Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Multiple births should not be confused with entertainment!

Was written by the 3 surviving Dionne Quintuplets in 1997 to Bobbi and Kenny McCaughey (parents of sextuplets). So what you might ask.

The Dionne sisters know a lot about what it is to be a multiple, and the exploitation of multiples.
On May 28, 1934 5 beautiful baby girls were born to Oliva and Elzire Dionne. The Dionnes already had 5 children. The doctor, Allan Roy Dafoe didn't believe that these babies would survive, but they did and thrived. They were the first set of quintuplets to survive birth in Canada. For 4 months they lived with their parents and siblings, and would have stayed there but Dr. Dafoe saw the girls as a money making scheme.

Four months after the birth of the sisters, the Ontario government intervened and, in an unprecedented fashion, found the parents to be unfit for the quintuplets, and custody of the five babies was withdrawn from their parents by the Ontario government of Mitchell Hepburn in 1935, originally for a guardianship of two years. Although Oliva Dionne remained part of the guardianship, they were put under the guidance of Dr. Dafoe and two other guardians. The stated reason for removing the quintuplets from their parents' legal custody was to ensure their survival into healthy toddlers. The government realized the massive interest in the sisters and proceeded to engender a tourist industry around them. The girls were made wards of the provincial crown, planned until they reached the age of 18.

Never before in history has any child been subjected to the scrutiny and lack of privacy that these girls were. Their parents were thrown out of the picture, the parents were denied the right to raise their girls in their faith. The Dionne girls were taken across the road to a specially designed compound, formally called Quintland, that would allow the multitudes of tourists to gape at them (while they didn't see the people, they did hear them). Their likenesses graced the boxes of Quaker Oats, Karo Corn Syrup and other brands. They starred in 4 movies. Millions came to gawk at them. They were poked and prodded by members of the medical community like laboratory animals.

Needless to say that when the bottom dropped out of the Quint market, the government and Dr. Dafoe returned custody of the girls to their parents.

Theirs was not a happy childhood. They had troubles in adulthood, and the money that was suppose to be placed aside for them, had mysteriously disappeared (The government claims that it was spent on their upkeep while they lived in Quintland).
Now why did I bring this up?

Today we have the same thing happening. Only this time the children are sextuplets, and instead of the government and a Dr. Dafoe, we have the parents and TLC. We see weekly on our televisions the exploitation of 8 children (the Gosselin sextuplets and their older twin sisters). And we forget history.

This type of raising a child or children is not healthy for their emotional and psychological growth. They experience life not as it is, but in a fishbowl, always on display for the cameras. What the world has witnessed is not a caring, loving couple, but a couple who cannot stand each other in front of the cameras (what goes on when the cameras are turned off is just speculation). We don't see a loving mother, but a drill Sergeant who berates her spouse almost each and every minute. We see a couple who show very little love and respect not only to each other, but to their older children. And we see parents who dote on their sextuplets to the harm of the other members of their family.

Shame on these parents! Shame on TLC! And shame on those idiots who not only watch this trash of a show, but support this exploitation of these children by buying the items and books they have for sale.

In 1997 the Dionne sisters wrote this letter to new parents of sextuplets:
Dear Bobbi and Kenny,

If we emerge momentarily from the privacy we have sought all our adult lives, it is only to send a message to the McCaughey family. We three would like you to know we feel a natural affinity and tenderness for your children. We hope your children receive more respect than we did. Their fate should be no different from that of other children. Multiple births should not be confused with entertainment, nor should they be an opportunity to sell products.

Our lives have been ruined by the exploitation we suffered at the hands of the government of Ontario, our place of birth. We were displayed as a curiosity three times a day for millions of tourists. To this day we receive letters from all over the world. To all those who have expressed their support in light of the abuse we have endured, we say thank you. And to those who would seek to exploit the growing fame of these children, we say beware.

We sincerely hope a lesson will be learned from examining how our lives were forever altered by our childhood experience. If this letter changes the course of events for these newborns, then perhaps our lives will have served a higher purpose.

Sincerely, Annette, Cecile and Yvonne Dionne
It is a shame that the Gosselins didn't read it and take it too heart.


Jenn Sierra said...

Well said!

Maggie M. Thornton said...

I had no idea this had happened to the Dionne Quintuplets. I haven't seen the current show, but often wonder how a mother can allow this to happen.