it uses his death as a hook to discuss the death of large Irish-American families in general. The New York Times story by Michael Wilson is worth highlighting because it does what so few stories about fertility do -- it discusses how religion plays a role in the number of children women have. Huzzah! After making the case that Irish-American family size has plummeted, we're told:

The smaller Irish-American family has been attributed to many factors, but the one most often cited is a decline in willingness to defer to the Roman Catholic Church after the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s. "The church's guidance on all kinds of things, including family planning, doesn't carry the weight it used to carry," said Terry Golway, a writer who teaches American history at Kean University in New Jersey.

In New York, the migration of the Irish middle class from the city to the suburbs contributed to the decline of the double-digit family, he said. "Their world was not defined by the parish as it once was, when they lived in the Bronx," Professor Golway said. "They moved to the suburbs, where it really was a melting pot. Not everybody on your block was Irish anymore."

The story also quotes a woman who discusses her fertility and how it relates to her Catholic views. Not bad. I wish we could see more discussion of religion in the larger stories about fertility rates. This piece in the Washington Post from my August guilt file talked about how some economically developed countries have seen a surprising uptick in childbearing. There are references to ideology and immigration having a role but those angles aren't fully explored.

And since we're on the topic of birthing babies, there's this absolutely horrific story that ran on MSNBC recently:

It's not just in your head. There really is a bumper crop of baby bumps out there, from the famously fertile, like Heidi Klum, who's flirting with her fourth set of stretch marks in five years, to the infamous Nadya "Octomom" Suleman, who earlier this year bore eight babies at once even though she already had six other kids at home that she could barely afford to take care of.

No, this wasn't written by your 5th-grade daughter but an actual professional.

I love the spectrum -- ranging from Heidi Klum all the way to Octomom. The story goes on to disparage mothers of larger-than-average families. "Experts" are quoted saying the mother's seek attention, to get waited on during pregnancy, to avoid returning to work and to get comments and belly rubs from strangers. Because we all know how much pregnant ladies love unsolicited belly rubs. There's discussion of "the void" that women are filling by getting pregnant.

It's just the most amazing train wreck of a story -- so much so that I'm actually thinking it's good that they didn't notice the correlation of certain religious beliefs to larger-sized families. Babble.com actually had a great take-down of the piece, if you're interested.

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