Teatime for the octuplets - in the world's biggest high chair

It starts with a solitary wail but quickly reaches a crescendo of ear-piercing proportions.

As eight hungry babies howl for their supper, their mother Nadya Suleman holds up her hands and says with a weary sigh: ' Welcome to the music of my house.'

Within seconds, the children's four full-time nannies start the well-rehearsed process of seating the children at their specially made semi-circular table with its eight bright yellow plastic seats.

Gradually, the noise subsides and a greedy, slurping calm descends as each is given a bottle.

Feeding frenzy: Nadya and her brood gather around the specially made semi-circular table. From left: Makai, Jonah, Isaiah, Maliyah, Nariyah, Noah, Josiah and Jeremiah

Feeding frenzy: Nadya and her brood gather around the specially made semi-circular table. From left: Makai, Jonah, Isaiah, Maliyah, Nariyah, Noah, Josiah and Jeremiah

Nadya, you may recall, achieved overnight celebrity last January when she gave birth to the world's second surviving set of octuplets - the first set, the Chukwu children of Houston, Texas, will shortly celebrate their 11th birthday.

But fascination with the so-called 'Octomom' turned to almost universal revulsion when it was revealed that the 34-year-old is single, unemployed and already had six children under the age of eight. Furthermore, all 14 of her brood were conceived through IVF using the sperm of Nadya's ex-boyfriend, a man who says he wants no part in their future. Even worse, she was claiming £2,500 a month from the state of California in food stamps and benefits.

Multi-million-dollar endorsement deals from nappy and baby-food companies were quickly rescinded. Nadya received dozens of death threats, had an army of paparazzi camped on her doorstep and became the butt of tawdry jokes.

But today they live in a detached, four-bedroom house in a quiet cul de sac in a family neighbourhood of Los Angeles, bought from the proceeds of a £500,000 deal with an American magazine.

And it is impossible not to be moved by the sight of eight ten-month-old babies lined up at dinner time.

They are, Nadya insists, remarkably healthy and are regularly tested. 'They are still young, but at the moment they are perfect. If they do develop problems, we will deal with it. But, touch wood, they are good so far,' she says. 

Cover up: Miss Suleman takes drapes blankets over her babies as she takes them for a walk earlier this year

Cover up: Miss Suleman drapes blankets over her babies as she takes them for a walk earlier this year

Nadya is a slight figure, weighing just eight stone - down from her pregnant weight of 17 stone. Her jet-black hair is blowdried to perfection and her nails are coated in a flawless French manicure. Her make-up is immaculate and she speaks in short, staccato sentences.

It is a warm Californian afternoon and the octuplets are taken into the garden by two of the babies' four full-time assistants. Nadya's three eldest children Elijah, eight, Amerah, seven, and Joshua Jack, six, are still at school.

Her severely autistic four-year-old son Aiden is asleep upstairs, as are her three-year-old twins Calyssa and Caleb.

One of the helpers prepares food in the kitchen while another does housework upstairs. As we sit on a brown sofa stained with blue paint, Nadya waves an arm around her toy-filled living room and says: 'This whole house is like a giant playroom. I try to keep it neat and tidy, but it's hard sometimes. Once they all start crying, and if the older ones are running around, it can be bedlam.'

It is a refrain heard from many young mothers, none of whom has had 14 children by IVF. Nadya says her lonely upbringing as the only child of immigrant parents lies behind her lifelong desire for a big family.

Her father Ed was born in Palestine and is a translator in Iraq. Her mother, Angela, is a Lithuanian retired teacher who lives 15 minutes away from Nadya.

The two women are estranged after Angela said in an interview that her daughter was 'an unfit mother' whose actions were 'unconscionable'. Says Nadya: 'My mum never stopped telling me that she didn't want children. I was

always so lonely. When I played with dolls, I always had mummy and daddy and at least ten babies. I longed for babies. I had a hole inside that I knew only babies would fill.'

She was married at 19, but the relationship crumbled after she suffered a series of miscarriages and was told her only hope of motherhood lay with IVF. 'I realised it wasn't him I loved, it was the idea of a family,' she says bluntly. 'We were finished after a couple of years.'

At 24, Nadya was injured during a riot at a psychiatric institution where she worked. She was awarded £150,000 compensation and her quest for children began through a fertility clinic: 'I had this platonic friend. He had been more than a platonic friend on one occasion, and I asked him to help. To my surprise he said "yes".

'Some people get addicted to drugs - I got addicted to having babies'

'Once Elijah was born, I knew I wanted more. I did it with the donor's knowledge. He made sperm donations six times. I kept going back. When I held my babies in my arms, I felt a love and a bond I had never known before. Each time, I felt happy and then a few months later I knew I wanted more.'

Did she ever feel concerned about bringing so many babies into the world without a father? 'Looking back, I admit I made immature decisions. I wanted children to fill a hole in me. Perhaps it was selfish. Some people get addicted to drugs. I got addicted to having babies.'

She says she planned to have 'only one more' when she was impregnated with six embryos - two subsequently split to produce a total of eight babies.

Medical protocol says that only two to three embryos should be implanted in cases such as hers and her doctor, Michael Kamrava, has since been expelled from the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.

The last time she spoke to the biological father of her children - who is now married - was shortly before the birth of the octuplets. 'I called him and told him I was expecting and he said, "Not twins again" and I said, " Carry on" and he got all the way through the numbers three, four, five . . . when he got to seven, I said, "Yup."

