Saturday, February 14, 2009

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Octuplets make 14

I'm sure everyone has read or heard about the California mother of six who just recently gave birth to eight babies as a result of IVF. The mother, Nadya Suleman, is a once-divorced single mother who at the age of thirty-three now has fourteen children. This morning she made her TV debut on NBC's Today show and talked to Ann Curry about her desire to have children and how she felt about her new octuplets. It seems that the media has been quick to vilify this woman and immediately called into question her right to have IVF on top of "already" having six other children.
I have opinions good and bad about this woman's decisions, yet realize that every argument-especially those that question her right to reproductive treatments-lead us down a very slippery slope of ethics, morality and personal responsibility and freedoms.

First let me say that by every account these eight children are a miracle. They are for the most part healthy and doing well and that in itself is just amazing. Our bodies were not created for the nurturing and birthing of eight children yet it was done and both mother and children are doing remarkably well despite the obvious risks that they faced at birth.

From what I have read I understand this woman has been on disability due to a back injury since 2002. She says that her work related injury kept her in near constant pain and was the primary reason for her divorce. So far she has collected $165,000 in disability payments but says that she "refuses to go on welfare" and currently lives with her mother.
There are so many questions to be answered in a case that has caused so much alarm. First it has to be stated that this woman has repeatedly admitted to wanting babies to fill a void that she had growing up without siblings and never getting to experience that attachment. She admitted to depression and after the birth of her first child says that it "helped her spirits". Her own mother has come out saying that she is-by most accounts-a pretty normal girl except for her "baby obsession" and does not understand her motivations for continuing to become pregnant via IVF. She now has fourteen children under the age of seven, without a father to help care for, provide and raise these children and it sounded like the mother was not sure if she would be able or willing to help her in the future. Also, how is it possible if she was in such constant pain that she didn't want her husband to have to live his life "dealing with her pain", that she though it was okay to bring all of these children in to her life? How is she going to physically (let's not even mention emotionally) care for all of these precious babies?
I think it is not unreasonable to ask the question of why so many embryos are allowed to be implanted at one time. Nadya Suleman said that in EACH of her IVF treatments that six embryos were implanted at one time including this past cycle that led to eight children. Having so many children at one time not only puts the mother's health at risk, but the lives of the unborn children are compromised as well. How in the world is she going to pay for all of these children? It seems like the State is going to end up subsidizing these children either through welfare or Medicaid as she is unemployed at the time. She plans on going back to school in the fall to finish her degree (Masters or PhD) to become a counselor to provide for her children. If you ask me that sounds a bit unrealistic for a single mother of 14 to continue with school when she doesn't even know the special needs of her new babies at this time.
How does she plan on caring for all of these children on her own? Just the feeding and diapering alone would be a challenge for a married couple and a core of volunteers but you're talking about a woman who is single, already has six YOUNG children and is living with the stigma of having done something wrong? I am curious to see how many people volunteer their services or if companies will be banging down her door to offer her free diapers or formula. For the sake of the children I hope so but you can see where the discouragement may come in to play.
How on this good earth did she afford all of her IVF treatments?! If there is an insurance out there that covers it then please, fill me in because my fertility treatment was not covered by our insurance. Did she use disability payments to fund her IVF. I have NEVER heard of anyone who has been able to afford so many cycles of IVF-ever.
This is a quote from the Today show:

“I'm providing myself to my children. I'm loving them unconditionally, accepting them unconditionally,” she told Curry. “Everything I do, I'll stop my life for them and be present with them. And hold them. And be with them. And how many parents do that? I'm sure there are many that do, but many don't. And that's unfortunate. That is selfish.”

Unfortunately, I find her statement to be naive and quite frankly she sounds like she's in denial. Being a parent is more than just being present for our children. It takes time, energy and an emotional investment on a daily basis for each and every child that we have. There is no way that any of these 14 children, 8 of them who are at the same level of development and need, can get the attention that they deserve from their mother. It's just not possible and it's incredibly sad.

I think that social services should have a hand in this matter immediately to make sure that neglect does not become an issue. She may not purposefully intend to do so and by all accounts she loves her children, but she can only do so much on her own and the protection and well being of those children must take a priority.

As a woman who has never been able to conceive on her own, I can understand and sympathize with the primal desire to have a child. It is a gift and the reason that our bodies were created so beautifully by God. However, I also believe that we begin making decisions for our children before becoming parents. Do you we wait until we are financially secure? Are we in a healthy place emotionally with ourselves and our marriages so that our children are a loving addition, not a stress, on our relationships? Can we commit the time and energy to the children that we have before adding more?

In closing let me just say that as parents it's no longer about what we want, desire or need. There are so many excellent mothers who would love to have more children but understand that what is best for their family is not always what their hearts desire. We may have a need to fill a gap or hole emotionally but our existing children have the RIGHT to parents who can be there for them in every capacity.

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