Sister-in-law offers to serve as surrogate mother

Mallory, Brooke, and Brian during the eighth month of pregnancy.

Mallory, Brooke, and Brian during the eighth month of pregnancy.

Last week’s beginning article introduced the efforts of two local couples (Brooke and Brandon Wilson and Mallory and Brian Wilson) to become pregnant, as a precursor during National Infertility Awareness Week. Brooke and Brandon succeeded with Brooke giving birth in a difficult pregnancy to a son, Easton. Brandon’s brother and Mallory had not succeeded. This week the story continues.

Brooke brought about the change for Mallory in her fertility treatments. Brooke felt she had more to offer. She tied that hard-to-describe feeling to knowing that she could carry out a pregnancy and that, “I physically could help them out, if I would just be willing.” Brooke felt she could carry Mallory and Brian’s baby for them.

Brian and Mallory display embryo ultrasound image.

Brian and Mallory display embryo ultrasound image.

Brooke continued, “That thought started to weigh on me more and more, until it became a full-on compassion, love, and wanting to do that for them. God truly worked on my heart in a sense of taking all my fears away regarding pregnancy, delivery, and the unknowns of surrogacy [and beyond]. Once I fully decided to commit, my whole heart was in it, and I never looked back.”

In providing testimony of the experience recently at her church, Oneonta’s Lester Memorial United Methodist, Brooke indicated she struggled for a time with the thought and concern over how her husband might react to the idea. She shares some of that experience with humor, “I knew he [husband Brandon] wasn’t looking forward to the idea of me being pregnant again, just because he didn’t want to hear me complaining. But when he thought about being able to help his brother, it made the other issues insignificant.”

New mother Mallory with baby Luke

New mother Mallory with baby Luke

Brooke next consulted Mallory and Brian. Mallory shares of her own feelings, “It was very emotional for me. It is overwhelming to have somebody express such an act of love towards you. It was also very difficult for me to let go of the idea of being able to have a traditional pregnancy. I had worked so hard to become pregnant myself; there was a grieving process on my end to let go of being able to carry the pregnancy. I was also skeptical if it would work because we had [had] so many failures. We prayerfully considered where God was leading us. Surrogacy?Adoption?”

As for her husband, Mallory reveals, “Brian was receptive to the idea but wanted to make sure this would be our best option and had a good chance of success. We had already been through so much at that point, we did not want to put Brooke or ourselves through such an emotional process if there wasn’t a high chance of success. Once we had all had time to prayerfully process the offer and the recommendation of it’s being our very best option, we were very excited and receptive.”

With those matters resolved, the two women pressed on. “Brooke and I don’t do anything half-speed,” asserts Mallory, “so once we decided to proceed, we started going through the process as quickly as possible.”

Despite the fact that Mallory had experienced four unsuccessful embryo transfers with two eggs each, the couples agreed to limit the first surrogate attempt to one embryo. Brooke reveals, “We did not want to risk the chance of carrying twins based on how hard my first pregnancy was with just one baby…. The first transfer did work, and that isn’t a normal thing. I think they said it can take up to three good tries to really say it had a chance to work or not. . . When I did get a positive result on the first try, against all the odds, I definitely felt at that point, God was affirming to us that he was in control of this . . . and it would all work out according to his plan and not our own.”

Brooke and her mother-in-law, Donna Wilson, shared of a prank Brooke and Brandon sometimes played on the unsuspecting. Donna recalls an occasion when the couple was at Target. A lady in line behind the couple surprised them with, “You’re pregnant, aren’t you?”

Donna labels that a surprise because she claims Brooke was not even “showing” at that point. When Brooke replied, “Yes,” the clerk looked at Brandon and commented, “You must be very excited.”

Brandon reportedly responded, “Oh, the baby isn’t mine.” Brooke then shocked the clerk further by adding, “It’s not mine either.” After waiting for effect, they then explained.

Brooke, who had had a rough time during her own pregnancy and delivery, notes differences the second time. . . .”It was easier and harder at the same time. It was physically easier because I knew what to expect, and I didn’t stay as sick or for as long (as earlier). I didn’t struggle with some of the side effects I had with my first pregnancy.

“It was also a little bit harder, because I was having to have shots every day for the first 14 weeks. I was also taking up to five medications a day in the beginning, just to help hold the pregnancy.

“It was also hard, because I was so exhausted in the beginning of pregnancy and having a 1-year-old (Easton) to chase after. . . . I couldn’t just go lie down if I were tired as I could during the first pregnancy. I had a little one that needed me, too.”

As the July 2016, due date approached, Brooke faced some dread at the upcoming delivery. “My doctor told me that delivering a second child is always easier than the first. Based on my first experience, I did not believe that in any way. I was mentally prepared for the worst again.”

A week prior to the scheduled induction, while at lunch with Mallory, Brooke complained of back pains. Mallory says Brooke called the doctor, who told her to come in for a check and monitoring. “A few hours later, (the doctor) said, ‘It’s baby day!'”

“I went into labor on my own. . . and I only pushed for about 10 minutes,” says surrogate mother Brooke Wilson. “I think God was having a little mercy on me, which I appreciated,” she continued. That delivery contrasted with the “worst case scenario” Brooke described of her concluded pregnancy almost 21-months earlier.

