Talk about a labor of love. In February 2011, Kristine Casey, 61, gave birth to her own grandson because of her daughter's struggles with infertility.
Casey was the gestational carrier of her daughter, Sara Connell, and her husband Bill's child, Finnean, becoming the oldest woman ever to give birth in Chicago.
In "Bringing in Finn: An Extraordinary Surrogacy Story," Sara Connell tells the story of their unconventional journey to motherhood and the unique family bond they all share.
Click here to see photos of Casey's pregnancy.
Read an excerpt of the book below.
I couldn't breathe. I lay in bed in the labor and delivery ward of a Chicago hospital on the South Side of the city, the doctor's words smashing my heart like a wrecking ball.
"We can't save them. I'm sorry," Dr. Eagan, head of Maternal-Fetal Medicine, told us. When the attempt to sew my cervix shut had failed, Dr. Eagen had shouted, "Shit!" and thrown the stars-and-stripes do-rag he'd been wearing in the OR to the floor.
Everything in the room was an assault: the lights too bright and fluorescent, the whirring of the medical equipment too loud, the furniture dated and worn. I turned my head to the wall, unable to bear the stricken faces of my husband, Bill, my obstetrician, my sister, and now my mother, who had jumped on a plane from Washington, D.C., to Chicago that day after receiving a panicked phone call from Bill.
I twisted on the bed, stretching my hands over my protruding belly, trying to hold on to the lives that had been growing inside me for more than five months. Going into the procedure, Dr. Eagan had told us we had only an 8 percent chance of success. But we'd been hopeful. Babies at twenty-four weeks sometimes survived. We were weeks, if not days, from viability. Someone had to be in the 8 percent.
"We'll take you back to the OR tonight," my OB said. She looked at the wall behind me as she spoke. "You'll be out for the duration."
For five days after the operation, I lay tormented in a hospital room, desperate to find some way for this not to be real. Our burgeoning family (Bill, the twins, and I) had passed all the reassuring milestones: trimester one; genetic screening (all good!); trimester two; the twenty-week ultrasound, where we not only discovered that both babies were boys but saw them with our own eyes -- moving and full of life. They did scissor kicks and somersaulted; they had heartbeats, ten fingers, ten toes. At one point, Baby Boy B, as the technician called him, had even sucked his thumb.
The day we left the hospital, a therapist from the perinatal loss department presented us with two death certificates and asked us if we wanted the bodies for a burial. I'd been packing the things Bill had brought me from home: bathrobe, toothbrush, two purple stones from our garden. As the counselor held the papers out to me, I dropped the stones and listened to the knocking sound they made as they hit the linoleum floor and rolled under the metal bed.
"There's no rush to decide," the therapist said gently. "We can keep them here for up to a month. It's probably something you want to decide once you've talked it over at home."
As Bill helped me into the wheelchair I was required to leave the hospital in, I overheard an on-call OB talking to some nurses outside the door of our room. She'd neglected to close the latch, and the door had crept open.
"When they're ready to go, take them out the back way -- in the service elevator. I don't want them going out through the reception area with all the new moms and babies."
I slumped into the chair next to the hospital bed, folding the top half of my body over my legs, trying to suck in a breath. I understood the doctor meant well, but I couldn't help seeing her decree as yet another rejection: We were being taken out the back like the trash, sparing those families who came to the hospital and left with a baby, arms full of balloons and flowers and plush toys, the unsightly image of two devastated parents with shell-shocked eyes and dangling arms empty, like wraiths.
Two months later, I flew from Chicago to my parents' house in Virginia, where I'd grown up, for the wedding of a family friend. I was tired from the weeks of grieving and yearned for the comfort of the rolling hills and the woods near my family home. As soon as I arrived, I questioned my decision. The wedding was crawling with new babies and children. My stomach was still round from the pregnancy.
The aunt of the bride, who lived out of state, rushed to greet me from across the room.
"I heard you were having twins," she said, her eyes bright with excitement. "When are you due?"
I struggled to answer. Death seemed an inappropriate thing to mention at a wedding. "Stillborn" was a word that was still unutterable on my tongue.
Late that night, I stood in the hallway of my parents' house outside the bathroom, sobbing. I'd started brushing my teeth but stopped when I realized I could no longer see. The blood in my head made a whooshing sound, like fast-moving water, in my ears. Spots appeared in front of my eyes, and I wondered if I was going to faint. I dropped the toothbrush into the sink and leaned into the hallway, bracing myself against the wall beams with my arms.
My heart fluttered in the unnatural way it had since I had lost the twins. Sometimes I found it difficult to breathe, and it did not seem unrealistic to me that a person could die from this kind of pain. My raw cries sent my father to the basement, but my mother came to meet me in the hall. There had been a time, even two or three years before, when she would not have come, or when I would not have let her near me. Our reconnection had come as a surprise, with a will of its own, fueled perhaps by the same phenomenon that allows mothers to lift cars to save their infants.
She encircled me in her arms, squeezing my body as if she was trying to suck the pain out of me, as one does for snakebites. I remember vaguely the feel of this embrace, her brown skin, a freckle on the side of her neck, her short hair that had become a bit coarse from coloring. I heaved and wept. When I'd exhausted myself, she held me a foot or so from her and lifted my chin, forcing me to meet her eyes.
"You will know joy again," she said.
I cried harder. I shook my head no.
"Yes," she said, almost laughing at my obstinacy, the way one might to coax a toddler out of a tantrum. Instead of offending, her lightness wedged an opening between me and the hurt.
"There is going to be joy at the other end of this pain," she said again.
I looked into her face through the gleam of tears and still couldn't imagine it. But I stopped crying and began wiping my eyes with the edge of my nightgown. My mother pulled me to her chest again. This time our embrace was quiet. The house was still. Through the cotton of her T-shirt, I could feel the thumping of her heart. Against my chest, it sounded like hope.
Excerpted from "Bringing in Finn: An Extraordinary Surrogacy Story," by Sara Connell. Available from Seal Press, a member of the Perseus Books Group. Copyright 2012.
- Family & Relationships