Today Oprah’s cameras go inside a fascinating life. A controversial mom that we have all heard of, she has made media headlines. Recently she sent Oprah a letter saying “Thus far, the media has depicted a completely false picture of who I am. The trial I’ve been put through has forced me to see my true self—something I have avoided most of my life. I have been compelled to dig deep inside and pull out strengths I never knew I possessed in order to protect my family. I am not a victim. I do not blame anyone for the circumstances of my life.” Signed sincerely, Nadya Suleman, otherwise known as Octomom. Before the octuplets, Nadia already had six children, the octuplets are now 14 months old. Think about that mothers, says Oprah, you’ve all been through it with one or two…
Oprah says she had never spoken with Nadya before that letter. To be honest, she says, “I had reservations about putting myself in this whole media swirl that seems to always surround her. But I reconsidered after reading this letter from her. And she says she wants the world to see her for who she really is.” Nadya gave the Oprah Show full access to her life for 24 hours. She invited Oprah to stay but Oprah declined and said she would send the crew. The audience laugh. Oprah says she’ll see it on tape and get a feel for what it is like, take a look.
At 5am the babies and two of the others start to wake up. Nadya has three nannies who work shifts during the day and she has no help at night. Nadya’s oldest, Elijah, is 8 years old. Next are 7-year-old Amerah, 6-year-old Joshua and 5-year-old Aiden, who has autism. Twins Caleb and Calyssa are 3, and the octuplets—Noah, Maliyah, Isaiah, Nariyah, Makai, Josiah, Jeremiah and Jonah—are 14 months old. She makes french toast, she says that the kids eat a crazy amount of food, and they eat 4 times a day. She spends around $1000 on groceries a week. She goes through about 35 loaves of bread, 21 dozen eggs and 20 gallons of milk in a typical week. She says she had childish desires to have a big family, but this is a huge family. When she had 6 kids she was in the swing of things on her way to getting her masters. She has a huge amount of energy and she says she took advantage of all her excess energy. She doesn’t have her own bed, 4 or 5 kids sleep in her bed. She does constant head counts. Her life is her children, they are the most important part of her life. At 9.30am she can’t find Caleb- he’s in the playroom. Shortly after lunch the ear infection flares up in Jonah. As it is a Sunday, he needs to go to ER. With one car and 14 children she needed to find a friend to take Jonah to the hospital.
Oprah says that a friend did take Jonah to the hospital. 14 human beings are dependent on Nadya. We pick up her day at bathtime. Every other day they get a bubble bath. Once they are all in their pajamas it’s time for dinner, Jonah comes back from the hospital with new medicine. At 5.30 it’s time for the younger kids to go to bed, but they are not all ready. Nadya reads to them, At 7.45 it is dinner and bedtime for the older kids. Jonah is crying- if she knows that they are ok and she is busy she has to let them cry. She doesn’t know that the twins are out of bed. After the kids are all in bed, she says that she is really craving a shower. She hopes that she can somehow get 3 hours sleep tonight. At 2am Jonah is screaming with his ear infection. Nadya ends up spending the entire night in the nursery and gets no sleep. At 6.30am she calls for help as the nannies have not shown up for work. Calyssa steps on her brother and gets a time out. The producer asks if she is afraid that someone else will quit, Nadya gets very defensive saying that she has fired anyone who no longer works for her. The older kids have to go to school. The producer asks if any of the schedules are written down. Nadya says that it changes all the time; as soon as she’d write it down it changes, then people say that she’s contradicting herself. Try and live my life for a day without contradicting yourself she says.
Wow, says Oprah.
