Disclaimer: This story includes mentions of pregnancy loss that may be triggering to some.
“I always knew I wanted to be a mom. From the time I got my first baby doll to today, it still rings true. Finding out I had been adopted only made me want my own children even more. That magic and love between a child and their parent always spoke to me. Especially after finding out how badly my parents had wanted kids and had to adopt me and my siblings. That’s why when I met Valerie, my heart bled for her and her struggles to become a mom, even when we barely knew each other.
My husband and I met in college and instantly knew we were meant to be. Our oldest jumped the gun, with me getting pregnant shortly after classes ended in the spring of 2010. We both dropped out and tried to make it on our own, with some help from his family. Our son was born February 6, 2010, and a year later, on February 7, my husband left for boot camp with the US Coast Guard. We followed him to California for his training school, where we became pregnant again, on Mother’s Day. He wanted to give me something, but we were stretched thin. We moved to Seattle shortly after that day, and then my Mother’s Day gift was born, our precious little girl, on January 23, 2013.
Things got rough after that. I miscarried six months later, on July 2, while my husband was heading towards the arctic circle on the icebreaker, USCG Polar Star. They sent him home but his direct command treated him like trash when they got back. As their treatment of him grew worse, he began pulling away before finally finding a loophole allowing him to get out. He was honorably discharged in October of 2014, and we moved back to the east side of the states to live with his dad. He attempted to go back to school, and I watched the kids.
This is where we met Valerie officially. I had met her the year prior when my father-in-law had paid to fly me and the kids to see him and my folks for the Christmas holiday, as my husband was once again out, this time in the southern oceans. She instantly fell in love with our two kids and they with her. She cleaned on the weekends for my father-in-law. The first few times after we moved in, I tried to stay out of her way as best I could while also learning how she did things. (My father-in-law is OCD and a huge neat freak, which I am not.) But we got to talking as she worked, and before I knew it, it felt like we had been friends for a long time.
Valerie confided in me she was trying to get pregnant, but her endometriosis was causing complications. After I got to know her, she tried IVF for the last time. It didn’t take sadly, but she hadn’t given up hope yet. I was sure she would get her dream and get to be a mama, I could feel it deep in my soul. She was a kindred spirit in her need to be a mom and have a whole family unit. I kept quietly praying for her and her struggles as we eventually moved out and into our own place.
Two years after moving, I got pregnant with our third. It took us completely by surprise, and I spent a large majority of the pregnancy worried I was going to miscarry again. I didn’t, and our second beautiful boy was born on October 28, 2017. That spring we had a house fire and realized just how run down the place we were renting was. My father-in-law once again opened his doors to us when our lease was up, and we moved back in with him. This allowed my friendship with Valerie to blossom and grow into something even closer than it had been.
She shared she was going to adopt a year after we moved in. I couldn’t have been happier for her as she told me about the girl and how she had already been to some of the appointments. Now, in our state, if the father wishes to be in the child’s life, even if it’s at the last second, the adoption will be voided. And sure enough, this child’s father stepped in and changed his mind days before they were due to be born. I watched as Valerie lost hope and mourned the loss of her child. It brought back the pain of my miscarriage, and I cried with her silently in my heart of hearts. She may not have physically lost a child, but she still lost one nonetheless.
A few weeks after, once she was mentally able to come back and clean for my father-in-law again, we were sitting on the back porch while she and my husband shared a smoke. And this fateful day is what began the truly magically part of our relationship.
My husband asked her how she was coping. She openly shared, with tears gathering in her eyes, she was still hurting but it wasn’t as sharp as it had been a few weeks prior. We spent a few minutes bad-mouthing the system and the father of the child (who only stepped up because his mother had pressured him to). Then my husband said the one thing that changed everything.
‘Well, we could always give you one of ours.’
At the time, it was more meant to cheer her up than anything, and I was thinking of the three we already had. A few days later my husband told me the real meaning of the joke, and I was floored. How could I have not thought of this? Me? The one in our relationship who had been adopted? I couldn’t wrap my head around the idea for a week. When I finally did, I interrupted my husband as he was playing a video game and asked him how exactly this would work. We discussed our feelings on it: he wanted to be upfront and open from the start, I was worried the kids would be compared between our family and Valerie’s and about the feelings that would spring from that. But we agreed we wanted to do this.
We shared our decision with Valerie the next time she was over. She couldn’t seem to decide if she wanted to jump for joy or cry out of happiness. She went home to tell her husband, who was immediately on board. Then COVID hit, and the world seemed to both stop and speed up all at once. The next few months would be both a blur and a Kodiak moment.
I had my Nexplanon implant out in March of 2020. By that point, we knew this was no longer a surrogacy but an adoption. Surrogacy was beyond Valerie’s means to afford. The NP who did the procedure seemed to be trying to talk me out of it as I excitedly told her why I was having the implant out early. I wonder now if she was just worried about the hormonal fall out of not having the baby with me, but at the time, it hit me in the face and made me defensive. Then again, this NP always seemed to want to tell me what to do with my body, so it was a little easier for me to brush off her words.
As things tentatively opened up, my sister was beginning to plan her baby shower. She was expecting her first, a little girl, and I was determined to at least be there for the shower since no one was sure what the fall would bring. So I drove up the weekend of July 17-19 to see her and my parents. I stayed with my parents, to whom I let slip what we were planning. (We hadn’t decided who we were going to share with yet.) My parents freaked out.
