Our family has some exciting news to share – we’re expecting a baby! Ollie will be getting a baby sister for Christmas this year, and we’re so thrilled. While filled with joy, we are also cautiously optimistic as we’ve been through a lot to get our babies here, and this time is no different.
My first pregnancy with Oliver was complicated by HELLP syndrome resulting in an emergency c-section at 28 weeks, followed by 66 long days in the NICU before he was able to come home. The day he came home was undoubtedly one of the happiest days of our lives. After Ollie’s traumatic entrance, we spent a lot of time thinking about another baby. We waited for months to meet with a specialist to consult about whether or not it was responsible to get pregnant again. We were told that if we wanted more children, it was fine for us to plan for that. So we cautiously planned to get pregnant again hoping that the next time around would be a bit more “normal.”
I was pregnant soon after we began trying and filled with all sorts of anxiety. Despite the nervousness, my pregnancy was fairly textbook until about 23 weeks, when we learned that our baby was measuring small and that there were blood clots in the umbilical cord. Within a week we were indefinitely situated in a room at the hospital where we would be until the baby was born – the goal being to keep the baby in as long as possible. The doctors had us on close watch around the clock with many scares during those days and nights, and eventually our sweet Leo was born via c-section at 25 weeks weighing just shy of one pound. He was perfect. But oh so teeny tiny. He was a spitting image of his big brother and had such a special presence. Brave little Leo put up a courageous fight for 30 days, but his tiny, underdeveloped body couldn’t keep up. He passed away in our arms in the middle of the night due to complications from prematurity. This event broke us in so many ways. We were devastated.
Shortly after the tragic loss of our Leo last March, we were strongly advised to not pursue future pregnancies by my doctors. While they can’t pinpoint exactly why, my body seems to have an autoimmune response to pregnancy that prevents me from carrying to term (or anywhere close to it). Ollie came about three months early, and Leo almost four months. My doctors believe that if I were to become pregnant again, our outcome would likely be the same, if not worse. Not only does pregnancy pose serious risk to future babies, but it also poses a significant risk to my health. So after a second (and third) opinion, we decided that we would not pursue any future pregnancies. In many ways I felt that I have not only had to grieve the loss of Leo, but the loss of any future children as well. It’s been devastating. (I recently opened up about this topic of loss on the Extraordinary Mom’s Podcast if you’re interested in hearing more detail).
We felt strongly that we still wanted another child, a sibling for Ollie. There are essentially two options for growing our family: adoption or surrogacy. My doctor had actually mentioned gestational surrogacy at my 6 week postpartum follow up appointment when we had the “no more pregnancies” discussion. Because of my age, she felt that I was a great candidate for growing our family this way – something we had never even thought about. The quality of my eggs was great and the issues we’d had with pregnancy weren’t related to our genetics. Shortly thereafter, we were approached by a family member offering to carry for us. The original offer came almost in jest, when my sister-in-law (Robby’s sister) joked with my husband that she would totally carry a baby for us. She had carried six healthy babies to term and never had any complications. We immediately felt that this was a unique and wonderful opportunity that we couldn’t pass up. We officially started down the path of gestational surrogacy with my sister-in-law, Betsy, in May of 2015. It was very soon after losing Leo, but this was a gift in so many ways. More than anything it gave us purpose during such a difficult time and an opportunity to work towards growing our family.
The next few months were a blur filled with fertility treatments, shots, medications, tests, etc.. We were working with two separate fertility clinics as I was being treated in New York City and Betsy in Boise, ID. I did two separate rounds of IVF and egg retrievals in order to create viable embryos that could be shipped to Idaho and transferred to Betsy. The embryos are 100% genetically ours – my egg, Robby’s sperm. The process was exhaustive both emotionally and physically. We had so many disappointments including a failed IVF transfer, a few cancelled cycles, and months of poor response and frustration. We had nearly given up when finally we had success on our last and final attempt – the day of our successful transfer was incredibly on the one year anniversary of the day our Leo passed away. The coincidence still gives me goosebumps.
Since receiving the wonderful news that we are expecting, we have nervously made it through each week feeling more and more grateful that this is really happening. Betsy is 20 weeks along and doing great. She is beyond amazing – positive, kind, and so totally dedicated. I’m not sure that I’ll ever have the words to adequately express just how much we love her for giving us the opportunity to become parents again. Not only has she sacrificed, but her family has been there for every step of the way. We admire them in so many ways and will forever be grateful for their selflessness.
Our baby girl is due mid-December and we are so anxious for her safe arrival. The next few months will be challenging but we are so thrilled to be able to provide such a positive, hopeful family update after things have seemed so dark for the past 18 months.
We would be remiss to not mention the outpouring of love and support we’ve felt this past year. This support has carried us through many difficult moments. Thanks to so many of you for cheering us on as we’ve weathered this storm.
My heart aches for those who are desperately trying to start a family or grow their family. I have gained so much respect for those who literally fight to get their families here in many different ways. My hope is that by sharing our story, we can offer a glimmer of hope that the outcome can be a happy one (fingers crossed).