The mother of fourteen known as “Octomum” after giving birth to octuplets following IVF, has told how she was forced to ‘kill off’ her ‘vile’ Octomom persona in a bid to save her life.
Natalie Suleman – formerly known as Nadya – revealed to DailyMail.com how she is deeply ashamed of the ‘dehumanizing and exploitative’ work she did as a celebrity porn star and stripper to make ends meet.
The 41-year-old believes she would have died of an overdose if she hadn’t quit that line of work in 2013 and left her Octomum days behind her.
She now wants to set the record straight about her past and show the world how her octuplets – now seven-years-old – are well-adjusted and thriving.
Nadya became well known in 2009 when it emerged she sought out IVF treatment to become pregnant with eight – despite already being a mother of six and being unemployed.
However, she now reveals for the first time how she only ever wanted one more child – and was encouraged to have 12 embryos implanted by doctors who feared most wouldn’t survive.
The result was the birth of eight children: Jonah, Nariyah, Josiah, Maliyah, Isaiah, Noah, Jeremiah and Makai.
Struggling to make ends meet and look after her 14 kids, Suleman ended up making a porn movie and doing bikini shoots – anything to stop her family from ended up on the streets.
Her short stint as a porn actress even won her four Adult Video Network (AVN) awards.
But the work left her feeling empty and disgusted with herself.
‘Everything I ever did was for money to put food on the table,’ she said.
‘Everyone thinks I had all these donations and help but I didn’t – I did everything on my own and paid everything out of my own pocket so I was Octomom for four years.
‘The last two years of it were so dark. I descended down a very dark and destructive path.’
Suleman said the financial pressure she was under led her to make ‘toxic’ choices, because there were no positive opportunities available to her under the ‘Octomom’ label.
‘I fully exploited and dehumanized 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..
‘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.
The mum of 14 says she tries to lead a natural, vegan lifestyle and so taking Xanax went against that creed – but that she couldn’t do an interview or go on camera without it.
She started taking the drug daily – although she says she never took more than prescribed.
‘I wasn’t able to exploit myself and do what I was doing without it, which became a problem – it wasn’t healthy.’
Suleman even had plastic surgery to keep the money coming in. But she denies ever spending welfare money on operations.
‘I admit I’ve had plastic surgery but not half of what the media have said I had,’ she confessed.
‘I had a breast augmentation after breastfeeding three kids, which I paid for myself as I was working.
‘I had a tummy tuck after the octuplets after a media outlet promised me $100,000 to pose nude.
‘I have had no work on my face but I admit that in 2008 I injected my lips and it looked horrible. I was so embarrassed and ashamed. In 2009 I did it again because a media outlet paid me.
‘I was so embarrassed I denied it, but it feels so freeing to finally tell the truth. I don’t want my girls to go down the path of plastic surgery and wanting to change themselves.’
After several tumultuous years, Suleman said she made the decision to ‘kill’ the Octomom character in March 2013 in a bid to save her life.
She explained: ‘The media created the character and I shamefully embraced it in 2009 out of scarcity and desperation to survive.
‘This is not something I ever wanted but I think every single mother can understand the challenges we face.’
Suleman told her manager she wanted to quit – but her manager told her she would be sued for $30,000 if she did not turn up for a scheduled bikini shoot.
‘I didn’t even have $30 in my pocket, never mind $30,000, so I had to do it,’ she said.
However when Suleman returned home from the shoot she found her then 10-year-old daughter Amerah playing dress-up and parading round the house in a pair of spike heels.
‘Later on I was cleaning up in the middle of the night and I saw that heel on the stair and the kids were all sleeping.
‘All my emotions I’d supressed started to bubble out into rage and I took the heel and threw it across the house and it stuck in the wall.
‘It was like I’d escaped prison. That character of Octomom was dead.
‘We packed up all our things and I quit my manager.
‘I’d rather be homeless with 14 kids living in my van than allow any of my girls, my daughters to go down the path I had gone down.
‘If I had stayed in that life I might be dead right now.’
Suleman, a trained psychiatric nurse and counselor, got a job within a month working with troubled and vulnerable women and moved back to her hometown in Orange County.
She claims her manager, upset she had quit, threatened to report her to the IRS for welfare fraud.
Suleman says she handed control of her bank account to her management team – and had no idea any fraud was taking place.
‘I told my manager I was quitting and she was getting nervous because I was her biggest cash cow,’ she said.
‘She threatened me and made fun of me saying ‘What are you going to do, go to the mall and sell shoes?’
