A precedent setting miracle in the making
In November of 1993, Terri (our surrogate), Kristi and I went to our obstetrician for the first ultrasound. After what seemed like an hour of searching, the nurse gave us the blessed news: we had a viable pregnancy. Although we were still in the very early stages and fully aware that there were many possible hazards ahead of us, we were on cloud nine. My feet didn't touch the ground as I walked out of the office. On the drive home with Kristi, I finally had to admit to myself the whole incredible plan might work.
I am normally the sort of person who does not accept success until it is literally in the bank. So it was most unusual that even at this early, precarious time, I firmly believed that the odds of us getting a baby were good. “You see?” I joked with Kristi. “I told you this would work. Nothing to it.”
Terri's pregnancy was classified high-risk because of the IVF. She needed to have an ultrasound every two weeks. While we were not as nervous at our second visit, the tension remained high; there were still so many things that could go wrong. During that session, when the nurse told us that she was hearing a second heartbeat, my mind raced. “What does this mean? Does our baby have two hearts?” My confusion was soon cleared up when the nurse excitedly announced, “It looks like twins!”
How fortunate could we be? Kristi and I had already agreed that this was going to be our only attempt at this. We had decided that the emotional roller coaster we had been on-not to mention the financial cost-was something we couldn't go through again, nor could we ask Terri or Karla to endure the painful procedure a second time.
We had heard stories of couples that were absolutely obsessed with having their own babies and we agreed we were not in that state of mind. If this didn't work the first time, we would go the adoption route.
So here we were with twins on the way. God had blessed us with a chance at a family in one fell swoop. We were, quite obviously, on top of the world.
On a regular basis, we continued to go for ultrasounds. By now, we were having them performed at a hospital close to Terri and J.J.'s home.
Our first hospital visit was rather interesting. Because this was a “normal” maternity ward, the staff was not accustomed to our unique situation. Four people having two babies? The staff tried to prevent Kristi and me from entering the room, declaring it was reserved for parents only. They were rather dumbfounded when Terri told them Kristi and I were the parents. After several minutes of explaining our exceptional situation and how we all fit into it, they reluctantly agreed to allow all of us to be in the room while the ultrasound was done. The room was exceptionally small, but we all fit in there -- Terri, J.J., Kristi, the nurse, and me.
Eventually, we settled down to our every-other-week routine and quickly became mini celebrities at the hospital. As the staff became familiar with our story, they really got on board.
Watching those fuzzy black and white ultrasound videos of our babies is forever imprinted in my mind. The way we could watch them moving and stretching, making fists with their little hands and even kicking each other, was truly amazing. I'm sure the fact that these are the only times I have ever seen my sons helps to intensify the images in my mind.
Fathers-to-be are often asked what they want to have, a boy or a girl. In my case, I can honestly say I truly didn't care. I felt that being blessed with not one but two babies was more than I could have possibly asked for or even dreamed of.
I seem to remember, in the back of my mind, I thought a boy and a girl would be the best arrangement. You know, one of each.
After only a few months, it quickly became apparent that baby A was most definitely a boy. I boasted to everyone, “The apple doesn't fall far from the tree!” Kristi's giggling in the background didn't help, I can assure you.
As we went in for subsequent visits, I was secretly hoping to discover a girl in the baby B slot. Kristi is such a beautifully feminine woman; I knew she would make a great mom to a daughter. She was a natural for the emotional attachment that often exists between a mother and daughter. She also would have been great at all of that girly stuff, like getting dressed up, putting on makeup, cooking and shopping.
Now, don't get me wrong. I am not a male chauvinist. I believe in equality in the work place and all that, but I also believe that there is a difference between the sexes and that God intended it to be that way. Not that a man can't cry, or a woman can't change a tire, but let's not go overboard, OK?
In about the sixth month, our ultrasound technician gave us the news we had all been anticipating. Baby B was also a boy. My disappointment that Kristi was not going to get her little girl was quickly replaced with the elation that we were going to have two boys! How cool was that?
I tried to hide my excitement. Two boys to play ball with, two boys to collect baseball cards with, two boys to take fishing and skiing, and two boys to take to the ball games. This being a dad thing was going to be great!
