the smell of my desperation has become a stench

And here I thought one was a total kick in the ass

This week I started a Momversation about the ethics of planned multiple births, or more specifically, holy cow, that woman has 14 kids. See here:

I wanted to bring this discussion here because I’m sure you’ve all got opinions about this story, and I’m willing to bet that a few of you let out a more than audible, “Do what?” when it was revealed that Nadya Suleman not only gave birth to premature octuplets, but that she also had six other kids waiting for her at home. And she lives with her mom. And she doesn’t have a job. And the father is not involved whatsoever. Did that story just get weirder and weirder, or what, right? It got to the point where I wouldn’t have been surprised if they reported that she kept all the placentas in her freezer so that if she ever ran out of strawberries she’d have something with which to make smoothies.

I remember where I was when I first heard about this story, and before any of the various details came out about this woman and her situation I told Jon, just wait. People are going to get all bent out of shape now about reproductive medicine. And in watching and reading the reactions to this story, I believe this is exactly what has happened. And dear lord, if people who struggle with infertility didn’t need more heartache and obstacles put in their way. As I say in the video, it’s such a shame that the media has turned this into such a circus, this isolated incident involving an obviously questionable and renegade doctor who I think holds most of the blame if there is any in this situation. And all it serves to do is make it harder for other people, other reasonable individuals, to explore their reproductive options. Because all of a sudden people are now saying asinine things about how women should be forced to adopt if they can’t conceive a child without medicine, or how the people of California should be able to force Nadya to give up her children because their tax dollars are being used to help raise them. Yes, how about we give a multiple choice test to women and let a committee decide who is and who isn’t fit to be a mother. Anyone with tattoos need not apply!

Is this an unfortunate and complicated situation? Absolutely, and I do not think it is physically possible for one person to take care of the basic needs of 14 children. She is going to need a considerable amount of help, and as much as people might be disgusted by Nadya, there are 14 children here who had no say at all as to what conditions they’d be born into. But again, I think this is an extremely isolated incident, and making sweeping statements and judgments about women’s reproductive rights and options because of it is ill-conceived and bone-headed.

I can’t believe I’m going to open comments on this because I imagine there will be a lot of screaming, but I’d love to hear from men and women who have struggled with infertility and would encourage others to listen to their side of this issue. Everyone play nice.

  • Anonymous

    2009/02/23 at 2:24 pm

    Woah. Jon is on Chicago public radio right now.
    surprise to me

  • Anonymous

    2009/02/23 at 2:28 pm

    I was fortunate enough to not struggle with infertility and my heart goes out to those who have. But Nadya Suleman wasn’t infertile, she was single, there’s a difference. And as much as people have demonized her, and maybe rightly so, the bottom line is that there are 14 babies to worry about, and proposing to take them away from their mother isn’t a solution. And making an example of Nadya Suleman in reference to other infertile couples doesn’t make sense either.

  • margie

    2009/02/23 at 2:25 pm

    i think you are right to a certain extent. we have to be careful that we don’t judge situations that we are really uninformed about. not that i agree with this situation, not that i want children brought into this world on a whim. it’s a tough call. do i think the woman was wrong. probably.

  • Holly

    2009/02/23 at 2:26 pm


    that is all.

  • Christabel

    2009/02/23 at 2:26 pm

    Well said. I don’t think I want a placenta smoothie. No matter how hungry I get.

  • Daddy Scratches

    2009/02/23 at 2:29 pm

    When my wife and I were going through fertility treatments, I said to our doctor, “I don’t want to end up on the ‘Today’ show with multiple kids.”

    She said, “We consider anything more than twins to be an unsuccessful treatment.”

    I concur.

    Single birth, both times, vasectomy, the end.

    Litters of 6 and 8? INSANE under the best of circumstances, which this clearly isn’t. Glad I only have to watch from a distance.

  • Amanda

    2009/02/23 at 2:30 pm

    Tax dollars aside, I do think it sounds like it would be in the best interests of those children to be placed into loving homes where there are parents (1, 2, same-sex, whatever) who are capable of caring for them fully. As has been said, it’s not our place to judge, but it certainly doesn’t look like she will be able to care for these children. If that’s the case then they need to be put in homes where they can be cared for appropriately.

