Gestational carrier creates a family for a friend
Two extraordinary Louisiana families come together to bring a new life into the world to start 2020
The New Year’s Day birth of Collins Hicks was momentous for more than one family.
Little Collins was carried to term by Alysha Hinson, a longtime friend of Collins’ biological mother, Meagan Hicks. Alysha served as a gestational carrier. Doctors at Fertility Answers used an embryo created from Meagan and her husband Preston to transfer into Alysha. Collins is Meagan and Preston’s biological daughter, but Alysha carried her.
Meagan, 31, was born with a congenital heart condition that led to other health issues as she got older. When she was in her mid-20s, she was diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension and doctors strongly urged her not to get pregnant. At first, Meagan wasn’t concerned with the issue. After she and Preston married in 2016, however, they both knew they wanted children.
Multiple doctors told Meagan the same thing – her medical conditions made it too risky for her to become pregnant and carry a baby to term. If she did, she was at a high risk of death or needing a heart transplant after she gave birth.
“After hearing all of that, my husband was obviously terrified and said, ‘No way,’” Meagan recalled.
A gestational carrier carries a child for another couple who biologically cannot
Throughout all this, Meagan had been in constant touch with Alysha. The two women had known each other since they were sorority sisters at the University of Louisiana at Monroe. Alysha, now a labor and delivery nurse, knew she wanted to do something to help.
“Even before I got married, she had already told me that she would carry for us if doctors advised I couldn’t carry a baby, Meagan said. “She has two kids of her own, and she’s a labor and delivery nurse. It’s as if she was put on this earth to help give birth to babies.”
Alysha said she made the initial offer to be a gestational carrier after she saw Meagan become upset at a bridal shower when people asked about her and Preston’s future children, not knowing the difficulties the couple was facing.
“At first, I just kind of casually and jokingly offered to have a baby for her,” Alysha said. “A couple of months later, she asked if I was serious. That’s when we really started talking about it. After a lot of prayer and talking to my husband, I just felt like it was something I was supposed to do.”
With Alysha on board, Meagan and Preston reached out to Dr. Susan Conway at Fertility Answers in Lafayette and began in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatments, a necessary process when using a gestational carrier. The first round yielded three embryos, of which two had chromosome abnormalities. The third embryo was transferred to Alysha but no conception occurred.
“We had to start the IVF process all over again,” Meagan said. “We did that and early last year we found out we had three good embryos. We transferred one to Alysha and that is our little girl.”
Using the embryo from Meagan and Preston, Alysha provided the womb and carried the baby to term. The healthy baby girl was born on January 1, 2020.
“It was just a relief,” Alysha said of delivering Collins. “Just seeing the look on Meagan and Preston’s faces was priceless. She actually got to deliver the baby and just seeing the two of them immediately transition into parenthood was really special.”
Alysha and her husband Matt have two children of their own, ages 3 and 5. The children were curious about what was going on and became close to Meagan and Preston during the process. Alysha used a children’s book called “The Kangaroo Pouch” to explain what was happening.
“It put it into very simple terms,” Alysha said. “We made it clear that we were not giving the baby away, but that we were growing the baby for Meagan and Preston. I think they ended up understanding it better than even some adults.”
Using a gestational carrier can be emotional, but the end result is worth the stress
Meagan said she instantly bonded with Collins when she was born. All the stress and worries of the previous months immediately disappeared.
“It’s a very emotional and very stressful journey but the reward is unlike any other,” she said. “You’ve got lots of paperwork and legal work, and of course I was always worried about my friend. But the minute they put Collins in my arms, all of that was gone. Nothing else mattered anymore.”
With the help of Fertility Answers, Meagan and Preston have two more viable frozen embryos that can be used if and when they decide to have more children.
“If we had another friend offer to do it, we would explore it,” Meagan said. “It’s a deep conversation you have to have. It’s definitely something that requires a lot of thought and talking through with everybody involved, but we would definitely consider doing it again.”
Alysha said the “amazing experience” made her and Meagan even closer. She also credits her husband Matt with providing emotional support throughout the process. For other women considering becoming a gestational carrier, Alysha said there are some things to keep in mind.
“Make sure you are emotionally prepared to give the baby back,” she said. “Make sure you have the support of your partner. Be prepared to answer questions that are hard to answer, especially when people aren’t supportive. Mostly, be ready to deal with the postpartum emotions and make sure you have somebody to support you through that.”