THE MAMA SERIES
Surrogacy: A Peek into the Lives of a Surrogate and Intended Mom Pair
WHY I decided to use a surrogate...
Stephanie O’Hara, Intended Mother:
My son Aidan was 5-years old and had just lost his first tooth when I realized he was a genuine miracle. He was jumping around in rain puddles, wearing his cute little plastic boots with monkeys on them. As I watched him splash around with his gap-tooth smile, I flashed back to each of the six failed pregnancies I’d had since his birth. Sitting there on the front steps of the porch, I was lost in my thoughts.
“What am I doing?”
I was pregnant again, this time via IVF. My bloodwork had come back at a dangerously high level. Doctors thought it was a molar pregnancy, where the cells multiply at a rapid rate. Here we were talking about the possibility of cancer.
I was in shock.
I was already blessed by being Mommy to this precious little boy. Each one of my pregnancies had become more dangerous than the last, and now there was a chance of leaving Aidan without a mother. I had exhausted my mind, my body and my spirit. A voice in my head told me if this pregnancy didn’t work out, then it was time to hang it up.
I ended up miscarrying that weekend for the seventh time --during Sunday School, no less. I will never forget seeing the blood swirling in the bowl of the toilet. It was absolutely devastating. Once again, I felt like my body was failing me and my husband.
Fortunately, we had an incredible and cautious specialist who told me I shouldn’t try getting pregnant again. He told me that my body needed the assistance of a gestational carrier. Using a surrogate wasn’t our Plan B, C or even D but we knew we weren’t ready to give up. We already had frozen embryos, so my husband and I couldn’t bear the thought of not trying to have someone else carry our baby for us.
WHY I decided to be a surrogate...
Tiffany Jo Baker, 3x Surrogate:
Never in a million years would I have guessed that I would become a surrogate and carry five children for three families dealing with infertility plus our two. Had you asked me as a teenager or young adult, being pregnant or a mom was a thought, but really I thought more about what my career was going to be or how I was going to change the world by being a successful CEO, sought after speaker or first female president.
It’s funny how life works out differently than we expected. It turned out that one of my gifts was being pregnant. My husband and I were blessed to quickly and easily get pregnant, I had amazing pregnancies and loved being pregnant. The excuse to gain weight, wear comfy clothes and have food cravings fulfilled by a wonderful husband… was like a dream job for me.
So when I told my friend that we were pregnant with our second just after Trinity’s first birthday and the intense look of joy and pain flashed across her face all at the same time, God began to put something in my heart. In that moment I realized two things. One, she must be having a hard time getting pregnant (since she never said anything to me) and two, I have been given a gift. I remember thinking, “I would do that for someone, I would carry their child.” And so my journey began.
About four years later the timing was right for our family to begin the process. I researched agencies and submitted my application waiting to see what God would do with all this. While driving around doing errands less than 24 hours after placing it in the mail, I received a call from the director of the agency saying she had a couple that had been looking for a surrogate like me for almost two years. In that moment it was like time stood still. I remember it being almost like a holy moment, a divine moment, a moment of destiny. I haven’t had many moments like that, but I knew this was a pivotal moment in my life and I clearly remember God speaking to my heart, “If you make the dreams of others come true, I will make your dreams come true.” Yep… it was powerful and you know the ugly cry quickly began under my sunglasses as I continued to drive around taking it all in.
Since then I have walked the journey of being a surrogate with three amazing families. Each family had different medical reasons for needing a gestational carrier from cancer to suffering through seven miscarriages. The truth is that we were all created with unique gifts and talents. There isn’t one of us that has all the gifts, talents and resources we will ever need in life to be successful. Why would getting pregnant or becoming parents be any different? We were made to need others and be in relationships. We all need help to be successful in our businesses, relationships, mindset and life. Couples dealing with infertility often live in a world of secrecy, loneliness, stigma and shame, but why should we ever feel shame about needing help or having a struggle? Sometimes God performs miracles, sometimes we work hard and work through our struggles and sometimes God uses others to meet our needs.
