Multiple Births Bring Attention That Quickly Fades

Wilkinson said it was doubtful she would send her kids to a paid preschool, or be able to afford the activities -- swim lessons, soccer, and dance lessons – for the quintuplets that she covers for her older children, ages 6 and 9.

By contrast, John and Kate Gosselin, stars of the TLC reality show "John and Kate Plus Eight," are reported to earn $50,000 each per episode and have a small army of people helping them herd their sextuplets and twins.

The Gosselins, once paragons of parental virtue, have come under fire in recent weeks for a rumored extramarital relationship and are being investigated by Pennsylvania state authorities for violating child-labor laws.

Not to be outdone, Nadya Suleman, the so-called "Octomom" who, in January, was the first woman to deliver eight viable babies, and quickly went from being hailed as a medical marvel to vilified, has reportedly inked a deal for her own reality show. Suleman has already trademarked her nickname "Octomom" to brand a line of baby clothes and has an exclusive deal with Radar Online, a Web site owned by the National Enquirer.

A Rise in Multiple Births

TLC is also producing "Table for 12," about Betty and Eric Hayes of New Jersey, who have 10 children -- a set of sextuplets and two sets of twins.

"Most parents never get a free pack of diapers, let alone a reality show," said Maureen Doolan Boyle, executive director of Mothers of Super Twins, a support and advocacy organization for parents of multiples.

"The vast majority of families do not receive a whole load of celebrity or much help. In the 1970s, triplets would generally make the newspapers. By the 1990s, triplets were not that unusual," she said.

"It is difficult for families of multiples when the limelight fades and they realize they cannot just trust on the kindness of other people."

One of the earliest cases of multiple-baby fever hit the United States in 1997 when Bobbi and Kenneth McCaughey became the parents of the country's first surviving septuplets. The reported list of gifts and donations was seemingly endless, a new car, free clothes, free food, free portraits of the children, free diapers for life, a new van. Even the governor of Iowa made good on his promise to get the family of 10 -- the McCaughey's already had a daughter -- into a brand-new house, built just for them.

On the other hand, one South Carolina woman was arrested in November 2008 when authorities discovered that she had received thousands of dollars in cash and gifts from a community convinced she had quintuplets, which never existed.

The rise in multiples is directly attributed to fertility treatments that became widely available in the early 1990s.

The Centers for Disease Control did not record births for quadruplets, quintuplets or more babies from 1980 to 1988. In 1988, there were 229 quads and 40 quints born in the United States but, in 2006, those numbers had jumped to 355 and 67, respectively.

Many families spent their savings just to become pregnant, Boyle said, and the expense of having multiple children can be financially crippling.

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