Instagram via @nataliesuleman

How Natalie Suleman Ditched the Octomom Character That Plagued Her for Years


| LAST UPDATE 07/18/2021

By Georgina White

When Natalie Suleman gave birth to her octuplets in 2009, she became known as the Octomom. But the press came with a load of criticism and even terrifying threats. Years went by, and the mother of fourteen was ready to rebuild her reputation and share her side of the story.

Meet Natalie Suleman

Natalie (or Nadya) Suleman lived an average life as a child. She was born in 1975 in Fullerton, California. Her mom was a high school teacher and her dad was an entrepreneur in both the restaurant and property world.

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Instagram via @nataliesuleman

Looking back, Natalie's life was quiet for the most part. And mainly due to one aspect of her family in particular that bothered her growing up. Natalie was an only child. And though she felt the love of her parents, she knew that something was missing.

She Described Her Childhood as Dysfunctional

Having no brothers or sisters took a toll on Natalie from a young age. The lack of childhood interaction impacted her "feeling of self and identity." And no amount of parental affection could change that. "I was very unconditionally loved and accepted," Natalie recalled of her upbringing.

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Instagram via @nataliesuleman

"It was pretty dysfunctional, and whose isn't," she later joked. Her parents came from a different generation and didn't "openly or overtly… express affection and love." And this need and longing for familial love would fuel Natalie's fundamental desire in life.

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She Dreamt of a Big Family

Dating back to as early as six or seven years old, Natalie knew what she wanted: "a huge family." "I just longed for connections and attachments with another person that I really lacked, I believe, growing up," she said. But her pleas to her mother fell on deaf ears.

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Instagram via @nataliesuleman

As a kid, Natalie's mom did her best to put things in perspective. Natalie's mom tried to compensate with an active social life for her daughter, filled with lots of friends. But it wasn't the same. "I wanted that huge family just to surround me, be surrounded by," Suleman explained.

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She Was Ready for Motherhood

Natalie grew up and eventually met the person she wanted to have a family with. They got married when she was 21-years-old and immediately started trying to conceive, but unfortunately ran into a multitude of fertility struggles. The couple tried nearly every option available but had no success for seven years.

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Instagram via @nataliesuleman

"I had so many reproductive problems," Natalie recalled. And after a dangerous ectopic pregnancy, she learned of other complications. Suleman's reproductive organs were riddled with scarring and lesions. The pair felt helpless, and turned to the last alternative they knew of. But it came with troubles of its own…

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IVF Was Her Last Hope

Natalie decided that the only thing left to try was IVF. But at the time, it was an expensive procedure that wasn't covered by her insurance. However, nothing would stand in her way. Suleman worked countless hours as a medical technician to save up. "I was hoarding my money," she remembered.

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Instagram via @nataliesuleman

Natalie's hard work paid off, and she was able to save roughly $10,000. But that wasn't just for one round of IVF, it was multiple rounds. However, she didn't get to bask in her accomplishment for long before crisis struck. In a split second, Natalie's life was turned upside down.

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A Life-Changing Injury

One day in 1999, when Natalie was at the hospital working, a fight broke out amongst patients. She stepped in to help and was seriously injured by a large piece of furniture that fell on her. Luckily, no bones were broken, but Natalie was rendered unable to work due to back pains.

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Instagram via @nataliesuleman

To help make ends meet, Natalie began receiving benefits. But it was a tough blow for her. All she wanted to do was finance a comfortable life for her and her future family. Unable to do so, she started struggling with her mental health. And ultimately, her marriage began to crumble.

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"I Was in Love With Having Children"

The aftermath of the injury really made Natalie take stock of what she wanted in her life. "I was looking at myself and acknowledged that I wasn't in love at all with [my husband]. I was in love with having children," she realized. Freed from a loveless marriage, Suleman focused back on her one true desire: Motherhood.

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Instagram via @nataliesuleman

Not interested in the anonymity that came with sperm banks, Natalie chose to turn to a "platonic friend" to help. The friend graciously accepted to donate, and Suleman was able to start her IVF journey. And as luck would have it, all it took was one attempt. Just like that, Natalie was pregnant.

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Experiencing the Miracle of Motherhood

Natalie was over the moon about experiencing her first pregnancy. Finally, after years of waiting, she was well on her way to building the family that she always dreamt of. Elijah was born on May 18, 2001. Motherhood came with some ups and downs, but it was overall positive. "It was a blessing," she remembered of that time.

