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by Kirsten McLennan

“Would you like to hold him?” These were the words we had been aching to hear for years. On July 5th at 11:49A.M., our beautiful son Spencer was born. It had been a long journey. And like most things worth fighting for, it had been a hard one.

Ryan and I married in 2011 and always wanted a family. Like many young couples, we thought it would be easy. After about a year, we knew something wasn’t right. And so, our infertility journey began. After a few failed IVF transfers and an ectopic pregnancy, the issue became clear. As one specialist put it, “You need healthy soil for a plant to grow”. My endometrium lining was too thin to fall pregnant or carry a baby. This was an issue that is hereditary, rare and worst of all, often impossible to treat. I always wanted to be a mum, to have a family, and it was devastating to hear that this may never happen.

It was at this point that surrogacy was mentioned as our “best chance of success”. Not feeling quite ready yet, I tried everything else first; acupuncture, wacky diets, Chinese medicine, strong medication with horrible side effects, and stem-cell surgery. The stem cells did the trick. My lining slightly increased and while below the average, we fell pregnant. It was at the eight-week scan that we learned the heartbreaking news that the baby’s heartbeat was too slow, and we would inevitably miscarry. It was time to give surrogacy a go.

We started in Canada. It had been a long time since we felt so excited and hopeful. It was intoxicating. We eagerly went to the clinic with our first beautiful surrogate, Julie, a selfless woman who simply wanted to help us. If you ask me to recount this day, I can’t. The last thing I remember is being led into the Dr.’s office to hear the devastating news that the container of embryos we transported over from Australia was empty. Yes, empty. Shock and despair rushed through me while Julie and Ryan quietly wept. The rest of the day is a blur. We later learned that this was rare. Thousands of embryos, eggs and sperm are transported worldwide every week. This was unheard of and had less than 0.2% chance of happening.

Heartbroken and lost, we stumbled back to Australia. We, like many going through infertility knew we only had two choices – keep going or stop. We decided to keep going. We pushed ahead with three transfers in Canada. All failed. With heavy hearts, we knew it was once again time to move on.

We heard about surrogacy in the US and the Utah Fertility Center through a family friend. We were immediately impressed with Dr. Foulk, our nurse Tonya and the UFC team. They seemed to just get it and presented us with new ideas to try. That familiar feeling of hope started to creep back in.

I can’t explain how you can feel an instant connection with someone over Skype, let alone someone halfway across the world, but that’s what happened with us. We had an instant bond with our surrogate, Leigha, and her beautiful family, and we just knew that this was the woman who we wanted to carry our baby. We will always be in awe of how someone can do surrogacy. How someone who doesn’t even know you simply hears your story and feels compelled to help you. That they are willing to go through months of fertility treatment, pregnancy and then birth to give you the greatest gift of all; a child.

Our first transfer failed, but Dr Foulk had some good insights. He changed our approach and bingo, the second transfer was a success. With excited anticipation, we heard the heartbeat on the eight-week scan and we all felt at peace. It was at our 10-week scan that there was silence and we knew the baby had passed. It hit us all hard. With this miscarriage, there were more than our hearts breaking. All we wanted to do was jump on a plane, hug Leigha and Josh and cry together. It was in that moment that I resigned myself to think this would never happen. I wanted to scream and cry and be done with the whole thing. The odds were against us, the universe had spoken. Thankfully, Ryan and Dr. Foulk didn’t share my superstition and knocked some sense into me. Dr. Foulk presented the facts – what had caused the loss was rare and was highly unlikely to occur again. And the positive was that we had fallen pregnant. We tried once more and now we have beautiful Spencer.

Not a day goes by that we don’t feel incredibly grateful for Spencer. Grateful to our friends and family, the team at UFC and of course, our new family – the gorgeous and compassionate Leigha, her loving husband Josh and their two lovely boys. This journey has taught us so much, and for anyone going through infertility, I know it’s hard. It can be brutal, raw and all too often, it can be a silent heartbreak.

I’ll leave you with a quote from Jimmy Fallon, as it always made us feel better during some of the tougher times: “Just hang in there, try every avenue, try anything you can do, ’cause you’ll get there. You’ll end up with a family and it’s so worth it. It is the most ‘worth it’ thing.”

Preview of Part 2, Sisters Through Motherhood
A 2 a.m. Skype call, followed by a comment to my husband, “This is going to be hard, but I know we are meant to do it”. I could feel this would take us on a journey like no other we had been through together. At the time I had no idea how right I was. You see, this would be my second surrogate journey, and my first journey was perfect, so how hard could it really be? Right?… Sisters Through Motherhood by Leigha Harris