Nadya Suleman's goal in life was to be a mother, her friends and family said. That is why, even with a brood of six, including 2-year-old twins, she decided to have more embryos transferred in hopes, her mother said Friday, of getting "just one more girl."
"And look what happened. Octuplets. Dear God," Angela Suleman said four days after her 33-year-old daughter became the second person in the U.S. ever to give birth to eight babies at once.
Suleman stressed that her daughter "is not evil, but she is obsessed with children. She loves children, she is very good with children, but obviously she overdid herself."
Angela Suleman said all the children are from the same sperm donor, but she did not identify him. Her daughter is divorced, but, Suleman said, the ex-husband is not the father.
Suleman said she is caring for her six older grandchildren while their mother is in the hospital recovering. She said she had few details about how the octuplets were conceived and did not know the identity of the doctor or the clinic that transferred the frozen embryos into her daughter's uterus. Suleman said it was not Kaiser Permanente, where the babies were born.
Fertility experts have raised concerns about the number of embryos implanted and whether the procedure was within medical guidelines.
"I cannot see circumstances where any reasonable physician would transfer [so many] embryos into a woman under the age of 35 under any circumstance," said Arthur Wisot, a fertility doctor in Redondo Beach and the author of "Conceptions and Misconceptions."
Doctors probably could not deny treatment to a woman simply because she already has children, he said. However, he added, they should have taken steps to make sure she did not have so many babies at once.
"You can send her for psychological evaluation, but I honestly don't know if you can say, 'No, I won't take care of you because you have too many children,' " Wisot said.
Dr. Geeta Swamy, an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Duke University, told The Times this week that the American Society for Reproductive Medicine and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists advise doctors "to curb these higher-order multiple gestations."
"But it really is still up to the individual physician," she said. "There aren't any laws or legal ramifications to it."
The California Medical Board, which investigates doctors, and the California Department of Public Health, which licenses clinics and hospitals, said no doctors or facilities are currently being investigated regarding the births. It is also unlikely that the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services would get involved unless it receives a complaint of child abuse or neglect.
Allison Frickert, a friend of Nadya Suleman, said the mother was not seeking fame or financial benefit. "There was no overriding situation, other than having more children to love," she said. "Her whole life, she couldn't wait to be a mom. That was her No. 1 goal."
Friends and family also reported that Nadya Suleman worked as a psychiatric technician until she was injured on the job. Then she began having children and enrolled in school.
She graduated from Cal State Fullerton in 2006 with a bachelor of science degree in child and adolescent development, school officials said. She returned to pursue a master's in counseling, but last attended in the spring of 2008.
By juggling school and six children, Frickert said, Nadya Suleman proved to be "a lot more capable than the average person in handling stress."
She and her children live with her mother in a 1,550-square-foot home in Whittier, and her father has been working in Iraq as a translator to help support the family.
In 2008, Angela Suleman filed for bankruptcy, claiming nearly $1 million in liabilities mostly due to a bad housing investment, her bankruptcy attorney said. Suleman said Friday that she had withdrawn the filing and paid her debts.
As the media camped outside the house, Angela Suleman said in a telephone interview that she could not explain her daughter's decision.
Nadya Suleman has always loved children, her mother said. Then she sighed. "I wish she would have become a kindergarten teacher."
Times staff writers Alan Zarembo, Tony Barboza, Corina Knoll, Richard Winton, Garrett Therolf, Janet Lundblad and Scott Wilson contributed to this article.