Content Warning: This episode features a conversation about a miscarriage and how to share the news of pregnancy loss with intended parents. This may be triggering for some listeners, so if this is something you'd like to avoid hearing about, please be advised to skip over 24:30-32:09
We're halfway through season one of The Family Circle and this episode is the perfect heartwarming episode to carry us into the back half of the year!
Episode 6 is hosted by Circle Surrogacy & Egg Donation Director of Marketing, Kristin Marsoli. She hosts our two incredible guests, Nicola and Mandi. Nicola is a parent through surrogacy after giving birth to her own son, and Mandi was her gestational carrier. You may know Mandi as a Surrogate Advisor on the Circle Surrogacy team!
In this episode, Nicola and Mandi share about their beautiful bond, why they both chose surrogacy, why they chose each other, and how they overcame obstacles to bring baby Squish into this world. They are both open, honest, and vulnerable about their journeys and what has kept them close in the five years since their journey together ended. You won't want to miss it!
Welcome to the Family Circle, the podcast that's brought to you by circle, surrogacy and egg donation. I'm your host today. And I'm Kristen and I'm the Marketing Director here at Circle surrogacy. For those of you who might not be familiar with circle, we are a surrogacy and egg donation agency, and we've been making parenthood possible for families around the world since 1995. I am lucky enough that my family is one of those that circle helped to create. I am a parent through surrogacy, and that makes me very excited about today's podcast episode. We have two special guests with us today. Nicola, a fellow parent through surrogacy and Mandy, her gestational surrogate. So welcome Nicola and Mandy. Thank you. So
nice to be here.
Thank you so much for having us.
It is very special to have both of you on the podcast together because I think what's really going to come through as we talk today is the special bond that you both have, that is very, very common between intended parents and their gestational carrier. I think until you enter into a surrogacy journey, you don't really know what that bond is going to be like, but it's very, very special. And I'm excited to have you both here to share your story. So everyone is in for a very exciting episode today. So I'd like to start just by sharing there are many different facets to a surrogacy journey and circle helps all sorts of intended parents, those who are single those who are couples straight and LGBTQ. What some people might not realize is that some of our intended parents come to us when they experience what we call secondary infertility, where they're unable to conceive and carry a child on their own after they've had a successful pregnancy. And that is the heartwarming story that we have for you today. So Nicola, before we hop into your surrogacy story, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your health history? Way before you even had your first child? Yeah, I'd love to.
So my name is Nicola and and thanks again, so much for having me. I'm excited to share this journey with all of you today. And with Mandy, who was, as Kristen mentioned, my gestational surrogate. So my health history backs quite a few years. When I was in my early 20s, I was living in San Francisco and went to emergency room one day was just a pain in my right side and being in my early 20s. And not knowing much about the body. I assumed that it was appendicitis. So I checked myself into the emergency room. And lo and behold, it was not appendicitis. But my liver function tests were elevated. And after a few hours of pain seem to subside, I was discharged and referred to a gastroenterologist. And a couple of weeks later, when I met with a gastroenterologist, a liver biopsy was done. And it was confirmed that I had an autoimmune disease called primary sclerosing cholangitis or PSC for short. And it's a really rare autoimmune liver disease that typically happens to middle aged men, not early women in the early 20s. So it was a bit of a shock. And I came back actually to Boston for a second opinion, because it just seemed so unusual that it could happen to someone that was young and healthy and not a big drinker, which PSC has nothing to do with alcohol usage. So the second opinion in Boston confirmed that it was PSC as well. So that was heartbreaking, especially heartbreaking because I was asymptomatic at the time, so I had no symptoms whatsoever. And most of the symptoms that come with liver disease are things like fatigue, and people turn yellow because they have high bilirubin and just generally swelling and just not feeling great. So my health history was a little bit bumpy for a couple years, and then it smoothed out. And then in in July of 2009, I actually received a life saving liver transplant from my younger brother. He gave me 60% of his liver, and he's doing wonderfully today, living a very healthy, active normal life. And life was great. After transplant, I returned back to a fairly normal life doing my normal active lifestyle and feeling good. And I my husband and I decided that we would like to have a child. So in June of 2013, we welcomed our first baby boy, and my pregnancy was wonderful. I felt great and my health was really stable throughout the entire pregnancy. And I was on top of the world that I had not only a transplant that enabled me to have a child but the child was actually here and he was healthy. Fast forward a few months after he was born. I had some complications just with scar tissue building up from my original transplant, which required another surgery and it was a complicated surgery and had a lot of costs. occasions after that complicated surgery that required a lot of intervention and the surgery team kind of came to me and said, No, no, if we recommend a second child for you, your body has been through a lot of trauma. And a second pregnancy might not be the best case scenario. So my husband and I went down a long path of investigating another option how to have a second child whether it was adoption or foster care or surrogacy. And that's really kind of where our surrogacy journey began, we decided that we wanted to have our own biological child, if that was possible. So after lots and lots of research, we landed in the capable hands of the folks that circularity.
That's amazing how much you went through as a young woman and having the transplant feeling great. Having your baby and then sort of hearing this news that it's not going to be possible for you to grow your family. So and that's what I was referring to as sort of that secondary infertility sort of you had a very successful first pregnancy but you weren't able to do it a second time. So you did turn to surrogacy. And before we sort of dive into that story, Mandy, I'm gonna ask you since we're at the very, very beginning of the surrogacy journey, what brought you to surrogacy?
