It Took a Village to Make a Baby {Infertility Awareness}

You’ve heard the saying, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Well, in our case it took a village to make a baby. In April 2009, at the age of 24, my husband Mark and I welcomed a baby girl named Kaylee into the world. Three months postpartum, after suffering a major seizure in the middle of the night, I was diagnosed with peripartum cardiomyopathy {a type of heart failure that occurs during pregnancy or soon after delivery}. My cardiologist also threw in a little side note, “Oh, and do not have any more babies.” What? Wait! Just like that? So nonchalant? It was one of those moments where time stood still, and I could no longer process anything else. I just kept saying that sentence over and over again in my head. After a year and a half of medications and a few different cardiologists, my heart was back to “normal.” We began pushing forward and decided to pursue adoption as a means to have another child. Unfortunately, after visiting with a few different agencies, we began facing many hurdles related to my “poor health.” Every time we reached one of those road blocks, I could feel the devastation wash over me like it did at the initial doctor visit. All of our focus was on growing our family when we were faced with another health crisis.

In August 2011, Mark woke to the sound of me taking my last breaths. I didn’t have a pulse, and he immediately called for help. The dispatcher was able to walk him through performing 20 minutes of life-saving CPR. When paramedics arrived, they shocked me twice. As they were taking me to the waiting ambulance, Mark remembers hearing them say, “We’ve got a pulse.” I spent the next five days in the ICU and had an ICD {implantable cardioverter} placed and was released soon after. I had suffered from sudden cardiac arrest which has less than a 5% survival rate. Okay God, you have my undivided attention. Before cardiac arrest, we were bearing the burdens alone. What we needed was a village, and our faith would need to be at the center. I’ve always prided myself on being an independent, strong, and determined woman. This journey to grow our family would redefine what that meant for me. It no longer meant alone.

So, after the cardiac arrest, we were brought to our knees. My level of desperation to have another child increased. Mark and I both have siblings, and there is nothing quite like it. We wanted that for Kaylee. We wanted someone that she could share her childhood with, grow old with, hold her hand when we are no longer there to hold it, be an aunt or uncle to her children. From this we began to talk more about the idea of surrogacy. This seed was first planted by my current cardiologist. When she first suggested surrogacy, our initial thoughts were “that’s weird” and “it’s not for us.” Between the thought of trusting another person with our baby and the financial commitment, we dismissed the idea, but that was about to change.

It all started with an advertisement that caught my eye as I was leaving the local YMCA. It had a picture on the front of a couple holding a baby. At the top, it said Surrogate Solutions. Yes God, you still have my attention. So I picked it up and kept it on our kitchen counter for months. Mark and I were fearful of really committing to surrogacy, so I would just occasionally glance at it. One day I felt this tug to call. I honestly didn’t know what to expect, and I was pleasantly surprised. When Gayle East, the owner of Surrogate Solutions, answered, I immediately felt at ease. This is a NORMAL person! And not only that, she is kind, informative, professional, and answered every question. At the end of the conversation, we set up a time to meet face-to-face. I have to say that Mark was not as enthusiastic as I was about meeting with a surrogacy agency. I convinced him that once he meets Gayle he will love her.

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Somewhere during that meeting we had both decided that this was right for us. We talked at length about what we were looking for in a surrogate, and she sent us profiles for three women. We decided to meet with one – Jennifer and her husband Eric. We met for lunch, and the rest is history. We connected right away and never looked back. It may sound crazy to only meet one potential surrogate, but if you met Jen, you would understand. It’s similar to finding your soulmate. When you know, you know. You don’t keep going on dates with other people. Gayle, Jen, and Eric were the start of our village. This village also included a psychologist that Mark and I began seeing on a recommendation from my GP and cardiologist. You see, apparently near death experiences and infertility can have a negative effect on one’s mental health. For Mark, he was experiencing post-traumatic stress related to my almost-death. For me, I was dealing with fear and loss. I was fearful of death. Not the actual act of dying because I had been there and done that. I was fearful of the repercussions my death would have on the ones I love. I also experienced a heavy sense of loss. I had to grieve the fact that I would never be able to experience another pregnancy. I felt jealous, angry, sad, and in order to have the most positive and healthy surrogacy experience I could, I knew I needed to deal with these issues. While I continued counseling, Jen and I continued to grow our relationship. We would call, text, and meet when we could.

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And so began the process of IVF. Ugh. Anyone who has done IVF understands what I mean. It was one of the more challenging parts of this journey, and Jen never complained. She listened when I needed her. We tackled things together. We were a team. So Mark and I underwent in-vitro fertilization to produce embryos that are biologically ours. The embryos were then transferred to Jennifer’s uterus for her to carry for the next nine months. Transfer day came and went and was fairly uneventful. We were all on pins and needles waiting to hear the news. Was she pregnant? Did it work?

While I was sitting in the Shipley’s donut line one morning, I received a text with a picture of a positive pregnancy test with the message, “Good morning, mama.” Tears came; then, I immediately called Jen, and we freaked out together. There was so much excitement. I can’t believe I was able to wait ALL day for Mark to get home from work so Kaylee and I could break the news together with her new “Big Sister” t-shirt. After that we went for an ultrasound to see the baby’s heartbeat.

