It’s been one year and umpteen-thousand diaper changes since Nadya Suleman gave birth to her world-famous octuplets. And what a year!
“I don’t get much sleep,” Suleman, 34, tells PEOPLE. “About two or three hours a night. But I’m continuing to move forward with my life and trying to be the best mother I can be.”
Suleman not only made headlines after the birth of her eight babies last Jan. 26 in Bellflower, Calif., the unemployed, single mother of six older children also became a lightning rod for controversy, paparazzi and lawsuits. The experience, she insists, has changed her.
Paying Bills, Paying Attention
“I’ve definitely matured a lot,” she says. “When this started, it was all about me. But now I find myself in a situation where I have to support a large family and take care of a large household. I’ve been through more in the past year than most people go through in a lifetime. I’ve been sued, harassed, abused, but I’ve held my own. I think about others now and not so much about myself. I spend more time thinking about paying bills, paying my mortgage and paying attention.”
To spend quality time with her brood, she often totes one or two of her octuplets with her whenever she runs errands or goes to visit friends. (Her older kids get special one-on-one days with their mom, complete with planned outings.) With the help of three nannies, Suleman is able to handle the daunting day-to-day logistics of feeding and caring for her 14 children.
“One of the biggest challenges is bonding with my babies,” she says. “I need the help of my nannies, but I don’t want my children being raised in something that resembles a group home.”
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One Luxury: The Gym
The one luxury that Suleman hasn’t foregone since assuming the role of uber-mom is her gym membership. “I go several times a week, usually in the middle of the night when everyone is asleep,” she says. “I push myself pretty hard. I’m lucky. I’ve got good genes and my body just always seems to bounce back after my pregnancies.”
Suleman threw a birthday party for her octuplets last Sunday and plans another, smaller one for Tuesday. “It’ll be a quiet celebration,” she says. “You definitely won’t find a bouncy house here … We had birthday cake and pizza on Sunday. It was quite a mess, quite a mess.”
Asked if she’d do it all over again, Suleman takes a deep breath and says: “No, no, no … I love kids, but I also recognize that things could be better for mine. I never planned on eight. I wanted one or maybe two more. But I had eight. It’s not the best situation, but I’m doing what I can do.”