Mother Mallory explains she had prepared a playlist for sister-in-law Brooke but never got to any of the points she had down, because he (Luke) was born so quickly. “Seeing him and holding him for the first time was the best experience of my life. So much pain ended in that moment, and I was finally able to be a mom.

“He is perfect! I just remember it was like a scene in a movie where time stood still, and I couldn’t see or hear anything but him. All I wanted to do was run him over to (husband) Brian to show him our new baby boy.”

Brooke has her own memories of the moment. “For me, having Mallory right there the entire time was great. She was able to be there for the doctors to hand the baby right to her and getting to see the look on her face when she held her baby for the first time was incredible. It made me so proud and humbled. I was proud of myself that I was able to help bring (Mallory) that joy. I was also so humbled that God had chosen me to be a part of such a special time in their lives.”

The reporter quizzed the sisters-in-law of any psychological issues in surrogacy. Both spoke of pregnancy as entailing more than a physical state. “Even though I was physically pregnant, I wasn’t mentally,” contends Brooke. “That’s a weird way to put it but all I ever thought about was Brian and Mallory having a baby, picking out a name, planning a nursery. I was so wrapped up in them becoming parents, and I did not allow myself to bond with the pregnancy.

“Therefore, when Luke was born, even though I had given birth, it was more of a my-job-is-done mentality, and I never felt any kind of separation issue. It was more exciting seeing them become parents and seeing what they had gained than worrying if I felt like I had lost something.”

Mallory shares of her feelings channeled in part by conversations with Brooke. “Luke was never Brooke’s baby to begin with. Like Brooke said, ‘you can’t give up a baby that wasn’t yours in the first place.’

“Luke is biologically Brian and my child. We like to explain it as our ‘bun’ and that Brooke was the oven. I think this question is a hard one for me because Luke is my son and always has been. He was always wanted and loved by Brian and me as his parents and by Brooke and Brandon as his aunt and uncle.

“I did question before he was born if Brooke would feel attached to him, but I think Brooke and I both discovered that . . . a lot of the bonding that happens during a traditional pregnancy is mental, and I experienced that. We were preparing a nursery, picking a name, (and) having baby showers, and Brooke was right there with me every step of the way!

I felt pregnant in all the ways people do . . . except for the physical part. I even had people sometimes forget I wasn’t pregnant. I remember somebody at work one day asking me if I should be drinking so much coffee, before remembering I wasn’t pregnant, just expecting.”

For Mallory and Brooke, the experience lifted their already close relationship to new heights. “When you go through something like this together you develop a friendship and a bond that is hard to explain,” observes Brooke. “She’s my best friend on a whole different level. She is my rock during so many situations and she keeps me in line when I need it. I’ve never had a friend love me so unconditionally.”

Mallory goes still further, “Brooke saved me from my darkest place. Brooke changed my life. She is my best friend and was before this even happened. When she made the offer, the whole time she was pregnant, and even now, I look at her sometimes and am just overwhelmed that she could show such an act of love to me; and (I) feel very undeserving.

“When I look at Luke, I just feel forever grateful. He is truly such a miracle and has brought amazing joy to our lives. I don’t think many people get to experience a friendship like this in life, and I feel very, very lucky.

Returning to their faith, the sisters-in-law have found deeper meaning there as well. Brooke reveals, “The whole theme for me has been God calls us to do things that are sometimes out of our comfort zone and may even seem like a crazy idea. . . . He truly has a plan to use each of us in special ways if we are just obedient to him. . . . I want people to know that through learning to be selfless and compassionate to others allows God to reflect the light and love of Christ in them.”

Mallory shares similarly, “I think what I learned that I would like to share is to trust God. What I went through in my infertility experience was such a dark time. I felt hopeless and as though God had abandoned me. I have always been a faithful Christian, and I could not understand why God was not answering my prayer for a child. I was angry.

“Infertility is so common – 1 in 8 couples experience infertility on some level, but it is still considered a taboo topic. It drains you of every aspect: emotionally, physically, financially, spiritually. To those couples I just want to say, ‘have hope.’ I never in a million years would have thought this would be how we would have a child.

“It was a painful process full of obstacles. However, the joy we experienced thorough Luke’s birth was even greater because of what we had been through. Because we have this crazy story we are now able to share God’s glory in a way I wouldn’t have if I had become pregnant in the traditional way. God uses our trials for His glory, if we will only allow him to. I also think the parallel of Brooke’s physical sacrifice was such a tangible demonstration of Christ’s love to me. It made me realize that if another human can do such an amazing act of love, it is overwhelming to think of how much God truly loves us.”

Both Mallory and Brooke work at ACIPCO. Mallory and Brian, who works at Travelers Insurance, reside in Hoover. Brooke and husband Brandon, who works at Thompson Tractor, live in Oneonta with children Cameron, Kearstin, and Easton.

The reporter did not inquire of the couples costs for the fertility treatments. For those who might like to have some idea of charges, the website provides a detailed but dated listing.

One might also consult for more current pricing. That source claims average prices in the United States run between $11,000 and $12,000 for in vitro fertilization. Despite that quote, the website provides other options surpassing $25,000.