Turning point changed ‘Octomum’ forever
Ten years after giving birth to Octuplets, Nadya Suleman wants to set the record straight as to why she decided to strip down and sell herself to the world as "Octomom".
Ms Suleman, who now goes by the name Natalie, gained worldwide fame after she gave birth to eight children via in vitro fertilisation in 2009, while on government assistance and already a mother of six other children.
In 2013, Ms Suleman decided to close the door on her new found fame - which led the mother of 14 children to release a sex tape, strip and even pose for a nude photo shoot - in a desperate bid to provide "food on the table" and take care of her family.
In 2019, as the octuplets celebrate their tenth birthday, Sunday Night reporter Angela Cox catches up with the family to find out what's changed ten years later.
I'm not going to lie.
Driving south from Los Angeles to meet Natalie Suleman I had already made up my mind. I was not going to like this woman and heaven help her children.
Turns out, I was wrong.
I wasn't just surprised by what I found. I was gobsmacked.
It's been 10 years since Suleman became known as "Octomom", the world's most famous single mother, and for a few years, the most hated. She says she's received dozens of death threats.
With the help of IVF, Natalie gave birth to the world's first known surviving octuplets. At the time, she was already a single mother struggling to feed 6 other IVF children ranging in age from 2 to 7. She didn't have a job or her own home. They were crammed into her mother's place, living rent free.
From the moment Natalie Suleman brought the octuplets home from hospital it seemed the world could not look away - fascinated and outraged in equal measure. Desperate to put food on the table and a roof over the heads of her 14 children, Natalie Suleman cashed in. She even trademarked the name "Octomom".
Natalie Suleman and her children were stalked by the paparazzi. She played along and seemed to enjoy the attention. The tabloids said she'd had cosmetic work done to look like Angelina Jolie: new boobs and new lips to go with the tribe of kids. Natalie swears to me, it's not true.
"It is a caricature that is 100 per cent media made up. They wanted to set this character up as this shallow, narcissistic, fame seeking character that just had kids to get fame and money, it was actually 100 per cent, not 99, 100 per cent the antithesis, the opposite of who I really am."
Natalie's fiercest critics were mainly concerned about the welfare of the children. There were calls to have them placed in care. How could this woman possibly look after them all? Natalie's own mother was her most vocal critic. She called her daughter's decision to have more children unconscionable.
In our Sunday Night interview, Natalie sets the record straight on how she ended up with 14 children and how many donors were involved.
A decade on, she says the criticism still stings, but she understands.
"I think I was young, dumb, irresponsible, selfish, reckless."
What few would have predicted back in 2009, was just how thoroughly Natalie would prove the world wrong.
The Octuplets have just celebrated their 10th birthday. They aren't just surviving. They are thriving.
We spent 5 days with the family in the modest 3 bedroom townhouse they rent just south of Los Angeles. We saw how this household of 15 runs. From the moment they get up until the lights go out. The bathroom queues, the school runs, the chores, the grocery shopping, the meal prep. It has to be seen to be believed.
I sat down with the octuplets for their first extensive interview. They are seriously impressive. Eloquent, well behaved, considerate and polite. They seem happy and healthy.
As with most 10 year olds, they think their mum is the best mum ever. They are too young to know what their older siblings can find with a quick google search.
It certainly appears to have been a harder road for the older children.
Natalie's 15-year-old daughter talks to me about the schoolyard jibes. They've had to develop thick skins.
In 2012, Natalie was struggling to make ends meet and turned to porn and stripping. She speaks candidly about how her life spiralled out of control, and tells me about the turning point that made her bury "Octomom" for good.
There are things about Natalie Suleman's parenting that some people will find troublesome. Money is so tight, most of the children don't have their own beds. Cutlery is in short supply. And there aren't enough seats at the table for the 8, let alone, 14 children. Still, Natalie spends her government food stamps on organic vegan food and bottled water.
But if you measure a child's wellbeing by their smiles and giggles, their kindness and compassion, their goodwill and good manners - the Octuplets are doing well. And if you judge a mother by her children, it seems Natalie Suleman is too.
- Sunday Night: True Stories hosted by Melissa Doyle airs on Sunday at 8.30pm on Seven and 7PLUS. Continue the conversation with Angela Cox @angelacox7news