Many people never know the feeling of carrying a baby the old-fashioned way, but Kathryn Isenhour knew the love of being pregnant, and also the sorrow of that blessing being taken away.
Infertility isn’t always wrapped up neatly with one reason or one medical issue that explains things. Kathryn’s story is riddled with a sequence of medical disasters that just kept coming. She was blessed with a baby boy in 2010, but it was anything but a smooth journey getting there. It was also the first and last child she would carry on her own.
When referring to her pregnancy, Kathryn says, “If it could go wrong, it did.” She began with several rounds of fertility drugs to even get pregnant. Once pregnant, she was threatened with miscarriage and had to have a rescue cerclage (a stitch to keep the cervix closed) placed at 19 weeks. She was put on bed rest for 15 weeks, had preterm labour, and then suffered from aspiration pneumonia. In the end, her son Mason was born early at 35 weeks, but healthy.
After the birth, most women will bleed for 2-6 weeks on average while the body heals. In Kathryn’s case, she never stopped bleeding. She tried blood clotting medicine, vitamins, and an array of leafy green vegetables, but to no avail. She was exhausted all the time. Her hair was falling out and she was pale as a ghost. Finally after nine months, doctors suggested they do a D & C and investigate. They found that Kathryn’s uterus was in very bad shape. Her uterine wall was the consistency of Jello and during the procedure the instrument they used actually injured it further. The best option was to have her uterus removed. In order to get healthy and be strong for her son, she had to give up the chance to carry any more babies. A week later she underwent surgery and with that also lost the chance to carry any more babies.
Thankfully when it was all said and done, Kathryn finally felt like herself again. She regained her energy and she began the road to recovery. A few years later, she married her love Jordan, and they decided they wanted more kids. Fast forward to Fall of 2013 and she was beginning a new journey – with her best friend Kasey.
Kathryn and Kasey have been best friends since high school. Kasey offered to carry Kathryn’s next baby after finding out that Kathryn was facing a hysterectomy. Kathryn knew Kasey was serious and when the time was right, they would look into surrogacy further. The two friends each had a baby only three weeks apart from each other in 1010. They were pregnant together with their sons and are raising them side by side. The next phase in their lives would be spent together, but in a whole new way.
In November 2013, after Kathryn and Jordan began their research surrounding surrogacy, they came in contact with the organization called Surrogacy Together. They partnered with professionals in the field of surrogacy and help to create families. They set the couple up with Dr. Kumar of Fertility Surgical Associates of California. “Dr. Kumar and his staff and nurses have been nothing short of amazing,” said Kathryn.
Another bump in the road was the legal side of surrogacy. In North Carolina, where the couple resides, surrogacy laws are non-existent. It is considered a neutral state – they don’t say surrogacy is legal, but they don’t say it isn’t legal either. So Jordan and Kathryn knew they would need to eventually hire an attorney to write a Pre-Birth Order, which stipulates that someone other than the birth mother can be put on the birth certificate.
Kasey met with Dr. Kumar and arrangements began for a transfer date. They were making progress. In December 2013, Kathryn had her egg retrieval and Dr. Kumar was able to get 44 beautiful eggs. Jordan and Kathryn were ecstatic and decided to fertilize 25 of the retrieved eggs! When they arrived home friends had decorated their Christmas tree, and were waiting eagerly. In the middle of dinner they got the phone call that 19 eggs fertilized. In the end, 15 blastocysts were frozen, waiting for the day of transfer.
On January 20th, Kasey got the call that transfer day was set for February 28, 2014. They all moved to quickly finalize legal papers, life insurance, and make travel plans to the clinic.
On the day of transfer, everything went exactly as hoped. Kasey was told to do nothing strenuous for the next few days. Jordan, Kathryn and Kasey had breakfast together at the hotel and then rested the morning. They embarked on a driving tour of the greater LA area in the afternoon. The time was spent enjoying each other’s company.
The two-week wait was difficult, but the couple chose to keep the news quiet until the blood work came back. Then she shared the result with family and friends. A home pregnancy test wasn’t official enough for them, but secretly the three had seen several pregnancy tests at home and they were all coming up positive. The first beta was 144 and in 48 hours the beta read 416. Their tiny embryo was thriving just like it should. Jordan and Kathryn had both their parents over for supper. Kasey and her son Wade were also guests. They had a secret dessert waiting in the oven that announced their special news. It was a joyous occasion.
The first ultrasound was at the end of March. There was a very small but clear sight with a beautiful heartbeat. “I think we could have watched that screen forever. From a speck of dust in a lab, to a pumping, beating, beautiful heartbeat,” said Kathryn.
Kasey’s belly grew and she blogged with Kathryn every week on the progress of the growing baby. Everything went according to plan. In one blog Kathryn wrote specifically about her friendship with Kasey. “It’s hard to put into words what Kasey means to me because it encompasses so much. She’s truly the sister I never had, my confidant, my filter, my inspiration, my partner in crime, my absolute best friend.”
On June 14, Surrogacy Together hosted a Surrogacy Celebration and Gender Reveal party for the happy couple. They announced that they were having a bouncing baby girl! Charlotte Olivia was due to arrive on November 16.
In early October, around 33 weeks, they all had a practice run to the hospital after Kasey started having Braxton Hicks around lunchtime and they never went away. Later that day the doctor ruled out pre-term labour. False alarm! But shortly after Kasey began to experience swelling. Her blood pressure increased and she wasn’t feeling well. After a visit to Labour and Delivery, they determined that Charlotte was better in than out, so they were sent home. Kasey was miserable and getting worse. Kathryn prayed for her health. She knew Charlotte was fine, but Kasey wasn’t and she was scared for her. “In my heart, I was breaking for Kasey. She is so strong and so positive, but to see her in such misery made me a mess.”
Three days later at their regular OB appointment, Kasey’s protein levels in her urine had risen to +4. She passed the non-stress test, but Kasey had an ache behind her eye and the doctor decided to send her back to Labour and Delivery. Once back there it was decided that it was medically necessary to induce Kasey and bring Charlotte early. It was a long and excruciating time for everyone as Kasey’s blood pressure rose and they waited out the worst parts of the induction.
Finally little baby Charlotte made her appearance. She was born on October 18, at 9:06pm weighing 5lbs 5oz. She was admitted to the NICU, because
she was early, but she was healthy and doing well. She only stayed there eight days before they let Charlotte go home with her parents. Kasey stayed in the hospital so her blood pressure could be monitored, but she was released three days later.
Today, Jordan and Kathryn celebrate the New Year with all smiles. They enter the 2015 with their two children and so many gifts to be appreciative as the spirit of Christmas surrounds them. When speaking of Kasey and the gift she gave them, Kathryn had this to say, “There is no one I would trust more to carry our child than her. She is it… there would be no one else. She loves Charlotte just as much as we do and I feel truly blessed that we got this experience together.”