Kristi was far from disappointed with this news. She, like me, would have felt blessed with two boys, two girls, or one of each.
In retrospect, God knew just what he was doing when he gave us boys. (Doesn't He always?) Kristi has turned out to be the best boy mom in the world. They have toughened her up a bit, and she has given them the polish and manners that are all too rare among boys today.
As you might expect, our unusual situation brought us quite a bit of attention. Our pre-natal Lamaze classes proved to be rather entertaining. Terri, Kristi and I would come in, grab our pillow, and have a seat on the floor. The other moms and dads didn't quite know what to make of us. No matter how crowded the class was, they all steered clear of the area in which we were sitting. It seemed as though they didn't want to get too close to us. They probably thought we were some new-age family-or perhaps “hangover hippies.” Nothing could have been further from the truth. During this stage, we were often asked if we intended to explain to our boys the nature of their unique birth. Kristi and I were in total agreement. I would sit them down for a little father-to-sons talk, look them right in the eyes and say, “Boys, your mother has something very important she wants to tell you.”
We also attracted the attention of the Leeza Gibbons show. Leeza wanted to do a unique human-interest story on this controversial procedure called surrogacy. Her producers contacted the Pacific Fertility Clinic, and the staff told her about us. Leeza loved the story idea of a woman donating her eggs so her sister could have a baby.
Within a couple of weeks, a producer contacted us with an invitation to appear on the talk show. We were going to be on national TV, all because of Kristi's improbable dream. So, it was off to Hollywood! The taping of the show proved to be a lot of fun. We were featured for the entire hour and the staff made us feel like real celebrities.
Leeza was not at all what I expected. I anticipated that she would be a phony, Hollywood type. I guess, in general, I really don't have much respect for that entire industry, so naturally I assumed she wouldn't even meet my low expectations. The only reason we agreed to do it, I rationalized, was to help educate infertile couples about the exciting options of surrogacy and IVF. At the beginning of the show, Leeza had Kristi and me out to tell our amazing story. Then she introduced Terri and Karla, who talked about their generous contributions for these miracles in the making. Ultrasounds of the babies were then shown.
Mere words alone cannot begin to describe the depth of gratitude and appreciation I felt for these incredible women God had used to create these gifts of love- so I won't even try.
Later in the show, Leeza even went into the audience to interview the husbands, J.J. & Mark. Then, Dr. Geoffrey Sher from the Pacific Fertility Clinic appeared and discussed the medical aspects of IVF. As a special surprise, they brought out a woman named Linda Mack. Linda had been through a situation similar to ours and had acted as a mentor to Kristi through the entire process. Her advice and support was incredibly helpful to us. (Unfortunately, several years later, Linda lost her life in a boating accident).
After the taping, we all relaxed in the green room (Yes, there really is a green room, but at Leeza's show it wasn't green). It was all rather surreal-not only the successful IVF, but also that we had just taped a national TV program. Best of all, I judged that I hadn't said anything too stupid or embarrassing. I joked that I was pretty sure Leeza had a crush on me. I couldn't wipe the silly smile off my face for the rest of the day.
From the moment we arrived on the set I was as high as a kite. I remember Kristi teasing me for making goofy faces and watching the taping through the video monitors while I was on stage. (Little did we know that this would be the only time I would see the show). Leeza was very warm and friendly with us. She knew our entire story. She spent quite a bit of time with us before the show and chatted casually between takes. No question about it, she took a personal interest in who we were. As time and events would reveal, she turned out to be a true friend and supporter. Once again, my pre-conceived notions were significantly off the mark.
After we returned to Phoenix, the final, nervous segment of the pregnancy got into full swing.
Naming our boys turned out to be a process of elimination. I had established quite a few “rules.” For instance, I didn't want any names that started with the same letter-like Kyle and Kenny. I thought this would be too corny. I didn't want our sons to have names that sounded like they belonged in a Kodak commercial. Also, no names that could be easily modified on the playground into an embarrassing nickname, like Earl (Hurl), Zeke (Geek), or Nick (well, you get the point).
