When Natalie Suleman (formerly Nayda) fell pregnant with octuplets via IVF, it propelled her to worldwide fame and she became known as the Octomom.
But with that persona came darkness, desperation and drug addiction. Things were so grim Natalie believes she had no choice but to kill off ‘Octomom’ before it killed her.
“The media created the character and I shamefully embraced it in 2009, out of scarcity and desperation to survive,” she told The Daily Mail.
“This is not something I ever wanted, but I think every single mother can understand the challenges we face.”
Still, few have challenges on Natalie’s scale. Fourteen kids to support alone, including eight seven-year-olds, and one child severely disabled with autism.
The 41-year-old says there were no donations, just her own pocket and all those mouths to feed. So she cashed in on her newfound fame with lucrative shoots for men’s magazines and even a stint in pornographic films. All, she claims, just to put food on the table.
“I fully exploited and dehumanised myself with the porn and the stripping. I was so desperate. We were on the verge of homelessness, so rather than put my kids in front of the camera I decided to put myself out there,” she said.
“The consequence of exploiting myself was deep toxic shame and self disgust. To continue I had to numb and that’s when I started with the prescription drugs.”
Suleman has since ended her dependency on Xanax and is leaving a healthy, active, vegan lifestyle. She’s also returned to work as a counsellor, an income she supplements with welfare payments.
“I’ve been helping drug addicts and alcoholics, so I’m doing the hard work not the easy exploitative work,” she said. “I’m back to who I am.”
The turning point in Natalie’s life was when she returned from a high-paying bikini shoot in 2013 to find her then-10-year-old tottering around the house in a pair of her spike heals.
Later, when the kids had long gone to bed, Natalie found the shoe on the stairs.