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Video: Watch the Dateline hour

By Ann Curry
Dateline NBC
updated 2/10/2009 10:35:22 PM ET 2009-02-11T03:35:22

This report aired on Tuesday, Feb. 10 at 10 p.m. ET on Dateline NBC.

It's just how you expect a story like this to begin: The tiny babies, heartbreakingly beautiful, and vulnerable. The tremendous challenge, tempered by a sense of wonder, made bearable by acts of charity. That's how this story began, before it took a decided turn.

Keith Olbermann: What kind of whacked- out quack of a fertility doctor implants at least 6 embryos in one womb?

Bill O'Reilly: The mother's a nut. The mother - is something wrong with her?

Ann Curry: You've been called irresponsible.

Nadya Suleman: Uh-huh.

Ann Curry: Unstable.

Nadya Suleman: Can I respond first? (laughter)

Ann Curry: Yeah.  I -  irresponsible.

Nadya Suleman: Okay.  Irresponsible.  I personally do not believe I'm irresponsible.  Everything I do revolves around my children.

On Jan. 26, Nadya Suleman gave birth to octuplets. Eight babies.  Multiple births of this magnitude are exceedingly rare, and almost never turn out well.  The Suleman eight are already the longest surviving octuplets in U.S. history.  You might call them miracle babies.

And yet, before she even checked out of the hospital, Nadya Suleman was the most vilified mother in America. In a flash everyone, it seemed, knew all about her.  Nadya was unmarried, unemployed, and already had six other children.

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Ann Curry: Why is it responsible for a single woman without a job with six kids to bring eight more children into this world?

Nadya Suleman: I am responsible. Yes, I have chosen to be single.  Or simply because -  a -  there's a couple, or they're married or just together.  Why are they exempt from being called irresponsible? 

Tonight, she responds in a new interview just today to the latest criticisms, and reveals new details about her story.

Nadya Suleman: I dream about going back to my life. This is an explosion.

We hear for the first time from her six other children. And go inside the little house where the family of 15 might all live. But, as with most stories, It helps to start at the beginning.

Ann Curry: Let me put it this way.  How did an only child end up with 14 children?

Nadya Suleman: That was always a dream of mine, to have a large family, a huge family, and -  I just longed for connections and attachments with another person that I -  I really lacked, I believe, growing up.

Nadya Suleman was born in Fullerton, Calif., in 1975.  Her mother was a high school teacher.  Her dad was a restaurateur and later a realtor.  She had no brothers or sisters. Her parents were all she had. But she says it wasn't enough.

Ann Curry: Describe what you felt you lacked within.

Nadya Suleman: Feeling of self and identity. Reflecting back on my childhood, I know it wasn't functional.  It was pretty -  pretty dysfunctional, and whose isn't? (laughter)  I was very unconditionally loved and accepted, I felt, by my father.  My mom, we had a relationship.  I knew she loved me.  I always knew she loved me.  But she didn't, openly or overtly, express, you know, affection and love.  But I -  I knew.  I knew she did.

Ann Curry: But you missed it.

Nadya Suleman: I did.

Nadya's mother declined to speak to us on camera, but she has been quoted in an online interview saying theirs was a loving family.

Ann Curry: So then how did this impact you, wishing for more affection from your mother?

Nadya Suleman: Well, I just would long for siblings. My mom would rationalize, "Well, you know, I always provided with many, many friends."  And I'm like, "Yes, I know."  That's very different.  It's a very different bond, siblings and friends. And I just - I wanted that huge family, just to surround me, be surrounded by.

Ann Curry: How old were you when you had this idea that you wanted to have the biggest family possible?

Nadya Suleman: Not necessarily the biggest family possible, but just -  I didn't put a number on it really.  I would always -  yeah, six, seven, but that wasn't as essential as just having that -  those connections, the bond  I lacked. And I personally believe that need to fill something inside that's not there, the void, the feeling of emptiness. I think everyone has that.

Ann Curry: So you took the path that people take.

Nadya Suleman: Yeah.

Ann Curry: They get married.

Nadya Suleman: Uh-huh. (laughter) I did get married.  I did get married.

That was in 1996, when she was 21 years old.  But she says, she and her husband could not conceive children. 

Nadya Suleman: I went through about seven years of trying.  And through artificial insemination.  And through medication.  And all of which was unsuccessful. 

She says she had an ectopic pregnancy, a dangerous condition that led to the discovery of more problems.

Nadya Suleman: I had so many reproductive problems from fibroids. I have also had lesions in my fallopian tubes.  It turned out that my tubes were scarred.

So the only option left over was IVF, a procedure where they remove your eggs, and then they take the sperm, culture it in a dish and then transfer it back.

