I Gave Birth to Triplets for My Friend
An Amazing Offer
Frana e-mailed Susan that she and Mike were willing to explore the option of surrogacy with Susan and her husband, Scott. Susan was stunned. "We were still processing our sad news," she says, shaking her head in wonder, "and then we got this amazing offer."
Tentatively, Susan and Scott decided to do some research with Frana. The first step was to meet with a fertility expert to find out what was involved for both the biological parents and the surrogate. Frana would be a gestational surrogate -- only the carrier. The embryos would be created in a lab with Susan's eggs and Scott's sperm and then transferred to Frana's uterus. Next, the two couples consulted a therapist to ensure that there were no psychological obstacles, and then they legally formalized their agreement at a lawyer's office: Under its terms, Susan and Scott would pay for all expenses Frana and her family incurred, but Frana would receive no fee. "This wasn't about money -- it was all about my connection to Susan and her family," she says. "I couldn't be a surrogate for someone I didn't love. It's too emotional."
Once the contract was signed, Frana and Susan both started on hormones -- Susan to produce eggs and Frana to prepare her uterus. Then the project hit a slight bump in the road: The Sadlers moved from Texas to Laguna Beach, California, for Mike's new job in high-tech sales. So in late September, Frana flew back to Texas for the embryo transfer. After some deliberation, she, Susan and Scott decided to improve her chances by implanting two embryos. If both happened to "stick," they figured they could handle twins.
A month later a pregnant Frana returned to Texas for a first look at the fetus. As the fertility doctor listened for a heartbeat, Frana, Susan and Scott braced themselves for the news that there was more than one. But when the doctor announced that there were three heartbeats, they were speechless. The doctor explained that both embryos had taken and one had split into identical twins. And, alarmingly, the doctor couldn't tell if each twin had her own amniotic sac. (Twins sharing an amniotic sac are at a higher risk of being conjoined or getting umbilical cords wrapped around each other.)
"We were all so scared," Susan remembers, "especially when the doctor immediately began to talk about selective reduction." Selective reduction means aborting one (or more) fetus to lessen risks to the remaining ones -- a process that may jeopardize all fetuses. Instead of relishing a joyful event, everyone went away from the doctor's office feeling terror-struck. They were told to return in two weeks so the doctor could check whether separate amniotic sacs had formed.
Frana didn't stop crying during the entire flight back to California. "Believe it or not, I never really worried about myself -- about whether I could do it, or would get huge, or be sick," she says. "I just didn't want to deliver dead babies. I know someone who had that happen. Her twins, who shared an amniotic sac, strangled themselves on their cords at 24 weeks. If it happened to us, I'd have to deliver two dead babies and have the third at risk of dying, too."
Of course, Frana was also aware that carrying three babies increased her chances of severe complications such as preeclampsia, diabetes, and preterm labor . The contract stipulated that they would follow the doctor's advice for any medical decision, but from a legal perspective the choice of whether to proceed was up to Frana, since she was the person who was pregnant. "I thought, 'How can I live with myself if they want me to have all three babies and I say no?'" she recalls.