Throughout history, women have been valued for their ability to produce children. If they weren’t able to get pregnant or give birth, the woman was often blamed for being the cause of infertility.
In more recent years, science has discovered that infertility problems are individual to the woman or couple trying to conceive. Statistics indicate it’s a three-way street. One-third of the problems are attributed to the woman’s reproductive system, one-third are due to the man being infertile, and the final third is based on a combination of issues specific to the couple attempting to get pregnant.
In recent decades, the medical field has made great strides in allowing families or individuals to have children when the natural method doesn’t take hold. Louise Brown was the first child born through in-vitro fertilization (IVF) in 1978. Since the Center for Disease Control began tracking the number of IVF births in 1998, the number has skyrocketed to approximately 57,000.
There are several different methods individuals or couples can use to have children, one of which is surrogacy.
There are two forms of surrogacy. In traditional surrogacy, the surrogate is artificially inseminated with the sperm of the biological father, meaning the surrogate will be the biological mother of the child. Gestational surrogacy occurs when both the sperm and egg of the parents wanting the child are implanted into the surrogate. In that case, the surrogate is not the biological mother of the child – she is only carrying it.
It isn’t known how many children have been born with the assistance of a surrogate, but it is approximated that between 2004 and 2008, about 5,000 children were born via a surrogate. It is estimated that nine children are born by surrogate in each state every year.
When Jessica Alen agreed to be a surrogate for a couple from China, she didn’t realize the process would bring forth a roller coaster of emotions and an incredibly tricky and shocking legal situation.
Allen already had two children when she agreed to become a surrogate. During an ultrasound, doctors discovered she was carrying two babies.
They thought the embryo had split and Allen was carrying twins. Little did they know the situation was much more complicated than that.
Allen had experienced a medical phenomenon called superfetation in which a woman continues to ovulate after already becoming pregnant. In an incredibly rare turn of events, she had become pregnant with her own biological child while carrying the surrogate baby!
“I didn’t even know I was pregnant with [him],” she said through tears during an interview. “I carried my child, and I didn’t know he was mine.”
Allen gave birth to two boys last December and handed them both over to the couple she served as a surrogate for, assuming the babies were twins. It was only when she saw photos of the babies a little while later that she noticed the children obviously weren’t identical twins as first thought.
“I did notice that one was much lighter than the other,” Allen said of the babies. “You know, obviously they were not identical twins.”
Allen is white and her husband is black. They noticed one of the babies looked much more like their own biological children than his “twin.”
A DNA test confirmed that one of the babies was theirs. For two months, the Allens fought to get their biological son returned to them in what they termed an “emotional” struggle.
Thankfully, it was a battle they eventually won.
They named their son Malachi.
“He’s just so smart, so intelligent,” Allen said. “He’s learning fast. He’s got two big brothers to run after and learn from.”
Though Malachi was a surprise, he was a very welcome one.
“Wardell and I, who got married in April, weren’t planning to expand our family so soon,” she said, “but we treasure Malachi with all our hearts.”
“I don’t regret becoming a surrogate mom because that would mean regretting my son,” she added. “I just hope other women considering surrogacy can learn from my story.”
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