Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=2975
Story Retrieval Date: 12/5/2013 5:10:47 PM CST
Valerie Hanes has a special bond with her 1-year-old godchild.
The 31-year-old Crest Hill woman gave birth to the healthy baby boy for a Chicago area couple.
Hanes, the mother of four girls ages 4 to 10 years old, said she considered surrogacy for several
years before meeting the biological parents of the child in 2004.
“The feeling of having a child is so incredible that I want everyone to experience it,” Hanes said. She is in the first trimester of her sixth pregnancy - and second surrogacy - in 11 years. Like her previous surrogate
pregnancy, the baby she’s carrying has no genetic link to her.
Hanes joked that her friends don’t know what she looks like when she’s not pregnant. “I love, love being pregnant,” she said. “It’s just such a wonderful experience and I’m just trying to enjoy this pregnancy because it’s my last.”
Hanes has the full support of her parents, who live next door, and her husband. Even her daughters
are involved in the process. “I really only wanted to do this once but when (my godson) was born, there was something inside of me that told me to keep going,” Hanes said.
Her youngest daughter was 2 years old when she became pregnant. “I would just keep telling (her children) that it was someone else’s baby,” Hanes said. “They were so excited when I told them I was doing it again.”
When she was pregnant with her own children, Hanes said she was ecstatic. Now, she’s simply excited
for someone else. “Your brain is just telling you ‘this is not your baby,’” Hanes said. “I just didn’t allow myself
to get attached. To this day, I still don’t think ‘I wish he were mine.’”
Hanes has training in medical billing, but started her family before beginning a career. In terms of the surrogate process, she works with Parenting Partners. The Gurnee-based agency pairs surrogates with parents.
She said meeting the parents of her godchild for the first time at a restaurant was nerve-racking. “It’s like meeting your boyfriend’s parents,” Hanes said.
Some surrogacy relationships take two years before a child is conceived and born. Shirley Zager, the director and "match-maker" for Parenting Partners, said surrogates are typically paid $18,000 to $23,000 for their first surrogacy, plus compensation for medical costs and other expenses.
“I didn’t even know you got compensated until I talked to Shirley,” Hanes said. “Every time I get a
check, I feel so guilty. I don’t want to take their money, but the wear and tear on me is there.”
Hanes became pregnant on the first try with the couples’ own embryos implanted both times. She said if
the tables were turned, she’d seek out a surrogate as well.
“If I was dealing with fertility issues, I’d do whatever I can to use a surrogate,” Hanes said. “I’d get a second mortgage on my house.”
Connie Shallal-Johnston and her husband, Todd, who partnered with another surrogate, tried everything in their power to have children on their own. After eight years of artificial insemination and in vitro fertilization that ended in nine miscarriages, the 40-year-old Michigan woman sought out the assistance of a surrogate.
“I really tried so hard to do it on my own,” Shallal-Johnston said. “I knew my eggs were good and
everything and I could get pregnant.”
In her fifth and last pregnancy, Shallal-Johnston tried acupuncture, steroids, immune suppressors, four insulin injections per day for her diabetes and other treatments to improve her chances of a successful pregnancy. Additionally, she had a cerclage, which is a stitch in her cervix, to help prevent a miscarriage.
“I had to literally write down pages of logs to remember, 'I have to do this, this, this and this to have these babies,'” Shallal-Johnston said. “I had to buy a pill box -- I felt old.”
Shallal-Johnston delivered premature twins, Conrad and Elizabeth, at six months. They lived for just a few hours.
She said now that she has Ethan and Zoe, twins from the surrogate pregnancy, she has put all of her fertility issues behind her. “I don’t have any animosity anymore. I see my twins and I’m blessed,” Shallal-Johnston said. “I’m so fulfilled now. I think me and Todd are so happy, so fulfilled, that that’s our family.”