To this day, my mother still can’t watch “Growing Pains,” the television sitcom that she loved while she was pregnant with me, because the theme music reminds her of having morning sickness. It’s stories like this — about the more unpleasant details of pregnancy — along with several other reasons having to do with ethical responsibilities, that have convinced me that I will never have a large family. People who do — like Nadya Suleman, as one of the most extreme examples — tend to baffle me.
The most common criticism surrounding Suleman goes like this: For a single, unemployed woman to give birth to a set of octuplets after already having six children, all through the use of assisted reproductive technology, is an irresponsible and selfish act that will ultimately endanger the lives of the very children she so ardently desired.
But while there’s a lot of truth to this line of reasoning, what I don’t understand is why Suleman is the one being singled out.
“Octomom” is my perfect personal nemesis for a variety of reasons. As a child of the green generation, raised to be conscious of sustainability issues, I begrudge the resilience and fertility of Nadya Suleman’s womb because it has prodded me just that much closer to having to pay for oxygen supplies in the future — when overpopulation has challenged the carrying capacity of our planet to such a degree that we have to compete and pay for basic resources. Not only is Suleman being an irresponsible mom, but she’s being an irresponsible citizen of the world. Suleman has a total of 14 children. If this trend were copied for just eight generations, Nadya Suleman’s lineage would exceed the current population of China.
But aside from all of that, I still have to deflect some of my wrath from Ms. Suleman. It’s not like Michelle and Jim Bob — yes, Jim Bob — Duggar of Arkansas haven’t given birth to 18 young’uns, their first born about 20 years ago and their last born just this past December. As if it weren’t torture enough to have 17 siblings, the kids were all given names that begin with the letter J. (I guess giving alliterative names was the next easiest method to numbering them.) The Duggars even had their own TV show flaunting their reproductive fruitfulness called “18 Kids and Counting.”
I only had one older sister, and I still remember the difficulties that growing up under an older sibling presented. I always felt that my achievements and qualities were being compared to some precedent set by my older sister, and I especially resented my wardrobe of hand-me-downs galore. These acts, though subconscious, made me feel like my parents weren’t recognizing me as a separate entity unique from my sister — I can’t fathom how the Duggar children are managing to develop senses of independence and identity in a household of 18 children and likely no one-on-one time with either parent.
But mainly, when considering the volume of orphaned children all over the country and globe that need families, it’s impossible to see the decisions of people like Nadya Suleman and the Duggars as anything but morally reprehensible.
According to statistics submitted to the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) by all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, from 2002 to 2007 the number of children awaiting foster homes has stayed constant at approximately 130,000 — with about 300,000 children entering the foster care system each year. Meanwhile, only about 50,000 children are adopted every year. Why individuals and families who want large families don’t go the adoption route and even out this tragically imbalanced ratio is mystifying.
I also must wonder if Ms. Suleman and Mrs. Duggar will be able to teach their daughters, despite the example that they’ve inherently demonstrated themselves, that women should and can be more than baby factories in modern society. I have every respect for women who choose to become mothers, but I have even more for those who strive to balance a career and being a mother at the same time.
At least there’s always Angelina Jolie.
Asst. Editorials Editor Catherine Cai is a College freshman from Atlanta.