Octo-Mom

Even the name conjures a mythic villain in a comic book battle of good mommies versus bad: Octo-Mom.

I’m talking about the Los Angeles-area woman who had octuplets after already having had six children.

She’s been demonized as the ultimate “welfare queen.” And it’s only extreme willed indifference that’s kept me from writing about her before now.

Personally, I think she shows appallingly bad judgment in continuing to use an unethical IVF doctor and in consuming the resources of her parents (all of her retired mother’s savings goes to the upkeep of the six older children and the three bedroom house they all live in teeters on the brink of foreclosure). Nadya Suleman herself has no income or means of support.

I’d never make that choice for myself, and I don’t support Suleman in her choices.

That said, it’s been interesting to me how the “pro-life”/anti-choice voices have been SILENT with regard to Suleman’s situation. Is she not a bizarre manifestation of everything “pro-lifers” believe in?

Suleman chose not to reduce the numbers of embryos once she found out she was pregnant with seven (only later, at birth, did they find the eighth child). She is the culmination of biology=destiny; for the forced procreation people who “choose life,” Suleman’s achieved in one fell swoop what women in an earlier age took 20 years to accomplish: 14 children. Back when it was a woman’s duty to have as many children as possible in her fertile years, women in monogamous marriages produced 8, 10, 12 children. Women in polygamous arrangements produced nearly as many children, but at least in that patriarchal arrangement they had, in theory, the company of other women with whom childcare could be shared.

So despite the veneer of high-tech birth that enabled Suleman to have 14 children by age 33, there’s something very pre-modern–definitely pre-feminist–about a woman who wants to have so many children. What’s pre-feminist or pre-modern about it? Not having a realistic means of support (financial, but also emotional and social) to enable the competent carrying out of your parenting duties. I don’t require that she have a hugely high-paying job in order to be a good parent (far from it), but simply to have a workable plan for sheltering, feeding, clothing, and schooling all those children.

Now why haven’t “pro-lifers” taken Suleman as their poster child for mandatory procreation? (There are a few voices out there but it doesn’t seem to be a groundswell.)

I think it’s because 1) there’s no father in the picture, 2) it’s not completely clear Suleman is Christian, and 3) there’s the slightest hint of “brown” about Suleman. As in, not white.

It’s been pointed out how mothers/parents of multiples have tv shows, People magazine feature stories, and donations to help them contend with their broods. The Duggars, for example, seem to enjoy quite a few privileges that most parents of multiples (or parents who have many children period) do not enjoy. But they are white and devout.

While it might be easy to stop at the schadenfreude that highlights in giant klieg lights and sirens and neon arrows pointing at the silent hypocrisy of the religious, “forced procreation” right when it comes to Nadya Suleman, I can’t help but wonder who’ll take care of these babies. Their great misfortune is to be helpless and have an equally helpless, senseless, inadequate provider for a mother. I decry the mother’s lack of preparation, but I wish those children well.

See, they are still babies and their siblings are still small children under the age of 8, and I don’t believe in the creed of original sin. Children need love and nurturing and protection. Sometimes, when their biological parents are unfit by reason of illness or judgment, others will have to step in.

So why not “pro-lifers”? I’m challenging “pro-lifers” and professed right-wing Christians to step up and start walking the walk behind their often shrill and ugly “pro-life” talk.

They’re willing to get in your face with abominable photographs (you know the kind I mean), yet they won’t lift a finger to help a modern-day Mary Magdalene.

Isn’t Nadya Suleman the equivalent of a young woman who shows up pregnant and poor, without a true father for her child, and in need of a room at the inn?

3 thoughts on “Octo-Mom

  1. I’m glad you had the guts to say it. I didn’t!
    I’ve heard so many people cry out for the children…and then join boycotts so that the family can’t benefit from a reality show. So she can’t be on welfare, and can’t earn money the same way the Duggars and Jon & Kate do…the options are dwindling fast for these children.

  2. April,
    Well, all I have to say about the Duggars is that reality shows seldom just “fall into your lap.” I think they’re a little disingenuous about the process.

    It may be tacky for Nadya Suleman to shop her extremely large family around for a reality show, but as you point out, is she supposed to go on welfare? It’s a classic “no-win” situation, isn’t it?

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