Nadya says “I’m not a celebrity. I’m a pseudo-celebrity catapulted into this big media mess. Did I want it? No. Was I in denial thinking that it wouldn’t happen? Yes.” She had no idea that helicopters would swarm over the hospital when the octuplets were born. To Nadya, Octomom is nothing but a fictional character. At first she thought it was hilarious. But now, it is all the media perpetuating this. It’s a money sucking cycle. They said that she had plastic surgery and she never has had it in her life. In the beginning they said that she was all bad, all crazy. They said that she wanted to be like “this Jolie actor” and she heard of the name but she had no idea who that was. “I’ve done things in the media I was not only not proud of, I was ashamed of,” she says. She’ll do something to provide for the kids, like the photoshoot in January was $100,000. They have another month of that money and then they have nothing left. “Basically If I were to secure something in the media, I could in 20 minutes make what I could make in two months working 9 to 5 and being away all the time. It’s unrealistic. It’s a double-edged sword.”
Nadya walks a fine line between keeping the public interested in her so that she can sell her Octomom image, and feeling that she has zero privacy. Taking the kids to the park and being stalked by the paparazzi, she feels like a carnival attraction, This is why they don’t really go the park anymore, she says that it is invasive and disgusting. They go home to the swing at the house. Nadya complains that it is ridiculous and exploitative and invasive. “That’s exactly what Octomom is: a carnival attraction,” she says.
Nadya joins Oprah by satellite from California. “I want you all to know we did not pay Nadya a dime for this interview, neither have we ever paid in 25 years,” Oprah says. “I don’t believe in that.” The paparazzi turned those photos at the park into their own headline- “…Octomom shoots her own reality show.” Oprah thanks Nadya for writing to her and Nadya thanks Oprah for giving her the opportunity to get her real voice heard. Oprah says “I thought that was really insightful of you to say that you were a carnival attraction, but do you feel that you have contributed to that?” Nadya says yes. Absolutely.
Oprah says “Because when I saw that, like everybody else, I saw that cover of you on Star with my new bikini body, and I tell you, the first thing I thought was, “Why are you doing that?”” “Right. Right. I need to tell you why,” says Nadya. “14 hungry mouths. Then a 15th here. And it is my responsibility. I own full responsibility for providing for my children. A parent must provide for their kids, not the other way around. I will never—from the beginning I’ve always been consistent with this—I would never do a reality show. That has been a lie from the very beginning. And I must provide for my children. Deep down, I was ashamed of that. That is not my character. I am shy. I always have shied away from cameras. But I feel as though I needed to do something. And in doing so, I was able to provide for my kids. We have some of that money still left until I figure another way to make ends meet.”
Oprah asks “so you made $100,000 from that?” Yes. I did, Nadya replies. Oprah heard Nadya was offered an opportunity to do a porn film too. Nadya says “Again, another outlet trying to steal a piece of the situation. I feel as though exploiting me, disrespecting me, that, in turn, disrespects and exploits my children. I personally perceive that to be a publicity stunt. I mean, they have started from the very beginning. Right after I had the babies they were offering that. Really? I mean, I would obviously need the money if I did something like that to move my family to a deserted island far, far, far away from civilization. That is completely unfathomable, obviously.” Oprah wants to clarify, “Let’s just be clear about this. So you were offered money to do a porn film, and you have turned them down.” Nadya says “They have offered this probably three weeks subsequent to the birth of the babies. Maybe at least three times. And I feel as though it’s completely, utterly disrespectful to a mother, to anyone who is just trying to survive. I was just catapulted, again, as I mentioned, into this unfamiliar life as a carnival attraction. I never imagined it would end up being like this.” Oprah says “Nadya, tell me this: Do you think that you could ever be in the situation where you have 14 hungry mouths to feed and you’d ever have to resort to doing a porn film? Would you do that if you had to feed your children?” Nadya says “If they offered $100 million I would never, never, never resort to something like that. It stems now to boundaries. I’m teaching my children to have healthy boundaries, and there are ways. There are other ways that are much more obviously more respectable.”
