A bidding war and a row over ethics: how the octuplets story turned sour
It was a heart-warming tale of a young Californian mother who gave birth to eight babies. But now, as more details emerge, public reaction has turned from from joy to shock to anger
The Observer, Sunday 1 February 2009
Paul Harris in New York
t was a midwinter miracle; eight babies born to a single mother and every one of them delivered alive. For a nation enduring its deepest economic crisis since the Great Depression, the tale was a welcome relief from bail-outs and bankruptcies. But this weekend, as the journalistic pack chases an altogether darker dimension to the story of Nadya Suleman, the feel-good factor has suddenly vanished.
The birth of Suleman's eight babies - six boys and two girls - was clearly an extraordinary event. Only one previous case of eight surviving babies had ever been recorded in the US. Yet as the eccentricity of Suleman's background and biography emerges, America is suddenly recoiling in shock. Far from being a heart-warming tale of wonder, the more that becomes known about the Suleman family, the more it seems something very disturbing has occurred. Public reaction has quickly turned from joy to shock and anger.
By last night, it was clear that Suleman is not an infertile woman who sought medical help to have children. The 33-year-old Californian already has six children. She is single and has no visible means of support for her current family, let alone the additional eight babies that now give her enough offspring to field a football team with three substitutes.
In fact, Suleman still lives with her parents. Her family has revealed that she may have serious mental-health problems and be addicted to having children. Her own mother, Angela Suleman, told one Associated Press reporter: "[She] is not evil, but she is obsessed with children. She loves children, she is very good with children, but obviously she overdid herself."
Angela Suleman also revealed that her daughter's obsession with children caused her considerable stress, and led her to seek help from a psychologist, who had told her to order her daughter out of the house.
"Maybe she wouldn't have had so many kids then, but she is a grown woman," Angela said. "I feel responsible and I didn't want to throw her out."
The case of the Suleman octuplets is now sending shockwaves through the medical fertility community. Few reputable doctors can understand how a healthy mother-of-six could have been allowed to have fertility treatment that resulted in octuplets without serious questions arising about the mother's mental health, her capacity to raise such a large family or the huge medical dangers involved in giving birth to so many babies at once.
More at the The Guardian UK
Looks like either the Los Angeles County or City of Whittier Division of Child Protective Services will soon be knocking at the Suleman's door.