    Thanks for being brave enough to open this up.

  • thisgirlremembers

    2009/02/23 at 2:31 pm

    Yes. Yes, yes yes. Sad and unfortunate and unethical on the part of the doctor? Absolutely. Representative of women seeking fertility treatments? Not on your life. Thank you, Heather, for sharing your perspective.

  • Kara Lang

    2009/02/23 at 2:31 pm

    I think that you are absolutely right, Heather. One swallow does not a summer make, and one woman who has had 14 children should not invalidate the rights of others to have IVF, Adopt, etc. I believe that this woman needs help, perhaps mental help, and I believe we should examine the doctor who agreed to this much more closely.

  • Miranda

    2009/02/23 at 2:32 pm

    Quite frankly, the woman disgusts me. Sure, I don’t know her. But what person brings eight more lives in to the world when she already has a hard time taking care of the six (3 of which are DISABLED) children she already has. And now their house might be taken away. What? She’s begging for tv show deals and looking at million dollar homes. No thank you. I put all the blame on the doctor.

  • Melissa

    2009/02/23 at 2:33 pm

    I think her situation has less to do with fertility treatments and more to do with the crazy. It’s sad that those poor children are being taken down buy her own self-pity. Bring on fertility treatments to those who need it. No for those who have no means to raise a family and no self-worth.

  • Lorelei Goulding

    2009/02/23 at 2:34 pm

    I think the doctor should be investigated….

  • Amber

    2009/02/23 at 2:34 pm

    Reproduction is so personal, I hate to make judgements on others. That said, what Nadya did was wrong. Thank you Daddy Scratches for your comment, because that’s what we always see on TV are the people who had litters. The people with reasonable doctors and outcomes are not “newsworthy.”

  • Anonymous

    2009/02/23 at 2:34 pm

    I’m amazed at the stupidity and irresponsibility of the doctor. When a friend of mine had invitro, they implanted only 3 eggs. The most she could have had (unless the eggs divided) would have been triplets. Luckily for her, she had a single baby. But implanting 6 (I think that was the number and then 2 divided) into a woman who already had 6 kids that she wasn’t able to afford to raise is incredibly irresponsible. But then again, should the doctor have to do background checks and research? I don’t know the answer here, I’m just rambling.

    I don’t think there should be an invitro backlash, but I do think that there’s been concern for several years about putting too many eggs “in”. This is what happened to Jon & Kate Plus Eight, as well as many of the other multiple births that have made the news. It causes a lot of problems for the poor underweight premature babies, as well as high risk for the mothers. Not a good idea.

  • Miranda

    2009/02/23 at 2:34 pm

    However, I forgot to mention that I do not believe her doctors poor business choices should make it harder for others choosing to take the route of fertility treatments. It’s a very sad situation.

  • Teri

    2009/02/23 at 2:35 pm

    Where is Solomon? We could all use his wisdom in a case such as this!

  • Brat

    2009/02/23 at 2:35 pm

    I think that woman needs psychiatric help.

  • L.

    2009/02/23 at 2:36 pm

    My main issue is with the doctor/s who allowed this treatment to go ahead. It might be a wild suggestion, but how about doing some background checks and psychological screening for a woman who shows up at your office asking for 8 embryos to be implanted. I think anyone who wants fertility treatment should be questioned about the size of their families, previous pregnancies, etc etc. Don’t the doctors need that kind of background information before they can do such a big procedure? If you want to adopt a child you’re subjected to the third degree, shouldn’t it be the case with this as well? Actually I thought taking a background history was a part of all medical procedures…

    I guess the problem is that people might start saying that doctors don’t have the right to decide who deserves to have children. But I do think there’s a huge difference between most sane individuals who want IVF and this case. From the limited press I’ve seen about this issue, the woman does seem to be a little… not right. You wanted a big family? Six kids IS a big family.

    Also I’m a little confused how she could actually afford the treatment if she’s living at home with her mother?

