Mother of 14 says family staves off depression

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WHITTIER, Calif. (AP) — The veil of secrecy in which octuplets’ mother Nadya Suleman shrouded herself for more than a week was lifted Thursday with the release of public documents showing that the 33-year-old struggled with depression for years until she began pursuing her childhood dream of having a huge family.

Ms. Suleman, who now has 14 children, told doctors she battled with depression for years after she was injured in a riot in 1999 at the state mental hospital where she worked.

The doctors’ reports were included in more than 300 pages of documents released to the Associated Press by the state Division of Workers’ Compensation on the same day NBC released excerpts of Ms. Suleman’s first interview since giving birth last month.

Among other things, the documents reveal that Ms. Suleman collected more than $165,000 in disability payments between 2002 and 2008 for an injury she said left her in near-constant pain and helped end her marriage.

Meanwhile, Ms. Suleman told NBC what her mother and others have said since the octuplets were born: that she always wanted a huge family to make up for the isolation she felt as an only child.

“That was always a dream of mine, to have a large family, a huge family,” she said. “I just longed for certain connections and attachments with another person that … I really lacked, I believe, growing up.”

In the interview - scheduled to air on the “Today” show Monday and again Tuesday on “Dateline” - Ms. Suleman calls her childhood “pretty dysfunctional.”

In the state report, however, doctors indicate she had a happy childhood. She told them she was an above-average high school student, enjoyed being a cheerleader, had many friends and stayed out of trouble. She said her parents were loving and supportive.

In the report, Ms. Suleman told a doctor she had three miscarriages. Another doctor disputed that number, saying she had two ectopic pregnancies, a dangerous condition in which a fertilized egg implants somewhere other than in the uterus.

She told a doctor who conducted a psychological evaluation for a workers’ compensation claim that the birth of her first child was “the most wonderful, best thing that’s ever happened in my life.”

Ms. Suleman said all her children have been born through in vitro fertilization, with sperm donated from a friend. The first six range in age from 2 to 7. The octuplets are doing fine, said officials at Kaiser Permanente’s Bellflower Medical Center, where they were born Jan. 26.

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