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The Least Likely Surrogate

S.P. Donovan

When my husband, Bill, and I began trying to become pregnant, I wanted nothing more than to be normal.

After years of not getting pregnant the “normal” way, we tried assisted fertility treatments. Through IVF, we became pregnant with twin boys. Five and a half months into the pregnancy, I went into premature labor and delivered the babies stillborn. Normal was not to be.

Six weeks later, my mother and I drove to a national park to hike—or walk gingerly, in my case. At some point we veered off the trail and found ourselves in a cave. My feet sunk into its sandy bottom. Concentric circles rose seven stories high to an open skylight through which sunlight poured onto our heads. We looked on the park map for the name of the place, but found nothing.

“It looks…,” my mother said. “Womblike,” I responded.

I emerged from our walk feeling, if not better, at least less ravaged.

We both went home to our respective quests: mine to start a family; hers to find a calling in retirement. Strangely enough, it was a comment from my mom's neighbor that changed our lives. The comment referred to a news story about a postmenopausal woman who'd become pregnant.My mother came to visit Bill and me in Chicago, her heart brimming with a vision. When she told me, I nearly fell on my knees.

“I know it's a wild, crazy idea,” my mother said. “But it's what I want more than anything. It would be a gift for me as much as for you.”

Our fertility clinic sent us off for a battery of tests. We met with lawyers and psychiatrists. My mother and I started hormone treatments. At the culmination of our second IVF cycle, we received the thrilling call: We were pregnant—together.

Every day during the pregnancy, I read to the baby while my mother and I lay in the large bed in our guest room. We worked our way through the first two Harry Potter books. At four months, the baby kicked so hard the book bounced off my mother's black maternity top. “He knows your voice!” my mother would say.

On February 9, 2011, at 9:45 p.m., my son, Finn, was born. It was my mother and me together in the delivery room, our eyes the only things visible between the gray paper hospital scrubs as I heard my child's first awesome cry. After Finn's birth, my mother stayed at our house for three weeks. We cooked her meals. She gave us burping lessons.

Different is not better, nor is it a lesser path. In the cases where we don't take the normal route, it's wonderful to know that our own path will contain great, big, brilliant gifts—gifts that could not come any other way.

Sara Connell's new book , Bringing in Finn: An Extraordinary Surrogacy Story, is now available. ($24;