Octuplet Mom: 8 Was a "Surprise" But a "Blessing"

By THOMAS WATKINS
|  Friday, Jan 30, 2009  |  Updated 6:53 PM CDT
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Doctors Discuss Octuplets

The small Whittier house where the mother of octuplets lives with her parents.

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Grandfather Chastises Media

For the first time, a family member talks about the octuplets.

LA County Octuplets' Mom Asks for Privacy

The grandparents of octuplets talk to the media, although the daughter says she wants privacy.
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WHITTIER, California  — The 33-year-old Southern California woman who gave birth to octuplets this week has six other children and never expected to have eight more when she took fertility treatment, her mother said.

Angela Suleman said her daughter expects a big challenge raising 14 children. The good news, she said, is all the babies appear healthy.

"I looked at those babies. They are so tiny and so beautiful," Suleman told The Los Angeles Times on Thursday.

Suleman's daughter gave birth to the octuplets Monday at a hospital in Bellflower but has requested that doctors keep her name confidential. Media knew little about the woman until a family acquaintance told CBS' "The Early Show" on Thursday that the mother is "fairly young" and lives with her parents and her six children.

The mother's father is a contractor who travels back and forth from Iraq. It's not known if she has a husband or boyfriend.

Also Friday, CBS News reported that the family filed for bankruptcy and abandoned home about 18 months ago. The mother has been  variously identified as a student working toward a master's degree in psychology and as an employee of a fertility clinic.

The six boys and two girls, the second octuplets born alive in the United States, have garnered worldwide attention as media have attempted to find out more about the mother and her family. Hours after media gathered outside the Whittier home, Kaiser issued a statement on behalf of the mother requesting privacy.

"Please know, in our own time, we will share additional details about this miraculous experience," the statement read. "The babies continue to grow strong every day and make good progress. My family and I are ecstatic about all of their arrivals. Needless to say the eighth was a surprise to us all, but a blessing as well."

Within hours, media had camped out at the family's home in Whittier, where the babies' grandfather pulled up in a minivan in the evening and briefly spoke to The Associated Press. Beside him were two children — a 7-year-old and 6-year-old — who said they were excited to have eight new siblings.

But the grandfather warned that media may have a tougher time finding the family after the babies are released from the hospital.

"We have a huge house, not here," said the man, who would only identify himself as Ed. "You are never going to know where it is."

The mother also has two children, ages 5 and 3, and 2-year-old twins, neighbors told the Times.

Suleman said her daughter had embryos implanted last year, and after finding out she was pregnant with multiple babies was given the option by doctors of selectively reducing the number of embryos. The woman declined.

"What do you suggest she should have done? She refused to have them killed," Suleman told the Times. "That is a very painful thing."

Dr. Harold Henry said the woman was already pregnant when she came to Kaiser Permanente Bellflower Medical Center, and she was counseled about the risks of her pregnancy and on the option of aborting some of the fetuses. Doctors had been expecting only seven babies, but an eighth was born in the cesarean delivery.

Dr. Mandhir Gupta said seven of the babies were breathing without assistance. One was still receiving oxygen through a tube in his nose.

Seven of the infants were being tube-fed donated breast milk. One of the boys was expected to begin feedings Friday.

All babies continued to receive an intravenous nutritional combination. They were expected to remain in the hospital for several more weeks.

Some fertility specialists have said the children face increased health risks because they are octuplets and born nine weeks premature. At birth, they ranged between 1 pound, 8 ounces (0.45 kilograms) and 3 pounds, 4 ounces (1.36 kilograms).

Doctors say they advise against higher-order births, but acknowledge the decision is not theirs to make.

"Who am I to say that six is the limit?" said Dr. Jeffrey Steinberg, medical director of Fertility Institutes, which has clinics in Los Angeles, Las Vegas and New York City. "There are people who like to have big families."

Dr. James Grifo, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the NYU School of Medicine, added: "I don't think it's our job to tell them how many babies they're allowed to have. I am not a policeman for reproduction in the United States. My role is to educate patients."

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