TW: Miscarriage. Melanie Kule tells her High Risk Birth Story, which involves multiple miscarriages, getting pregnant with IVF and having a healthy 10 pound baby, and later having twins with a gestational carrier.
“Twins with a gestational carrier and the great town of Milwaukee” – with Melanie Kule
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Dr. Fox: Welcome to “High Risk Birth Stories,” brought to you by the creators of the “Healthful Woman” podcast. I’m your host, Dr. Nathan Fox. “High Risk Birth Stories” is a podcast designed to give you, the listener, a window into the life-changing experiences of pregnancy, fertility, and childbirth.
Melanie, thank you so much for coming on the podcast. It’s so nice to see you.
Melanie: I’m so excited to be here with you.
Dr. Fox: We were talking before how the last time we saw each other in person was, like, literally a year ago, like, to the day.
Melanie: Almost exactly.
Dr. Fox: It’s sometime in mid-March of last year, and I remember you came in, and we’re talking, and you’re like, “What’s gonna be with this COVID thing,” right?
Melanie: Yes. And I believe you said to me, “It’s not gonna be anything. It’s gonna be like the flu. Don’t worry.”
Dr. Fox: I said, “No, it’s fine, nothing’s gonna happen. It’s gonna blow right through us. No big deal.” Yeah, I got that one wrong.
Melanie: Yes, you did.
Dr. Fox: Not a great prediction, but it was like in my defense, it was before the world exploded when people were not really sure what was going on with that. The interesting thing is it’s a year later, and when you were here, I was recording, and that was really, like, one of our first recordings. Because we’re coming up on our year anniversary in two weeks literally, so it’s unbelievable it took a year. Crazy.
Melanie: I know. And I was so excited when I saw the studio and I said, “Maybe one day I’ll come in and do a podcast with you.”
Dr. Fox: Yeah, absolutely. And since that time, you’ve fled the city.
Melanie: I have.
Dr. Fox: You went to New Jersey.
Melanie: I’m embarrassed to say it’s true.
Dr. Fox: You’re embarrassed to be in the same state as where I live, so that’s cool.
Melanie: I’ll be back. We’ll be back.
Dr. Fox: Come back to the city. But, definitely, we’ve been…I would say we’ve known each other a long time, and you know that I adore you and your family, and it’s been awesome taking care of you and knowing you. And you have such an amazing story and you have such a nice, you know, attitude about life and about family, about everything that I’m really happy to have you here.
Melanie: Thanks. I’m excited.
Dr. Fox: First of all, how are you doing? How’s your year been? How is life in New Jersey? How are the kids?
Melanie: So, thank God, I really…it’s been an interesting year like it has been for everyone, but we’re good, we’re healthy, and we’re hoping that soon there will be some normalcy. And I think like everyone else, there’s definitely been rough moments, but there’s been a lot of good that’s come out of this. We’ve had a lot of family time, some for better, some for worse. And, yes, being in New Jersey has been an experience, too. It’s been really great in a lot of ways, and we’re also looking forward to coming back to New York.
Dr. Fox: So we’re gonna focus on your twins who were born in 2016, but to set that up, tell us a little bit about your story in terms of getting pregnant, and fertility, and what led you to that.
Melanie: I got married in the fall of 2004. By 2005, I was really already thinking about having a family, basically spent a lot of years going through fertility treatments, you know, starting with IUIs, getting to IVF, going through a lot of IVF cycles.
Dr. Fox: Did they have a sense why you needed to do IVF? Was there any, like, reason or it’s just one of these unexplained…? Because you’re young, you’re healthy, I mean, at the time, you were in your 20s, right?
Melanie: I was. I was in my 20s, there was no reason…it’s still, to date, unexplained, so, I don’t know. Really, no reason why any of this ever happened. Thankfully, after many years, and that was my time with you when I started going through IVF, got pregnant with my son, Garrett.
Dr. Fox: Right. And so by the time you got pregnant with Garrett, which was an IVF pregnancy, you delivered in 2011, so you got pregnant at the beginning of 2011. So we’re talking, you know, 10 years ago, basically.
Melanie: A lot of years, yes.
Dr. Fox: But prior to that, you had…I mean, how many IVF cycles would you guess before you got pregnant with him?
Melanie: I think it was seven IVF cycles, actually. I believe there were some that didn’t work, there were some that ended in a miscarriage, there were a couple that ended in, you know a biochemical pregnancy, which is basically when the pregnancy ends within a few days of beginning. Yeah, it was hard. It was all hard.
Dr. Fox: Yes. I mean, you’re pregnant in 2011, it’s an IVF pregnancy. According to our records, you had four pregnancies before total that all, you know, miscarried at some point. And in that pregnancy, what was it like? Again, you know, at that time, you’re pregnant, it’s like, “Oh, my God, like, I didn’t miscarriage. It’s working out.” Were you, like, super-duper happy or terrified?
Melanie: I think both. I was terrified every time I came to this office, which wasn’t this office then.
Dr. Fox: Yeah.
Melanie: Every time I came to the office, I was terrified, I mean, having gone through that before. Unfortunately, going through pregnancy is different than if you’ve never had a miscarriage because you’re always a little bit waiting for the other shoe to drop but also wanting to be hopeful and wanting to have faith that maybe this will be the time that works.
Dr. Fox: Right. By that time, were you already doing your IVF in Colorado?
Melanie: So, yes, I actually did. This was my first IVF cycle that I went to CCRM in Colorado.
Dr. Fox: Right.
Melanie: I got pregnant with Garrett, and then I came here where I could be in, you know, your care. And every time I came, I have to say, doctors here will probably remember also, there was always something that seemed to be wrong.
Dr. Fox: Oh, yeah, yeah. The pregnancy was…it wasn’t a disaster, but it was interesting.
Dr. Fox: But, I’m just curious, how did you even make that decision to go out of state to go to Colorado? Because I mean, there’s, obviously, wonderful fertility centers in New York City, but, you know, you and we’ve had other patients who’ve gone to CCRM in Colorado. How did that happen? Like, who told you to go there?
Melanie: So I went to a couple of great clinics in New York and nothing seemed to be working for whatever reason. I felt like I needed to do something differently. And, honestly, at the time, I looked online and I just was looking in chat rooms and searching anything, you know, about where would be the best clinic for someone who had really had challenges in the past. And, you know, CCRM just kept coming up, and my husband thought it was crazy because he said, “We live in Manhattan. There’s no way that you have to go to Lone Tree, Colorado to get pregnant.” I mean, I had been looking at this for a couple of years by the time I said, “I’m going. I think this is what I need to do to feel like, either I’m gonna be pregnant or I’m not, but this is it. I wanna go try this.” And we went and, you know, thank God we did because it did work out.
Dr. Fox: Wow. So, I know in that pregnancy, from my recollection, you were on blood thinners. The baby had a two-vessel umbilical cord, which was, you know, again, a small scare. You had gestational diabetes, high-fluid.
Melanie: Every single time I came here, you guys half laughed at me and half said, like, “I’m really sorry, but there’s just one thing we see here.” I never, never came in where you said, “This looks great. This is a great visit. Just get out of here. Go have a good time.”
Dr. Fox: “Everything’s perfect except one…let’s just talk about one thing.”
Melanie: Every single time.
Dr. Fox: And he was, you know, estimated to be, like, 150 pounds at birth, right? You were carrying around a Mack Truck inside you. And you’re a little thing, and you were carrying around a giant, huge baby. He was like…
Melanie: He was born 9 pounds 10 ounces.
Dr. Fox: Yeah.
Melanie: Ironically, in the beginning, everyone was worried about him having low birth weight, and that was because of his two-vessel cord.
Dr. Fox: Yeah. He had risk factors for low birth rate. That suddenly…
Melanie: Right. We kept saying, “We just hope he grows,” and then he came out, he was almost 10 pounds. He looked like a 3-month-old.
Dr. Fox: Yeah. We weren’t surprised by the time you delivered. It’s early in pregnancy, oh, you know, the IVF and the two-vessel cord, your risk factor, a small baby, but then no, we really…you went the other way on that one.
Melanie: I did, I did, and thank goodness.
Dr. Fox: Right. So he was born, you put on a backpack, sent him to kindergarten at that time.
Melanie: That was it.
Dr. Fox: Okay.
Melanie: That’s basically how it went.
Dr. Fox: And so he’s born, you ended up with a C-section. Was that something that was upsetting to you or was fine? You know, how’d you feel about…?