I love this question. It's one I get a lot when I tell people, I'm an experienced carrier. And honestly, ever since I was a little girl, I've always wanted to be a mom, that was my dream, I couldn't wait to have a baby of my own. So when the day came, that my baby girl was born. I remember looking down and feeling so overwhelmed with love and joy. I knew what that phrase Love at first sight truly meant. And I just couldn't believe my dream had come true. I didn't know that wasn't always the case for others. And I knew one day I wanted to help, but it wasn't the right timing. So you fast forward. And when my kids started going to school, I got a job at an OBGYN office that was local to me. And we had someone come in that was going to be a surrogate. And I felt like it was my calling, like, Okay, here's your sign. And I had an idea that I wanted to be a surrogate, but I didn't know how. And I started Googling, finding how to become a surrogate. And I knew I wanted to go with an agency just because I wanted that hand holding, I wanted someone guiding me through the process. And I live in Montana. So I was trying to find something kind of local to me, because I didn't know. And I kept seeing circle surrogacy and I loved their website, I loved how I could find so much information about surrogacy. So I started looking at that. And then I had to go to my husband, because I had this amazing idea, but I couldn't do without his approval or get him on board. So I kind of presented to him as a PowerPoint presentation, because I'm very type A and he just thought it was such an incredible thing that I wanted to do. And he was how do we do this. So I filled out the application with circle and immediately got connected with someone who is an experienced carrier. And I love that I could ask her all these questions, and I got guided through my journey.
The fact that he said, What do we need to do is just so telling of how supportive he was not only of this thought that you had, but the journey that was to come and having that primary support person as a gestational surrogate is so critical to your journey, because so much is going on during that journey. And you need that person to be your emotional support, your mental support, your physical support, sometimes your kids support your dinner support or whatever it might be, you really need someone on your side like that. So I love that he was from the get go using that, like what do we need to do? Sort of language. So you are both at the very beginning. You've you've both spoken with circle. And you are Mandy, you've been accepted as a surrogate Nicola, you have signed on with circle and the next part of the process, which is one of the most exciting nerve wracking, I think, is the matching process. So Nicola, let's go back to before you and Mandy met for the first time when you had to share with circle what your ideal surrogate match might be like, What vision did you have in your head?
Yeah, I think going into the whole process, I had this vision that I was going to be matched with someone that was exactly like myself, because as human you think someone I would do this for someone so surely the person that I'm going to be matched with is going to be just like me, I had or my husband I had envisioned to that person that we were matched with being in the Boston area, we had originally wanted to be at every appointment and all the ultrasounds. And when we signed on the circle, I think the recommendation was Okay, let's try the New England area, but typically, our surrogates are from all over the US. And if you want to be matched sooner, then maybe open up your geographic criteria, but we kind of held steady and said, No, we're looking for New England, you know, we'd love to be there in person. And we knew that the surrogate that we're going to match with was going to be perfect, because the application process for surrogates is really intense. And a lot of people that apply are not selected, because the criteria is so tight. So we knew that whoever was going to be matched with us was going to be very healthy and committed and dedicated and be a really good match for us as a family. So a few months in, we had decided to open up our geographic criteria to kind of the middle of the country. So a short flight away, and another month or so went by and we said okay, gosh, you know, we're really looking to get matched. And the recommendation came circle, would you consider opening your criteria to full United States? And so we kind of hummed and hawed and said, All right, all right, if we think, you know, if we think there's a good candidate, and the social worker that we've spoken to had said, You think we have something in the pipeline, but they are a little bit further out than you'd want? And we said, Alright, we're gonna go for it. And spoiling the fun here. But we are obviously matched with Mandy who lives in Montana. And to get to where Mandy is, is, it's even harder to get to than California. So although she's geographically closer than California, it's not a direct flight. It's a couple of stops a little bit of a drive
Planes, Trains and Automobiles. Exactly.
And when you think about a birth, trying to be there for birth, that makes it an extra layer of complexity, right? You're saying, Okay, it's not just second hop on, there's a million flights to California day. That's not the case with getting to where Mandy is in Montana. So I'll get to the match day in a second. But maybe Mandy could share a little bit about what she was expecting from intended parent, and then we can share the details of our first conversation together.
Yes. So I went in. And I think it's important when you want to be a surrogate, I went into this journey, doing it for you doing it for my intended parents, and I constantly and my husband, too, we constantly would say, Well, what would we want? If we were the parents? What would we want out of our surrogate if we had to go through surrogacy, and it really grounded me. So when we're talking about your location, it was, I could care less, it is what I can do to support the intended parents. And so I didn't have any, I just wasn't cleared by my doctor to have multiples. So I could only match with someone who would do a single embryo transfer, because I'm not big enough.
So okay, so to sit here and talk to you guys and see you, I feel like I'm eavesdropping on like two old friends. Because your relationship truly, truly is so special. But let's go back before you got to this point in your relationship to that very first video call when you guys first met, what was that like?
Our first date, our first
date, this is the exciting part where I feel like our journey gets really good. So so we were matched on right before Christmas. And just as any intended parents that are going through the process, that's a nerve wracking time when you get that email from circle saying we have a match. And I remember being at home with our son, Ben at the time, and my husband was at the grocery store picking up a couple of things. And I got the email and I called him and I said you have to get home. Right now we have a gnat, we have a match. And when you think of the most exciting day of your life and how you're you get this whole body shakes, and everything in the world just stops around you except for that particular thing. And in that moment, that was exactly what it felt like I I couldn't scroll through the profile fast enough. I was trying to read every detail I possibly could look at all the pictures absorb it all in the matter of a minute before my husband came home so I just download it all to him. And it was awesome. I was I loved everything about Mandy's profile, I feel like I read every single detail with just such focus and the turnaround to decide if you're going to move forward as quickly so this was right around Christmas time. So the day after Christmas, we had scheduled our first Skype call because we didn't use Zoom back then. And we decided to have our first call the day after Christmas and we were at my in laws house and our son Dan was downstairs with them and we kind of huddled upstairs in the bedroom around the computer wondering how this was going to go she seems so perfect on paper because she'd be so perfect in in quote unquote person. And it was it was amazing Mandy and I I mean, what are we talking about? Two hours, three hours. And we talked about everything under the sun from you know, what's your favorite color to what do you like to eat? What do you like to do? How are you pregnant? How do you like to act when you're pregnant and all the Questions that nothing was off the table, I feel like we, we wanted to get it all out there both from her side and my side and my husband side. And it was truly like talking to your best friend.
