Family

I’m Raising ‘Twiblings' — One Carried By Me, The Other Via Surrogacy

Photo: Abby Park Photography
Neubauer family, photo provided by author

2020 made my and my husband Joe’s world crash. Not only did we have to cancel our dream wedding due to COVID and plan a last-minute elopement, but we also got pregnant (a dream of mine since I was little) which sadly ended in a miscarriage.

After that, everything seemed to continue downhill. After countless doctor appointments, a few procedures, sitting in the fertility clinic by myself, and lots of tears, we had a new reality to accept.

I was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism as well as an autoimmune disease called Graves, and my tubes were completely closed due to scar tissue from the D&C. There was no way we would ever conceive naturally again. 

RELATED: I Did Fertility Treatments For A Decade. Then A Pregnancy Scare Became My Worst Nightmare.

In a subsequent appointment with an endocrinologist, I learned that the chance of me miscarrying again was too high to pursue IVF.

The medicine I was on, which was keeping my thyroid stable, was too strong for a developing baby. But, if we discontinued the medication, then my thyroid levels would most likely spike again putting my health and a baby’s health at risk too. Lose, lose. 

I spent a lot of time wondering why I was put in this predicament and what we could do to make our dream of becoming parents come true.

That’s when we decided to pursue surrogacy.

Given the costs associated with going through a private agency (generally $90-120k), we turned to social media for help and began searching for a surrogate through many shares from our friends and family. I was blown away by hundreds of responses, but one volunteer stuck out the most — a childhood friend of mine, Taylor.

I always knew Taylor would be at my wedding and meet my children someday but what I didn’t know was that she would be the one to carry our baby and give us the best gift we could ever receive. We chronicled our surrogacy journey on Instagram for people to follow, as it was clear our story struck a chord and lots of people became invested. 

RELATED: What Is IVF? Important Facts About In Vitro Fertilization & How It Helps The Different Causes Of Infertility

Plot twist

Behind the scenes and something I didn’t share publicly at the time … there was a plot twist. My body responded surprisingly well throughout the egg retrieval process, which not only resulted in 7 healthy embryos but also got me thinking that maybe I could try and carry a pregnancy one more time before giving up on my body (miracles do happen, after all!) 

I reached out to an amazing doctor in Chicago for a second opinion and had a consultation. He outlined the risks and said if we were up to trying a transfer, he would be willing to give it a shot.

Things escalated very quickly from there. My husband and I discussed it with Taylor and she was very supportive and excited for me to have the opportunity to attempt an IVF transfer as an experiment while we wait two more months until her transfer.

We went for it and elected to continue with the lengthy surrogacy process at the same time, figuring that if we came out of this with one baby, it would be a miracle. We couldn’t even comprehend the possibility of two.  

We found out I was pregnant on Mother’s Day. Complete fate!

We were shocked that the transfer initially worked, but we knew we had a lot of stressful days to come. We had to prepare to lose the baby at any point during the pregnancy due to all of my thyroid complications and my immediately stopping all medications.

The third trimester was the scariest of all, with a high-risk factor that my Graves disease would transfer to the baby.

Thankfully I had many doctor appointments throughout the whole pregnancy, but I still never felt at ease. We proceeded with the surrogacy process as we were already so close to Taylor’s transfer date. Taylor’s transfer also ended up resulting in a successful pregnancy! We were mind blown, excited, and overall just shocked. 

Our daughter Banks was born in January and our son Hayes was born via gestational surrogate in March. Delivering Banks was the most amazing experience and I will never take for granted that I was able to carry and birth a baby. We soaked up the two months we had with her before Hayes’ arrival.

Being in the delivery room with Taylor was a different but equally incredible experience, though Taylor had some serious complications immediately following Hayes’ birth. She recovered and is healthy today, but it was so profoundly clear in those terrifying moments at the hospital what a gift and sacrifice surrogacy is. 

Life with two babies, two months apart

Here we were, a new family of four (five, counting our pup Rowen) where a year before we didn’t know if even one child would be possible! In the ten weeks after Banks’ birth and before Hayes’ arrival, we soaked up the newborn experience and went through the regular ups and downs of new parenthood.

We knew we’d have a unique challenge with having two babies two months apart, but when Hayes came home with us we really started to understand how different each baby is and that what worked for Banks, wouldn’t necessarily work for Hayes. 

RELATED: Woman Wonders If She’s Wrong For Not Telling Her Boyfriend About Being A Surrogate Before They Dated

Sleep was a roller coaster, to say the least! Where Banks slept well in her crib early on during the nights and naptime, Hayes was very colicky and we really struggled with daytime naps with him. We tried a rocking bassinet with him to see if it would help us get him on more of a schedule, and he loved the car ride motion and the shushing noise. It was also a great tool for us with me at home during the day with two babies when I needed to juggle them both. 

I also got a ton of advice from newborn sleep expert Carolynne Harvey about how to approach sleep given their age difference, and I started to think about getting the two of them onto the same schedule, which I’m very grateful for.

 I hope hearing from my experience helps other parents feel more confident in their approach and learn to trust their gut in what works best for each individual baby, as I did.

Feeding has been another journey with both babies that I’m so proud of. I started power pumping after nursing Banks, in the beginning, to make my body think it was feeding twins, and I’ve been nursing both since Hayes came home. I didn’t realize how difficult it would be with the babies on different nursing and sleeping schedules.

I finish one and then I’m onto the next. With Banks alone, it felt like we had things down pat but then everything was so different when Hayes joined us. The biggest challenge and best advice I can give parents of multiples are to be ready to relearn things with each new baby and remain flexible to adjust your life to whatever the babies’ needs and wants are. 

I’m not sure how we got so lucky to have this unique experience of raising twiblings, but I’m so incredibly grateful that we didn’t give up. They say it takes a village to raise children, but for us, it took a village to even have them. Banks gave me the gift of pregnancy and so much hope. She’s so much like me: strong-willed, stubborn and knows exactly what she wants already.

When I look at Hayes, I not only see so much of his dad but also the amazing woman, Taylor, who carried him for nine months when I couldn’t. Although they are so different, they both taught us so much — perseverance, strength, patience, and trust — before they were even born. We hope and pray for them and our love for them both are stronger than they will ever know. They are a dream come true.

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Chelsea Neubauer is a contributor for YourTango who writes about IVF, surrogacy, and the experience of having twiblings.

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