14 Years Later, Octomom Reveals That She Got The One Thing She Never Wanted

The Octomom sprang to the forefront of public consciousness in 2008 when the shocking story of her having had 12 embryos implanted first hit the mass media. That media frenzy around the Octomom continued over the next few years, peaking in 2009 when she welcomed an incredible eight babies in one birth. Virtually everyone in America seemed to have an opinion on her, whether positive or negative. And even those who didn’t seemed keen to keep up with how she and the babies were doing. But there was more to the Octomom’s story than most people realized. What’s more, she and her family are almost unrecognizable today.

Mom-of-six

The Octomom was already a mom-of-six when she gave birth to those eight babies. This was one of the main aspects of her story that caused so much controversy and debate in the media and among ordinary people. How could she possibly want any more children?

Then there was the fact that she was a single mom without a partner. Plus, whose sperm was used to make the babies? But we’ll get on to all that. First, let’s take a look at who the Octomom really is.

Who is the Octomom?

Of course, the infamous “Octomom” moniker is not the real name of the chief protagonist of this absorbing story: it is merely a nickname that was bestowed on her by the media, in reference to her giving birth to those eight babies in one sitting. But gee, did that moniker really stick! Not many people know that the real-life name of Octomom is Natalie Suleman.

So, what do we know about Natalie? What is her background and what factors pushed her into becoming the media sensation that she is? Let’s take a deep dive into her family history and early years to find out more.

Mixed heritage

She was born Nadya Denise Suleman in the city of Fullerton in California’s affluent Orange County on July 11, 1975. She was the only child produced from the relationship between Edward and Angela Suleman, and only recently switched from Nadya to Natalie.

Like many in the melting pot of America, her family is of mixed heritage. Her father’s roots are Palestinian; he has worked as both a restaurateur and realtor, and even as a translator in Iraq later on. Her mother, meanwhile, is of Lithuanian descent, and worked as a schoolteacher.

Southern California upbringing

Growing up in southern California, Natalie initially went by her father’s last name, Doud. The future media sensation went to Nogales High School in La Puente, before attending Mount San Antonio College in Walnut.

Natalie’s early childhood years were largely spent in La Puente, Rowland Heights, and Hacienda Heights. According to public state documents obtained by the L.A. Times, her early years were fairly serene and typically suburban. The “half Arabic, half Lithuanian” Natalie also noted that she was “well-loved” and “close to her parents.”

Less-than-idyllic childhood

But a 2009 interview Natalie gave with NBC suggested that her childhood was not exactly as idyllic as she had previously suggested. Indeed, in that particular interview, the only child Natalie to Ann Curry that she “just longed for certain connections and attachments with another person that I really lacked, I believe, growing up.”

She continued, “I didn’t feel as though, when I was a child, I had much control of my environment. I felt powerless. And that gave me a sense of predictability. Reflecting back on my childhood, I know it wasn’t functional. It was pretty dysfunctional, and whose isn’t?”

Popular former cheerleader

Even so, Natalie did quite well at school during those early years, and seemed to relish her work. The future Octomom — who was raised a Protestant — earned grades that were, according to the files seen by the L.A. Times, “well above average.” Not only that, she was described as a popular former cheerleader who loved to read and write.

Significantly, it was during her childhood that she realized she wanted many children. “That was always a dream of mine, to have a large family, a huge family,” she told Ann Curry in that 2009 NBC interview. Soon after leaving high school, she set about achieving just that.

Ectopic pregnancies

Yes, shortly after graduating Nogales High School, Natalie set her sights on starting a family. That effort began in earnest back in 1995 when she had the misfortune to experience the first of three ectopic pregnancies.

Ectopic pregnancies can often be dangerous to the mom, and they more often than not end in a miscarriage, but Natalie was undeterred. All the same, her efforts in this instance would prove to be unsuccessful. Natalie hasn’t revealed whether these pregnancies were via artificial insemination.

