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Beth Kohl Headshot

Love Can't Buy You Money

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I've been holding my tongue and itchy-to-blog fingers, trying not to comment on the mother from whose body eight tiny beings were plucked last week, until I'd had the chance to hear her story and get some details. The only fact I could reasonably infer about Nadya Suleman, octuplet mom, was that she'd enlisted assisted reproductive technology to achieve her ultra populous pregnancy. And knowing that, I hoped that she -- like I and gay and single friends did -- would hold her family close, ginormous as hers happens to be, and not feel the need to justify an act that too many people consider sinful or wasteful.

But then I caught a P.R. person she hired explaining that her client would tell her story in short order, that this client was a good and decent human being and a dedicated mother to six less sensational children and would make for a fine mother of fourteen. She defined her client as being "alternative" somehow, and in a good way, like a Peacenik or Beatnik or Earth Mother, and not the unethical, narcissistic, selfish whack job that the media was making her out to be. But if this was merely a matter of alternative living, a personal choice based upon a well-considered philosophy or a strong sense of self, why the handler? Why not turn a deaf ear and save up limited resources for the children who will sorely need it, fuck your image?

So having watched Ann Curry's interview with Suleman on the Today Show, I'm putting aside my usual qualms about judging what are intensely personal choices, fuck my image.

First, what is with this doctor? Suleman sought treatment from the same reproductive specialist who enabled her first six children. He already knew she had six, and even if he didn't know how dire her financial situation (she recently filed for bankruptcy and lives with her mother), he agreed to help her. And then, flaunting industry standards suggesting that a 33 year old woman like Suleman only have between one and three embryos transferred into her uterus, transferred six -- frozen leftovers from her first attempts at IVF. And then when nature took over and two of the embryos divided and became two sets of twins, where was the doctor counseling her about the very real risks of "supertwins" as such crowded pregnancies are called? I mean, even if you are the most religious of people who temporarily put aside your Catholicism to undergo a prohibited procedure like IVF, you have to admit that carrying and delivering eight babies is extremely dangerous. I mean, I know that both God and Jesus are great, but how can you expect them to compete with limited blood supplies, nourishment and way too crowded conditions? How do you expect them to stand between your irresponsible choice to risk at least sextuplets and the many, many potential risks for multiples and premature births, including but not limited to: bleeding in the brain, metabolic and respiratory issues, blindness, deafness, cerebral palsy and learning disabilities? I'm not saying Suleman should have "selectively reduced" the number of babies she carried -- talk about your personal decisions. But I'm not not saying that, either. In fairness, Suleman didn't justify this as God's will, at least not in the Ann Curry interview. Nope, the only will she spoke of was her own. Sad and lonely childhood plus deep desire to be a mother equals parenthood at any cost and in extremis.

Suleman is trying to frame her decision as an "unconventional" lifestyle choice, daring to infer that most parents, the so-called stable kind consisting of a traditional mother-father dyad, aren't physically and emotionally there for their children. She seeks to define herself in opposition to such unfit parent-types, stating that she will put everything on hold to be completely present with her children. But without a source of income, save disability payments she receives from the state of California from an injury she sustained while working at a, wait for it, mental hospital, and with the real risk that at least some of her newborns will have ongoing physical issues, Suleman is, wait for it, plain crazy not to recognize how serious is her situation. Don't even ask her to consider how serious are her fourteen children's situations -- that's thirteen more people than she seems ready to focus on.