By Jake Rossen
By Jesse Marx
By Michelle LeBow
By Alleen Brown
By Maggie LaMaack
By CP Staff
By Jesse Marx
Today, she wishes there had been some sort of legislation to guide her through the surrogacy process. If there had been laws, Barish believes, she would have never held the child in the hospital because the medical staff would have been well aware of what was going on. She would have understood the meaning of her contract and the visitation rights would have been spelled out on paper. There would be no ugly custody battle.
"Laws are supposed to protect us," she says. "But there were no laws to guide or protect me. My fate and the fate of my baby is now completely up to a judge."
Barish received $15,000 for bearing the child for the couple, but says she'd give it all back. She would sell everything she owns to hold her baby.
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"STORIES LIKE HERS give surrogacy such a bad rap," says Charity Lovas, of North Branch, who has been a surrogate three times and hasn't ruled out doing it again. "That's why there needs to be legislation. It really can be such a wonderful thing. If you are adequately prepared and are doing it for the right reasons, it is the most miraculous thing to give someone else a child."
Lovas, 34, has been pregnant five times and just gave birth to her seventh child. She has been both a traditional and gestational surrogate and believes pregnancy is her calling.
"God gave me this gift to carry children, to have easy pregnancies. If God's theory is to spread the good, well, this is a way I know I can," she says, bubbling with excitement and hardly touching her salad from Burger King, all while keeping one eye on her three children running around the restaurant's play area.
Ten years ago while living in Indiana, Lovas saw a want ad for egg donation and surrogates. As she stared at the newspaper clipping, her mind drifted to her first pregnancy, seven years earlier. It had been the best nine months of her life. Though she hated waddling and being sick, it was worth it for the sensation of the fetus moving inside her belly. She loved the way being pregnant made her look and feel; she loved it when she glowed. And most importantly, she loved being a mom.
The couple seeking a child were from Belgium; the woman had been told at an early age that she was barren. Lovas met the intended parents twice, once when they came to the U.S. for the transfer of the pre-embryo, and again in the delivery room. Staring up from the hospital bed as the new mother cradled the infant, Lovas was ecstatic.
"Just seeing this woman, just looking at this baby and thinking about the fact that she was told she'd never have a baby, and this, me, I was her shot, her chance at being a mom. The look on her face when she held the child was just priceless."
Lovas got pregnant for herself one year later. Much to her delight, she had twins, a boy and a girl. With three kids of her own to care for, Lovas was pretty sure she was done with the surrogacy thing. That was until she got the itch two years later. She soon realized she wanted to be pregnant again, to help another couple create the family they desired.
Her husband was onboard, too. Though he was initially hesitant about surrogacy—afraid he and his wife would develop a bond to the child she was carrying—after the first birth, Tom Lovas saw everything through a new lens.
"It's not right for everyone, but in our case it has been the three best experiences and blessings of our lives," he says. "It's not a feeling of loss at all. It's the feeling that we had the ability, the heart, and dedication to do something special. It's a moment that just takes you away."
Although she knew it could be more trying emotionally, this time Charity agreed to be a traditional surrogate—meaning she'd provide the egg as well as the womb.
"It took a lot of thought, prayer, and soul searching, but I knew I could do it," Lovas says. "I just had to look at it honestly, not sugarcoat it. Yes, this would be my baby, but really, he or she was for them."
Lovas had another set of twins. She laughs when she thinks about the nurse handing the children over to the intended parents. She never asked to hold the babies; she never asked to remain a part of their lives.
"I think of them like special-ordered babies," Charity says. "They were babies specially made for them at that particular time."
This March, Lovas delivered another special-ordered baby for another infertile couple. "I love the feeling I know I'm going to have when I see them hold the child for the first time—that feeling that you have changed their lives forever."
For each family, Lovas makes a scrapbook documenting her pregnancies. The intended parents have become some of her best friends; they often send her photos of the kids she helped bring into the world. "It's not the children I want to see, it's the complete family that makes me so happy."