Melanie: You know what? Again, I think that everything has to do with perspective. For me, I didn’t care. Like, I think I started telling you somewhere around 33 or 34 weeks, like, I just want you to take him out, and you kept telling me no because he’s not ready to come out.
Dr. Fox: Thirty-three weeks, two months early.
Melanie: And I said, “No, I’ve seen babies are born and they’re okay. Like, I just want him to be healthy. I wanna be alive, I want him to be alive. I just want us all to be okay.” And I felt like with every passing week, I was pressing my luck. But, you know, then when you told me we’re gonna have to do a C-section, I just said, like, “Whatever is the best way to get this baby out and for him to be healthy, do what you have to do.”
Dr. Fox: I mean, by that point with you, I probably could’ve said, “We’re gonna have to, like, take him out and cut off your left leg,” you’d be, “Fine, do it. It’s fine. I only need one leg. It’s okay, whatever. Whatever you gotta do, just do it. Deliver this baby.”
Melanie: I was so grateful just to get to the end of the pregnancy and to have made it that far that anything you said, I probably would’ve said, “Don’t worry, I’ve got it. I’ll do it.”
Dr. Fox: After he’s born, so you’re a mom, you have your baby, he’s perfect. Again, enormous but perfect.
Dr. Fox: How was that at that time? Was it just, like, awesome, you know, that finally after all that time?
Melanie: It was awesome. He happened to be a very challenging baby and I kept saying if I had wanted him for one day less than six years, I would complain, but I really couldn’t complain. I really felt just elated, I mean, probably how most parents feel when they first become a parent, and then that feeling like on crack because I just really couldn’t believe it. I mean, now he’s 9-and-a-half, and I still have to say, even though it’s cliche, I truly look at him every day and I can’t believe that he made it. And I can’t believe that the twins made it, either.
Dr. Fox: Right.
Melanie: I do think that going through that fertility, as hard as it was, gives you perspective and makes you really boil down to what you feel is important. I just wanted to have a healthy, healthy baby, a healthy family. So, yeah, it was hard just, like, for any new mom, and now I talk to new moms also how I’ve been through the fertility process that I think with that comes some guilt in wanting to complain and saying, like, “I’m tired,” but can you complain after you wanted this for so long? I think what I’ve really found is, like, they’re not mutually exclusive, and you can be tired, and it can be hard, and babies can cry, and you can feel like, “How am I gonna make it through the day,” and you can also feel so grateful that you’re now in this place where you have a crying baby, basically.
Dr. Fox: Yeah. Listen, it’s like that in life. I mean, every day’s a blessing in life, but at the same time, that doesn’t mean that things aren’t gonna be difficult, or annoying, or things you complain about. I mean, there’s no one on earth who never complains about anything. I mean, it just doesn’t exist. It’s just about, you know, to what degree and whether you have that perspective or not.
Melanie: Yes, yes.
Dr. Fox: And so, how long was it after he was born that you got the bug that you wanted to get pregnant again? Was it like immediately like, “Oh, I gotta do this again,” or were you not even sure because it was so hard to get pregnant?
Melanie: So, I knew I wanted to try to have another baby. I went back to doing IVF again about, like, maybe 15 months later. Like, we wanted to give him a chance, and I was, you know, trying to deal with a newborn, and I wanted to get to enjoy him before I put my head back in that fertility game.
Dr. Fox: Right. Plus, even if it worked out perfectly, right, if you got pregnant on the first time and this or that, there would be a ballpark two years apart, which is, sort of, how a lot of people plan their families if they could.
Melanie: Yes, yes.
Dr. Fox: So, okay, that makes a lot of sense. So he’s a year or 15 months, and you started going back.
Melanie: Yes. Around that and I went back and did another retrieval. And then, basically, what happens is that I went to do a transfer, it didn’t work. No miscarriage, no pregnancy, nothing, zero. You know, I did this again a few months later, geared up in Colorado again, went back, did another transfer, it didn’t work. And then at that point, the doctor said to me, “Like, listen, we can keep doing this because there is no reason…”
Dr. Fox: He’s like, “I got a vacation home paid for, so I could get another one, right? So we could keep doing this.”
Melanie: “The more you do this, the better.” And even he really said, like, “I can’t explain why this is happening, but I also can’t explain how you got Garrett.” Like, he said, “It’s a miracle that he is here, but at the same time, you know, you’ve maybe done 10 transfers, you have 1 baby, that’s amazing. But, like statistically, it’s not great, and we don’t know how long this is gonna take.” And he really encouraged me to start thinking about using a gestational carrier.
Dr. Fox: Right. So he thought there was something…whatever it was because it was unexplained because, again, you’re healthy, there’s nothing wrong with you, you’re perfectly fine. You know, you’re in good shape, you know, all is well, and it’s just not working, so the thought is maybe have a different uterus, right? Maybe it’s because, for whatever reason, your body is not carrying the pregnancy. Again, why that is, who the hell knows? Like, we don’t understand these things, and so they’re just trying something else. When he first brought that up to you the first time, was it something you’d already thought about, or was it like, “Whoa, like, what are you talking about?”
Melanie: So, like, really, maybe three years earlier when I was having trouble getting pregnant with my oldest son, a doctor had brought that up to me. And so it had been in the back of my head anyway. My husband was much more apprehensive about that. He had, like, a lot of concerns, and I at the time also was concerned about, like, what did that look like and what would it be like. We didn’t know anyone who had done this.
So, right before I got pregnant, I had been interviewing agencies, and so I had, sort of, wrapped my head around the idea this might be a route that I would go. Then, having had Garrett and, again, having been lucky enough to have been pregnant, I really was okay with it. Now I just wanted to, like, you know, complete my family, and for me, and everyone is obviously different, this was, like, a means to an end. I was like, “I wanna have this family. I wanna do whatever I can to make this happen if it can, and if not, then not.” So I had already had it in the back of my head that it might come to this.
Dr. Fox: Got it. So when he brought it up, it wasn’t like dropping a bomb on you, it’s just like, “Okay, let’s re-open that book?”
Melanie: Honestly, when I went to Colorado and got pregnant on my first IVF cycle, I thought I sort of, like, had it in the bag.
Dr. Fox: Right, “I’m cured,” yeah.
Melanie: Right, stupidly because no matter how many times you go through this, you still wake up and, like…
Dr. Fox: “My embryos are in Colorado.”
Melanie: Exactly. Like, “I’m going. This is good. We’re good to go.” That isn’t what happened. But, again, like, I guess I had taken out the idea of it being so strange, which is, I think, what a lot of people think, I had, sort of, come to grips with the idea of it altogether.
Dr. Fox: Was that your initial…when you said that there was some hesitation initially, was it more just the oddity of it, or was it a concern, like, financial, medical, social? Like, what was it that was causing you hesitation?
Melanie: I mean, I think a little bit of everything. I know my husband was like, “Well, can they keep the baby? Could that happen?” And…
Dr. Fox: So, like, legal type of stuff?
Dr. Fox: Yeah. Okay.
Melanie: Which, like, everyone, sort of, I think generally know that does not happen, and everyone, sort of, reassured us that every single step is taken to make sure that’s not anywhere…
Dr. Fox: Yeah. Including what state you do it in, right.
Melanie: Of course, of course. Yes, being in a state, using a really good lawyer, all of the things that are put in place for that. I think, yes, it was just the oddity of it. And even now where for me this has become so normal, I think that people still sometimes will look at me like it’s so strange or say, “Do you still talk to her?” I’m like, “Yeah, I still keep in touch with her and she’s wonderful.” And they see it as so strange, and I really feel like this person did this amazing…
Dr. Fox: Yeah. I mean, people who’ve been through it and it worked out and had a baby, clearly, they’re gonna be colored in that it’s awesome, right, because this gave them a child, and people who haven’t…It’s an unusual thing to wrap your head around, obviously, if you’re not in that world. But when you were either the first time around and then after Garrett was born, you’re doing it again, were you telling people in your family and friends that this was something you were considering, or did you, sort of, keep it just, you know, between the two of you?
Melanie: No. So we had our family involved in all of this and a very close handful of friends who knew this was something that was on the table.
Dr. Fox: And me.
Melanie: Obviously. You’re always the first person. I mean, I have texted you from all over the country saying, “This is what’s going on. What do you think? This is what’s happening. What do you think?” You’re my first phone call.
Dr. Fox: Love it, love it. Like your lawyer if you get arrested.
