WHITTIER, Calif. – The mother of newborn octuplets says she had six embryos implanted in her fertility procedure — far more than industry guidelines recommend under ordinary circumstances — and was well aware that multiple births could result.
"I wanted them all transferred," Nadya Suleman told NBC's "Today" show. "Those are my children, and that's what was available and I used them. So, I took a risk. It's a gamble. It always is."
"It turned out perfectly," Suleman added in a portion of the interview broadcast Friday. Other portions of interview, her first since the octuplets were born, are scheduled to air next week.
Experts say there is a small chance that embryos can divide, which apparently led to eight babies.
The interview and public documents obtained by The Associated Press lifted the veil of secrecy in which Suleman shrouded herself after the Jan. 26 births.
The 33-year-old single, unemployed woman has been widely criticized for having a fertility procedure and risking multiple births when she already has six young children, including twins.
During the interview, she said the same fertility specialist implanted all the embryos and explained the risks each time. In portions of the interview yet to be aired, NBC said Suleman told them all 14 of her children were born using sperm donated by the same man, a friend. She said she hoped that when he's ready, he would be in the lives of her and her children.
She also said she had never been on welfare and would find a way to get by with the help of family, friends and her church. She said she planned to return to school in the fall.
With in vitro fertilization, doctors frequently implant more than one embryo to improve the odds that one will take. However, the U.S. fertility industry has guidelines that call for no more than two embryos to be implanted for women under 35 "in the absence of extraordinary circumstances."
Suleman said she had six embryos implanted for each of the previous in vitro procedures that resulted in her other six children.
"All I wanted was children. I wanted to be a mom. That's all I ever wanted in my life," she said. "I love my children.
In the interview, Suleman said she struggled for seven years before finally giving birth to her first child. According to state documents, 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.
Suleman's publicist, Mike Furtney, said Thursday that Suleman was "feeling great" and looking forward to being reunited with her octuplets, who were born prematurely and are expected to remain in the hospital for several more weeks.
The state documents describe Suleman becoming pregnant with her first child after a 1999 injury during a riot at a state mental hospital where she worked. Suleman feared she would lose the child and sunk into an intense depression, according to a psychological evaluation in her workers' compensation case.
"When you have a history of miscarriages, you think it will take a miracle," she told Dr. Dennis Nehamen. "I just wanted to die. I suspected I was pregnant but I thought, 'That's ridiculous."'
But the 2001 birth of the baby "helped my spirits," Suleman said.
More than 300 pages of documents were disclosed to The Associated Press following a public records request to the state Division of Workers' Compensation. Among other things, they reveal that Suleman collected more than $165,000 in disability payments between 2002 and 2008 for the work injury, which she said left her in near-constant pain and helped end her marriage. She was married from 1996 to 2008.
Details of the documents were reported the same day that NBC released excerpts of Suleman's first interview since giving birth.
In the interview, Suleman called her childhood as an only child "pretty dysfunctional."
In the state documents, however, doctors quoted her as indicating she had a happy childhood. She told them she was an above-average student and had many friends and stayed out of trouble. She said both her parents were loving and supportive.