‘Will my body do its job?’ There was less than a 50% survival rate.’: After battling infertility, high-risk pregnancy, couple turn to surrogate for second child

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Disclaimer: This story includes mentions of infertility and pregnancy loss that may be triggering to some.

“Our love story began fourteen years ago. Callum and I were both collegiate athletes and met during the preseason. We were young and in love, and early on in our relationship, we knew we were meant to be together. Callum graduated early and found a great job. Eighteen months later, he was offered a promotion and a new work visa. To do this the ‘right way,’ he had to move back home to Scotland for six months to await visa approval.

The company ended up losing the contract he was to work on and the job no longer existed, so the visa was annulled, and he was unable to return to me in the United States. This was our first significant test as a couple, living nearly 2,000 miles apart with no desire of being with anyone but one another. We visited each other every four to five months, which felt like an eternity. Finally, after almost two years, a lot of self-reflection, hard work, and saving, he chose to reinvent himself professionally and come back to the U.S to pursue a master’s degree.

We were overjoyed to be back in each other’s arms, picking up right where we left off, and we began to grow our lives together. We got engaged and married nearly two years later but did not have intentions of starting our family right away. We loved traveling, and we also wanted to save up to buy our first home. We had our golden plan of when we would start trying for a baby, but little did we know, our journey would not be as straightforward as we expected.

We endured an incredibly challenging emotional roller coaster of ups and downs in our journey to bring our daughter into the world. We struggled for nearly two years with unexplained infertility and turned to fertility specialists in Boston. We continued attempts to begin our family and achieved several pregnancies where we believed we were bringing a child into the world. However, we suffered three cruel losses at various trimesters—all for different obscure medical reasons of unbelievably low odds.

A woman stands wearing a hospital gown
Courtesy of Kate B.

With each loss, we questioned our deservingness to be parents. What were we doing wrong? Was it simply not meant to be? We turned to IVF, and thankfully, were able to create six embryos with a high-grade probability of successful transfer. Miraculously, before we could attempt our second embryo transfer, we found out we were pregnant on our own, without medical intervention.

After all the loss and heartache, we walked into each appointment wondering if it would be the moment they would tell us something was wrong. We were constantly waiting for the ‘but’ at each visit. Yet while we were cautiously optimistic, we knew in our hearts Maelyn was simply meant to be ours.

We learned halfway through our pregnancy I had a medical condition called placenta previa, which meant the placenta was covering my cervix, making it very dangerous and life-threatening to deliver vaginally. We were told it would likely correct itself, however, each follow-up ultrasound offered more difficult news that the condition had worsened and drip-fed the familiar sinking feeling a low odds medical anomaly would rob us of our first child.

I was hospitalized at 32 weeks and Placenta Percreta, the final diagnosis, dictated the only way for mother and baby to survive was by cesarean section with a hysterectomy. Percreta is the rarest and most severe form of placenta accreta. We were offered odds of less than 50% survival rate for both mother and baby due to the high probability of hemorrhaging.

After a scramble to assemble the top surgeons in four respective fields, Maelyn was delivered at 34 weeks. She came into this world ready to take it on and spent only eight days in the NICU with nothing but jaundice to ail her. We were finally parents! It was the happiest day of our lives, yet we had to grieve the loss of our ability to carry future children.

A mother kisses her newborn baby girl
Courtesy of Kate B.
A father holds his newborn baby girl in the hospital
Courtesy of Kate B.

We then found ourselves with frozen embryos, pre-conceived biological siblings for Maelyn. We are both firm believers in things happening for a reason. Did we actually go through IVF not to conceive Maelyn, but rather her brothers and sisters? The answer remains unknown, but we felt in our hearts there was a reason we created embryos, and we wanted to use them. After self-reflection and reckoning, we researched ways to make it possible to give Maelyn biological siblings, and after years of hard work, self-discipline, and possibly a little bit of luck, we were able to consider surrogacy as an option to bring another child into the world.

So it began, adventuring in uncharted territory. Exploring and wondering if it was ever going to be possible. We had our greatest joy, our daughter, for whom we were eternally grateful. However, we knew our family was not quite complete and were anxious to give our daughter a sibling to grow up with. Callum grew up with two incredible siblings, and I am an only child. We valued the importance of family and wanted to give Maelyn the opportunity to grow up with a lifelong friend.

