Like most mothers across the country, I have railed against octuplets mom Nadya Suleman, both publicly and privately, and have a laundry list of grievances against her. I've asked all the questions: How could she have all these kids? How will she take care of all these kids? Why will we have to help pay for all these kids and how the hell is she going to manage 64 feedings everyday for the next few months once those tiny babies come home from the hospital?
Despite all this, I found myself on national television this week defending her. I shocked myself a bit sitting on the Today Show couch (next to the distractingly attractive Natalie Morales, btw!) listening to the now infamous 911 call hearing myself say: "Well Natalie, I sympathize with Nadya. That could have been me."
It turns out that following a segment Today did last week, mothers were mighty miffed about the seemingly one-sided treatment of the call. In hundreds of angry emails, women wrote in about their disappointment and outrage, accusing Today of simply tossing the call into the cauldron of evidence proving that Natalie is a nut job and unfit for mommy duty. To support their defensive, they confessed their own mothering mishaps of losing kids and losing composure, as well as their genuine empathy for Nadya in her now very public display of hysteria. I know from personal experience as the mother of three that fear is a powerful emotion and can lead to some pretty unflattering behavior. I also know from the hundreds of thousands of posts on the truuMOM confessions website I run where women spill secrets anonymously, that more mothers than anyone might suspect really do have these moments of hysteria. I would argue that these "bad moments" or bad thoughts, alone, don't warrant the singe of the Bad Mother brand.
So, Today brought me in, along with fellow mom, blogger and author, Stefanie Wilder Taylor, to talk more about Octomom and the 911 call specifically, representing the voice of "real moms." They wanted Today Show viewers to feel heard and understood, that they were not subjected to one-sided sensational coverage. The three of us ladies sat politely listening to the tail end of the call and then Natalie started the queries. I jumped in with a self-deprecating, "Well, that could have been me if my child was in jeopardy," but Stefanie pounced on the more popular, "Come on, she's crazy." (Watch the full segment below.)
Had our camera time extended beyond a brief 4 minutes, I would've challenged Stefanie on this one, countering with countless examples from the truuMOM confessions site offering up proof that thousands of moms have copped to embarrassing and sometimes shocking moments of "hysteria" and frustration that even led one mom to throw a shoe that accidentally hit her son and gave him a bloody nose. I would have also brought up the fact that whether in the interest of time (or dare I say, exploitation) the tail end of the call does make her sound nuts, and shouldn't be evaluated on its own. The whole call builds to the hysterical "I'm going to kill myself, I'm going to kill myself" and understandably so. Stefanie shrugged this one off, claiming there were no additional incidents warranting the escalation. I wanted to argue that the initial incident - gripping fear over losing your kid - was enough to take a mom to this breaking point in the first place. But to each mom her own breaking point.
I want to be clear that I'm not defending Nadya Suleman and a string of really bad choices or excuse her undeniably shocking and outrageous behavior. To me, she's not of sound mind or bank account to raise a brood like this alone -- but that's another conversation. I'm just going out on a limb here to say that 24/7, women confess to some pretty extreme thoughts and actions that without context might prompt a call to social services. While Nadya has put herself in the middle of a media circus and earned the unfortunate title of "Octomom," the emotions she expressed in that frantic 911 call could have been those of everymom.