But in vitro fertilization is very expensive, and rarely covered by insurance.  At that time  -  the late 1990's -  Nadya was working as a technician at a psychiatric hospital, doing basic nursing, assessing patients, administering medication.

Nadya Suleman: And I was able to work double-shifts, constantly working double-shifts, 'cause I was hoarding my money, and I was saving it and nonstop working.  I was so driven, so determine, I wouldn't give up.  There's no way I would have ever allowed any obstacle, impediment to get in my way of my dream, so.

Ann Curry: So your whole intent in working so hard -

Nadya Suleman: Yes.

Ann Curry: You weren't buying a car -

Nadya Suleman: Car.  My friends are like, "Are you saving for a house, a car?"  "No, for babies."

At a psychiatric hospital in Los Angeles, Nadya Suleman was working double shifts, working nonstop.

Ann Curry: You -  you loved the job.

Nadya Suleman: Yes.

Ann Curry: But you were really driven for another reason.

Nadya Suleman: That's right.

Ann Curry: And that was to pay for these IVF treatments.

Nadya Suleman: Yes.  Yes.  On my own.

Ann Curry: How much did they cost?

Nadya Suleman: A lot.  Give or take, 10,000, something like that.

IVF: In vitro fertilization.  She hoped it would give her the one thing she wanted most in the world:  a child.

Ann Curry: You are saving your money.

Nadya Suleman: Yes.

Ann Curry: You save enough money -  so that you can actually buy your first IVF -

Nadya Suleman: Not just that.  I saved enough for several.

Ann Curry: For several.

Nadya Suleman: Yeah, I did.  I did.

But in 1999, she suddenly had other things to worry about.  Nadya suffered an injury during a disturbance at the psychiatric hospital.

Nadya Suleman: There was a riot, and I was sent to go help out on the riot. 

That's when, she says, a patient tipped over a piece of furniture, right onto her.

Nadya Suleman: I thought there was a bomb that exploded on me. So after that, I went to the hospital, and nothing was broken. 

But she did suffer a lower back injury which left her unable to work. She eventually began receiving disability payments.  According to state medical records, she fell into depression, even had suicidal thoughts. Shortly thereafter, her marriage broke up.

Nadya Suleman: I was looking at myself, and acknowledged that I wasn't in love at all with him.  I was in love with having children.

She realized she didn't want to be married, she just wanted to be a mother. That meant finding a sperm donor.

Nadya Suleman: I knew someone prior to having known my husband, platonic friend, and I asked if he would be interested in donating.  And he, surprisingly, agreed to -  to it.  It just felt, to me, more safe, rather than going to the -  you know, unfamiliarity of a sperm bank. 

The same year Nadya left her husband, she had her first in vitro fertilization.  She says it was difficult. Painful. But it worked the very first time.

Ann Curry: When you were -  became pregnant the first time, it must've meant a great deal to you.

Nadya Suleman: Absolutely.  It did.  Because I had tried to so many years.  And I -  I just felt it was -  you know, it was a blessing.  It was. And I kept praying.  And it worked.

On May 18, 2001,Nadya gave birth to a baby boy.  She named him Elijah.

Nadya Suleman: He was the most challenging boy.  Thirteen hours of colic a day, screaming, and I would spend all my time with him, and rock him and sing to him, and realize that this is life.  This is what I really want.

After injury, illness, depression, and years of ever more intense fertility treatments, Nadya Suleman was finally a mother at the age of 25. 

Ann Curry: And why didn't you stop?

Nadya Suleman: I wanted a big family.  I would never have wanted it to be an only child.  He deserved siblings.

So, just months after giving birth, she went for another IVF treatment.

Nadya Suleman: So then I did it again -  had a girl.  And -

Ann Curry: One year later.

Nadya Suleman: Yeah, about 13 months.  Uh-huh.

Her name is Amerah, born in June of 2002.  That fall Nadya went back to college, pursuing a degree in psychology.  She also went for IVF and had Joshua in August of '03.

Nadya Suleman: And at that point, the doctor's like, "You're the only one who's come back more than twice."  (laughter) But he knew I wanted a big family, and this is my only option. 

Each time she wanted another baby, she says, she not only went to the same doctor, she went to the same sperm donor.

Nadya Suleman: And he was shocked.  "Another one?"  (laughter) "You want more?  Isn't three enough?"  And I absolutely wanted more. 

Nadya says she had researched the law to make sure her donor -  whom she described as a friend -  would not be responsible for the children -  or have any claim to them.

Ann Curry: So then what happened?  Then -

Nadya Suleman: I talked him into it.  (laughter) And we did -  he helped me again.

