Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Not To Be Judgmental or Anything . . .

You know that when you hear someone say the above (or any variation of it), what follows is not going to really be a credit to either the speaker, listener or the subject. I've been quite self-aware, for some time, of my tendency to make snap judgments. I'm better at curbing this impulse now than I was, say, age 17, but it is still ridiculous how far I have to go with this particular weakness. Blogging has actually helped--because I write so much of what I think for others to see now, I believe I'm getting more careful about what I think in the first place.


Last week I read in the paper about octuplets born alive to a woman in California--seven were expected, but eight were born. The babies were quite early and a couple of them are extremely small, but so far all have survived. The paper was brief on details about the mother, apparently at her request. After I read the story, I felt very grateful that I was not in a position to have to make a decision about fertility drugs--either taking them or the many decisions that continue to follow the consequences of taking them. I also felt a measure of respect for this mother. Early in her pregnancy, terminating some of the babies had been presented to her as a desireable option, but she just didn't feel right about it. Also, in not disclosing her name I viewed her as a much more careful and concerned mother than, say, the John and Kate Plus 8 Harpie. Or maybe I should say Queen Harpie.

There was a follow up story today. A story that sickened and disgusted me.

Octo-momma already has six children, all of whom were conceived on fertility drugs. She also has no husband and her mother is pretty much raising the first six. She has a publicity agent who gave a majority of the interview. Every major corporation which usually donates to multiples has been contacted for handouts, but it seems that many of the companies are backing off of this one. There have already been talks with The Learning Channel about a program.

It was at this point that my head exploded. What would they call this show Just Kate plus 14? Or Eight is Enough So Who Wants the Other Six?

The journalist reporting went on to speculate that the hospital stay alone for these 8 preemies will be considerably over a million dollars. Nor could the reporter find any evidence of the woman having worked in the last two years.

Is there a nice, neat, reasonable explanation that paints all involved parties in their right minds? Perhaps. Perhaps she and her hubby were "just" going for number seven, and together had wanted a large family. Perhaps, her doctor had always believed her to be a stable, normal mother. Perhaps her mother was loving having a second chance at parenting and gladly took on all of these little ones. Perhaps Octo-dad freaked out and left only when it turned out his wife was having a litter and decided he just couldn't deal. Perhaps this mother had never even considered a career as a reality show star before submitting her body to a science experiment. Perhaps any number of babies over two necessitates a publicity agent--you know, like how the lactation consultant comes in to most mothers? Perhaps. . . perhaps. . .

Or perhaps SOMEBODY in the chain of "responsible" adults who have perpetrated this nightmare should have been a voice of reason and said, "There is no way a dangerously unbalanced, single woman who is only half a mother to begin with should have any business taking fertility drugs. And if she thinks somebody else should pay for it--either in the form of insurance or government or sponsors or concerned citizens or pro bono babysitting then she just needs to start signing the adoption papers NOW. And not eight sets. Fourteen.

Don't get me wrong, I am not pointing my (admittedly self-righteous) finger at the mother alone. Oh, no. I think there is loads of blame to go around: from the mother who has enabled her idiot daughter with her free daycare, to the deadbeat sperm donor dad, to the DOCTOR, for crying out loud, who agreed to this latest treatment, to the insurance company who very likely approved her round of fertility drugs. AT WHAT POINT DID ALL COMMON SENSE CEASE?

Years ago I had a colleague who had been married for some years; she told me once that she and her husband had no interest in raising children, though she thought it seemed weird sometimes to think about getting old and not having family around. She was not at all religious and tended to view things very scientifically. One day we discussed the brouhaha at the University of Utah (late 90's) over the gay professor and his partner who were suing the state for adoption rights. I was interested in her opinion because I knew that, if anybody could, she would reason through the situation instead of reacting with emotion. She said something I'll never forget, "I think there are a lot of reasons people have children, but it should never be for selfish reasons. For all that those men might make excellent parents, they have made their crusade so public that having a child now is more about the principal of the thing than the thing itself. It is like they haven't stopped to think how hard it will be for a child to be dragged into all of this."

Well said.

As I look at Octo-mom, yes, with a fair amount of distaste, even disgust, I can see plainly that she will be punished by her own choices. She will have to live with the consequences of her folly and selfishness. (And, yes, to do something so dramatic for attention is selfishness no matter how many hundreds of diapers she will change.) I guess there is no need to judge, the natural penalties of her decisions will take care of that, but I feel sick for those kids.