Melanie: Exactly, exactly.
Dr. Fox: I’ll take it.
Melanie: Like, I need one call, I need to call Dr. Fox.
Dr. Fox: I tell people now when they’re pregnant, I was like, “We’re your first call if anything happens like your lawyer if you get arrested.”
Melanie: It’s true.
Dr. Fox: You know, you start bleeding, you get a headache, you get a cold, something’s up, call us first.
Melanie: “Don’t call your mom, call me.”
Dr. Fox: Yeah, call us first.
Dr. Fox: Okay. And were they, like, very supportive, or were they a little bit ambivalent about it, or were they…? I’m just curious, what was their response, the people who you’re close to and you’re telling them that you’re considering this?
Melanie: I think the people that I was close to for the most part were supportive. And, listen, I think everyone was a little bit weirded out by the idea that, like, “You’re gonna have your baby growing, like, in a different state across the country, and what does that look like, and what does that mean?” And, you know, they were concerned probably for me more than anything else, but they also knew how much research I did and how dedicated I was trying to make this happen.
Dr. Fox: Had they even heard about this before? I mean, because, you know, we’re talking about, you know, four or five years ago. It’s different from today.
Melanie: It is.
Dr. Fox: It wasn’t so uncommon then and it’s still not that common now, but it has grown in terms of numbers, and more people know people who’ve had babies through surrogates, through gestational carriers. But, at the time, maybe they’d never even heard of anybody who’d done this before.
Melanie: I know. So that’s what was so nice. Like, I remember my mom reaching out to, like, a distant cousin, and she said, “She said you can call her and you can talk to her about what that was like.” And my pediatrician knew someone when I talked to him about it, and he said, “Why don’t you call this woman? She went through the process.” And I think that made it more normal for me, and, you know, now, obviously, fast-forward, I feel like that’s what I really try to do for people and why I’m here talking to you is just because I feel like I can normalize the process for people on the experience. And, you know, I think, obviously, people feel different ways about everything, but I think that the idea of finding someone you can trust and, obviously, being able to relinquish a lot of control, you know, that’s the biggest issue.
Dr. Fox: And so, in order to do it, did you already have embryos?
Melanie: I did.
Dr. Fox: You didn’t have to undergo IVF again and then get a carrier. You had these embryos, they’re hanging out in Colorado.
Melanie: Yes, skiing.
Dr. Fox: They’re, whatever, drinking hot chocolate, going skiing, you know, they’re there, they’re in the cold weather, they’re frozen, and you’re like, “Okay,” and we’re gonna put them in somebody else. How did you find your carrier? I assume it’s through an agency of some sort.
Melanie: We did. We used an agency.
Dr. Fox: And how did you choose one?
Melanie: We used an agency. I basically filled out a questionnaire about everything from…you know, some people feel really strongly that they wanna have someone who’s…you know, it has to be in a surrogate-friendly state, but let’s say I could’ve said, “I need someone in Pennsylvania. I wanna be able to go to every appointment.”
Dr. Fox: Right, to drive instead of fly.
Melanie: That’s not something I felt strongly about.
Dr. Fox: Right.
Melanie: How do you feel about reduction? How do you feel about, you know, terminating a pregnancy? It had all of these things like medical and then just lifestyle. How do you see your relationship being during the pregnancy? Are you gonna be keeping in touch with this person? You know, what do you see…which is a hard question to answer, after this baby is, hopefully, born, you know, what do you see your relationship being? And then, basically, the carriers are filling out the same information, and they’re trying to match you based on your personality, based on how you answer all these questions. And at the time, it took, like, four or five months to find someone who we could interview on the phone. We had, like, a Skype meeting.
Dr. Fox: Is that a normal length of time to find somebody?
Melanie: You know, now, so I talk to people now often, and it depends, I think, on the agency, it depends on how particular you are in terms of what you’re looking for. I think there are a lot of factors that…
Dr. Fox: Right. Were you particular? I’m curious. I don’t think I ever asked you that.
Melanie: I mean, the only thing I was particular about were medical things.
Dr. Fox: Yeah. You wanted her to be healthy, yeah.
Melanie: Like, I wanted to know that I wanted her to be healthy. I wanted to know that if, God forbid, there was something wrong…Like, you know, no matter what you sign basically, you can’t force someone to do anything medically. Like, and so I wanted to know that she would do whatever needed to be done, you know, based on whatever I felt. And someone had said to me, which was good advice, when you talk to a carrier, what you basically wanna hear is, like, “This is your pregnancy and it’s just my body. And whatever decisions you make, like, I will support them.”
Dr. Fox: Right.
Melanie: And I think that is the best thing. Like, it really is, hopefully, someone who’s going to help you grow your family and who’s going to, you know, be in it with you, but at the end of the day, like, defer to you for making any important decisions.
Dr. Fox: Right. And then I know that you chose your carrier but ultimately used a different carrier, right?
Melanie: So, unfortunately, we had a carrier who we really liked so much, she was wonderful. We spoke to her, we actually flew out to Colorado and spent a day with her and her husband, they were wonderful. Wonderful, wonderful family.
Dr. Fox: Where were they from?
Melanie: They were in Colorado.
Dr. Fox: Okay.
Melanie: And the very long story short is, unfortunately, she ends up getting, you know, pregnant on her first transfer and then miscarried at around 10-and-a-half or 11 weeks. After which we thought about switching and the doctors really advised us and said, sort of, “Everyone has a miscarriage. It could be a fluke. I think you should stick with her.”
Dr. Fox: Right. You found someone, it took four months, like, yeah, you like her, yeah.
Melanie: Exactly, Like, “Do you wanna really start this again?” And at the time, you do feel vulnerable, and I didn’t wanna start the whole process again. We really did have a nice connection. We did this again, and, unfortunately, basically, the same thing happened. You know, we had a heartbeat at, whatever, 6 weeks, 8 weeks, and then at 10 weeks, there was no heartbeat.
Dr. Fox: What was that, like, I mean, on your end? Is it just, like…? I mean…
Melanie: So, I’ll say that this was really…like, when she miscarried the first time, it was really, like, the lowest point of my whole fertility experience.
Dr. Fox: Right. You’re like, “Why me? Like, what’s going on here?”
Melanie: I really felt like there had been a lot of bumps in the road and a lot of obstacles, and I really hung in there in terms of having faith and believing that this would work out ultimately, whatever that meant.
Dr. Fox: Right.
Melanie: And when she got pregnant and I felt like, “Okay, we found…”
Dr. Fox: Right, done.
Melanie: That’s it. Like, she’s pregnant her first transfer. Whoever heard of this? This is amazing. And she’ll be pregnant, and we’ll go get the baby, and, sort of, that’ll be that. Like, we’ll have our family completed.
Dr. Fox: Right. Were you only planning on doing this once to have a second child?
Melanie: Yeah. Yes. I mean, in my head then I think, like, I, sort of, always said, like, “I’ll have a big family,” and my husband would say, “Okay, you want four kids? I think now you should start thinking about three kids. Oh, you want three kids? You should probably think about just having two kids.”
Dr. Fox: Right.
Melanie: Then he was like, “It looks like we might have one kid,” which is okay, too.
Dr. Fox: Yeah, of course.
Melanie: You know, all of these possibilities exist, but yes, at this point, between the cost of it and the investing of time and emotion, I think in my head I felt like if we can get this and…
Dr. Fox: One and done, yeah.
Dr. Fox: Okay.
Melanie: So, yeah, so when she miscarried, and I had actually gone to Colorado, unfortunately, to, like, be there for the [inaudible 00:22:11], and when she miscarried, I was shocked. I mean, it was…I called you from the airport, this is true. I think it was really one of my first phone calls. I couldn’t believe it happened.
Dr. Fox: She must also have been so, so apologetic in a sense, like…
Melanie: She was. She felt awful. It was awful.
Dr. Fox: Yeah. I mean, the carriers, yeah, they…I interviewed a carrier for an earlier podcast, and I’d never really spoken to a carrier before other than once I saw one at a consultation. But the attitude she had…I always, sort of, assumed that these are women who did it because, you know, like, “My pregnancies were fine and it’s good money and I’ll do it,” but she was saying that the majority of them do it because they’re just good people.
Dr. Fox: I mean, obviously, they do get paid and it is good money, but she’s like, “There’s better ways to make money,” you know? They’re just good people to, like, “I went through this and I really wanna help somebody.” And they’re just, like, amazing humans.