Nadya says she and her children lived on her disability checks and student loan money.  She says she paid for in vitro with money she saved while working, along with a small inheritance.

She says one of her in vitro treatments led to a second ectopic pregnancy, but she didn't give up. And the kids kept coming: Aidan in 2005, then the twins Calyssa and Caleb in '06.

Six children in five and a half years.

Ann Curry: So you had a boy.

Nadya Suleman: Uh-huh.

Ann Curry: A girl.

Nadya Suleman: Yes.

Ann Curry: A boy.

Nadya Suleman: Yes.

Ann Curry: A boy

Nadya Suleman: Yes.

Ann Curry: And a set of twins.

Nadya Suleman: Yes.

Ann Curry: All within a short period of time, one year after the other.

Nadya Suleman: I think my oldest, at that point, was five. 

Ann Curry: Why so quickly?

Nadya Suleman: Oh I was told, by a couple doctors, I had a timeframe, of how long I could have children. 

Here is the public's first glimpse at the kids today, ranging in age from 2 to 7. Nadya says her doctor told her that her reproductive system was aging prematurely.  That if she wanted a bigger family, she had to hurry.  But were there other motives?  Ever since her octuplets made her famous, some have wondered what drives Nadya Suleman.

Dr. Jeff Gardere: Was this someone who was really into having kids and it was about her children, or was it more of a selfish need for her to have a brood of children who would surround her and would give her unconditional love?

Dr. Jeff Gardere is a clinical psychologist and family therapist in New York.  He has never treated Nadya, but he looked at what she told us and gave his opinion:

Dr. Jeff Gardere: There is no clinical diagnosis as to someone who wants to get pregnant or have children over and over again.  I think perhaps the closest thing that we can come to is some sort of an obsession where they feel what they had is never enough and they want more.  We see this -  sometimes cosmetic surgeries.  Body dysmorphia.  Where they just want more and more of the surgeries to feel better.

Ann Curry: You've got six healthy children.

Nadya Suleman: Uh-huh.

Ann Curry: What would possess you to want yet another child?

Nadya Suleman: What would possess a family where's there's a husband and wife to want 12 kids or 18 kids? That's just what they feel is meaningful to them.  Their family.  Expanding a family.  It's an amazing thing.  I do believe that children are all blessings from god.  And I feel it's all positive, it's positive experience.  You know, I don't like to dwell on any of the negative. And -  a lot of people do. 

She was 31 years old. There were embryos left over from the batch that produced the twins. They were frozen. Waiting.

Nadya Suleman: I'm like, well, there's -  there's some left.  There's some left.  And, you know what, I knew in my mind that if it hadn't worked, I'm done.  Doesn't work, it's not meant .And I'm gonna let go and move on.  So, the last try: (laugh) yeah, it worked.  It worked a little too well.

In the spring of 2008, Nadya Suleman was leading what most people would call, at the very least, a challenging life.

Nadya Suleman: I was receiving disability and student loans.  And that's basically, what we were living on.  Yeah.

Ann Curry: And you're in college.

Nadya Suleman: Yes.

Ann Curry: And -  and you have six children.

Nadya Suleman: Uh-huh.

Ann Curry: And -  and  do you ha -  do you feel as though you're able to take care of these children?  You're feeling confident?

Nadya Suleman: It felt as though I could.  Yes, yes.  It was a struggle. 

In graduate school, Nadya says she would take them to the university's daycare. They all lived in a home her mother owned.

Nadya Suleman: I was very fortunate for my mom to allow us to -  live in her house.  Even though I was paying her rent.  You know, it wasn't necessarily as much as she probably could've got if - if strangers lived there.  She adores her grandchildren. She did it for them.

Ann Curry: But it - it just seems like there -  there -  there wasn't a lot of money -

Nadya Suleman: No, no there wasn't.

Ann Curry: And there were a lot of kids already.

Nadya Suleman: Already.  Absolutely.  That's why that it's -  that's why people just don't accept it.  The majority of people do not accept my choices. 

One choice in particular: to undergo more cycles of in vitro fertilization.  She still had frozen embryos left over from her last treatment.

Nadya Suleman: I couldn't live with the fact that if I had never used them, I -  I'll be 70 years old and regret the fact that I didn't allow these little embryos to live. Or give them an opportunity to grow.

Ann Curry: Why wasn't disposing of the em -  embryos an option?

Nadya Suleman: Oh, boy. (laugh) Now we're gonna get into a really -  controversial topic.  And -  I believe all children are -  are blessings from God. And to allocate that rule to a doctor -  to -  to dispose of a life is uncomprehensible to me. 

Ann Curry: Did you use the same fertility specialists for all of your pregnancies?

