If you throw a birthday party for eight babies on the same day, and those babies have six older brothers and sisters, do you really have to invite any other children?
It’s not a question you’d find answered in most parenting books, but it’s the kind of conundrum navigated daily by Nadya Suleman, the woman who astonished the world when she gave birth to eight babies in one go on Jan. 26, 2009. Those babies turn 1 on Tuesday, and — news flash — the mother of 14 rarely sleeps.
“The eight are really just now starting to become work,” said Jeff Czech, Suleman’s attorney. “For all this time, for the most part, they were laying around in a crib. Now they’re starting to be a lot of work ... It’s going to be hard for her, and she’s aware of that.”
Czech said the most significant detail about the children at the one-year milestone is that they’re all healthy and robust.
“There’s nothing wrong with any of them, praise God,” Czech said. “They’re perfect babies. Perfect in the sense that there’s nothing wrong with them healthwise.”
With the help of her three live-in nannies, Suleman threw two birthday parties: one on Sunday, and another smaller affair on Tuesday.
“We had birthday cake and pizza on Sunday,” Suleman told People magazine. “It was quite a mess, quite a mess.”
In a photograph running in Star magazine, Suleman is pictured with the whole brood of eight chubby babies — Maliyah, Makai, Isaiah, Noah, Josiah, Jeremiah, Jonah and Nariyah — propped up in infant seats and wearing onesies and socks. All of the babies — six boys and two girls — look quite different.
Headlines and criticism
The California mom relied on in vitro fertilizations to conceive all of her children. Between 2001 and 2006, she had six babies — four individual children and one set of twins. Then, in 2008, she became pregnant with eight babies. She went on to make history by giving birth to the world’s longest-living set of octuplets.
The initial fascination and wonder over the miracle babies soon turned into scorn and contempt for their mother. Suleman has withstood withering criticism for bringing so many children into the world as a single, unemployed mother.
The criticism turned vitriolic when it came to light that she had been supporting her first six children with the help of food stamps and Social Security disability payments for three of the kids. (Aidan, her 4-year-old boy, is autistic; Caleb and Calyssa, her 3-year-old twins, also have disabilities.)
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In an interview with TODAY’s Matt Lauer for an NBC Thanksgiving television special, Suleman said she no longer receives food stamps.
“So, let me just make sure I’m clear on this,” Lauer said during the interview. “Right now the taxpayers of California are paying zero for the support of any of these 14 children.”
Video: Suleman signs TV deal “Oh, zero. Oh, no,” Suleman replied. “Nothing. Zero.”
The Suleman family did make money by appearing in “My Life as the Octomom,” a one-hour documentary that aired in Britain in the fall. Made by European production company Eyeworks — which brought the world “The Biggest Loser,” “Breaking Bonaduce” and other reality-TV fare — the show did well on the other side of the Atlantic, Czech said.
When the deal was signed, Eyeworks agreed to pay $250,000 over three years to be divided among Suleman’s 14 children. The amount Suleman herself made was not disclosed.
Czech said the plan had been for A&E to air “My Life as the Octomom” in the United States, but the network backed away from doing so after Fox ran a two-hour special about Suleman in August.
“Going forward, we’re not sure if we’re going to do another [TV show] or not,” Czech said. “Eyeworks has rights to do another documentary, and they haven’t exercised the rights yet.”
Mom loses 150 pounds
Meanwhile, one of the biggest stories of 2009 has become so — well, so tiny.
Suleman has lost 150 pounds in the past year, dropping from 270 pounds when she was pregnant with the octuplets down to 120.
She’s also had quite the life-altering year. While caring for her 14 children, she appeared on the reality show in Britain, wrote 14 chapters of a memoir, and tackled a grueling workout routine, regularly hitting the gym for as many as three hours at a time at midnight after all the kids have gone to bed.
“No way. I would feel like I cheated!” Suleman told Star. “I don’t care what other people think, but I wanted to prove to myself that I can do it on my own, naturally. My friends call me ‘rubber band’ because I always snapped back so quickly after my other kids. ... I was always back to a size two in a couple of months. I have to credit that to genetics!”
Suleman also said that the stretch marks that inevitably traversed her once-enormous belly are almost gone. Her secret: Diligent application of creams with growth hormone to stimulate collagen production, as well as vitamin C.
Suleman looks so flawless in the beach photos, though, that observers are left somewhat mystified. Even Suleman’s own attorney wondered aloud where the stretch marks went.
“She probably covered her stretch marks,” Czech said. “I mean, my goodness, if you saw that stomach. She probably covered them with makeup. But the photos weren’t touched up in any way. Nadya asked them not to.”
Other challenges, other plans
Since giving birth to the octuplets, controversy has surrounded Suleman and people close to her. Her Beverly Hills fertility doctor, Michael Kamrava, has been accused of negligence and of violating professional guidelines by the California Medical Board. Kamrava also was expelled from a national organization that promotes ethical standards in reproductive medicine.
Suleman also has encountered legal challenges, including a contentious push for an independent guardian to monitor her children’s finances. Earlier this month, a California appeals court ruled in favor of Suleman and called the petition an “unprecedented, meritless effort by a stranger.”
The powerhouse mom also filed two applications with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office last year for a trademark for the infamous moniker “Octomom.” Her applications specify that she may use the name to market dresses, pants, shirts, disposable and cloth diapers and “entertainment ... in the field of reality shows.” The Patent and Trademark Office said the status of her applications is “live,” and the trademark has not been registered.
Eight plus six: The Suleman familyIn addition to fighting court battles, plotting a marketing strategy, exercising, eating right, living under the glare of television cameras and being one of the world’s busiest moms, Suleman has spent much of the past year in her home office, writing like the wind. She initially had planned to release a memoir with the help of a ghostwriter, Czech said, but her relationship with one ghostwriter fell apart and she decided to plow ahead and write the book on her own.
“She likes to do things herself,” he noted.
Suleman does not yet have a publisher or a release date for her book, Czech said — but that’s coming.
“She’s writing a part in her book to young ladies that it’s OK to have flaws in your body, especially after pregnancy,” he said.
When asked by People magazine whether she’d do it all over again, Suleman took a deep breath and replied: “No, no, no ... I love kids, but I also recognize that things could be better for mine. I never planned on eight. I wanted one or maybe two more. But I had eight. It’s not the best situation, but I’m doing what I can do.”
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