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February 18th, 2009
05:50 PM ET

Growing up as octuplets

Program Note: Be sure to tune in for Randi Kaye's full report tonight on AC360° at 10 p.m. ET.

Randi Kaye with the family of octuplets in Texas.
Randi Kaye with the family of octuplets in Texas.

Randi Kaye | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

As you may know, I have been covering the California octuplets' story for AC360° and I was curious what life might be like for the octuplets as they grow up.

My curiosity took me to Texas this week to visit with the first octuplets born in this country. They live about an hour outside Houston.

Nkem Chukwu (pron: In-Kem Chook-woo) gave birth to her octuplets back in 1998. One of them, the smallest of the bunch, died about a week later at just 11 ounces, but the surviving octuplets just celebrated their tenth birthday. Amazing!

The first thing you notice when you walk into their six-bedroom home, which was donated to them all those years ago, is how much it's run like a business. The childrens' grandmother earned the nickname "Commander in Chief" because she lives with them and she keeps the household running smoothly. I watched as she ordered them all to clean their plates after dinner. She also developed a color-coded system to make getting ready for school easier. They all wear the same color every day of the week. They wear red on Monday, maroon on Tuesday, yellow on Wednesday and it goes on from there.

That speeds things up in the morning when you're trying to dress so many kids for school. In addition to the seven surviving octuplets, Nkem and her husband had another daughter six years ago. They used fertility drugs for the octuplets but not for their other child. Nkem told me she was shocked when she got pregnant with their youngest.

The parents and the kids in Texas told me they pray for Nadya Suleman's children every day. Mrs. Chukwu said the fact that Suleman, the California octuplets' mom, used In Vitro Fertilization and had eight more children even though she could barely afford the six she already had, was her choice and they can't speak for her. But they do hope and pray that her children survive and are healthy. When I asked Nkem if she believes Suleman had the octuplets in the hopes of making money on endorsements and book deals, as some critics have suggested, she would only say that she had her children out of "love" and wasn't sure of Suleman's intentions. When asked about the death threats against the California mom, the Chukwus just said that was sad.

The Chukwu octuplets have seen pictures of the California octuplets on the news. I asked them what advice they have for the Suleman children as they grow up. They told me those children "have to learn to share" and they shouldn't "be mean to each other." The Chukwu octuplets told me they all love each other and are good friends. I asked the kids if they want any more brothers and sisters and they were quick to say "No!"

The kids in Texas say people stare at them all the time and the California kids will have to get used to that. And people always ask if they're twins or triplets? (They don't all look alike.) When they say they're octuplets it usually takes some explaining and they sometimes have to spell it out for people.

I asked the Chukwus what it takes to raise so many children, since we know Nadya Suleman has been using food stamps for the last 18 months to try and raise the six kids she already has. Well, they didn't talk money but dad works two jobs to provide for the family and mom is a stay-at-home mom. She told me sometimes she has to go to the grocery store three times in one day because they're always forgetting something or running out of something. And, she told me, the children drink two gallons of milk a day and go through three boxes of cereal a day - and that's just breakfast. No wonder it's so expensive to raise so many kids.

The hardest part about this story shoot, I must say, was learning all the kids' names. It took me a few times but I finally got it. You can see how tough it was in our story tonight on AC360°. You'll get a good laugh!

If you want to check out the Chukwu octuplets you can do so on their web site.


Filed under: 360° Radar • Health Care • Randi Kaye
soundoff (39 Responses)
  1. Mike

    One more thing on us the tax payers....Don't forget our good friends the bankers....forget $7000 for octoplets....how about 1 billion a month for the next 30 years your already paying for to save bankers......I'd rather pay 7000 a month for beautiful babies than 1 billion for stinky bankers.....

    February 19, 2009 at 5:51 pm |
  2. Valerie Emerson

    The tax payer should have a say in situations such as the mama popping of a football team of her own..all bills should be paid by her!!!! if she cant pay then adopt out the babies, to parents who can pay the debt and enjoy a child. Make sure can cant reproduce again...yes i know we all have rights but she has abused hers at the cost to the American working class...and there is some thing wrong with a system, that will allow her or any family draw an SSI payments adding up to over 7000 a month.She knew exactly what she was doing, before she took these steps..Should she get a free ride? fame money and praise? I think NOT...And the dr. who did this should loose his license and have to pay all medical bills.....

