Culture

Octomom, the Parent the World Loved to Hate and What She’s Doing Today

By Robin Mei - December 18, 2016

Big Hopes

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As an only child born to immigrant parents (her father is Iraqi and her mother Lithuanian), Nadya Suleman grew up on a perpetual quest for belonging and emotional bonding with other people she never had with the absence of brothers and sisters. All she wanted as an adult was to have a loving family of her own so that she could develop the connections she never had as a child with her own children.

In her pursuit of family happiness and the want for a large family, events would unfold that would change her life in big way. Hers would be a story that some would embrace as a miracle. Others looked at it with disdain.

The First Steps to Motherhood

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Having a family is one thing, but Suleman jumped right into the parenthood fray as a single mom as soon as she was out of high school in southern California.

College was also part of her overall life game plan, but for her motherhood was always the main focus. It is true that sometimes you can have too much of a good thing, and a very young and naive Nadya would eventually see her family dream fulfilled — to the extreme.

 

Love Comes Her Way

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While in her early 20s, Suleman met Marcos Gutierrez, a produce manager. The bond between the two was almost instantaneous, and the adage of ‘love at first sight’ came into play as the two fell head over heels for each other.

Right out of the relationship gate, Gutierrez had it made very clear to him of Suleman’s wish to have children. It was not an issue at the time, since he also wanted a family. Neither of them knew at the time there was no chance they would be having children together.

A Risky Career

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Suleman, who still had success in school as a life goal, earned her psychiatric technician license from Mt. San Antonio College the same year she and Marcos were married. Her new career working with those suffering from mental health issues was rewarding, but also a substantial emotional strain on her.

While starting a family of her own was still her biggest want in life, something happened at the facility that hired her that would, in turn, help lead to a life she never expected to have.

Misfortune Strikes

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On September 18, 1999, twenty patients of the Metropolitan State Hospital started a riot, and Suleman was jumped right in to do what she could to help bring it to a peaceful end. In the midst of the chaos, a female patient flipped a desk which landed directly on Nadya’s back.

The result was a herniated disc, and the injury resulted in her receiving $170,000 in workers’ compensation benefits. It supported her for the time being, but her injury was the least of Nadya’s concerns.

The Family Dream Gets Put on Hold

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Her serious back injury was painful, to the point of almost constant discomfort. There was almost the emotional strain of not being able to work, despite the compensation she had received. All of this took a backseat to the other big worry she had on her mind.

During their three years of marriage, Suleman and Gutierrez had been trying to get pregnant. They both wanted a family, but it seemed like nothing they could do was helping to make that happen. They decided a visit to their doctor was in order.

The Hard Truth

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There were trips to several doctors, all of whom had suggestions on what the struggling couple could do to help them conceive. They did everything they could and followed the medical advice given them to the letter, but still, nothing happened. Every day there was no good news took a toll on Nadya’s waning emotional strength.

Depression started to become an issue for her. As she battled through it, they finally found out the cause of their problem: Gutierrez was sterile. With that information, the two began to look at plan B choices.

The Beginning of the End

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With this news, Suleman looked at every option available to the couple to fill their dream of having children. Alternative methods would need to be used, and that’s when the two started to have their differences as to the course of action to take. It was a fight that began to tear them apart.

When Nady brought up the possibility of using in vitro fertilization (IVF), that’s when Marcos put his foot down. The procedure involves an egg being fertilized is a test tube, and it was something that Gutierrez disagreed with enough he threatened to leave her if she pursued the idea any further.

The Tough Decision

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This marital and overall life stress found Suleman facing a decision she didn’t want to have to make: she and Marcos could stay together, but without the children they both wanted to have together, or do whatever it took to fulfill her family dream. In the end, she decided on having a family.

The couple ended their relationship in 2000, and from there Nadya began taking the first steps towards having chidren using IVF. The plan didn’t work out exactly as the newly divorced Suleman thought it would.