Finding love and earning a degree

Even if she wasn’t purposefully looking for it, Natalie would find love in the mid-1990s. Indeed, in 1996, a year after her first pregnancy, she would tie the knot with a produce manager named Marcos Gutierrez.  

Around the same time Natalie found love she was studying Child Development at Mount San Antonio College. The future mom-of-14 would obtain a degree in the subject, along with a psychiatric technician license.

Finding work and first IVF treatments

Natalie then found work at Metropolitan State Hospital, a psychiatric facility in Norwalk, Los Angeles County. In 1997 — at the age of 21 — she had her first IVF treatments to try and get pregnant and achieve the big family she so desired.

These IVF attempts were done under the watchful eye of Doctor Michael Kamrava. He would become a significant figure in the Octomom’s story, and the ensuing controversy that has surrounded her ever since.

Injury at work and disability payments

In 1999 whilst working at the Metropolitan State Hospital, Natalie sustained a serious back injury during a riot by its inmates. A report into the incident said that when Natalie attempted to restrain a patient, another one knocked a wooden desk over which had struck her lower back.

Yet the herniated disc injury Natalie suffered would actually prove crucial to her funding her future IVF treatments. Due to the incident — which prevented her from working full-time for roughly eight years — she would pocket over $165,000 in disability payments.

Split from her husband

The following year, while Natalie was off work and unable to fulfill her role at the Metropolitan State Hospital, she separated from her husband. The split from Gutierrez would not be formally ratified until January 2008, after her ex filed for divorce in November 2006.

Natalie suggested the disintegration of her marriage had largely been down to her understandable dejection and withdrawal following her back injury, rather than an acrimonious split. She once said, “I didn’t want to keep bringing him down. I want him to move on with his life.”

IVF treatments and pregnancy

Natalie continued to have IVF treatments with Dr. Kamrava, and in 2000 the efforts funded in large part by her disability payments finally came up trumps. Yes, Natalie became pregnant with her first child in the latter part of 2000.

Then, in May 2001, Natalie gave birth to a healthy baby boy she would name Elijah. The woman so desperate for her own child had finally become a parent. Of course, the birth of her first child did not put a stop to her broodiness — far from it, in fact.

David Solomon: de facto father

Incidentally, the sperm that was used for the birth of Elijah was not that of Natalie’s ex-husband Gutierrez. No, in actual fact it belonged to a man named David Solomon, who would become a key figure in the Octomom’s story.

Indeed, rather than being just some random sperm donor, Fox News reported that David was in fact known to Natalie. The News Outlet quoted Natalie’s mother Angela, who said David had been an “admirer” of her daughter.

Soon up to six

David’s sperm would again be used to produce Natalie’s second child, a girl she named Amerah. The future Octomom’s first daughter was born on July 1, 2002. But the IVF treatment continued in earnest for Natalie, and her second son and third child Joshua entered the world in 2003.

With those disability payments continually rolling in and an appetite for a large family still overwhelming, Natalie saw no reason to stop at three children. Indeed, aided by Dr. Kamrava, IVF treatment, and David’s continued cooperation, she birthed three more over the next three years.

Calm before the storm

Those next three children were son Aidan, and fraternal twins Calyssa and Caleb, who arrived in 2005 and 2006, respectively. These babies would be the last that Natalie birthed until she became a national sensation.

In those calmer few years before the storm, the mom-of-six earned a bachelor’s degree in child and adolescent development from California State University, Fullerton. She was working on a master’s in counseling when her life changed forever.

Pregnant with eight babies

At this point, we have arrived at the year in which Natalie — back then, still going by Nadya — became a household name in America. Her story gripped a nation, and very soon after it caused a great deal of controversy and debate over parenting, work, medical ethics, and just how many children is too many.

In early January 2009 it became public knowledge that there was an American woman heavily pregnant and about to give birth to eight babies. The photograph of her incredibly swollen stomach was viewed across the internet. After the successful birth of all eight of them on January 26, the phenomenon of the Octomom was born.