  • Patey

    2009/02/23 at 2:36 pm

    I can’t fathom what this doctor was thinking. How come all the attention has been on Ms. Suleman and not the doctors who actually allowed this to happen? Sure she seems to be suffering from some kind of mental illness but how did a doctor allow her to add so many more children, especially when the ones she already had have special needs?

    WTF, doc?

  • Miranda

    2009/02/23 at 2:36 pm

    Did she say how she afforded the procedure? I think I might have missed that. And the plastic surgery. Where did all this money come from? Should’ve been put towards her six children she already had.

  • mmc

    2009/02/23 at 2:37 pm

    As Daddy Scratches mentioned, fertility doctors don’t USUALLY implant more than two eggs at one time. Typically, the cases with multiple births are a result of IUI, not IVF. I think the vast majority of the blame belongs to the doctor here, because the mother seems to be pretty unstable.

  • Linda

    2009/02/23 at 2:37 pm

    I have two beautiful children born to other women, and I wouldn’t change anything – even the fact that my husband and I used reproductive technology. Even though it didn’t work. The clinic we used had a policy (imagine that!) and no more than two or three embryos (depending on their rating) were transferred back after fertilization. It’s not the intent of IVF to have a women deliver a litter – this is the result of a bad doctor.

  • Anonymous

    2009/02/23 at 2:38 pm

    Should we legislate away people’s choices? No. But, I feel perfectly comfortable saying that she made an irresponsible choice. That’s judging, yes. I don’t think having an opinion is wrong. I’m not scolding her. And, she put herself in the media by seeking out the attention and trying to raise money over the internet for her family.

    I would not want a doctor or anyone else to be evaluating my life and finances to see whether I should be allowed to have a baby. That puts people with fertility problems under scrutiny that others do not have to endure. Still, I think each person should not have children they are not able to care for and that is their evaluation to make. Some, like the mother of the octuplets, may not make good decisions in that arena. It doesn’t mean that we should regulate the area. We should not respond to isolated poor decisions by taking away the freedoms of everyone else. The cost of regulation is too dear.

  • Emily in Memphis

    2009/02/23 at 2:38 pm

    I think it is WONDERFUL that you’re opening this up to comments. However, I do hate to tell you that I’m going to be completely boring and…agree with you. I feel that this situation is completely sad, primarily because those 14 children will have to deal with an unrealistic amount of public scrutiny because of a seemingly unstable woman.

    I also feel the doctor has a great deal of explaining to do. A doctor should continually make decisions that are in the best interest of the patient. Clearly, it was unsafe to purposely implant so many embryos.

    I STRONGLY feel that any man and woman should have the right to explore all of their options when it comes to expanding their family. My husband and I had some slight issues that were (fortunately) quickly resolved with a change in medicine. However, some couples must find options that are more intense and sometimes invasive. No matter what, that is the woman or couple’s choice.

  • Claire

    2009/02/23 at 2:38 pm

    Quite unfortunately, this is not an (extremely) isolated event. I just heard on the National Public Radio the other day an interview with a fertility doctor. He mentioned that injection of more than the recommended number (2 or 3 max) embryos into a woman’s uterus is not too uncommon, but that this particular doctor had extremely low odds due to bad technique, so he was trying to bring up his stats by loading a few too many into Suleman. In addition to being upset by this type of medical practice, and Suleman’s mental instability and lack of planning, I’m inexpressibly worried about the 14 children! What will become of them? Will they grow up and be able to fit into society? Will they even survive infancy?

  • Jalene

    2009/02/23 at 2:38 pm

    People’s reproductive rights should NOT be messed with. That said, fertility treatments shouldn’t be given out like candy. This woman was clearly plenty fertile all on her own. Why was no screening process conducted?

    I think people have the right to fertility treatments, but they also have the right to have them done ethically and properly.

  • HDC

    2009/02/23 at 2:39 pm

    Without even watching the vid, I think the look of disgust on your face in the poster frame pretty much says it all. The whole sordid mess tips the scale on sad.

