‘Our daughter no longer had a heartbeat. I threw up and cried all at once.’: Best friend steps in as surrogate to give heartbroken couple ‘last chance for a baby’

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“This is a story of loss and hope. Two couples who decided to beat the odds — one who had lost a child full term and suffered three miscarriages, and another who wanted to see her best friend become a mom.

My husband and I got married in June of 2013. We waited until we were settled to have children, but in my mind, my biological clock was ticking and I needed to have a child by 32. I thought I had it all figured out – settling down, start having kids, be done by 35…because that’s what society tells you is right…but sometimes life has other plans.

We found out I was pregnant in May of 2015, after only one month of trying. We were thrilled! This would be the first grandchild on both sides; our families were beside themselves with the impending arrival of our first born. My first and second trimester did not come without challenges; I would find myself in and out of the ER for bleeding every few weeks. The baby was always fine, but the unknowns of why this was happening always weighed on me. My husband and I decided we wanted the gender of our child to be a surprise, one of those few life moments you have a choice in. Despite all of its challenges, we made it to 32 weeks and the day of my baby shower. It was beautiful, everything I had always dreamed about. It was a tea house baby shower with gender neutral decorations. My family had come in from New York to attend and we were surrounded with love and excitement. I noticed throughout my shower Arabella (which we’ve now named her) was kicking stronger and more frequently. It could be normal, but in the back of my mind I kept thinking this was her way of telling me something was wrong.

Two women place their hands on a pregnant woman's stomach
Nicole Demetriou

The next day I noticed her movement had slowed. I remember telling my husband I hadn’t felt her kick in a while. Despite my worry, I played her music that always got her moving and felt what I thought was a small kick. I settled in and went to sleep, still with the nagging feeling that something wasn’t right.

The next morning I woke up and went to work like normal, but I couldn’t shake that worried feeling from the day before. I decided to go to the ER to get some answers and relieve my anxiety. Even though I felt like something was wrong, never in my wildest dreams did I think that my daughter was no longer alive.

I arrived at the hospital without my husband, telling him it was no big deal and to not come – I was just being paranoid. I was taken in a wheel chair up to labor and delivery right away and hooked up to a machine that would measure the baby’s heartbeat. At first they had a hard time finding anything. Finally they registered a heartbeat, but couldn’t tell if it was mine or the baby’s. I began to grow nervous but still didn’t want to believe anything was wrong. The nurse called for an ultrasound tech and I watched as she scanned the screen emotionless while I answered questions about my pregnancy. After they were done they left me alone with my own thoughts still unsure if my baby was ok. They had to wait for the doctor to say anything.

I called my husband and told him what was happening, and as I was telling him to come to the hospital, the doctor walked in. I could tell by her face she knew. Our daughter no longer had a heartbeat. I threw up and cried all at once, demanding the doctor do another ultrasound. She did, and I asked her what the gender of our baby was. ‘I’m sorry there still is no heartbeat,’ was her reply, and because of the way she was positioned, she couldn’t tell the gender.

I waited for what seemed like forever for my husband to arrive. I called my mom and my mother-in-law and told them to come to the hospital.

My husband finally arrived and we were given two options –  l go home and wait for my body to go into labor, or be induced. I couldn’t imagine carrying her around knowing she no longer had a heartbeat. We didn’t even go home to get anything. I was immediately admitted, and induction begun shortly after. The next 48 hours were the worst of my life. My body wasn’t responding and I had to have my water broken. I truly wonder in that moment how a human being can survive such pain – and I don’t mean physically.

After 2 days of labor, Arabella Katherine Demetriou was born on November 12th at 3 pounds, 7 ounces and 17 1/4 inches long. Everything went so quickly. Her measurements were taken, toe and fingerprints were done so we would have memories of her. I asked right away about the gender and they told us it was a girl. My mother and husband were the first ones to see her, as I told them before to not let me see her. I wasn’t sure if I could, and in my mind possibly the pain would be easier if I didn’t; but of course I changed my mind. I had to see her. No one expects when giving birth they are only able to spend 24 hours with their child, but that’s how long you are given – just 24 hours. There are no checklists, no one reminding you to capture these moments, and reminding you that you would never again hold the physical being of your child again.

A dad wearing a yellow shirt holds his newborn baby girl
Nicole Demetriou

We spent the next 24 hours with her, taking pictures, getting her baptized and just crying. I didn’t put her down for a second, unless my husband or another family member was holding her. I felt like I had failed, that my body killed my baby. It was my fault she was no longer alive.