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Instagram via @nataliesuleman

But Natalie's baby bliss didn't stop her from planning ahead. "I would never have wanted it to be an only child. He deserved siblings," the mom recalled of her newborn. So just a few months later, Natalie was back at the clinic for another round of IVF. Little did she know where this journey would take her…

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She Was Just Getting Started

Each attempt at IVF brought little miracles in Natalie's life. And there were many of them. Between the years 2001 and 2006, she welcomed five more children: Amerah, Joshua, Aiden, and twins Calyssa and Caleb. Natalie was overjoyed, but each baby came with more pressure.

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Instagram via @nataliesuleman

The family of six was scraping by with Natalie's residual savings, student loans, and some family estate. Money was tight, but Suleman wasn't ready to stop. She felt the pressure of her biological clock to take advantage of the time she had to bring more children into this world. But what did others have to say about it?

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People in Her Life Started Getting Concerned

Natalie faced backlash from friends and family. Some people in her life criticized her motives, but Natalie had a different opinion. "The majority of people do not accept my choices," she acknowledged, but it didn't bother her. "Expanding a family, it's an amazing thing… I feel it's [a] positive experience."

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Instagram via @nataliesuleman

She didn't want to "dwell on any of the negative," like many chose to. Natalie was happy with her six kids and saw every pregnancy as a blessing. And back at the IVF clinic, she had another blessing, unused embryos, that were calling her name. But could she afford another mouth to feed?

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Another Round of IVF

Natalie decided she was willing to risk it either way. She went back to the same clinic and underwent an identical procedure to her last five rounds. The doctor implanted six embryos, hoping that one of them would take. While Natalie said that she was aware of the risks, many other experts were shocked at the doctor's choices.

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Instagram via @nataliesuleman

Dr. Mark Sauer, an expert in fertility from Columbia University, couldn't believe that Natalie had six embryos implanted at once. In his professional opinion, a woman of Suleman's age should have had one, or two maximum, inserted. And as it turned out, Dr. Sauer was right to be so concerned...

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The Procedure Worked... Too Well

The procedure was a success, and Natalie was overjoyed to be pregnant again. However, to her surprise, things changed quickly. "It was actually nine days, and I started showing," she remembered of the first trimester. It was at the doctor's when Natalie got the life-changing news. "They're all there," the doctor confirmed.

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Dave Allocca/Starpix/Shutterstock

Natalie couldn't believe what she was hearing. But even if she was in denial, her body wasn't. Her stomach was growing at a rapid speed. "My uterus appeared to be looking like about three months along. Or four months along," the expecting mother remembered of her first month. Could Natalie's positive mindset handle this test?

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"I Embraced It Fully"

The shock of the news was undeniable, but Natalie was still excited. "I embraced it fully," she recalled. The pregnant mother tried to soak up every minute of the experience, all while still trying to keep up with her six young children at home. But that all came to a harsh stop around five months into her pregnancy.

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Nick Ut/AP/Shutterstock

It was one night, about halfway into the second trimester, that Natalie awoke with crushing pains in her ribs. She managed to reach for her phone and immediately called herself an ambulance. Later in the hospital, she would find herself confined to 100% bedrest. But the struggles were just beginning.

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Things Got Serious

To double-check that the babies were okay, doctors performed another ultrasound. And that's when things got even more interesting. The initial readings were wrong: Natalie actually had seven, not six, fetuses inside of her. But one of them wasn't growing at all. Suddenly Natalie felt the mood in the room shift.

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Youtube via 7News Spotlight

Before Suleman knew it, she was whisked off for an emergency cesarean procedure. It was a period of immense stress for the expecting mother, who felt that she'd failed at her job to be an "incubator for [the] babies." But luckily, the delivery of the seven went smoothly... Then came the big surprise.

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More Babies Than She Expected

The medical staff had every detail of the delivery planned… Or so they thought. As babies A through G were placed into their pre-labeled bassinets and taken away for testing, doctors felt a little hand reaching from Natalie's uterus. "There's an H!" a doctor called out. One alphabet letter turned Suleman's world upside down.

