Provo » Like many an expectant mother, Julia Navarro speaks tenderly to the baby growing inside her.
"Oh, little girl, good morning," the Peruvian mother says daily, while stroking her belly. "Don’t worry. I have to go to work now."
And each night she whispers, "Thank you, little one. I love you."
But the bundle of joy due to emerge from 58-year-old Navarro’s body in early February is not hers — it is her daughter’s and will be Navarro’s granddaughter.
Though this is hardly the first such case, Navarro’s willingness to act as a surrogate for her daughter and son-in-law remains rare.
It is an unexpected gift, says 32-year-old daughter Lorena McKinnon, one she cannot begin to repay.
Mother and daughter sit side by side on the beige couch in the modest Provo living room, hands frequently joined on the protruding tummy.
"As a family, we have to help each other," Navarro says with a shrug — as if her altruism is nothing extraordinary.
The surrogate says she thanks God for the chance to do this and insists on giving to others.
"I was praying, ‘If this baby works, I am going to help others,’ " the future first-time grandmother says, with emotion. "I would like to donate some of the money from my baby shower [Jan. 12] to children in Peru who don’t have parents or moms or dads who need help."
All in the family » The Peruvian twosome never imagined this surrogacy arrangement would be their destiny in 2001, when Navarro, who was divorced, joined her daughter in the Beehive State, where McKinnon was an international student at Utah Valley University (then Utah Valley State College).
Eventually, one would become a permanent resident and the other a U.S. citizen.
The younger woman came to study graphic design and soon had met Micah McKinnon, a lifelong Utahn from a big Utah County family.
They became a couple in 2002, married in 2005 and about three years ago began to think about having a child.
Lorena McKinnon, who works as a flight attendant for SkyWest Airlines, got pregnant easily but suffered miscarriage after miscarriage. Most of her pregnancies lasted six to seven weeks; one went 10 weeks. In all, she calculates she might have been with child a dozen times. Doctors were mystified, she says, by the failures.
Eventually, the couple sought out fertility specialists, who suggested an in vitro procedure to see if that might work. The clinic harvested nine embryos and implanted the first one in the eager mother-to-be. But that effort ended as well.
That left two solutions: adoption or surrogacy.
According to the 2005 Utah Uniform Parentage Act, the contract between a surrogate and the intended parents must be approved by a judge before any medical procedures begin. The couple must be married, and the surrogate must be older than 21, be financially stable and already have had at least one pregnancy and delivery. The couple can offer the surrogate a "reasonable payment." The potential parents and surrogate must attend counseling and meet the "fitness" standards of adoptive parents.
All in all, the legal, economic and medical process can prove daunting.
At first, McKinnon turned to a friend as a potential surrogate, not even thinking about her mom, but when the friend realized all that she might have to endure in the process, she regretfully withdrew her offer.
Julissa Gonzales, McKinnon’s 27-year-old sister, thought about volunteering to carry the child, but didn’t think she could go through with it.Next Page >
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