Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A Mother of a Story, As Told to Oprah

Nadya Suleman has an awesome job with loads of responsibility.

“I’m struggling. I’m surviving. I’m staying afloat.”

With those words Nadya Suleman ended her interview with Oprah today. You probably don’t know her by her proper name. But you do know her by the moniker, Octomom unless you’ve been under a rock in Timbuktu the last year or so.

The woman who last year infamously and famously became the first ever to give birth to eight healthy babies at once has been demonized, ostracized, ridiculed, mocked and harassed by the media for months. She already had six, for at total of 14 children. All the lies that have printed and uttered about her ... I’m surprised she has not been linked to an al-Qaida cell. She wrote Oprah to ask for an audience, and it was granted. As part of the deal she agreed to invite Oprah’s cameras into a day of her life. Intense doesn't begin describe it.

Several weeks ago, I watched her interview on The View – and I am a fan of the show – but I was annoyed at The Women. NS could barely get a word in. There were five women asking her questions at the same time, not bothering to wait for an answer. NS didn’t come across in the best light because in the face of indictments crafted as rapid-fire questions she started that cackling laugh. Who could blame her, for it was clear that The Women had her on the show to judge and accuse, rather than try to understand her motivation, which Oprah managed without being judgmental or indulgent.

Visit oprah.com to see excerpts. But keep it here to get my highlights: She didn’t plan to have eight children at once. The sperm bank or whatever agency had her eggs in storage was pestering her to deal with the eggs or incur various charges. She was doing well at the time – everyone was OK – and she decided why not. But she never imagined, “based on my previous birth pattern,” that she would birth eight children in one go.

Knowing what she knows now – if she had a do-over – she would not have had as many eggs implanted. She went to great pains, however, to assert that she does not regret giving birth to her children because she loves them. Repeatedly, she said her children are her responsibility and she would take care of them. And, no, she would not name the father. “That would be so unfair to him.”

At one point she got food stamps for a year with the six children. When she learned that food stamps are tied to welfare she stopped receiving them. She also traded Medi-Cal, California’s Medicaid program, for private insurance. She doesn’t want to be a burden on the system, she explained.

In an effort fill an emotional need within herself, the 34-year-old only child had the first six children. Six are too many, she conceded to a bemused Oprah. She understands that. She gets it. She gets it that one parent per child is not enough, that two parents to a child is not enough. And she doesn’t have the time to give 14 children all of the physical and emotional support they need, even with a sometimes revolving door of three nannies. Imagine four people handling 14 children, more than half of them infants – whew!

Though she got $100,000 for posing in a bikini in Star Magazine, she is not proud of having done it. But a mother has to do what a mother has to do, especially when she has 14 mouths to feed, staff to compensate and a mortgage, etc. And the money will be running out shortly, so she needs something else. But there are some things she won’t do. For instance, a reality show, which she rightly acknowledges would exploit her children, who did not ask to be born or for an invasion of privacy.

And there are other things she won’t do for money, even a whole lot of it. “If they paid me $100 million I would never do a porn film,” said NS, who claims she had three such offers, one coming shortly after the birth of the eight. She’s holding out for something “respectable.”

This bright, beautiful, intelligent and insightful woman didn’t seek publicity – she became what she terms “a carnival attraction” by virtue of her extraordinary accomplishment. Other than setting up a Web site to solicit donations, appearing on “The View” and today on “Oprah,” she has avoided the media. And what a savvy move appearing on Oprah! It will be interesting to see the fallout from such respectable exposure.

One thing NS learned from the experience, is that we all realize that sometimes we do things to fill an unmet need. Oprah had a great analogy. “Some people are addicted to drugs or alcohol, you were addicted to having children.”

Observed NS, who can’t take her children to the park without being hounded by the paparazzi, “I have done more growing in the last year than I have in the previous 34 and a half.”

Normally, Yours Truly would not comment on such a story but after listening to NS I felt compelled to speak. To speak out of a frustration born of myriad wild speculations about this Octomom creature. She has such clarity, or she is a damned fine actress. I believe her. She speaks like someone who has been kicked in the butt by life and may actually learn something from it that she will heed henceforth and forevermore.

The woman definitely has issues. She’s probably a little crazy. She’s broken in parts. But let those of us who are not cast the first stone … I thought not. Let us, then, extend some respect and understanding to Nadya Suleman. Let’s deal with it. She has 14 children. She can’t ungive birth to any of them, and she gave Oprah to know in response to the query that she has not given any thought to giving any of her children up for adoption or placing any of her children in foster care. In addition to the nannies, she has help from her real friends whom this experience has clearly identified. For the record, she does not see more kids or a man anytime soon.

NS needs heavy doses of compassion. Enough of the haters. Girlfriend needs some (agape) lovers.

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