Post-Natal Attention

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CARLISLE, Iowa: Septuplet update Joel McCaughey, the littlest of the bunch, was put back on the breathing machine Monday after using his own lungs for 24 hours. Meanwhile his mother, Bobbi McCaughey, has gone home for the first time in 37 days. "We would like to get back to normal as soon as can be," said Peg Hepworth, Bobbi's mother.

That may be a vain hope. The camera crews that crowded around the McCaughey family after church Sunday aren't showing signs of going away any time soon. And according to the surviving members of the previous most famous multiple birth in the world, media attention is more likely to be a curse than a blessing. In an open letter to TIME, three of the Dionne quintuplets whom the Canadian state put on display in "Quintland" for tourists back in the Depression-ridden 30s warn of the potential freak show to come. "To those who would seek to exploit the growing fame of these children," they write, "we say beware."

And still the controversy grows over the McCaughey's use of fertility drugs. The debate is likely to be fueled by new research released Monday, which shows the sperm count dropping even lower among Western men than scientists had previously suspected. If infertility is such a present danger, perhaps we ought to be glad of all the multiple births we can get.

  • TIME cover story: Miracle in Iowa

  • TIME's special report on infertility