Oprah says “So let’s go back to before the octuplets were born…” Most of Oprah’s audience have children, and the most is 9 children. 9 is a lot, 4 is a lot, 2 is a lot and 1 is a lot, to do it really well. “You didn’t think six was enough?” Nadya replies, “I believe going back, reflecting back, I feel as though I was so caught up with my own childish desires to compensate. There’s an amalgamation of factors contributing to why. I didn’t do one or choose one thing for one particular reason. There were so many reasons. And perhaps selfishness—perhaps trying to compensate for being an only child, trying to fill some missing piece inside. And I maybe wrongfully looked outside of myself when I should have been filling that in from within.”
Oprah says “That’s a very insightful thing to say. So do you think now, looking back, that you were perhaps using children to fill the void or space for something else that was missing that an adult or a real relationship with someone else could have or should have filled?” Nadya says, “Yes. Absolutely. I believe that perhaps, looking back, I’ve always coveted that connection, that attachment to another being. And the connection felt safer with children than with a significant other, more predictable. The security—I was hungering for the security.” Oprah asks “Now would you say that you’ve sort of crowded yourself out of that? Now you don’t even have time to develop a relationship because now, it looks like from the film that I’ve seen, that you’re just trying to keep up. You’re just trying to keep your head above water.” Nadya says “Absolutely. I’m trying to stay afloat and holding my children in that raft with me. We’re still in the midst of survival. We’re surviving. We’re so busy going, going, going, moving, moving, moving, trying to keep up that you don’t have time to think, to reflect, to feel anything. And it is a choice. I own all of the responsibility for my poor choices in the past. Do I regret? You can’t regret children. But the choices were childish. They were immature. They were selfish. Are we defined by our choices? Our behavior? Our actions? No. I don’t believe that defines our worth. Oprah says “I don’t believe it defines our worth; but when you’ve got 14 children, it’s pretty defining, wouldn’t you say?” Nadya replies “I do believe you’re right. Absolutely. I feel as though I wasn’t thinking at that time. If I could go back, would I make different choices? Maybe. At this point, I know and I need to teach my children that we need to learn, we need to grow, we need to keep on growing and transcending, and we need to make the best possible choices. And when we make poor choices, all you can do is really, really learn from that and grow from that. Try not to repeat it.”
Oprah says “Now I had heard something. I didn’t see you on The View, but I heard that you said on The View that if you met somebody and they wanted to have children that having another child is not out of the realm of possibility for you. Is that true?” Nadya replies, “You know what? At this point in my life, that is the furthest thing that I would ever even imagine. I cannot grow additional eyes or hands. I’m not an octopus. I can barely give them—nobody could, not two people, not four people even could give them—all the emotional, psychological and physical needs. You can’t possibly. I live every single day, every hour of the day with a tremendous amount of guilt. And I feel guilty when I hold the one or two and then that I can’t be there for the others. And they’re crying. And then I feel guilty. Look at the older ones. They all have different unique needs. And I’ll live with this forever. But all I can do now is keep on going, keep moving. Keep on trying to be the most devoted mother I can be. I was…no. That was a conversational thing, and I was thinking, “Oh, one thing in life is uncertainty is certain.” I can’t say five years from now something won’t be different or that something like that won’t happen. Right now, at this moment? Absolutely not. That’s the farthest thing from my mind. I couldn’t even waste my energy thinking about something like that. Oprah says that the world would want to see the man willing to take on 14 children and ask for number 15. Nadya laughs. They go to commercial break and Oprah asks the audience where is that man. They laugh.
On January 16th 2009, Nadya made global headlines when she gave birth to the only surviving octuplets in the world. She was a 33 year old single mom already raising 6 young children. Nadya allowed the cameras in for the first time to show what her life is really like. She says that it’s sort of a relief when they go to bed but then she starts the next shift with the older kids. The oldest have to do the homework, then go to bed, then Nadya takes a shower and goes to bed. The producer asks what time she goes to bed. Nadya says that it depends, sometimes 2 or 4am, depending on how exhausted she is. She is trying her best, she does what she can.
