- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 15, 2009

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

At least the set was broken. At least the set was something the couple needed, not just wanted. How the husband was able to pay for his longed-for treasure, we are never told. Deferred interest?

It frequently fails to occur to far too many of us that when we finally secure the items on our must-have or wish lists, someone else may ultimately end up footing the bill. And if you live long enough, you grow to understand that the most difficult lessons are the most costly. Then again, some folks remain immature and irresponsible their entire lives.

Which makes me wonder whether Nadya Suleman, the 33-year-old divorced California woman now infamously dubbed the “octo-mom,” will grow up before any of her 14 children.

Be careful what you ask for, because you just might get it - to the eighth degree. Ms. Suleman, as we all know by now, gave birth to eight premature babies after a questionable in vitro fertilization procedure, although she was already struggling to parent six others, some with special needs.

This single, unemployed mother brings new meaning to the old wives’ term “stairsteps,” now that she must feed, clothe, nurture, guide, educate and snuggle 14 children all under the age of 8.

And, what about those babies? They must be the central concern now.

You could be Mother Teresa and not be able to provide all the financial and familial care for 14 children under one roof without a lot of assistance - a lot of assistance from family, friends, community services and government agencies, whether she thinks she needs help “raising a village” or not.

Yet Ms. Suleman, who is clearly in denial or may be delusional, calmly contends on national television that she will be able to be the best mother without any long-term public assistance.

In what world? What does Ms. Suleman think food stamps, disability and student loans, which she has received, constitute? Sweepstakes? She seems as delusional or misinformed about welfare as a Wall Street fat cat.

Ka-ching, that Baby Suleman cash register already has rung up more than a million bucks in health care costs for the post-delivery treatment of the preemies alone. Kaiser Permanente is seeking reimbursement from the state of California, even though Ms. Suleman’s publicist stated that her client is an insured Kaiser patient.

The intent here is not to rehash the unbelievable nasty debate about Ms. Suleman’s seemingly selfish decision to bring babies into this particularly tough economic era when she does not have job and the unemployment rate is nearing double digits. Nor is it the purpose to scream about the unethical behavior of a Dr. Michael Kamrava, who for whatever reasons, aided and abetted Ms. Suleman’s warped wishes. Here, we are not even going to jump into the furor over how some large families are glorified, especially by the media, while others are not, or if this woman is a glory seeker or Angelina groupie. Nor is this discussion concerned with the pros and cons of raising children alone or the parental obligations of known sperm donors.

No matter how you feel about Ms. Suleman’s motivation and decision to channel Mother Goose, we must sincerely hope and pray that this childish woman is afforded psychological counseling. If she didn’t receive therapy before, unfortunately, she will definitely require therapy now, as well as a superior social worker to help her children.

The babies seem lost on so many of the octo-mom’s rabid critics, who have dared to threaten Ms. Suleman’s life for giving life, even if under less than desirable circumstances.

Whose responsibility is it to care for all these vulnerable children now that the deed is done?

There are 14 children, eight of them in incubators, who must be given the essentials to survive what portends to be an at-risk environment. While the court of public opinion is focused on vilifying Ms. Suleman, her newborns are reportedly being nourished from a mothers’ milk bank.

Inquiries to the publicist and the hospital were not answered, but Linda Spears, vice president of policy and public affairs of the Child Welfare League of America (CWLA), said, “States are not obligated to do anything, but that doesn’t mean they won’t.”

“One hundred percent of the conversation is too much about [Suleman], instead of the 14 children who are here,” Ms. Spears said. “The question now is, what combination of resources will it take to give these kids a good shot at a good life?”

Some critics have hastily suggested that the octuplets be placed in foster care or put up for adoption. But Ms. Spears said there has been no evidence that shows Ms. Suleman neglected or abused her older children. “We don’t know what her true capabilities are,” she said. But “we certainly know this is a case with a lot of risk.”

The goal of today’s child-protective services workers is to keep families together and intact as often as possible, she noted. However, “There’s no way you can find a home for all the children to stay together.”

Ms. Spears said “any hospital social worker worth their salt” already will have established contact with the family and started a full assessment about their care needs and how to deliver them for the “mini-group home” before the octuplets leave the hospital.

Ms. Spears is expecting that the Suleman situation will be “a hot topic” when the CWLA hosts its annual conference in Washington next week “to discuss the state of the economy and what services are out there to support children.” Of course. The mission of the organization, which works with foster care, adoption and social services agencies, is to ensure that “every child grows up in a safe, loving and stable family.”

It is an extremely difficult situation, but do we punish the Suleman children - and countless others - by withholding aid from their mother because we disagree with what appears to us was her illogical, immature and imprudent desire to enlarge her family?

If nothing else, the Suleman case indicates that we have a curious and contradictory manner of showing how much Americans actually do love and care for all children, regardless of their circumstances at birth. Look how hard it was to get the SCHIP medical program for children passed.

It will be telling, if and when the figures are released, to see what donations these disadvantaged children, through no fault of their own, receive for their care on the mother’s Internet site.

Ms. Suleman holds a mirror up for serious introspection. The American ideal that we can have anything we want, whenever we want, at whatever the cost, is at the heart of why we find ourselves in the uncomfortable predicament today where the debts are due and the lines of credit are maxed out.

Yes, we can lay the bulk of the blame on greedy and unscrupulous financiers, as well as lax government oversight, but if we are truly honest with ourselves in the dark of night when we lay awake haunted by the mountain of bills that are piling up, we must admit that part of the problem originates within. We made the impulsive and imprudent choice to get what we wanted, rather than what we needed, a time or two too many.

Delay our gratification? Not part of the American lexicon for the past decade. Now we have no choice. Now we must face the consequences.

We can’t have it all. Not now, not ever. The cost, as Nadya Suleman reminds us, is too high, especially for the little ones.

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