The octuplets born two weeks ago to an unemployed single mother in southern California have gained not just ounces but now also names as first pictures of the brood were released from inside the neonatal clinic where they were delivered.
The mother, Nadya Suleman, defended her decision to undergo the fertility treatment that resulted in the multiple births, even though she already had six children at home under the age of eight. "I was so fixated on wanting so many that I kept going," she said in an interview with NBC that aired yesterday.
Even as the controversy grows over the choices made by Ms Suleman, 33, and the fertility clinic that treated her, named yesterday as the West Coast IVF Clinic in Beverly Hills, attention was returned for a day at least to the children themselves. All eight – six boys and two girls – continue to do well, though they are expected to remain hospitalised for several weeks.
Video footage from NBC shows Ms Suleman introducing each of the babies, delivered by Caesarean section on 26 January, by name from their incubators. "Hi, Maliah, your eyes are open," she is heard to say at one of the incubators, putting her hand on the head of the baby before moving to the next child. "This is Noah and he's doing well. He's blond, the only one with blond hair." The other six are named Jonah, Nariah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, McCai and Josiah.
Ms Suleman also spoke of her frustration over having to shuttle between the hospital in Bellflower, California, to be with her newborns and the home of her mother, Angela Suleman, to visit her first six children. "Hi, Josiah, I wish I could stay all day long, but I can't," she says. "Your brothers and sisters at home want to see you ... I can't wait until they're all together. We are not a whole family."
If the successful birth of the eight babies has fed the mushy instincts of many Americans, the reaction to pictures of the home awaiting them may not be so warm. Photographs published on the gossip website Radar shows rooms overflowing with young children and clothes spilling out of cupboards. The photographer said there was food on the walls and called the house "filthy".
In an interview with Radar, Angela Suleman voiced for the first time a less charitable opinion of her daughter's actions, calling them "unconscionable". She is largely left to look after the six older children while her daughter is at the hospital with the octuplets. "She already has six beautiful children, why would she do this?" she says in the videotaped interview. "I'm struggling to look after six. We had to put in bunk beds, feed them in shifts and there's children's clothing piled all over the house."
Angela Suleman revealed that Nadya's boyfriend had donated the sperm that fathered the first six babies, who were also born following in vitro fertilisation, as well as the octuplets. "He was in love with her and wanted to marry her," she said. "But Nadya wanted to have children on her own."
The two women have given conflicting accounts of whether Ms Suleman used the same fertility doctors to establish both pregnancies. The identity of the doctors responsible for implanting the embryos that led to the delivery of the octuplets has not been released, but yesterday video footage from 2006 emerged that seems to show Dr Michael Kamrava, who works at the West Coast IVF Clinic, treating Ms Suleman and discussing the implantation process with her. State health regulators are believed to have begun an investigation into whether any laws or regulations were broken by the clinic.
In her interview, Ms Suleman mentions having grown up as an only child and feeling a lack of human connection, and suggests that this may have influenced her desire to have as big a family as possible. "All I wanted was children," she says. "I wanted to be a mom. That's all I ever wanted in my life."
But she firmly denied having sought such a dramatic number of children as a means to getting financial help from the government or anyone else. Nor, she says, was she seeking celebrity. "That's funny how untrue that is," she said. "Money? Money is necessary to raise children. But it's – it's paper. It is paper. To me, it is superfluous in contrast to the importance of my kids."
Money issues lurk behind some of the criticism of her, however. Medical experts have calculated that the care being given in the hospital to the babies, from delivery to the moment they are discharged, may cost $3m (£2m).