Posted by: Godfångst | February 12, 2009


They’re calling her the “Octomom.” Actually, she’s more like a dekatetramom? Ten plus four? Or an octo-hexa-mom? Eight plus six? If you know the prefix for “14,” let me know. It happened in Southern California, in a clinic in Beverly Hills, no less. Just about every commentator and TV show host in the country has sounded off about it. She’s received death threats. But should we be surprised?

People are appalled that she’s jobless. But what mother of six children has time for a job? Taking care of two strains the resources of even my most organized friends. She’s been living with her mother in a three-bedroom house in Whittier, California. She says she thinks she can support the kids after she finishes school. I hope she’s not majoring in Economics. Taxpayers will inevitably foot the bill, and people are rightfully outraged by that.

But lots of people had enormous families in the past; it was common practice before birth control. And news flash–no one has been able to afford 14 children since before the Vietnam Era except the superrich. It’s fine for Angelina Jolie to have that many, but…a “nonrich” woman does it, and she’s pilloried. And then, only if she somehow does it “wrong”–there are still schools of little Mormon, Catholic, and fundie kids running around who are one of 12 or 13. No one makes TV programs about them.

Don’t think I’m excusing it. The woman obviously needs mental help and suffers from an astounding lack of judgment and empathy. I’m just saying that it’s not so shocking. What’s shocking is how one stupid person can open a Pandora’s Box that will affect everyone. First, there’s the idea that she’s going to make money on this. Already, an army of well-wishers, fans of fertility, are teaming up to enable her stupidity, feed her offspring, and change their diapers round the clock, since it’s obviously too much work for Ms. Suleman and her poor mother, who probably should have slapped some sense into her daughter long ago.

Don’t be surprised if she makes a million dollars writing a book; one of the sextuplet moms did it AND got her own TV show. Maybe some rich fundamentalist Christian will bestow a 15-room McMansion up on her. She may even get Walmart to sponsor her. And that’s good, because the baby formula alone will cost something like $86,000. I hear her Web site takes Paypal. She also frequently says, “God will provide.” But I doubt God is much into Paypal–and I know He doesn’t believe in credit.

If Ms. Suleman does make two million dollars, as she hopes to, others will be comforted: “Well, if this were to happen to me, I might be able to swing it if I get a book deal.” After all, most women who implant multiple embryos do not come out with six children, so why not just pop six or eight in there and see what happens? Those who are opposed to eliminating all but the desired number of fetuses have no choice but to bear all the children who survive. This wasn’t the first time and it won’t be the last. What will happen the first time some poor stupid woman gives birth to ten two-pound babies? I’d say, give it…three or four years. You heard it here.

Furthermore, not only will Ms. Suleman get book deals, but her kids will as well. “I was ‘Octuplet Number Six,'” says the pale, dark-eyed teenager on Larry King. “It was a hellhole!” I guarantee that at least one of them will someday tell the whole sordid tale of what it was like to grow up with a totally irresponsible mother, if Ms. Suleman doesn’t drop dead from exhaustion. Something tells me she’ll live a good long time, though. People who know how to work the system never have to chop cotton to feed their families. Just ask any professional freeloader. Go see Mr. Bush; I hear he’s got a lot of time on his hands nowadays.

There is other fallout that I haven’t seen anyone talking about. First, it will cast a negative light on IVF, which is a real boon to many couples. The problem is not IVF, it’s Americans’ slavish worship of all things new and technological and our insatiable hunger for more. If triplets are exciting, try quints! More is better. Even the 46 doctors and staff at Kaiser Permanente were chuffed about assisting in this process. They were congratulated for their technical skill. Because if you can do it, that means you should.

I’ve even heard talk about in vitro fertilization being “unnatural,” something we should limit or even ban. Eyeglasses and kidney transplants are also unnatural–we aren’t born with bifocals on and we put people on dialysis instead of letting them die, even though it’s expensive. And that’s good.

I think it’s ridiculous to use that Bush-era “all or nothing” logic every time we show bad judgment, fail to think, or act immoderately. Trying to control, ban, or push way back on medical procedures won’t do any good; there will always be some sleazy creep in Beverly Hills willing to do it for a buck or some free news coverage.

What about embracing the idea that it’s irresponsible to have anything you can’t afford (house, kids, car) or to live at others’ expense–even if you can? Or to destroy the planet by thinking it’s OK for your personal brood to soil 17,520 diapers each year? And what about embracing the idea that medicine is not for publicity or for profit, or even to show how much cool shit expensively trained American doctors can do–it’s to heal, to cure, and to help people live better lives. How did this little episode do that–for any of the eight little Sulemans, for their mother–or for any of us?

If this woman really hungers that much for children, if she has that much Christian love to give, why did our society not encourage her to adopt, babysit like mad, do volunteer work with kids, join the Peace Corps and work with HIV-positive infants in Namibia–or just become a kindergarten teacher? It’s more environmentally friendly and a lot cheaper. And you won’t get as many death threats.

It’s just not as sexy as blabbing on The Today Show about how surprised you were when eight babies popped out of you, I guess. Sigh. How did one woman’s exceedingly poor reproductive choices become international news? We’re in the middle of a financial crisis, two wars, and a lot of much deeper shit than that.

I don’t think she’s any sicker or more worthy of scorn than Madoff or any of the Wall Street crooks who stole people’s money and ruined people’s lives. But I think half of New Jersey would line up to spit on her–and most of them wouldn’t even recognize Madoff. I do. A greedy, sad, selfish person is a greedy, sad, selfish person–whether it’s about infants or dollars.

Does this look like a happy baby to you?




  1. Your writing is great – I’m not surprised by this woman’s selfish indulgence but like everyone else I think she is living in some irresponsible deluded self-serving dream world. You know what I want to know? Look at her nails. Who paid for THAT? (just trying to bring some new into this – haha)

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