Monday, February 9, 2009

Human hoarding

Generally, I don't comment much on current events. If I had to say why, it's because taking a stand gives half of those who know what it is an opportunity to disagree and reveals how judgmental I can be.

On top of that, there's the possibility I may be wrong.

When I read that a woman had given birth to octuplets, my first thought was of a desperate couple who had resorted to fertility drugs and why that would not be for me. I still (selectively) resist the intervention of science in nature, although my rational self knows that men around the world have interfered with nature since their time began. I admit that I might feel differently if I were more personally affected; it's easy to make pronouncements from the mountaintop.

After a few days I became curious about the fate of the octuplets and their mysterious parents. By then it had come out that the mother was an unemployed single woman who already had had six (6) children through IVF.

There went the childless, loving, and happy Yuppie couple many of us had probably envisioned.

Six children. Six. And she wanted more.

For a few minutes, I couldn't quite retrieve from the archives of my mind the pathology that this situation reminded me of. And then it came.

Animal hoarder.

The desire for more children, on top of six existing children, especially in a situation where it is likely that the mother doesn't have the resources to provide adequately for so many, financially, physically, or emotionally, made me think of those sad souls who take in dozens or even hundreds of animals which, when rescued when a neighbor complains about the smell or other signs, invariably prove to be starving, diseased, battle scarred, and neglected. I've wondered if animal hoarders initially mean well but lose control. Do they notice how much the animals suffer and block it out? Or do they believe they are doing them a favor? Are they that blind to the cruel consequences of their actions?

Nadya Suleman, the woman for whom six children were not enough, said she wanted a big family because she had had a lonely childhood. Two, four, or even six children were not enough to fill that gaping hole in her soul. Despite her age and the odds, she thought she would end up with two more children, not eight—as though eight was the critical mass needed for the seal on that well of loneliness.

The story may yet be saddest for the children, born to a woman whose motivations and judgment are questionable, at best. How did she think she was going to raise eight children, including two infants, when she couldn't manage six? Fourteen? Does she think she, by herself, has the resources to give these children individual attention? Or even to care for their basic needs? How did she think she would house, feed, clothe, and educate them for 18 years each? And pay for their medical care?

Most couples, when they learn they are expecting their first child, feel a thrill of joy and a thrill of fear. Both are natural; raising a child is no small responsibility. What did Nadya Suleman think when faced with the prospect of raising six? That she needed two more to complete her ensemble? Did she think of anyone other than herself? Did she consider the future at all?

I wish these 14 children well, and I hope that Suleman obtains the help she needs. Cat hoarding is appalling enough. Human hoarding? Inconceivable.


  1. A sharp analogy I've seen nowhere else.

  2. I probably sound harsher than intended, but it is all pretty bizarre. It will probably all work out in the end, as they say.

  3. It's a very interesting concept!

    My theory is the money angle. Imagine 14 extra tax deductions! :)