Miracle of eight

It may be hard to remember, given the notoriety that very quickly followed, but initially the tale of the Octomom was widely pegged as a feel-good story. Here was a loving mother giving birth to eight healthy babies all at once, which was a medical marvel in itself.

Indeed, the birth of the eight new Suleman children was the first time in human history that so many babies had all been born in one sitting and every single one of them had survived. What was there not to like about this miraculous story?

Rapid shift in media and public opinion

Well, quite a lot, as it turned out. Very rapidly, media and public opinion shifted on the Octomom, when numerous facts about the pregnancy and her life came to light. For starters, people learned that Natalie already had six children, was a single mom, and she was reliant on a range of welfare payments and her parents’ financial support.

Not only that, it soon came out that Natalie’s pregnancy was not some freak natural occurrence, but that she had been knowingly implanted with 12 embryos by Dr. Kamrava, seemingly at her own request. Bear in mind that medical guidelines strongly suggest no more than two embryos should be implanted.

Public Enemy No. 1

All these factors soon combined to make the Octomom something akin to Public Enemy No. 1 in America. Yes, after an initial flurry of reported offers ranging from free baby stuff to reality TV shows, books and movies, the Octomom quickly became a joke figure, or worse, a public pariah.

It didn’t help that in many people’s eyes, Natalie appeared to be fame- and publicity-hungry. She hired several publicists and advisors in the wake of her new-found prominence. Yet all of them received abuse or death threats for their Octomom advocacy, and they rapidly quit.

TV appearances

There were also strong rumors that Natalie had been spending money on trying to make herself look like Angelina Jolie. All the same, in the weeks after the eight births, the Octomom made several appearances on U.S. television to try and justify her actions and reject widespread claims of her selfishness. These included the aforementioned NBC interview with Ann Curry, and an appearance on Dr. Phil in March 2009.

That same month as the controversial Dr. Phil appearance, in which she was pilloried by attorney Gloria Allred, Natalie purchased a new home in La Habra, prompting much more discussion about her finances and whether she would have custody of all of the eight babies.

Beginning to cash in on her fame

Soon enough, the financial realities of having 14 kids began to dawn on Natalie. The single mom evidently needed more income than the state or federal government was willing to provide, and she began to try and use her newfound fame to earn extra cash.

As such, Natalie signed up to make a documentary for British TV focusing on the difficulties of bringing up her many babies alone. It ended up being a one-episode affair, entitled OctoMom: Me & My 14 Kids. Interestingly, at the time U.S. networks were reportedly reluctant to pick it up, such was her toxicity in the eyes of a large proportion of the American public.

Financial struggle

In 2009 Natalie continued to make numerous appearances on TV, and that continued into the early 2010s too. These included starring in a Fox special entitled Octo-Mom: The Incredible Unseen Footage, and appearing on The Oprah Winfrey Show.

She also gave interviews to and posed for pictorals in magazines, such as Star in February 2010 and Closer in March 2012. By then though, it had become pretty clear that Natalie was struggling financially. She began to make some bizarre career decisions in order to bring in some money.

Filing for bankruptcy

It’s difficult to know where to start with the Octomom’s off-the-wall career choices in this period. To begin with, there was the endorsing of birth control — for dogs and cats. Then there was the 2011 celebrity boxing, in which she defeated the infamous felon known as “Long Island Lolita,” Amy Fisher.

Clearly Natalie was getting desperate. Indeed, she publicly admitted as much, saying she was “literally broke.” Bringing up 14 kids on your own was never going to be easy, nor cheap. Alas, on April 30, 2012, she duly filed for personal bankruptcy.

Huge debts

When Natalie filed for personal bankruptcy, she had amassed large debts. These were estimated to be up to $1 million, and according to documents filed in court, her assets stood at a comparatively paltry $50,000.

The bankruptcy led to her home being put up for auction. At the time of her filing, the Octomom owed money to her mortgage-holder, a gardener, a private school, a pest control company, a babysitting firm, her parents and more besides. A full $483,000 was owed to the businessman who’d sold her father the four-bedroom house.

