For seven years, beginning in her teens, Nadya Suleman tried to have a baby. She suffered three miscarriages. She tried artificial insemination and fertility drugs, to no avail. By 2000, a back injury and her inability to bear children had sent her into a deep depression in which she told a psychiatrist that she had suicidal thoughts.
On many days, she did not get out of bed. One doctor asked her what activities she had given up. Her answer: "Everything."
That same year, she tried in vitro fertilization and became pregnant.
"And then," she said, "I just kept going in."
Hundreds of pages of state documents reviewed by The Times and excerpts from her first interview, which was recorded Thursday by NBC News hours after she was released from the hospital, began to sketch a portrait of the 33-year-old Whittier woman who gave birth last week to octuplets.
Suleman, a single mother who already had six other children and lives with her parents, has come under fierce criticism for giving birth to the octuplets. In her interview with NBC's Ann Curry, she tried to explain why she wanted to have so many children.
"I just longed for certain connections and attachments with another person that I -- I really lacked, I believe, growing up," Suleman said. "I didn't feel as though, when I was a child, I had much control of my environment. I felt powerless. And that gave me a sense of predictability. I -- reflecting back on my childhood, I know it wasn't functional. It was pretty -- pretty dysfunctional, and whose isn't?"
Suleman didn't elaborate in the portion of the interview released by NBC (more will be broadcast on "Today" on Monday and on "Dateline NBC" on Tuesday). But she said her childhood made her yearn for many children of her own.
"That was always a dream of mine, to have a large family, a huge family," she said.
Considerably more detail is provided in the 332 pages of documents released by the state in response to a public records request by The Times. Those paint a picture of a placid suburban childhood. Suleman herself said she was well-loved and close to her parents.