By KATIE KINDELAN, ABC News
(NEW YORK) — A Minnesota couple that suffered through three years of infertility welcomed two daughters over the past two months.
Kelsi Pierce, 31, gave birth to her daughter, Ava, on Nov. 23, in Minnesota.
She and her husband Kyle also welcomed another daughter, Everly, on Oct. 1, in Michigan.
Everly was delivered by Pierce’s mother, Lisa Rutherford, who was the gestational carrier for the Pierces, who are Everly’s biological parents.
“It’s just so surreal,” Pierce said of being the mom of two newborns. “I keep pinching myself, like I can’t believe this is my life.”
Becoming a mom is something Pierce dreamed of for the past three years as she and Kyle struggled to get pregnant, depleting their savings account to try everything from surgeries to in-vitro fertilization (IVF).
Pierce said doctors first discovered she had a low ovarian reserve and then that the lining of her uterus was too thin to carry a pregnancy.
“One day my doctor called and I was like, ‘He’s going to have another plan because he always has a plan to give us hope,"” said Pierce, who at the time was living in North Carolina with her husband, who is in the Army. “He told me that nothing was working and my 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.
Pierce and her husband were told their options were adoption or finding a gestational carrier who could carry one of the embryos they had obtained through IVF, an option that typically costs more than $100,000.
“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,” said Pierce. “It was a very depressing time.”
Thousands of miles away in Michigan, Pierce’s mom, Rutherford, went to her own doctor after hearing her daughter’s despair in order to start the process of being medically cleared to serve as a gestational carrier.
It was an idea that she first had in 2018 when, while visiting Pierce and attending one of her doctor’s appointments with her, she saw a magazine article on a 57-year-old mom who carried her daughter’s baby.
Pierce said she and her husband never seriously considered having Rutherford carry their baby, but Rutherford was determined to help her daughter become a mom.
“When you have kids you want their life to be better, easier, more fulfilling than your life,” said Rutherford. “I just thought I don’t have $100,000 to hand you, but this is what I can do to make your dream come true. It wasn’t even a question.”
Rutherford, now 53, underwent multiple tests and evaluations and was approved early this year as her daughter and son-in-law’s gestational carrier. She underwent the embryo transfer on Feb. 7, and less than a week later, on Feb. 15, was confirmed pregnant.
“I woke up and there was a text on my phone and it was a picture of a positive pregnancy test and I just lost it,” said Pierce. “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.”
Just over one month later, in late March, the unthinkable happened for Pierce, who had stopped seeing fertility doctors and taking fertility medications.
“I used to take pregnancy tests every month and it was just one of those things where, by habit, I took a pregnancy test,” she said of that day in March. “I glanced down at the test and I was going to throw it away like normal, and that was the first time I saw two lines.”
“I did a second test that was also positive and then went to the doctor and it was confirmed again,” said Pierce, an elementary school teacher.
In a span of less than two months, Pierce and her husband were preparing to become parents twice over.
“After hearing bad news for three years straight and never walking out of a doctor’s appointment happy, I couldn’t believe it,” said Pierce. “I think I was crying for a month straight.”
Pierce and Rutherford went through their pregnancies together, sharing tips and tricks, exchanging pregnancy cravings and FaceTiming each other during doctors’ appointments.
Rutherford, a mom of two, said she noticed a surprising difference with her pregnancy at 53 compared to her first two pregnancies at ages 21 and 23.
“With my pregnancies for my children, I was young but didn’t eat well or exercise and I was sick a lot,” she said. “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. It went off really well.”
The only obstacle in Rutherford’s pregnancy came at her 36th week appointment, when she was told she had preeclampsia, characterized by new onset high blood pressure, and needed to deliver the baby within 12 hours via C-section. Pierce and her husband jumped in their car and drove from Minnesota to Michigan, making it just in time for the birth of Everly, who faced complications at birth.
“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 neo-natal intensive care unit (NICU),” said Pierce. “We had waited so long and I just wanted to hold my baby.”
Everly progressed well and was discharged from the NICU on Oct. 6, Pierce’s birthday. The family of three stayed in Michigan for one week after Everly’s birth, and then drove back to Minnesota with Rutherford to prepare for Pierce to give birth.
Just a few days before Thanksgiving, Pierce gave birth to Ava, who was born seven weeks and three days after her big sister Everly.
“Every time something is hard or I’m tired, I remind myself that this is my dream finally coming true,” said Pierce. “I appreciate it so much more because of how long it took and how much struggle it took.”
“Even if you have to go a super unconventional route, if being a mom is important to you, there are a lot of ways to do this,” she added.
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