Desperate choices

But bankruptcy pushed Natalie towards even more desperate choices. Yes, besides starring in a low-budget horror flick called 666 The Devil’s Child and in 2012 recording the single “Sexy Party” with Adam Barta, the Octomom made a much-criticized foray into pornography.

That solo video would cement her notoriety. Natalie also worked as an exotic dancer in gentleman’s clubs during this period. The mom-of-14 had apparently gone down the route that many people seemed to expect when sudden fame hit in 2009. For all her protesting about hating the limelight, she seemed to be seeking it in the most avid, fame-hungry manner.

Dr. Kamrava is stripped of his license

Still, Natalie wasn’t the only one directly involved in her landmark pregnancies to suffer. Indeed, Dr. Kamrava also endured a rapid fall from grace. The Beverly Hills physician attracted a great deal of criticism for his decision to plant a whopping 12 embryos into Natalie.

Dr. Kamrava has always insisted he was pushed into planting that number of embryos by Natalie. Still, the Californian Medical Board met on the matter and decided to revoke his license for “gross negligence.” The highly risky procedure he had undertaken had cost him his professional career.

Welfare fraud case

Although the Octomom made significant money from her controversial move into the adult entertainment realm, even more trouble was on the horizon. Yes, in 2014 Natalie found herself subject to a welfare fraud case, which included charges of perjury and four felonies.

The mom-of-14 would eventually plead “no contest” to the charges, which centered around her not reporting earnings from public appearances and video royalties amounting to around $30,000; this income would have disqualified her from being able to claim welfare. She was given two years’ probation and ordered to complete 200 hours of community service.

Out of the spotlight

After the 2014 welfare scandal, Natalie seemed to fade from the spotlight. The “Octomom fever” that peaked in 2009 had undoubtedly dwindled. The novelty of the woman who’d given birth to eight babies at once had worn off, and the public had perhaps grown weary of some of her antics and reliance on taxpayers’ money.

Then again, maybe Natalie had deliberately moved out of the harsh gaze of the mass media. However, she has resurfaced every now and again, such as in the fall of 2016 when she made an appearance on The Doctors.

Hate for her Octomom moniker

On that November 2016 episode of The Doctors Natalie suggested she hated the name the media had given her. She said, “There’s nobody, possibly, who could have hated ‘Octomom’ more than I.”

The mom-of-14 also poured cold water on the idea that she had been aiming to become famous by having eight babies, or even desired or expected that she would have as many children as she did. She said, “I never set out to become an ‘Octomom.’ I’ve always wanted a big family… [but] not this big!”

Owning her mistakes

By 2016 Natalie had moved on with her life, and she had gone back to working in counseling. But on The Doctors she was big enough to acknowledge her past mistakes, not least her decision to have more IVF treatment as a single mother-of-six, and her later dalliance into pornography.

Natalie said, “I had six kids I could barely afford; I was just young, dumb and selfish.” The mom-of-14 added, “I own and take responsibility for my poor choices, but it certainly doesn’t take away from how extraordinary these kids ended up turning out to be.”

Coming to terms with her past

Natalie told the interviewer that she was on a mission to kill off the negative tabloid image that the Octomom represented, and finally lay it to rest. She confessed that she had felt “ashamed” and under significant pressure to make her own money rather than continue to rely on public assistance to raise her kids, and she said she’d made some poor choices as a result.

Natalie said, “I ended up selling myself out,” presumably in reference to her working as a stripper and making adult entertainment. But the California native also claimed that she’d seen it as an “investment” so she could “support her family.” The Octomom added, “I believe that the judgment I experienced was warranted,” but she also blamed the constant stream of negative media coverage for the public anger she continued to face.

“Burying” Octomom

Even though she claimed to hate the Octomom persona, Natalie acknowledged that at times she had played up to the image the media had created for her, that of the cartoonish, cold-hearted broodmare. She told The Doctors, “Octomom was just trash. Toxic, tabloid trainwreck, that’s all I perceive Octomom to be.”

