When a mother of 6 children became pregnant with octuplets, it was only a matter of time before word spread about the biological miracle. The big-bellied woman quickly received the moniker “Octomom,” and she had as many critics as she did fans.

While the persona of Octomom grew larger than life, behind the cameras and interviews was a single mother of 14, struggling to get by. What we see in the media is never the whole story, and this mamma’s tale might be an even bigger surprise than her number of offspring…

 In 2008, a phenomenon was born — or rather, was about to be born. When the press got wind of a California woman pregnant with octuplets, everybody quickly knew her new moniker: Octomom. But nobody truly knew her story… until now.

 Nadya Suleman was born to be a mother, or at least she believed so. The native Californian’s caring nature shone through in her love for people and her desire to help them, starting with her choice of career path.

 She attended college in her early twenties and earned a psychiatric technician’s license at Mt. San Antonio College. She soon began working at Metropolitan State Hospital, though it wouldn’t be for long.

 That’s because disaster struck one fateful day in 1999. The patients began to riot. One patient ended up flipping a wooden desk, which landed on Nadya, causing her serious injury and forcing her to quit the job.

 At the time, she was married to a produce manager named Marcos Gutierrez. They looked at her leaving her job as a blessing in disguise: now they could finally start a family. 

But despite several attempts to get pregnant, Nadya’s womb remained empty. The couple was devastated by their new normal. They feared their dream of a big family was at stake.

Endless medical tests later, the couple received word from their doctor: Marcos was sterile. Their doctor, Michael Kamrava, suggested In-Vitro Fertilization, but there was a serious problem. 

You see, Nadya’s husband Marcos didn’t want to hear any of it. In fact, he presented Nadya a life-changing ultimatum: him or the IVF. 

 As her later moniker revealed, Nadya clearly chose children. Unable to wait any longer, her egg cells were successfully fertilized and implanted. 

Although this method can create multiple fetuses at once, she would only be expecting one child. Her first pregnancy was a go, and Nadya couldn’t be happier.

 In 2001, Nadya’s first child was born: a son named Elijah. Ecstatic as she was to bring him into the world, her desire for kids was not yet satisfied, and she returned to Dr. Kamrava only a few months later.

During Nadya’s second run of IVF, she was once again reminded that this procedure could lead to twins or triplets, but Nadya didn’t mind. However, for the second time, she was only pregnant with one child, a daughter named Amerah. 

Over the next few years, Nadya continued to return to Dr. Kamrava and his IVF treatments. She gave birth to a set of twins and two other children, making her a single mother of 6. 

Her family and friends began to worry about Nadya’s obsession with reproducing, but nobody could get between her and her dream. It seemed like her doctor supported her.

In 2008, photos emerged of what would be Nadya’s final pregnancy, and the entire world was stunned. What should have been a joyous time for Nadya was transformed into something else entirely. 

She was pregnant with eight children at once, and while some mocked her big belly, others showed serious concern over the health of both Nadya and her future babies.

That’s because multiple births are very, very dangerous. In fact, not one case of living octuplets had ever been recorded, making the stakes for Nadya and her growing family that much higher…

How could this be possible? A woman of Nadya’s age should not have had more than 2 or 3 egg cells implanted, so how did Nadya end up with 8? It turned out that Dr. Kamrava had implanted her with a whopping dozen egg cells. He rightfully lost his license for putting his patient in danger, even though she had wanted it all.

Naturally, this pregnancy was no easy one. By the end of it, Nadya could barely stand, and couldn’t wait to give birth. On January 26, 2009, she finally got her wish. One after another she brought her babies into the world, but would they all survive?

After several weeks in the hospital, Nadya could finally take all eight of her babies home, but there was little time to celebrate. The family was bombarded by the press, until Nadya decided to make the best of it, and signed several media contracts to be able to provide for her children. This was only the start of her life in the spotlight.

Being famous didn’t come easy for Nadya. People lined up outside of her home and sent death threats until her landlord had enough and evicted her and her 14 children. Nadya was on thin ice, but the media money was rolling in, and she needed it.

All the attention was taking its toll on her, and she could no longer distinguish between herself and the character she was playing: Octomom. “I hate babies, they disgust me,” she said in an interview. “Obviously, I love them — but I absolutely wish I had not had them.” It wasn’t looking good for the Suleman family.

It was clear that Nadya was desperate: She starred in her own adult film, went on a stripping tour through the country, and recorded a couple of songs with musician Adam Barta. Her name drew attention to the projects, but not enough to break through.

 In the midst of all these projects, Nadya still had a full-time job as a single mom. She had help from a few family members, but it still came down to her raising 14 kids alone.

