The woman who gave birth to octuplets this week already had six children but refused the option of reducing the number of embryos she was carrying last year, her mother said.
Angela Suleman said good news for her daughter is all the babies appear healthy.
"I looked at those babies. They are so tiny and so beautiful," Suleman told The Los Angeles Times on Thursday.
Suleman's daughter gave birth to the octuplets Monday at Kaiser Permanente Bellflower Medical Center but had requested that doctors keep her name confidential.
She also was counseled about the risks of her pregnancy — then in its 12th week — and about the option of aborting some fetuses when she arrived at the hospital, Dr. Harold Henry said.
Suleman said her daughter had not expected so many embryos to keep developing, but rejected selective reduction.
"What do you suggest she should have done? She refused to have them killed," Suleman told the Times. "That is a very painful thing."
Doctors had been expecting only seven babies, but an eighth was born in the Caesarean delivery.
Media knew little about the woman until a family acquaintance told CBS' "The Early Show" on Thursday that the mother is "fairly young" and lives with her parents and her six children.
Within hours, media had camped out at the family's home in Whittier, where the babies' grandfather pulled up in a minivan in the evening and briefly spoke to The Associated Press. Beside him were two children — a 7-year-old and 6-year-old — who said they were excited to have eight new siblings.
But the grandfather warned that media may have a tougher time finding the family after the babies are released from the hospital.
‘We have a huge house’
"We have a huge house, not here," said the man, who would only identify himself as Ed. "You are never going to know where it is."
The mother's other children are 5 and 3, and 2-year-old twins, neighbors told the Times.
The six boys and two girls are only the second octuplets born alive in the United States. The were born nine weeks premature and ranged between 1 pound, 8 ounces and 3 pounds, 4 ounces at birth.
Dr. Mandhir Gupta said seven of the babies were breathing without assistance. One was still receiving oxygen through a tube in his nose.
All babies continued to receive intravenous nutrition. They were expected to remain in the hospital for several more weeks.
It's not clear if the octuplets' mother had embryos implanted. Another option is egg stimulation through fertility drugs, which provides less control. The doctor is supposed to use blood tests and ultrasound to monitor how many egg follicles develop. If too many do, the doctor is supposed to stop the drugs.
Doctors say they are not in the business of regulating family size. But they try everything to avoid higher-order pregnancies to prevent health problems for mothers and infants.
National guidelines suggest that doctors limit the number of embryos implanted to avoid multiple births. Women are also counseled to not go through with attempting pregnancy if too many eggs have budded when they're taking fertility drugs.
Dr. James Grifo, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the NYU School of Medicine, added: "I don't think it's our job to tell them how many babies they're allowed to have. I am not a policeman for reproduction in the United States. My role is to educate patients."
The birth of the octuplets already has raised eyebrows, with fertility and reproductive experts saying that such high-risk pregnancies should be avoided.
"When we see something like this in the general fertility world, it gives us the heebie-jeebies," Michael Tucker, an Atlanta-based clinical embryologist and leading researcher in fertility treatments, told the Los Angeles Times.
"If a medical practitioner had anything to do with it, there's some degree of inappropriate medical therapy there," the Times quoted him as saying.
Asked by a reporter whether medical ethics may have been breached and whether fertility assistance was provided to a mother who already had multiple children, Henry replied: "That's still a private, personal question."
"Our patient was counseled regarding her options for pregnancy. The options were to continue the pregnancy or selectively abort. The patient chose to continue the pregnancy," Henry said. "Our goal is to provide the best possible care for our patients, no matter what the situation or circumstances."
Some fertility specialists have said the children face increased health risks because they are octuplets and born nine weeks premature. At birth, they ranged between 1 pound, 8 ounces and 3 pounds, 4 ounces.
Doctors say they advise against higher-order births, but acknowledge the decision is not theirs to make.
"Who am I to say that six is the limit?" said Dr. Jeffrey Steinberg, medical director of Fertility Institutes, which has clinics in Los Angeles, Las Vegas and New York City. "There are people who like to have big families."
The last octuplets known to have survived birth in the United States, six girls and two boys, were born in Houston in 1998. One of the babies, a girl, died one week later.