Finally, after interviewing several surrogacy agencies, two cross-country moves, and several months on a waitlist, we were matched with the most genuine and compassionate woman to carry our future baby. Our match was perfect, and we were anxious to get started. However, the process of getting a candidate approved to carry our child as a surrogate was extensive, and our fertility clinic was booked out for several months. More waiting.

The week we were scheduled to go up for our medical and psychological clearance, the entire country shut down due to the pandemic. Yet again, another delay, and we were devastated. Why did this keep happening? How many more tests were we going to be put through? It felt like at every turn there was a roadblock.

After months of (im)patiently waiting for restrictions to ease up, we were finally given the green light to begin biological and psychological evaluations for ourselves, our potential gestational carrier, and her husband. The time in between each step felt excruciatingly long, as we had been waiting years to expand our family.

We were finally given a transfer date and 10 days later, learned we were pregnant! It was an incredibly surreal feeling, not physically carrying the baby but still expecting. Every single month we drove to our gestational carrier’s town for OB appointments and ultrasounds. We missed all but two appointments, due to Covid restrictions.

A little girl stands on a beach with writing in the sand
Courtesy of Kate B.

It meant so much to us to be able to be a part of the pregnancy right alongside her. As the months passed, our families became extremely close, spending each weekend we visited together. Our two families bonded in the most beautiful way you could ever imagine. The love and respect that grew for each other each month was indescribable.

The pregnancy itself went smoothly with no issues. Of course, it did not come without emotions, which at times were all-consuming. While we were very much at peace with another woman carrying our child, there were certain milestones along the way we held our breaths just to reach, likely due to our previous losses. It was crippling at times, which made being a mother to our three-year-old very challenging. My anxiety was at an all-time high, even though each appointment we walked away with positive news. It was as if we were constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop.

A woman holds a bun next to a pregnant woman's stomach
Courtesy of Kate B.

About halfway through the pregnancy, I had researched whether or not I would be able to induce lactation. It seemed like a lofty goal, but after a lot of support and education from a woman who had successfully nursed her child without physically birthing, I decided to give it a go. It required a lot of patience, pumping every three hours, multiple supplements, and a medication to kick-start my body, but then one day I saw drops. It took discipline and faith through the uncertainty and nagging doubt of ‘will my body do its job in the end?’ especially on days when I would barely produce. Drops turned to ounces. Ounces I was able to save and freeze to feed our son.

A container of ice cream next to an ultrasound photo
Courtesy of Kate B.

Through it all, we remained a team and supported each other, my husband and I, as well as our gestational carrier and her husband. We were a solid unit. Nine months flew by and dragged on simultaneously. It was exciting and nerve-wracking to watch her stomach grow and eventually feel the baby kick. I have never loved another woman’s bump as much as I loved hers.

It was not until the night of delivery when we found out whether or not we’d be allowed in the room when our son was born, due to Covid restrictions, but thanks to a very compassionate nurse who advocated for special approval, we were granted the ability to be there. The moment our son was born, it felt like time stood still. As he took his first breath, we could also breathe knowing he was finally safe in our arms. He latched almost instantly, and I was able to nurse him since the first hour of his life, one of the greatest accomplishments of my life.

A baby boy is born from a gestational carrier in the hospital
Courtesy of Kate B.
A mother holds her newborn baby boy
Courtesy of Kate B.

As we look back on our journey, the pain and heartbreak in the reflection are fading. Yet we bear enough scars, physically and figuratively, that on behalf of those who are navigating similarly uncertain journeys, we scorn ourselves for uttering such easy-for-you-to-say phrases we like ‘all is well that ends well.’ We experienced intense loss and devastation in those years while building our family. There were times along the way where we felt like giving up, but there was something constantly tugging at our hearts, and we knew we were not quite ready to close that chapter of our story.

A woman holds her young baby sitting in an armchair
Courtesy of Bonnie Iris

Knox is truly the perfect missing piece to our family puzzle, and we couldn’t be more grateful. So if you are in the waiting period, living on hope…have faith, love the family you have, focus on what you can control, and know life has a funny way of working itself out. I promise you, the other side of this brings love and joy that will make all the heartache, all the tears, all the struggles, all the frustrations, and all the anger worth it.”

A mother sits in a hospital bed with her newborn and her daughter
Courtesy of Kate B.
Parents hold their two children outdoors by trees
Courtesy of Bonnie Iris

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Kate B. of Georgia. Submit your own story hereand be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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