My Quest For A Baby
This is a wonderful time of year for many families. However, for couples longing for children, the Christmas holidays and the start of the new year can reinforce feelings of failure. It is estimated that one in every six couples experiences difficulty getting pregnant or carrying a baby safely to term. For some of these couples, surrogate parenting may be an option for having genetically-related children. With “gestational surrogacy”, eggs from the prospective mother (or an egg donor if the mother is unable to provide them) are retrieved and fertilized outside the body with the father’s sperm. This process is called “in vitro fertilization”. Resulting embryos are then transferred to a gestational surrogate’s uterus. If all goes well, the embryos will implant and grow into a healthy baby for the parents.
This is the story of a new mother who tried everything to have a baby.
My name is Connie Johnston. I got married when I was 27 years old. My husband, Todd and I decided to wait and have children. When I was 31 years old, we tried to have children naturally. Time went by but our attempts weren’t working. After consulting with a doctor, we were told that I had “endometriosis.” Abnormal tissue had grown in my uterus and was interfering with pregnancy. A wonderful team of fertility doctors did everything to make sure that I would get pregnant. After they took all the scarred tissue from my uterus, I started fertility drugs. Then the doctors artificially inseminated me with my husband’s sperm. I got pregnant on the first try, with triplets. I lost two of them at 8 weeks. The third baby was lost at 20 weeks into the pregnancy, a little girl. I delivered her, named her Gabriel Marie and said goodbye, all in the same week. We never knew for sure what caused her to come so early. Our families did their best to comfort us. We tried again as soon as we could. The artificial insemination worked again on my second try. I got pregnant with twins this time. I lost the first baby at 8 weeks. I lasted 17 ½ weeks with my son. The hospital said that I had an incompetent cervix. They said the next time I got pregnant that I’d need a “cerclage” (a stitch in the cervix).
I still had such high hopes that I would have a child on my own. So I tried a third time with artificial insemination and got pregnant with just one baby. I lost it at 8 weeks. After the third loss, we tried a few more times with artificial insemination but it was not working. So my doctors convinced me to try In Vitro Fertilization. So again, we tried… I got pregnant with one this time but lost it at 8 weeks. So now I was having late miscarriages and early miscarriages. My doctors were very concerned and said that we should try one more time with the frozen embryos we had stored from the last in-vitro procedure. But they also wanted me to see a doctor in Chicago because they really felt that it was an immune system disorder that was making me miscarry. The doctor in Chicago put me on an I.V. for three hours every two weeks that would suppress my immune system so that the “killer antibodies” would not attack my babies as foreign objects in my body. I also got a successful cerclage, at 12 weeks.
I developed gestational diabetes and had to take insulin five times a day. The doctor in Chicago also put me on steroids because studies showed it would help a pregnancy like mine. And I also decided to try acupuncture because I had heard such great things about the connection of fertility and acupuncture and successful pregnancies. Well, I got pregnant with twins. I went 24 weeks with my son Conrad and my daughter Elizabeth. I had started to bleed and have contractions and 23 weeks, and went to the hospital where they tried everything to stop the bleeding and contractions. It worked for that week but my water broke and I developed an infection. The infection was in my blood and the baby’s sack. So they had to induce me for delivery, so that they could flood me with antibiotics. They said I would die if I didn’t deliver. My twins lasted about four hours. I was with them most of that time then I had to let them go. This was especially devastating because this was one time where I thought if I solved all my issues then I would have a successful pregnancy.
When I saw my fertility doctors again, they told me that there was no way that they would try to get me pregnant because I just could not carry and that I needed to find a surrogate, preferably family or friends. Three family members and friends offered to carry for us. But realizing what a great burden it would be, they all backed out on us. A psychologist that was helping us deal with our grief and losses referred me to Shirley Zager and her agency, Parenting Partners in Gurnee, IL. WOW. I think this was probably the best decision I had ever made through this whole entire process. I called Shirley and she made me feel so comfortable and confident. She assured me that she would find an excellent match for me and I really have to say that our surrogate, Donna, was wonderful. She was married with two kids of her own. She didn’t drink or smoke and took excellent care of herself. She was very reassuring. She faithfully took all of her medications (pills, patches, creams, and injections needed to prepare her uterus to receive our embryos). She stayed on her medications even after she got pregnant, too, so that her body wouldn’t reject the embryos. Donna was very knowledgeable about surrogacy and helped us out with the information about the baby’s progress. I was so scared when she hit 20 weeks because that is when I miscarried most of the babies. She would calm me in such a way that I could actually enjoy the pregnancy. My agency continually checked on us and monitored every move we made so as to make sure things went along the way they should. We were continually informed on everything that we needed to do from the very beginning. I do have to say that you need to have a lot of faith and trust that things will go o.k. if you work with a surrogate and having an agency that stayed closely in touch and cared so much about us made our journey so much easier.
In my whole life, I would never imagine that someone could carry your own child. It is truly a miracle. Well, I should say two miracles because now we have beautiful, healthy twins, our son Ethan and daughter Zoë. Thanks for such a wonderful and beautiful experience.