Saturday, 25 July 2009

Mother knows best

If you're not already familiar with her pouting puss, this is Nadya Suleman, currently one of the most recognisable faces in America. But her notoriety isn't because she happens to look like Angelina Jolie dressed as Pete Burns for halloween. She also has a uterus that's seen more action than Jerry Bruckheimer.

Suleman shot to fame back in January when she gave birth to a busload of babies, thanks to some heavy-handed fertility treatment and a hunger for fame. The media was quick to rename her 'Octomom', in reference to the octuplets she successfully delivered, although it actually made her sound more like a multi-limbed super-villain, rather than a woman with a more prolific womb than Mrs Walton.

Unfortunately, the tide of public opinion soon turned on Ms Suleman when it emerged that she already had a fairly extensive brood. In fact, the eight new arrivals were taken home to their six other siblings, all conceived through IVF. It didn't help matters that Nadya was also raising her kids single-handedly, and living on a combination of food stamps and disability payments.

At a time when most new mothers would be busy worrying about sleep deprivation, feeding patterns and sore nipples, Nadya was appointing the Killeen Furtney Group to handle her public relations. In early February she appeared on NBC in an exclusive interview, claiming that she wasn't selfish, and that society was 'unfairly judging her' because she was a single mother.

By cleverly politicising a peripheral issue, the opportunistic Octomom managed to avoid the wider concern behind the public's distrust. I'd hazard a guess that most people were more dubious about the motivations of a mother of six, who struggles to provide for the children she already has, actively seeking further IVF treatment.

So we should hardly be surprised to learn that Suleman has successfully negotiated a way of providing for her 14 offspring in the only way she knows how - by selling them to a TV network.

In a move that feels a lot like the parents who sold their children to travelling 'freak shows' in the nineteenth century, Nadya has signed with a British TV production company to make a new reality show. Each of the kids will earn $250 a day for the 71 planned days of filming over the next three years, netting the family somewhere in the region of quarter of a million dollars. No wonder Nadya's turned that trout-pout upside down.

When countless thousands of people are prevented from being loving parents by beaurocracy, legal restrictions, or messy seperations, it's infuriating to see how cavalier some people can be regarding the wellbeing of their children. Sadly, the ability to successfully carry a foetus to term does not automatically qualify someone as a good parent. That doesn't happen until after the baby's born. And Nadya's not off to a great start.

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