Monday, 2 February 2009

6+8=What Were You Thinking?

I am the proud and doting mother of two wonderful and finally adult young men. When Older Son was about six months old, there was a report in the local paper on the birth of quintuplets. 21 years ago, quintuplets were still newsworthy; unlike today when 6, 7 or 8 babies at a time seems to be what it takes to make the papers. As a young, exhausted, and often times alone at home first time mother, (The Husband traveled a great deal in those early days for business) I stared at the report with incredulity. All I could think of was that could have been me. I couldn't even imagine the possibility of trying to feed, diaper, clothe, coddle or bed 5 "Older Sons". My imagination would run wild. What about trying to potty train 5 or teaching 5 their Bar Mitzvah portions or, worse yet, teaching 5 how to drive? How would we send 5 to camp or college, or how could we possibly pay for 5 weddings? These wild thoughts were coming from a relatively sane, financially middle class, healthy, very organized young woman who had tremendous family grounding, an involved and supportive husband and only one infant at that time to look after. 

Five years later, I became the proud and doting aunt and cousin/aunt of two sets of twins. I watched with further incredulity as The Little Bro and the Ying to his Yang coped remarkably well with three children under the age of 3, and the Sister/Cousin and her Israeli were hell on wheels with 4 kids under the age of 5. I saw first-hand the sleep deprivation, the coordination of schedules, the massive amounts of familial help required, the financial compromises made, and the positive energy expended necessary to make it all seem so effortless. Again, these families were happy, well-adjusted, financially solid and with two involved, if not chronically tired parents. 

I remark on my personal experiences in order to try and provide some perspective in the weirdness that occurred in California last week. If the news reports are correct, a single 33 year old woman with 6 children under the age of 7, (including one set of twins!) gave birth to a litter of 8 more. She lives with her parents in a modest home and, is attending school to advance her career. There is no father involved that anybody will speak of, and it has become increasingly obvious that the woman conceived the octuplets through fertility treatments. Her mother has stated publicly that she may have some emotional issues and that she may be obsessed with having children. It should be noted that by all accounts she has been a very concerned and caring mother and that her children are well tended. So much not the point!!!

There are so many questions that need to be asked. What kind of fertility specialist even begins to think of treating a woman who already has 6 children? Doesn't that sort of defy the logic of someone being infertile? Isn't there or better yet, shouldn't there be an ethical code of conduct that these doctors ought to follow? Knowing that the woman is already a mother of 6, what kind of doctor implants as many as 8 embryos, knowing of the possible nightmare scenario that did occur? This physician had to know that selective reduction was already a hot-button issue for this woman, and that she would never agree to culling the herd. What kind of family doesn't attempt to intervene with a clearly troubled woman to stop obvious self-destructive behaviour? Who is footing the bill for all of the medical procedures that have already occurred, and will most assuredly need to occur at some future date? 

We as a society need to assume some responsibility for this travesty. We gawk and make celebrities out of the Gosselins and the Duggars and we marvel in their fortitude. Jon and Kate aren't shy about why they do their show. It is to pay for college education for their children. There are already reports that "Mom of 14" will have sit downs this week with Oprah and Diane from her hospital bed. She has procured an agent who is actively seeking sponsorship deals so that she might pay for the 250 diapers per week that will be required. Maybe some network somewhere will offer her a reality show too!

This is a case that cries out for intervention on so many levels. All we can hope for is that something will happen for the sake of the children. 


  1. I debated this with a friend of mine the other day, and your comments were the same as mine, with respect to the doctors, and people in this woman's life. What she needed was a psychiartrist, not a fertility doctor. What was she thinking.
    Clearly there are so many things wrong with this picture.
    Those children...well, at least her 'agent' and the media will help the children get what they need.

  2. Thanks for the thoughts, Lisa. I worry for the children and their emotional as well as their physical well-being. Good luck to all.

  3. Dawn, as you know, I find this entire situation to be incredulous. I find the most fault with the fertility doctors. These are the kinds of ethical scenarios that show up weekly, (albeit in a cheesy fashion), on "Private Practice". The doctors on that show have no problem refusing to perform procedures if it goes against their ethical standards (such as they are). So what happened to this woman's doctors?

    I'm with you... I was exhausted when I had 2 kids who were 3 years apart. I can't imagine what this woman is about to go through.

    I hope that while they were delivering the babies, the doctors were also tying her tubes.