Ever since the new Eight Is Enough cast was born earlier this week, I've been trying to keep my distance from the story. Mostly because I find the reports that try to ramp up the freak-show aspects of it distasteful.
"Here's an exclusive look at the biggest baby bump EVER caught on tape!
(Naturally, the woman sporting it was half-naked, writhing around, and screaming from the pain of labor. Who would give permission for that to air?)
"How many babies can a human uterus hold, anyway?! We'll get to the bottom of it!!!"
(That report was informative if you listened to the doctor's explanation, but the breathless reportage surrounding it just made it sound like human litters are awesome and "YOU could have one too.")
"Strung together, the diapers those kids will go through could circle the earth 5 times!!!"
(Nobody ever says whether they're calculating with fresh nappies . . .)
Today at least we're getting more details. We need them to help put the situation in context for proper public consumption. I'm glad to see the ASRM president (who consults at our clinic) firmly stating that higher-order multiples are never the goal with an ethical doctor and that ASRM is already investigating what exactly happened with the mother's fertility treatment.
I'm not going to judge the mother here. My opinion only, but I think the unfolding story points to some issues that go beyond simple irresponsibility or greediness, the two most popular suppositions about her motives for having not just octuplets, but octuplets in addition to 6 other kids. I have to believe that this person just doesn't have the capacity to understand reality in all its glory. I don't know why she might not. But some of the details make that seem likely to me and so I have to wish the best for her and those innocent babies.
I hope the family does disappear from the spotlight, just as they say they will. If they do, maybe there's an opportunity here to bring more discussions of IF and insurance coverage for ART to the forefront. I'd prefer dialogues NOT about how many children someone should have or who gets to have kids and when . . . but talks about making ART accessible, affordable, and always ethical. And if people gain a little more understanding about how IF affects others' very lives, well, great.
Is that possible? Am I hoping for too big of a logic leap?
Or will this circus do nothing but further stigmatize use of ART and bring even more discussions about responsible care, family-building options in general, and the overwhelming expense of the pursuit of ART to a staggeringly silent halt?
Guess we'll see. I think I'll shoot off some emails to ASRM, RESOLVE, and INCIID encouraging them to step up to the mic while it's still live.
I've got no real conclusion in mind, so please accept instead a relevant Friday funny from the Onion.