In the first interview with Nadya Suleman, the mother of the Bellflower octuplets explains why she thinks having 14 children was a responsible choice and why she's being unfairly attacked because she's a single mom.
A preview of Suleman's interview with Ann Curry aired this morning on Today (clip at left). (The full interview will air next Monday and Tuesday on Today and Dateline. Suleman was not paid for the interview according to NBC.)
Suleman tells Curry her desire to have a huge family stemmed from a dysfunctional childhood. "I just longed for certain connections and attachments with another person that ... I really lacked, I believe, growing up," says Suleman, adding that she felt she lacked a "feeling of self and identity," according to the Associated Press.
More of Suleman's backstory has been revealed in the interview, and in 300 pages of public documents obtained today by the AP. Suleman became pregnant with her first child in 1999 via in vitro fertilization after she was injured during a riot in a state mental hospital where she worked. She suffered spinal cord injury when a patient threw a desk. She filed for workman's compensation and according to a psychological evaluation she sunk into an intense depression because she was afraid she'd lose her baby. "When you have a history of miscarriages, you think it will take a miracle," she told her doctor. "I just wanted to die. I suspected I was pregnant but I thought, 'That's ridiculous.'"
Suleman collected $165,000 in disability payments for the injury, which she said left her in constant pain and helped end her marriage. In a December 2001 hearing, Suleman said pregnancy aggravated her back condition, forcing her to spend most the day in bed and leaving her unable to care for her first child. In the same year her car was rear-ended when she was leaving a doctor's office and she filed for workman's compensation again, saying she wouldn't have been at the doctor if not for the original injury.
Though Suleman is currently unemployed, she tells Ann Curry that she doesn't think she's being irresponsible by having more children because she plans to go back to college in the fall to get her Masters in counseling with the help of student loans and the school's day care program. "I know I'll be able to afford them when I finish my schooling," says Suleman. "If I was just sitting down, watching TV and not being as determined as I am to succeed and provide a better future for my children I believe that would be considered to a certain degree selfish." Though it's good to know Suleman has some kind of plan for providing for her children, she doesn't address why she thought having even one more baby was a responsible decision when she already had six at home and was planning to enter a demanding master's program.
But, she says she's providing the most important thing to her children - herself. "I'm loving them unconditionally, accepting them unconditionally," she says. "I'll stop my life for them and be present for them and hold them and be with them and how many parents do that? I'm sure there are many that do, but many don't, and that's unfortunate, and that is selfish."
Suleman says she was implanted with six embryos, as she was in each previous IVF procedure, which led to the birth of her six other children. Her fertility doctor, who performed each of the procedures, implanted six because her unnamed medical conditions makes it difficult for her to get pregnant, and then two embryos divided. She says she didn't want just one or two embryos transferred because, "those are my children and that's what was available and I used them. I took a risk."
Suleman points out that many couples undergo IVF, but "it's not as controversial because they're couples so its more acceptable." While it's true that the fact that she is a single mother may be fueling the outrage against her, it's clear from this statement that she doesn't fully understand why her decision to have so many children is so controversial. Maybe, as anthropologist Helen Fisher says in this MSNBC article, part of the reasons is that "[Society is] in a contraction mode, not an expansion one. And here is a woman who has absolutely disregarded that zeitgeist."