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Video: Octuplet mom, brood make mayhem in Studio 1A

TODAY contributor
updated 7/8/2011 8:12:16 AM ET 2011-07-08T12:12:16

Nadya Suleman has gotten her wish for a large family — but it has come with an even larger price tag.

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It costs a reported $15,000 a month for Suleman — also known as “Octomom’’ — to support her 14 children, including the octuplets that brought her into national prominence and ignited a firestorm of criticism 2 ½ years ago. The single mother gave Amy Robach a look into her chaotic home life in a four-bedroom house in La Hambra, Calif., before bringing the octuplets and one of her older children for an exclusive visit with TODAY’s Ann Curry in Studio 1A on Friday.

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TODAY got a taste of the mayhem: Ann had one of the octuplets in her lap as another crashed off the side of the set, and another ended up in Matt Lauer's anchor chair while being watched by Natalie Morales. Suleman said that they are normally well-behaved but only had two hours of sleep while traveling to New York.

After struggling to support the brood, Suleman secured professional management a month ago and said that she has since been able to generate revenue with appearances and celebrity boxing matches. She said she's also been a fitness trainer.

Video: Octuplet mom, brood make mayhem in Studio 1A (on this page)

Despite her financial difficulties, Suleman said she would never opt for public assistance.

"I've never in my life been on (public assistance), and I never would,'' she told TODAY, though in 2009 her then-publicist said she was receiving food stamps. "I would feel like a failure as a mother and as a human being.''

The cost of trying to meet that monthly $15,000 bill has led Suleman down some humiliating paths, including a fetish video. In the video, Suleman is wearing a black bondage corset and cracking a whip on the backside of a tattooed adult man who is outfitted in a diaper and clutching a baby rattle.

What's worse: She claims she didn’t even make a dollar off the spectacle, which quickly became TMZ fodder.

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“That’s one more thing on the laundry list of humiliation,’’ Suleman told Robach. “I was a little late on the mortgage.

“He said, ‘You can make a couple hundred thousand dollars. You could pay off part of your house.’ I’m thinking, ‘I’ll do it.’ Well, anyway, he sold it. Total dollars earned? Zero dollars. Total lesson learned? Priceless.’’

Declaring the fetish video “one of many things I got no money for,’’ Suleman still reportedly made $28,000 in June, according to TMZ. She will also appear on HDNet’s upcoming “Celebridate,’’ a celebrity dating show in which three contestants try to win the heart of a celebrity or face elimination.

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‘If I had a mate, that would have defused a lot of the animosity’
The dates on that upcoming show are the only ones on Suleman’s calendar, as she confided in Robach that she has no plans on pursuing a relationship after having avoided one for more than a decade. All of her children were conceived via in vitro fertilization, and she said that her personal life consists of taking care of them.

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Raising 14 children alone is understandably a task in itself. Her days start at 5:30 a.m. and her eight 2 1/2 –year-olds are in the midst of potty training. Meanwhile, her house is showing clear signs of the wear and tear of toddlers smacking into walls with bikes or scooters.

Suleman admitted that if she were married or had a boyfriend it may have deflected some of the anger directed at her for being an unemployed, unwed mother who continued to conceive children artificially.

“If I had a mate, that would have defused a lot of the animosity,’’ she said. “I’m the ultimate societal scapegoat, I believe.’’

Still, Suleman claims she raises her children without the benefit of nannies or other help, and says that's the way she wants it.

“I’m happier, and I feel more free than I thought I would,’’ she said. “I’m so happy I don’t have nannies. It’s harder, but I feel so much stronger. I forced myself to pull out strengths I never knew I possessed.’’

She also denied a report in a recent “In Touch’’ magazine article that she said “I hate babies. They disgust me. My older kids are animals. I can’t discipline them.’’ Suleman told TODAY she is contemplating suing "In Touch'' for the piece.

"I think they should retract it because it's all slander,'' she said. "I love my children. I would do anything for my kids.''

As a result of hundreds of death threats she received in the wake of her newfound infamy 2 1/2 years ago, Suleman developed debilitating panic attacks. Working toward a license as a fitness trainer has helped her deal with that stress.

"That's been my way to self-medicate, through exercise,'' she said.

‘I cannot waste my energy fixating on my past choices’
As for guilt, she has learned to let that go. 

"I have learned to move past that,'' she said. "I personally cannot waste my energy just fixating on the past and my past choices, regardless if they were good or bad choices because how is that advantageous to them? What am I teaching them?

"I have to teach them to accept it, learn, grow as a result of your choices, own and accept the responsibility of the consequences of your choices and move forward because if you just look back, what are you going to do, stagnate? You're just going to stagnate forever and grow old.''

Suleman also defended the doctor who performed the infamous in vitro procedure. Dr. Michael Amrava has had his license revoked for implanting the 12 embryos that led to the birth of the babies. Maliyah, Jonah, Makai, Isaiah, Noah, Josiah, Jeremiah, and Nariyah are only the second set of surviving octuplets in the United States.

"I still defend (him) to a certain point, because I wouldn't have my oldest, and I wouldn't have any of my children had he not invented the procedures he had invented,'' she said.

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One of the toddlers, Josiah, is scheduled to have surgery for a partially cleft lip on Saturday, according to Suleman. That is the only physical issue among all of the octuplets who, she said, are in the 80th percentile in height and weight.

"The doctor looked in the camera and said it is a miracle that that is the only thing that was wrong of any of them,'' Suleman said. "And that's not really something that's really wrong. It's common.

"Science cannot explain it. They are extraordinarily healthy.''

An only child, Suleman is nearly finished writing a book that, she said, deals with her self-reflection and introspection about her unique situation.

"Can I waste my energy and time worrying about that daily when I have to focus on them constantly?'' she said. "No.''

‘We are so lucky and fortunate’
Suleman is so wrapped up in her children and the constant whirlwind of their lives that she's something of a hermit, she said.

"I don't have Internet,'' she said. "I don't socialize. I keep to myself as much as humanly possible. I'd rather always be home with my little village than anywhere outside.''

She remains hopeful that there's a bright future for her unique brood despite all of the hardship and public slings and arrows she has endured for her decisions.

"My dream is just for them to keep on growing and be healthy,'' she said. "We are so lucky and fortunate that there is nothing wrong.''

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