Everything Has Its Price

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Having been in use successfully for years now, IVF isn’t considered to be too complicated. Like any medical procedure, there are no guarantees. There’s also a major factor involved with it that’s a deal-breaker for many people — the cost. Nadya, who had a one-track mind at this point and was tired of years of failure, didn’t care.

At least wo eggs are usually involved in IVF as a safety net should one of them not succeed in fertilizing. This adds another layer of risk onto the procedure, but was this a risk Nadya was willing to take?

The Risks Involved

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With the use of multiple eggs placed in the mother’s uterus, IVF also has the chance of seeing more than a single egg making it through the entire fertilization process. Parenthood changes anyone’s life, but having more than one baby at a time takes that change to a new level.

It was a chance Nadya didn’t seem to mind taking. She had adopted an attitude of “the fuller the house, the happier the hom.” Should she have put more thought into the chances of being a mother to more than one child? Regardless, at this stage no one any idea what was coming.

Baby Elijah is Born!

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To be clear, becoming pregnant with more than one child is not a negative scenario in some cases, and for those wishing to have twins or triplets, IVF is a great procedure. Suleman might not have been expecting that to happen in her case, but her IVF results were astonishing.

They would eventually take her down a road that would be impossible for her to get off. In 2001, Nadya welcomed her first child, a little boy she named Elijah. After years of trying, her dreams of motherhood were coming true. But Elijah was just the beginning.

Babies, Babies and More Babies

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Following Elijah’s birth, Suleman waited a year and then underwent IVF again, this time having a daughter named Amerah. The door to parenthood IVF opened for her was a difficult one to close, and she decided to have more children. She would go on to have fraternal twins and two more children. That’s six kids, in case anyone is losing count.

For most people, six children are plenty. Not for Nadya, though, who still wanted more. Her next step would leave millions of people scratching their heads.

A Roof-Shattering Decision

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With her house already brimming with more kids than most couples could handle, Suleman took the steps towards the event that would make her a celebrity. She returned to the doctor who had overseen her previous IVF treatments, Michael Kamrava, for yet another.

There were still six eggs remaining from the previous treatment and Nadya, a pro-life supporter, did not want to see any of them go to waste. She asked Dr. Kamrava to implant all of them at the same time.

 

How Many Kids Is Too Many?

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Dr. Kamrava has said after the fact that he initially refused Suleman’s request but eventually carried out her wishes. She was extremely staunch in her belief that none of the embryos should go to waste, and she was willing to risk the possibility of multiple babies being born.

All of that is fine, but the part of this story that many question is Kamrava’s decision to not only implant the requested six embryos but an additional six more. That is 10 over the usual guideline number, and that radical decision had the potential for an unprecedented outcome. Nadya was willing to take the chanc.

Eight More on the Way

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The implanting of extra embryos by Dr. Kamrava was a step that many in the medical community would never take, but it was one Nadya embraced whole-heartedly. Eight of the 12 embryos were fertilized, and she became pregnant with eight children. At the same time.

With that epic news, concern immediately shifted to whether or not Suleman was physically able to birth eight more babies after having already had six. Was she prepared for the physica toll it could take, and on an emotional level as well?

The World Meets "Octomom"

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Suleman’s body did go through an unbelievable amount of duress while she was pregnant with her eight children, a number that obviously far surpasses what any average person would expect to give birth to. As word leaked out, the media grabbed hold of the story and it quickly went viral. “Octomom” became the word on everyone’s lips.

The story of a single mom living in California is one that wouldn’t normally get much attention, but Nadya’s case involved circumstances that had never been seen before. There would be much more added to this tale, and not all of the chapters would have happy endings.

Eight Healthy Babies

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As the spotlight shone on her 24/7, Octomom was soon in the delivery room for the moment of truth, Suleman’s pregnancy was a success, and all of the octuplets were born healthy. It was a spectacle the world had never seen before, but, more importantly, it was a massive relief for a worried mother.

Octomom’s children were the first set of octuplets to all be born alive, something that had never happened before. Like any mother with a new child, she wanted to hold them all and introduce them to their six siblings. The rest of the world had some questions, and some answers were needed.

