What started out as an attempt to build the large and happy family she always desired ended up turning Nadya Suleman into a national object of scorn and a prisoner in her own home.
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After Suleman became a national object of curiosity 2.5 years ago for being the rare mother of octuplets, her story quickly drew the bile of the nation when it was revealed that she already had six children and was unmarried and unemployed.
Suleman — also known as "Octomom" — now reveals that the tentacles of celebrity nearly strangled her.Video: ‘Octomom’: I love every single one of my kids (on this page)
Suleman gave TODAY's Amy Robach an exclusive glimpse into her chaotic home life, explaining that a mountain of death threats that were hurled her way when her story became public led to debilitating panic attacks. She often sequestered herself in her house or car out of fear for the safety of her family, Suleman said in the her first interview at her La Hambra, Calif., home since the octuplets were infants.Send your questions for octuplet mom Nadya Suleman
“Unfortunately, as a result of hundreds of death threats that I started to receive over two years ago, directed towards me and my kids, it started to boil and bubble into panic attacks,’’ she told Robach in an interview airing Friday, when Suleman will also appear live on TODAY with her 8 toddlers. “So starting last summer about a year ago, I started having panic attacks, and I didn't want to leave the house. I'd go to the market, and I couldn't leave the car.’’Stay-at-home or work-outside-the-home, survey says all moms feel overwhelmed
Through it all, she said she would not take back having 14 kids, although she admits that the intense pressure to bring in money to support her family is ever-present. Her house is visibly deteriorating from the impact of so many children. She has tried frequently to earn money off her celebrity.
“I don't want to undo 14 kids,’’ she told Robach. “I love every single one of my children. I will for the rest of my life. I will die for them. Everything I do, any kind of work, any kind of money I generate — where does it go? It goes into their mouths or it goes into the house or it goes into their school.
“Their private school is twice as much as the mortgage. The goal in life for us — one of our main goals — a priority, is to buy a home, and I would earn it. I want to work for it, and I want to buy it myself.’’
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'I dream about going back to my life'
Starting in 2000 at age 21, Suleman started in-vitro fertilization treatments. The doctor responsible for the treatments, Dr. Michael Kamrava, eventually had his license revoked for implanting the 12 embryos that led to the birth of the octuplets — Maliyah, Jonah, Makai, Isaiah, Noah, Josiah, Jeremiah, and Nariyah.
The public was outraged, and expressed their anger on talk radio shows, blogs, websites and more. She quickly became a tabloid fixture.
“I dream about going back to my life,’’ she told TODAY in 2009. “This is an explosion. A lot of people in the media, I think they may have gradually gotten used to this type of exposure, but now it's like all of the sudden...someone just opens you in half, cuts you and opens you. It's really kind of sick because I think people need to just focus on their own lives and their own growth and their own self awareness and stop trying to fixate on other people."
Suleman has continued to fuel some of that tabloid fire in an attempt to earn money for her family.
At the end of June, she participated in a New Jersey celebrity boxing match. She'll appear on HDNet’s “Celebridate,” which starts in October and has done paid bikini shoots and a paid interview for an Australian network. On July 4, TMZ reported that she brought home $28,000 in the month of June alone.
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