From Miracle Mom to Octomom and now, perhaps soon, Homeless Mom, the bizarre life of Nadya Suleman and her 14 children has been a subject that rarely fails to hit a nerve among those who have followed her personal soap opera.
With Suleman on the verge of losing her home and declaring bankruptcy this week with total debts as high as $1 million to everyone from her parents to her baby sitters to the water company, the Octomom Odyssey seems headed for darker days.
Beyond the fascination with her public foibles, such as posing topless in an obscure British magazine and talk of a solo porn film, is the very real concern about the welfare of her octuplets and six older children — all borne from her zeal for in vitro fertilization.
Three of her six older children have disabilities for which she receives government financial support, Suleman has said. One is autistic, another has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and the third a speech impediment. The older children range in age from 5 to 10.
Soon, they could all be out of a home. The house where they have lived the past two years in the suburbs of Los Angeles is going on the auction block Monday
One thing that keeps driving interest in her is whether authorities should step in and take the children.
Child welfare officials visited the La Habra home last week following a complaint that her children were living in squalor. They took no action, and Orange County Social Services spokeswoman Terry Lynn Fisher said Thursday the law prevents her from even confirming or denying the visit.
Speaking in general terms, however, Fisher said it's not illegal for families to be homeless, to live in dirty homes or even in their cars, as long as that doesn't place their children in danger.
University of Southern California sociologist Dorian Traube said that given Suleman's notoriety, it would be surprising if the welfare agency hasn't been monitoring her and her children for some time.
"Here you have 14 children whose mom is living on welfare, who has now declared bankruptcy, who is going in the media and posing topless and who most recently said she would be willing to do porn films if it meant that she could provide for her children," said Traube, who has studied and written extensively about parent-child relationships.
If the Suleman saga is wrapping up, it would mark a sad end to something that, if only briefly, once seemed to some like the feel-good story of the year.
That was on Jan. 26, 2009, when Suleman's octuplets were born at a Southern California hospital and made medical history when they all survived. In the days that followed, she was reportedly showered with offers for book and movie deals, reality TV shows and a mountain of free baby stuff.
Things changed quickly, however, after it was learned that Octomom was also Single Mom and Welfare Mom. And that she already had six children under the age of 8 and was living on a combination of welfare checks, food stamps, student loans and her parents' largesse.
The movie, book and TV deals faded, and Suleman, now 36, turned to increasingly bizarre means of making money.
She endorsed birth control, but only for dogs and cats. That earned her $5,000 and a month's supply of vegetarian hot dogs and burgers from the animal rights group People For the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
She once told Oprah Winfrey that she hated the term "Octomom" but then had it emblazoned on the back of the robe she wore into a boxing ring last year for a "celebrity" match against Amy Fisher, who gained fame in the 1990s as the "Long Island Lolita" when she shot the wife of her much older lover in the face.
Over the years numerous people tried to help and offer advice to Suleman, including such TV personalities as "Dr. Phil" and money guru Suze Orman.
Instead, she went through one publicist and attorney after another. At one point she even spurned six months of free child care by the group Angels in Waiting that had been arranged by celebrity lawyer Gloria Allred. The group's co-founder, Linda Conforti-West, said at the time that Suleman seemed more interested in lining up a reality TV show than caring for the kids.
"Clients have to be willing to accept advice from those who have the experience and expertise to provide for them," Joann Killeen, Suleman's first publicist, said Wednesday. "I think it's obvious why she's gone through so many managers and attorneys and professional staff in the three years she's been Octomom. Clients who don't listen don't make good clients."
Suleman declined to be interviewed for this story.
"She is not interested in having any filming or doing any interviews of any sort, especially entering her home and filming her kids for no compensation," said her current spokeswoman Gina Rodriguez, whose other clients have included Tiger Woods mistress Joslyn James, reality TV star Tila Tequila and Lindsay Lohan's mother, Dina.
Rodriguez didn't say where Suleman plans to move after the house is auctioned but said she is looking forward to the next chapter of her life.
"She is excited about moving. She has been preparing," she said in an email to The Associated Press.
Documents filed in court Monday for Suleman's bankruptcy case list assets of no more than $50,000 and debts of $500,000 to $1 million. Her creditors include her parents, her gardener, a babysitting company, private school, pest control company, mortgage holder and state Department of Motor Vehicles, among others.
Orange County businessman Amer Haddadin, who sold Suleman's father the four-bedroom home that's about to be auctioned, said he's owed $483,000, including 11 months of unpaid rent and a $450,000 note that Suleman never paid off. He says he has no sympathy for her, adding her actions led his mortgage holder to foreclose on him and destroyed his credit.
"She's not only using the system, she's abusing the system," Haddadin said.
Lately, Suleman has made money posing topless for the British magazine and has a possible porn deal in the works, although the latter comes with a catch. She had said she'll only do it if, to put it delicately, she is the only one being filmed. It would be what the industry calls a solo tape.
That led Vivid Entertainment Group co-founder Steven Hirsch, who once offered Suleman $1 million to do a porn film, to say he doubts his company would be interested in working with her in the future.
"I'm not sure that after that's released that it would make sense," he said.