‘I said I was going to go back to what I used to do – be a counselor and therapist. And she said, “Who would want Octomom to counsel them? I wouldn’t want Octomom to counsel me.”
Suleman claims her manager threatened to report her to the IRS for fraud if she quit. She told her manager she had nothing to hide – but was subsequently found guilty of welfare fraud and ordered to undertake community service.
‘I was guilty of one thing – giving my bank account to my manager and her people for six months,’ she said.
‘I found out from my attorney that they had stolen over $50,000 from me. It turns out I was not guilty of welfare fraud, I was guilty of being dumb and desperate.
‘I was so overwhelmed with looking after my children I neglected my bank account and let them take it over.’
As well as dealing with the fraud case, a full-time job and a huge amount of hatred from the outside world, Suleman also had several personal tragedies to deal with.
Her mother died from ovarian cancer in late 2014 and soon after her alcoholic father told her he didn’t want to carry on and planned to drink himself to death.
He became paralysed following a drunken fall in January 2015 and currently receives round-the-clock care in a nursing home.
Suleman has two autistic children to care for alongside her other kids, one of whom is severely disabled.
Aidan cannot speak and needs round-the-clock care.
She also has severe back damage from her octuplet pregnancy, is in constant pain and doctors are surprised she can even walk.
I have a collapsed lumbar spine, the MRI shows all five of my discs are herniated, three are collapsed and I have such sacral damage I shouldn’t be walking – that’s what an octuplet pregnancy will do to you.
‘I could go on disability [benefit] but I refuse to, I’d rather work and help people. So I work out to build up my muscles and my strength. It reduces the pain.’
Despite these challenges, Suleman has worked as a counselor and family therapist for the last three and a half years – and receives no help with the child-care or household chores.
‘I’ve been working for three and a half years and people think I’m a lazy welfare recipient,’ she said.
‘Before that I worked as a psychiatric nurse for a decade – altogether on and off I’ve been in the helping profession for over 20 years.
‘We still get a little welfare – we get food stamps.
‘There’s a misconception of welfare. Everyone thinks people on welfare don’t work but welfare is supplemental.
‘My kids eat three times the amount that food stamps provide so I have to work to feed them.
‘I’ve been helping drug addicts and alcoholics, so I’m doing the hard work not the easy exploitative work. I’m back to who I am.’
But what angers Suleman the most is that people think she’s not a fit mum.
‘If I weren’t a fit mum I would have given up on my kids years ago. I would have died of a drug overdose,’ she says with a heavy sigh.
‘I have stayed strong for them. My kids know what I did as Octomum I tell them the truth. I’ve told them I’ve done some very bad and shameful things and they say, “It’s okay mum we love you anyway and we’ll always love you.”
‘They know I did it for them. We don’t have kid conversations, we have deep and intellectual conversations about all of this. They are so smart and so aware.’
‘I admit that I made many mistakes in my life and that I’m imperfect. I make mistakes constantly.
‘But my children were not a mistake – they were meant to be here.’
Suleman, who is currently single, says she has been celibate for 15 years and does not want to marry or enter into a relationship, preferring to dedicate her life to her kids.
‘I’m married to my family and kids, I don’t have time to take that away from my kids and give it to some stranger,’ she said.
Now Suleman is focused on the future and hopes to be 100 percent off welfare. She confesses that the family has never been able to afford to go on vacation – something she wants to fix.
She added: ‘We are still struggling but we are struggling together. We have to remain positive and productive and I instill that in them.’
A regular day for the mum of 14 starts at 5am as she prepares fresh fruit for breakfast before helping the kids get ready for school and making four stops on the school run.
She then rushes to work where she helps three to four families before rushing back to pick the kids up from their schools.
She makes dinner, then bathes the younger kids in pairs, then does the housework before finally getting to bed around midnight. She manages one two-hour nap a week as a ‘treat’.
Suleman, a committed vegan, now focuses her energy on living a healthy lifestyle with the kids.
All the octuplets follow a healthy, vegetarian diet and the family take part in regular 5k races together to raise awareness of autism.
Suleman says she and her octuplets are like a team and they help her with household chores, cleaning up, and even help with her disabled son Aidan.
‘They are so grateful we play the grateful game every day where everyone has to say 10 things they are grateful for,’ she says.
‘I raise them with God we try to go to church every week and we pray before every meal.’
Suleman now hopes that the public will change their opinion of her – and see that she is a hard-working mom committed to raising healthy and happy children.
‘I want that horrible, despicable character Octomom to be an example of what not to be.
‘No one hates Octomom as much as me.’
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