|Share on Facebook|
|Share on Twitter|
By Devin Rose
In September of 2009, Heather Holmberg gave birth to Arianna, a blond-haired and blue-eyed baby girl. Baby Ari was a healthy 8 pounds, 14 ounces, and Holmberg and her husband were delighted that she would soon return home with her loving parents.
Holmberg briefly held Ari before handing her over to two other men in the delivery room — Jason Christensen and his partner, Fundi Adajar.
The doctor looked at them, then turned back to Holmberg.
"Look at that," he said. "You made a family." That's when she burst into tears.
Now almost three, Ari lives with her "daddy" and "poppa" in New Mexico, where both are legally considered her parents. Holmberg keeps in touch with them through email, Facebook and the phone when she has a few minutes to talk, though her two-week-old daughter, Dylan, has been keeping her busy lately.
Holmberg is proud of her decision to become a surrogate because it gives someone else the opportunity to be a parent — a job she has loved so much.
"I really had a feeling that this is what I was supposed to do," the Oak Park resident said.
Holmberg first considered the idea while browsing Craigslist when she was at home one day shortly after having her second child. She found an ad for Growing Generations, a California-based service that connects surrogates to couples who want children. According to its website, it was the first surrogacy agency dedicated to serving the gay and lesbian community.
Holmberg said her first thought was, "I could do that." She knew right away she'd be able to differentiate between her first two pregnancies with her own children and a pregnancy with a child who would not be hers. She also knew she wanted to help a gay couple who might not be able to adopt in their home state.
After a questionnaire, check of medical records and a trip to Los Angeles for a therapist's evaluation, the organization found a couple of potential matches that did not end up working out. The third couple they picked was Christensen and Adajar, who had gone to Loyola University and used to live in Berwyn. Holmberg said when the two couples met, it was clear they had the same vision for how they wanted the surrogacy to go.
Months later, doctors retrieved eggs from an anonymous donor through the same agency and used sperm from both men. Two weeks after the procedure, a pregnancy test confirmed that Holmberg was carrying the couple's first child.
During the pregnancy, Holmberg recalled, she did have a protective instinct as she felt the baby move and grow inside her. But there was never any desire to keep her because it wasn't her own child. The fact that she wasn't struggling to plan everything for the baby also helped.
"You're not thinking about what their name is going to be, or what you're going to do with their room, or all the things you have to buy, or that you're never going to sleep," Holmberg said. She always had it in her mind that she was growing Ari and giving her back.
They were all so happy with the way the surrogacy worked out that, before the new family left Chicago, Holmberg agreed to have another child for them. The same egg donor agreed to do another retrieval, and doctors used sperm from Adajar.
It worked twice as well this time. Twins Alexander and Allison were born in the spring of 2011.
Holmberg said her own kids, now 6 and 5, never thought it was strange that their mom was growing someone else's children. They seemed to be fine with the explanation their parents used from the therapist at Growing Generations — Jason and Fundi's tummies don't work the same way as a mommy's.
"It actually helped us stave off the 'where do babies come from?' [question]," she said.
At 34, Holmberg says she's most likely done with surrogacy, but the friends she's made through it still keep in touch. A group of them who have all had children for gay couples have gone to San Francisco together for the last few years to see the Pride Parade. Next year, they might come to Chicago.
She still gets some negative feedback about her surrogacy. People have assumed she did it for the money, or asked if she thinks the kids will be OK without a mom. She says it's frustrating to hear that "old school" theory about child rearing and gay couples.
As for the future, the families have become intertwined, Holmberg says.
She knows there will come a time when Ari and the others get old enough to ask about where they came from. And she says she will answer any and all the questions they might have.