Veil about to be lifted on octuplets' mystery mom

WHITTIER, Calif. (AP) — Reporters from all over the map have camped outside her doorstep and surrounded the hospital where she gave birth to eight healthy babies last week, but people still don't know much about Nadya Suleman. That's about to change.

After managing to avoid reporters as she left the hospital Thursday morning, Suleman headed for her first interview, with Ann Curry of NBC's "Today" show. One of the octuplets mother's hastily hired publicists said she is staying at "an undisclosed location" while she considers offers including possible book and TV deals.

NBC News spokeswoman Megan Kopf said Suleman was not paid for the interview. An air-date announcement was expected later Thursday.

Not even a photo of Suleman has emerged and public records shed little light on her. The 33-year-old single mother, who now has 14 children under the age of 8, has used different names over the years and has been married and divorced once.

State documents disclosed Thursday to The Associated Press show that she received more than $165,000 in disability payments for a back injury suffered during a riot at the mental-health hospital where she worked. The payments were made between 2002 and 2008, during which time Suleman gave birth to most of her six other children.

The documents, provided to the AP on Thursday following a public records request to the Department of Mental Health, also show that Suleman had three miscarriages before she first became a mother.

Neighbors say that while Suleman is quick to smile and wave to them, she generally keeps to herself.

"She's a very pretty woman and, yes, she's very friendly when I see her," said Thelma Steinweg, who said Suleman moved next door on the quiet, narrow cul de sac about three years ago.

"But I usually only see her going in or out of her house or on the steps, shouting at the kids when they're playing in the yard," Steinweg added.

As she spoke she glanced at Suleman's small front yard, littered with children's toys. A child's car seat sat propped up near the front door. From the front porch, Suleman's mother could be heard inside, singing to a crying child.

While Suleman, whose 14 children were conceived by in vitro fertilization, declined to speak publicly for days, she has come under criticism from TV and radio commentators, bloggers and others who have accused her of irresponsibly having more children than she appears prepared to care for. Some have accused her of having the octuplets in an effort to cash in with a TV or book deal.

Although her publicists acknowledge she is reviewing such offers, one of her friends said she simply loves children and didn't get pregnant for profit.

"She's not even interested in that right now," said Jessica Zepeda, who lives down the street. "It's funny and sad in a way, there's a lot of people saying really negative things and they don't know her."

Suleman's mother said she expects people's opinions to change when her daughter goes public with her story.

"She's a very likable person," said Angela Suleman, who spoke briefly with a reporter on her doorstep Wednesday. "She's basically normal except for this obsession she's always had with children."

Nadya Suleman, who public records show has held a license as a mental health technician, was listed on the payroll of Metropolitan State Hospital in Norwalk from 1997 until last year. State records show that for much of that time, she was unable to work.

She was injured at the hospital on Sept. 18, 1999, during a riot of 20 patients. While restraining a patient, she was struck in the back by a desk hurled by another patient.

During an August 2008 exam, Dr. Steven Nagelberg attributed 90 percent of her injury to the work incident and 10 percent to her pregnancy.

An August 2001 psychological evaluation in her workers' compensation file said Suleman had three miscarriages before having a baby. When Suleman learned that she was pregnant with her first child, the report quotes her as saying, "It's the most wonderful, best thing that's ever happened in my life."

Suleman's mother said her daughter hasn't worked since soon after becoming pregnant with her octuplets. She has also had to discontinue her pursuit of a master's degree at California State University, Fullerton, where she earned a bachelor's degree in child care development.

"She may not be able to finish her master's degree now and she was so close to wrapping it up," her mother said Wednesday.

Nadya Suleman's publicist Mike Furtney said she has told him it's her dream to eventually earn a Ph.D. in some field involving counseling.

Furtney said Suleman is "feeling great" and looking forward to being reunited with her octuplets, who are expected to remain in the hospital for several more weeks.

"She's happy to be out of the hospital, although she misses her children," he said. "She can't wait until they join her."

The octuplets were born nine weeks prematurely and will be released from the hospital individually as they hit a near-normal newborn weight.

"At this point in their development, they are not mature enough to coordinate the suckling and swallowing at the same time to be bottle-fed," said Dr. Mandhir Gupta, the hospital's neonatologist.

According to Steinweg, Suleman initially thought only six of the eight embryos she had implanted in her womb last year had survived. She learned later in her pregnancy that seven had. She was surprised again on the day she gave birth to learn there were actually eight. Born Jan. 26, the children are now the longest known surviving octuplets in history.

It still isn't clear who their father is, or who fathered Suleman's other six children, who range in age from 2 to 7.

Suleman listed a David Solomon as the father on the birth certificates for her first four children but gave a different birthday for him on each certificate and listed both Israel and California as his place of birth. He could not be located for comment.

She listed no father on the birth certificates for her fifth and sixth children, twins born in 2006.

Suleman herself has been known by different names over the years, including Natalie Suleman, Natalie Gutierrez, Nadya Gutierrez and Nadya Doud.

Suleman was married to Marcos Gutierrez in 1996 and was divorced last year, according to public records. Gutierrez did not return calls to numbers listed for him, and his divorce lawyer, Roberto Gil, declined to comment.

Divorce papers state the couple split up in 2000 and had no children, although Suleman had given birth to her first six children by the time the divorce was finalized.

Public records show Suleman's father has used the last names Doud and Suleman. Her parents married in Las Vegas in 1974 and divorced in 1999. Suleman was their only child.

Associated Press writers Shaya Tayefe Mohajer and Thomas Watkins contributed to this story.