Nadya Suleman immediately became tabloid fodder -- and dubbed "Octomom" -- after giving birth to octuplets in 2009. Nearly eight years later, she shares how difficult it was to escape the media frenzy.
"My history was haunting us," says Suleman, who now goes by "Natalie," during an appearance on Tuesday's The Doctors. "I left Octomom. I went back to my life as a counselor. My kids had a happy, healthy life. The problem is this: it's followed us, because people never knew what I did. They never knew the true story."
Even to this day, people still refer to Suleman as Octomom and try to get their pictures taken with her, but now she has a script that she uses to politely decline their requests.
"I say, 'I no longer go by [Octomom] anymore. Thank you so much, but I'm just a mom. I don't do that anymore,'" she says.
Prior to having octuplets, Suleman was already a mom to six children that she was struggling to provide for. When the eight additions arrived, she had to rely on public assistance to support her family. Suleman says she was so "ashamed" of accepting help from the government that she ended up "selling [herself] out."
"At the time, in my mind it was like an investment, so I could support my family," Suleman recalls.
The 41-year-old mother reportedly worked in a strip club and appeared in an adult film to put food on the table.
"I believe the judgment I experienced was warranted, because what were people supposed to believe?" Suleman says. "All they were being fed by the media was negativity."
Still, Suleman acknowledges that her situation was largely her own doing, as she elected to have more children through in vitro fertilization. She says she had the doctor implant 12 embryos.
"I take accountability for being dumb and irresponsible. It really was," Suleman admits. "I would like to address that absolutely I don't want to be a burden on any taxpayers and that's the goal -- to move forward and not to be a burden on anyone in society. And I own and take responsibility for my poor choices, but it certainly doesn't take away from how extraordinary these kids ended up turning out to be."
Today, Suleman and her 14 children still receive partial assistance from the government, but Suleman is working and hopes that her current welfare situation is only temporary.
"I'm not proud of it. I'm not proud at all," Suleman says.
One thing she is proud of is kicking an unhealthy Xanax habit, which she says she was able to do away with after saying goodbye to her Octomom persona.
"I walked away from what was causing me to use it," Suleman says.
ET was there in March 2009, when the octuplets first came home from the hospital nearly two months after they were born. Inside the home, the older children were already pitching in, pushing strollers and cradling their younger siblings. At the time, Suleman told us that the unexpected attention she garnered taught her a valuable lesson.
"The ultimate lesson from my entire experience is you cannot prejudge human beings," she said. "You just can't. I don't care who they are, what their behavior or what you've heard about. You have to be able to meet the person and talk with them, and even then, that's not even enough to prejudge them."