OB-GYN Andrea Miller had a unique opportunity in 2011 — to deliver her own baby. That's because Miller's baby was being born to a surrogate mother, LaDonna Woodmansee, who carried the Miller's baby for nine months.
Instead, Miller chose stand on the sidelines of the birth experience while a close colleague delivered little Addison Miller in August of 2011. The moment the baby was born, she was swaddled and placed into the waiting arms of her mother, Andrea Miller.
There wasn't a dry eye in the delivery room as the Millers finally saw their baby. The tears were also in gratitude to Woodmansee for making the couple's dream of parenthood a reality.
“She's the real star of this story,” Steve Miller said. Woodmansee has also been a star for two other families for whom she served as a surrogate.
Andrea and Steve Miller had done everything a couple can do to try to carry their own child: five years during which Andrea Miller underwent four cycles of in vitro fertilization, four intrauterine insemination procedures, a miscarriage and thousands of dollars trying for a successful pregnancy.
Finally the Millers learned why they were having such a hard time. Andrea Miller's uterus wasn't allowing the embryos to attach.
A new direction
That's when the couple decided to try surrogacy. Woodmansee was actually a patient of Andrea Miller's OB-GYN practice and had already been a surrogate parent several times. To date, she has three of her own children, two stepchildren and has carried four children (one set of twins) as a surrogate.
Woodmansee's journey into the realm of surrogacy began when she married David Woodmansee. She already had three children; he had two children followed by a vasectomy.
But the couple wanted to have a child together. After a seemingly unsuccessful vasectomy reversal, the couple still couldn't conceive.
“I was just like, wow, I can't imagine going through this and not already having a child,” she said, referring to the heartbreak of not being able to conceive. She loved being pregnant, and wished there was a way she could help other families struggling to have a child.
So, in 2006, she was matched with a family and gave birth to her first surrogate child.
“I think a lot of people think a surrogate must be in a financial bind and that's why she's going to do this to her body and go through nine months of hell. And that's not the case at all,” Woodmansee said. Most surrogates are in it for the right reasons, she said. Out of the hundreds of surrogacies she's heard about, she said only a few have had troublesome endings.
What's it like carrying a child that's not your own?
“I am baby-sitting for nine months,” Woodmansee said. She admitted that during a surrogate pregnancy, she's even more careful and vigilant than she was with her own pregnancies. “The child or children aren't mine and I will be giving them back. Everybody asks ‘How do you give them up?' I'm not giving them up, I'm giving them back.”
In fact, the biggest moment of joy for Woodmansee in any surrogate pregnancy is the moment of giving the child back to his or her parents. “It's just like ‘Oh wow, I just did that.' All that pain is totally worth it.”