The veil of secrecy octuplets’ mother Nadya Suleman shrouded herself in for more than a week was lifted on Thursday with the release of public documents showing that the 33-year-old woman struggled with depression for years until she finally began to realize her childhood dream of having a huge family.
Suleman, who now has 14 children, told doctors she battled with depression for years after she was injured in a riot in 1999 at the state mental hospital where she worked.
The doctors’ reports were included in more than 300 pages of documents released to The Associated Press by the state Department of Mental Health on the same day NBC released excerpts of Suleman’s first interview since giving birth last month. Among other things, the documents reveal that Suleman collected more than US$165,000 in disability payments between 2002 and last year for an injury she said left her in near-constant pain and helped end her marriage.
Meanwhile, Suleman told NBC what her mother and others have said since the octuplets were born: that she always wanted a huge family to make up for the isolation she felt as an only child.
“That was always a dream of mine, to have a large family, a huge family,” she said. “I just longed for certain connections and attachments with another person that ... I really lacked, I believe, growing up.”
In the interview — scheduled to air on the Today show on Monday and again on Tuesday on Dateline — Suleman calls her childhood “pretty dysfunctional.”
In the state report, however, doctors indicate she had a happy childhood. She told them she was an above-average high school student, enjoyed being a cheerleader, had many friends and stayed out of trouble. She said her parents were loving and supportive.
As an adult, however, she said she often battled depression as she struggled to get pregnant and particularly after her injury.
The report says she had three miscarriages and two ectopic pregnancies, a dangerous condition in which a fertilized egg implants somewhere other than the uterus. She told NBC she struggled for seven years before finally giving birth to her first child in 2001 through in vitro fertilization.
Suleman said all her children have been born through in vitro fertilization, with sperm donated from a friend. The first six range in age from two to seven.
She has come under criticism from TV and radio commentators, bloggers and others who accused her of having more children than she appears prepared to care for. Some say she had the octuplets to cash in with a TV or book deal.
Suleman’s mother said she expects people’s opinions to change now that her daughter is going public.
“She’s a very likable person,” Angela Suleman said on Wednesday. “She’s basically normal except for this obsession she’s always had with children.”
Her daughter is also a good mother, Angela Suleman said.