Tonjia & Corey’s Story: A Surrogate Gave Us the Gift of a Lifetime

infertility surrogate

Surrogate Makes Dreams of a Family a Reality

Webster’s defines the term “miracle” as an unusual or wonderful event that is believed to be caused by the power of God. Jackson is our miracle, the unselfish gift of another who chose to be our surrogate, the carrier of our child through pregnancy.

All great stories are best told from the beginning. Just days before my grandfather’s death, I visited him in the hospital. I was about to leave when he smiled at me and told me how he hoped I would grow up to have a son, a houseful of sons even. He then reminded me that I was the last one. The last son to carry on the family name. I was 15 years old.

Fast forward 17 years. At the time, I was in my early 30’s and living in Greensboro, NC. My mother introduced me to a young lady she taught with back home in Louisiana. On our first date, Tonjia and I connected immediately and by Christmas I asked her to marry me. While dating she told me about her endometriosis that would make conceiving a child difficult or even impossible. For some reason, despite hearing my Grandfather’s words in the back of my head, my heart was screaming “do it!” I didn’t hesitate. I married Tonjia the following June.

Corey & Tonjia with Jackson

Corey & Tonjia with Jackson

In the spring of 2006 we were referred to an infertility specialist in North Carolina and went through six successive IVF cycles where Tonjia either miscarried or were complete failures. We were told that the embryos were just not implanting properly and that Tonjia may not be able to carry a child. We were emotionally and financially spent but we endured it, as always, together.

In 2009, I accepted a job back home in Louisiana. Fast forward another few years. We had recovered somewhat financially and we decided it was time to try a surrogate or gestational carrier. The problem was that going through a surrogate agency was massively expensive. Initially, one of Tonjia’s friends expressed interest in carrying for us but eventually it fell through.

Then, out of the blue, my second cousin Millicent contacted us and said she wanted to have lunch to “catch up.” We accepted the invite and looked forward to catching up with cousins we lived close to, but didn’t keep in close enough contact with. Even so, we were still a little curious as Millicent clearly had a purpose for wanting to get together.

We had a good visit with Millicent and her husband. Finally, at the end of the meal, she came out with it. She said she knew our situation through other family members, had researched it extensively and knew we needed a carrier. Her only words were, “What about me?” We were floored. She’ll never know how hard it was for me to fight back the tears to avoid a scene in that restaurant. We discussed it with her, laid some ground rules and walked out of that restaurant with a precious gift that we hadn’t had in the longest time. Hope.

The move to another doctor was a major leap of faith for us, but we had heard very good things about Dr. John Storment through endless research and a few friends that went to him. Our first visit set the tone for our relationship with him. Dr. Storment met with us, went through our file and did something that few other medical professionals did. He listened to us. To say the least, he was amazing.

As we sat in that waiting room with my cousin for our first visit, I looked at the wall and all of the pictures of happy couples with their babies that this doctor had made possible. I was electrified with the possibility that my family would one day be on that wall. Dr. Storment proved to be everything I loved in a doctor. He was motivated, positive and proactive. He set us on a course for success without us even realizing what was happening. I only wish he’d advised we fastened our seatbelts. It was a wild ride.

The next few months were a whirlwind. Doctor visits, blood tests, psych exams, lawyers, more tests, transporting frozen embryos halfway across the country from North Carolina to Louisiana. But, it felt different this time. Though there was some uncertainty, we felt this one going smoother and more organized. Millicent was right there in the mix. Despite juggling the daily operations of her own life, she was on top of everything going on. The questions we didn’t ask, she did. She monitored her own medical protocol and wouldn’t hesitate to pick up a telephone and demand answers if she was unclear or if any of us had questions. It made the process so much easier with three of us running interference and thinking and planning ahead.

infertility surrogate

Millicent and Jackson in the delivery room

The big day arrived for the embryo transfer. All three of us, myself, Tonjia and Millicent, arrived and were checked into the facility. After prepping for the procedure, we were informed that 5 of our 13 embryos didn’t survive the thawing process but the sixth one did and it was beautiful. Tonjia and Millicent went into the procedure room with the doctor and nursing staff. The embryo, which had been frozen for almost five years, was transferred to Millicent while my wife watched and Barry White played softly in the background as Dr. Storment worked his magic. They both still laugh about the choice of “mood music.”

On October 19, 2014, we went for our first pregnancy test. The three of us left the doctor’s office and waited for the phone to ring over breakfast, trying to act normal but our emotions running high. Tonjia and I had been here before. We knew the devastation caused by high hopes when a doctor called to tell you bad news. We had no reason to believe this time would be any different. Then the phone rang. Millicent answered and then handed the phone to Tonjia who started crying. But through the tears I could tell it was good news. The test was a strong positive. We sat there and smiled through tears for what must’ve been the next hour. None of us could believe it.

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Jackson with Millicent

The next few months were a series of nervous waits. Waiting on the next test, the next ultrasound, the next news. The whole time, Tonjia and I waited for the devastation to hit as it always had before. It never came. Millicent had a blood test done that would check for various abnormalities and the sex of the baby. I came home from work eager and scared to hear the news. Finally, I demanded to know. Tonjia smiled, went out to the car and brought in a gift bag and filmed it as I opened it. It was a camouflage onesie that read “Lock Up Your Daughters” on the front. We were having a boy. A son. I couldn’t hold back the tears.

After nearly a decade of pain, anguish, and sleeplessness, our son Jackson was born on June 8, 2015. A pregnancy such as this is unique to say the least. My cousin is and will always be a big part of this child’s life. She will watch him grow over the years. I insisted on that. It’s my belief that God sent her to us. I’ll never understand exactly what drove her to give us this gift, but I’ll be forever grateful for it. Jackson is our miracle, the ending to this incredible years-long journey to have a child, all by the grace of God and the unselfish gift of another.

 

Top photo credit: Ang Marie Photography

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