Surrogacy: A Peek into the Lives of a Surrogate and Intended Mom Pair
WHAT it was like to use a surrogate…
Stephanie O’Hara, Intended Mother:
Once we had made the decision to hire a gestational carrier, we were inundated with applications. One agency sent them individually and another sent them in groups of four at a time.
I printed them all out so I could look through them thoughtfully. Ever judicious, my husband cautioned me to consider the agency as much as the applicant. It was unchartered territory for both of us.
Dirk and I were surrendering, obeying and trusting in the direction in which we were being guided. I knew in my heart our surrogate would feel like a sister or a good friend on paper.
In addition to our specialist’s high standard of physical health, my husband and I had our own benchmarks that were important to us.
For practical reasons, we hoped to find someone who had prior experience as a surrogate. And because we wanted to be part of the doctor appointments, we wanted her to live within three hours of us. It was also important for us to find someone who was a Christian.
We had a lot of boxes to check but our faith kept us from being worried about finding someone. About a week into the process, a profile came through that made me look twice.
Her name was Tiffany and she lived in Dallas (within the 3-hour range we wanted). She had advanced degrees, was in good health and had her own family. I couldn’t believe my eyes as I read on and saw that not only had she been a surrogate before - she worked at a church and was a pastor’s wife.
Tiffany’s photograph was printed on the application. Her beautiful smile jumped off the page. I knew she was the one. I was so excited that I couldn’t help reading through her profile several times and praying over it.
I showed my husband the profile when he got home from work that day. I left the stack of applications on his dresser with hers on top. He looked through them as he was undoing his tie and taking off his shoes.
"Yep. She's the one."
A week later the surrogacy agency set up a conference call with Tiffany and her husband. At the end of the forty-five minute phone call we agreed to meet for lunch in Dallas where they lived.
The next week, we arrived at the cute little Mexican restaurant Tiffany had suggested for lunch. It was Cinco de Mayo, so the restaurant was busy and festive. Tiffany and Brian were waiting for us at the table. They smiled, got up and we hugged briefly. She was absolutely darling. The real litmus test was that she was someone I would be friends with if she weren’t carrying my baby.
The first thing she did was ask to hear our story. As we talked about our infertility journey, a few tears ran down her cheek. Once we finished, I felt that she was connected with us and wanted to help. I could tell by my husband’s facial expression he felt the same way I did. There was no question for either one of us. Tiffany was our angel.
I won’t sugar coat and tell you that the legal and medical aspects of surrogacy were easy or fast. From the time we met Tiffany until the time of the embryo transfer, it was almost nine months. But we believed in God’s perfect timing and trusted the process.
Three weeks after the transfer, we learned that Tiffany was pregnant with our biological twins – a boy and a girl. We were absolutely over the moon!
Our experience with Tiffany was nothing short of wonderful and perfect. She was so organized, communicative, and sweet. She had virtually no complications from the pregnancy, other than high blood pressure towards the end (which is common).
I was worried about having feelings of jealousy towards her when she was pregnant with our babies, but that never happened. Instead, I was completely grateful for this “bonus” round that God had given us and for finding a surrogate who became like a sister to me.
When she was about eight months pregnant, her belly jutted straight out. It was August, and I knew she was miserable. Still, she never complained. Instead, she was positive and upbeat.
‘We are doing great!” she would say.
We had a lot of funny moments – from our parents rubbing on Tiffany’s belly within five minutes of meeting her, to lots of stares in the OB/GYN waiting room. “We are sister wives!” I would joke with people as they stared at me and my husband when we walked back with Tiffany to the exam room.
We also had lots of questions and comments…although people were curious, they were always kind and supportive.
It was definitely surreal and emotional to watch someone else give birth to your children. Tiffany gave us the most precious gift on earth – life. It brings tears to my eyes every time I think about it. How do you ever thank someone enough for such an act?
To be able to hold those babies in our arms after dreaming about them for six long years – well, it was nothing short of magical. We also wanted Tiffany to meet them right away – after all, she carried them for nine months.
