It’s almost like witnessing a stoning in Afghanistan. When news hit that a single mother was giving birth to Octuplets, the first rocks were tossed. Then, with each subsequent revelation about Nadya’s life, the stones came fast and furious.
Some are disgraced with the fact that she’s not married. Others don’t like the fact that she kept all eight children, rather than selectively terminating some of the fetuses. Others are angry that she’s not working. Still others blame all of this on the doctor who implanted too many embryos when she only wanted one more child (now she has fourteen). While I don’t know all the details of her situation, I take the greatest offense to the claim that her desire to love and nurture children is an obsessive compulsive disorder. That stone was simply too brutal to go unchallenged.
When a mother adopts a houseful of orphaned children from a war zone, she’s called a hero. Foster parents of more than ten kids are usually awarded a community citation for selflessness. And the mother of the Brady Bunch was considered normal for loving and raising her large brood. So why is Nadya Sulemon considered crazy for wanting to mother seven children? What would be a more noble goal for a modern woman: To make heaps of money? To work long hours in the corporate sector? Why is extreme motherhood condemned while extreme careers are not?
There is another aspect of the Nadya Sulemon case that irks me—that Nadya should have had a job, or more money, in order to justify having another child. But I wonder, how many of us were absolutely certain that we could afford the lifetime expenses of our children when we conceived? Were we absolutely certain that we had enough money to pay for every single expense to come? What if our child required emergency medical care? Or something else occurred that we didn’t plan for? Were we irresponsible for having children with slim bank accounts but a bounty of love in our hearts?
Underneath all of the Nadya Sulemon fury is something much deeper than a dislike of this woman’s marital status, mental state or earning power. To me, our collective response to her reflects a deep distrust of life. In condemning Nadya, we’re also condemning the wisdom of the universe. Isn’t it true that we’re never given obstacles that we won’t eventually overcome? Isn’t life benevolent enough to provide for our children—even when we haven’t planned for all of the costs of parenthood? Don't strange and unexpected things happen for good reason--even if those reasons are not illuminated for some time?
Clearly Nadya Sulemon took a risk when she sought to have a seventh child and ended up with octuplets. But isn’t it interesting how this “accident” will enable her to support her children? That is, with a few well-timed interviews on ABC or Oprah, her earning power in one year will probably eclipse yours or mine in a decade!
Nadya’s life path is unusual. Perhaps she took more risks than you or I might. And maybe she is a little "different" from mainstream society. But I can’t condemn a woman for wanting to love and nurture children. To me, that’s not a disorder. It’s a noble ambition—one that should invite respect, rather than condemnation.