  • Amanda

    2009/02/23 at 2:39 pm

    I think that this woman is not only irresponsible, she is in need of mental help (cuckoo for cocoa puffs!)
    She is incredibly insensitive to those who need help conceiving. Many of those women never do conceive, and while that is not “Octo Mom”s fault she is a fertile babies-mixed- in-a-lab receiving machine, it sure is a slap in the face to those who are never successful.
    The doctor who is responsible for those 14 babies (I read all/almost all were conceived through fertility treatments from the same doc) is unethical and should have his license taken away. A woman with 6 kids doesn’t need a greater than average amount of embryos put in her! She needs to get a job to feed the first 6!
    All I can do is hope these children grow up without any lasting harm done and that they make better decisions then their mother.

  • Professional Critic

    2009/02/23 at 2:40 pm

    Absolutely agree. This is an isolated incident of a group of people with questionable judgment and motives and should not AT ALL extend to the vast majority of people that use fertility treatments appropriately.

  • Jeffeners

    2009/02/23 at 2:40 pm

    Have you seen the photos of Suleman’s parents’ home? Before they added 8 more babies? wtf, indeed.

  • Mary

    2009/02/23 at 2:40 pm

    Let’s see here… The Gays can’t get married, share health insurance or even leave an inheritance of shared property to their partner but we have people who do crazy crap like The Octopussy. Dooce cracked open the can-o-worms!

    It is not our decision to judge who does or does not bear children. No litmus test for that. Most people do it every day with a 6-pack of beer and a bucket of popcorn. Nine months later they are changing diapers all because of movie night.

    However, The Octopussy has gone to the extreme of what we rational thinkers feel is effing crazy, ill-thought and just a tad bit unprepared for the concept of what she has now created. She is dealing with children, not Barbie dolls, and she obviously has a synaptic gap as to what her true reality is. She has KNOWINGLY (within her capacity) gone out and created this situation without the means to care for these children. No job, no income, no support, no house, no skills. “she will be there for her children.” Great. Then what? Yep…we will all be there with our systems to support her and we will do it for the children. And we will cross our fingers every day that she doesn’t bear more children.

    I could talk about this for days but the thought makes me tired. I need a snack now.

  • Annie

    2009/02/23 at 2:40 pm

    While I don’t agree with the situation this woman has put herself in, what’s done is done. Am I angry that as a California tax payer, my tax dollars will be helping raise her children? Yes. That being said…

    My husband and I thought we were going to have to undergo fertility treatments to conceive. One of the first things I asked the doctor was, “How many embryos do you transfer?” His response (word for word), “Don’t worry, you won’t end up on Oprah. We won’t transfer more than two.”

    Long story short, he said that they had it down to “such a science” [pardon the pun] that it was unnecessary to transfer more than that. Now, I know there are extenuating circumstances where more may be transferred (which is what Nadya claims was the case with her specific fertility issues), but perhaps we should be taking a look at her doctor so something like this does not happen again.

    It is absolutely unfortunate, to put it mildly, that this woman’s situation is casting a bad light on couples/women who need IVF or other fertility treatments to fulfill their dreams of having children.

  • mindola

    2009/02/23 at 2:41 pm

    It took my husband and I 5 years to conceive our first child
    (I suffer from Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome) and it took the help of one very special doctor and pretty high dose of Clomid for us to achieve our dreams of a beautiful and perfectly healthy baby girl. Don’t let one rotten apple spoil the bunch.
    This one doctor, and one mother shouldn’t taint the wonderful work that fertility specialists do everyday for people like me.

  • Kate

    2009/02/23 at 2:41 pm

    A placenta smoothie… THIS is the reason I look forward to reading your thoughts, Heather. Anyone can blog about current events. Few can do it with such relevant wit that makes me choke/laugh outloud in the office.

    I’m currently trying for my first kid, and while we haven’t been doing it long enough to know if there are any fertility issues, I now have a totally new perspective on having kids. Or more specifically, the ability to have children. If I can’t get pregnant… how awful would I feel if someone told me I’m not allowed to try other means?

    I so think physicians have the responsibility to evaluate patients and exercise caution when it comes to allowing people to take on the burden of multiples. Maybe they could create something like a FAFSA form for in vitro! Based on your income, the government will tell you how many babies you’re eligible for. They’ll ignore extenuating circumstances and make sweeping decisions based on how you rank up with the masses. That’d be totally effective, no?

