Surrogacy across the miles: One family’s story

March 29, 2022 | by Kate Gawlik, RN

Pictured above: Baby A'elia, born via a surrogate, briefly stayed in Edward Hospital’s NICU.

There are many different ways to have a baby. Surrogacy sometimes is the right option and social workers at Edward Hospital and Elmhurst Hospital, part of Edward-Elmhurst Health, facilitate the birth of babies born via surrogate. Both the intended parents and surrogate are cared for during the entire process.

How does surrogacy work?

A social worker reaches out to both parties early in the surrogacy process to discuss options regarding the hospital experience and share the parties’ decisions with the patient care teams. For example, who will be present in the delivery room? Is there a plan for who will cut the cord? Who will fill out the birth certificate? These are just a few of the questions that are discussed prior to delivery.

Julie Slayton, MSW, LSW, social work case manager with the Family Birthing Center at Elmhurst Hospital, says, “A social worker’s role in a surrogate birth is a multi-faceted approach that includes knowledge of both the legal processes surrounding a surrogate birth, as well appropriate expectations for the gestational carrier (surrogate) and intended parents to participate in a positive hospital experience. This is such an exciting time for all involved with emotions running high and the social worker’s goal is for everyone involved to have a smooth and seamless experience.”

A personal perspective

Texas residents Ashley and Sterling McBride's journey to have a baby started after they were married in July 2018. They were looking to expand their family with Sterling's son, DeSean, set to be a big brother. Fibroids left Ashley with a slim chance of naturally conceiving, so her obstetrician suggested IVF.

The pregnancy went smoothly until a 20-week ultrasound revealed Ashley's cervix was dilated and she was contracting. Following a procedure to close the cervix and bedrest ordered, Ashley stayed at home until her water broke and she was rushed to a hospital. At 24 weeks, Nevaeh was born and fought hard for five days before she passed away. Ashley was rushed back to the hospital the following day for an emergency hysterectomy.

"Not only did I lose a child, I also lost the ability to conceive another on my own. As if learning the ins and outs about IVF wasn't a struggle, we then had to step into a new territory called surrogacy," she says.

Ashley says 2020 and the start of the pandemic left her with the extra time to research surrogacy and the associated laws. Disheartened by the pricing, a personal connection made surrogacy seem possible.

"One day while speaking with my cousin and sharing my struggle of finding a surrogate, she explained her friend/sorority sister had told her she would love to be a surrogate for someone and was actually moved when she heard our story,” Ashley says.

“In September 2020 I called Toya and we just clicked. Although she is my cousin's friend and we have all hung out in the past, I was about to get to know her in a more personal way. She agreed to carry for us and everything took off from there."

Surrogate and mom

Pictured above: Mom Ashley McBride (left) and surrogate Toya journeyed through the surrogacy process together after being connected by Ashley’s cousin.

The legal process

Edward Hospital was established for the delivery because Toya lives in Illinois and her obstetricians are affiliate physicians. Ashley — who was born and raised in Chicago, met Sterling in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and now lives in Texas – planned to travel monthly to see Toya and attend obstetrician appointments.

The attorney who drafted the surrogacy agreement was also the person to file the parentage certificate with the state of Illinois. The certificate confirms the baby belongs to the McBrides and should be turned over to the couple on the day of delivery. The attorney sent the stamped certificates to Edward Hospital after a judge reviewed them. From there, social workers took over and were regularly in touch with the McBrides.

In October 2021, Ashley planned to tour Edward Hospital's mother baby and labor and delivery units. That tour never happened because Toya’s water broke early.

Delivery day

Ashley hopped on a red-eye flight to be by Toya's side as they waited for delivery, hoping the baby could make it to 35 weeks as Toya was admitted and placed on bed rest. Contractions started the next day and a delivery room was set up for Toya with Ashley and Ashley's mother by her side.

Ashley also received a tour of the Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU) because the 32-week baby would be admitted. Sterling experienced everything via FaceTime, staying at home with his son, until he could arrive in person.

Ashley remembers, "I thought that something was going to get messed up, like the nurses handing my baby to Toya instead of me or calling Toya the mother or asking her where her husband was. But that never happened — not even once.

Everything and everyone was on point; they knew who was who, even down to the paperwork. For the NICU admission, they had the patient bands printed for me and my husband, and the birth certificate was ready for my husband and I to complete. It was smooth and I appreciated that so much.”

A NICU bonus

Baby A'elia graced the NICU with her spunky nature from the start. As a stable 32-week baby, she did not require oxygen or nasogastric tube feedings for long. She was finishing her bottle feeds soon after, growing well and was home at 35 weeks.

Ashley says, “I'm just going to say this — if you have a preterm baby you need to pray they are in the hands of the Edward Hospital NICU. My husband and I can't stop bragging, from the individual rooms to the attentiveness, compassion and sensitivity the entire staff — and I mean everyone — provided. It was phenomenal. My husband was so relieved and impressed with the NICU that he felt good to head back to Houston while our daughter was in the NICU. That is huge for him because our past experience in a NICU was completely different and very traumatic.”

Bob Covert, M.D., independent neonatologist and medical director of the Edward Hospital NICU, adds: “Everyone’s story is different and the NICU is here to support families no matter if that is achieved through surrogacy, natural pregnancy or IVF. Of the 6,000 annual births at Edward-Elmhurst Health, about 12 percent are admitted to the NICU. All family structures are supported by our team of doctors and nurses as we all strive to discharge a healthy baby home.”

If you are interested in the surrogacy process and delivering at Edward-Elmhurst Health, learn more here.

At Edward-Elmhurst Health, we’re fully equipped to care for newborns who require special attention, such as premature infants, infants on ventilators, and newborns with congenital or surgical conditions. Learn more about the NICU and Special Care Nursery at Edward-Elmhurst Health.

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