Nadya Suleman, 33, stands saturated in wrong sauce. Suleman just gave birth to octuplets, and now is the proud owner of fourteen children, all under the age of eight. That's right, rub your eyes. Fourteen children under the age of eight. Suleman also has no income nor does she have a husband. She lives with her parents.
Thanks to the miracles of science, fertility procedures, and our culture's unfettered willingness to allow anyone to manufacture life in a lab at any time, at any cost, Nadya Suleman has become a sideshow freak. Expect her soon to be on display with the bearded lady and even the pregnant man. Come and See: OctoMom and her Countless FrankenBabies!
Deep down, everyone has an intuitive sense that there is something wrong with this story. But what, exactly, is wrong? And who, precisely, is to blame? Frankly, the answers to these two questions reveal a huge warning sign flashing before our eyes..
Numerous commentators, like Bill O'Reilly, express outrage about the financial responsibility for the children. In all likelihood, the state of California will be paying for the welfare of these children for years to come. Yet, contrary to our cultural assumptions, having children ultimately is not really a financial decision. It is something far bigger than money. Every child is a blessing, a gift to be received and welcomed. I have no qualms with the state's providing assistance for these children once they are here.
No, the wrong sauce originates from a complex recipe. First, Suleman is acting like a pet owner more than like a parent. Her mother says that Nadya “is obsessed with children.” She is right: NADYA has a thing for babies. NADYA thinks this will be neat and perhaps even fame-inducing. NADYA is shopping her story through a publicist, seeking fifteen minutes of fame through her reproductive exploits. NADYA is all about Nadya. Hers is an exercise in pathological selfishness, irresponsibility, and even abuse. She has both perverted and prostituted the very idea of “mother.”
Here is a woman who decides she likes kids and sees a market opportunity in bringing them into the world, not so much for their sake but for her own. That much is clear. What is less clear is whether Nadya can differentiate between children and kittens. Her unbalanced and disordered desire to birth as many children as possible, no matter the consequences, reveals a pathology. She is filling her life with babies the way the neighboring “cat lady” has a house teeming with kittens, pouring out of the cupboard and playing in the rafters. Most of us look with a mixture of amazement and sadness at the “cat lady” for having such an odd life, but Suleman is doing the same thing with actual human beings. These are not pets; they are humans.
Of course, there is plenty of blame to go around for this bitter concoction of wrong sauce. The doctors in this story are still conducting an MRI to see if they can discern a moral compass buried deep within their own souls. Thus far, they merely suggest that theirs is merely the role of unchecked service provider to a market of individuals who can do as they please. But, if you or I were to go to them with an unnecessary and delusional request for a leg amputation, would they merely provide the service and send us on our way? I think not. Physician, heal thyself, and say, “In good conscience I cannot perform this procedure.” Is it really that hard?
Finally, each of us stands with hands stained by the wrong sauce. For decades, we have oohed and aahhhed at the FrankenBaby phenomenon. We have participated in a culture that buys, sells, and trades body parts, sperm, and eggs as if they were baseball cards. We have drunk deeply from the selfish fount of individual rights and turned a blind eye to the rights of the unborn and the newly born.
Again, EVERY child is a gift, a blessing to be received with joy. But each child is entitled to certain things and matters of dignity. Those matters transcend the basic financial dimensions of loving a child.
Each child deserves to be conceived as an act of love between her parents. To know that love is the basis for her life. Knowing that origin in love gives the child a sense of belonging and origin.
Each child deserves to know who his parents are. That tells a child much about who he is, genetically, physically, intellectually, and socially. That knowledge gives a child roots and identity, a place in the world that is uniquely his and not opaque.
Each child deserves to be loved and raised by her parents when at all possible. To know the continued love and nurture of the ones who conceived her in the first place. To be shaped by the same ones who shared their love and DNA in her creation.
And finally, each child deserves to be given every chance at health, education, and a full life.
Do all of these always work out? Of course not. But that does not mean that we should recklessly manufacture lives and bring them into the world from the outset, knowing in advance that those children will have none of the rights and entitlements above. Such a decision is wrong, tantamount to abuse, and selfish. Who in their right mind would say that such a decision is a good thing?
And so, we stand staring at a flashing warning sign. Cautioning us to see the babies, children and lives around us as actual human beings, created in the image of God. Children are not accessories to be worn and displayed self-servingly by parents. Children are not pets to be collected to make the owner feel better; nor are children therapy providers for parents looking “to find themselves.” No, each child is a person in his own right, deserving love and dignity.