Nadya Suleman: Yes.

Ann Curry: So, your fertility specialist knew that you already had six children?

Nadya Suleman: Yes.  Uh-huh.

Ann Curry: And so, you know, when he knew that you wanted another child, a seventh child, what was his response?

Nadya Suleman: It's -  it's a subject of choice.  You know, he knew , we both laughed.  He knew I wanted a huge family.  And he's, like, "You want another one?  Twins again?"  I'm like, "Then I'm done.  Then I'm done."  So, he didn't judge me. Very professional.

Nadya says her first two tries at IVF were unsuccessful. Then, in June of 2008, just a month shy of her 33rd birthday, she tried a third time with the last embryos she had left, hoping, she says, for just one more child.

Ann Curry: How many embryos were you implanted with?

Nadya Suleman: The same as with the others.  Six.

That number shocked many fertility experts, which has only added to the controversy surrounding Nadya.

Dr. Mark Sauer: I personally would never do that in a 33-year-oldin our center at Columbia that would be a major incident.

Dr. Mark Sauer is a professor of reproductive endocrinology at Columbia university. He says for a woman Nadya's age, the doctor should transfer only two or three embryos.

Dr. Mark Sauer: My best guess is that there was a flagrant violation of the, you know, professional standard of how many embryos to transfer in a young woman.  The reason for that, I don't know.

The California medical board says it will investigate whether the standard of care was violated in Nadya's case. In 2006, los angeles TV station KTLA did a story on a local fertility doctor, Michael Kamrava, and interviewed his patient, Nadya Suleman.

Nadya Suleman: It was a miracle. It happened right away. It worked the very first time.

Though Nadya claims the same doctor did all her IVF procedures, her mother disputes that. Today, we asked her to clear things up. She says her mother is mistaken.

New Nadya interview

unequivically  - I went to the same physician where I was comfortable and the same thing was done. This was just a completely different outcome

Dr. Kamrava declined out request for an interview.

Nadya says her doctor routinely transferred about six embyros  because of her troubled medical history, which she says lowered the odds that any embryos would survive.. And that's what she  says happened in the procedure that led to the octuplets.

Ann Curry: You didn't want just one or two embryos?

Nadya Suleman: Of course not.  I wanted them all transferred.  Those are my -  those are my children.  And that's what was available.  And I used 'em.  So, I took a risk.  It's a gamble.  It always is.

Ann Curry: Did he explain to you the risks of a multiple birth.  Had he -

Nadya Suleman: Oh, with all of them.  Absolutely.  With all of them.  It's not much different this time.

Ann Curry: So, you're saying you were fully informed -

Nadya Suleman: Uh-huh.

Ann Curry: - that there was a possibility of a high-multiple pregnancy.  Although, you didn't think it was likely.

Nadya Suleman: No.

Nadya Suleman: The statistics on that?  .00000001 percent.

She says she never expected the news she got a few weeks later.

Ann Curry: Tell me that moment.  I'm trying to understand what that -  must've been like to be a woman lying on the table.  You're -  you're belly is growing.  You know it's bigger than it should be.

Nadya Suleman: But it -  it was.  I was actually -  nine days.  And I started showing.

Ann Curry: Nine days?

Nadya Suleman: At nine days.  Uh-huh.  Nine -

So, then I went in for pre-natal care very early.  And -  they did an exam.  My uterus appeared to be looking like about three months along.  Or four months along. And I was only about a month.  And then he checked.  And he was, like, "Oh, yeah, how many did you have transferred?"  And I told him.  And he's like, "Yeah, yeah.  They're -  "  (laugh) he was like casual, the doctor. "They're all there." 

The sheer number of them created profound risks for their health  - and Nadya's. At this point some doctors recommend "selective reduction" of the fetuses. Nadya wouldn't hear of it.

Nadya Suleman: You know, what it gives any human being a right to -  to pick and choose which embryo -  which fetus is more valuable than another.  You know, that's is not up to human beings.

Ann Curry: Not an option?

Nadya Suleman: Absolutely not.  (laugh)

She wanted the babies -  all of them.

Ann Curry: What was in your heart?

Nadya Suleman: I -

Ann Curry: What was in your mind?

Nadya Suleman: I embraced it fully.  I embraced it. 

In the summer of 2008, just a few weeks into the pregnancy that she says she hoped would give her one more child, Nadya Suleman learned that she had more than one baby on the way.  Many more.

Nadya Suleman: They saw about five in the beginning -

Ann Curry: No qualms?  Problems?

Nadya Suleman: No.  Actually -

Ann Curry: Worries?

