In the face of sharp criticism from international media and some medical ethicists, friends and like-minded moms are stepping forward to defend a California woman with six children who gave birth last week to octuplets.
Nadya Suleman, who is reportedly unmarried, is "an awesome parent'' and a ''wonderful mother,'' according to Jessica Zepeda, a neighbor and friend. Zepeda's children are friends and schoolmates of the six Suleman kids.
"She misses those other six kids,'' Zepeda, who recently visited Suleman in the hospital, told ABC News Sunday.
Zepeda did not elaborate on the growing controversy surrounding the second known successful U.S. birth of octuplets. Suleman reportedly conceived all 14 through in vitro fertilization, all from the same donor.
Suleman's father said recently that his daughter didn't intend to have eight children. "She did not seek to have more children. She thought she was gonna have one more child, and it did not happen," Ed Suleman said.
In a statement released today, Kaiser Permanente's Bellflower Medical Center said all eight babies are breathing unassisted as they continue to feed on donated breast milk and receive intravenous nutritional supplements.
"This has been a very good week for the babies. It is always satisfying to be able to see a baby that was born premature continue to get stronger every day," Dr. Mandhir Gupta said in the statement.
Suleman has so far declined to comment on the international fascination and controversy over the births.
Several still-unanswered questions have animated the controversy for days: What fertility doctor would agree to implant eight embryos in a womb? With court records indicating Suleman is divorced, will their biological father be a father or father figure in the children's lives? Who will pay for the care of the children, given that court records appear to indicate that Suleman is without significant means?
"Given that she has six young children, it seems to be a perfectly reasonable thing for a fertility specialist to refer her to a psychiatrist for some heavy duty counseling to see what her situation is, to see if she really does want or could handle another child," said George Annas, a bioethics professor at Boston University School of Public Health.
Zepeda said that a community of assistance is growing up around the Suleman clan.
"Nadya has a lot of friends that are very supportive and willing to help in any way they can,'' Zepeda said.
"She really loves those kids,'' she said. "And we'll support her.''
It may not be easy. Court documents show Suleman's mother filed for bankruptcy in March 2008. The family currently lives in a three-bedroom home in suburban Los Angeles. Bankruptcy court records show that, as of March 2008, the family owned a second home in the same area.
As of March, Edward Doud Suleman, apparently the octuplets' grandfather, was working in Iraq, according to the bankruptcy filing. It said that he would earn $100,000 a year. The document did not specify Suleman's husband's occupation, but Suleman told the Los Angeles Times that her husband was a contractor. Records show Angela and Edward Suleman were divorced in 1999 but they apparently still live together.
Nadya Suleman reportedly held a psychiatric technician's license, though it was not clear if she was currently employed.