Just when I think we can't get any stupider as a culture, along comes a story that has me embarrassed to be human.
A woman in California recently gave birth to octuplets, conceived through in vitro fertilization. Nadya Suleman, already a single mom of six - also conceived in vitro - lives with her parents in a home they bought for her; they moved in when they were forced to declare bankruptcy.
Suleman graduated with a degree in child and adolescent development and was, at the time of her most recent fertilization, working on her master's degree in counseling. She is as educated a woman as our universities can produce. But for all appearances, Nadya Suleman seems to have no income and has described herself as a "professional student."
If the details of this story are sketchy, it's because both Suleman and Kaiser Permanente Bellflower Medical Center (where the babies were born) have clammed up - the hospital for obvious reasons of patient privacy and Suleman has already announced she is looking to "sell" her story.
Friends say Nadya has no more motive for her constant pregnancies than her love for children. Yet her newborns are not yet a week old and she has already retained a publicist. Oh, and she wants help in establishing herself as a TV psychologist.
The doctor who performed the the most procedure implanting Suleman with eight embryos is understandably lying low (there is a rumor that she may have had the procedure done outside the U.S.) as some experts are charging malpractice. While Suleman was advised to terminate all but a few of the implants, she instead decided to allow all eight come to term.
Certainly Suleman wouldn't be the first woman on the planet that enjoys pregnancy and motherhood because of the attention it gleans and she certainly follows the current cultural trend that makes it okay to have children for selfish reasons. There is no denying that probably the most ethical thing to have done way back at, say, the third or fourth kid, was for some sane adult to suggest this budding therapist get some therapy for herself and to - oh, I don't know - get a job to support herself and her older children. Her own mother uses words like "obsession" and "not normal" and, it seems, at some point consulted a psychologist about her daughter.
It may surprise you to know that I don't blame Suleman. Part of me has to admire someone who thought of a way to fame and fortune by simply having functioning reproductive organs. She is also a product of our societal penchant for the extreme. It's a preference that feeds the obsessive ego and explains why there are shows like Bridezillas on television.
But Suleman is also successful in attaining her goals because of publicist Joann Killeen salivating in the wings, waiting to exploit her mania serving a public that will capitulate by buying her books and watching her on television. It is arrogance to deliberately give birth to children and then hold them as hostages to feed your ego. Our part, as her willing audience, lies in not feeding that obsession by turning her into a freak for public viewing and rewarding her arrogance with our attention.
Even as I write this I know she will succeed. Book deals, TV shows and business proposals were in the works before the octuplets were a week old. Oprah Winfrey and Diane Sawyer have expressed an interest in her story.
That obsession on our part is the only issue here. Because no one wants a world where we can tell a woman she can't have babies or that she must abort a healthy fetus. And that is the way it should be. Nadya is a sad side effect of such freedoms.
And it's turning out that the freebies lavished on other multiple births are not as forthcoming as Suleman expected. While one company offered diapers and wipes, the gift was only enough to last about a week. So Killeen has already begun professionally re-spinning her client's persona. "Right now her top priority is to be the best mom she can be to all her children," she reported in the face of Suleman's announcement last week - when she was barely out of labor - that her story was for sale for $2 million.
I guess this way, Suleman can support her family and get the attention she craves. It's a win-win situation for everyone except 14 children in Whittier, Ca. We can only hope part of that $2 million-plus will be spent to hire a couple of sane nannies -- and a little therapy for Mommy.
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