It was I remember getting your profile, and I was at work. So I wasn't with my husband, Robert. And I got the same thing like full body gels. So excited. And for a surrogate, you have this idea that you wanted to do for so long. And you have gone through so many hoops to finally get to this point. So when you see that profile, it becomes real. And I had tears, full body chills. And I just remember Finally, having my surrogacy journey come to life. Here you are, I'm looking at you. And so I did the same thing. I couldn't scroll fast enough. I was reviewing it. And I couldn't wait to talk to Robert. And I remember getting home. And we were looking at it together. And so I'm looking at for like the third time again. And I was looking at your pictures. And I'm I go oh, no. Oh, she's an identical twin. And Robert goes, which one? Is she in the pictures that I'm like, I don't know. And so that was really fun. And it I just remember being so nervous for our first date and wanted to say the right things and wanted to come across the right way. And I don't think it could have gotten better. It just flowed. And like you said two hours later, oh, we better we better get back to our kids. And we knew immediately we wanted to move forward with each other.
I was gonna say it sounds like right on that call. You guys had made that decision like, Yep, this is my person. And we're ready to take it to the next step.
Definitely. We were definitely I think at the end of the call. We said I think we just confirmed that we were in. And Mandy was everything that circle had told me so when you get the application we had also had a call with circle to say can you just bring it to life a little bit so we can get a feel for how she is and everything. Bubbly, friendly, outgoing, dedicated, all these things that they had said were just rang true on the on the phone call over and over again. So
I remember I remember my first question, because I didn't know how to pronounce your name. Like, okay, is it Nicola or Nicola? It's not the cough drops. Okay, check. I got that.
But funny, like, that's a good that's and that was your icebreaker, right? Like, that's probably what sort of got the conversation going because it is a very nerve wracking call you no one knows what to say? Or who should start or what you should talk about. But you have like that little sort of funny moment or question or whatever it is. And that sort of opens the floodgates. And then it sounds like you guys just went on for hours. So that's, that's wonderful to hear. So after you're matched contracts, all of that sort of is happening behind the scenes. Can you share a little bit about once you were matched how you did strengthen your bond and how you kept in touch as you were sort of leading up to the medical screening and the transfer and, and the following milestones?
Yeah, so one thing circle recommended was to do weekly Skypes. And it may seem a lot, but it really helped build our relationship. And every Thursday night, we had a set time or we do a call and sometimes it was the four of us sometimes it was just me and Nicola and Tyler, sometimes it was just as girls and you know, we talked about what our where our journey was that what I was doing, but then sometimes we didn't have anything to talk about surrogacy related so we talked about what our kids were doing and what you know, we were doing for the weekend. And so we finally got to meet them end of January, so a month later, and that was for the medical screening appointment. And we were so nervous because we had a full day of medical screening. So even though circle approved me and even though Nicola and Tyler liked me, I still wasn't I hadn't got the green light yet, because the IVF clinic hadn't Greenlight so we did all that. And that was intense. I remember going in and being so nervous because one of the requirements for surrogacy is IVF needles, and I am not a fan wasn't a fan, but I would have done needles throughout the entire journey for Nicola and Tyler. And so I just have to say the, the IVF clinic made my husband and I so confident when we left we were like, Okay, we got this, we can do this. So after our whole screening, we waited in the doctor's room because we had like a joint consults. I think Nicola, that was and we met each other for the first time in person and I'm pretty sure everybody in the office thought we were crazy because we screamed And Nicola and I are whoo girls as my husband. But it was so amazing getting to see you guys and a hug you for the first time.
Yeah, I don't think many people are hugging him and there'll be office, but we did.
So that was the medical screening. And then sort of the next, Mandy, you start your medications, you do your sort of local monitoring. And next up would be the transfer. What was that day like?
So that was really exciting. So our transfer was in July, because the IVF clinic required me to do a mock cycle. And then Nick on Tyler, we're working on creating their embryos. So we were super excited for the embryo transfer. It's finally here. Nicola, had an amazing day. I think like the whole week planned for us because her family was going to be in town had all this stuff going on. And so we were so excited counting down the days, everything's going great. And I have my final baseline ultrasound and make sure everything looks fluffy and great for the transfer and it wasn't thick enough. And that feeling
your lining wasn't thick enough, right? Exactly. My
lining wasn't thick enough. And I just remember feeling so down to, but I couldn't have done anything. And so they pushed it out. I think a week I had to take more meds which was so amazing that they didn't cancel us. They said Nope, she just needs a little bit more time and gave us more meds. And we flew out a week later. But Nicola and Tyler had a trip plans. We did
we were planning to go to England. So we had planned for months and months and months. And one of the amazing things about going through a journey with someone like Mandy is, we talked about how we communicated not only on Skype, but phone calls and texts as well. And we had that kind of relationship where we could kind of talk about it. So we had the conversation, should we cancel our trip, should we keep it should we what if we cancel it, we get pushed it again. And Mandy was such a great partner in that, that she said, You should go on your trip, I'm going to FaceTime you from the hospital. And we're going to do this together, even if we're not there physically with each other. And that was what we ended up doing. We went to my husband and I and our son, were going to London. So we were in a London hotel room FaceTiming Mandy in Boston, having the transfer and it felt like we were right there, you know, the medical team was great. They were all kind of introduce themselves to us on camera. And although we couldn't be there in person, it felt like it was, you know, the next best thing. And afterwards, Mandy had dinner with my husband's parents and my sister, they were our no pun intended surrogates. And it worked out really well. They got to share a little bit of Mandy and her husband, Robert, without us there, which was looking back on it really special because it was just unfiltered and genuine. And we were thrilled that we got to share parts of who we are with our family. So it ended up working out really, really well despite us not being physically there.
