Nadya Suleman… aka Octomom
There’s one thing we need to get clear right from the start – Nadya Suleman is not a stupid woman.
Oh, don’t get me wrong, she’s nuttier than a squirrel’s diet. But the great revelation from spending some time with the woman known as Octomom is that, behind the deranged character that society has forced her to assume, there is a fascinating mind.
We’ve heard a lot about her life… in a superficial sense, at least.
We’ve seen the headlines and probably become involved in the gossipy tattling and ill-informed judgements. So to walk into the lair of the beast was a fascinating experience.
I was there as the producer for The Morning Show, with host Larry Emdur and camera crew in tow.
For a good part of her morning, Octomom let us in and showed us her life – complete with her 14 young children.
When we first arrived at her house, we weren’t even sure she was there.
Several layers of security, a doorbell ripped from its fittings and unanswered knocks at her door were later explained to be because of her fears from stalkers and death threats.
With a couple of phone calls, though, she came to the door to let us in.
The first impression of the house can’t even be properly described with the word ‘chaos’.
There were toys strewn across every room of the house; crayon drawings on walls everywhere; a strange odour lingering in the air; and, from every vantage-point, wide-eyed children peering out from doorways and staircases.
Then, of course, there was Octomom – a woman who personifies chaos with every word she utters and every action she makes. And during the time we were with her, there were a lot of words and a lot of actions.
This woman did not stop moving and talking for the entire time. There was an energy about her that was enviable (if not slightly terrifying).
As she talked to us, and explained the psychology of her decisions, she picked up toys, put clothes on children, cooked chicken lunch, rearranged furniture and – most of all – watched over her young like a sentry on crystal meth.
How hard it must be to keep track of them all.
The octuplets are now freely moving around the lower level of the house, able to walk into potential hazards at every turn.
Some of the older children have free reign of all the rooms.
Caleb, one of the 4-year-old twins, is kept in line by Nadya shouting “Caleb, say hi!” every ten minutes so his response can reassure her.
The whole time she talks – oh, how she talks!
Nadya studied psychology when she was younger and she likes to drop in references to cases or theories to explain and justify where she has ended up in life. The sentences roll from her so easily, you get the feeling she has rehearsed them many times in her mind, alone in the house with no adult companions to talk with.
She tells us about her parents and an unfulfilling childhood.
She reveals panic attacks that keep her from leaving the house… except, as we later discover, to go to the gym and the shops.
She even repeats her assertion that 99 per cent of men are potential paedophiles and that’s why she could never have a boyfriend and bring him into this house.
It’s a strange thing to say and you have to assume it’s either the product of an unstable mind or a calculated comment to create more media attention for herself.
The media has become a double-edged sword for Octomom.
The US networks and magazines will pay her a lot of money for interviews and access to the family and it’s basically how she makes a living these days. But then they’re very quick to misquote her or twist an answer into a tabloid headline.
She needs the media to feed the children, yet it seems every time she gives an interview she also gives away a bit of her soul and dignity.
At one point she joked (although, she may have actually been quite serious, in an oddly deluded way) that she wants half of her children to become doctors so the family can be wealthy.
Watching the interactions in the house, it’s hard not to think she should settle for them just growing up and having normal lives.
Lunch this day was chicken nuggets (heated in the microwave). Normally the kids get their own plate, she tells us, but today she just piles all the nuggets onto one paper plate (it saves on washing up) and puts it on the table for them to share.
They dive in like seagulls deprived of a decent meal for days.
When one of the children starts crying because he didn’t get his own plate, she grabs his face and repeated the world “control” until he’s quiet.
It’s slightly uncomfortable to watch the intensity with which she does this but, to her credit, it’s effective and he stops his wailing long enough to eat some more chicken nuggets.
After observing life in the house, there is no doubt that Nadya is a good mother in the sense that she has dedicated her life to them.
Every waking minute of her day is spent caring and providing for them and she clearly makes an effort to teach them discipline.
There is a great paradox, though, because no matter the effort, it must be impossible to give each child the attention they need when you have fourteen of them.
It was exhausting being there for just a short period of time. Just imagine what it’s going to be like to do this every waking minute for the next decade or more!