Like the Duggars: Growing Up In Large Families Is Mixed Blessing

The Duggar family, stars of the TLC reality show "18 Kids and Counting," make raising a large family look like, well, child's play.

Indeed, Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar of Springdale, Ark., recently announced that they are not done yet -- and are, indeed, expecting their 19th child.

Adults who have grown up in Duggar-size families, however, say it's a mixed blessing. Finding space to be alone is a challenge. Finding someone to play with is not.

Video: The Duggars are expecting a 19th edition to their family.

There's also an environmental effect -- think carbon dioxide -- as well as health concerns for the mother. Women who've borne more than five children risk hemorrhage and even the loss of their uterus because repeated pregnancies sometimes thin the walls of the uterus, said Dr. Joanna Cain, an obstetrician-gynecologist in Providence, R.I.

Then there's always the possibility of one child getting lost in the passel of children.

Rachel Carroccio, a receptionist and ceramics teacher in Little Rock, Ark., knows that experience firsthand. The fifth-born of 10 children, Carroccio, now 28, recalled one time when her mother was in a hurry to get to the grocery store.

"We all piled into the minivan," she told "Mom counted heads to make sure everyone was there. As soon as she pulls forward, she sees my little brother Daniel riding his bike in front of us."

As it turned out, one of the heads was really the neighbor's.

But, for all the fond memories, she says the older girls in the family, including herself, burned out on caring for younger siblings and the house while her mother, often raising them alone, worked outside the home.

"None of us really want many kids," Carroccio said, referring to the girls. "My brothers, on the other hand, all want to have kids. I have one brother about to have his fifth child."

Those are among the sentiments the Carroccios like to share whenever all 10 -- ranging in ages from 11 to 37 -- get together for Thanksgiving and Christmas, their favorite time of the year.

Christmas was also a favorite time for Henriette Peters, the 11th child of 14, growing up in Crystal Lake, Ill., outside Chicago.

Big Families Stretch a Dollar

Even though the family had little -- no car, often no running water, spotty plumbing and heat -- Christmas was always a time of plenty.

"There were benefactors," Peters, now 48, told "We always thanked God for our benefactors. Our Aunt Dottie would send us pajamas every year in a special package from Marshall Field's."

Unlike the Duggars, who live debt-free in a 7,000-square-foot home on 20 acres, many big families have fewer resources to go around.

"My mother didn't live from month-to-month or year-to-year," Peters said. "She lived day-to-day. She had a faith in the Lord Jesus to care for her children. She calls it miraculous that we survived the conditions we lived in."

Peters said wearing hand-me-down clothing wasn't so bad, but not being able to get to the doctor without a car or money was hard. She said she still deals with "gushy gums" and "charley horses" from the years of eating foods with poor nutritional value.

Carroccio said her mother faced similar financial issues, but knew how to "stretch a dollar." It wasn't until she went to college that she realized not everyone ate potatoes at every meal.

"That was one of my mom's ways to fill us up, inexpensively," she said.

What the Peters lacked in resources, they made up in relationships, especially among siblings.

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