Natalie Suleman -- who was famously dubbed "Octomom" when she gave birth to octuplets in January 2009 -- is speaking candidly about what it's like raising 14 kids.
Suleman, 43, opens up her home to The New York Timesfor a new interview, and the outlet describes a typical day for the family. The 9-year-old octuplets are seemingly model children -- they help cook, they're polite and do their homework without any complaints -- and are also vegan.
Not surprisingly, it's also a tight fit in the home with the octuplets and their six older siblings. The children eat in shifts and some have to sleep on the couch.
Suleman addresses the past tabloid stories about her, including her highly publicized brief forays into pornographic films, stripping and boxing. She now says she was playing up a character in order to make money.
“I was pretending to be a fake, a caricature, which is something I’m not, and I was doing it out of desperation and scarcity so I could provide for my family,” she says. “I’ve been hiding from the real world all my life.”
“I have PTSD from all the reporters coming in over the years," she continues. "I would take whatever I could back in the days, and I would let them in. I was spiraling down a dark hole. There were no healthy opportunities for Octomom. I was doing what I was told to do and saying what I was told to say. When you’re pretending to be something you’re not, at least for me, you end up falling on your face.”
Although Suleman doesn't admit fault for having 12 embryos implanted into her uterus at once -- even though medical guidelines suggest a limit of two for a woman in her 30s -- she does call herself "selfish and immature" at the time. Her doctor, Dr. Kamrava, lost his United States medical license in 2011 and she claims she was "misled" by him, which he's denied. Some of her children do have health complications -- according to The New York Times, one of her children is autistic, another is on the spectrum and many are small for their age. Suleman says she also has a variety of health issues stemming from giving birth to octuplets.
“My back is broken because of the last pregnancy,” she says. “Four out of the five discs in my lumbar spine are ruptured, herniated fully. Think of a jelly doughnut being squashed, and it hits nerves, causing bilateral sciatica. And I have irreparable sacral damage. And I have peripheral neuropathy. I haven’t felt my toes on my foot on the right side for many years, and my fingers are numb all the time every day. The pregnancy caused it."
Suleman says she doesn't take traditional medicine and instead relies on prayer and regular exercise.
“I’m a raw vegan, and I perceive pharmaceuticals to be poison," she explains. “If I didn’t climb 40 miles a week on the StairMaster, which acts as a buffer, then I’d be completely incapacitated.”
“I can adjust the pain based on my posturing,” she adds, before explaining her famously raspy voice. “I’m not sick, I don’t get sick. I think it’s from being loud and yelling for what feels like the last 18 years. I have 14 children!”
These days, the busy Suleman -- who also says she doesn't date -- is in the process of writing a book. She is working full-time as a counselor, but says she does get government assistance and money from international photo shoots.
“Octomom was media created," she insists. "I believe most media is filtered and fake. They created this caricature. ... Once I finally ran away from all of the pretending, I was able to be me.”
ET paid Suleman a home visit in 2009, when her older children were already helping out with their younger siblings. Watch the video below for more: