I took a risk, admits mother of octuplets

Woman at centre of row breaks silence to defend multiple birth

Giving birth to eight babies was the easy part. Now the mother of record-breaking octuplets born in Los Angeles last week has begun the arduous second leg of her incredible journey: the inevitable trial by media.

Nadya Suleman, the 33-year-old woman who is now bringing up a total of 14 children, despite being both single and unemployed, spoke publicly for the first time yesterday, revealing that she had always wanted a "huge family" to compensate for a lonely childhood.

"I didn't feel as though, when I was a child, I had much control of my environment," she told the broadcaster NBC. "I felt powerless. And that gave me a sense of predictability. Reflecting back on my childhood, I know it wasn't functional. It was pretty... pretty dysfunctional, and whose isn't?"

The babies, who are on course to become the first recorded octuplets to survive into infancy, were produced by in vitro fertilisation, admitted Ms Suleman. She instructed doctors to ignore industry safety guidelines by implanting six previously frozen embryos in her womb.

"I wanted them all transferred," she said. "Those were my children. And that's what was available. I used them. I took a risk. It's a gamble. It always is... Sometimes when you have a dream and a passion, you take risks. And I did, and it turned out perfectly."

Ms Suleman admitted that her actions could be seen as reckless, but said that most public condemnation was prompted by her decision to raise the children single-handedly. The sperm used in the procedure was donated by a friend, she said.

"A lot of couples, usually it's couples, do undergo this procedure, and it's not as controversial because they are couples so it's more acceptable to society. I'm under the microscope because I have chosen this more unconventional kind of life. I didn't intend on it being unconventional. It just turned out like that. All I wanted was children. That's all I ever wanted in my life."

The comments form part of a five-minute clip of Ms Suleman's interview with NBC's Ann Curry which was broadcast on the channel's Today show yesterday. The full interview, together with pictures of the children, is due to be aired on Monday and Tuesday. Asked how she will provide for her large family, Ms Suleman, who was wearing nine hospital wristbands – her own, plus one for each of the eight new arrivals – said that she was counting on family and friends, together with her church in Whittier, California, to muck in while she trains to become a counsellor.

"I know I'll be able to afford them once I'm done with my schooling," she said. "If I were just sitting down, watching TV, and not being as determined as I am to succeed and provide a better future for my children, I believe that would be considered to a certain degree selfish."

Ms Suleman added that she was currently "bonding" with the new arrivals by devoting 45 minutes a day to individually holding each child. "I'm providing myself to my children," she said. "I'm loving them unconditionally, accepting them unconditionally... I'll stop my life for them, and be present for them, and hold them, and be with them. And how many parents can do that?"

Ms Suleman has already promised to refuse welfare payments. However her financial worries may soon feel less pressing: she has already retained a Hollywood PR adviser, and although NBC did not pay for its exclusive interview, magazine rights for the first pictures of her new children have been valued at up to $2m (£1.3m).

That is unlikely to completely silence critics, though. On Thursday, the Medical Board of California began an investigation into the births "to see if we can substantiate a violation of the standard of care". Previous doctors' reports obtained by the Associated Press showed that Ms Suleman has previously suffered depression.

Eight bracelets for eight babies

*Eight hospital identity bracelets – one for each of her babies – were still visible on Nadya Suleman's wrists. It is standard procedure in maternity units to fix matching bracelets on mother and baby. With eight, Ms Suleman would otherwise have been at high risk of confusing her offspring with those of other mothers. Each time a nurse brought a baby to her, she would have checked that the name and number on its bracelet matched one of those on Ms Suleman's wrists.

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