The following doctor appointments were pretty routine. I would always make the three hour drive to Houston to meet Jen for the appointments. Even if that meant waking up at 5am, driving down, and driving back all in the same day. It seemed strange to me not to be there. I wanted to be involved and experience this pregnancy as much as I could. For me, a big part of that was showing up to appointments and listening to what the doctor had to say about our baby. I also wanted Jen to feel supported, loved, and appreciated. I got to where I was just as excited about seeing Jen as I was getting baby updates from the doctor or hearing the heartbeat {a sound that never gets old}.

Several months into the pregnancy, we went in for the anatomy ultrasound. We decided that we wanted to find out the sex of the baby. So there we sat – myself, Mark, Jennifer, and Eric. Deep down I wanted a boy so badly. As soon as they put the wand to Jennifer’s belly, Eric began to get excited. You see, Jennifer and Eric have four boys. He knew a boy when he saw one. The room was overcome with emotions. It felt like we had been climbing Mount Everest for years, and in that moment we reached the top. There was an overwhelming feeling of accomplishment, relief, and joy. We had already decided on a name, but we were waiting to tell Jennifer and Eric at that ultrasound. Ryan Lynn. Ryan is both Mark and Eric’s middle name. Lynn is a family name and also Jennifer’s middle name. I wanted Ryan to have a piece of her to carry with him. I want them both to know the significant role she has in our life.

Most of my family and friends had the chance to meet Jennifer at Ryan’s baby shower. Afterwards, my sister-in-law said that it wasn’t anything that she expected. She said our relationship is so genuine. And I agree. Jennifer has become one of my best friends. Someone I see being a part of our lives forever. Ten days before Ryan’s due date, we had a doctor appointment and decided to take our kids to Chuck-e-Cheese that afternoon. I’ll never forget Kaylee leaning into Jennifer’s belly and saying, “Ryan, you can come out now. Your room is ready.” That was her first official big sister bossy moment. As we were leaving, I joked that I would see Jen that night at the hospital so we could have a baby. Well, Ryan must have listened to Kaylee’s request because that evening Jennifer called to say her water broke.

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We had talked before and decided that Mark and I would be in the delivery room during the birth. I had never seen a birth. I had given birth, but never experienced it as an onlooker. Jennifer was amazing. Ryan was perfect, and all I could do was continuously thank God and Jennifer. I remember thinking that if all of our experiences were necessary to get to this moment, then I would do them again and again. After Mark cut the umbilical cord, the nurse let me hold Ryan skin-to-skin. Looking back I feel a bit guilty for not allowing anyone to hold him for thirty minutes, but I was just soaking him up and got lost in the moment. I had been so close to him for nine months, but yet this was my first time to really feel him. It was a beautiful day.

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We just celebrated Ryan’s first birthday. He is a thriving little boy full of curiosity and admiration for his big sister. Jennifer and her family have been there along the way to watch Ryan grow and celebrate his milestones with us. Our story is one rooted in faith. It is God that made this experience possible. It is He that healed me, it is He that guided us to Jennifer, and it is He that created our beautiful family. No one but Him could be responsible for these gifts. I have found through this journey that when you rely on faith, your relationship with Jesus will flourish. We needed faith, hope, and determination. We are so incredibly thankful for these blessings, for Surrogate Solutions, and for Jennifer and her entire family, and for our family and friends that supported us through this time. We love the village it took to make our baby.

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If you want more information on the surrogacy journey
{either as an intended parent or as a surrogate mother},
contact Gayle East with Surrogate Solutions ::
361-772-4234 or [email protected]

In honor of National Infertility Awareness Week, we are dedicated to raising awareness and educating our community about the varying types of infertility and the many options available.  Our hope is that this series will open your eyes and inspire you in a really dynamic way, so please join us as real local moms open up and share their stories all throughout the week.  To read more, please click here.

[hr] Jenna - BioAbout Jenna M.

Jenna is a 29 year old wife and mother of two. She is a graduate of Deer Park High School and later went on to meet her college sweetheart at Baylor University in Waco, where they now reside. After working as a Speech-Language Pathologist, Jenna has made the transition to a stay at home mom to her children, Kaylee {5} and Ryan {1}. Although she adores living in the family friendly town of Waco, she still has roots in Houston. She visits her family often and loves the city she grew up in. Jenna spends her time talking with others about her surrogacy journey as an intended parent and volunteering for the American Heart Association. She also enjoys date nights with her husband Mark, zumba, barre fitness, massages, and reading!  Want to get in touch with Jenna?  Email her at [email protected]

[hr] Please Note :: We are incredibly humbled and so very honored to have Surrogate Solutions sponsoring this post as well as for the opportunity to meet Jenna through them too.  Our hope is that this post will inform and inspire you just like it has us.


  1. I know jenn from TTLM she is so awesome and i met her while she was pregnant with your son and told me the story but not in full detail. I was truly amazed and in awe of what she was doing for you. This is awesome for you and your family. Much love and bless you


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