Friday, February 06, 2009

Octuplet Mom is a one-woman Mommy War

A large part of me has been trying hard to stay away from the story of Nadya Suleman, new Mom of octuplets in the crazy babies-make-14 case. She's a one-woman Mommy War, an easy target for criticism. I admit I have felt very judgmental about her situation, which has stirred up disbelief and anger that someone would endanger her self, her new babies' health, and her existing six children's quality of life. I've decided to take the plunge and address the comments she made today in her interview with Ann Curry.

In the facts of the case, what she has done is at the very least highly unsustainable. A single Mom by choice to 6 + 8 kids, with no income, living with her parents. She says she'll support her kids financially once she finishes school, but in the meantime it has been reported that her father will go back to Iraq to work as a translator to earn money. That in itself breaks my heart.

The Today Show broadcast the first part of Ann Curry's interview with Suleman, who described the emptiness in her life she was trying to fill up with children:

“Describe what you felt you lacked within,” Curry said.

“Feeling of self and identity,” Suleman replied. “I didn't feel as though, when I was a child, I had much control of my environment. I felt powerless. And that gave me a sense of predictability. Reflecting back on my childhood, I know it wasn't functional. It was pretty dysfunctional, and whose isn't?”


You can't fill a gaping hole in your identity with children! You should not try to! Our children are not here to save us. This is obsession--if six children did not fill that hole, how will adding to the brood help? Ironically, now she will have fame, if not fortune (but probably that, too in the form of someone's idea of a reality show), knocking on her door, which is a very dangerous game to invite into your family's life.

I am a proponent of reproductive rights and I really hope that Suleman finds a way to beat the odds and do well as a mother of fourteen children ages 7 and younger. (Though how that could be possible is almost beyond the imagination. You'd have to travel by bus just to leave the house. I can't imagine them all going out at the same time--there would always have to be a caregiver at home. The huge Duggar family is spaced out over about twenty years, so that the older kids can help take care of the younger siblings.)

The medical ethics here are off the charts. The conversation about mega-multiples is finally turning away from "medical miracle" to "medical malpractice." I hope the fertility industry is going to find itself regulated sooner rather than later as a result of this case.

I don't want to see us all dump on Suleman in thoughtless ways. I'm disturbed to hear that she's received death threats. When we see a case this extreme, what are the implications of judging, or witholding judgment? Will my feminist credentials be yanked if I say that common sense tells me that this woman's situation is totally crazy and misguided? What does our reaction to Suleman teach us about ourselves?

If anyone has a fresh lens with which to look at this situation, please comment.

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5 Comments:

Blogger Karen Maezen Miller said...

It is not complicated. It shows us on the very face of it all the ways we are misguided by ego and thereby causing ourselves and each other irredeemable harm. The mother and the doctors each driven to . . . what? endlessly produce something to gratify themselves, and in whose hands benign technology becomes a perverted tool of cruelty toward the defenseless, the children. When we are driven by ego's needs for reward and fame, any form of false fulfillment, we self-destruct. This is the mirror of the economic meltdown: the medical meltdown. It is a reckoning, and greatly depressing.

7:15 PM  
Blogger adena said...

Amy: I love your comment - a "one woman Mommy war" - hysterical! she does seem to bring up some strong reactions in people, to say the least. Here's my thought: in the U.S., no one gets to say how many children you can or cannot have (by law) - you can have babies, you can have abortions, etc. - but that doesn't make having a lot of kids or a lot of abortions RIGHT - it's your right, but it's not RIGHT, see what I mean? Thanks for broaching this difficult subject.

8:12 PM  
Anonymous Geenie said...

Why is everything in our culture now-a-days like fast food? Fast spending fast debt fast failures fast bailouts and now fast families. Although I say that, my real point is how quickly we all set out to judge this woman and her choice to have soo many children. Only time will tell whether or not this will be a good thing for her, her children and her family. None of us can say that it will or will not work itself out as we do not walk in her shoes. It makes no sense to me for people to be soo outraged that she used fertility drugs to have this many children but show nothing but accecptance at the fact that if people were not meant by nature to have children that they use medical intervention to have kids in the first place. It is like praising Dr. Frankenstien for his medical marvles then upset when his creature monster ravages the town. A bit far fetched but the just is there. Face it folks Pandora's box is now open for business and ain't no closing it. And P.S. I guess feminism is a one way street now huh?

1:30 PM  
Anonymous Kate said...

I also, unsuccessfully, stay away from writing about this story because of the intense feelings and opinions that this topic evokes in people. Here is my failure to resist:

http://www.recommendeddailydose.com/?page_id=460

I worry about this family and hope that the kids don't suffer from poor choices.

3:10 PM  
Blogger kathryn mcfadden95 said...

I was thinking today that Nadya is a modern day biblical figure, people are ready to stone her for her "mistakes". Clearly she has some serious problems with herself that hopefully she will navigate with a good therapist...in time. To do this would be a great thing for her parenting of her children. I also think if she was wealthy or had a husband none of this critical media slaughter would play out the way it has.

9:07 PM  

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