When we first heard about the birth of eight infants in Bellflower last January, there was no sign that the story of Nadya Suleman, now better known as OctoMom, would become a modern fable about fame and public disgust. Today pundits and late-night TV comics attribute our hunger for OctoMom news to a need for escapism during economic hard times. In reality though, Suleman embodies the very fears from which  Americans are supposedly escaping. A potent narrative speedball that combines elements of Jane Roe, Terri Schiavo and Eraserhead, the tale of the artificially fertile OctoMom has turned upside down our traditional  definitions of birth, family and motherhood.

Octoclysm? Minutes before near-riot during octuplets' homecoming. (Splash Daily Mail UK)

The OctoDrama is an unscripted, constantly evolving melodrama that capriciously pulls in and spits out individuals and social beliefs as Suleman continues her Tasmanian Devil-whirl through the headlines. (Suleman's Wikipedia entry is outdated the moment it is updated.) Here is a brief outline of where OctoMom is and how she got there.

Although, at first, news of the multiple births immediately generated

the kind of feelgood media buzz that big-family stories will, dark

mutterings in the blogosphere and in comments posted online to

newspaper Web sites suggested a shift in the zeitgeist. Because the

births were reported at a Kaiser hospital in Bellflower and not at

Cedars Sinai, many assumed the then-unidentified mother was either an illegal alien or welfare mom

— or both. And, with that many births involved, suspicions of the use

of fertility drugs or some sort of in vitro insemination raised the

unsettling specter of an army of test-tube babies being bred in

Bellflower — this, following a few years of ill-received reports about

grandmothers giving birth to children following artificial


But this growing unease within the electronic

republic was a mere preamble to the Media Terror unleased once Nadya

Suleman's identity became known. In short order Suleman's past life

became an open book and each day brought new revelations that shocked

and offended talk-radio listeners and the American Living Room. Suleman

was a single mother who already had six children; she had no job, was

living with her parents and, contrary to what she told her sympathetic

interrogator on the Today show, she was on welfare; the

recording of a 911 call in which Suleman discussed suicide was

released. A tidal wave of resentment burst forth and Suleman has since

been described as a whore or  Octopussy, while her children are

dismissed as a “litter” and are often Photoshopped to appear as shrimp

— or are they grubs?

In short order OctoMom engaged and was dumped by a Los Angeles publicity team once its partners — and their other clients — began receiving torrents of hate mail and phone calls

that included death threats; she engaged and was dumped by a Christian

talent agency — probably for the same reasons that made her publicists

flee; she was offered and declined a porn-film role in exchange for cash and health care coverage for her children; Beverly Hills celebrity shrink Carole Lieberman

tried to sic child services on her — possibly to take Suleman's kids

away from her; she embraced Dr. Phil; she embraced and then spurned the

help of publicity-magnet attorney Gloria Allred and the Angels in

Waiting nursing charity; she's given her octuplets millennialist-sounding names.


has now moved from a cul de sac in Whittier to a bigger house on a

nicer cul de sac in La Habra with 14 of her 16 children (two remain at

Kaiser); her March 17 homecoming with the first two of the octuplets to

be released turned into a Day of the Locust frenzy and near riot.


pundit bill of indictment against OctoMom is long and varied: She lied

to paparazzi; she talked back to her mother during a RadarOnline

interview; she's trying to make money by selling her story or by

getting product endorsements;

she uses sperm donors and doesn't seem interested in having a

heterosexual relationship with a man; the in vitro fertilization

process she underwent with the guidance of a Beverly Hills doctor now

being investigated, is dangerous to the point of recklessness for

someone her age (33); she goes shopping (every item she buys is mooned

over by TMZ.com with the insinuation that taxpayers are footing the

bill) while her kids remain at home; her car once got booted; she was

rumored to have had plastic surgery.

While there's plenty of

outrage to go around, there also seems to be a double standard hard at

work. We only wonder how much of that outrage would never have appeared

had Suleman been named Sullivan, had she been married to a man with a

job or if she had had all 14 of her kids the old-fashioned way. Where

are the right-to-lifers standing up for her and her children today?

Where are the feminists to defend her right to have kids without a

husband? This story, which might be heading to some kind of apocalypse, is

not over by a long shot.

LA Weekly