It was so incredible to see the amount of support your family members were giving you guys during this process. There's not a lot of people know about surrogacy or have known someone going through it. And so for you guys being the first one in your family to go through it, it was just an incredible moment. And I'm so glad that you shared them with us, because we absolutely loved them. And it was having your identical twins. So it was kind of like having you too. Yeah, same thing. Same thing. So we got home did the transfer, my husband and I joined the Mile High Club in the airplane. What I mean by that is we had to do our IVF meds. And I took my meds every single time on the diet and our plane didn't take off in time. And I'm going oh my goodness, how are we going to get me my injections. And so we had to ask the flight attendant if we could use the bathroom together. And we had to go up in front of people. And luckily the flight attendant, you know, she knew everything. She was so excited for us and we went in but it was so funny to see all the faces walking back and we even had to take a selfie and send it to Nicola and Tyler of what we do for their baby.
Those airplane bathrooms are so small that I can't even first of all that there were two of you in there and that you were administering at needle while you were in there is pretty hard to believe
and praying that you don't hit turbulence because they Oh my god. The memories that we have. So yes, we got home. We're so excited. We didn't take any pregnancy tests just because in the support group that circle offers for their surrogates, which is incredible. I there was a lot of conflicting information like some way to get positive and then they go in for their Beta and it wouldn't be positive and so I'm a very positive poly person and I truly believed I was pregnant. Right after that embryo transfer I treated myself like I was pregnant. I was super positive about it and We went in for that beta, which is the most awful Wait, like, you have to wait two weeks to find out if it worked. And the whole time we're trying to talk to one another. Try not to get too excited. But it's like that doing too. It's
a long two weeks to I mean, it's hard to keep busy during those two weeks.
Yes, so we got a positive beta. And we were over the moon. So excited, everything was going perfect. I got graduated to see my OB provider, which is where I actually work. And it was our 10 week appointment. And I told my husband don't worry about coming. It's just that first appointment. I'm with everyone I work with, like, I'm totally fine. And I went in and they couldn't hear a heartbeat, which didn't bother me, because the way my uterus is tilted, you can never hear my keepers on the outside until I hit my second trimester. So we went in for the ultrasound and found out there wasn't a heartbeat. And that was one of the most difficult times, I had never experienced a miscarriage before. And it wasn't my baby, but to tell my best friend, the news that she has been praying for and longing for, that it didn't work was. It was so hard. And I lived in Montana. It was Friday. I was after hours. And this is another reason why I tell people why I am so incredibly thankful that I chose circle. And why I absolutely love the circle staff is because I knew exactly who to reach out to in my moment of crisis. There was an emergency line. It was actually my program manager who knew everything about us who loved us and the amount of support she offered us. I'll never forget that. And I called Nicola because I felt like if she had called Nicola and Tyler, it would have been weird. I needed to tell them. And so I called Nicola, we cried together. And then I called my husband who was working and told him to come home and the four of us jumped on a zoom call and cry, and laugh. And it was so incredibly healing.
Yeah, I think that's the reality to have. When you go through a surrogacy journey. You think because there's so many check ins and intervening and there's, you know, everything's so carefully done throughout the process, that it's going to be perfect, and it's not. And I think one of the hardest things as an intended parent is giving up that control of a you're not carrying the baby and be Europe, you have the same kind of similar odds to miscarriage as you do with a regular pregnancy. So just because it's a little more scientific, and it's more humans involved to create, the baby doesn't make it so that something like that can't happen. And it was heartbreaking. I think, you know, we had waited four years, really, since we're beginning our discovery phase of how are we going to have our next child to this point, and it was, it was hard, it was really hard to hear. And, you know, Mandy called me and I knew the second she called me what she was calling me about, I could just hear it in her voice. And there's no part of me whatsoever, or my husband or anyone that thought that this was Mandy's fault. And she needed to hear that from us. And I think when we hopped on that Skype calls, Mandy said, as the four of us, her husband and her and myself and my husband, it was a moment that really brought us It sounds so cheesy, but it really brought us so much closer, because we just we talked about it. And we said, All right, like this is the situation. And we kind of dusted ourselves off and pick ourselves back up and said, let's give it a second shot. And we wanted to make sure we didn't put any pressure on Mandy so that she would think that maybe she didn't want to move forward. And that was that was totally her right to say that and did choose that if she wanted. And same for us. But we were out. We kind of all look to each other. And we're like, Okay, well, what do you want to do here and we want to try again, Mandy was willing to give it another shot. So we waited a couple of months for Mandy had to retrain her body and get back on track. And we went for a second going in January of 2017.
