For seven years I was a single parent. I had one sweet, healthy, bright child. I had a job and a home and some savings. It was still one of the most difficult things I've ever done.
My memories from that time consist of a mish-mash of exhaustion and self-doubt, always wondering if my decisions, no matter how small or inconsequential, were the right ones. There are no decisive manuals for mothering. I could only do my best and hope it was good enough.
Now, more than two decades later, I realize that whether you're a single parent or part of a traditional two-parent household, you have your first child for practice. Probably as much in spite of me rather than because of any efforts on my part, Molly has remained that same sweet, healthy, bright child, just in a taller package.
Please understand, I love my children more than my life. I cannot for one instant imagine an existence without my two girls being a central part of it. That being said, there's no way I would ever want another 12 of them.
Horror is the only word that describes my reaction to the California woman, an unemployed single parent who, through in vitro fertilization, recently gave birth to octuplets. As the story unfolded, it was revealed that she already had six children under the age of seven, all conceived through in vitro. So that means she'll be coming home to as many as 12 children in diapers at one time.
This lady strikes me as being a few ounces short of a full sippy cup. I can't help but hear the ka-ching of a cash register. I'm sure People magazine will have a heart-warming cover in the near future with the smiling mother (and a couple of helpers) holding her mega-brood. There'll be a photo spread for which the magazine will no doubt pay a hefty six-figure fee. The mom has already hired a publicist to make sure she gets top dollar for her photos and story.
Raising even one child is an expensive proposition. A healthy child born without complications costs more that $187,000 to rear to adulthood. And that's here in the South. In southern California, I suspect that rate would almost double. If you have a calculator handy, multiply that amount by 14. Ouch.
I love cats. We have four. Every now and then I start agitating for a kitten. Each time I get voted down. First there are the veterinary bills. Then there's my asthma. And how will the other cats feel about this interloper? They are all valid concerns and I always demur to the more practical minds in the family.
But deep down I know if I lived alone it would be easy to add a kitten here and a rescue cat there until I suddenly became the crazy cat lady of North Hall.
At that point I'd stop being a cat lover and become a cat hoarder. It's an obsessive compulsive condition that even has it's own category in the DSM-IV, the manual that provides diagnostic criteria for mental disorders.
Do they have diagnosis criteria for child hoarding? This California woman's case seems to certainly warrant consideration for a new section when the DSM-V comes out.
This situation makes a mockery of all of women who deal with infertility issues. I remember the heartbreak before my first child was born. I had several early term miscarriages and even now, 20-years later, I can tell you the date of each one of them. I don't have birthdays to celebrate, just sorrowful days to remember. We were considering seeing a fertility specialist when the miracle that is Molly came along.
In vitro fertilization has become big business. One of Molly's college friends is considering becoming an egg donor to off-set the cost of law school. Apparently the going price for a healthy egg is around $6,000. This technology is a godsend for people who so desperately want a child. It's time for the ethics to catch up with the technology.
As more of this saga is revealed, I doubt we'll learn anything redeeming about this woman or the clinic that so irresponsibly participated in this maternity train wreck. I shudder when I try to imagine what the lives of these children will be like, even if they manage to dodge the bullet of serious health complications common to multiple and premature births.
I can't help be reminded of the Dionne quintuplets, five Canadian babies born in 1934. They were treated as a sideshow and were made part of a tourist attraction known as "Quintland" where tourists paid to watch from an observation gallery as the girls played. Subsequent chapters of their lives weren't much better.
Call me cynical, but a 2010 grand opening of "Octuplet World" wouldn't surprise me, not one little bit.
Originally published in the Gainesville Times, Feb. 5, 2009