    February 19, 2009 at 5:17 pm |
  3. Mike

    Everybody needs to get over it. Her children, her problem. We use our tax dollars to help drugy's, lazy people who just don't want to work, and most of all "All the people that commit fraud to get our dollars"....REMEMBER THESE ARE 8 INOCENT CHILREN. People have had lots of kids and have managed to survive. I'm sure they will too....My parents come from a familiy of 15. Born in the great depression and I made....Everybody should just go back to what they do best and leave them alone now.....

    February 19, 2009 at 4:56 pm |
  4. JQQ -Brea California

    I wish others would treat Nadya Suleman’s children as well.

    I really look for a day when all of these children come back with their attorneys and sue all the networks.

    TMZ is even taking follow her and the children.

    Enough and let us all pray they have a great home as these children.

    February 19, 2009 at 4:53 pm |
  5. Isabell, Indiana

    Being the youngest of a family of eight, I appreciate Randi’s focus on the beauty of motherhood and children. Many people are furious because they believe their tax dollars will be spent on Kadya’s octuplets. If I could choose how my tax dollars are used, feeding hungry babies would be on the top of my list.

    February 19, 2009 at 3:01 pm |
  6. Susan

    The difference is one is a NORMAL family and one is wacko. And lucky us, the taxpayers, that get to pay for their food, medical bills and now a house for the wacko family. And shame on Visa and MC for allowing her to open up "shop" for donations...since when is having an overextended womb a viable business? Or maybe she is a charity. Gee, can I be one too? Visa and MC...what do I need to do to collect $$ using your cards?

    February 19, 2009 at 2:57 pm |
  7. Sharon S

    Both my grandparents had and raised 8 or more children on each side of my family but my grandparents were married in a stable relationship and they all worked even the children when they became of age. I understand that was the norm back in those days but you also have to understand that my take is this, if you chose to have many children a large family I'm happy for you but make sure and your family can support them, love them and teach them well!

    I find this disturbing that Nadya seems to have mental problems, she is either starving for attention, money hungry, or I have no clue really but the facts remain this is a very unstable woman, she did not consider the outcome for her children and to me that is a very selfish self centered act on her part!

    She already had children with problems and my friends who have children with Autism will tell you one to deal with is more than a handful for 2 parents! So it really is disturbing that this woman who already had 6 children 3 with problems felt the need to bring even more into this over populated world with no source of income, no where basically to live and no way of knowing how she would even afford diapers?

    this is beyond Crazy!

    I liked the story on the family that had 7 children but they are married in a stable environment and the father works 2 jobs! Big difference between this family and Nadya and hers!

    Sad very sad I just hope all goes well for the children, this is not a happy story about a family with Nadya is a sad ending to a pathetic, selfish woman!

    February 19, 2009 at 2:16 pm |
  8. kelly

    The Chukwu family is quite refreshing after all the bad press about Nadya Suleman. This family shows that with the proper foundation, ie. marriage, their own home, husband who works two jobs; a large family can be a joy.

    February 19, 2009 at 1:28 pm |
  9. nadya kapadia

    THIS FAMILY FROM TEXAS TOOK FULL RESPONSIBILITY AS PARENTS WHEN THEY HAD OCTUPLETS AS COMPARE TO NADYA SULEMAN SHE HAS NO CONTACT WHATSOEVER WITH FATHER OF HER KIDS, SHE DOESN'T HAVE A FINANCIAL BACKUP TO RAISE KIDS. ALL I HAVE TO SAY IS I LOOKED AT HER PICS LAST NIGHT ON CNN SHE HAD HER NAILS DONE WHICH COSTS ANYWHERE FROM $30-$60 ,IF U DON'T HAVE MONEY TO FEED YOUR KIDS OR TO MAKE HOUSE PAYMENTS WHY WOULD YOU ASK FOR FINANCIAL AID AND GO SPEND YOUR MONEY ON USELESS STUFF IT IS VERY CLEAR WHAT HER PRIORITIES ARE SHE IS SPENDING MONEY ON HERSELF RATHER THAN ON HER KIDS .SHE DOES NOT DESERVE A SINGLE PENNY FROM TAX PAYERS

    February 19, 2009 at 12:55 pm |
  10. BettyAnn, Nacogdoches,TX

    Hi Randi!
    What a great story! So cute and well, busy! Thanks so much for the smiles.
    XO and (((hugs))))

    February 19, 2009 at 12:20 pm |
  11. Em, UT

    Just spent the weekend watching my twin grandsons...they are 1. It might be my age but "I am plumb wore out!" Can't imagine how Mr and Mrs Chukwu manage it all but they must be doing ALOT right. Those children not only look wonderful but were so respectful. Good job Mom and Dad!

