January 26, 2015 | Frankie Marrero
On the surface, Shannon and Jody Bowen are the average All-American couple living the suburban dream. They are happily married with a brand new baby daughter that is the center of their world. The picture of domestic tranquility, they are absolutely ordinary, in the most wonderful sense of the word. Until, that is, you consider the fact that baby Hazel arrived via Gestational Surrogate.
Though Shannon and Jody had always dream of being parents, they had also always known that Shannon’s medical history would not allow it to happen in the traditional way. Adoption seemed the obvious answer, but months had turned into years. Finding themselves at a standstill, they began to lose hope, and had started to consider the possibility of a future without children.
Then came a revelation that would change everything. On his regular drive to work, Jody had tuned his radio, as usual, to his local National Public Radio (NPR) station. But this would be no ordinary commute. NPR was featuring a series called “Making Babies: 21st Century Families”. Diane Hinson, owner and founder of Creative Family Connections, was on the program discussing how Gestational Surrogacy has become a family-building option for people from all walks of life; not just for the rich and famous. “We had never even thought about surrogacy”, Jody says. “We didn’t think it was a real life option, so there was never any discussion.” Yet not even a week later, the Bowens were scheduled for an appointment at CFC’s office to discuss something that only days earlier would had been completely unimaginable – finding another woman to carry their baby.
As anyone who has been through the process can tell you, surrogacy can be a legal and emotional minefield. Surrogacy law is constantly changing and evolving. The laws vary from state to state, and sometimes even from county to county. As Shannon and Jody found out, it is critically important that anyone considering surrogacy as a path to parenthood be armed with expert knowledge and guidance to navigate these challenges. Jody explained, “Knowing that experts were managing the process eased our worries. For us, having that security and peace of mind was beyond worth it. They walked us through everything and took care of the hard parts. We could never have done this on our own without having a nervous breakdown!”
CFC matches parents with surrogates after an extensive screening process, based on medical history, lifestyle preferences, geographic distance, and like-minded views on important pregnancy issues. Shannon and Jody were matched to “Jessica”, a married mother of two who lives just a few hours from their home. As with any new relationship, there may be initial uncertainty. Jody recalls, “Everyone has doubts because you are afraid of getting hurt.” Shannon adds, “But knowing how well surrogates are screened, we were not worried about what she was or wasn’t doing. We knew this was the best possible situation.” Diane elaborates, “Surrogates often refer to themselves as the babysitter. They love being pregnant, but their bond is with the parents. The key is that this is someone else’s child, and the gestational surrogate fully understands and supports that fact. She is doing this to change a life.” As Jessica puts it, “I do this for the feeling I get when the IPs see their baby for the first time; the enjoyment of knowing that I helped bring someone into this world that they will love forever. I feel like we become family in a way. And Shannon and Jody are awesome. They are so loving and caring and I know that they are going to be wonderful parents!”
Fast-forward nine months and Shannon and Jody are nestled with their newborn baby girl in a private room in the hospital maternity ward. Shannon reflects on the experience, “The hospital staff was incredible. They went out of their way to treat us like any new parents. It was not awkward at all. They related to us as naturally as if I had delivered Hazel myself.” Yet, for all of the normalcy, there are obviously things that are unique to a surrogate delivery – after all, there is an extra person in the room. Not surprisingly, Shannon and Jody were swept away in a rush of emotion upon first laying eyes on their baby girl. But Shannon recalls being nearly blindsided by the depth of feelings that she experienced toward Jessica after the birth. “I nearly cried when I saw Jess”, she says. It’s hard to explain how grateful we are.” Jody adds, “Neither words nor money could truly repay Jess for the gift that she gave us. I wish there was some way we could express our infinite gratitude. She really is our angel.”