Frustrated at my inflexibility, Kristi eventually got her hands on a book filled with boys' names. I think there were at least a thousand names in it. After a long, arduous process, I finally agreed on three potential names, Colton, Connor or Dylan. Frankly, I was surprised I found so many acceptable. Dylan was in, due to the previously mentioned rule regarding names beginning with the same letter. We eventually settled on Colton. I thought it sounded very western, very modern. That makes sense, doesn't it?
Baby A was now officially Dylan and baby B was Colton. It was a good thing we assigned the boys their names in advance, because our plans to be there for their birth didn't come to fruition.
The Lord blessed us with lots of friends, and as a result, we had four baby showers. The dozens and dozens of items we received to cloth, feed, entertain and take care of these tiny babies filled every available space in our home. I don't think General Patton required as much equipment to invade Europe!
The nursery was quite an ordeal. First, we had to find wallpaper and a border that met my strict requirements. You see, much like the naming issue, there were many items on my “unacceptable list.” For instance, no corporate logos (Disney, Warner Bros., etc.), no smiley faces, no kids with balloons, no loud colors. Kristi once again tolerated my rigid demands. We finally decided on bunny rabbits playing on a teeter- totter. For the record, they were very macho bunny rabbits wearing cowboy hats-and the colors were muted tans, beige and peach.
The project of hanging wallpaper was, well, worthy of note. As a result of this exercise, I have a recommendation for marriage counselors: included in all courses offered to couples contemplating marriage should be a session of installing wallpaper together. If the couple can successfully do this, then they can get through anything! Luckily, Kristi and I successfully completed the project. She let me oversee the job, said nothing when I put the border upside down, and never commented on my glaring mistakes. What a woman!
By this time, we had become very close to Terri's family. They had four children: two boys and twin girls. We got together with them almost every weekend. It was more like being with friends than being with the woman who was carrying our twins. Most of the time, we didn't talk about-or even think about-the situation that had brought us together. The few occasions when it did come up were usually times when Kristi and I were worried about Terri's health. We tried to keep her on the couch at all times, and we were constantly asking her how she felt. Terri, bless her heart, humored us and tried to keep us calm. After all, she had been pregnant before. We had not.
One day, we went to a place called Castles & Coasters, an amusement park, with the entire Jenkins family. At the time, Terri was almost seven months pregnant and as big as a house. The park offered a variety of roller coasters, bumper cars and other rides that Kristi and I tried our best to steer Terri away from. Every time she even looked in the general direction of these dangerous machines, we found a reason to herd her the opposite way. Basically, our plan was to do our very best to keep her in the air-conditioned snack bar eating only healthy food. (We were sure that hot dogs would cause some permanent birth defect.)
To her credit, Terri had no intention of riding any of the rides, and her choice of foods that day was above reproach. Kristi and I were nervous parents-to-be, while Terri was as cool as a cucumber. As I said, it was our first pregnancy; it was Terri's fourth.
Happily, Kristi and I managed to survive the pregnancy just fine. I didn't sleep well for several weeks and my stomach was twisted in knots for days at a time, but I managed to get through it.
On the afternoon of April 29, 1994, we had the biggest scare of the pregnancy. Terri had been complaining of cramping for several weeks, and for the most part she had been restricted to bed rest. We were only seven months into the pregnancy, and it was looking as though it would be a real battle to keep the babies from coming early.
On this otherwise mild and mostly sunny afternoon, J.J. had called to advise us that Terri was cramping severely and that he thought she might be going into pre-term labor. We agreed to meet them at St. Joseph's maternity ward, where Terri was admitted for observation.
The stress of that afternoon and evening was unbelievable. J.J. and I waited for hours in the waiting room while the hospital staff monitored Terri. Kristi stayed with her, returning to the waiting room periodically to give us updates. The doctors had administered a drug that is designed to delay labor, and Terri was being kept as still as possible.
After seven hours, the staff determined that Terri was out of danger, at least for the moment. Later that night, we decided to move to the next phase of our plan. Things were still moving in the right direction. We were actually feeling fairly confident. We had planned for every likely obstacle, and even for every un-likely one -- or so we thought.