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Instagram via @nataliesuleman

"I actually started crying," Natalie recalled of hearing that she had eight, not seven babies. "It was an overwhelming feeling of shock." Little did Natalie know, she made history as the first woman to carry octuplets to term. And just like that, she became the focus of international attention. But the buzz wasn't all positive.

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People Called Her 'Irresponsible'

When the public first found out, many praised Natalie for her bravery. The mother of Noah, Maliyah, Isaiah, Nariyah, Jeremiah, Josiah, Jonah, and Makai had made medical history. But as news spread of the other six kids at home, the tide quickly turned. In mere moments, Suleman found herself the target of a lot of hate.

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Luis Sinco via Getty Images

People ripped apart Natalie, A.K.A. the Octomom, for her financial situation. "You don't create fourteen babies when you're broke and have no money," political commentator Bill O'Reilly stated. It seemed like Suleman was getting flack from every corner of the globe. Things even escalated to the point of death threats.

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Needing Food Stamps

With every aspect of her life under speculation, Natalie tried to defend herself and her actions. "I am responsible," she explained. But the question of government aid kept surfacing. By this point, the mom of fourteen had racked up around $50,000 in student debts and her medical benefits had dried up. What options were left?

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Jason Mitchell via Getty Images

Out of desperation, Natalie turned to food stamps to keep her kids healthy and fed. "I so look forward to the day when I'm not getting any kind of help with food stamps," she admitted. But until that day came, the $490 monthly allowance was welcomed assistance.

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Becoming 'Octomom'

In an effort to provide for her kids, Natalie leaned into the buzz surrounding her and her family. She initially embraced the Octomom character, but it quickly mutated into something else. It led her to resort to adult entertainment. Looking back, it was some of Natalie's darkest days.

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Jeff Fusco via Getty Images

It would get worse before it got better. "I sold my soul to the devil for $8,000," she admitted. And to numb the "toxic shame" she felt from her actions and constant criticism, Natalie found herself with a dependency on tranquilizers. Could the mother of fourteen get back on her feet?

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She Had Enough

After reaching what she thought was rock bottom, Natalie had nowhere to go but up. She completely ditched the Octomom character that brought nothing but misery to her life. "It was 100% the antithesis of who I am," she later reflected. And a life full of paparazzi pressure wasn't what she wanted for her kids.

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Jason Mitchell via Getty Images

"It was like raising kids in a circus," Natalie remembered from that time during her life. And so with her mind made up, she set off to support her children on her own terms. But would she be able to make it? It wouldn't be easy, but she had to try...

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Making Family a Priority

With her dark days behind her, Natalie embarked on carving a new future for her family. By this time, she'd also finished a second degree and began a new career as a councilor. But with fourteen growing kids to raise, she could only swing part-time hours.

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Instagram via @nataliesuleman

The fast cash of tabloid stardom was no easy thing to turn down, and as the bills piled up, it loomed as a flashy alternative to a life of financial struggle. But Natalie was determined. Her morals and the happiness of her children couldn't be bought. But her humble life came at a price.

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It Wasn't Always Easy

Limited financial means meant tight living quarters for Natalie and her children. The fifteen of them shared a three-bedroom-three-bathroom townhouse in the suburbs of Los Angeles. "I do the best I can," the mom admitted of her situation. And she had a special message for critics of her parenting style.

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Instagram via @nataliesuleman

Natalie welcomed criticism on how she handled raising her fourteen children. But on one condition: "Try to live a day in my life. One day," she dared. Suleman felt she didn't have the time or energy to give haters the time of day, and kept her eyes on her precious kids instead.

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Not Enough For the Kids

Even with a shortage of beds, chairs, cutlery, and many other fixtures of the average family home, Natalie was committed as ever to giving her children the best life she could provide them with. And in her eyes, that meant creating a loving and healthy environment.

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Instagram via @nataliesuleman

Despite the financial constraints, some things were non-negotiable in Natalie's eyes. "I'd rather eat less with the right foods," the single mom said while grocery shopping in the organic aisle. But how did that play out for the kids? An updated interview with 7 News in 2019 offered a fresh look into the children's lives.

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All Grown Up

For the octuplets specifically, 2019 was a special year. The eight of them turned ten years old, marking a major medical accomplishment, considering their risky time in the womb. The fourteen kids lived healthy and happy lives, but one child, in particular, required special attention.

