The Christmas season is all about giving unto others, and this year a Lodi woman gave the ultimate gift of parenthood to a family in London.
On Nov. 20, Holly Marie Baker gave birth to their twins, a boy and a girl, after serving as their surrogate mother.
Ever since high school, Baker said she always wanted to be a surrogate. While doing some research on surrogacy, she found out that she would have to give birth to her own child before she would be eligible for surrogacy. More than two years after having a child, Baker felt it was the perfect time to be a surrogate.
Baker went to Surrogacy Beyond Borders, an agency based in San Diego.
“They have a list of surrogates and then they have a list of parents that are signed up through the agency, and then they have you do a phone interview to see if you connect really well. Then if people agree to work with each other then it proceeds from there,” Baker said.
Once she and the couple decided to move forward with surrogacy, they had to sign a contract outlining the terms of the surrogacy.
“The contract scared me a lot because it outlines everything that could possibly go wrong. If you end up on life support, who gets to keep you alive? Who gets to pull the plug? It was a lot of security stuff in there if you read it in detail,” she said.
After reading through the contract, Baker said she began to second guess her choice, describing the contract as the last hurdle before completely committing to surrogacy.
Fortunately for Baker, there were only a few restrictions listed in the contract. During the pregnancy she wasn’t allowed to have caffeine, alcohol, get her nails done with acrylics, dye her hair, clean her cat box or travel outside of California.
Next, Baker had to undergo a procedure in order to implant the couple’s embryos in her uterus. In preparation of the embryo implantation, Baker had to undergo 193 injections into her back. She had to have nine shots a week, from three weeks before the embryo implantation until she was nine weeks pregnant, to help the implants stick.
Baker said it made her nervous when she was told that two embryos would be implanted because she had a feeling both would take — and they did.
During her sixth week of pregnancy, she had her first ultrasound and it showed two sacks, but only one baby. However, the second baby showed up in a separate ultrasound a week and a half later.
“I was excited at first, and then the more I thought about how hard it is to carry twins towards the end, the more nervous I got,” she said.
During the early stages of the pregnancy, Baker said the biological mother was a little standoffish and worried because she and her husband had been trying to have a second child for years. Baker says she was their sixth surrogate.
“Even after the pregnancy was confirmed she was still just really worried that it was going to end in a miscarriage or something was going to go wrong,” Baker said. “She was just very reserved, then as soon as it hit like 20 weeks she kind of relaxed a little.”
The beginning and the end of her surrogacy was the only difference from a normal pregnancy, Baker said.
What she enjoyed the most about her experience was being able to help someone else.
“It made me feel really special that I was able to do something like that for someone,” she said.
The discomfort she experienced during the last 15 weeks of pregnancy was the most difficult part of serving as a surrogate, Baker said.
“With twins, usually around 25 weeks that’s when you start feeling like full term, like you would with a single baby, so the last 15 weeks being beyond what most women go through with pregnancy was just very, very hard.”
At almost 38 weeks, Baker gave birth to the twins via C-section at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Stockton. Both babies were about 61⁄2 pounds.
In most cases, the surrogate mother recovers in a separate room from the biological parents and the child. However, because they hit it off so well, the biological mother and the twins shared the same room with Baker.
The biological mother was very excited when the twins were born, Baker recalled.
“I was worried that it was actually going to be overwhelming for her but she did a great job,” Baker said.
After the delivery Baker admitted that she was a little emotional.
“With any type of delivery, there is always going to be emotions, and when I left them at the hospital the first night, I was emotional. But it wasn’t really me missing being pregnant or anything like that. I think it was just the hormones from the delivery,” Baker said.
She spent the next week spending time with the biological mother and the babies.
“I spent more time around her and them so that way my mind would just adjust to the fact that they were her babies, and I was just seeing them,” Baker said.
Baker said she has no regrets about being a surrogate mother.
When the twins and their biological mother got home, she sent Baker one more update on how they were doing. They plan to keep in touch once a year.
“It’s not a close thing, but it’s not completely cut off either,” she said.
Baker is considering being a surrogate mother again in two or three years.
“Not in the immediate future but it’s definitely on my mind to do again,” she said.
Baker recommends having a strong support system when becoming a surrogate. Her parents, who also live in Lodi, were a huge support system for her, and she doesn’t think she would’ve been able to get through it without their help.
Baker, whose daughter Allicynn will turn 3 in February, recently graduated from San Joaquin Delta College with a degree in family and consumer sciences and liberal studies. She will be attending Chico State in the fall and plans to be an elementary teacher.