Yep. And this time, we all got to be together during the transfer. And it would you watch the embryo transfer on the ultrasound screen. It was like fireworks. And yes, that sounds cheesy, but it It literally looked like fireworks and we were so excited. We after the transfer, we went back to Berlin, Tyler's house, and her sister was there. So it's good to see her again. And then her sister told us the exciting news that they're expecting, and that the babies would be like within a week apart of their due dates. So that was so incredibly special. And it was so amazing
that that happened. You know, you always hear about twins sort of being on the same wavelength. And you guys were on the same wavelength, even though there was just no physical way for you to be on the same wavelength. But it was like your lives were like parallel.
I always joke with her though that you know, she knew what was going on. So I had no control really over the time, she had a little bit of control. But the stars definitely aligned. And it was really fun to be pregnant at the same time with your twin sister was really, really special. So I felt like I could really
relate. Yes. And so after our dreaded two week, wait, oh my gosh, like, Please let this be positive. And I remember getting the phone call from the IVF clinic saying it's positive. Here's your beta number. And I like almost fainted because I know beta numbers don't really mean anything. But our first one, our beta number was, like, around 100. And with the second transfer, our first beta was over 1000. And I go, Oh, my gosh, the embryo split. Because I remember calling her and I was like, have you talked to the IVF? Client? She's like, No, I'm waiting for their call. Like, I just got phone with them. Do you want me to tell you what I know? And she's like, yes. So I told her the number. And she goes, Oh, no, oh, that's a big number. And we were just so excited. And again, like, true to myself, like I was pregnant, like, have that positive energy. And it just went perfect. And it was the one that stuck, right? This was the one that stuck. And so when we went for our first appointment with my OB, I had my husband with me and I had two of our four kids. My husband and I have a blended family. So our surrogacy baby was like ours together, which was kind of neat to go through a pregnancy together. And we saw the ultrasound and he was a very strong, active little guy. And my kids were obsessed with the movie Finding Nemo. And so they named him squishy. So baby squish is that's what we call them until they told us his name.
So you were there for the transfer? We're two weeks out great, scary beta number scary big beta number, but it was not twins. Right? Right. Correct. And so now you're progressing through your pregnancy all is going well. Did you guys visit each other a lot during the journey. I know you guys talked a lot. And you guys were you know, on video and texting calling. But were you able to visit each other during the journey as well?
We did. Yeah. So Tyler and I, my husband, I flew out for the 20 week ultrasound, we went out to Montana. And it was good, obviously to see Mandy and her bump at the time and to meet her whole family, but also just to have a practice trial run of the travel because like I said earlier, getting to Montana, when you get the phone call, you're in labor could be a little bit more challenging than just a quick flight. So we got to see kind of where Mandy lives and how she lives her life, which just kind of brought everything to more of a reality for us. And it was amazing. I remember, you know, seeing Mandy and every time she'd feel a kicker movement, she'd Grab my hand or my husband's hand and stick it on her belly. And I just felt like I was in the moment with her. And one of the one of the things that made me nervous was I like to have control. And so I was nervous that I would see Mandy and I would have a hard time leaving my baby in her belly to go back to Boston. And I remember flying out there and we talked about it a lie said you know, what if I how this is gonna be really hard to meet the baby in her belly, and then to get back on a plane and come back. And I can honestly say that after meeting Mandy and her family, that wasn't a concern. I I knew that he was in very capable, safe hands and in a loving environment and was safe and healthy and everything that I could have wanted for him. And I hadn't I had no no concerns whatsoever. So I feel like that kind of eased my mind a little bit because going in, I was afraid that I was going to have a hard time with that. But it ended up being
perfect. We had talked, you know, every Thursday and so Nicola and I were very, very open. And again, I kept putting myself in her shoes and saying she verbalized she didn't know how she was going to feel seen the bump, and I said you know, you don't have to see the bump until you're ready to see the bump. And if you just want to see my face on Skype, that's all you're gonna see. And we're just going to take it a day at a time and think just being so honest about our feelings, you know, and then we'd have little jokes like I would send her a text and I don't like dairy. I'm lactose. And Nicola loves dairy. She likes Dairy Queen, and that was one of my cravings with Dairy Queen blizzards, and I'd be like, and this is your baby because I cannot drive by Dairy Queen going and my husband would joke and be like, she doesn't even hide the evidence anymore. If she doesn't take us and that I like craved mayonnaise, and I hate mayonnaise. It's We would just have these little jokes. And so when she flew out, or they flew out, we took them to this beautiful restaurant on the lake so they could kind of see the mountains. And I ordered a burger, I think and she immediately asked the waiter Can we have the sight of mayonnaise with and it was it was, it was so awesome. And we got to do a tour of the hospital. So that was really neat for them to all meet us and to know our situation and that this was their baby. And we went on a hike to Glacier Park. And it was so neat, because we were coming down and there, they somebody saw my belly was like, Oh, you're pregnant. And Nicola was like, That's my baby. It was so incredible to like, be together and to hear her sharing the news. And it was so special.
And Nicola, you know, some intended moms might worry that maybe they won't feel part of the pregnancy because they aren't physically carrying the baby. And I know you mentioned not knowing if you were going to be able to sort of leave the baby at 20 weeks. But did you feel part of the pregnancy? And what did you and Mandy do so that you did feel part of the pregnancy even though you weren't physically carrying your baby,
I definitely felt like I was part of the pregnancy process. And I felt like I was virtually pregnant, if you will. Every time when I was out there with Mandy, like I said, when she felt a movement to let us put our hands on her belly, every time. Even you know, if I wasn't there in person, Mandy, and he was super active that day, man, he would always text me and say little squish is going crazy today. And I felt like I was really connected. Even though I wasn't physically there. All the ultrasound pictures, Mandy working in an OB office, we had hundreds upon hundreds of ultrasound Kitzur. So Mandy sent all those to me in from our her phone, first of all, but then she mailed them all out to me. So we kind of like pored over them in the mail when we got them. And, you know, we tried to send things to Mandy that she might enjoy when she was pregnant. So circle does a really nice job of preparing just both the tenant parents as well as the surrogates are carriers for each next phase. And so I sent maybe some maternity clothes because I felt like although I couldn't wear them, maybe she could. And so I kind of went shopping for Mandy as if it was me. And stuff like that. I feel like really kind of helped us get a little bit closer, even though I wasn't physically carrying the baby myself. But I felt I felt very connected.
