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."
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.