Oprah says to Nadya “As we were watching that tape, just taking a 24-hour look at your life, it’s very clear that you, like a lot of mothers who have far fewer children, don’t have enough time to really look after yourself. So if you’re up all night long looking after your kids, pretty soon it takes a toll and you’re running on empty. If you’re on empty then you don’t have anything left for the children. And that’s for every mother out there, it’s the hardest job on earth. How are you surviving? Nadya says “Breathing, Oprah. Taking deep breaths throughout the day and staying connected to my kids. And you know what? Mothers have to understand, and this is really hard for me.” Oprah interrupts to say that Nadya hasn’t had any sleep. Nadya continues. “That is when I am thankful for help. I thank you, friends. I thank you, whoever is altruistic enough to help me and my nannies, for allowing me that opportunity to get some sleep, and then I recharge. And healthy lifestyle—I cannot reinforce that enough. I am obsessed with healthy eating, and then I even think the crew saw me constantly chasing the kids to eat healthy food. Fruit, vegetables…”
Oprah interrupts to say that she doesn’t know what Nadya was spooning out of the can for dinner though. Nadya said that she was embarrassed that the crew were there to see that but she has to accommodate all the groups of children and their wishes.
Oprah asks so how are the children? We saw Elijah who didn’t want to go to school and the three year old stepping on one of the babies. Nadya says “They have their own needs. Elijah is 14 kids all in one, in my opinion. And the eight babies, actually they’re very, very, very easy babies. They are all incredibly healthy. And I have to tell you: I wouldn’t be even thinking about anything other than it—the one child, let’s say—if there were a problem. I am thanking God every day for their health. The twins, they need attention and I’m trying my best to give them their own special time every day. Aiden has autism. He is doing amazing. He’s five. Now he’s saying a couple words and he’s waving bye, and he just did that for the first time a week ago.”
Oprah asks if she feels that she can give her children what they need and deserve? Nadya says “Absolutely not. No parent can. I live in guilt. And no parent could ever even imagine giving six children all of what they need emotionally, psychologically, physically. Again, you cannot. No couple could.” Right, says Oprah.
They show footage from Nadya’s day where she says that it is not easy but life is not supposed to be easy. Being sad or crying is human, and she will do it when she is alone and safe. She is her children’s rock.
Oprah asks, and says that this is a hard question, “Have you ever thought of putting a child, two children, some children in foster care or giving up some of the children for adoption so that they could be better cared for and you maintain some kind of relationship with them, obviously as their mother, but creating an environment where they would have, say, multiple parents so that the children could get more of what they needed? Have you ever really considered that?” Nadya says “No. I will do anything in my power to secure what I need to, on my own, without exploiting my children, to secure revenue so I can provide that. There are a couple nannies that are very, very close to them, and they’re very, very good friends. And I will do everything, everything as a mother to avoid that at all costs. Even Aiden. A family member, it broke my heart when a family member, I’m not going to disclose who, years ago said: ‘How are you going to handle Aiden? In a few years you should put him in a hospital.’ I would die before I ever—”
Oprah interrupts to ask “So you would never consider giving up any of your children?” Nadya says “I know that may sound selfish, but I breathe for my children. I wake up for my children. I will do anything to secure the revenue on my own to provide for these kids.” Oprah asks how is she taking care of 14 children, paying a mortgage and taking care of the three day nannies and being up all night? Oprah says that she would take a day nanny and use her at night. Nadya says “Not on government help. That has been one of the most erroneous beliefs out there. From the very beginning, I canceled food stamps. I was receiving food stamps with the six children for one year. Once I found out it was affiliated to welfare—and I was oblivious, I guess, at that time—I terminated them… We were on private insurance, and we went on MediCal. Then we went off of MediCal back to private because I do not want to be a burden on anybody. This is my choice. It is my responsibility to take care of them. So I have been ashamed of myself for going through certain, let’s say, media outlets to provide for my children. And it has helped. It has helped significantly.