    February 19, 2009 at 11:59 am |
  12. Mav

    Thanks Randi for the enjoyable segment about a seemingly happy stable large family. Those children are just beautiful!

    February 19, 2009 at 11:54 am |
  13. Addie

    Watching the show tonight on the Octomom, I think the record needs to be corrected. Ms. Suleman's house is not in foreclosure, her parent's house is. Ms. Suleman doesn't have a house, or job, or income, except the generosity of the state of California. My sympathies are with the 14 children. It is an unfair comparison to compare her irresponsibility with the other octuplets. She is in it for the money, hence the website asking for donations.

    February 19, 2009 at 12:00 am |
  14. Mai, Seattle

    It's really hard to judge someone like Nadya because we really don't know what's her true intention for having all these kids in her life. She loves kids, she said, but I don't think a normal person would go this far knowing that you don't have any means to support these kids. There are a lot of ways to show the world your love for kids, and this kind of action is completely out of my comprehension as human. I wish her and her whole family the best for the kids sake!

    February 18, 2009 at 11:44 pm |
  15. Rich Denoo

    My wife and I are retired and although we don't have a lot of income, we also don't have any debt, but we still watch our pennies.

    Every time there is video of Nadia Sulliman, she is perfectly groomed, with perfect salon nails which appear to be different each few days. How does she afford to do this, supporting 14 children, with no job, and on the taxpayer's doll?

    My wife doesn't waste money that way.

    February 18, 2009 at 11:42 pm |
  16. Mercedes Florio

    When I watched the channel 4 interview with Nadya Suleman, the now famous octuplets mom, I couldn't help but notice that she had her nails done (acrylic nails, that is); which are not cheap. How can she afford them when she is on food stamps? I am retired and cannot afford them.There is something wrong with this picture!!!!!

    February 18, 2009 at 11:35 pm |
  17. David H

    The Suleman kids are high-publicity and will likely command top dollar. Toward maximizing the return to the American taxpayer, her children should be auctioned off with all proceeds returned to the agencies from which she is now receiving both welfare and medical aid and the remaining cash dedicated to a fund from which the children can draw when faced with clinical complications they will likely develop as they age. All donations to Suleman must be taxed as capital gains and all publicity proceeds must also fully satisfy her liabilities to taxpayors before she gets any cash in hand. She'd better work hard since she won't have any new, cute baby pictures with which she can solicit the public.

    February 18, 2009 at 11:16 pm |
  18. Tammy Valko

    I think the doctor that helped Nadya Suleman get pregnant should be held responsible for childsupport. He is directly responsible for the birth of these innocent children to a mother that was unable to support her other children. What was he thinking? Where was his/her social responsibility.?

    February 18, 2009 at 11:14 pm |
  19. Lourdes

    When obese person sued McD's for their weight issues their case did not stand...so villifying Nadya Suleman will not stand either. Lets focus on the system that enabled those with barren wombs or women beyond natural child bearing years the ability to have children. Blame those that try to play the role of "God" by improperly implanting embryos. If the system wasn't so money driven we may not have such a large problem with fertility.

    February 18, 2009 at 10:31 pm |
  20. Lourdes

    Is adopting out the Suleman's children really a solution? NO. Either way the state still ends up footing the bill if they become wards. This is an opportunity for her neighbors to unite and show the world the what unity of Americans should reflect. Criticism wastes time and effort, lending a hand can change, and save a life.

    February 18, 2009 at 10:23 pm |
  21. Annie Kate

    Randi

    Looking forward to your piece on the first children. Maybe there will be some organization tips some of us other moms with fewer children can use. I can't imagine having 8 children at one time – one at a time was enough for me, especially on the nights when they wanted to stay up all night. Glad to see that this family is making it ok and on their own power – in a year it would be nice to see how this new set of babies are doing and how they are being raised. Will probably be an eye-opener.

    February 18, 2009 at 9:12 pm |
  22. Mike in NYC

    @EJ (USA):

    Why did I wonder that?

    Because their African name indicates the possibility of recent immigration, and the thought of non-citizens having a family that large is disturbing to me.

    Sorry to spoil the feel-good story of the night.

