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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.
"Not having any children of my own and starting to feel baby hungry, I didn’t feel strong enough to go through the wonderful experience of being pregnant and knowing that at the end of it all, this beautiful creature would not be mine to keep," Gonzales wrote in an email. "I talked to my sister about it and she was so great. She had never thought of asking me for this same reason. She knew I had good intentions but she wouldn’t let me do it."
Gonzales could see their mother crumbling under the pain of seeing McKinnon suffer.
That’s when Navarro insisted, "Why not use me?"
Her offer overwhelmed a grateful McKinnon, knowing just a little about the obstacles — including financial — they all would face.
Surrogacy is expensive.
McKinnon estimates that the total tab typically reaches $60,000, including payments to the surrogate. Her mother carrying the child has saved them around $30,000, the couple figure. For the rest, they’ve had to take out loans, including from Navarro.
The first step was to ensure the future grandmother’s health would be up to the task. She underwent a full physical, paying special attention to the condition of her heart and reproductive organs.
Navarro, a nurse’s aide at Utah Valley Regional Medical Center, was deemed fit, but she had been menopausal for about 12 years so had to give herself hormone shots every day for three months before she could be ready for implantation.
"My bum was bruised and bleeding," she says.
McKinnon felt horrible to see her mother suffer, so when the shots were finished, they all went out to celebrate.
They also had to sign contracts about parental rights and go through three months of state-mandated counseling.
"The psychologists wanted to make sure we knew what we were getting into — that we were mentally prepared," McKinnon says. "Mostly, surrogacy contracts are with people you don’t know. It was weird to have a contract with my mom."
Finally came implantation.
Smooth sailing » Doctors told the family that, at Navarro’s age, there was a 45 percent chance that it would take. But, voilà, the first one took hold and the embryo started to grow.
The exuberant young couple moved into the mother’s small house to help her during her incubation.
The pregnancy has not been particularly difficult, Navarro says. No morning sickness. No cravings. No discomfort. She continued until recently working three 12-hour shifts a week at the hospital.
For the most part, it has been an exquisitely bonding experience, but there has been the occasional conflict between a woman who has already given birth and one who has only read about it. While her mother lay on the couch, the daughter searched the Internet for tips about pregnancy and baby paraphernalia.
"I told her to drink more water," McKinnon says, "not to eat peas — I had heard they were bad — and not to cross her legs because it might hurt her circulation."
Navarro gently remind her daughter that she has given birth to two healthy daughters and "knew how to do it, thank you very much."Next Page >
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