A gift of life: Surrogate motherhood is a way of life for LaDonna Woodmanssee

LaDonna Woodmanssee has been a surrogate mother for three different couples who couldn't give birth on their own. Woodmanssee says surrogacy is the best thing she's ever done, next to having her own three children.
by Heather Warlick Modified: September 8, 2013 at 10:00 am •  Published: September 8, 2013

Into the spotlight

Surrogacy is gaining acceptance as a means to an end, especially as high profile cases of surrogacy bring awareness.

Jimmy Fallon recently surprised his viewers with news that he and his wife Nancy Juvonen have a new baby girl, Winnie, thanks to the service of a surrogate. The couple had kept the surrogacy a secret until their bundle of joy was born.

Plenty of other celebrities also have had surrogate mothers to carry their babies: Giuliana and Bill Rancic; Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick; Ricky Martin; Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban and many others.

“It seems like every time you hear anything about surrogacy it's always the bad stuff but there are so many good stories,” Woodmansee said. She wants to share the story of her experiences to underline that fact. “The thing is surrogacy is not always a horror story where the surrogate tries to keep the baby or where the sperm gets mixed up in the hospital. These people just want a baby like anyone else.”

But it's not for everyone. Doctors who perform embryo transfers into surrogate mothers usually are quite selective about whom they approve for the procedure. The Millers had to prove that their case was medically indicated — that they had no other natural means for having a baby. It was clear that the Millers qualified.

“Adoption was definitely not off the table,” Steve Miller said. But the couple wanted their own child. Had the surrogacy not been successful, the couple likely would have begun investigating adoption in earnest.

The surrogacy was successful and now the Millers have a beautiful 2-year-old daughter and are considering adding one more child to their family.

Laws concerning surrogacy

Woodmansee said that at age 36, she might consider one last surrogacy, but knows that any more than that could be too hard on her body. But she said if the Millers do decide to give Addison a sister or brother, she hopes to carry the baby.

“Besides having my own kids, surrogacy is the best thing I've ever done,” she said. It's not about money — in Oklahoma, laws are vague on surrogacy.

An Oklahoma attorney general's opinion in 1983 that predated the rise of gestational surrogacy declared that compensated surrogacy contracts violated the state's child trafficking prohibition, according to thesurrogacyexperience.com.

So payments to a surrogate mother beyond basic medical support during the pregnancy could be considered child trafficking by one judge or considered pre-birth child support by another.

Only one Oklahoma clinic will perform the transfer of an embryo to a surrogate mother. The Millers had their procedure done in Texas, a state they said is more surrogacy friendly (as is California) than Oklahoma.

Woodmansee stays in contact with all her surrogate babies. Their parents send pictures, invite her to birthday parties and come for visits.

When she considers what she's doing for these families, Woodmansee is humble.

“I don't know if there are any words,” she said. “It's just amazing.”

The Millers have a word for Woodmansee. She's their hero.

by Heather Warlick
Life & Style Editor
Since graduating from University of Central Oklahoma with a Bachelor's Degree in Journalism, Staff Writer Heather Warlick has written stories for The Oklahoman's Life section. Her beats have included science, health, home and garden, family,...
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