There was just silence on the other end of the line. Then he hung up. I've not heard from him since.' Her eight babies were delivered on January 26 --Noah, Maliyah, Isaiah, Nariyah, Jonah, Jeremiah, Josiah and the surprise baby Makai, who had not been detected during her pregnancy.

'When I came home, I thought people would love me,' she says. 'But I was getting hate mail and death threats. I just cried and cried.'

She insists she currently does not take a penny from the state, surviving instead on money she earns from photographs of the octuplets and various television projects. Her finances are handled by her lawyer, Jeff Czech, who pays her bills and has set up individual trust funds for each of the octuplets. She bristles when asked if she is 'cashing

in'. 'Look, I'm damned if I do, and damned if I don't,' she says angrily. 'I don't take money from the state and I have to put food on the table. My costs are enormous. I can't go out and get a conventional job because my babies need me here. So the one thing I can sell is them but if I do that, people attack me.'

'I thought people would love me but I was getting death threats'

Nevertheless, she manages to employ six staff: four nannies during the day (two for the octuplets and two for the older children) and then a woman who comes at 6pm to help with bathing and bedtime and a night nurse who stays with the octuplets in their downstairs nursery while Nadya and the older children sleep upstairs.

Food costs a further £2,500 a month: 'We get through four gallons of milk a day. We do eight to ten loads of laundry each day. Yes, I sell pictures of the children and I've sold TV rights but is that exploiting them? You decide. I don't really have time to worry about it . . . I didn't set out to have this life.'

It is a typical Nadya statement. When I gently point out that, actually, she was completely in charge of having her brood of 14, she snaps: 'No, I wasn't. I only had one at a time and then twins. I thought I was getting one more. I didn't think I would get eight.' Why didn't she choose to selectively reduce the pregnancy, as the doctors recommended? 'How could I?' she says. 'You might make a different decision from me but when I was told there were seven babies in there, I couldn't make the decision to kill one and not the other.'

One of the most troubling scenes in the Channel 4 documentary shows her eldest son Elijah, who suffers from Attention Deficit Disorder, throwing a tantrum which ends with him hurling a screwdriver at his mother, drawing blood from her nose.

She admits Elijah suffers from such jealousy and anxiety over the octuplets that, aged eight, he still insists on sleeping in her bed at night.

Does she honestly believe she can be a good mother to all 14 and give each child the attention it deserves?

'No, I don't think any mother can give a child the attention it deserves. And, yes, I agree with you that in my circumstances that is impossible.

'I have help and I do my best. You can't undo what I have done. The babies are here. I just have to get on.'

In another disturbing scene in the documentary, Nadya is seen screaming at her mother. Today, she says she is attempting a rapprochement: 'I am trying to teach my children about forgiveness and love but when your own mother sells you out to the tabloids it makes you distrustful.

'I talk to my mother on the phone now and we are trying to work things out.' She adds: 'I think we both need to see a shrink.' Then the wailing starts. As each child is fed their bottle and quietens down, Nadya fusses and talks to them. She opens one of two industrial-size fridges in the kitchen and shows me scores of carefully labelled plastic containers with various pureed baby food. 'We make all the baby food here - we puree chicken and vegetables.'

'With older ones it's: "Hey you, whatever your name is"'

After feeding time, the babies are laid down (again by their nannies) in eight cribs in a blue-painted nursery off the kitchen. The words God's Little Angels are painted across a wall. On another wall is a white marker board with the names of the eight babies with columns marked 'Next feeding', 'Poop' and 'How much'. It feels like a baby production line.

I am left alone in the nursery with one of the nannies, who tells me: 'We have to work to a schedule. Sometimes Miss Nadya doesn't realise that. She's a good lady but she has no idea.'

Nadya admits to getting confused between her brood. 'When you have all the babies going crazy, it's hard to tell one from the other. With the older ones it's "Hey you" or "Whateveryour-name-is."'

Throughout our two hours together, she becomes most animated when I compliment her on her figure. 'Oh thank you, I think it is most important to stay strong and healthy, for my own sake and my children's.'

She manages to fit a two-hoursaday workout into her routine. 'Most days I get up at between 5 and 6am. The day staff arrive at 6am and they feed the babies and we get the older kids ready for school and then I take the kids to school.

'Most mornings, I will either come back and spend time with the babies or take myself off to a local library to write my book.' The book is another attempt to provide income for her family. 'Then it's lunchtime, and in the afternoon we go to the park with the octuplets and then the older kids come back from school and it's feeding and bathing and all the madness of getting everyone ready for bed,' she says.

'I don't normally sit down until 10pm. Then I will write or, normally, go to the gym for a couple of hours.'

I wonder aloud if the children will ever have a father figure in their lives. Nadya says: 'At the moment, my lawyer Jeff is the main fatherfigure. The older kids definitely behave better when he's in the house. They respect him. They don't listen to me.

'I've not had a boyfriend for a decade now. The longer you go, the less you need it. I've not needed a man in my life. I don't even remember what sex is like. I would love to get married but who would take me on with 14 children?

'And if I met someone, I would have to be very certain they were going to be in my life long-term.'

Would she consider having any more babies? 'Oh definitely. There is always room for one more. But only if I was married.'

Octomom: Me And My 14 Kids is on Channel 4 at 9pm on Thursday, November 12.

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