January 31, 2009 in Nation/World

Mother of eight wanted ‘one more girl’

Friends, family say woman is a good, if obsessed, parent
By Jessica Garrison and Kimi Yoshino Los Angeles Times
 

Nadya Suleman’s goal in life was to be a mother, her friends and family said. That is why, even with a brood of six including 2-year-old twins, she decided to have more embryos transferred, in hopes, her mother said Friday, of getting “just one more girl.”

“And look what happened. Octuplets. Dear God,” said Angela Suleman, four days after her 33-year-old daughter became only the second person in the U.S. ever to give birth to eight babies at once.

Suleman stressed that her daughter “is not evil, but she is obsessed with children. She loves children, she is very good with children, but obviously she overdid herself.”

Angela Suleman said all the children are from the same sperm donor, but she did not identify him. Her daughter is divorced, but Suleman said the ex-husband was not the father.

Fertility experts, including the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, have raised concerns about the number of embryos implanted and whether it was within medical guidelines.

“I cannot see circumstances where any reasonable physician would transfer (so many) embryos into a woman under the age of 35 under any circumstance,” said Arthur Wisot, a fertility doctor in Redondo Beach, Calif., and the author of “Conceptions and Misconceptions.”

Doctors likely could not deny treatment to a woman simply because she already has children, but they should have taken steps to make sure she did not have so many babies, he said.

“I certainly think you can talk to her about it if you feel like she’s making a decision that’s not in her best interest or the interest of her children,” Wisot said. “You can send her for psychological evaluation, but I honestly don’t know if you can say, ‘No, I won’t take care of you because you have too many children.’ ”

The California Medical Board, which investigates doctors, and the California Department of Public Health, which licenses clinics and hospitals, said no doctors or facilities are currently being investigated regarding the births. It is also unlikely that the Los Angeles County Department of Child and Family Services would get involved unless they receive a complaint of child abuse or neglect. Allison Frickert, a friend of Suleman’s, said the mother simply wanted more kids.

“Her whole life, she couldn’t wait to be a mom,” Frickert said.

“That was her No. 1 goal. … It was not any intention other than to have children. There was no overriding situation, other than having more children to love. But financial or fame was not part of her intention.”

Friends and family also reported that Suleman worked as a psychiatric technician until she was injured on the job several years ago. Then she began having children and enrolled in school.

Suleman graduated from California State University, Fullerton, in 2006, with a bachelor’s degree in child and adolescent development, school officials said. She returned in the graduate program to pursue a master’s in counseling but last attended in the spring of 2008.

By juggling school and six children, Frickert said Suleman proved to be “a lot more capable than the average person in handling stress.”

Just how the family will care for the 14 children may be challenging.

In 2008, Angela Suleman filed for bankruptcy, claiming nearly $1 million in liabilities, mostly because of a bad house investment, her bankruptcy attorney said.

They are living in a 1,550-square-foot home in Whittier, Calif., and Nadya Suleman’s father has been working in Iraq as a translator to help support the family.

As the media camped outside the house, Suleman’s mother said in a telephone interview that she could not really explain her daughter’s decision.

Her daughter has always loved children, her mother said.

Then she sighed. “I wish she would have become a kindergarten teacher.”

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