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.
She holds a 2006 degree in child and adolescent development from California State University at Fullerton, and as late as last spring she was studying for a master's degree in counseling, a college official told ABC News.
ABC News has learned through San Bernardino Superior Court Records that Suleman, 33, divorced her husband, Marcos Gutierrez, in January 2008.
The document indicates "no children of the marriage," suggesting that Gutierrez was not the father of Suleman's previous six children.
Last week, the woman's mother, Angela Suleman, said her daughter had been obsessed with having children since she was a teenager, according to an interview she conducted late Friday with The Associated Press.
Angela Suleman told the AP that all 14 children were conceived through in vitro fertilization, because her daughter had always had trouble conceiving due to "plugged up'' fallopian tubes. She said that while all the kids came from a single sperm donor, the donor is not Marcos Guitierrez.
An AP review of birth records identified a David Solomon as the father of the four oldest children.
Nadya Suleman lived with Gutierrez for about 3½ years from August 1996 until January 2000, when she moved back with her parents, living at several addresses, records show.
After leaving Gutierrez, Suleman began having her 14 children.
Angela Suleman told the newspaper that her daughter had fertility treatment but never expected the treatment would result in eight babies.
She said that raising 14 children "was going to be difficult."
Other mothers of multiples said it gets easier.
"The more they grow, the easier it becomes," Nkem Chukwu, who lives outside Houston, told the Toronto Globe and Mail.
Chukwu told the paper that after multiple failed pregnancies, she turned to fertility treatments and gave birth to eight babies, born 15 weeks premature. One of the tiny octuplets died after a week. A tenacious Chukwu and her husband, Iyke Luis Udobi, decided to try for one last child, and they conceived in 1992, four years behind the seven other children.
Chukwu described a chaotic birth among a small army of pediatric specialists -- and a life of color-coding children to keep track of them -- that she said became easier with time.
"It was crazy," she said. "We had a team. I can't remember how many doctors. I think, like, 50 people were just running up and down. I was the one in pain, so it was hard to keep track."
As the original seven children entered the fourth grade as 10-year-old siblings last year, the chaos had settled down.
But things remain a challenge every day, she told the paper. The family still uses a donated 16-passenger Ford van and "an army of volunteers" to help them through their day to day lives.