Melanie: That has been my experience, yes.
Dr. Fox: And so I can imagine how, like, upset she would be that here you are, this family she’s trying to help and, you know, it’s not her fault, obviously, but she’s gonna say, “Oh, my God, I can’t believe this happened to you.”
Melanie: I mean, it was terrible. She was crying, I was crying, we were all crying. I had brought, like, one of my closest friends with me for support, and thank goodness she came with me. I mean, it was a mess. It was a mess. And, you know, in that moment, you just feel like finally things are moving in a good direction, and for me, I had never miscarried so late, so I felt like once I got past the, sort of, six, seven, eight-week mark, I felt like, “Okay…” Like, not that anything is done because, to me, until you’re, like, holding the baby, it’s not over, but I felt pretty confident that, hopefully, the pregnancy would, at the very least, last.
Dr. Fox: And, obviously, they have no explanation why, I assume?
Melanie: No. No explanation. You know, we did a D&C, everything came back normal. But, to me, again, like, when people asked, “Was it normal?” I guess, for me, it comes down to faith. Like, I believe that for whatever reason, like, this wasn’t gonna come to pass. There’s a lot you can’t see when you test, you know, after D&C.
Dr. Fox: Yeah. When we do the genetic testing, it’s really literally the tip of the iceberg.
Dr. Fox: And so there are a lot of common things that would cause miscarriage, but there’s so many things that either we don’t test for or can’t test for or don’t even know about. I mean, there are so many things that can go wrong that even when the testing comes back “normal,” that does not mean this was, like, a perfectly normal baby for whatever reason. And, again, it also doesn’t mean there was something wrong with the mother or the uterus, anything.
Melanie: Of course, of course.
Dr. Fox: So, you know, again, this is a different uterus.
Melanie: No, and that’s what I just…You know, again, I had a really hard time coming to grips with that. But, like, for anyone who was like, “Oh, it could’ve been a healthy baby,” I’m like, I don’t know, I never felt that way. I just always, sort of, felt like this was a pregnancy, for whatever reason, gone awry. It was very hard to move on from. And, like I said, now, I feel so, you know, fortunate at least to be in a position where I can help other people who have gone through things like this to see, like, whatever your route is from here on in, whether you decide to go forward or you decide, “I don’t wanna do this anymore,” that, you know, it’s okay. And I’ve been there, and there’s so many, so many women who I’ve spoken to who say, like, “I’ve never spoken to someone who could relate so closely to what I’m going through.” And so, again, I feel like that’s my way now of taking that pain and, I guess, paying it forward. I had a great therapist who really helped me through all of this.
Dr. Fox: Yeah. You really grapple with serious stuff, these emotions, and, you know, it’s very dark. As you said, it was very hard.
Melanie: Yes, it was a lot.
Dr. Fox: And, no, I agree, and I think, that, you know, this podcast doesn’t replace talking to someone one-to-one, obviously, and really, you know, having a relationship and talking, but it’s a start. It’s for people to, you know, hear what you went through and they can relate to that. And for those who it has nothing to do with them, it’s just, A, interesting, but B, also they may have a family member or a friend who’s going through this, and when they say, “Hey, I’m thinking of this,” it’s not a total mystery to them, either.
Melanie: Right. You’re right.
Dr. Fox: They’re like, “Oh, I know what’s going on. I, sort of, understand this.” So, you did ultimately decide to use a different carrier.
Dr. Fox: And did that take as long? Was it the same process?
Melanie: No. It was not, thank goodness. You know, we, sort of, got to the top of the list having been through this to get to…start at the bottom again. And this carrier, her name was Katie, she, I guess lucky for me, had matched with another family and it, for whatever reason, wasn’t working out. What the agency said at the time and I think was true was that, like, for this couple, they felt like it was moving too fast. They weren’t exactly sure if they wanted to do it or not.
Dr. Fox: Right, they weren’t ready.
Melanie: She had already been medically screened, which was great because that cut time off also. And the agency said, like, “We have this woman. She had already matched with someone but it doesn’t look like it’s gonna work out. Would you wanna talk to her?” Originally, I had wanted someone to be in Colorado because I felt like, you know, they would be CCRM for their first 10 weeks. I could trust them. I was like, “Who knows where you go in the country, what doctor…?” It’s not Dr. Fox monitoring these people. I know, we should be so lucky.
Dr. Fox: Oh.
Melanie: Anyway, so she was in Milwaukee. You know, at this point it was like…
Dr. Fox: I’ve been to Milwaukee.
Melanie: I know. I know you have. So we spoke to her and she was wonderful. And just like you said, you know, she just talked about how much she loves her children and how she can’t imagine having her children. At the time, she had three boys. She’s gone on actually after the twins to have another boy and just had a girl.
Dr. Fox: Really?
Melanie: God bless her. She’s Superwoman. But she was lovely and she talked just a lot about family and how she really wanted to do this because she had good pregnancies and she felt like she could give back to another family. And we really clicked. Like, we really connected on the phone, as funny as that sounds. You know, we never would’ve crossed paths if not for this, and we have such a special, like, relationship and friendship. And a lot of it now doesn’t even have to do with the twins, just has to do with life.
Dr. Fox: Your paths crossed, and now you’re intertwined.
Melanie: Exactly. So she was great, and we were like, “We’re ready to go. Like, let’s move on.”
Dr. Fox: Right. So what happens, she flies out to Colorado?
Melanie: Yes. That’s what happened. So she had already been screened, so that was great, and then, yeah, she goes to Colorado for a transfer. I said to her at the time, like, she said, “Are you gonna be coming here and visiting?” And I really just tried to say, “I’ve been through a lot. I’m damaged, and we’re not gonna be…”
Dr. Fox: “I’m broken.”
Melanie: “I’m broken.” And I said, like, in my head, I was like, “I’m gonna keep my distance. I’m gonna see what happens.” Obviously, we didn’t really keep our distance, but I said, like, “I’ll come for a 20-week appointment. If we get to the anatomy scan and there’s a pregnancy, I’ll be there.”
Dr. Fox: Yeah. [inaudible 00:28:33] it’s different. It’s hard to invest yourself in the same way. You’re detached until this is really happening.
Melanie: Yes, yes.
Dr. Fox: Okay. When did you find out it was twins?
Melanie: So, she had her transfer…
Dr. Fox: I remember that phone call.
Melanie: Oh, my gosh. I was so excited. Also freaking out, but I also felt very, very sure that they both wouldn’t make it.
Dr. Fox: Right.
Melanie: I mean, that’s the thing. Like, I had always been transferring one embryo at a time because that was the safer thing to do. In fact, I remember another conversation you and I had when you said, like, “I know you want a big family, but this is not, like, the best way to do it. Transfer one,” and that was with the first carrier, “and if it works, then you’ll do this again.” But you talked to me a lot about how high risk a twin pregnancy was and, you know, it wasn’t even my body. You said, like, “There’s just a lot that goes in this,” and I really did. It was like one of those conversations that was very clarifying for me.
Dr. Fox: Right. It’s like my COVID prediction. I was totally on board with…yeah, I got that one right.
Melanie: You were, you were, and now I have twins.
Dr. Fox: Yeah.
Melanie: So, anyway, I transferred one and then transferred one again.
Dr. Fox: It’s crazy. This podcast I’m just gonna title “Fox the Idiot.” All right. That works. I’ll take it.
Melanie: No, that’s not true. It’s not true. Everyone’s wrong sometimes. Anyway, so then we transferred two thinking, like, “Okay, well, hopefully, somebody will make it to the end of this.”
Dr. Fox: Right.
Melanie: So, when we heard two heartbeats, yes, I was, I mean, completely anxiety-ridden sitting there waiting to see what was gonna happen. And then when they saw two heartbeats, I mean, I was, obviously ecstatic, but again, ecstatic like not jumping up and down and dancing anymore. And even my family, like, I would say to my sisters and my brother like, “Okay, she’s pregnant,” where I, like, said it like that. “All right, all right.”
Dr. Fox: You’re, like, not even at the point where you could be cautiously optimistic.
Melanie: No. We were just like, “Okay.”
Dr. Fox: You’re just, like, cautiously nothing.
Melanie: Someone’s always pregnant, and let’s see what happens, which is sad, but…
Dr. Fox: “Clock is right twice a day,” you’re like that.