“I don’t get much sleep, about two or three hours a night,” she said. “But I’m continuing to move forward with my life and trying to be the best mother I can be.”

Feeling like she sold her soul to afford her family, she decided to step out of the spotlight. She hated the term Octomom. She hated the constant press in her life.

She hated when her oldest daughter, Amerah, put on her stripper heels to be just like mommy. She hated losing touch with her children. Nadya wanted out.

After going on welfare, she was able to go back to school and earned a degree in child and adolescent development at California State University in Fullerton. However, it wasn’t Nadya who attended the school… it was Natalie Suleman, Nadya’s new name, symbolizing her turning her life around.

Natalie is doing much better these days and keeps up an Instagram account called the Solomon Family, where she documents her everyday life as an unemployed mom of 14. In her posts, she advocates for emotional support, family time, and healthy diets. In fact, most of her kids are vegan!

Natalie was not the first person to lose herself in the spotlight, and she certainly won’t be the last. Still, there is a happy ending. She went back to her roots, her family is happy and healthy, she feels confident in her parenting skills, and after taking up boxing, Natalie is stronger in more ways than one!

Though they’ve avoided media scrutiny, the McCaughey family turned heads with the worlds first surviving septuplets. Do you feel overwhelmed looking at this picture? This was just another day in the life of Bobbi McCaughey of Des Moines, Iowa.

She and her husband Kenny already had one daughter, Mikayla. By 1997, they felt ready for another child, and Bobbi, who struggled with fertility, started a steady regimen of the fertility drug Metrodin.

The couple was overjoyed when they found out they were expecting. However, the ultrasound revealed a huge surprise: Bobbi was pregnant with seven children! No woman had ever delivered so many at once before.

Bobbi’s abdomen swelled to an unbelievable size, and that wasn’t the only difficult position she found herself in. A doctor recommended the selective reduction method which would reduce the number of embryos in her womb.

However, the McCaughey’s Christian faith led them to the conclusion that selective reduction wasn’t for them. They chose to leave the remainder of Bobbi’s pregnancy ‘in God’s hands.’

Then the big day came. On November 19, Kenny Jr., Alexis, Natalie, Kelsey, Nathan, Brandon, and Joel were born, all within six minutes of one another. They made history as the first surviving septuplets.

Bobbi and Kenny were unsure how to deal with seven newborns at first, but luckily they weren’t alone. Thanks to local news coverage, generous donations of baby supplies came flooding in.

Devon Preparatory School

The most generous of the donors even gave the McCaugheys a 5,000 square foot house! That was key because a family that big takes up quite a bit of space.

An army of caregivers also volunteered to lend a hand with the eight children. This was particularly important as two of them, Alexis and Nathan, had cerebral palsy.

The McCaugheys were such a media sensation that Time featured them in an issue and Oprah Winfrey invited them to appear on her show. But was the notoriety starting to become too much?

Sometimes strangers wrote letters to the parents, accusing them of exploiting their children. Others knocked on their door at any hour of the day and asked to hold and take photos with the septuplets.

Good Housekeeping

A major wake-up call arrived in the form of a phone call from the Dionne quintuplets, five sisters who became a tourist attraction in the 1930s. They advised the McCaugheys to keep their kids out of the spotlight and raise them as normally as possible.

Bobbi and Kenny took that to heart. The family still made a bit of a spectacle wherever they went, but they politely requested that the cameras and reporters give them some privacy.

Corbis / Ambassador / Sygma

The decision paid off in spades. The septuplets had a wonderful childhood, one filled with family gatherings and shared birthday parties. Smart choice by the parents to only put seven candles on that cake!

The parents granted the occasional media check-in, but were otherwise happy to be fenced-off from the American public. It allowed them to savor each milestone the siblings hit.

At age 16, all of them learned to drive at the same time! By that we mean they would take turns behind the wheel, not that they all steered at once. The situation was already chaotic enough for mom and dad!

Alexis competed in beauty pageants for special needs children. In 2013, she overcame a large field to win the Miss Teen Dream Made True contest!

Daily Press Herald

In high school, all seven kids played in the marching band before graduating in 2015. For the first time in their lives, the siblings were splitting off in separate directions.

NBC News

Natalie, Nathan, Kelsey, and Joel received full rides to Hannibal-LaGrange University. Meanwhile, Kenny Jr. and Alexis attended Des Moines Area Community College, just a short distance from their home.

Des Moines Register

Brandon, on the other hand, took a different path and joined the United States Army. He later became the first sibling to marry, as he wed his sweetheart Alana in the summer of 2018.

Now that they’re empty nesters, Kenny and Bobbi say they wouldn’t have raised their family any other way. That being said, they are glad to have some more time to themselves, while still having their kids very close by!