That evening Arabella was taken to the hospital morgue. I remember telling the nurse that she would have to remove her from my arms because I didn’t think it was possible for me to give her up. Not only did I lose my one and only child, but I had to make arraignments to lay her to rest.

I left the maternity wing of the hospital that night without any baby. People around me were celebrating, and I remember my husband telling me about a dad he met in the hospital lounge. He was excited because he had twins and when he asked about his child my husband told him ours had passed. My heart broke for my husband in that moment.

We returned home to a room full of shower gifts and an empty nursery. I had friends who moved all evidence of a baby into one single room of our house. The days following Arabella’s death were a blur, I couldn’t be alone and I woke up screaming and crying every night. The pain you go through is something I wish no one to ever bear. You hear it a lot but it’s so true – you should never bury your own child. Everywhere around me, my friends were having babies. I knew no one like me, no one who happened to be that 1 percent that people don’t talk about. My only comfort was her hospital blanket. I slept with it almost every night for two years.

I went back to work two weeks after and, believe it or not, it was a welcomed distraction. Finding out why this happened would be my sole purpose for the next year. After numerous tests were done, three specialists and thousands of dollars later, we were no closer to answer. Arabella was a genetically normal baby girl, and there was no problem with me.

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Even though I had no problem conceiving, I started seeing a fertility doctor a couple months later. I wanted a full work up done. Seven months after I delivered Arabella, I ended up pregnant, but miscarried at 5 weeks. The following month after, I became pregnant again, but miscarried again.

With back to back miscarriages, my fertility doctor began a more intensive work up. Nothing was ever found and we were diagnosed with unexplained fertility.

That December we tried an IUI hoping, with medication support, I would stay pregnant, but again I miscarried. While all of this was going on, I asked my best friend Christina if she would consider carrying our baby. She never gave me a straight answer. I found out later she thought I was grieving and that I wasn’t serious. But, around the time of my third miscarriage, I asked again and she said she would pray on it.

A couple months later Christina and her husband told us she would carry for us. I was so happy but saddened all at the same time. Her carrying meant I would not. After many discussions with my husband, we decided if we got less than 3 normal embryos that I would not transfer and they would go right to Christina. So began the long months of psychological appointments, FDA physicals, egg retrieval and contracts.

My egg retrieval came and went quickly; we were happy with the amount of eggs we had retrieved. However when they called to let us know how many ‘genetically normal’ embryos we had…we were only left with one. I was relieved but devastated all at once. Christina carrying for me meant that my baby would have the best chance of making it, but it also meant that I wouldn’t give birth to my baby.

In March of 2018 our one and only ‘normal’ embryo was transferred to Christina. She was so calm throughout the whole thing. I cried, hard. This was it for me, my last chance for a baby. I felt like with the last three years, all the physical pain, and all the money came down to this deciding moment. The one thing I had through all this was faith; faith that I would be a mom one day. My faith was tested so much after Arabella died, but it never became so strong as this moment.

For me this one transfer could end everything that we worked so hard for. It terrified me; this was it – either I would become a mother again, or I wouldn’t.

Our transfer went so well! Christina had a textbook uterus and we prayed our baby would implant.

Seven days later we found out Christina was pregnant. We were overjoyed and nervous at all the same time; could we go through this again? What if we lost this baby too? Our faith was always greater than our fear and that’s what allowed us to continue – Faith. My desire to be a mother was greater than my fear. All the money, medical procedures and tears would bring us our baby.

A mom holds an ultrasound picture while standing next to a tall woman in a blue shirt
Nicole Demetriou

Today Christina is 16 weeks pregnant and Faith Arabella Demetriou is due in November of this year.

Two women stand together in a kitchen with one having a hand on the other's stomach
Nicole Demetriou

I still hold my breath before every ultrasound and doctor appointment, I still cry for the loss of our other daughter. There is not one day that goes by that I don’t think of who she would have been. Birthdays and holidays have passed without her, breaking my heart even more.

Parents hold a picture of their newborn baby in a frame
Toni L.B. Photography

I will make sure there isn’t a day that goes by that our Faith doesn’t know how special she is; how her life gave my life meaning again, and about the very special person who helped give her life. It took an army of medical doctors, family, and friends to create her and she is so loved, loved, loved. We are truly blessed for this miracle, Faith.”

A couple kissing while holding out a sign and photos of their new baby
Toni L.B. Photography

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Nicole Demetriou, 34, of Tampa, Florida. Submit your own story here, and subscribe to our best stories in our free newsletter here.

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