Melanie: Exactly, exactly, just like, “All right.” So, matter of fact, we weren’t crying. Like, the first time I was pregnant those years before, you know, you’re crying and screaming, and this is not that experience at all. And I didn’t even know, like I said when this comes to pass when there’s a baby or two babies…
Dr. Fox: Right. How did Katie feel about the fact that it was twins? Was it like a hoot for her?
Melanie: So, I think she was freaking out. Like, now in retrospect, even she would say, “I cannot believe I carried two babies. I would never do that again.” And, really, God bless her, when they were born, they were born 7 pounds and 6.1. I mean, that’s a lot of baby.
Dr. Fox: That’s a lot of baby, 13-plus pounds, almost as big as Garrett was.
Melanie: Almost. A lot, but, yeah. So everyone was happy. We were all happy.
Dr. Fox: And you did go to that 20-week appointment?
Melanie: So, yeah. So, I…
Dr. Fox: Did it feel pretty real at that point? I mean…
Melanie: Yes. That was the first time I met her, and it was great. And we sat in that appointment, and yes, like, you see two babies on the screen, but again, being, like A…She would say that I was a nervous wreck. Like, she didn’t used to call me from in the appointment because she said they didn’t want you to use your phone when you’re in the office. And I would be, like, texting her, “Hello? Hello? Are they alive? Is everything okay? Are there heartbeats?”
Dr. Fox: “Are they alive?” Yeah.
Melanie: “Something, just give me something. Tell me it’s okay.” And, you know, then, like, 15, 20, 40 minutes feels like forever when you’re, like, laying flat on your bedroom floor just waiting to hear any kind of news. But, yeah, so the 20-week appointment was amazing, and you really see 2 babies on the anatomy scan.
Dr. Fox: How’d you like Milwaukee?
Melanie: I liked it. I didn’t see that much of it. I was there for, like, a day.
Dr. Fox: Midwest people are nice out there.
Melanie: Like, very.
Dr. Fox: Very friendly folks.
Melanie: Oh, if you saw the hospital there, you would only…
Dr. Fox: It’s the Midwest. Everyone’s really nice. Say, “Good morning,” to you, they ask you how you’re doing. I mean, you’re coming from New York and you probably shot pepper spray at them. “Why is this person talking to me?”
Melanie: That’s not true. New York gets a bad rep.
Dr. Fox: I know, I know, I know.
Melanie: I think there’s a lot of good New Yorkers, but I will say, yes, you go in there…I mean, even in the hospital, there’s a queen-sized bed in every room and it’s, like, gorgeous and huge, and here you, like, give birth in a closet. I mean, that’s what it is.
Dr. Fox: Yeah. It toughens us up.
Melanie: It does. I think you’re right. But, yes, it was great. We met them, we went to this appointment, we went for lunch. I mean, it was amazing. It was amazing. And, still, I’m, you know, like, waiting for them to get to a point where like, “Are they gonna both be born? Are they gonna both be healthy? Are they gonna make it until the end?” So, now I am cautiously optimistic at that point, but still…
Dr. Fox: Yeah, I mean, now it’s not miscarriage that’s sort of a…it’s just, in general, twin pregnancies are always, you know, to some degree they’re high-risk, they’re gonna be born early. You’re thinking, you know, things can go wrong with a twin pregnancy, obviously, but you’re sort of at, like, the baseline level of…
Melanie: I am. I was at the baseline.
Dr. Fox: Plus, you’re damaged goods.
Melanie: Yes, I am damaged.
Dr. Fox: Yeah. Okay. And so then did you go to more visits as you got closer towards the end or no?
Melanie: So, believe it or not, that was it. I came home and I told her, you know, “Hopefully, I’ll be here when the babies are born,” and that was actually the next time that we went back.
Dr. Fox: Was it a C-section or were they born vaginally?
Melanie: No, they were born vaginally.
Dr. Fox: And was she induced or did you get a call, “I’m in labor?” How’d you know her…?
Melanie: So she had never gone into labor, and we did get a call at 3, 4:00 in the morning and she said her water broke and, like, “Come now.” And that is really what we did. I literally went onto the computer and booked us tickets to…you couldn’t really fly straight into Milwaukee because there was, like, one flight a day. We had to fly to Chicago and then Uber to Milwaukee, and…
Dr. Fox: That’s not so far.
Melanie: It was not so far at all. It was just all nerve-racking.
Dr. Fox: Yeah, it’s not as far as you would think it is.
Melanie: No. It was great. And, I mean, Andrew was, like, freaking out and he, like, ran…
Dr. Fox: Right. You were aware that “Happy Days” took place in Milwaukee, yeah?
Melanie: Yes, yes.
Dr. Fox: Okay. Good. All right. They used to go to Chicago on their big nights, yeah.
Melanie: I mean, I’ve only seen really, like, I think an Applebee’s, the doctor’s office, and the inside of a hospital.
Dr. Fox: That’s all there is.
Melanie: Oh, and I went to a sushi restaurant [crosstalk 00:34:09].
Dr. Fox: That’s all there is, and that’s it, basically.
Melanie: Oh, no. God.
Dr. Fox: Sushi. All the fish, however, they come out of Lake Michigan, so that’s all you get.
Melanie: So that was it. So we…
Dr. Fox: And you made it in time.
Melanie: We booked our flight, we were, you know, texting her on the airplane. I was so lucky because one of my sisters was able to come, and my parents, so I called them right away. And my parents and my sister, like, booked a 9:00 flight. I was like, “Oh, my God, is there any way this is all gonna happen?” She was dilating quickly, I was on the airplane, sort of, just getting myself used to the idea that, like, okay, if she gives birth, it’s fine, I’ll be okay. And I might not be there and I might be there, and whatever it is, it is. You know, that’s, sort of, out of your control.
Dr. Fox: Was the plan for you to be, like, in the room when she delivers?
Dr. Fox: So she was good with that, you were good with that?
Melanie: Yes, that was the plan.
Dr. Fox: Was it gonna be just you or is someone from her family gonna be there also?
Melanie: So her husband was going to be with her, and me and Andrew.
Dr. Fox: And they were good with that, the hospital was good with that?
Melanie: Yes, yes. The hospital was wonderful. Again, when you go to states and places where this is more the norm, they’re, like, very much…
Dr. Fox: Right, because they have gestational carriers delivering there more frequently.
Melanie: Yes. So they weren’t like, “Oh, gosh, what should we do?” Like, even when we stayed, we stayed in the hospital next door to Katie.
Dr. Fox: Oh, they had a room for you?
Dr. Fox: Oh, that’s so nice.
Melanie: Obviously, the babies stayed with me at night. And, like, she was just getting better on her own, and I had the babies with me as if I had given birth to them.
Dr. Fox: That’s amazing.
Melanie: It was amazing.
Dr. Fox: Right. And so what was the delivery like? Because to watch…
Melanie: Oh, it was…
Dr. Fox: I mean, I know what it’s like as a father, obviously, but for a mother to watch her baby being born.
Melanie: It was insane. I mean, the whole day, for everything that had ever gone wrong up to this point, this day was, like, clockwork.
Dr. Fox: November 22.
Melanie: November 22. We got there…
Dr. Fox: Same birthday as the Fox twins.
Melanie: I know. It’s meant to be. It’s meant to be. Yeah, we got there, she was still, you know, waiting and dilating with the doctors checking on her. And then, really, as soon as my parents and my sister got to the hospital, they came in to say, like, “We gotta go. We’re gonna go into the ER.” Garrett was there with us, so he went to wait in the waiting room with my parents and my sister. We went in, and, I mean, it’s crazy because you’re also watching a birth but you’re fully with it, do you know what I mean? Like, sort of, when you’re having a C-section…I’ve never given birth vaginally, but when you are, you’re, like, pushing and doing and in a, sort of, nother…This is like you’re fully with it, and it’s scary.
Dr. Fox: And it’s a different angle.
Melanie: Yeah, a different angle altogether. So the first one came out, thank goodness, easy, one, two, three. I actually cut the cord, which I, like, very vaguely remember.
Dr. Fox: That’s so cool.
Melanie: He cried, it was great. The next one was breech, and all of a sudden, like, doctors and extra medical staff started coming in, and I was then, like, laid out on the floor. It’s like, “What is wrong? Is everything okay?” And they started saying, like, “If you don’t hear him cry right away, don’t get nervous.” And I, of course, am going to this place, I’m like, “Oh, my God, is this how this ends?”
Dr. Fox: Right. They pulled him out feet first?
