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The Octomom and Her Babies Prepare for Prime Time

by John Bowe,  New York Times Magazine,  Nov 12, 2009

The first thing you notice upon entering the house of a family with 14 children is — not surprisingly — the presence of 14 children. There was Jonah, jiggling around delightedly in his Deluxe ExerSaucer, staring up at me with big brown eyes and smiling with a cleft lip. Nariyah squirmed languidly in a second ExerSaucer next to the fake fireplace, drowsily listing to one side. Makai, Noah and Jeremiah were conked out on the carpet, like little sacks of beans. Maliyah, Josiah and Isaiah lay on the couch in varying states of gassy snuffling.

Scattered beyond them, into the living room and backyard of the famed Suleman residence outside Los Angeles, in La Habra, Calif., the octuplets’ six elder siblings pursued age-appropriate vocations. Blue-eyed, 2-year-old Caleb smashed a toy truck into a wall. Calyssa, his twin, mooned around with an otherworldly smile. Aidan, 4, who is autistic, chanted, “Dooga dooga dooga dooga dooga dooga di,” while playing with a magnifying glass. Amerah, 7, the oldest daughter, mercurial and precocious, flirted with the grown-ups. “What’s your name?” I asked her. She jerked her head away and said, “You don’t have to know everything.”

But of course, when it comes to Amerah and her 13 siblings, I, along with millions of people around the world, already know a considerable amount about her, her family and, most of all, her mother, Nadya Suleman, otherwise known as the Octomom.

Though Suleman is the second human to successfully deliver octuplets in the United States (the first was Nkem Chukwu, a Nigerian-born American, in 1998, one of whose babies died a week after birth), she is the first to have a set in which all eight have survived, and also the first to have undertaken to produce them as a single mother, with the assistance of in-vitro fertilization and a sperm donor. Perhaps most saliently, in terms of public opinion, she is the first to have emerged from childbirth ready for the world’s cameras with what looks to most people like plastic surgery — facial modifications, it would seem, designed to approximate the visage of that other notably avid producer and acquirer of children, Angelina Jolie. Read more.


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