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Instagram via @nataliesuleman

Aidan, Natalie's fourth child, was diagnosed with autism at a young age. And it meant that a different approach would be needed for him, in comparison to the rest of his brothers and sisters. "He is 18-months in his mind," Natalie explained. Aidan and his 13 other siblings were a 24-hour job for the single mom.

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How Natalie Managed Fourteen Kids

Natalie's approach to parenting was described by 7 News' interviewer as running with "military-like discipline." And Natalie agreed. "I'm not addicted to chaos," the busy mother admitted. "I like control." And that attitude would certainly serve its purpose throughout her hectic life.

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Instagram via @nataliesuleman

Her mornings were split throughout six drop-offs at different schools. Throw in massive weekly grocery trips and upwards of seven loads of laundry daily, and Natalie was constantly on the go. But she wasn't afraid to enlist her kids for help, and each of them did their part of the daily chores.

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What Did the Octuplets Have to Say?

But despite the tight ship in the Suleman household, Natalie's kids had nothing but positive things to say about their mother. "I think that she's amazing and awesome," one of her octuplets shared. And even at the young age of ten years old, the kids appreciated what their mom was putting up with.

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Instagram via @nataliesuleman

"She fights for her family," Natalie's child shared proudly. The childrens' interview with 7 News made it clear that the Suleman home was a place full of love and support. And viewers left with a full understanding of just how all-consuming Natalie's life was as a mother of fourteen kids.

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There Was No Time for Dating

With so much on her plate, it didn't surprise many that Natalie's social life wasn't exactly budding. But she didn't feel like she was missing out. In her eyes, her kids were more than enough for her. "I've never been social," Suleman admitted. But did that write-off romantic interests as well?

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Nick Ut/AP/Shutterstock

It was a firm "yes" for Natalie. There was no time for, or interest in, dating. And it had been that way long before the octuplets came along. In fact, Natalie had been celibate before her firstborn arrived. "I'm just a different kind of person," she admitted. But that prepared her perfectly for the realities of lockdown.

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Lockdown with Fourteen Kids

"Social distancing is a norm for my entire family," Natalie shared. But even if she wasn't missing a social life, that didn't mean that the pandemic was a walk in the park. Distance learning with fourteen children presented a unique struggle, but the mom was trying to see the good. And "teaching [her] children to do the same."

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Instagram via @nataliesuleman

Natalie felt that the skills she and her kids learned throughout COVID would better serve them in the future. "Kids, and us parents, are adaptive, as challenges promote growth and resilience," she explained on her Instagram page. And this was just one of the many nuggets of wisdom she spread to her followers.

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Sharing Her Message

Long gone were the days of flashy tabloid headings and salacious gossip. These days, Natalie used her humble platform to share positive messages on motherhood and her healthy lifestyle. She's amassed over 190,000 followers on Instagram, a community that she referred to as both loyal and supportive.

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Instagram via @nataliesuleman

Her posts were dedicated to the daily joys of parenting fourteen kids and mothering a child on the spectrum. Plus, she's shut down any gossip and rumors about her and her kids by addressing the accusations head-on. Indeed, despite trying to live a tabloid-free life, Natalie still faced scrutiny from the public eye.

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She Wanted to Set the Record Straight

Years later, Natalie found herself still unable to escape the watchful paparazzi eye. So she decided to take it upon herself to share her own truth and rewrite the narrative surrounding her. She appeared on shows like The Doctors and Inside Edition to try and undo the damage from her stint as the Octomom.

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Youtube via The Doctors

Natalie wanted everyone to know that she's committed to a life abiding by her moral principles. "I made a decision to repudiate all requests from tabloid type media (despite how lucrative the offer), as my goal is to progress," she shared. And according to Celebrity Net Worth, that choice has left her with a net worth of just $300,000.

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Where Are They Now?

While the tabloid rumors remain, for the most part, out of her hands, Natalie has focused on raising her kids in the best way possible. A healthy, happy, and loving home is the single mom's number one priority. And she aims to help them grow into the best version of themselves, all through example.

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Instagram via @nataliesuleman

"Never underestimate the power of parental influence," Natalie shared of tactics. And with the eldest son having just turned 20, the single mom is getting the chance to see her hard work pay off. Until then, she's still got thirteen left to raise. One thing's for sure, she's 100% done having kids.

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