Melanie: They did, which you told me about also, You said, “Well, if they’re good at it, what they could do is they shouldn’t have to do a C-section if that’s what happens.”
Dr. Fox: Yeah.
Melanie: I mean, it was not great to watch, either.
Dr. Fox: Well, yeah.
Melanie: I mean, it was not, but…
Dr. Fox: It’s a little gory.
Melanie: It was gory.
Dr. Fox: Yeah.
Melanie: Anyway, we won’t get into detail, but thank Goodness…
Dr. Fox: But it’s great. She didn’t have to have a C-section for twins.
Melanie: She didn’t have a C-section, which she felt very strongly about. She kept making me nervous because she would say, “I don’t wanna have a C-section. I don’t want a C-section.” I was like, “Listen, however this has to happen, like, we gotta get these babies [crosstalk 00:37:25]”
Dr. Fox: You know, if the doctors, you know, have the skill and they know what they’re doing, then, yeah, it’s not safer for her, it’s not safer for the babies to have a C-section. It’s fine to deliver them vaginally as long as the first one’s head down, so they did the right thing.
Melanie: They did the right thing, and, thankfully, they were both…He didn’t cry right away and, I don’t know, the Apgar. Like, his first Apgar was, like, horrific.
Dr. Fox: Yeah. That’s normal, yeah.
Melanie: But then it was fine. And he was a little purple, but he changed color.
Dr. Fox: It’s all good, all temporary.
Melanie: And then, really, within minutes, like, we were holding these babies. I ran out to the waiting room to tell my parents, and Garrett, and my sister that we had two boys, which also I didn’t know.
Dr. Fox: Oh, you didn’t? I was gonna ask, you didn’t know they were gonna be boys?
Melanie: No, I did not know.
Dr. Fox: Wow. Oh, my God.
Melanie: So that was funny, like, packing up, like, clothes for two girls, clothes if it was two boys, clothes if it was a boy and a girl, but like, I really didn’t wanna know.
Dr. Fox: Right. And, you know, you have to have all these boy names, all these girl names. You gotta…
Melanie: So that’s what we did.
Dr. Fox: Yeah, you have a list.
Melanie: We had a list of pairs of everything, and we changed it even as we were sitting there in the hospital. But, yes, I mean, it was everything you imagined. It was amazing and it was just they were here and they were healthy, and, thank God, like, all of the things that I had worried about had not come to pass. We stayed in the hospital for literally 48 hours. They flew home on JetBlue. Like, I mean, beforehand, people are like, “Are you gonna fly private? Are you gonna drive them home?” And I said, “I don’t know. Like, I guess if they need that like if they’re in a NICU. Like, they were twins. I guess if I have to stay there for weeks, I’ll do whatever I have to do.” But at the end of the day, the pediatrician there and my own pediatrician said, “Listen, they’re fine. They have immunity. They’ll fly home.” So, like, I went to the airport with 2-day-old twins, they flew home.
Dr. Fox: What’s nice in JetBlue, they’re also able to watch, you know, TV on the way home.
Melanie: They did.
Dr. Fox: That’s great.
Melanie: I know. I think I really…they slept. You know, they were so little, they slept. I watched a movie. I was like, “If this is what twins are like,” I’m like, “listen, I have it made in the shade.” It was not so. It was not so.
Dr. Fox: Wow, so two days and you brought them home. Amazing.
Dr. Fox: I remember seeing you in the office, whatever, it was like a week later, you come in, I was like, “You look great.”
Dr. Fox: No, because we were saying that you get to, you know, have the bris of your twin boys and you’re wearing your skinny jeans.
Melanie: You are, skinny as can be.
Dr. Fox: That’s a selling point.
Melanie: Yes. A lot of people did say that to me, “Is this why you did this?” This is not why, but it was really to hit the ground running having not given birth to babies, it was nice.
Dr. Fox: I’m curious. So now that, you know, they’re 4-plus, does it even cross your mind anymore that they’re carried by a surrogate, gestational carrier? Do you even think about that, really, I mean, day to day?
Melanie: So, for me, I really don’t. Their older brother is 5 years older than them. He will often tell them that they should be Milwaukee Bucks fans because that is where they are from.
Dr. Fox: Okay. So Garrett knows the whole…?
Dr. Fox: Yeah.
Melanie: He knows, and, again, it was recommended that I be honest with him, and when he was 5 he was totally cool with it. I feel like now as he gets older, obviously, it’s a little bit harder to understand, but, you know, again, it’s for a whole nother podcast. Sort of, just the idea of, like, a little bit of me, and a little bit of Daddy, and they’re just gonna, sort of, be in her body until they’re ready to come out. For now, it’s sometimes easier than to describe, like, how real babies are made, to be honest.
Dr. Fox: Yeah, absolutely.
Melanie: So, yeah, like, that’s, like, much more PG.
Dr. Fox: Yeah. It’s like a recipe, you know?
Melanie: Exactly, I mean, a little me, a little you, put it in there, and then they come out.
Dr. Fox: Yeah. It’s all good. Do the twins know? Do they have any…? Yeah.
Melanie: So, it’s funny, again, a therapist who I worked with while Katie was pregnant because I really was so nervous really suggested, like, being honest as early as possible. And she really talked to me a lot about not keeping secrets and that when kids find out things later in life, whatever that may be, that it feels like something has been kept from them. And so, you know, when they were 1, 2, like, 3, they didn’t really say anything.
And then in the past year, maybe in the last six months, one of them asked me like, “When we were in your belly, what were we like in your belly?” And I very just vaguely told them, like, “You weren’t in my belly. We had this amazing woman in our life who carried you until you were ready to come out. And I said, “The doctors don’t know why, but Mommy’s body couldn’t hold you and we knew we wanted to have a big family. And so, you know, Katie carried you in her belly, and then when you came out, you were all ours, you’re part of our family, and we took you home.” And so now, and then they’ll say something about Katie, which is just so funny like, “Where is Katie? Like, when were we in her belly? Where…?” But I think that the fact that I’ve even just exposed them to that, hopefully, one day…
Dr. Fox: Yeah. Well, at this point it’s not weird for them because they’re 4.
Melanie: Right. That’s what I hope.
Dr. Fox: What do they know, you know?
Melanie: They don’t. That’s what I’m saying, I feel like one day it will be weird.
Dr. Fox: Yeah. For all they know, they were kept in a Volvo, you know, for 40 weeks. Like, whatever, you know?
Melanie: At some point, it’ll be weird. I mean, the funnier thing is that my older son for a long time, like, didn’t even understand that most children come from their own mom. Like, he would tell my sisters, like, “So how many of your kids did you have in your belly?”
Dr. Fox: Yeah.
Melanie: Because he just felt like this was normal, which I think speaks a lot just to kids in general and how accepting they are of anything different. They don’t care.
Dr. Fox: They don’t care. We’re the strange ones.
Melanie: A hundred percent.
Dr. Fox: Right, we’re the problem.
Melanie: We are.
Dr. Fox: You know, the kids are not the problem.
Melanie: Kids are happy to accept whatever. “Okay, that’s how you came? You were carried in her body? Great. Like, what’s for lunch? Can we go for ice cream now?” They don’t care.
Dr. Fox: What do you think you would’ve done if a gestational carrier wasn’t an option. I’m just thinking back. Do you think you would’ve continued trying on your own, or do you think you just would’ve been like, you know, “I’m out, this is too much?”
Melanie: I don’t know. I think, again, everyone comes to their breaking point at a different point, so it’s hard to say how much longer I could’ve gone on doing this. And I was at the same time as this was happening trying to also get to the point where I said, “You know what? Thank goodness we’re parents. We have a child. We’re so lucky in so many ways. And if this isn’t, you know, to be, then it won’t be.”
Dr. Fox: You could’ve reached that point of sorta contentment that, “I tried as hard as I could and I have a beautiful child.”
Melanie: I hope. I hope. I mean, who knows? Like, I don’t know. Again, like, in my head, each time it didn’t work with my first carrier, I was like, “Okay, I cannot do this anymore. One more time and then I’m out.”
Dr. Fox: Right.
Melanie: I mean, I don’t know, I also was getting older, so that was gonna be part of it also that I wasn’t gonna keep doing retrievals until I was, you know, 58.
Dr. Fox: Right, right.
Melanie: Maybe you can now, but I don’t know. I don’t know.
Dr. Fox: They certainly will bill you for it.
Melanie: Yes, that’s for sure.