Nadya Suleman: - I knew.  Um, financially, yes.  'Cause I started planning ahead financially.  Yes, financially, now what am I gonna do?  Continue -  finish my degree a little quicker?  And -  oh, I absolutely didn't plan on stopping school.  I was just gonna go back.

But it wasn't as easy as that. Nadya had been pregnant many times before -  she had carried twins.  This was different.

Ann Curry: Your waistline.  How big did (laugh) it grow?

Nadya Suleman: Very large. It was wide -

Ann Curry: Round.

Nadya Suleman: - wide.  And hanging.  And I'd feel them moving.  Like, kicking around.  Like, they're walking on my thighs.  It was -  very unusual.

She says she kept to her normal, hectic routine, going to school and taking care of her six children ... Until one day about five months into the pregnancy.

Nadya Suleman: What happened was, I went Christmas shopping.  I was kind of realizing that I was overdoing it.  I kind of just sat there and realized I couldn't get up. But they were very, very helpful.  And I got a wheelchair.  And they brought me - I still paid for all the merchandise.  And I went in my car and went home. Well in the middle of the night, I got up.  And I heard a snapping in my ribs.  And that's it.  I couldn't move.  I couldn't turn my neck.  I couldn't turn anything.  So, I had to call 911.  And - my mom was actually there.  She's spending the night.  She was asleep on the couch.  I'd been calling her.  (laugh) And she didn't hear me. Obviously, I was in too much pain to even speak.  So, the ambulance came.  And that woke her up.  And she got up.  And she said, "What happened?"  And I'm like, "I'm -  yeah, my back's a little out."  So, then they took me on a stretcher and took me in. 

She was taken to Kaiser Permanente Bellflower Medical Center.  Neonatologist Dr. Mandhir Gupta says if she had gone into labor then, it could have been disastrous.

Dr. Mandhir Gupta: We were scared. Scared for the babies and scared for the mother because at 24 weeks, the survival is not very good.

Nadya was placed on complete bedrest.  The goal was simple: keep the babies inside her as long as possible.

Ann Curry: Is it true that you -  that you had in your mind, you were kind of like a bear hibernating?

Nadya Suleman: Yeah.  That's true. I felt as though the babies were telling me something.  I needed to sleep.  And all I did was sleep.

She says she hibernated for six weeks while her mother stayed with her children. And the ultrasounds were showing something remarkable: not five, not six, but seven babies in Nadya's womb.

Ann Curry: At 30 weeks, they came to you and said, "These babies have got to come out now."

Doctors discovered one of the babies was not growing.

Nadya Suleman: Blood flow from the placenta to him had stopped.  Completely stopped. 

Ann Curry: What were your emotions when you heard that?

Nadya Suleman: Disappointment in myself.  In -

Ann Curry: Why?

Nadya Suleman: What if I caused the one baby to have -  to stop growing.  Because I wanted to do the very best I possibly could as an inc -  incubator for these babies?

Ann Curry: You started feeling guilt? 

Nadya Suleman: Absolutely.      

Ann Curry: And fear?

Nadya Suleman: Guilt.  Fear.  Disappointment in myself

Ann Curry: So January 26th.

Nadya Suleman: Yes.

Ann Curry: Today day is the day.

Nadya Suleman: Yeah.  Yes.

Delivery day. Chief obstetrician Karen Maples and her team had rehearsed doing the complicated C-section at high speed.

Karen Maples: And we did it over and over, to make sure that everybody knew where they're supposed to be, at that particular time.  And what they're supposed to do.

For example, nurses Susan Mislang and Mia Saldana.

Susana Mislang: We're the designated baby catchers.

Mia Saldana: During the delivery, the doctors are gonna take the baby from the mom, and they're gonna give it to us. And we then take the baby over to the warmer, and then begin the care of the baby.

Nadya Suleman: They have everything prepared.  And everything A, B, C, D, E, F, G.  Color-coordinated.  And they had different -  respiratory therapists ready.  And nurses ready.  There was about maybe 46 or so on the -

Ann Curry: Forty six?

Nadya Suleman: Yeah.  In the delivery room.  And -  I was -  I was ready.  I was ready.  I was preparing myself.  I wasn't worried.

Ann Curry: You weren't afraid at that point?

Nadya Suleman: I wasn't.  I actually wasn't.  No.

Nadya had opted for regional anesthesia.  The operation began at 10:43 a.m.

Ann Curry: You were conscious?

Nadya Suleman: I was conscious.  Listening.  Of course you wanna listen for cries.  And the first baby came out and -  and -  and he was screaming and flailing.

Karen Maples: Baby A came out wonderful, crying, and quite vigorous.  I clamped both cords.  Handed baby off to Dr. Henry, who subsequently handed the baby off to nurse Baby A.  Who then went out and delivered to the Isolette, Baby A.  We did that seven times.

