Tuesday, March 24, 2009

On choosing to live in the shoe

Just as inevitable as beginning to blog (check back here soon for a rant on what an ugly word that is) will be the posting of my thoughts on Nadya Suleman--"Octomom." Truth be known, I have thought about this young woman often in the past few weeks, and every time her name comes up in the news (most recently last night, when she 'fired' the free nanny service that was helping her with the tiny ones), I shake my head.

No worries--I'm not about to join the masses with torches and pitchforks trying to break down her garage door to demand she give up what she has created. (Note to Gloria Allred: Please, dear god, stop trying to tattle on her to social services. You have no idea--most people have no idea--the utter devastation that can be visited upon a family once Child Protective Services comes to take over.) My issue with Nadya is not the number of children she has. (A good rule of thumb for parents is, Can you feed and clothe all of them, and can you take them all to Disneyland at the same time? If you can afford to do so--go for it!) My issue has to do with how she acquired her children.

I know she sees Angelina Jolie as a role model. (In some ways, a lot of us do.) I think the point she's missing is that Angelina has attempted to provide homes for kids who weren't scheduled by the gods to get lots of nice things in life. And let me tell you, there are a lot of those kids in the world. Which is why it doesn't make any sense to me when people spend fortunes on IVF. (Yes, yes, I understand you want to look into the face of your child and see yourself reflected. Ohhhh, mommy, I hate to be the one to say be careful what you wish for... but....) Look, if it's really the joys of parenting you want--along with the constant stress of trying to do the utmost for your child and the guilt over never doing the utmost for your child--just grab a child and get started. It's as easy as, well, blogging. (Well, almost.)

People always find it shocking when I tell them that there are thousands of kids--hundreds in the state of California alone--awaiting adoption. No, you don't have to go to China or Africa or Mexico. Walk into your local Department of Social Services, introduce yourself to the person in charge of adoptions, and ask to see the profiles on available children. You will look through hundreds of photos of kids who are languishing in the system, floating along in the limbo of foster care while they get older every year, desperate for 'real' parents, a permanent home, a dog they can actually say is theirs... or a room of their own. Their stories are not publicized by bright lights and paparazzi. Their stories are often not pretty. They can be children of addicted mothers. Children from abusive situations. Childen who were neglected in infancy. Children who are not "perfectly" healthy. Or children who are not deemed 'desirable' by young couples seeking to adopt.

You want to embrace the challenges of parenting because you love children? I dare you to jump in there, grab one of those kids--or a sibling group, because there are many of those kids who end up getting separated and never reunited because most folks' fantasy involves that one little orphan child that brings her bright happy smile into the family to warm everyone's heart. If Suleman had been so daring, she could have adopted two or three or four sibling groups. Instead of being villified, she could have become a hero. At least to those of us who know the truth about how many kids are out there, waiting. Imagine you are that child in a foster home, hearing about Nadya Suleman, who made lots and lots of babies because she 'loves children' and 'loves being a mom.' Wouldn't you just want to start screaming, "I'm here! I'm here!"?

My friend Janice once told me, "Unfortunately, we don't all live in Kay's world." She said this in a conversation we were having as she waited for the results of an amniocentesis. She and her husband had decided to terminate her pregnancy if the baby had inherited her own congenital defect. My point to her was that the desire to create the perfect child is ludicrous. Kids are kids as much as people are people--flawed and floundering, we make our way through each day as best we can. Only kids are more resilient, more adaptable, more hopeful than adults. Kids can find the silver lining in a situation quicker than any grown-up can. Kids will speak the truth, no matter what their starting point in life was.

Nadya, sweetheart, you have my best wishes on every one of the little lives you have begun thus far. But please--if you decide, you know, once the octuplets are in kindergarten and it's quiet around the house again, at least for half a day, that you still have more energy (after fourteen baths and bedtime stories) for more children, please consider opening those all-embracing arms to a child who may have to face life later on with nowhere to go home to on Christmas day. Trust me, those kids are out there. Just look.


  1. Kay, I agree and I wish more did.

  2. Absolutely. That was so touching.

    You should submit this as an editorial to the Daily Bulletin.

  3. Kay,
    You are so true. And what you wrote is very true. I agree and hope that others read this and are changed.
    Thank you,

  4. Tom, Sheba, and Aleta--thank you for your kind words. I had considered taking this post down. It seemed too negative. But after re-reading it, and your comments, I'll let it stand. My heart truly is with the kids who grow up in foster care and never know true stability, true ownership. Makes me want to scoop up a few more!