‘You’ll ruin your family.’
‘Are you even thinking of your kids?’
‘Oh. You’re only doing it for the money. That’s highly illegal, you know.’
I was crushed. I thought of all the people in my life who would understand what I was doing, it would have been them. The money thing hurt the most though. I never asked for a dime from Valerie, though she constantly offered to get me things and they paid for the lawyer. I was only doing what my mother, and my siblings’ mothers, had done for my parents. Luckily, when I shared my plans with my brother and sister, they thought it was amazing and have been completely supportive. My hard-to-reach kid brother even called me to check in on me after the birth. I am still hurt by those words though, and I am just glad I wasn’t pregnant yet, as I don’t think I could have handled hearing those same phrases for nine months.
So when I finally got pregnant towards the end of August, I only told my siblings. Valerie and I had been anxiously checking the test every time I took one. We hugged so hard and jumped excitedly when those two pink lines finally appeared. I was all nerves and excitement as I once again met with the NP to confirm and begin my prenatal treatment. Life was looking up at the time. My husband was going back to school and, even with distance learning, my kids were coping better than I could have hoped for. Distance learning opened my eyes to some things regarding the education system, however, so I began homeschooling, which actually made things both easier and harder.
I finally got to officially meet Valerie’s husband in December, when he came over for dinner. Jamie is truly an amazing man, and I know he will be an amazing father. I had just heard back about my blood tests, and they told us the baby was a boy. We told them that night after dinner. We also continued to assure both of them we were in this 100 percent and had no thoughts of backing out. We just wanted to make sure this child would be loved just as much by them as he was by us, which I could tell instantly he would be.
At my 20 week scan, they were still only allowing just the patient to come in, so I went alone. The tech was silent, and I was nervously happy as I saw this cute little boy’s face, heartbeat, fingers, and toes. I video-chatted Valerie so she could see, though I don’t think she could really see much of anything, given the space between the screen and my phone. I thought everything was fine until I got a call a few days later saying my doctor had set up an appointment with me at another clinic the next town over.
Now began the true worries and fears as I wondered what was wrong. My blood tests and everything had come back normal, he looked perfect on the ultrasound, his heart rate was good. Why was I being sent somewhere else? I looked the address up, and it was a high-risk pregnancy clinic. Cue double the nerves and a few minor panic attacks as the days ticked down to the appointment.
A few days before the appointment, my husband was scheduled to receive the COVID vaccine in Memphis, where my father-in-law works and had been stuck during lockdown. Only thing was, his appointment was the morning after my appointment. So we had to leave after my afternoon appointment and make the four-hour drive to Memphis. That morning finally rolled, around and I spent it packing and keeping busy so I didn’t run over all the possible bad outcomes. We g0t to the office and my husband sat outside with the kids as I nervously walk in.
I finally got an explanation as to why I am there as they set up to scan me. I was there for a neonatal echo. The right umbilical vein remained open and the left one had closed, which is rare and can cause the baby’s heart to work too hard or be flooded. I spent over an hour waiting for the doctor once the tech was done, hoping I would hear the baby is actually fine and it was nothing. When she finally walks in and tells me the details, I have to ask her to repeat herself several times. The baby looks fine, the valve regulating blood flow is properly in place, and everything else looks good. I just have to go in for regular scans to make sure nothing shifts or changes. I was so overcome with relief, it was well over an hour on the road before I remembered to call Valerie. We could both breathe again.
After that, the months seemed to fly by as I homeschooled and grew fatter by the day. Texts were sent almost daily between Valerie and me, and at least one always asked if I was sure and okay. I never wavered from my decision to do this. My husband and I started filling out paperwork for the lawyer as the baby kicked my ribs and caused me breathing problems constantly. Valerie was able to come to some of my ultrasounds and see and hear the baby. Every kick she felt made her eyes light up so much. She was always thanking me, but I only really wanted to thank her for letting me be a part of this wonderful miracle we were creating.
May come so fast and we decided to induce, if I made it that long, on the 26. I was huge, tired, and having contractions every so often for a week by then. School was done for the kids, and my husband had emailed his professors. I went in that morning more excited than nervous. This would be my smoothest delivery out of all of them, though the epidural sucked like always. (I have no real pain tolerance.) Jamie sat by my head as I pushed, as he was going to sit out in the hallway out of respect, but I wanted him in the room. My husband helped deliver precious little Jacob Prince. He came out angry and screaming, and I watched as both Jamie and Valerie held back tears of joy. They only got to hold him for a minute before they took him to the NICU. He had excess fluid and was having trouble expelling it.
I was able to hold this precious boy later that night, and I felt even more strongly he was truly Valerie and Jamie’s son. It’s been a month now, and I have never once regretted or wished he was mine. I was called to carry him so he could slip perfectly into the family he was meant to be a part of. That calling was so strong, it carried me through the pandemic and all the horrible things going on in the world. I have never felt anything so strong before and probably never will. My friendship and love for Valerie and her family is a beacon of hope for me in these uncertain times, and I can only hope I can share some of the hope and love with others who may need it.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Rachel Schwartz of Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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