Dr. Fox: How much money do I have to give to this [inaudible 00:43:14] guy?
Melanie: I know, I know. A lot, a lot. I know, a lot.
Dr. Fox: He loves you.
Melanie: He does. I think I’m his number one patient.
Dr. Fox: There’s a plaque on the wall, you know.
Dr. Fox: This wing…
Melanie: Exactly, funded by…
Dr. Fox: …donated by the Kules, you know?
Melanie: Oh, my gosh.
Dr. Fox: Wow. I mean, looking back now, I mean, you have your family, you have three beautiful children. I mean, you’re living the dream. Big picture, looking back on this whole story, what are your thoughts about this? And it’s crazy what you went through, but ultimately, you sorta got your dream.
Melanie: I did, I did. I feel that way. I feel like, you know, not everyone is so lucky, and I recognize that, so I’m very cognizant of, you know, being careful and what I say when I talk to different people about fertility. Looking back, I’d easily tell you I’d do it all again even though when I tell this story to you or to someone for the first time and go through 2004 until 2016, I really do wonder how it happened, how I did it, how all of these people in my life who love me so much really, really cheerleaded for me in highs and lows, and I think that is a lot of why I was able to do it.
I’m lucky to have been born, I think, like, optimistic and, sort of, having faith and hope, and so, you know, when you feel like you can’t go on, you keep going. No, looking back, I can’t believe it happened. I still look at the three of them, I mean, mostly when they’re sleeping and really just for any, I think, parent or people in general how time passes and how people say, like, days can be long but the years are short. I can’t believe how much time has gone by and how, like, all of that happened, and they’re all here, and they are definitely crazy and wild a lot now, especially.
Dr. Fox: Well, I mean, you have three boys, you know?
Melanie: They’re really something.
Dr. Fox: You’re in the thick of it.
Melanie: It’s something.
Dr. Fox: I mean, yeah.
Melanie: They’re crazy, and it’s still…I have that bit that I think that fertility world gave me which is that I still find myself all the time just being so grateful that I get to do this. Like, no matter how much laundry I have to do, no matter how many dishes are dirty and like, my house is really upside-down, I feel like there was so much time that I was just like, “I wish I had baby clothes, I wish I had, you know, a mess here, I wish there were more people to take care of.” And even times when Garrett would ask me, “Am I ever gonna be a big brother,” that, like, really broke my heart because I just felt like we’re trying and we’re doing everything we can. And so I think my overarching theme is really gratitude. Even though I think in this world that sounds very cliche, I really do feel that.
Dr. Fox: It’s not cliche. I mean, why is it cliche? You’re fortunate in a sense. You’re unfortunate that you had to go through all of that craziness and, like, you know, horror to get to this point, but yeah, you look at the things in your life that are amazing and to be grateful for, absolutely. And I think you have a lot to be grateful for, and I think that, you know, that’s a terrific attitude. You talk to a lot of people now. You’re someone that people call when they’re…
Melanie: I do.
Dr. Fox: How often does that happen now?
Melanie: I mean, a lot. I feel like now I have maybe three or four women I’m talking to right now who are at different points. Like, you know, one has a carrier who is pregnant, one is thinking about a carrier, one actually has a carrier who just, unfortunately, had a loss. But I think that I really feel so passionate about being in this world because I think that for some people, which is, again, totally fine, everyone’s different, they get past this point in their life and just feel like, “I wanna put that behind me. Like, I don’t wanna talk about it anymore. I have my family now. I’m good to go and just leave that chapter behind.”
I feel like I do have a happy ending. I went through a lot of really hard moments, and I really…Like, it’s not so common that people know people with a carrier or had a really good experience with a carrier. So anyone who was anyone, like, will say, you know, “I heard that you used a carrier. Do you mind if my, like, camp friend’s sister calls you? She’s at this point in her fertility journey and she never spoke to anyone who did this.” But, again, when people say, “Someone’s starting IVF,” I’m not your man because I have a really depressing story for someone who’s…
Dr. Fox: Right. You’re like, “IVF sucks.”
Melanie: And I’m like, “Oh, don’t worry, like, you too could be pregnant in six years.” Like, that’s not a great story. But for someone who’s been through all the rigmarole…
Dr. Fox: Right. “You got $300,000? Yeah, no problem.”
Melanie: Oh, my God, that’s great. But for someone who’s been through it and, like, they’ve gone through a lot, and they’re ready for this step, I hope that I can, like, make this a normal experience for them and give them hope that…again, we don’t know, but, hopefully, you know, if you hang in there and things align, like, good things can happen.
Dr. Fox: And so people find you as word of mouth friend of a friend of a friend or whoever…?
Melanie: Yes, yes, yes.
Dr. Fox: Yeah. And does the agency, sort of, keep people’s names around? I’m just curious, yeah.
Melanie: You know, I don’t know. The woman who I worked at the agency has since left, so I’m not so connected to them. The doctor’s office, actually, CCRM, one of the nurses I spoke to, and she said, like, “I have a woman who I think would love to talk to you. Are you open to that?” And I felt so flattered and so happy, and she actually just had a daughter also. Yeah, so that’s really the only way. And my pediatrician had given me someone also, you know, but not so much through the agency.
Dr. Fox: When you’re talking to people who are considering this, what is it that you think they should know maybe that you didn’t know or you wish you knew? What is the most common thing you’re helping them with?
Melanie: So I think the most important thing I would say to anyone probably just in life but definitely going through fertility or this is just that you are your own best advocate. I think that too often, we say, “The doctor will take care of it,” or, “The lawyer’s taking care of it.” And I think that in a lot of situations, I felt like I had to look out for my best interest. And even when it came to, like, finding a second carrier and they were like, “Okay, we don’t know how long that’ll take. We’ll put you on the list,” or I had spoken to someone before we found Katie and, like, I knew she wasn’t right for me. I had that feeling. There were a couple of things that just didn’t match up. And the agency, sort of, tried to say, like, “Okay, well, if you don’t take her, you know, it could be, like, weeks and weeks or months we find you someone.” Like, and that’s what I say to people. Like, if you feel in your gut something and you feel strong, like, you really do have to stand up for yourself, be strong about what you think. I mean, we’re New Yorkers and so we don’t have that problem so much.
Dr. Fox: You’re actually New Jerseyites right now.
Melanie: We are. That’s true. We’re New Jerseyites.
Dr. Fox: Sorry to break it to you.
Melanie: We’re from New Jersey and New York, and so I think that we probably have less of an issue being assertive.
Dr. Fox: Right.
Melanie: And even some things that I dealt with Katie like when I went to the 20-week scan, she said to me, like, “I’m really sorry, but they only allow two people in the ultrasound room,” and I said, “Okay. Well, Andrew’s coming with me,” and she said, “Oh, well, my husband wants to be in there, so, like, really, only one of you can probably be in the room.” And I was like…
Dr. Fox: “We’ll see about that.”
Melanie: “No, I don’t think so.” I said, “Can I have, like, the number of the office?” And she said, “No, no, this is their rule.” And, again, I was like, “Okay, that could be their rule, but how often do they have carriers who are flying from…or, whatever, like, intended parents who are flying from New York,” you know? “We wanna be in the room.” Like, I appreciated that she wanted support. She didn’t know us, she had never met us.
Dr. Fox: Yeah.
Melanie: Like, who knew what this was gonna be or how I was gonna be? But, again, like, had we just, sort of, accepted, I don’t know, maybe that’s a bad trait, but had I accepted that no was an answer, I would not…But they were so kind when I called up and spoke to, like, the supervisor of the office, she just said, “We’ll just make sure your appointment is the first of the day. We just don’t want other patients to feel like, you know, we make exceptions.” And I understood all of them. I was not looking, like, for really, like, special treatment, but I said to her basically, “If there’s anyone else there with a carrier who brought their husband to their first appointment, like, you should let them in also.” But just knowing, like, it’s okay. People are people, and sometimes if you do say what you think or what you want in a very kind way…I don’t think I was ever, I don’t think, abrasive or I didn’t bully anybody. I just…
Dr. Fox: I don’t think you can be. I don’t think you have it in you to be a bully.
Melanie: I hope not. But just, like, stand up for what you want, and what you think, and what you believe, whether it’s the agency, or the lawyer, or the doctor, or the carrier. You know, the doctors also, like, people had said to me who have had carriers, “Oh, I have a hard time getting in touch with the doctor.” Then, you know what, you call this office and you say that there will be, like, “I’d like to talk to this person. This is my baby or babies and I have some concerns.”