Oprah interrupts and asks if the only way she can take care of her children is to make money through the media? Nadya says “Unfortunately. And I have never ever had a history of even wanting or been interested in the entertainment industry prior to having children. That’s another erroneous misconception. I have never been interested in this industry. I would never do a reality series, anything associated to that, because that robs them of their childhood. And I think it’s borderline abusive.” You do, asks Oprah Yes, I do. Absolutely, says Nadya. Oprah asks “Would you consider it? Maybe you will have to at some point to feed them.” Nadya says “I feel there must be, Oprah, there must be some other way. I feel I may be decently intelligent. I know I want to delve into something in regard to education. Maybe using my voice to make, I don’t know, some kind of difference in younger people’s lives. There will always be an opportunity in an appropriate, respectable manner, not ever resorting to exploiting children. These are innocent lives, and they did not ask to be born. I brought them into this world, and it is my responsibility to take care of them. But I must provide for them. I’ve always felt that way.”
Oprah asks will she ever name the children’s father? Nadya says “It is not my place, and that would be completely disrespectful of me. He and I may have unresolved issues, but what does that have to do with exploiting him? I respect his life. I’m loyal to him. That is not even something I would even fathom to do.”
Oprah asks Nadya “What do you think is the biggest misconception about who you are?” “Everything. Everything. Everything. From the moment I woke up, I have been placed into this unfamiliar life, foreign and foreboding, not familiar. This fictional character, Octomom, completely is the antithesis of who I am as a person and who I represent. And I know by strangers telling me who they think I am has allowed me to really see who I know I am and who I always believed myself to be,” says Nadya. Oprah asks “What do strangers tell you you are? What do they tell you?” Nadya says “Octomom. Seeking fame. Having eight babies to be famous. I did not know even one would grow, let alone twins, let alone triplets. My goodness, who could imagine having a litter? I don’t think cats have that many at the same time. I never ever could have conceptualized something like this happening based upon an immature, selfish choice that I made. Who’s gonna suffer? The children. Am I gonna exacerbate that and put them out in the media like they say I’m doing or am going to do? Absolutely not. I’ve been consistent in saying, no, I will never do a reality show. I was embarrassed to do the bikini shoot in January. That is not who I am. That is not my character. And I needed to make money to put food in my children’s mouths. It is you, Oprah, I thank you for allowing me to finally speak the truth because thus far the media has been feeding people erroneous rumors and lies because sensationalism sells. The truth is boring.”
Oprah says that the truth is, Nadya has a lot of work on her hands. Nadya agrees, a tremendous amount of work. Oprah says that all the babies now are 14 months. “You’ve got months, Nadya, before they’re all 2.” Nadya says “Oh, boy. But remember, Oprah, as they get older, it’s more challenging. For me, my 8-year-old in and of himself is more challenging than all the babies combined. He has his own unique needs and he is very demanding, and I try so hard to get to his level and go into his world and try my best to meet his needs. Does that happen? No. Not always. But I try.”
Oprah says “Here’s a big question for you: Have you dated since the octuplets?” Nadya says “No. No. Absolutely not. I have many, many reasons why. First and foremost, I mean, I already feel guilty as it is. I’m spreading myself too thin as it is. How could I even fathom taking or stealing an ounce of energy away from them and giving it to a stranger? And then how selfish would that be for that man? I couldn’t devote any time to that person. Things change when kids get older. That’s different. But as of now, I mean all of my energy I am sublimating into raising these children as well as I possibly can.”
Oprah says that she heard that her home is going into foreclosure. Is that true? Nadya says “It is not at the moment. I have been consistent in paying the mortgage. And I’m considering, because the mortgage is high, I must secure some type of revenue to continue paying it. Within a month, I have a friend who’s offering to loan me some money until I get a little bit more secure in regard to it.”