Nadya Suleman: It's like this -  you know, they one after the other.  One after the other.

Ann Curry: B.  C.

Nadya Suleman: And B, C.  Yeah.  I got concerned, though, when I couldn't hear the cry.

Jalil Riazi, M.D., anesthesiologist: Some of the babies, she didn't hear an immediate cry.  But some of 'em were being escorted out of the room.  And that was -  partly -  the reason for that.

Ann Curry: You're laying there, thinking what?

Nadya Suleman: I was a little nervous. But then I was just fixated on okay, okay, are they okay?  Are they okay?  I hoped, I prayed they were okay.  I kept praying.  I prayed and I prayed and I prayed.

Ann Curry: What was your prayer?

Nadya Suleman: Please, God, protect these babies.  Protect their safety and make them thrive and be healthy.

Ann Curry: At what point did you know that your babies were -

Nadya Suleman: One of the anesthesiologists was there.  And she was like, "They look amazing.  They look amazing."  And that validated, you know, my feelings that everything will be okay.

Ann Curry: So babies A, B, C, D, E, F, G came out.  That's seven.

Nadya Suleman: Yes.

Just five minutes after the operation started, the babies were all out - or so everyone thought.

Dr. Alejandro Vasquez, OB-GYN: Okay, all the babies are delivered.  Everybody take a deep breath.  And that's when I placed my inside the uterus, feeling for the placenta, and my surprise was a hand.  I felt a hand, and the baby's head.  At that point, my heart just skipped a beat.

Nadya Suleman: All of a sudden, there was this w -  I -  weird commotion.  It was just, people were kind of screaming.  And I heard Dr. Maples say, "There's an H." (laugh) That's all I remember.  "There's H." 

She says her fertility doctor transferred six embryos. That would mean some of the embryos resulted in twins.  Eight babies.  Octuplets.

Nadya Suleman: I actually started crying.  It was an overwhelming feeling of shock.  And my, actually, I was thinking something irrational.  "Where are they gonna put H?  (laugh) Or, they don't have a bed.  They don't have enough extra staff."  Of course, they were prepared.

They were prepared... But is she?

When news first broke that healthy octuplets had been born in California  -  the babies were hailed as a miracle.

Dr. Maples: This patient was incredibly courageous, very strong, did all that we asked.

But just days later, the headlines changed dramatically, with news that Nadya Suleman already had six other children, that she was single, that her finances were shaky at best.

Bill O'Reilly: You don't create 14 babies, 14, when you're broke and have no money.

When Joann Killeen, a Los Angeles public relations specialist, agreed to represent Nadya, she was shocked at the hostility, even the death threats she encountered.

Joann Killeen: Several people have said that they hope I die.  They hope my business fails.  Somebody said they "hope that, you know, you enjoy hell.  Because people like you are gonna go there."

When word got out that we were interviewing Nadya... Our Dateline NBC inbox soon filled with angry e-mails, complaining: "It's irresponsible and outrageous," "I am extremely disturbed," "I am shocked and disappointed," and saying, "Are you paying for the octuplet mom's interview? Shame on you if you are."

We did not pay Nadya nor make any deals for this interview, which has already sparked Internet chatter even about her appearence.

More than a few also commented on her appearance. One viewer asked, "Have you noticed that this mother looks like she's had plastic surgery and looks and acts like Angelina Jolie?"

Nadya Suleman: I have never thought of Angelina Jolie except the last time I saw one of her movies. I think that was years ago. It is so far away from the place I'm in right now to think of think of any celebrity.

Ann Curry: Have you had your lips done?

Nadya Suleman: No.  No. 

Ann Curry: I want to give you a chance to answer the criticism on Main Street.  Why is it responsible for a single woman without a job with six kids to bring eight more children into this world?

Nadya Suleman: I am responsible. I've chosen never to go on welfare.  I feel as though it is my responsibility to do what I can to provide for my children.

Nadya points out repeatedly that she's never taken welfare.  But today she confrimed that she's receiving $490 a month in food stamps. 

Nadya Suleman: I'm not living off of any taxpayer money.  If I am -  if it's food stamps, it's a temporary resource.  And -  we -  my family received maybe about a year and a half ago.  And during school -  and it's only for food. And I am so reluctant. I -  I so look forward to the day when I'm not getting any kind of help with food stamps, which, I believe, will end right when I graduate.  Right about a year, a year and a half.

During the time she gave birth to her first six children she went to college and graduate school and stayed home from work and collected disability payments that totaled about $165,000.

