The name Nadya Suleman will likely ring a faint bell somewhere in the back of your head, or maybe you don’t remember it at all. But how about ‘Octomom‘?
It’s been nearly nine years since media coined the naff nickname for the Californian woman, after she gave birth to the world’s only set of living octuplets.
What could have been a pun in a passing headline, a few magazine spreads, maybe a product deal, became that caricature that’s still got resonance years later. Because Nadya, or Natalie as she now prefers, wasn’t just a thrilled if slightly overwhelmed new mum. She was an unemployed single mother of six, who sought IVF to have more, then invited the world to watch her live with the aftermath.
Now 42, the mother of 14 can admit that while she didn’t create Octomom, it was a role she was willing to play at the time to provide for her children.
After the two-hour television special came media appearances, interviews, but as time went on, perpetuating her ‘brand’ became more and more difficult. Facing foreclosure on her home, she accepted $8000 for a 2012 porn film, then a nude photoshoot, then a job as an exotic dancer at a Florida adult entertainment venue.
By 2013, she was medicating herself with prescription benzodiazepines and alcohol just to get through it.
“Every day I would wake up with the most ugly, dead, visceral feeling inside of me. I didn’t want to live. I felt less than human as that character I was pretending to be, to survive and provide for my family,” Natalie recently told The Daily Mail.
“What she was disgusted me and I did not want my children to remember me like that.”
The tipping point came one night while she was strippping when a stranger grabbed her hand and said, “You don’t have to do this”. He repeated it, five times.
“I couldn’t control the tears that were streaming down my face. I had that ugly feeling of nausea. I looked down for a moment, and looked up and he was gone,” she told the tabloid.
Determined to return to her healthy self, for her kids, she moved the family back to California, where she now works part-time as a drug and addiction counsellor. The 15 of them – she’s not interested in having a partner – live together in a town house in Laguna Niguel, with two bedrooms and a converted study.
“Every day I wake up around 5 and get the kids ready for school,” she told People last year. “I work with Aidan, who’s 12 and is disabled, to get him ready, and one of my twins [Calyssa, 10] is autistic so I give her extra nurturing and attention. Then are four school drop-offs.”
Mother of quintuplets Kim Tucci on life with eight kids, a husband and a dog. (Post continues below.)
She and octuplets and have adopted a vegan diet, and while money is incredibly tight (she relies on her paycheck, food stamps and residuals from “that horrible porn thing”) they’re all well-fed. And she told Inside Edition, happy.
“As ‘Octomom,’ I was the walking dead. When I woke up and I went back to my roots, my helping profession, and my kids, we were struggling financially but it didn’t matter,” she said. “I never felt so free and so happy in my life.”
While she now believes it was a “foolish, immature and selfish decision” to have the octuplets, Natalie doesn’t regret it. She says she’s finally back to who she was before the whole saga, and has found “peace” and “joy” in her chaotic life.
“Struggle is the best teacher,” she told The Daily Mail. “I have become more grateful for every minute of every day – little moments, not material things, can measure up to those times I have with my family.”