Christmas came early for 31- year-old Kelsi Pierce after she and her mother, Lisa Rutherford, both gave birth to baby girls’ weeks apart. Lisa, 53, had offered to be a gestational carrier for her daughter who was told she wasn’t able to carry a pregnancy.
Lisa gave birth to Everly on October 1 in Michigan and nearly two months later Kelsi and her husband Kyle welcomed their second daughter, Ava, on November 23 in Minnesota.
Talking to ABC News, Kelsi now the mother of two, told of her struggles with infertility for three years. ”It’s just so surreal, I keep pinching myself, like I can’t believe this is my life,” she said.
Kelsi and her husband Kyle suffered a number of setbacks as they depleted their savings and went into debt trying surgeries and in-vitro fertilization (IVF) to have a baby.
Kelsi, an elementary school teacher, had underwent a successful round of IVF after doctors discovered she had a low ovarian reserve, but then she was told that the lining of her uterus was too thin to carry a pregnancy.
She spent two years trying to thicken her lining but nothing worked. Her doctor eventually told her that her body 'just wasn't able to do it.'
“It was a very emotional conversation, of course, but I understood that we’d tried everything possible,” she recalled.
Kelsi and Kyle were given two options: adopt or find a gestational carrier to carry one of their embryos, which would cost roughly $100,000 (Sh10 million) or more.
“We had already poured more than our savings and gone into debt incredibly just for what we had done before, so it wasn't an option,” she explained. “It was a very depressing time.”
A mother’s sacrifice
“When you have kids you want their life to be better, easier, more fulfilling than your life,” Lisa says. She did not have $100, 000 to hand them but all she could do was carry their baby for them. This was pushed by an article Lisa had read a few years ago about a 57-year-old woman who carried her daughter's baby.
The couple never seriously considered having Lisa carry their child, but she was determined to help them become parents.
“It was hard for us to let her [be the gestational carrier] because of the risks with her age, but she really convinced us that she wanted to do this for us." Kelsi recalls.
Lisa was medically approved to be a gestational carrier earlier this year after being evaluated and undergoing a number of tests. She underwent an embryo transfer on February 7 and learned she was pregnant a week later on February 15.
Kelsi said she 'just lost it' when she woke up and saw that her mother had texted her a picture of a positive pregnancy test but the excitement didn't end there. Kelsi, who had stopped taking fertility medications and seeing specialists, got the surprise of her life when she learned in late March that she was also pregnant.
Kelsi explained that she didn't have any reason to believe she was pregnant when she took the test. It had just become a monthly habit for her. She was about to throw the test away, but she did a double-take when she looked down and saw two lines.
After taking a second at-home pregnancy test that was also positive, she went to the doctor to confirm the happy news. Within just a few months, Kelsi and Kyle went from thinking they may never be parents to having two children on the way.
“After hearing bad news for three years straight and never walking out of a doctor’s appointment happy, I couldn’t believe it,” she said. “I think I was crying for a month straight.”
Kelsi and her mother would share tips and FaceTime each other during doctors' appointments throughout their pregnancies. Lisa, who had her two children when she was in her early 20s, recalled feeling sick a lot, saying she didn't 'eat well or exercise,' but this time was completely different.
“This pregnancy, since we had been researching and planning it, I did my best to make sure I was eating well and in the best shape possible and this pregnancy was awesome,” Lisa explained. “It went off really well.”
However, Lisa was later diagnosed with preeclampsia, at her 36-week appointment and was told she would have to deliver the baby via C-section within 12 hours, Kelsi and Kylie drove from Minnesota to Michigan, arriving just in time for the birth of their daughter Everly.
“She came out with no color, she didn’t cry and we couldn’t hold her right away or see her because they had to transfer her to another hospital that had a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU),” Kelsi said. “We had waited so long and I just wanted to hold my baby.”
Everly's health improved in the NICU and she was discharged less than a week later on October 6, Kelsi's birthday. The couple stayed in Michigan for a week before they drove back to Minnesota with Kelsi's mom and their new baby ahead of her due date.
Everly's younger sister Ava was born seven weeks and three days after she was, making Kelsi and Kyle parents to two daughters in the same year.
“Every time something is hard or I’m tired, I remind myself that this is my dream finally coming true,” Kelsi said. “I appreciate it so much more because of how long it took and how much struggle it took.”