Spotlight on Octomom

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It was a story that understandably captured the world’s attention and especially the interest of those in the medical community. Doctors were all wanting to meet with Suleman, just to get a closer look at the mother who gave birth to eight children at once. The extent of Dr. Kamrava’s involvement was not yet known to the general public, and how the physical hardships of a pregnancy like this added on top of six additional births fascinated everyone.

Some thought what they saw with Nadya was verging on the impossible, and with that came a long list of questions from medical experts. The top of that list: How was this possible?

A Media Star

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Nadya Suleman’s was already a face you couldn’t escape in newspapers, television and online. Her pregnancy was the top story for news outlets for months. The average Joe had no clue what her real name was, but everyone knew Octomom.

Leading up to the birth of her eight kids, plans were already in the works for Nadya to make some cash off of her story. A public relations firm was hired, with the hopes of her keeping control of how her experiences were portrayed in public. It was not an easy task

Octomom Becomes an All-Consuming Persona

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Once she was thrust onto the world stage, life would never be the same for Suleman. The attention was neverending, and her critics argue that was exactly the way Nadya always wanted it. Octomom became an all-consuming persona Nadya struggled to deal with on top of raising her 14 children.

That persona started to wear on her as the months went by. Already, her pregnancy was under scrutiny by her fellow Californians for being irresponsible and a waste of taxpayer dollars. It was held up as an example of everything wrong with America — too much of everything when it isn’t necessary. Some adored her and her family, others were making threats.

It Took Its Toll

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Her goal was to closely control how the media portrayed her, but that plan quickly fell apart. It was like a circus awaited her every morning, and it was a battle she felt she was losing — badly. She decided to open up about the severe issues she was faced with every day.

“I don’t get much sleep, about two or three hours a night, but I’m continuing to move forward with my life and trying to be the best mother I can be,” Suleman said in an interview with People magazine regarding how scrutiny she faced. On the flip side of this, skepticism surrounded her embrace of the media she occasionally attacked.

Bottom of the Barrel

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Even with time as a buffer and years after the octuplet’s birth, Suleman was still in the news. Her critics were sas vocal as they had always been, but the public still wanted updates on the woman with the 14 children. The constant attention was beginning to wear the exhausted mother down.

Octomom was beginning to hit lows she had never experienced before. With so many mouths to feed, she was forced to go on welfare. It was her against a cruel world, and she felt alone despite her children surrounding her. Further challenges awaited her, and not the kind government assistance could help on its own.

Trouble on the Homefront

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As media coverage carried o and people across America continued to pass judgment on her, stories began circulating about Nadya Suleman neglecting her children. No one could believe a single mom could handle caring for that many children. Child Protective Services were brought in to assess Octomom and the living arrangements she had for her 14 children.

The agency found no reason to be concerned for how Nadya was looking after her kids or the condition of the property they were living in. However, someone else in the equation had the power to change everything in Octomom’s life, and that individual disagreed with Child Protective Services’ assessment.

Evicted

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Despite being cleared by the people who had the power to take her children away, Nadya’s landlord wasn’t thrilled with his tenant. Of all of the people Octomom was surrounded by or who were following her story, he was one individual who could change her life immediately.

Her landlord accused Nadya of violating the terms of her lease, took his claims to the media and then evicted her. Never wanting to be anything more than a good mother, homelessness was now on Octomom’s horizon. Desperate measures needed to be taken

 

Desperation Kicks In

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Hope was still alive that her landlord would have a change of heart, but to no avail. The focus for Nadya became finding a safe place for her children to live. For over a year she was maligned by many in the media, but her private life was very different from what she was portrayed as in public. She stood firm by the claim she was a loving mother.

Nadya’s main issue was simple — she had no money. She needed some, and fast. She looked to the world of movies, and a very brief music career. Business ventures were pursued. Did any of this help her?

A Fresh Start

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Being under the constant gaze of the public and the ongoing cruel judgment of her parenting skills wa destroying Nadya, so she made the decision to step away from all of it. Changes needed to be made in order for her and her children to live happier and healthier lives.