Yeah. And going into those appointments. Again, what would I want as I if I was an intended parent, and whenever we had an ultrasound because I had to also see a maternal fetal medicine provider because I was measuring a little small since the way my uterus is tilted, my babies go way back, and I was having some high blood pressure. So I did have to see a specialist. And so of course, we had the ultrasound. And then since they knew our situation, I was very vocal like, this is not my baby. The parents are in Boston, and so they would do everything they needed to do. But then the tech would say, okay, baby, time to show off for mom and dad and I would get my video camera and my husband would get his video camera and tech would try to get baby squished to move and show off. And then we'd send that video to Nicola and Tyler sent them so many heartbeat. Sounds just us just so incredible. And my husband i Yes, we have four kids, but I was in awe every single appointment like oh my gosh, there he is. Look at his little nose look at it was just so incredible to be a part of.
All right, let's talk about the big day delivery day. This is my favorite part. So you guys have kind of a little bit of a crazy story to this,
I think is what most surrogates envision. You want to be a surrogate, you want to help a family and then you envision what that delivery is going to be like seeing those first time parents or completing this family or adding to this family. And so Nicola and I had to move our call from Thursday to Sunday, had an amazing call. Nicola had her changeable ticket already booked. And he's like, I made sure I could change it because I don't really know. And I call I went to work Monday, and I'm 36 and some days pregnant and, you know, I'm just tired. I want to go take a nap. I wasn't sleeping and working on OB office. I was like, Okay, I'm gonna go home and take an early lunch lay down and my OB doctor who was also my boss was like, that sounds like a great idea. But you can go over to labor and delivery. I was like, so I went over there and they kind of monitored me and my blood pressure was like getting high and so they did some preeclampsia Labs, which were fine, but my doctor said okay, you need to call mom and dad because we're either having this baby on Wednesday. They are on Friday when you're 37 weeks. And I was like, Oh, wow. Because we were going to get induced at 38 weeks. So this was moving our timeline up. So I remember calling Nicola, which I didn't call her during the day. And so I call her and she's just so bubbly and excited. And I said, So told her everything that's happening. And she said, Oh, wow. Oh, oh, wow. And I was excited to let you go. And you plan on getting here to see me. So my doctor had a plan that we were going to have baby evicted on Friday, which was 37.
Yeah, so that phone call. That was a very welcome surprise, honestly. But it was in a moment not expecting the not the news I was expecting. So a lot of pieces have to fall into place. You know, we were bringing my mother in law out there and help take care of our son Ben, who was four at the time, we had to get all this packed and out to Montana as soon as possible. So those are some phone calls to make to tell my husband, you know, he was in a meeting. And I remember him texted me saying, Is it urgent? I'm in a meeting. And I said, Yes, we're going to Montana. He came home, we packed our bags, we got on the next flight out to Montana. And the whole way there, I think, well, it felt kind of weird, pushing an empty baby stroller out what I will say with a car seat. I think our oldest son was then was four at the time. So it's clearly too big to go in the bucket seat. And I remember thinking this is a weird feeling carrying an empty stroller out on a plane. And
were you thinking what it was gonna be like with the stroller on the way that
Exactly, exactly. A little teeny, baby. Anyway, back to it's stressful. And we flew out there and the whole time we were talking about what are we going? How is it delivery gonna go? What are we going to do? I know my husband was thinking a lot. I don't know, it's, you know, another woman's having our baby. I think I'll just kind of sit back. And, you know, like, I don't want to be you know, in any one state. feeling nervous about the delivery. So when we got there, we get a quick tour of the hospital. And I will say the second we walked in their circle had done an amazing job preparing them as to who we are. I felt like we were celebrities. We walked in like, oh, we know you guys were here from Boston. Your Mandy's got your baby, and they had a room setup for us with a queen bed. I might add that doesn't happen in Boston.
And that doesn't happen on a lot of
Lauria felt like a hotel. And yeah, everyone knew her name, the nurses were so kind and helpful. And the doctors were amazing. So I felt like going in, we were as prepared as we possibly could be. And we had dinner the night before Mandy was going to be induced with a heavy pizza with our entire family, which was so special. We were a crowd, but we were just so all so excited. And then there's another little bit of a wrinkle in the plan in that. So we had dinner, and then I started to not feel well. So I went back to the hotel and thought, oh gosh, I am not feeling great. So I was up most of the night. Ill and I thought I'm gonna miss the birth of my child. This is not great. So I wasn't sure if it was kind of an infection from my liver, which I get from time to time, or if it was the flu or what it was. So I frantically called my team in Boston who said, you know, start this antibiotic. If you feel better in six to eight hours, you can probably give it a go. But if you don't, then you need to stay away from the newborn. So thankfully, I did but it wasn't till later. So my husband went into the delivery, the induction at 6am. And I stayed in the hotel and I remember thinking I did not go on this whole journey to miss the birth of my child. I'm not this is not going to happen to me. And so miraculously, I started to feel better. Antibiotics kicked in. And I came to the hospital around noon. And at that at that point, Mandy was in labor but not super far along, we thought and the two husbands went to get some food and a phone call came that you need to get back ASAP because Mandy is about to push. So I literally feel like I walked into the room and it was everything was on fire. It was time to go. So in that moment, everything in the world goes out the window. Mandy was in layover, my husband and I my husband just grabbed a leg I grab a leg and we're in this you know we are all four of us are like kind of Mandy or husband my husband and I were tearing Mandy on. She was a real life superhero. I can't even having given birth myself. I can tell you that it's not as dainty and elegant as Mandy was I just I feel like she just kind of copped out he came. And it was so incredible. And I being an intended parent, I got to cut the umbilical cord, which not a lot of moms get to do that. So that was really, really special and something that I'll never forget. And it was just an amazing experience to witness human life from this perspective. I felt so Incredibly lucky.
