If you throw a birthday party for eight babies on the same day, and those babies have six older brothers and sisters, do you really have to invite any other children?
It’s not a question you’d find answered in most parenting books, but it’s the kind of conundrum navigated daily by Nadya Suleman, the woman who astonished the world when she gave birth to eight babies in one go on Jan. 26, 2009. Those babies turn 1 on Tuesday, and — news flash — the mother of 14 rarely sleeps.
“The eight are really just now starting to become work,” said Jeff Czech, Suleman’s attorney. “For all this time, for the most part, they were laying around in a crib. Now they’re starting to be a lot of work … It’s going to be hard for her, and she’s aware of that.
Czech said the most significant detail about the children at the one-year milestone is that they’re all healthy and robust.
“There’s nothing wrong with any of them, praise God,” Czech said. “They’re perfect babies. Perfect in the sense that there’s nothing wrong with them healthwise.”
With the help of her three live-in nannies, Suleman planned to have a low-key birthday celebration with family; in an interview with Star magazine, she said a simple party with eight tiny cakes would be ideal. The magazine shows a photo of the whole brood of chubby babies — Maliyah, Makai, Isaiah, Noah, Josiah, Jeremiah, Jonah and Nariyah — propped up in infant seats and wearing onesies and socks. All of the babies — six boys and two girls — look quite different.
Headlines and criticism
The California mom relied on in vitro fertilizations to conceive all of her children. Between 2001 and 2006, she had six babies — four individual children and one set of twins. Then, in 2008, she became pregnant with eight babies. She went on to make history by giving birth to the world’s longest-living set of octuplets.
The initial fascination and wonder over the miracle babies soon turned into scorn and contempt for their mother. Suleman has withstood withering criticism for bringing so many children into the world as a single, unemployed mother.
The criticism turned vitriolic when it came to light that she had been supporting her first six children with the help of food stamps and Social Security disability payments for three of the kids. (Aidan, her 4-year-old boy, is autistic; Caleb and Calyssa, her 3-year-old twins, also have disabilities.)
In an interview with TODAY’s Matt Lauer for an NBC Thanksgiving television special, Suleman said she no longer receives food stamps.
“So, let me just make sure I’m clear on this,” Lauer said during the interview. “Right now the taxpayers of California are paying zero for the support of any of these 14 children.”
“Oh, zero. Oh, no,” Suleman replied. “Nothing. Zero.”
The Suleman family did make money by appearing in “My Life as the Octomom,” a one-hour documentary that aired in Britain in the fall. Made by European production company Eyeworks — which brought the world “The Biggest Loser,” “Breaking Bonaduce” and other reality-TV fare — the show did well on the other side of the Atlantic, Czech said.
When the deal was signed, Eyeworks agreed to pay $250,000 over three years to be divided among Suleman’s 14 children. The amount Suleman herself made was not disclosed.
Czech said the plan had been for A&E to air “My Life as the Octomom” in the United States, but the network backed away from doing so after Fox ran a two-hour special about Suleman in August.
“Going forward, we’re not sure if we’re going to do another [TV show] or not,” Czech said. “Eyeworks has rights to do another documentary, and they haven’t exercised the rights yet.”
Mom loses 150 pounds
Meanwhile, one of the biggest stories of 2009 has become so — well, so tiny.
Suleman has lost 150 pounds in the past year, dropping from 270 pounds when she was pregnant with the octuplets down to 120.
She’s also had quite the life-altering year. While caring for her 14 children, she appeared on the reality show in Britain, wrote 14 chapters of a memoir, and tackled a grueling workout routine, regularly hitting the gym for as many as three hours at a time at midnight after all the kids have gone to bed.
As a result, “Octomom” has become an Octo-hot-mama — and she’s showing off her slim, trim bikini bod in the Feb. 1 edition of Star. The magazine features photos of Suleman frolicking on a California beach in two different bikinis — a red one and a black-and-white-polka-dotted number — and swearing that she hasn’t undergone any plastic surgery since giving birth to her octuplets.