Her first step? Changing her name to Natalie, a symbolic move representing a new beginning. She began working part-time as a family therapist after completing a college degree. Where do the kids fit in with this fresh start?

The Octuplets Today

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The octuplets are now 9 years old, and each of them follow a strict vegan diet. It’s understandable that there are temptations for anyone trying to adhere to veganism, especially children surrounded by friend gulping items like chocolate milk and candy, but the family is making it work.

Natalie Suleman, as she is now known, says she has been very forthcoming with her children about her personal story. She has always claimed everything she has pursued in her adult life, including her time in the spotlight, was done to help her children. She now has an Instagram account called the Solomon Family, a place where she can keep people in the loop on the life of an unemploted mother of 14 children.

A Gentle Stranger Helps

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Now in her 40s, Natalie’s life is on a better course and she’s avoiding the work she had to pursue in more desperate times. She says she owes this to a “guardian angel” that helped her put the darker part of her past behind her.

In February of 2013, Natalie was working in the film industry when she visited a club in Florida. She claims a tall stranger walked in and looked her straight in the eyes and very gently grabbed her arm, telling her, ‘You don’t have to do this.’ He repeated it to her several times, and she began to cry as her emotions overtook her. She says that moment changed her life forever.

Looking Back

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Since that moment in 2013, Suleman has come forward and admitted she was “foolish, immature and selfish” to have brought 14 children into the world with almost no plan as to how she could look after them. The consequences of her actions were pushed aside by her need to create the perfect loving family.

Right now, Natalie has set aside the possibility of her find a partner in life to love and has been clear she is living a celibate lifestyle. Her kids are her number one concern, and now she uses social media to show the public how much she has changed for the better

Living a Simple Life

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The family live modestly, paycheck to paycheck. What started as a two bedroom apartment now has some extra sleeping space with an office conversion, and food stamps are still needed to help make ends meet. Speaking with the Daily Mail, Natalie said she feels “at peace” with the ups and downs life has sent her way.

Natalie prefers that the Octomom moniker be retired for good, and she now shares her story with other women in an effort to inspire them to make the best decisions for their families. In hindsight, being Octomom almost destroyed her family, but now the concern is what does this all mean for her children knowing this is the story of their mother?

Setting the Social Life Aside

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It appears as though Natalie and the octuplets, Makai, Josiah, Isaiah, Jonah, Maliyah, Jeremiah, Nariyah and Noah, are all in a more stable and emotionally healthier place. Octomom is no more, and Suleman wants all of her children to look at her with respect and be proud of the things she has accomplished. She wants ‘Octomom’ to be the last thing they think about when looking at her. “I was forced into doing things I didn’t want to do because I was so terrified I couldn’t support them and give them the life I deserved,” she told the Daily Mail.

While the octuplets get most of the attention, Natalie is still the caring mother of six other children, who range in age from 17 to 11. Do they follow the vegan diest as well? No, at least not yet. She’s also moved back to Laguna in Orange County, where she grew up

Playing Like Kids Do

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Setting her own social life aside allows Suleman to be very hands-on with the raising of all of her kids. Some of them are shy like her, while others are a little mor outgoing. One child, Aiden, is autistic, but all of the kids treat him no differently and help their mother out taking care of him. “They fight, play, fight and play again like any normal family,” she has said.

The children have been brought up understanding their home is unlike almost any other in America, and she encourages all of them to understand it’s okay to be different. She’s also snuck in a few other life lessons as well.

Holidays in the Suleman Home

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It’s been a life with some rough patches, but the Suleman family is a happy one. Natalie tries to instill good values in all of her children, and each child receives just one present during holiday seasons like Christmas. She has said she wants to teach her kids the benefits of helping other people, and not be concerned with only themselves.

With one present at Christmas, Natalie is trying to show her kids the value of the little things in life. She wants them to understand a person needs to earn things in life, and never expect anything to be handed to you.

