By Julie Levy ~ Posted Tue, 02/10/2009 - 12:59pm
8 babies. Conceived through in-vitro fertilization. 6 older siblings. 1 mom. No job. No father.
It is not hard to see why Nadya Suleman and her 14 children, particularly the octuplets who were born on January 26, 2009, are causing controversy. From the medical ethics of implanting 6 embryos (the octuplets included 2 sets of twins) into a woman who already had 6 children to the anger over an unemployed, single mother choosing to expand her family, everyone has an opinion.
While I agree that this entire situation legitimately raises concerns on many levels, I am uncomfortable with the accusations of Ms. Suleman being a "bad" parent. Yes, she has many children with no significant source of income but does her situation warrant a different kind judgment than we would use for other parents?
Think about some of the parents and children that you see as a teacher, or see in the news or know personally. The spectrum of "good" and "bad" parenting is a wide one. Although the masses may not approve of Ms. Suleman's situation, motivation or choices, I have seen children in situations that are much worse. Could the argument for neglect be made for 14 children? Probably, but it wasn't that long ago that large families were the norm and healthy, happy children came out of most of those homes. Could the argument be made that Nadya Suleman wanted and conceived her children for selfish reasons? Probably, but look around at the rest of our country and you'll find plenty of people who have had children for the "wrong" reasons.
The bottom line for me is that these 8 children and their 6 siblings were wanted. Despite the health, financial and logistical hurdles that Ms. Suleman and her family will face in the years to come, her children have that 1 advantage that many other children do not. If we need to find fault with the circumstances surrounding the octuplets' birth, there are two groups of people who deserve scrutiny: the fertility doctor who implanted the six embryos into Nadya Suleman and the American public who tunes in religiously to shows like Jon & Kate + 8 or 17 Kids and Counting. When we as a culture, whether it's the medical community or the general public, facilitate and glorify multiple births, we cannot then pass judgment on those who join in the trend.