Justin and Meghan Holliday and Will and Cari Childs share their stories
Would you carry a stranger's or your best friend's baby? How about for your sister or your daughter? Over the last few years, surrogacy has become a quite popular alternative for families in their fight against infertility. Two area couples have experienced this miracle and are now proud parents – thanks to the selfless acts of a few people in their family.
Mexico native Meghan Holliday and her husband Justin of Jefferson City, are the parents of a beautiful, nearly four-week old baby girl – Brynley Ann Holliday, who was born April 12, 2013, at Boone Hospital in Columbia. The infant's maternal grandmother, Carol Bedford of Mexico, was the couple's gestational surrogate.
The term "gestational surrogacy" refers to a treatment process, in which another woman ("gestational surrogate") undergoes the embryo transfer process, and then carries the pregnancy to term. From a medical perspective, the process of gestational surrogacy is identical to egg donation/recipient treatment cycles. Gestational surrogacy may be achieved with the intended mother's eggs and the sperm comes from the intended father.
The same procedure was also used four years ago by Paris native Cari Childs and her husband, Will, of O'Fallon – who today have triplets Taylor, Connor and Ryen that Cari's sister-in-law, Sue Sharp of Perry, carried for them.
Both families recently shared their stories with The Mexico Ledger to possibly give hope and promise to couples considering surrogacy. While the procedure can be costly (somewhere around $60,000), Meghan Holliday says the results are "priceless."
The Holliday's gift
"When I held her for the first time, it was utter joy," Meghan Holliday said about her baby's birth. She was by her mother's side in the delivery room when Brynley was born. "She's wonderful and absolutely beautiful, and everything I've ever wanted in life.
"I love my mom so much. She gave me the gift that no one else could give me and that I couldn't give my husband. She is so remarkable."
Holliday found out at age 15 she had medical issues that would prevent her from carrying a child. She knew then that surrogacy was an option, but she never really looked into it until she got married. In October 2011, she saw an "Oprah" episode on surrogacy and decided a few months later that surrogacy was what she wanted to do. She and her mother both watched the show.
"By the end of the show, I was crying, my mom was crying; we cried together. How beautiful it was. It was a story about a 60-year-old woman in Chicago having a baby for her daughter. I thought maybe this was something possible for us," Holliday said. Looking back now, she said, "There's nobody else I would have rather done it with."
At age 52 and three grown children of her own, Bedford said she was "more than willing" to do this for her daughter.
"The decision for me was easy, but everyone was concerned with my health and ability to carry the baby," Bedford told The Ledger. "But, everything went well. She was born early; she came on April 12, but was due May 1."
Doing this for her daughter and son-in-law, Bedford said, has brought the family closer. She and Meghan experienced everything together – from the doctor's visits to the baby's first kicks.
When asked by people why she did it, Bedford said her reply is, "What I did was out of love. As a mother you will do anything for your kids and their happiness."
Meghan and Justin chose Bedford's middle name "Ann" for their baby girl. "I think she will always know how much her grandmother loves her and what she went through to get her here for us. It was a beautiful, selfless gift, that has created a wonderful bond between us."
Meghan is 26 and a teacher at Moreau Heights Elementary in Jefferson City. Justin is 28 and a recreation therapist at the Fulton State Hospital, and they reside in Jefferson City. Carol and her husband, Larry, live in Mexico. They have three children, and their oldest son and his wife are expecting a baby in early June.
"We are truly blessed," Bedford said.
The Childs' Triplets
Cari and Will Childs, like any other married couple, had planned for a big family, but were told after their first miscarriage, that it would not be safe for Cari to carry another baby.
And then came their blessing.
"I was kind of in denial at first that we had to go an alternate route, because I've always wanted to be a mother," Cari told The Ledger. But, while recovering from her miscarriage, she said, Sue immediately let her know that there was an option, and that she was willing to be a part of it.
"This was something that Sue had thought about for a while. She and my brother have been married 23 years and have two sons of their own," Cari explained. "I remember when she was pregnant with her second child, she said if someone in the family needed her to carry their baby, that was something she would do for the family."
Sue has known Cari since she was 8 years old, and that there was "absolutely no doubt" in her mind this was something that she wanted to do. She was 38 when she carried the triplets, and was placed on bed rest in her fifth month. At 31 weeks and five days (still nearly two months early), she delivered three healthy babies.
"Originally, we thought it was just two babies, because we only saw two sacs in the ultrasound," Sue explained. But nestled between those two babies was a third. "We were all in a little shock. We had transferred three embryos and hoped for twins, but were blessed with triplets."
The babies were born on March 17, 2009, St. Patrick's Dy, at St. John's Mercy Hospital in St. Louis. Today, the triplets are four years old, happy, healthy and simply adore their "Aunt Sue and Uncle Darren."
"My kids love and adore them, and they talk about them all the time. The boys are at a point that they want to dress like Wyatt and Walker (Sue's two sons). We're definitely a close bunch and we know that we are blessed to have their support and the opportunity to have a family. These kids are not only the center of our world, they are the center of the entire family's world and special to the whole family," Cari said.
And then she added, "Thank God for Sue."
Sue warns that the procedure is not necessarily an easy option. With all of the daily injections and medications, she said, "Thank God we were successful with the first (embryo) transplant."
"Cari's was more involved. She had to go through the egg retrieval. Mine wasn't that bad, other than the injections," Sue said. "A lot of people have different understandings about surrogacy and might assume that the eggs used were mine."
But she quickly corrects them, and says "These are 100 percent biologically Cari and Will's babies. I only brought them into the world."
Cari and Sue said they hope more couples will explore the surrogacy option.
"It's definitely an option if anyone has to use it, and it's definitely one of the most unbelievable experiences of my life. I wouldn't change it for anything," Sue said. Cari agreed saying, "It was absolutely the most meaningful thing ever. We have no regrets and our family is much closer because of it."
Brynley's other grandparents are Herb and Gala Holliday, Jefferson City and her great-grandparents are Ronald and Virginia Baker of Mexico.
The triplets' grandparents are Bill and Fanny Childs of Moberly and John Sims of Paris. Their great grandparents are Edwin and Glena Sims of Paris.