TASHA: I'm waiting for my best friend, Raquel Mitola, to finish seeing the ob. She'd taken a home pregnancy test and called me with the news, and as she walks back into the waiting room -- beaming -- I know the doctor has confirmed what we were both praying for. Her pregnancy is looking good.
I'm next. The doctor tells me everything is fine, too, but I focus on being happy for Raquel. See, I've been pregnant 11 times before -- and each pregnancy has ended in miscarriage. And Raquel, a mom of two, offered to be my surrogate. So thanks to my friend, I'm going to be a mom.
JOHN: That day we found out that both Tasha and Raquel were expecting, we wouldn't let ourselves get too excited about Tasha's pregnancy because of everything we'd been through. Tasha and I got married in 1999, when she was 28 and I was 29, and we started trying to have children right away. She got pregnant immediately, but after about a month and a half, she miscarried. So we tried again. And again, Tasha would get pregnant but then have another miscarriage. It was devastating.
TASHA: When you have a miscarriage, you hear how common it is. Everyone says, "Oh, don't worry, it happens to so many women. You'll be fine." And I tried to stay positive. But after my fifth miscarriage, we decided to see a fertility specialist, who diagnosed me with "recurrent pregnancy loss" -- the loss of three or more pregnancies in a row. It affects only 1 percent of couples, and the worst part is that most of the time it goes unexplained. You'd think a diagnosis would have given us more clues as to why my body wasn't keeping the pregnancies, but it didn't.
During all of this, John's support was incredible. He'd talk me through the miscarriages, and a lot of times he had a more positive outlook than I did. He believed we would have a baby one day and always reminded me of that when I'd start to lose hope.
JOHN: I wanted to be strong for Tasha, despite how upset I was for both of us. I've watched her with our nieces and nephews, and I always knew she'd be a great mom. And it was hard for me to think that she might never get a chance to experience that.
But one thing I always told her was that whenever she was ready to stop trying, I would understand. I didn't want her to feel like she was letting me down. We would have to accept whatever was going to happen and try to move on.
TASHA: After my seventh miscarriage, in January 2003, Raquel called and offered to be a surrogate for me. Raquel's been my best friend since fifth grade, and even though she lives about two hours away, we've always tried to spend time together at least once a month. She told me she loved being pregnant with her two kids -- Mickelle, who's 16, and Chase, who's 13 -- and she'd talked it over with her husband, Jeff. I was so touched -- it was such a kind offer from our close friends, but John and I wanted to exhaust all of our options first.
Two years and three more miscarriages went by -- and then we got a call from a woman in our town who'd known about our struggle to have a baby. Her 17-year-old daughter was almost seven months pregnant and she wanted John and me to adopt the baby. We bought a few little outfits -- she'd told us it was going to be a boy -- and that got us so excited. But just a month before the baby was born, we got another call from the woman: Her daughter had decided to keep the baby. John and I were left crying in each other's arms -- again.
A light at the end of the tunnel
JOHN: After the adoption didn't work out, the fertility specialist, Dr. Douglas Austin, suggested in vitro fertilization. Although Tasha never had trouble getting pregnant at first, it was taking us longer to conceive, and he told us about some studies that showed IVF has high success rates in women who have recurrent pregnancy loss. So even though it was a financial struggle, we came up with the more than $10,000 it would cost and hoped that finally Tasha would carry a baby to term. He fertilized 30 of her eggs with my sperm and implanted Tasha with three embryos.
She made it to about ten weeks.
The next time we saw Dr. Austin, he told us we should try a surrogate.
RAQUEL: In the summer of 2005, Tasha and John came over and told us about that last miscarriage. We all cried. Then John told us what Dr. Austin had said about having a surrogate, and we didn't even have to think about it -- we said we'd do it.
Dr. Austin started me on hormone therapy and implanted me with two of Tasha and John's embryos that had been frozen from their first IVF attempt.
