Nadya Suleman, the mother who recently gave birth to Octuplets, has recently launched her own website. The website which says, “We thank you for the love and good wishes sent to us from around the world. The octuplets arrived on 1/26/09. They are all healthy and growing stronger by the day.”
Of course, as indicated by the previous post about this issue, there are many issues to debate and discuss in this woman’s choice to undergo invitro fertilization as a single parent with a mother who describes her as a little crazy and “not capable” of taking care of fourteen children.
And so the debate continue, I realized yesterday when I ordered a hot chocolate yesterday at a local Panera Bread and couldn’t help but hear an outburst at a nearby table, “And how about that women with fourteen kids? What is she thinking?” It’s clear the issue of responsible parenting, class, and race aren’t going away. The debates are even going into an Angelina Jolie look-alike frenzy. (Suleman denies this.)
As healthy as it is to debate, I’ve found the comment sections of sites intriguing. Nadya Suleman is (unconfirmed) a woman a color, possibly of Latino background, without a partner or suffucient resources to raise the kids. Is that the reason why people are “hating?” Becuase they don’t see her being able to do this?
But when we see entertainment like (old school) Just the Ten of Us, or reality shows like John and Kate Plus Eight, or Cheaper By the Dozen, as Kenny Darter points out, we think it’s pretty hilarious when White families, who have the means, have a busload of kids. But if a person without a reality show or partner chooses to, it’s deemed everything but good.
It is entirely understandable to oppose this woman’s decision. There are clear reasons why and the safety and well-being of the children are priority. However, without sufficient information, except reports from gossip magazines as to how she is going to move forward, I am hesitant to predict that these children are doomed or are going to undergo profound trauma. I certainly hope she gets on her feet to do the best she can and live beyond her own decision to have fourteen children. She has a mountain to climb, fourteen to be exact, but she has legs.
What I find interesting, though, is that throughout history and the world, there are women exactly like Suleman who raise their multitude of children with much less media and attention than Nadya Suleman. There are women who are neither scorned or criticized for the number of children they have. They are ignored. The reaction our country has had to Nadya Suleman confounds me. On one hand, it’s portrayed as a medical miracle, but the backlash is calling her crazy and irresponsible. The majority of those reports came out after her financial and marital status were leaked. When we see “single” and “bankrupt,” she’s selfish. Focusing soley on Suleman and not the children, would we call her crazy, would we criticize her CHOICE if we found out that she had a millionaire’s bank account? Or if she had a husband who was a CEO? Probably not, or at least, the criticism wouldn’t be so severe.
So what does that say about who gets to have large families? You can and have the freedom, only if you are financially capable? Is and should there be a parallel relationship between resources (house, job, daycare, health care, partner, family support, etc) and number of offspring? Because if there is some sort of invisible rule about class and birthing, then we need to examine it, not just in context to Nadya Suleman, but how that invisible rule extends to all women and families, including those outside our country’s lines. Do we have the same reaction to an unmarried Nicaraguan woman who naturally gave birth to seven? How is your reaction different? How is it similar?
The number of children a woman has – either intentional or not – is a layered issue, and often ethnocentric toward western ideals of a two parent unit with resources and health care. It is an opportunity to delve into your own perceptions of the relationship between freedom, choice, resources, and parenting. I just hope that there remains a space to richly discuss the issues that have surfaced without berating another woman or a population of women in the process.
Cross-posted at Bitch Magazine.