    February 18, 2009 at 8:46 pm |
  23. Mari, Salt Lake City

    The California woman, Suleman, should do the right thing and put her children up for adoption. THERE IS NO WAY, a child can grow up healthy and sound in a family that size.

    And why is the doctor that allowed this not being disciplined by the AMA?

    February 18, 2009 at 8:26 pm |
  24. Tammy, Berwick, LA

    This family in Houston is proof that having faith, stability, and love matter most. I look forward to seeing and hearing a happy story about family in the midst of all the economic doom and gloom drama we've been bombarded with over the last months. Good news about good things happening to people-what a nice change in perspective!

    February 18, 2009 at 7:09 pm |
  25. EJ (USA)

    The Chukwus don’t seem to be on public assistance (or at least won’t admit to it), but I’m wondering what their immigration status was at the time of the conceptions.

    Why do you wonder that ?

    February 18, 2009 at 6:46 pm |
  26. Sam M.

    I think there is a big difference between the Chukwu family/Gosselin family and the Suleman family. To form a family with a foundation and proper means is appropriate. Having octuplets or sextuplets is rare with fertility drugs. Fulfilling the dream of a family is much different than what Nadya Suleman did. It is the parents – who understand and accept their responsibilities – who deserve the reality shows and donations (like the Gosselins).

    I wish the best to Suleman family and I am sad and disappointed to hear that fellow humans are treating her with such disrespect. However, I feel Nadya Suleman was very irresponsible. She had no right to bring eight more humans into this world when she couldn't take care of the six she already had. She has no income, no spouse, or her own home. She acted immaturely and, unfortunately, it is the children who will suffer.

    February 18, 2009 at 6:16 pm |
  27. mary

    Having children is not a right – but a huge responsibility that parents should be ready to take on. Yes, things happen such as unplanned pregnancies, but come on...this woman is mentally imbalanced. These children should be taken away and adopted by responsible families, those that can afford to raise them. These poor babies are not barbie dolls, gerbils or goldfish.
    Who will take care of this brood and the next brood she decides to have.
    Her poor mother...
    If you can not take care of your own children and give them a decent place to live, you should give them up for adoption and definitely not have any more. To imagine that she already has six children in that small house with her mother and your tax dollars are supporting her family, because she wanted to have children.
    Well I want my own assortment of luxury cars – bring them on !!

    February 18, 2009 at 5:39 pm |
  28. Cori

    I feel bad for all 14 kids, they have to grow up with a crazy mother, and no father. Can we say therapy?

    February 18, 2009 at 4:07 pm |
  29. Rosa

    REGARDING THE SULEMAN SITUATION: People who have worked all their lives and paid into the Social Security system are limited on the amount of benefits payable to their family by a FAMILY MAXIMUM, regardless of how many children there may be in the family. However, Supplemental Security Income (SSI / welfare) recipients may have multiple children and receive the full payment for each child without any limitation. An excellent example of this would be the woman who recently gave birth to 8 children, all of which will each receive the full SSI payment in the amount of $674 monthly. Plus she already has 3 other children already receiving SSI at the full rate of $674 monthly. The total amount of SSI this family will be receiving from my tax dollars will be approximately $7414 monthly, and this doesn't even include the assistance they'll receive from Housing, Food Stamps, and Medicaid. ALL this is welfare. This is an outrage. Situations like this are what's draining the trust fund in our country. There should be a limit on the amount of SSI welfare a person can receive in a single household, regardless of how many children they have. The working people in this country continue to be shafted, though we're the ones paying into the funds. Why isn't anyone talking about this? It's simply outrageous. There should be a limit on the amount of welfare payable to a family.

    An American Tax Payer

    February 18, 2009 at 3:28 pm |
  30. Pati Mc

    Hi Randi,

    I actually read about your piece on Kemi Omololu-Olunloyo's website this morning. What a great opportunity for you to meet this amazing family and tell their story.

    Frankly I agree with others here – their situation is so much different from Suleman's, but I am glad to see that these children are being raised in a loving and involved home. I hope the same future for the Octuplets.

    Little off topic: Have to also say that I totally agree with Lee – you were great on 360 last week, we so enjoyed your tremendous work and fun, lively additions to the show. You are a ray of sunshine. Please...come back soon!

    February 18, 2009 at 2:45 pm |
  31. Nancy

    As a result of the economy my business failed, I purchased my home in 2004 and my payment went from $552 per month to $985, I had no idea I had signed for an adjustable rate mortgage and the purchase price was only $141,000 and at that time my income was $65,000.