JOHN: Dr. Austin also talked to us about implanting Tasha one last time. Tasha wasn't very enthusiastic about that -- she was convinced she already knew what the outcome would be. But he felt that if Raquel got pregnant and Tasha hadn't tried, it would have been harder to watch Raquel have the baby. We agreed, and the doctor implanted Tasha with five frozen embryos.
One thing Dr. Austin kept telling us was how great our surrogates were: Jeff was extremely supportive -- he didn't mind that his wife was carrying Tasha's baby -- and neither Jeff nor Raquel had any ulterior motives. When Dr. Austin asked them why they were doing this, they told him, "It's simple. These people are our friends, and they need our help."
TASHA: About two weeks after Raquel and I were implanted, she called me and asked, "If I took a pregnancy test, would you want to know the results?" I said yes. And that's when she yelled, "I'm pregnant!" I started crying. I called John as soon as I got off the phone with Raquel -- we were thrilled.
I took a blood test and discovered I was pregnant, too. A few weeks later, Raquel and I met at Dr. Austin's office for our first sonograms. He told us some news neither of us was expecting: We were both carrying twins!
I was ecstatic about Raquel. We had a good feeling that she'd be able to carry the babies to term. But I wouldn't let myself get too excited about the babies I was carrying.
Then I hit the two-month mark, then four months. When I was six months along, I started having weekly doctor appointments, and things were going really well. That's when John and I were both like, "Oh my gosh, we're going to have four babies!"
Dr. Austin said it's impossible to say why I was able to keep these babies -- maybe because I was under much less stress this time around. Once I found out Raquel was pregnant, I put all my energy and heart into making sure she would carry the babies to term -- and I knew that whatever happened with my pregnancy, I'd still become a mom.
RAQUEL: Everyone in my family was very excited about my pregnancy -- I never got a negative reaction about it, not from friends, or Jeff, or the kids. Plus, Tasha and I had so much fun being pregnant together. We had all of our appointments with Dr. Austin at the same time, so we really went through everything together.
We also compared notes on morning sickness, aching feet, and food cravings. One day I called Tasha from the market. I was buying strawberries because I'd been craving them. When I told her that, she laughed -- she was sitting on the couch eating strawberries and watching Oprah. Stuff like that happened a lot! We knew exactly what the other was going through -- and we turned to each other for advice and support all the time.
Becoming a mom
TASHA: On May 10, 2006, I got a call from Raquel; she was on her way to the hospital. Even though both babies were breech, her labor progressed quickly, so we didn't make it in time to watch her c-section. But when we saw our daughter, Ayla, and our son, Jalen, for the first time, John and I found ourselves crying in each other's arms again. But this time, it was for a very different reason.
I've been asked to describe that moment when I first saw my children, but I can't. It was awesome, emotional, incredible -- all those words combined. We were just amazed at how you can love two little people so much so fast. I think every parent feels that overwhelming joy.
We brought the babies home and got them settled. Then just over a week later, on May 18, John drove me to the hospital. I already knew I was going to have a c-section -- one of my babies was breech, too.
On the drive there, I realized that, finally, I wasn't guarded anymore. I knew I'd meet my younger set of twins soon, and I couldn't wait.
JOHN: Lennon came out first, and I was in awe. Seeing her take her first breath -- it was really incredible. Then Mirra was born, and our family was finally complete.
It's been almost a year since their births now, and we're still figuring out how to juggle babies! During the first seven weeks, Tasha's mom and my mom would come for a week at a time, as would Raquel and her kids. When the babies were 3 months old, we hired a nanny.
Still, getting them to sleep or eat or stop fussing -- things like that have been such a huge learning experience, figuring out what works and what doesn't. But four babies or one, we're just like all other new parents -- learning a lot every day.
TASHA: I don't think having these babies is sweeter because of what we've been through; all parents love their babies so incredibly despite how long it took them to get pregnant. We do feel lucky. Even now, I go into the nursery and see them in their cribs and I get so emotional -- I'm just so happy with what we have.
Our struggles having these babies have definitely made us stronger, but I know that each situation in life will bring different challenges and emotions. It's not like I feel that I can get through anything now because of what we've been through, but this has certainly made me more hopeful.