From Chicken Soup for the Girlfriend's Soul

Change of Heart

There are people whom one loves immediately and forever. Even to know they are alive in the world with one is quite enough.

Nancy Spain

All her friends were going to the baby shower, but my daughter, Kathy, wouldn’t attend because she had a softball practice. Recently, there always seemed to be some reason why Kathy couldn’t attend a baby shower. In my heart, I knew that something must be wrong.

Then I learned the sad truth. She and her husband, Kevin, desperately wanted to start a family and were having no luck. It was extremely difficult for them to talk about, and her father and I were sworn to secrecy. They had seen many doctors and undergone numerous tests, and still no reason for the problem had been found. With each new procedure, their hopes would build, only to end again in sad disappointment. They were on an emotional roller-coaster ride.

Next, they traveled to a clinic in Vancouver, British Columbia, for in vitro fertilization—an expensive process in which a number of embryos from the couple are grown in a laboratory situation. The doctors then choose the healthiest embryos and implant several in the mother. The hope is that at least one will “take,” and she will become pregnant. After three failed attempts, Kathy and Kevin became despondent and were ready to give up. And then, out of nowhere, a dim light of hope began to shine.

Carleen had been Kathy’s closest friend from the time they entered high school. They had shared everything with each other ever since. She and her husband, Ward, had been there for Kathy and Kevin through all their hopes and disappointments. Carleen was the only friend Kathy confided in, so she experienced this roller-coaster ride right at her side. When Kathy and Kevin returned from Vancouver, disappointed and heartbroken, she looked at her own good fortune and made a decision. She offered herself as a gestational surrogate mother. Kathy was overwhelmed at this unbelievable gesture made out of pure love from her best friend.

Could it be possible? After further medical, and some legal consultation, they realized this might be a real option. But when it came right down to it, would Carleen really be prepared to go through with it? She had a husband and two small daughters and knew she could not make this decision on her own. Her husband, Ward, began to struggle with what might happen. He felt for Kathy and Kevin, but he also cared very much for his wife. He had concerns about the drugs she would have to take, even though he was told they were safe. He feared for her health and emotional well-being after the birth. What if there were complications? Kathy made sure Carleen knew she had the option of changing her mind. There would be no questions asked and no hard feelings.

Still concerned, Ward finally decided to ask his wife to say no. She was on her way to phone her with his decision, when he suddenly stopped dead in his tracks. In that moment, he realized he might be preventing the only chance Kathy and Kevin would ever have of having a baby of their own. Ward then told Carleen, “Go ahead. I’ll be with you all the way.”

The planning began. By now, Carleen’s parents knew, and Carleen’s dad had many of the same concerns as Ward. I understood his concerns—as Kathy’s mother, I had my own. I’d never heard of this kind of thing before; it was all new to me. I was worried about the relationships between the four people and how they might be affected in the future. Not wanting to make things any harder for them, I decided to remain silent, and instead, just sent all of them my prayers.

Leaving their two little girls with Carleen’s parents, Ward and Carleen accompanied Kathy and Kevin to a fertility center in San Francisco. Those few of us who knew were sworn to secrecy. The two couples had just gone away for a two-week vacation. If this failed, Kathy was not prepared to handle all the talk and questions from well-meaning friends.

At the clinic, the doctors implanted four of Kathy and Kevin’s embryos into Carleen, in the hopes that she would become pregnant. To increase their chances, Kathy underwent the same procedure.

The couples returned home hopeful and began the wait to see if either Carleen or Kathy was pregnant. The tension built as the days passed. And then the news finally came. Success! Carleen was carrying a single baby and Kathy was pregnant with twins. We were still sworn to silence, as something might yet go wrong. Seven weeks passed, and all was well. Twelve weeks passed—still all was well. Suddenly, the news was out, and in our small town this big news spread like wildfire. Fourteen weeks, and then crash—Kathy lost her twins. Again, Carleen was there for Kathy. But this time, Kathy knew that Carleen was carrying her baby, and that helped her make it through.

As the gossip made its rounds, I realized what a strong, special person Carleen was. People would ask her, “How can you give up this baby?” She would respond with no hesitation that it wasn’t hers to keep. Because Carleen had two daughters, they would add, “What if this is a boy?” Carleen would answer simply, “It still isn’t my baby.” A local minister, who happened to meet Carleen, said, “This may work if you never see this baby again.” Carleen laughed when she told Kathy, saying, “I think it’s a pretty sure thing I’ll see you and your baby after this!”

There was also enormous support from the community. One day, I heard Carleen’s coworker say, “These girls will pull this off without a hitch. They are both so focused.” It was true. Carleen paid no attention to the calendar and allowed Kathy to do all the work—just as she would have had to do had she been pregnant. Kathy accompanied Carleen on all her doctor’s visits. As the months passed, the entire community began pulling for the two couples. One lady asked me when the baby was due, adding, “This may be Kathy and Kevin’s baby, but it is also the whole community’s baby!”

The baby was due January 10, 1998. By Christmas, Kevin was so excited, he was walking on clouds. January 10 came and went with no baby. On January l9, the doctor decided to induce labor. Carleen entered the hospital, and Kathy stayed by her side the whole time. Four days later, Carleen gave birth by cesarean section to a healthy baby boy, 9 pounds, 15 ounces! Ten minutes later, Carleen leaned over to Kathy, gave her a big hug and kiss, and whispered, “Thank you for allowing me to do this for you.” Kathy was so moved, she burst into tears of gratitude. Kathy and Kevin, along with the entire community, had a new son.

Carleen returned home to her family the following day to recuperate, and Kathy and Kevin took their little boy home a couple of days later. Tears of joy were shed everywhere as the news spread. A baby shower that was planned for a few close friends grew to a hundred! The whole community gave a special gift of appreciation to Carleen and Ward: a weekend at a resort.

What a story Kevin and Kathy have to tell their son when he is old enough to understand. They named him Matthew Edward, Edward after Ward whose change of heart made such a difference in the gift of life one friend gave another.

Jane Milburn

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