Their lives will be so affected, and therefore their choices limited, by their mother's actions. Their lives will be punctuated by poverty, scrutiny, the side-affects of premature birth, and a mother who clearly places a low priority on what is best for them.

One last thing before anyone reading gets their knickers in a twist: in case you have misunderstood my anger, I have nothing whatever against large families. Though I don't know that I'll have a very large one myself, my dad was the oldest of ten, my mother the oldest girl out of nine kids, and Plantboy is one of nine. (And, I must add, I would be hard-pressed to find a family anywhere that is greater than my hubby's.) One of my favorite readers is the oldest of 21 (or 22, Erma? I forget) . . . . what I am saying here is that I take serious issues with people who are STUPID. Especially when it comes to making their children pay the price for their irresponsibility.


Janssen said...

Wow, this is a terrific post (and a nausea-causing scenario). Sometimes you do just want to stand up and say "this is wrong."

If there is anything more infuriating than stupidity, it is other people letting stupidity run wild and free.

Genjunky said...

I couldn't have said it better, as usual! It has been frustrating to watch,especially as someone with fertility issues and the inability to go that route because of cost. When the whole story comes out, or what she'll let out it will be interesting. It certainly is causing many people to pause . . .too bad it doesn't seem that she did. May our Heavenly Father watch over those babies, all14 of them.

Melanie said...

I was also a little taken aback when I heard about the circumstances of this women and her octuplets. The fact that this word isn't in my spell check indicates to me that there's something highly irregular in carrying and giving birth to eight babies at once (not that I needed the spell check to tell me that one). Like you, I'm not at all against large families, if the parents are able to provide for the needs of their family - physical, spiritual, mental, emotional needs. I don't know all of this woman's motivations, but the fact that she is being extremely tight lipped about her experience so that she can SELL her story is extremely disturbing.

The sticky part of this whole situation is who has the right to tell anyone else how many children they can or should have? In this country even the suggestion that anyone besides the parents can make that decision would have people of every political persuasion up in arms, and rightly so. The obvious answer is that each individual should use his or her common sense when deciding how many children to bring into their family. Unfortunately common sense seems to be a rare commodity these days.

Suburban Hippie said...

At least they'll have each other.

Doreen said...

Didn't she get pregnant through IVF? What I find disturbing in all of this is that the doctor implanted that many embryos. That's highly unethical. The whole story is sickening, really. Those poor babies. :o( One of the articles I read on it was the mother saying how all of the kids were IVF babies, and her daughter just couldn't bear to not use the remaining embryos, so she just had them all implanted. Then she said something to the effect that at least now, all the babies had been "used up", so there weren't going to be any more. Goodness!

Sherry said...

I agree with Doreen. I think it is very unethical to plant more than one embryo, particularly in cases where planting just one or two has worked before.

In New Zealand, by law doctors are only allowed to plant one embryo, unless there are extenuating circumstances, in which case the doctor can do two.

When I think about the unlikely potential of having to do in vitro myself, it is with the idea of no more than two at a time. Why are American doctors still doing so many? My only guess is to earn themselves some fame and a place in the record books.

Desmama said...

I was shocked when I learned of the circumstances of the mom, and I really do feel sad for those sweet babies. Also? Who's paying for the IVF if she hasn't worked in the past two years? That's in addition to the hospital stay, etc., of everyone. It does make one wonder . . .

tearese said...

I hadn't heard this story, and yes, this lady's attitude is a little shocking. I hope the kids turn out okay in the end.
Doreen had my email if you want to contact me; yes I do commissions, usually about $30 for an 8x10. Thanks for commenting on my blog!

Michelle said...

I was a little worried when I started reading that you were going to defend this girl. Thank you for turning it around and putting to words the rant I feel inside about the irrisponsible people involved in this decision.

Z. Marie said...

The whole thing is very sad. (Of course, I think Jon & Kate Plus 8 is sad, too, not because of choices they made in having their kids but because they feel like broadcasting their odd behaviors to the world.)
Last week, when the details of the Octo-mom first were emerging, the grandmother said, "She's just always wanted to have babies."
Well, Granny, at some point along the way you should have talked some sense into her.

AmyJane said...

Yeah, we get CA news stations here, so this madness has been ALL OVER the place. Seriously messed up.