    Now my home in Georgia is set for foreclosure on March 3, 2009 how does Obama's plan help me and will the lender still be able to go thru with the sale on that date?

    February 18, 2009 at 2:28 pm |
  32. BettyAnn, Nacogdoches,TX

    Hi Randi!
    That is truly amazing! They do it bigger in Texas? Wow! They have their plate full and how I have to admire her for not judging Suleman. Most of us have not been that kind.
    I will be watching tonight! I can't wait to see how their "system" works! lol!
    I sure am glad it is them and not me.
    I am looking forward to the story. I am relieved that these kids are so loved and the parents are able to take care of them. It must be tough!
    Kids are so darn cute!
    Thanks!
    XO's

    February 18, 2009 at 1:50 pm |
  33. Isabel Abreu, Brazil

    Hi, Randi!

    I'm Isabel, from Brazil, and just over a month have snooping around the blog.
    It is a pleasure comment your post. You're very friendly and competent!

    God really knows what makes!

    My maternal grandmother had seven children (one at a time). I admire these women who can maintain and, importantly, adn educate, so many at once.

    But in the time of my grandmother for today's much changed.

    Regarding family Chukwus, they seem well-structured, and they managed to circumvent the difficulties of a family so large, seem to have great unity and a family set. Already Nadya Suleman, what has been reported in the press, is far from it.

    February 18, 2009 at 1:37 pm |
  34. lee

    Hey, Randi, great job on following this story. BTW, you did a terrific job last week in the studio with Anderson. Make sure you come back, OK?

    February 18, 2009 at 1:24 pm |
  35. c,ca

    I know this sounds strange but after seeing Suleman on TV, I was reminded of the stories that 360 did after the Virginia Tech shooting. From the NBC interview, most viewers got the impression that Nadya is an emotionally disturbed person. She is either desperate for attention; trying to fill some void in her life by expecting unconditional love from these children; or she is not living in reality.

    After Virginia Tech, 360 did several stories about parents of adults who know that their child is mentally ill, but there is nothing they can do about it. Nadya's mother said that her daughter "doesn't realize" what she is doing to her children and to her parents.

    Has anything changed? Do parents have any rights to intervene when they know that a family member is unbalanced? How about the rights of the babies? Is the hospital just going to release eight infants into the care of an unstable mother in an unfit environment, and just wait and see what happens? How do we know Nadya isn't going to flip out from the pressure and do something crazy?

    The Chukwu family is completely different: two parents, grandparents, community involvement, organization, and .................... a JOB!!!

    As a Californian, I am mad that I am going to have to pay to take care of Octomom and the kids – but I hope that some of my tax dollars will go to some type of supervision of their home life.

    February 18, 2009 at 11:59 am |
  36. mike johnson

    is it true about Nancy Polosi throwing a fit cause she had a small jet so she wanted a 200 seat jet to comute to Ca. I hope not!!!!

    February 18, 2009 at 11:58 am |
  37. Kemi Omololu-Olunloyo (Chukwu Octuplets Publicist)

    Randi, how can I thank you and Susan (AC360 Producer) for such a professional job at CNN. My clients the Chukwu family are a normal American family and all grew up perfectly despite the hurdles at birth. These children are NORMAL kids and want America to see them as such.

    One day they hope to meet the Suleman kids. Ebuka, Chidi, Chima, Gorom. Jioke, Ikem, Eche and baby sister Favour always pray 3 times daily for them. You heard what Larry said when I booked them on his show…….”Look at that, see this, they’re born 8 one died, look how they’ve grown up. There’s hope for everybody including the kids here in L.A”…...Larry King Live 2/2/09

    There is hope for everyone….Thank you Randi Kaye, Thank you Anderson Cooper, Thank you Susan Chun and Thank you to the most TRUSTED name in news…….CNN.

    February 18, 2009 at 11:08 am |
  38. Mike in NYC

    The Chukwus don't seem to be on public assistance (or at least won't admit to it), but I'm wondering what their immigration status was at the time of the conceptions.

    And I still think the Suleman situation is an absolute disgrace.

    February 18, 2009 at 11:01 am |
  39. Michael "C" Lorton, Virginia

    The miracle of life can be rewarding--but there has to be a line drawn on the "medical ethics of the reward."

    February 18, 2009 at 10:20 am |