And since we had been talking every week, we were so close. We were best friends. You know, when you were experiencing that, all I could think of is, hey, I got this. I got two good coaches that if they're not doing something, right, someone will tell them how to do it right like, and it wasn't weird because we were all so close. So all I wanted to do was have Nicola worry about her. And don't worry, like, we got this and so 6am tight like Nicola said, Tyler, and Robert and I walked in, to be induced, and my doctor kept saying, you know, you're not ready, we're forcing this baby to come out. You're only 37 weeks. So we might need to change your birth plan. And you might need to get an epidural. And I'm like, Nope, I'm not getting an epidural. We're gonna, I'm going to trust my body. And we got this. So we get in, they check me. And I remember the boys going, Okay, should we go and I'm like, You guys are gonna see it all, like, just look where you want, but you don't have to leave. And they checked me and I was, I think a one and you have to be 10 centimeters dilated. And I was a one and I'm like, Ah, this is gonna be the longest Damn. Ad in Montana where I live, the hospital is like, half a floor. So when you're trying to get your contractions going, and you're having to walk, you walk up and down, up and down. It's like half of a hotel floor. So you're not walking very far. So Tyler would walk one way. And Robert would walk one right, you know, and so I just had the best labor coaches and we were laughing. Our nurse was amazing. She would tell the guys like once they started increasing the Pitocin and getting it ready. She would tell them what to do to help me so I remember Tyler I was be in the bed and Tyler would push his body against my knees to help the pressure. And he's like, Alright, I got this. Like, I got this. I bounce on the ball. Tyler, can I get you anything? I'm like, no, no. So it was just so awesome. And then at noon, I told Nicola, they're checking me and I was a three. And I'm like, Oh my gosh, I've only gone that far. And I think he was waiting for Mama, that babies. My mom's not here. And so when I called the teller and she was feeling better, so she came, like she said, guys, we're eating and then I remember asking the nurse going, or my doctor broke my water and then said, you know, this baby's probably come tonight. And I said, okay, and then everyone left to eat. And I started like, really having contractions and really breathing. And I said, When are you going to check me again? And she said, Well, probably not for a while. Why do you and I was like, I think I need you to because I'm going to have to change my birth plan and need some pain management because I can't do this and she said she checked me and said you're a nine Nicola everyone was called back to the room. The doctor was back to the room and I remember her saying it's time to push. And it was so cool because my husband was up at the top like in my face. Like Nicole said, Nicole is on my right Tyler on my left. And when she said pushing, I was so like, oh my gosh, it's now like right now. And when that baby came out, all we were praying for was a six pound baby like let us get a six pound baby because I was small. He was 37 weeks and he was a he was over six pounds. And I once he was born, my plan was to be quiet like I didn't want to talk my doctor knew I knew that they do. Delayed cord clamping and I did not want to hold the baby so the baby would hear my heartbeat so my doctor knew this ahead of time she helped the baby and then Nicola came over and cut it and Nicola started bawling and or no Tyler started bawling and Nicola was quiet. And it was just so incredible to watch the two of you with your son for the first time that he was here and I got to play a part of that and I got to watch that and it was so incredible.
It was incredible. And then we have to get you a burger because you definitely deserve Oh dang burger.
That was all I wanted was like I need a burger.
I think the one thing too that I didn't really think through but thankfully Mandy did was just how to handle the afterbirth hours days and I Tyler and I wanted Mandy and Robert involved as much as they wanted to be involved so that Mandy was very like, like I like she said quiet and kind of waited for us to invite her down around Even though you know, she was welcome at any time, she didn't want to impose or wanted to give us our time as a family. And looking back now, you know, I really respected that from her just because it was such a sacred time that you don't get back. And we love Mandy and Robert to death and one of them as part of the process. But it was also important for us as a family now before to kind of bond and I think Mandy really toed the line between being involved and giving us our space. I think that's a hard line to walk and her and Robert did it. So so well.
Mandy, at the very beginning of the episode, when you were talking about what brought you to surrogacy, one of the things you had said was seeing intended parents with their baby for the first time and you described that in the delivery room, but then you probably saw it again, on your first visit. When you when you went down to Nicholas room. What was that like seeing the family of four together?
So you all can't see Nicola. But she is one of the most beautiful people inside and out. And I remember getting the call, we got in our separate rooms, and she said, Are you ready for baby Snuggles? But I was like, Heck, yes, we are. So we walked in. And again, we were there for them. And yes, we were excited to see this baby squish. But it's not our baby. And we wanted to respect them. And so we walked in, and I burst into tears because Nicola was in bed, and she was doing skin to skin and she looked the most beautiful I'd ever seen her. And here she was holding her baby boy that she had longed for prayed for. And her dream of being a mom of two boys was finally here and finally came true for her. It was also really special because Nana and Ben were there. So big brother, and he got to show us his baby brother. And that was really special to see. Not only did my husband and I help Nicola and Tyler, but we helped an entire family have a baby. And it was just so incredible to be a part of.