Natalie then went on to say in the 2016 interview that she had abandoned the persona for good, and it felt great. She said, “I just let it go. I abandoned Octomom, and I never looked back. It’s kind of dramatic to say I killed it, but I have put it to rest. I buried it.”

Violating her boundaries

Shortly after that appearance on The Doctors, Natalie gave an interview to People magazine. The revealing chat saw Natalie make some candid admissions about her Octomom alter ego, and where it had led her. She said, “I had stopped wanting to do it from Day One. I was violating my boundaries and my value system and my own self.”

Clearly Natalie believed that her forays into adult entertainment were a key part of that process. She said, “I didn’t think of it at the time because I was in survival mode, and I was doing whatever I possibly could to provide for my kids.”

Emulating her behavior

But there was another, arguably more brutal realization that dawned on Natalie and made her ditch the Octomom persona. She told People, “There was definitely a catalyst: my girls, particularly my oldest daughter Amerah. She was about ten, and she started integrating my traits and behaviors.”

Natalie added, “After I had observed my daughter beginning to emulate me, I saw her going down that same potentially destructive path, and I realized at that moment I’d rather be homeless in my van with all 14 kids than continuing down this path. It was not what I wanted for my children.”

The thing she never wanted

Two years later, Natalie emerged from the shadows again to give another interview, this time to The New York Times. In it, she discussed the thing that she said she’d never wanted: the “attention” for her big brood that being the Octomom brought.

Even so, she accepted that at least some of the fault for that public curiosity lay with her. She told the newspaper, “I was pretending to be a fake, a caricature, which is something I’m not, and I was doing it out of desperation and scarcity so I could provide for my family. I’ve been hiding from the real world all my life.”

Active Instagram account

Despite largely retreating from the public gaze and focusing on mothering her children, Natalie has kept up an active Instagram account, so people can follow her unique motherhood journey. As of January 2024, over 250,000 people follow her posts about her life and what her kids are up to.

Oddly, although going by the name Natalie Suleman, she has sub-titled it ‘octoMOM and the Octuplets,’ a name she has claimed numerous times to have ditched. But Natalie has been a bundle of contradictions ever since the limelight first shone on her. There is also a business inquiries email, which suggests she has not completely closed the door on the public sphere.

Octuplets are now teenagers

Fast-forward then to January 2023, and in a video obtained by celebrity publication TMZ, Natalie was seen marking a very important milestone. That landmark — accompanied with a “Happy birthday” song and vegan donuts — was her octuplets’ 14th birthdays.

Yes, it had been a full 14 years since Natalie had given birth to her eight youngest children: Isiah, Jonah, Josiah, Jeremiah, Makai, Maliyah, Nariyah, and Noah. By now, they were all teenagers. But what are she and the octuplets up to today?

At high school

Well, the eight brothers and sisters are all in school, and they started ninth grade in August 2023. So, that’s high school! In an Instagram post, Natalie was full of pride in her octuplet offspring. She wrote, “You are all growing into some of the most kind, humble, grateful, and loving human beings I have ever known. Each of you possess rare and unique characteristics, and are unlike any other child of your age, particularly in our society today.”

Meanwhile, her eldest six children — Elijah, Amerah, Joshua, Aidan, plus twins Calyssa and Caleb — tend to keep out of the limelight altogether. When questioned by an Instagram user as to why she doesn’t commemorate their achievements or landmarks, Natalie noted that they “did not want” her to. She wrote, “I respect their choice. So should you.”

Content with life

As for Natalie, she is of course mostly busy bringing up her 14 children. But the matriarch also works as a counselor, helping people overcome their addictions to substances such as alcohol or narcotics. Natalie also spends a fair bit of time in the gym lifting weights and keeping in shape, as her Instagram account illustrates.

She wrote, “I would not have the mental or physical wherewithal to do what I do if it were not for working out!” Although she will always be remembered for giving birth to eight babies and her controversial dalliance with fame as Octomom, it seems that Natalie is much more content and comfortable in her own skin these days.