Practically every time I turn on the computer, I see this headline: “Hottest Baby Names for 2013.” I could’ve used that fourteen years ago when I was pregnant with my first. I knew for nine whole months that a baby would be coming at the end of it, sufficient enough time to figure out a potential girl name and a potential boy name. I blew it. I was on my way to the hospital for a scheduled c-section and I had nothin’. Well, that’s not entirely true. I had three baby name books packed in my hospital overnight bag. The c-section gave me two extra nights and two extra days in the hospital to pour over the books. Still nothin’. As it turns out, you’re not permitted to leave the hospital with an un-named newborn. Found out the hard way. They wheeled us back from the elevator.
This would seem odd for a person who writes fiction. Many characters in many of my stories have needed names. And none of them have gone nameless. So why the trouble with my own kids? George Foreman also buckled under the pressure and ended up calling 5 of his 10 kids the same exact thing: George Edward Foreman.
I started thinking. What family had the most kids? What did they do? We’re all familiar with Kate’s 8, Octomom’s 14, and the Duggar’s 19. But when I dug a little deeper I discovered the most kids born to one family was 69! I nearly stopped breathing. 69 kids? From one womb? Are you pulling my fallopian tubes? From a total of 27 pregnancies, this woman gave birth to 16 sets of twins, 7 sets of triplets, 4 sets of quadruplets. She lived the better part of her life in a hormonal cloud with no waistline.
Let’s put aside the cooking, cleaning, diapers, terrible two’s, (x 69 = 138?) teething, nursing, sleepless nights, whining that “he won’t give me the remote!” Oh, actually, I should point out that this family lived in the 18th century, so that thing about the remote probably didn’t happen. It was more like, “He won’t let me play with the stick!” Regardless, how the heck did she name 69 kids?!?
I have a theory. After she had ten or so kids, she decided to just number them. Genius, right? “Hey, 14, you give 27-32 a bath tonight.” Like that. Not to say that was easy. Please, I couldn’t even remember my high school locker combination. And that was only 3 numbers! (Still causes nightmares.) I’m sure there were days when she mixed up 34 with 43. (Especially since both were redheads.)
Legend has it she provided the world with more than just a mass of descendants able to fill Yankee Stadium. One day, 57 came home from school and sat on the floor to untie his shoe laces. His mother said, “57, why are you taking your shoes off? You get to keep them until tomorrow morning, when you give them to 45 so she can walk to school.”
57 said, “Mama, I have to do my math homework and I need my toes.”
“Toes? Why do you think I had all you kids? Use your brothers and sisters to count for 8’s sake!” And hence the human abacus was born, an elaborate counting system using all 69 kids lined up in the back yard. Ten rows of six kids and one row of nine. This classic counting apparatus was later fabricated out of pebbles and wood. Many years later it was sold to Texas Instruments for a boatload of money. Unfortunately she didn’t live to see that happen.
What was her name, you ask? That’s the irony of the story. All of the history books refer to this Russian woman as the wife of Feodor Vassilyev. She had no name of her own. I’m sure that’s because in her husband’s eyes, she was always #1.