Making a new life for others

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN CYNTHIA MARTENS
She is pregnant, and doctors confirm she is carrying a healthy baby girl.

But when the infant is born in January, Kim Klein will not give her a name nor will she take her home. Instead, the small bundle of life will be a gift of love to the baby’s parents, a childless couple in the Chicago area.

Kim is a gestational surrogate. The baby she carries was conceived using in vitro fertilization and belongs to the biological parents, who could not have children naturally.

“I know how special our kids are to us, and I can’t imagine life without them,” Kim, 35, said of the three children she and husband Todd, 39, are raising in their Hillsboro home.

“We can help somebody to do that-to have a child when they can’t have one and have tried for 15 years. I think that’s the main reason I went into it.”

Until about 20 years ago, couples unable to have children had only two basic alternatives-adopt or remain childless. Today, they have a third choice due to advances in reproductive technology. Artificial insemination allows for the option of a surrogate carrier.

The two types of surrogacy are genetic and gestational. A genetic surrogate is the biological mother-her eggs are inseminated with the intended father’s sperm.

A gestational surrogate, such as Kim, has no genetic link to the child she carries. Both the egg and sperm of the intended parents are joined. The embryo(s) are placed into the surrogate, who will carry and deliver the child.

The Kleins own Lucky Ducks Preschool with Kim’s mother, Susan Judd. Todd works as a system’s analyst for a computer firm in Wichita. Daughter Madison is 7, son Dakota is 4, and daughter Danni-Quinn is 2.

Married for 12 years, the Kleins decided their family was complete, and Todd had a vasectomy after their last child was born.

In years past, their hearts went out to others who were having difficulty having their own children.

“We had some friends who went through a lot of fertility problems,” Kim said. “We were kind of with them through that whole thing.”

Before Madison was born, the Kleins discussed the option of gestational surrogacy with the couple, who declined after successfully adopting a child.

“So I’d been thinking about (surrogacy) a lot and decided to look on the Internet,” Kim said about a recent renewed interest in the subject.

Through her research, she discovered the Center for Surrogate Parenting, an agency in California designed to bring together intended parents and women willing to become surrogates.

One night, she talked to Todd about her desire to become a surrogate.

“She told me that ever since the time she’d been working with our friends, she’d had it in the back of her mind,” Todd said. “She’s always said she enjoys being pregnant.”

Todd agreed and supported Kim for two reasons.

“It’s something she really wants to do,” he said. “And also, because we can give a couple who doesn’t have a chance to have a baby-the chance. To me, that’s good enough reason to make it OK for me. We talked a lot about it, and we prayed a lot about it.”

They also visited with the pastor of their church to determine what they were about to undertake as a family was not against church laws.

“He assured us it was within the doctrine of our church, and he thought it was a pretty neat thing we were doing,” Todd said.

Similar to all reputable agencies, the California company screens surrogates to determine if they are healthy, have a sound psychological profile and have successfully delivered their own biological children.

“It was about a year-long process before we met the people that we’re surrogates for,” Kim said.

“We did personality tests, they interviewed me, they interviewed Todd. They feel the husband is definitely a big part of this, and he needs to be on board. He had to do medical tests, and I had to do medical tests.”

Last August, Kim began attending regional support-group sessions in Minneapolis. Todd went with her when it was time to meet their counselor.

The Kleins received profiles of prospective couples and narrowed their field of choices. The prospective couples in turn were given choices to be matched.

Their final choice was made in October last year. In November, they went back to Minneapolis to meet with the intended parents and the counselor.

The husband is a physician in his late 50s, and the wife is in her late 40s.

“She’s basically been staying at home trying to get pregnant all these years,” Kim said. “She’s had at least four miscarriages. She’s in the 2 percent of the population that it’s unexplainable why she couldn’t carry the baby.”

“It’s hard to imagine going through this so long, but it’s not uncommon.”

Visiting together for an evening and again the next morning, the two couples returned home and made their decision to embark on the medical and legal issues involved in the surrogacy process.

After all legal documents were signed, Kim began a regiment of medications to prepare for insemination, such as shots, pills, patches and creams.

“I had to trick my body to shut off my cycle, but yet make it receptive to the embryos,” Kim said.

Kim traveled to Chicago and was inseminated with three embryos on April 27, perhaps a lucky date because it was also Todd’s birthday.

The intended couple had tried in vetro fertilization in the past without success and had only three frozen embryos left.

“They defrosted the embryos that morning when we got there,” Todd said.

The out-patient procedure, with the intended mother present, took less than a minute and after a period of rest, Kim flew home with Todd by her side.

Although she was supposed to wait six weeks to see if it was successful, Kim began taking home-pregnancy tests at one week and later a blood test. The procedure was successful. She was pregnant.

Although inseminated with three embryos, Kim is carrying only one child-a miracle baby.

“We were really excited because they say a lot of times it doesn’t always work the first time,” Kim said.

On Saturday, May 7, one day before Mother’s Day, the intended couple received a package from the Kleins with a small gift and the results of the pregnancy tests.

The couple called back after receiving the package.

“They were excited but cautiously optimistic,” Kim said. “They had had several miscarriages, lots of times.”

By law, the Kleins are not receiving monetary compensation for carrying the couple’s child. All procedures, medications, travel, hotel and miscellaneous expenses were paid by the couple until Kim became pregnant. Her insurance will cover prenatal care and delivery scheduled in a Wichita hospital.

The intended mother and Kim e-mail and talk to each other weekly. The due date is Jan. 12, and the mother plans to be in Wichita for the delivery.

Laws vary in each state, but in Kansas the intended couple must legally adopt their daughter when she is born and Kim hands her over to them to take home.

“That was a tricky thing for me,” Kim said. “People say, ‘How can you give up your baby?’ But it’s not my baby. If it was my egg, it would be different. I couldn’t do it.”

The majority of family and friends have been supportive.

“We really appreciate the support of our Sunday school class,” Todd said. “It’s been meaningful support. People have been there for us.”

Kim agreed and said, “My main concern when we first went into it was not what people would say to me or Todd. It was mainly for Madison. She’s in school, and I hope nobody says anything bad. But everybody’s been positive that we’ve told so far.”

By the first week in September, Kim was 21 weeks along and knew the baby was healthy. But she may have to face bed rest during the third trimester of the pregnancy.

“The placenta is down by the cervix instead of up on the top where it should be,” Kim said. “It could cause some problems later on down the line. The main thing is, I’ll probably have to have a C-section.”

In January, the intended couple will have a room in the hospital to be with the baby for about two days before finally taking her home.

Will it be hard for the Kleins to give the baby up?

“I know it will be an emotional time,” Kim said. “It’s not going to be easy, but I feel that it will be a good emotion and touching-that you see this family going home. I think it’s something you can feel proud that you were a part of.”

For questions about surrogacy and references, call Kim and Todd Klein at 947-2652.

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