Oprah asks has this experience shown her who her real friends are? Nadya says “Absolutely. That’s a fascinating question. Unfortunately, in the beginning, acquaintances were flocking to the center like starving geese. They liked the limelight. I did not. I was shying my best away from all of it and trying my best to protect my kids. But I have many trust issues that I need to work on throughout the day every day and for the rest of my life because I do not want to project that onto my children.” Oprah says “So you’re telling us you don’t like all the attention.”Nadya replies “No, I do not. My children don’t either. And they act out, especially my older ones. They will act out. And they sometimes do not have the words to convey: ‘Mom, we don’t want this. We don’t want these cameras.’ So they will act out. That is sending me a message: Keep them away; protect them.”
Oprah says that “You told me in your letter that you’d done a lot of self-analysis. We all mistakes.. What have you learned about yourself in this process?” As a second part to that question, if she had it to do over would she implant the 8? Nadya says that they transferred 6 embryos based on her reproductive history, they didn’t do anything different. But if she knew then what she knows now, then she may have had them transfer in far fewer. “I never wanted more than six or seven children, total, not double that.” She was receiving bills saying that her embryos in storage could be disposed of and she couldn’t conceive of that. She thought that her kids were doing well and she had lots of energy so why not transfer in the rest of the embryos and who knows, one might grow?
Oprah asks what Nadya has learned about herself in this process. “What I’ve learned about myself is so much. Sometimes just when I feel so stressed out I will just journal—2 in the morning, 5 in the morning. I’ll journal. And I have learned that this experience has, and I think most mothers can agree, when you’re faced with extraordinary stressors, you are compelled to tap inside yourself, deep inside, and look at yourself. Face what you maybe have not wanted to face for most of your life. Maybe you’re learning you have extreme extraordinary strengths, resources that you never knew you possessed. How much I have learned? I have grown. I have grown up probably more in a year than in 34 and a half years of my life. And in that growth, I have learned how much more growing I really do have to do. I have learned that not one human being can possibly give to one child, two children, three, all of what they need. Not even to one child.”
Oprah says “Because obviously you didn’t get what you needed. Otherwise you wouldn’t be out seeking this.” Nadya says “Obviously. Exactly. Point being, I love that point you just made. How prevalent is it, and I am admitting, I absolutely looked outside myself to give me something I lacked from within. How prevalent is it? I think many, many people can relate. Not in regard to children, but how often do we look outside ourself and find something—success, achievement, a significant other—to give us affirmation we should be sending from within? Confirmation that we are okay—that needs to come from within.”
Oprah says “I just had an epiphany here. Other people have addictions. You were addicted to having children.” Right, says Nadya. “The connection perhaps that felt so safe with the kids. Kids won’t leave you. You can create this safe, predictable little society. I created this village, my own little safe, predictable, safe village.” You’ve got a village, says Oprah. Nadya laughs.
Oprah asks if there is one last thing that she feels is a misconception. “Everything that they have said so far about me and about my choice, wanting to do this on purpose, I would never have done this on purpose. I would never have wanted to seek out fame or use children for fame. If that were the truth, there would have been history of that. If that were the truth, I would have had a reality show by now. I am struggling. I am surviving. I am still staying afloat.” Oprah wishes her the best. She says that she has two new puppies and that is enough. Oprah says that she has said for years on this show that if you are a mother, a good one with one or two or however many, it is the biggest challenge in the world to do that right. Thank you Nadya, “God bless you and all your children.”
On April 30th it is National No Phone Zone Day. Spread the word, they want a national movement. Good bye everybody.
WHAT WE LEARNED TODAY:
14 kids is a lot of children to look after, it is twice the number that “Octomom” Nadya Suleman ever wanted.
Nadya needs the media to pay her so that she can afford to feed her kids, but she feels that they are preying on her situation.
Oprah’s two puppies are a handful.
Oprah has an epiphany, some people are addicted to drugs or alcohol, Nadya Suleman is addicted to children.
Nadya says that she is growing her own village.
A VERY QUICK SUMMARY:
Living in a house with 14 kids is not in any way peaceful, calm or restful.