And thank goodness I always had a good experience just saying what you want and putting it out there, you know, so I think that that’s probably the most important thing. Usually, what we talk about a lot when I talk to women is more like the feelings that you have going through it. How do you relinquish control? Were you worried about what she was eating? Were you worried about, you know, how the separation would be after the baby came? A lot of the emotional piece of…and again, it’s so different for everyone.
Dr. Fox: Sure.
Melanie: For me, I was very, very lucky. And even being lucky, I was anxious a lot of the time. You know, I didn’t talk to her a lot about, like, “So, what are you having for dinner tonight?” I just accepted that this was part of it and, hopefully, the babies would be okay, whatever that looked like. I made sure she was very careful in terms of not having caffeine or, you know, seeing her doctor when she needed to. Like, she was really on top of everything, so I really didn’t worry in that way. But a lot of it is just, “How’d you feel going into it? How’d you feel when she was pregnant? How’d you feel at the next appointment? What about as it got closer to the birth?” You know, did I feel angry that I wasn’t the one carrying them? So, I didn’t, but I have friends who would say they’re still dealing with, like, how hard it was that they carried one but couldn’t carry their second pregnancy.
Dr. Fox: Right.
Melanie: I’m lucky. Like, I don’t know, I don’t have that guilt. I feel like maybe, I don’t know. I don’t know why. And maybe one day they’ll make me feel bad about it like the two of them will team up on me and be like, “It’s not right. You carried him but not us.” I don’t know.
Dr. Fox: “I just didn’t wanna carry you.”
Melanie: I know. It seemed like…
Dr. Fox: You’re like, “Boys, I got two words for you. Skinny jeans.”
Melanie: Exactly. No, I don’t…So, you know, that’s a lot of what we talk about is, like, you know, less of the logistics and more of just how you feel going through it.
Dr. Fox: It’s an unusual thing, obviously.
Melanie: Yes, it is.
Dr. Fox: And so people have to wrap their heads around it and they wrap their heads around it differently. Some people, again, they’re like, “Yeah, I’m on board. This is fine. This is great,” and others are like, “This is, like, the strangest thing ever,” and everything in between. Of course, it’s all normal. It’s just people have to, you know, grapple this. And it’s not unique to gestational carriers. I mean, people use egg donors and sperm donors, and people adopt, and there’s all these ways people build their families that aren’t “traditional.” Okay. Great, you know, but there may be lingering, you know, thoughts that people have about that and you work it out. I mean, what else are you gonna do? You know, you have to work it out in some way.
Melanie: That’s it. And, hopefully, the abnormal becomes more normal.
Dr. Fox: Yeah.
Melanie: That is as much as…I mean, I’m not really on social media, but I think the nice thing, like you said, about people being out there and talking about whatever it is, surrogacy, egg donors, anything that’s going on in the world right now, the positive, I think, is that hopefully the more people that people see doing things that would’ve been considered weird, it then becomes, you know, less weird, a little more normal. And so, yes, is it strange that someone’s carrying your baby or babies across the country? It’s strange. On the other hand, like, I didn’t tell anyone, you know, that there were even anyone coming until I told…I told Garrett I think at around 34 weeks, maybe, and until then, I hadn’t told anyone, like, in my world other than my very, very closest friends and family.
Dr. Fox: Right, and, apparently me.
Melanie: You’re in that group, my closest friends.
Dr. Fox: I felt like I was providing pre-natal care for this woman I never met.
Melanie: You were. I am telling you that I texted you. I think I just sent it to you recently, a screenshot. I texted you from the airplane and I said, like, :Oh, my God, she is, like, 6 or 7 meters dilated. What does that mean?”
Dr. Fox: Hopefully centimeters.
Melanie: Right. Oh, my God.
Dr. Fox: Six meters dilated?
Melanie: Oh, my God.
Dr. Fox: We’re gonna…
Melanie: Land an airplane.
Dr. Fox: We’re gonna drive a speedboat out of there. All right.
Melanie: Six or 7 centimeters. And I said, “What does that mean,” and you wrote, and it still could make me cry, “It means that you’re gonna be the mother of twins very soon.” And it really…
Dr. Fox: What I wanted to write was, “It means why the hell am I not on the flight with you delivering these babies?” That would’ve been so cool.
Melanie: I told you. I think I begged you to come, and you said maybe you’d, like, go visit your sleepaway camp while you were there. And then when I texted you that morning, you weren’t like, “Oh, good get me a ticket,” so I felt like that was just a…
Dr. Fox: They would not have let me in the hospital for a good reason. They’re like, “Yeah, some guy from out of state wants to just go in and deliver this woman’s twins.”
Melanie: I think we could’ve made it work, but it didn’t. It’s okay.
Dr. Fox: That would be the assertive person in you.
Melanie: Yeah, exactly.
Dr. Fox: “This guy’s delivering these babies.”
Melanie: “He’s fine. He will be doing the delivery.” No, I mean, that’s it. It was so nice not to tell anyone. They were like all…just like anything else, you can find the good and bad in anything, and this I feel like we found the good in it.
Dr. Fox: That’s amazing. What a story, Melanie. Amazing. I love talking to you, I love seeing you. It was amazing. Forget about you going through it. Just me going through it, I was so happy for you because I know how much you wanted this, and not to the same degree, but all your heartache with your trials and tribulations getting pregnant was my heartache because I’m seeing you go through this and how horrible it is for you.
And then to see the pregnancy, you’re like, “She’s 20 weeks, she’s 24 weeks, 28 weeks.” And, literally, I felt like I was this woman’s doctor. I never met her, never saw these kids, I didn’t do their ultrasound, but I felt like, “Oh, my God, I’ve got twins under my care.” I’m like, you know, “Melanie’s pregnant,” and they’re like, “What do you mean?” I was like, “Well, she’s…you know, whatever, they’re in Milwaukee, but, you know, Melanie’s got twins coming and so we’re talking all the time.” And, you know, it’s almost you’re having prenatal visits during the time.
Melanie: Yes. No, it was, and I have to say, you were…
Dr. Fox: But it was awesome. It was really cool.
Melanie: You were always so, so supportive and so helpful, and I felt like…
Dr. Fox: I didn’t have to do anything. It was great.
Melanie: It didn’t matter. It gave me comfort knowing that I could call you and ask you about anything medical that was going on and more. And I felt like you really did take such good care of me, and I knew that you were going through it with me. You know, again, having people in your corner has, like, a lot to do with how you go through anything, so thank you.
Dr. Fox: Yeah. I wish we could do this in New York. I mean, I heard that they’re changing the law, and that…
Melanie: That is what it sounds like.
Dr. Fox: And then maybe one day we’ll be able to take care of the carriers and this, which would be really nice for people, obviously.
Melanie: It’s amazing.
Dr. Fox: Because we’ve never really had carriers under our care. We’ve had, you know, couples who we take care of who are having carriers elsewhere, but again, most of the time, we have nothing to do with it because…you know, they ask us questions but it’s not really our patients. But, yeah, it was awesome. Thank you for coming in. This was amazing. And, obviously, I’m sure our listeners are gonna love this, and now you’re gonna get flooded with people who wanna talk to you.
Melanie: I hope so. I hope so. Thank you. Thank you so much for having me. This was really just so nice to sit with you, and talk about it, and, hopefully, it’ll help someone.
Dr. Fox: I’m not gonna make you put your contact info on the podcast, but if anyone does wanna reach out to Melanie, you could shoot us an email at the podcast and I’ll, you know, filter them and send them to you and you could decide.
Dr. Fox: All right. Thanks a lot.
Melanie: Thank you.
Dr. Fox: If you’re interested in telling your birth story on our podcast, please go to our partner website at www.healthfulwoman.com and click the link for sharing your story. You can also email us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you liked today’s podcast, please be sure to check out our “Healthful Woman” podcast as well, where I speak with leaders in the field to help you learn more about women’s health, pregnancy, and wellness. Have a great day.
The information discussed in “High Risk Birth Stories” is intended for information and entertainment only and does not replace medical care from your physician. The stories and experiences discussed in our podcasts are unique to each guest and are not intended to be representative of any standard of care or expected outcomes. As always, we encourage you to speak with your own doctor about specific diagnoses and treatment options for an effective treatment plan. Guests on “High Risk Birth Stories” have given their permission for us to share their personal health information.