Wednesday, February 11, 2009
In Defense of Large Families; Revisited
I find myself amazed at the timing of my previous posts to what has become nothing short of a media circus over Nadya Suleman, the mother of the set of octuplets born in January. I feel we as believers need to be standing up for this mother of many, and finding ways to offer assistance in any way we can. Some of the reasons why are similar to the post I wrote previously when so many were in an uproar over the Duggars having #17 (yeah, that long ago). There is quite a lot of talk going on about how the doctor should not have 'let her' get pregnant again when she had six children at home. If we begin using a limiting rule for some families, it won't be long before we are right behind China is controlling people's reproduction. But there are also some specific things I think we need to consider in this situation.
First, we need to be thankful that Ms. Suleman was willing to carry her babies, even at the risk of her own life, instead of employing selective reduction. When Jamie Lyn Spears announced her pregnancy, many mommy blogers wrote in her defense because she did not decide to end what most saw as an inconvenience rather than a human life. The same argument applies here. Both women were in less than ideal situations, and thought they made choices we don't agree with, the fact that they did not abort demands our thankfulness.
Secondly, there is something of a double standard when it comes to accepting multiples in America. The McCaughey septuplets were heralded as miracles, and their parents were not publicly attacked for not choosing to reduce. The Gosselin sextuplets were heralded as miracles, and their parents were not publicly attacked for not choosing to reduce. I have seen interviews with both of those families where they were asked if their choice to use fertility treatments was maybe irresponsible because of the risk of so many babies, and both families gave an unequivocal no, because the odds were so, so slim that it was never a consideration. The chances are higher for a woman pregnant with one baby to have complications than for a woman to end up carrying six, seven, or eight viable embryos. It's like saying people are irresponsible for going outside when there is a 1 in 1,000,000,000,000 chance they will be hit by a meteor.
Third, Ms. Suleman did not do anything sneaky or untruthful. The doctor did the procedure. And while many are upset that using 6 embryos was unethical, it would seem this was the same plan they had used for the previous pregnancies. None of those pregnancies produced more than twins, and that only happened once. Even with the chance there that all 6 might develop, no one could forsee two of them splitting into twins. How can we criticize someone for something even the medical community did not see coming? One doctor interviewed for his 'professional criticism' said he never implants more than three embryos, but if you use the same standard he is using to condemn this woman, he is just as irresponsible, because those three could divide into six, which is exactly how many were implanted into Ms. Suleman. Double standard.
Finally, the money for the IVF cycles was earned through working, where Ms. Suleman undoubtedly paid taxes. Why is it so crazy then that she be getting back some of that tax money in the form of support for her children who have special needs? People are willing to pay taxes to create 'special' schools to ship the 'special' kids to, but not to help support the home they live in? I totally don't understand that reasoning. Social Security may not be something we agree with or like, but the fact is that we are paying into it, and so long as it exists, we have a right to use it when we need to.
What it boils down to is this mother is being unfairly attacked because she wants children instead of a lifestyle, she sees many children as a blessing and not a burden, and she is not wealthy. But compare those criteria to the two previous families mentioned with multiples, and they are the same. What gives?
She is single.
And in what has to be the biggest hypocrisy in the news today, the country that told women they did not need men to raise a family has turned on a woman who decided to live just that. "Well, she shouldn't be getting donations because she chose to have the kids". As did the Gosselins and the McCaugheys. Even the media is biased- the same Anne Curry who grilled Ms. Suleman does cheerful yearly updates on the McCaugheys. In reality, the best sponsors for this woman would be the National Partnership for Women and Families, the ACLU, or the National Organization for Women- the very organizations who demanded her right to have children without a partner. But we all know how fickle they are, both demanding protection for that right to chose to be a single mother, and simultaneously expecting every responsible woman to have an abortion in a case such as this. You have to fit into the mold they created.
No, the support should fall to the church as a collective to take in this woman who so valued life as to preserve it at all cost. Churches should be finding a suitable house for this large family and offering not only to be round-the-clock feeding helpers, but also protectors, acting as a shield between the violent world and this young family. No one had a problem doing it for the other miracle babies.
***Just a note, I love both the Gosselins and the McCaugheys and in no way wish to criticize them or the support they were given. I merely think it ought to be just as liberally applied when the circumstances aren't what people want them to be.