School Bells

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Sending the octuplets off for their first day of school was perhaps a little more on the stressful side compared to one or two children at a time. Suleman shared a post to her Instagram account featuring a group photo of smiling faces and the caption “Any other parents exceptionally stressed and overwhelmed by the first week back to school?”

Everything about keeping the family organized during the school year can be a full-time job, and Natalie calls herself an “official bus driver.” The octuplets were keen on posing for their first-day photos, but her other six kids would have none of it. They’ll do it for holidays and birthdays — just not school.

Stress-Busting

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It’s hard to find any time for yourself when you’re surrounded by 14 kids, and one coping mechanism Natalie swears by is time at the gym, even if it’s only an hour or two here and there.

She posted the above image to Instagram, stating it was her way of staying sane despite the non-stop pressures of life. “The stress literally drips off of me, as I’m drenched in the end. Being physical has significantly helped me cope with so many challenges I’ve struggled with throughout my life.”

A Night at the Spa

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Running a household with so many kids in it requires a firm hand, but that doesn’t mean fun can’t be part of the equation at the same time. She and her daughters love going to the spa and getting face masks.

All of the kids get equal time and attention from their mother, whether it’s a girls’ night or taking her sons out for a thriller of a movie. When her kids are happy, Natalie is happy

Talking With Dr. Oz

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In May 2018, The Dr. Oz Show invited Suleman on as a guest to tell a potential new audience about her decisions regarding the use of in vitro fertilization. She also told her story of evolving from Nadya to Octomom, then setting that part of her life aside to focus on being happy and healthy.

She openly discussed the long road she had to take during her transformation from a single woman desperate for a family to becoming the mother of 14 kids. She now has a YouTube channel with them she calls the Solomon family on her social media outlets.

Genetics and the Kids

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Genetics can be an interesting world to delve into, and it’s one that can explain why siblings might not always look alike. With 14 kids, odds are high of your gene traits being passed along, but it doesn’t mean every child will look alike.

Every one of Natalie’s kids looks a little different from the other, some more than others. Nariyah and Noah, pictured above, are two of the octuplets.

Socially and Physically Active

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All of the octuplets, who remember are all raw vegans, are in love with living the healthiest lifestyle they can. Competing in a marathon? Sure, why not! Here they are in February 2018, at the Russ Miller Memorial 5k race.

Taking part in events like this and helping out with worthy cause are some of the values Natalie has tried to instill in all of her kids from a very young age. They do seem to look happy, and they finished the race hand-in-hand. But marathons aren’t the only thing the Suleman children have been up to.

Heroes in the Classroom

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The octuplets enjoy getting out of the house to do what they can for important causes, and it’s a mentality they put to use in school as well. Here they can be seen with a project they were asked to do featuring posters of their heroes. Please note the photobomb taking place in the center of the picture!

The Suleman family fans love seeing updates on what everyone is getting up to in their lives, even if Natalie tries her best not to boast about her children. It’s hard not to when they’re coming up with works of art like these

Getting the Word Out

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Natalie sees the rewards of motherhood every single day, but especially when it comes to holidays such as Mother’s Day. These are just some of the handmade presents and cards she has been given over the years.

Her son Aiden and his condition lead Natalie to write a book about the struggles of raising an autistic child. He can’t talk, is still wearing diapers and is thought to have the mind of an 18-month child. She is trying to get the book published soon, telling the Daily Mail, “It’s a story that needs to he told and I think it will encourage a lot of women to draw up strength that didn’t know they had.”

The Sisters, Being Sisters

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Natalie has four girls and eight boys, but spending quality time with her young ladies is something she always looks forward to. Here you can see Amerah (16), Calyssa (11), and Maliah and Nariyah (nine).

This picture was snapped during birthday celebrations for Amerah, and the sisterly resemblance is hard to miss. The boys and girls all get special time with mom every week, but it’s Natalie’s favorite to see them all hanging out together.

Family Time

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It wouldn’t be a Saturday night if the kids and mom weren’t able to  get together and take part in a tradition they all came up with together: Family Fun Night.

