Octo-Mom: "I Just Kept Going"

Mystery mom breaks her silence

Saturday, Feb 7, 2009  |  Updated 3:06 PM PDT
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Octo-Mom: "I Just Kept Going"

NBC

Revealed! The first public picture of octuplet mom, Nadya Suleman

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BELLFLOWER, Calif. -- The Southern California woman who gave birth to octuplets at Kaiser Permanente Bellflower Medical Center told NBC News on Thursday that she has always dreamed of having a large family but had trouble getting pregnant, so when an in vitro fertilization procedure proved successful, she "just kept going in."

The mother, Nadya Suleman, told NBC she was excited about her  brood of children, which is suddenly 14-strong, but that she felt like she was under heavy scrutiny for her decision.
 

"I feel like I've been under the microscope because I've chosen this unconventional life," Suleman told NBC anchor Ann Curry. "I didn't know it was going to be this controversial. ... we all take risks. And I did. And it turned out perfectly."

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She underwent two separate in-vitro fertilization procedure, she said, because of a desire to have a large family of her own.

"That was always a dream of mine, to have a large family, a huge family, and -- I just longed for certain connections and attachments with another person that I, I really lacked, I believe, growing up (as an only child)," Suleman said.

When asked about how she'll care for her tribe, Suleman told Curry that she was confident that she'll be able to care for her children once she finishes her master's degree in counseling.

"I'm providing myself to my children," she said. "I'm loving them unconditionally. I'm stopping my life for them. I'll be present with them.  I'll hold them, I'll be with them. How many parents do that? I'm sure a lot do, but some don't and that's unfortunate."
 

Asked what she felt she was lacking, Suleman said "self and identity."

 "I didn't feel as though, when I was a child, I had much control of my environment," she said in the interview, a portion of which aired on the "Today" Friday. The remainder of the interview will air on Monday's "Today" show  and on "Dateline" on Tuesday.
 

"I felt powerless," Suleman said. "And that gave me a sense of predictability. I -- reflecting back on my childhood, I know it wasn't functional. It was pretty, pretty dysfunctional, and whose isn't?"

Suleman said in the NBC interview that she tried for about seven years to get pregnant, and she tried artificial insemination and medication.

"And all of which was unsuccessful," she said. "And then the first IVF procedure from that -- from that facility -- it was successful. And then I just kept going in."

NBC News spokeswoman Megan Kopf said Suleman was not paid for the interview.

Suleman was discharged from the hospital early Thursday. The eight babies -- six boys and two girls -- will likely remain in the hospital for several more weeks, according to the hospital.

The 33-year-old single mother, who now has 14 children under the age of 8, has used different names over the years and has been married and divorced once.

Medical Board Begins Investigation

The Medical Board of California has begun an investigation into the birth "to see if we can substantiate a violation of the standard of care."

"We have experts from all the different medical specialties and rely on them to tell us if what a physician has done falls into the standard of care as defined by physicians," board spokeswoman Candis Cohen told the Daily Breeze.

It was unclear which doctors or medical facilities were being targeted by the investigation.

Calif. Agency Paid Mother $165K in Disability

State documents disclosed Thursday to The Associated Press show that she received more than $165,000 in disability payments for an on-the-job back injury. The payments were made between 2002 and 2008, during which time Suleman gave birth to most of her six other children.

Suleman was employed at a state mental health hospital from 1997 until December, when she resigned the position. Records provided to the AP following a public records request to the Department of Mental Health show that for much of that time, however, she was unable to work.

The single mother gave birth to most of her six other children during the time she was on disability.

Babies Remain Hospitalized

Hospital officials reported that the babies were all doing well. They were all breathing room air and were being tube-fed with donated breast milk and were being given a nutritional supplement.

"The babies will be going home one at a time as each reaches near-normal newborn weight," said Dr. Mandhir Gupta, neonatalogist at the hospital. "At this point in their development, they are not mature enough to coordinate the suckling and swallowing at the same time to be bottle fed, but they are all getting the love and care they need and are doing well."

The eight babies were born Jan. 26 by Caesarian section about 9-1/2 weeks premature. They are now the longest surviving octuplets in U.S. history.

Birth Sparks Wave of Criticism

The birth has sparked a wave of criticism from some medical experts and observers who questioned why Suleman, who already had six children, would undergo a fertility treatment to have even more children. She now has 10 boys and four girls.

Suleman, who is not married, has been living with her mother, who has expressed exasperation at what she called her daughter's obsession with children. All 14 children are the product of a sperm donor -- a friend of Suleman's.

Joann Killeen, a publicist hired by Suleman, said on multiple national and local broadcasts this week that Suleman is "looking forward to being the best mom that she can possibly be."

"She's smart, she's bright, she's articulate, she's well-educated, and she has a wonderful sense of humor," Killeen said in an interview broadcast on ABC's "Good Morning America."

Asked if Suleman, who has six other children, is "overwhelmed" by the experience, Killeen said:

"Not so much 'overwhelmed.' She is very, very happy and joyful for the miracle of life and all the wonderful babies and the fact that they're all doing so well, and she's just really looking forward to being the best mom that she can possibly be for all her children."

Neighbors say that while Suleman is quick to smile and wave to them, she generally kept to herself.

"She's a very pretty woman and, yes, she's very friendly when I see her," said Thelma Steinweg, who said Suleman moved next door on the quiet, narrow cul de sac about three years ago.

"But I usually only see her going in or out of her house or on the steps, shouting at the kids when they're playing in the yard," Steinweg added.

Killeen said Suleman, who lives in Whittier, Calif., had named the children, but she would not disclose the names.

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