— -- Natalie Suleman, the infamous mother known around the world as "Octomom," sat down exclusively with ABC News to discuss her search for a new beginning, and the moment she realized it was time to turn her life around.
Suleman's initial notoriety began after she gave birth to eight children via in vitro fertilization in 2009 while on government assistance and already a mother of six.
The famous octuplets -- two girls and six boys -- that created a media frenzy are now about to turn eight. The single mother of 14 said the fame also created a monster.
"I was more or less a carnival attraction. I was a freak show," Suleman told ABC News. Suleman also said she doesn't know how the world could hate her because, "They don't know me. That's the truth. They hated that character."
Unfortunately, the negative and scandalous "Octomom" persona hovers over Suleman's children. "My kids get embarrassed because their friends sometimes will say 'My mom said your mom's a stripper,'" she admitted. To which she said her children reply, "'No, my mom's a counselor.'"
That moment prompted Suleman to make amends and change. "I want to apologize to anyone I hurt. You know, I wasn't me," the mother said in tears. "I'm sorry for anyone I hurt out there, and I'm sorry to my children that I hurt," she said.
Back in 2009, after the birth of her eight children, the media backlash first began when Suleman received offers from adult film entertainment executives.
"Some of the things that I have done ... of course that I'm ashamed of in the past ... was just to put food on the table and just to take care of my family," the mother admitted.
When she was desperate for money, she said she began stripping. Then in 2012, Suleman released her own adult film and she continued in a downward spiral when she turned to Xanax to block out the pain.
"I ended up numbing my shame," Suleman recalled. "And if you have to engage in an activity to numb yourself ... you are going down the wrong path."
Even after rehab and almost immediate relapse, it wasn't until the moment she saw her 10-year-old daughter play dress-up in her stripper costumes that ignited a desire to change as a mother and a person.
Suleman said her daughter put on gold spiked heels and was strutting around in them, "and my heart sank," she said. "I felt like throwing up."
"That was the moment when I said I would rather be homeless living in the van with all my kids, than allow any of my girls to feel that they are not worthy enough and that they have to go down that path," the mother continued.
Her daughter Amerah, now 14, said she knew her mom sacrificed for them, but said "In the beginning, it was very difficult." Amerah said people would ask questions about her mother to which she would say, "She's my mom ... And she's no different than anyone -- anyone else."
As Suleman continues to let go of her past, she works part time and still receives government assistance, but said her family is happy and healthy. Her octuplets eat a strict vegan diet, which the children say they enjoy.
"I just like eating vegetables. I don't wanna eat animals 'cause I love animals," one of the eight shared.
Noriah told ABC News her favorite thing about being an octuplet is, "you have a lot of people to look out for you, a lot of people to love you."
Suleman is putting the Octomom persona behind her and said she will continue to do what she has done for years, work and "become a better person today than I was yesterday and be a better person tomorrow than I was today." Something the mother said she hopes her kids will learn from.