It’s a time where the entire family sits down together to play board games, watch movies or simply talk and have discussions on educational topics. The Shining is a favorite film to watch, and playing chess ranks high as well. The older kids sometimes take some convincing to take part, but that’s just how teenagers are, right?

Dressing Up

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Her kids all know they are different from the families of their schoolmates, but that doesn’t stop any of the octuplets from turning that into something positive. They are talented and with their own unique abilities, and all of them are growing up fast.

You can see here the octuplets in character for their roles in a school play. Definitely no camera shyness going on here

The Raw Diet

Credits: Image: Instagram

This picture made it onto Natalie’s Instagram page with the caption “Could we be any more vegan?” The octuplets have meals based on items like collard greens, organic kale, chard and health shakes. Quinoa and lentils are also favorites when it comes to mom making a family meal.

Desert skips on processed sugars, instead focusing on selections like green apples with raw almond butter. The vegan lifestyle has helped Natalie deal with the health problems that have arisen from her carrying eight children to term, but coming from a vegetarian background the jump to veganism wasn’t a hard one to take.

Picture Day

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When you’ve got as many people as Suleman has to round up and get in one place for a family photo, it’s a job that deserves some recognition. Getting everyone sitting down and smiling at the same time is a feat that deserves framing.

“So THIS is what happened when we attempted to take a fun family photo with as many family members as possible. Per usual, Elijah, Amerah, and JJ are absent from the pic.” This was the caption for the above photo on Instagram, so there’s a least marks being given out for trying.

YouTube Living

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Today, Natalie is a part-time counselor for people in the midst of substance abuse issues, and that led to her creating the family YouTube channel. The debut video on it was a clip of Amerah reading a letter she wrote to her mom on Mother’s Day at an event in Long Beach, California.

The channel serves to show the public what life has been like for Suleman, but the plan is for it to include hands-on help from the kids uploading vlogs of what they do for fun, how they manage with a vegan diet and creative concepts people might find entertaining.

Thanksgiving Challenges

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Holidays such as Thanksgiving offer opportunities for the kids to be taught how they can help make a big difference in an occasionally cruel world. Here you can see the 10 children who took part in the Turkey Trot 5 kilometer family run.

It was a good day for the family — Maliyah, Josiah, Noah, and Isaiah all managed to win their age groups in the race. Their vegan meal might be a little different than what most people do on Thanksgiving, but the spirit is still there.

The Ongoing Health Battle

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Because of the considerable amount of damage inflicted on her body as a result of giving birth to octuplets, Natalie has to fight through substantial amounts of pain almost every day. Running is difficult because of ruptured discs she suffered , and she also has irreparable sacral damage, peripheral neuropathy and bilateral sciatica.

Natalie goes to a women’s-only gym to use the stair-climbing equipment there, a step she took due to the severe social anxiety she has suffered since childhood that makes areas like crowded gyms difficult for her to be around.

A Young Natalie

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Through all of this, it’s easy to forget that Natalie was young once, too. Here you can see her dressed up for Halloween back in 1978 as a messy clown, an outfit put together by her mother.

She’s made some major changes since the time of this photo being taken, but her recen past is one that has been documented under a microscope and it’s nothing she wants to try and erase. Her biggest regret is falling into the world of Octomom and becoming a character for the press, rather than jsut being ‘mom.’

Cat Mother

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Growing up, Natalie was surrounded by a dozen cats, and she jokingly says the animals were like her four-legged siblings.

Here we have a very young Natalie and the favorite of her extended cat family, Boots. The poor animal weighed over 22 kilograms (50 pounds) and its stomach perpetually dragged on the ground. No matter, it was an animal she loved, regardless of how it looked

Looking Back on History

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Natalie Suleman’s mother was born in Germany, and this picture shows her as a youngster in 1940. Her lighter hair and skin offer some reasoning as to why some of Natalie’s children have a much fairer appearance than some of their brothers and sisters.

Natalie credits the lessons her parents taught her growing up as the inspiration for the values she’s teaching her children today. There are hard lessons to be learned, of course, but Natalie has lived through enough of them to be the perfect life coach for anyone.