Now, how long ago was your journey?
So a baby squish is now renamed Noah. So you didn't keep babies? We didn't quit? You know, we thought about it that. Yeah, that might be a little bit tricky to spell. So we stuck with Noah, and he will be five in September. So it's been about four and a half years since he was born.
So how have you guys kept in touch? What is your relationship been like since Noah was born?
Yeah, it's been wonderful. We've obviously stayed in close contact. When we sign up for the journey with circle, we had question kind of how does the how does the relationship end? Does it end? How does that happen after birth. And the circle team kind of advised us and said it happens. However you want it to happen. Some people choose not to speak again. Some people continue their relationships. It just depends on everyone. And it just felt like Mandy was such a part of our lives that the thought of ending that relationship didn't fit our journey. So we continued to talk and continue to talk and Mandy and Robert actually came out for Noah's first birthday party, they came back out to Boston. So that was really nice. And we're planning a trip out to Montana next summer. So that'll be five years, which is also exciting and something to look forward to. And Mandy obviously works for circle. So occasionally, she comes out to Boston for work trips. And so we always sneak in a visit then. And we've just been in touch. We don't we don't talk we don't have our weekly zoom calls anymore. But there's lots of texts and phone calls catching up that happened in between them. And her numbers are really part of our family. And I think Mandy's name comes up almost daily in our house when when someone talks about a baby. It's always always it is a baby and Mandy's belly. And no one gets really proud saying he was born in Montana and that he was born from Mandy's belly, which always requires a little bit of a explanation as to what he means. But they've been a part of our life since the day we had our first Skype call with them. And I don't see that ever, ever changing.
One thing I love is so during our journey, I was giving you all the information. I'm telling you how I'm feeling and what's next, giving you all this information. And once Noah was born, we switched roles and you got to give me all the updates and tell me what he was doing and send me the pictures and it was so neat that you shared that with us and we absolutely love it. And one thing I love and I know like not everybody does this or is like of course never expected to do but after we had we had delivered Noah Nikolas said that Noah's middle initial is m and it's m for Mandy and Montana and oh talk about like water work.
I think I'm gonna cry now,
good lord. But that was just so Oh, I love it. And when we got to come out for the first birthday, and be a part of that, and see everybody again and see the entire family and friends that have heard about us and feel like they know us actually get to hug us and be with us, it was really incredible that you guys invited us to that. And I actually get to see Nikka and Tyler and everybody next month when I'm in Boston, and I cannot wait.
I'm sure everybody who's listening to this can feel the love that you guys share, and just the pure joy and just trust that went into your relationship to bring this beautiful baby into the world. And I'm so excited that you were able to share it with us today. I know you guys never get tired of telling your story. And while you appreciate that you were able to come and share it today. Before we end, I just wanted to ask you each one question that we ask everybody on the podcast and that is, what would you say to someone who either didn't know anything about surrogacy? Or someone who thought maybe negatively about surrogacy as a means to build a family? What would you say to them?
I would say parenthood is a beautiful thing. And it's not something everybody gets to experience without help. And if somebody wants to experience that they should be able to, I feel like I have Nicola and i During our journey we got we would joke about the questions we got asked from someone be there found out she had a surrogate or if someone found out I was a surrogate, and one of the most common questions I get is someone saying I could never give the baby away. Like how can you do that? How can you give that baby away. And I love telling them I kind of smile. And I love telling them that I'm not giving it away. Like these are people who we had never known who put their total trust in a complete stranger with their most prized possession. And to be able to do that, to trust someone with your child and hope and pray that they are going to do everything that you would do. I can't even fathom what that's like for our intended parents. And it's not giving the baby away. It's giving the baby back. And I'm just so thankful that surrogacy is out there for parents like you guys. Yeah,
I would agree with Manny said, I think that's one of the top questions that I would receive, too, is well, how do you know she's not going to take your baby? And like Mandy? It's a kind of smirk when I hear the question now, because it's just once you're in the process, you know, that's not a reality. But my recommendation and looking back to someone that might be in my shoes, where it was a few years ago, just to do your research and choose it to someone to help you that's informed and knowledgeable about the process. I think there are many agencies out there that do this circle is really kind of the full package. And I'm not saying that in a salesy way. I think having someone like myself, who was going to go through IVF, myself, I needed someone to help me with that part, I needed somebody to help me with the legal parts of it, because there is a legal part to surrogacy, and then helping me just with all the administration and details of how am I going to make sure that I have the birth certificate and all the pieces that when you're in the moment of feeling the emotions, you're not thinking about the paperwork that comes along with a new child, and circle, brought it all together and then prepared me for every step, and was there was always a resource available, and were very much in the know, with where we were in our journey. And if I needed anything at all, someone was either an email or a phone call away. And that really kind of gave me peace of mind for trying to enjoy the process itself instead of worrying about all of the individual details. So I think, you know, choosing someone that has the full package is certainly advantageous. And I couldn't have imagined doing it with anybody else. And not only with another agency that also with another human, you know, Mandy and I obviously have a clear bond. And I know not everyone has that. But we were very, very lucky to be matched. And like Mandy said, I'm thankful every single day.
Well, I'm thankful that you both joined us today. So thank you, Nicola. Thank you, Mandy, for sharing your story and taking the time.
Thank you so much for having us.
Yes, thank you. I, you know, it's been a while since we've shared our story, and so to be able to share it and relive it. Thank you,
and have it forever recorded so that you can share it with whoever you want. And I want to thank everyone for joining us on today's podcast. Thanks for joining the family circle today and we hope to see you soon