Ann Curry: So your only income are your disability payments?  Is that where your -  what your income is now?

Nadya Suleman: Um. No.  My disability stopped.

Ann Curry: Okay.

Nadya Suleman: So it stopped when I was pregnant.

Ann Curry: So do you have any income at all?

Nadya Suleman: At this time, it was just student loans.   

Ann Curry: You're saying that you're going to use student loans to help raise your children.

Nadya Suleman: Temporarily. Temporarily.

Ann Curry: Do you have any way of paying back these loans?

Nadya Suleman: Yes, when I work, when I'm working.

Ann Curry: How much -

Nadya Suleman: - as a counselor.

Ann Curry: - in debt do you have now?

Nadya Suleman: Probably 50.  Close to 50.

Ann Curry: Thousand dollars.

Nadya Suleman: Mmm-hmm.

Ann Curry: How is that not like welfare?

Nadya Suleman: Oh no.  These are student loans.  You consolidate the loans, you pay it back.  We don't pay back welfare.

It might be a while before Nadya pays back her loans, which she's already spent. 

Ann Curry: Okay, so -  you don't have a job.

Nadya Suleman: Mmm-hmm.

Ann Curry: Your student loans have run out.

Nadya Suleman: Mmm-hmm.

Ann Curry: So you're saying you have no income coming in?

Nadya Suleman: At the moment, no. 

Ann Curry: Are you not being selfish?

Nadya Suleman: No, I'm not being selfish.  I don't believe I'm selfish in any way.

Ann Curry: But how is it not selfish to bring children in the world that you cannot actually afford?

Nadya Suleman: Because I know I'll be able to afford them when I'm done with my schooling.  

Ann Curry: You obviously love your children.

Nadya Suleman: Of -  of course.

Ann Curry: When you really face that you have made a choice.

Nadya Suleman: Yes.

Ann Curry: Based on fulfilling your need.

Nadya Suleman: To have a lot of children.

Ann Curry: Yeah.  To what degree is this too much about you and not enough about them?

Nadya Suleman: I think after the six, I started to really acknowledge -  I started to acknowledge that well, I don't want to have too many more.  I'm going to use what I have available. If none grow, that's fine. That's acceptable.

But as we all know, she had eight more.

Ann Curry: You're saying, "I'm all about my kids."

Nadya Suleman: Yeah.

Ann Curry: Is it fair to your other six to allow yourself to be implanted with six embryos, knowing the risks?

Nadya Suleman: I think there are a lot of things in life that are not fair. It is gonna be hard for them.  But life, I believe, isn't always perfect and idealistic. 

Ann Curry: People are not trying to judge you.

Nadya Suleman: Mmm-hmm.

Ann Curry: What they're trying to do is, it seems, trying to speak up for your children, who can't speak up for themselves.  Your children cannot say, "What are you doing, Mom? What are you doing?  My life, my future, is being affected by your decision."

Nadya Suleman: Right.

Ann Curry: So, the world outside is saying, "What are you doing?"

Nadya Suleman: I'm providing for my children.  I'm providing myself to my children.  I'm loving them unconditionally, accepting them unconditionally.  I have a plan -

Ann Curry: But you're not providing for your children. You don't have the income to provide for your children.

Nadya Suleman: I am providing for my children. I am. They don't feel it. They don't feel as though we're struggling. 

Ann Curry: Your children don't?

Nadya Suleman: Absolutely not.  No. Everything I do is for them.  I'll stop my life for them and be present with them.  And hold them.  And be with them.  And how many parents do that?  I'm sure there are many that do, but many don't.  And that's unfortunate.  That is selfish.

And what do her children think?  You'll hear from them for the first time, next.

Nadya Suleman: Hi Isaiah, I love you...

The Suleman octuplets have made medical history: eight tiny babies in intensive care. The fact that they all survived is a tribute to the skill of the medical team that delivered them.

The very fact that they exist however, is the subject of fierce controversy, in large part, because these eight babies have six older siblings.

Nadya Suleman: I know now that -  they may -  may or may not have really, deep down, wanted that many siblings.  But I-I, at the time, I was so focused, so fixated on wanting so many.  That -  I just kept going.

Ann Curry: Perhaps maybe not paying as much attention to whether they wanted a big family.

Nadya Suleman: They were so little. That's the thing.  If they were older and they said, "No, Mom.  We really don't want you to have any more children."  That's it.  I wouldn't have had any more.

Meet the six children whose lives are about to change dramatically.

Elijah: Hi Mommy... hi!

Elijah's a ball of fire, a seven-year-old man of action and few words.

Amerah: I'm going to go do my homework.

Amerah is a self contained six-year-old, clearly a bit concerned about the eight siblings headed her way.