We still keep in close contact with Tiffany and her family. In fact, our twins call her our “Special Angel”. They will know their special story – how much they were wanted and loved. And how because of someone else’s faithfulness and selfless act, they were brought into the world.
We are so grateful for the opportunity and give all the Glory to God.
Sidenote: Although I can’t promise you that you will get pregnant or have twins (ha), what I do know is that having a balance between Mind, Body and Spirit will help to set you up for the absolute best chance of success.
Remember – if you are truly open, it’s not a question of IF you will have a baby, but a question of HOW.
Will it be through IVF? A surprise normal pregnancy? Hiring a gestational carrier? An egg donor? Adoption? Fostering?
Think outside the box. Pray for wisdom. Take action.
WHAT it was like to be a surrogate…..
Tiffany Jo Baker, 3x Surrogate:
Two words that express what being a surrogate is like, but at the same time, they don’t even come close to describing the experience accurately.
I remember the first ultra-sound after the positive pregnancy and beta tests with Stephanie and Dirk’s embryos. The three of us walked into the small doctors’ office room with an ultrasound machine prominently in the middle. The sonographer got me situated and as modest as possible and Dirk and Stephanie came into the room. Two sacs quickly became visible and the sonographer confirmed that there were twins.
Stephanie practically jumped out of her chair and shouted for joy. What a moment! It is forever etched in my memory and heart.
From the beginning Stephanie and Dirk were at every Doctor’s appointment with me. The three of us, along with our friends, family and medical professionals, joined forces to become the dream team for Team O’Hara. We shared tears, cheers and lots of prayers.
The surrogacy journey is full of ups and downs, just like anything worthwhile. There are countless injections and medications involved with IVF (and since I’ve carried for three families, I’ve undergone five IVF cycles, plus two dropped cycles). So if I would give a third word to describe the journey, it might be – “hormotional.” Fertility medications are no joke. (If you know, you know.) I sometimes did this laugh-cry thing while pregnant. I would start laughing at something and then seemingly out of no-where, it would turn in to a cry. My family thought it was hilarious.
I hear it all the time. The first question I get asked when someone finds out that I am a surrogate is, “was it hard to give up the babies after delivery?” My response is always the same, “No, it wasn’t hard at all.”
I’m a very logical person and I know what my role is. I see myself as a piece of the puzzle to birthing their dreams and more like an Aunt or a God-mom.
It’s hard to put into words the feelings that come after you birth someone else’s babies. Aside from being pregnant or being in God’s presence, I’m not someone who normally cries, but during these times I cry. The tears come from a place so deep. A place of humbleness. A place of thankfulness. A place of awe and wonder. A place of seeing someone else’s dreams come true, being humbled that God would choose me to be a part and thankful that God was faithful each step of the unexpected way.
Meet Stephanie & Tiffany:
Stephanie O’Hara is an American Mom, Wife, Entrepreneur, Community Leader, Former Rock Singer and Advocate for women experiencing fertility challenges. Stephanie collaborated with Brenda Aréchiga, a Los Angeles based editor whose client list includes Candy Spelling and Rachael Ashwell. Her memoir is completed and is slated to be released in late spring 2019. For more information on their step by step process to obtaining a gestational carrier, please visit Stephanie’s website at www.yourangelwings.net Or follow her on Instagram, Facebook or find her Podcast on Anchor (Steph O’Hara).
Tiffany Jo Baker is a caffeinated mom of two teen girls, surrogate mom of five (two sets of twins + 1), mom to two fur-babies (dog and bunny) and wife to one outdoorsman. As a 3x Surrogate, Speaker and Goal-Getter, she thrives as a Right-Hand Woman, Dream Carrier and Dream Project Manager for Entrepreneurs, Ministry Leaders and Couples dealing with Infertility. Find out how Tiffany can help you love your life, live your dreams and leave a legacy at www.tiffanyjobaker.com and on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube. Blog subscribers get instant access to her 17pg “Don’t Quit Survival Kit” full of soul-care, self-care and dream-care goodness to help you while you’re in the fight for your dreams. Click HERE to sign up.