  • Kris

    2009/02/23 at 2:41 pm

    The doctor treating her has serious liability here. I am a proud mother of a 10-year son conceived through invitro. Our doctor was extremely conservative and we had to undergo a ba-zillion tests and interviews before treatment.
    And you are exactly right – people are going to twist the facets of this issue to fit their own agenda. It’s what closed-minded people always do.

  • Kristan

    2009/02/23 at 2:41 pm

    As I posted on Momversation, I think she was selfish. This is not about quantity, but responsibility. If you can afford 14 children, that’s one thing, but she, clearly, cannot. And those poor kids didn’t do a thing to deserve the hardship they’re undoubtedly in for.

    But more to your point on THIS post, I agree that she should not be used as an argument against reproductive options. Her case is particularly odd (‘crazy’ is a better word, imho) and thus an outlier.

    I know women who have struggled with infertility, and my heart breaks for them (and soars when they succeed). On the other hand, my boyfriend and his siblings are all adopted, and I can’t tell you what a wonderful thing that is, to know that he was given a chance he wouldn’t have otherwise had. Without that opportunity, we probably wouldn’t have crossed paths and be in each other’s lives and hearts right now…

    Like you said, there are a lot of larger issues here. I don’t think there’s any one prescription for what’s right or wrong; each woman and each family is going to need something different. And that’s fine. That’s what makes life so interesting!

    (But “needing” 14 children you can’t afford is something different altogether.)

    Anyway, for a more humorous take on Octomom, check out (which is not my site, so I’m not doing a shameless plug here!).

    And to all those women struggling to make their own decisions out there, don’t let the haters get to you!

  • Michelle

    2009/02/23 at 2:42 pm

    I agree the octo-mom is a unique case and she obviously has issues. She reminds me of a friend that had slight mental issues. She is not completely out of it but really sees reality in a skewed way or why would she do that to her kids… In her reality, love conquers all and things will be taken care of…Yeah right. Of course reality is not that sweet especially with this economy. That’s what pisses everyone off. She needs to be helped. There is no question about it.

    Those kids as you put so well did not elect to be brought into that situation. For them, we should all shut up about their mom and take care of what needs to be taken care of… the kids. They are the real tragedy in this adult-made pony show. I had a hard time with one baby… i cannot imagine 8 at the same time. oooh boy! We all know she is a bit off her rocker. Needless to say we still need to help. At least she seems to love the kids.

    That she lives in another reality? No question about it. That she deserves to get threatened? No way. That’s stupid. That she will need help? Of course.
    That the doctor should get his license revoked? Yes.
    Should any other couple pay for their stupidity? No. It is hard enough to go through infertility, do not make it any harder.
    As for octo-mom… she should opt to get sterilized after this and I think that will quiet a lot of people… imagine if she had more kids after this? uuuf. that would be hard to swallow.

  • Anonymous

    2009/02/23 at 2:42 pm

    As someone who paid about 90,000 in Federal taxes last year, I am pissed that my money is going to support this spoiled, delusional woman.

    I am a doctor; this so called doctor should have his license revoked. He only did it to have his “success” rate increased. That is a sin and he should be held accountable for irresponsible medicine.

  • Louise

    2009/02/23 at 2:43 pm

    I think most people have enough sense to differentiate between sane, sensible couples who seek infertility treatment to have one child, and this woman who very irresponsibly chose again and again to have children she isn’t financially or emotionally capable of caring for. No one should attack fertility doctors or couples seeking fertility treatment because of this story. This is an isolated incident of a very troubled woman and her irresponsible doctor.

  • Dharma

    2009/02/23 at 2:44 pm

    I have thoughts about this on many levels. First, my husband I struggled for 4-5 years with infertility. We spent thousands to no avail. The small portion that his insurance covered still left us deep in debt. Then he lost his job and we had to give up totally. Then as the years went on I got to the point of being too old. It left me bitter for MANY years!

    Then this woman comes along and totally ABUSES the entire system! She is an outrage. There is no reason on earth that she needed to have all of those kids. Six was bad enough and then she had the nerve to have 8 more.

    There is no way that she does not have some mental dysfunction. Just listening to her and watching her mannerisms you can tell. She is a attention hog. She thrives in the limelight. It is all very, very sad for those kids.