Question: Do you think it'll be fun to have a lot of brothers and sisters like that?

Amerah: No.

Question: Why not?

Amerah: ‘Cause there's gonna be a lot of crying.

Question: Do you think your mom's gonna be okay with all those kids all the time?

Amerah: she's gonna be stressed out all the time.

J.J.: Hello!

Joshua Jacob -  J.J. for short, is an outgoing charmer at age five. 

Question: What do you think it gonna be like having so many brothers and sisters?

J.J.: Um... it's gonna be like…

Elijah: Look at the camera straight.

J.J.: It's gonna be like fun because I can play, but the house is gonna be squishy! And there's gonna be a lot a lot of cribs and a lot of babies.

Caleb and Calyssa, the two-year-old twins, don't talk much, but they do communicate.

Nadya Suleman: Aidan's right here.

And then there's Aidan, age three, and autistic.

Ann Curry: One of your six children -  has special needs -

Nadya Suleman: Yes.  He's autistic.  Mmm-hmm. I am very attached to him and he's very, very attached to me.  I don't want to get emotional -  it's -  (crying) it's probably the most rewarding experience I've ever had. I love you...

We were there when Nadya was reunited with Aidan after being away for a few days.

Nadya Suleman: Oh Aidan, I missed you so much.

In addition to Aidan, Nadya says two other children are also disabled.

Nadya Suleman: One of my children was tested as ADHD, which is extremely prevalent. In regard to my other child, that child was experiencing mild -  mild speech delay. And maybe tiny characteristics of autism as well.

She's receiving disability payments for all three.

Nadya Suleman: It is temporary. Only one will be on it for awhile. The others most likely -  hopefully will be off of it within a few months.

Ann Curry: There is a good chance that in these eight new babies, there will be developmental problems.

Nadya Suleman: Possible.

Ann Curry: Possible cerebral palsy.

Nadya Suleman: Possible -

Ann Curry: That is a risk of a multiple births.

Nadya Suleman: Sure. 

Ann Curry: It takes time for that to reveal itself.

Nadya Suleman: As they grow, yes.  I don't believe -

Ann Curry: Are you prepared for this?

Nadya Suleman: I don't believe that any kind of disability, which is an added challenge, that's all it is. These children are added blessings. Their challenge is an added blessing.

But how many blessings can one household take?  Here are some snapshots taken inside the house Nadya rents from her mom. It's not very big, it's hard to keep clean with six young children running around. And you can imagine how "squishy" it might get when eight babies arrive. Today, she told us she's hoping to move to a larger home.

Ann Curry: So you're gonna be by yourself in this house.

Nadya Suleman: That's what I want.  I will have in and out help, volunteers and friends.

Ann Curry: You're gonna need a lot of help.

Nadya Suleman: Oh yeah.  Yeah.

Ann Curry: A lot of knowing hands, but you're gonna need -

Nadya Suleman: Yeah, a lot.

Ann Curry: - lots of money.  You're gonna need diapers.

Nadya Suleman: Yeah.

Ann Curry: You're gonna need formula.

Nadya Suleman: That's the resources that have been offered already.

Her parents do what they can to help, but they are of modest means. Nadya's mother has called her daughter's decision to have more children "unconscionable." And what about the biological father of all these children?  Remember, Nadya made sure at the outset that he would have no say in things.

Ann Curry: Some people feel that it is a problem if you are a single mother because there isn't a father.  And children need a father.

Nadya Suleman: I absolutely believe that. And they do have a father, who is not present in their life, but who someday will be present in their life.

Ann Curry: Does the father of these 14 children. The same father for all 14. Does he have a reaction?

Nadya Suleman: He was shocked.  He didn't know what to say.  He needs time.  So in the future, someday maybe, he would be open minded to knowing them. And if he's not, they have a grandpa. 

Right now the octuplets sleep a lot, blissfully unaware of the concerns about their future.  There are so many of them it's hard for even their mother to keep their names straight sometimes.  At least their middle names are easy -  they're all the same.

Nadya Suleman:  They're all angels. And their middle name's all Angel.  Because they're angels. 

Ann Curry: So, your dream of having a big family has come true.

Nadya Suleman: I -  I never in my wildest dreams imagined it being this big.

Ann Curry: People sometimes say be careful what you wish for.

Nadya Suleman: That's true.  That is true, I know. 

Ann Curry: Are you done having children?

Nadya Suleman: 100 percent.  200, 300, 400 percent.  Yes.  I'm done.  This happened for a reason.  This is actually a message, I believe, from God saying, "You are done." It's more than doubled the family size.  So now I have to really, really realize that it's done. It's done.

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