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B-Yourself: The Chois

Young and Tonia Choi have four children combined ranging in ages 15-22 years old. After the couple married, they decided they wanted the opportunity to have a child together. The Chois have dreamed and prayed for a child together for a while. Recently, the couple got news that all those hopes, dreams and prayers were on the way.

How did you receive the news from surrogate that you two were pregnant?

About 9 days after our embryo transfer, we were approaching Easter weekend.  We weren’t expecting to find out if the transfer had been a success until the next day.  However, while we were cooking dinner, we got a surprise FaceTime call from our surrogate.  At first, we didn’t think much of it, but when we saw her on the call, she was wearing a special shirt she had had made a few weeks before just for this moment she was planning (even though the transfer being a success wasn’t guaranteed).  The shirt read, “Some Bunny’s Pregg-nant!”  She held up the home pregnancy test to confirm two solid pink lines!  Tonia’s knees hit the floor, and she burst into tears!  We were over the moon, and after months and months of praying, hoping, and going to great lengths to have a baby, that moment felt surreal.  It really felt like a dream come true.

What was your and Tonia’s individual responses?

I’ll admit I got teary-eyed and was overwhelmed with emotion.  To realize we were actually pregnant after trying for so long, it felt surreal.  Surrogacy is not an easy road.  It felt like we endured so much to finally get pregnant.  Tonia fell to her knees and began sobbing tears of joy!  It was a moment we will never forget as long as we live.

How did you announce the news to your children and how did they all react?

The boys are much older now, and we presented the idea of it to them before we actually decided to do surrogacy, and they have all been excited and 100% on board from day one.  I don’t think any of us knew just how long and exhausting of a process it would be, so I think that is one thing the kids weren’t expecting… just how long it would take!  Once we were finally pregnant and able to tell them, I think the reaction from all of them was, “Finally! It’s about time!”

How long was the process from finding the perfect surrogate to getting pregnant?

Once we were matched with our surrogate, it only took 5 months from that point before we got pregnant.  That is actually the shortest part of the process.  The longest part was the time it took to go through IVF to make our embryos, as well as the time it took to actually match with our surrogate.  It took 6 months to match with her, and it took several months prior to that to go through IVF to create our embryos.

How did you both find the perfect surrogate?

We did a lot of research before jumping all in the surrogacy boat!  We researched agencies all over the country that specialize in growing a family through gestational surrogacy.  We ended up choosing one of the highest rated agencies in the country, and it is a decision we have yet to regret! They have been incredible every step of the way! Their standards are very high. Only 2% of their potential surrogate applicants are accepted.  But due to their strict standards, they have a 100% success rate in matching Intended Parents with gestational carriers.  They consider personality, religious preferences, and many other factors in their matching process.

When I think of surrogates, I think, what a servant’s heart they have and how fulfilling it must be, to be able to serve as a gestational carrier for those who couldn’t otherwise carry. This gesture of offering the potential of one’s own body to give life to others is something beautiful; what a blessing it is for couples and individuals. Surrogates are like little angels in our world. I’m sure it took lots of time and research on your part to find the perfect match. What has your journey been with this so far?

Often there is a general misconception of what surrogates are like and who they are as people.  One huge misconception is they are money seekers and from a lower socioeconomic background.  This couldn’t be further from the truth.  Our surrogate is a medical professional who had smooth pregnancies of her own. It was something she wanted to be able to do for a family who struggled with infertility. Surrogacy is something she considered for years. It is one of those things you have to have a heart and passion to do. It’s not easy, and it takes a very emotionally strong person to go through the process. We obviously appreciate our surrogate more than we could ever express in words for the incredible gift she is allowing us to receive.

What was it like to experience the baby’s heartbeat for the first time?

One of the biggest challenges of surrogacy is not always living in the same city, or even the same state as your surrogate.  It is important to have a surrogate who lives in a “surrogacy friendly” state as laws vary state to state.  Due to the fact we do not live in the same state, we are not able to be at every appointment. We have been able to get an ultrasound image of our baby, but we haven’t been able to hear the heartbeat for ourselves yet. Obviously, we get detailed updates from the doctor and through our agency, so we know everything is going very well. There are moments it is very hard because we want to see and feel every little part of this pregnancy.  But with surrogacy, that is not always feasible.  However, there are things about surrogacy that are amazing!  For example, when our embryo was transferred to our surrogate, Tonia was able to be there with her and hold her hand.  She was able to look at the ultrasound monitor and see our embryo being implanted into our carrier’s uterus.  Tonia said it was very emotional as she watched our baby literally begin life in the womb.  So while we miss out on many things, we try to focus on the little miracles we have experienced.  And we are simply grateful that having a biological baby together is even possible through this process.  That is a miracle worthy of gratitude within itself.

It must be so gratifying to know that you have, not only a surrogate, but also doctors, staff, and reproductive medicine supporting you to get your little miracle. From your perspective as parents, tell us what your take is on all this?

Surrogacy was our only option to share a biological child together. Tonia and I have a very special relationship and marriage, and we have always longed to share the bond of sharing a child. We relied heavily on our faith through this entire process as we continue to do. We feel a sense of deep gratitude for modern medicine, the compassion of other human beings who work so hard to make this happen for couples like ourselves, and the science behind it all. Every aspect of it is a gift from God. There’s no way each step of this very intricate and detailed process can happen without the help of a higher power. It’s simply miraculous.  As parents, we are deeply grateful. Our baby is already so very loved. We are proud of our journey. We will be proud to share all of it with our child.

Tell us more about your own personal journey together

We both had our boys in our 20’s, so when we first met, both as single parents, when we got married and blended our families, we spent a lot of our time making sure our boys were happy and well adjusted. While we always wanted to have a child together, the timing never felt right. As the boys got older, and as our marriage and family was a solid as it had ever been, instead of dreaming of an empty nest, we were still dreaming of having a baby. Knowing that Tonia being able to carry a pregnancy would be a challenge due to reproductive health issues she faced in her 30’s, we turned to surrogacy as our only hope of sharing a child. We knew we had a narrow window of opportunity to go for it before we got any older. Because we were so young having our boys, they are pretty much all grown up! Having this baby will be like starting all over, but we couldn’t be more excited! In fact, we got the surprising news that our oldest son will be having his first child only 2 weeks after our baby is due!  We never dreamt we would become new parents again while becoming grandparents for the first time! But we feel so blessed! We’re keeping the tradition of being untraditional, but we love that our family is unique. We wouldn’t have it any other way!

This is such a delicate story. Anything else you would be willing to share with our readers on this topic?

Often people think surrogacy as only something celebrities do, but through this journey, we have met amazing couples who turned to surrogacy as their only option of growing their families. While it is a process that requires patience and can be emotionally taxing, it is also gives hope where often people feel hopeless. It is an expensive alternative to growing a family, but it’s also a process that allows certain expenses to be paid incrementally over a period of months, and that can make it feel much more doable.

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