    Her parents have spent so much of their own retirement taking care of all of them in a three bedroom home. Not how they should be spending this part of their lives either.

    I have finally gotten over the trauma that my invitro experience left me with, but this woman is an abomination to all. She needs some extreme counseling. She is going to milk this for all it’s worth!

  • sweetpea

    2009/02/23 at 2:44 pm

    tho shall not judge. Is it crazy? Yes but its does not matter what we think. This thing has a life of its own.

  • Clio

    2009/02/23 at 2:45 pm

    I think the whole situation is just profoundly sad, and I see it ending in something tragic, unless these children are put in more stable homes. I don’t see how her state’s children and family services is not already investigating this situation.

  • Amanda

    2009/02/23 at 2:45 pm

    This is another example of the lazy, selfish people that end up on our assistance programs. I see it all the time: women keep having babies that they can’t afford to take care of for whatever selfish reason. Then, taxpayers are being forced to pay for labor and delivery and financially support the children.

    She obviously had money for multiple in-vitro treatments and plastic surgery, but she can’t take care of her own children financially?

    Now, she’s hoping to cash in through reality TV. Nice.

    I think this situation says a lot about current-day America.

  • laura

    2009/02/23 at 2:46 pm

    Very brave of you to open up comments on this!

    I am all for government assistance and welfare when it is a means to get people back on their feet. People have situations in life they can’t control, or make mistakes, and end up in places where they need help.

    But welfare is not a lifelong solution to problems. People need to be educated about personal responsibility and not putting themselves in situations they can’t handle. And Nadya Suleman has done just that.

    I have no problem with people who want to have a bazillion kids and can afford it (the Duggar Family comes to mind, but many other countless families included). But when people put themselves in situations where they need long-term government assistance, I think it is just wrong, and taking advantage of the laws and programs in place.

    Now who is to say that Ms. Suleman knew what she was up to. She seems a little loopy to me, and she may not have fully understood the ramifications of her actions. There are so many people to point fingers at here, but I think the best thing we can do is help out this woman’s 14 children who had no say in the life in which they were born. We can also learn from this so we can educate women in responsible reproductive choices.

  • Annie

    2009/02/23 at 2:47 pm

    My issue is who is footing the bill. I waited many years to start a family until I could properly financially support a child, now it’s been over a year of trying and no baby yet. Artificial seems to be the option for my husband and I. Guess who’s paying for it…US!!

  • Shawna

    2009/02/23 at 2:47 pm

    I agree with everything you said, and how you said it. The woman may or may not have been irresponsible. The doctor was definitely irresponsible. But the KIDS had no choice in the matter, and they are the ones we need to focus on.

  • Anonymous

    2009/02/23 at 2:47 pm

    people probably would chose to exercise their personal autonomy a little differently if the nanny state we’re there to wipe their asses.
    i spend my days as a college graduate with 2 professional jobs thinking “hmm, lots of bills to pay, sure would be nice to have a baby someday, but right now i wouldn’t be able to give him/her the kind of life i envision.”

  • 5280 Dad

    2009/02/23 at 2:48 pm

    Probably not much new to say that has not already been touched upon here but…I think that it was completely selfish and irresponsible of Octomom + 6.
    Did she think she was going to be able to take care of them? No. Did she think that WE should/would give up our free time, money and energy to take care of her kids? Yes.
    I think she and her doctor should be held responsible. I feel bad because it is like the IRAQ WAR. We had no business going there, but now have a responsibility not to leave without fixing what we started.

  • Anonymous

    2009/02/23 at 2:48 pm

    Anyone wants to donate?
    Note:You can decide if the money goes into more surgery or In vitro Fertilizations. LOL

  • Ana C

    2009/02/23 at 2:48 pm

    If it is physically impossible for one woman to take care of 14 children, why does the family on that show “18 and counting” not get any grief? Because she is married? Because TV networks support them? I don’t agree with this Octo-mom’s mentality but I am curious if it’s the amount of kids, they way in which she had them or her personal life (or lack there of) that is most responsible for the outpour of anger from the public/media.

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Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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