Want to read the other half of this story? Read Chelsea’s story here.
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A Love Story 20 Years in the Making
Dave and Melissa originally met in college at a freshman orientation event. “I kept hoping she’d end up in one of my classes, and she never did,” Dave remembers. “But, I finally got the courage to just ask her out to lunch. It was an awful first date!”
It wasn’t exactly an immediate connection. 20 years went by.
Then, Melissa stumbled across Dave’s Facebook profile. Neither of them was married. Melissa was the one to take the leap this time. She sent Dave an email saying, “I think we had lunch one time.”
They went on that second date 20 years after their first. Dave laughed, “It worked out so much better.”
Starting with American Adoptions
Now in their forties, the couple knew that having children biologically was no longer an option.
“Even before we got married, we talked about adoption and surrogacy,” Dave said. “We thought surrogacy was going to be so expensive and take a lot longer. We thought adoption was going to be an easier, faster path for us.”
Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case for Dave and Melissa.
“We started the adoption process right after we got married in 2015,” Melissa said. “We took some adoption parenting classes, but we found out that a lot of agencies had age limits. And by the time we met the two-year marriage requirement, we had aged out for a lot of adoption agencies.”
They found American Adoptions in 2018 and discovered that they met the age requirements, so they started the paperwork process. But after they became officially became a waiting family with American Adoptions, Dave and Melissa struggled to find the right adoption opportunity.
As older parents, they didn’t feel that they were the best fit for a baby born with additional medical needs. “It needs to be a good match for you, your family, and what you can realistically provide,” Melissa explained.
They waited, hoping that the right adoption opportunity would present itself. 11 months went by.
Melissa and Dave explained their frustration to their American Adoptions specialist. Their specialist suggested that they consider switching to American Surrogacy, the sister agency of American Adoptions.
From Adoption to Surrogacy: Making the Switch to American Adoptions' Sister Agency
“Angie [American Surrogacy’s program director] got us started right away, step by step,” Melissa said. “She was very helpful and encouraging.”
After talking to Angie and Katie, the specialists at American Surrogacy, the couple felt immediately encouraged and ready to move forward. “I think in the long run, surrogacy was the right option for us,” Dave said.
But, even after a successful switch from American Adoptions to American Surrogacy, the path to parenthood wasn’t smooth. More challenges were ahead in the form of failed embryos, a failed transfer, and finally, COVID-19.
First, they had trouble getting accepted by a fertility clinic. Dave and Melissa weren’t planning on having a genetic connection to their baby. They were surprised to find that, as a result, the first two clinics they called wouldn’t work with them.
But after finding egg and sperm donors through their clinic, the lab called to say that only one embryo made it through testing. Then, when that embryo was later transferred to their surrogate, it didn’t successfully implant.
They tried to work with the same egg and sperm donor to create a new batch of embryos, but the clinic had no more eggs from their original donor. “It was just one thing after another,” Melissa said.
But despite the storm of challenges, Dave and Melissa had found the perfect person with whom to weather the ups and downs – Chelsea.
Matching with Chelsea through American Surrogacy
To simplify the process, Melissa and Dave were hoping to find a surrogate within their state of Texas. One of American Surrogacy’s surrogates was in Texas, but she was already matched with intended parents.
Their American Surrogacy specialists were determined to find them the perfect match. “Angie and Katie said, ‘Wait, there’s another person in Texas and we think you’ll really like her.’”
Enter Chelsea, a Texas mother of two, and her husband, Cameran. Chelsea was still in the initial screening process, but Angie and Katie knew this would be a great match.
“We had Chelsea review our profile and then we got to meet her and husband over a video call,” Melissa said. “It was a very natural conversation.”
And, as Melissa happily said, “That was that.”
“We were really drawn to how outgoing and nurturing they are,” Melissa continued.
“Cameran was so supportive of Chelsea and of her decision to do this,” Dave said. “I’m so grateful for both of them. I couldn’t imagine where we’d be without two such generous people.”
Handling the Challenges Together
The two families matched right before COVID, so they were able to meet at the clinic before fertility clinics suspended services during the height of the pandemic. After the first appointment, they all went down to the San Antonio River Walk for a meal. They were able to get to know one another in person, and attend a few appointments at the clinic together before COVID entered in full force. That strong connection carried them through the challenges ahead.
“They [Chelsea and Cameran] were absolutely fantastic,” Dave said. “When the first embryo didn’t transfer, they were there with us when we got the bad news. They stayed with us to do it again.”
“[Angie and Katie] would both check in with us and send encouraging messages,” Dave added.
“It was a great, healthy relationship,” Melissa said of their experience with their American Surrogacy specialists. But that support extended to both parties – Chelsea developed great friendships with the American Surrogacy team, as well. “Chelsea and Katie texted often, and Chelsea really appreciated how supported she felt.”
Despite the barriers of living three hours apart and of the COVID-19 pandemic, Chelsea found ways to keep Dave and Melissa involved in the pregnancy. Chelsea video chatted with them during sonograms and ultrasounds, sent belly bump photos, encouraging texts, and shared the small but important details like the pregnancy cravings she was experiencing.
“We were so very appreciative,” Melissa said. “She allowed us to be a major part of the pregnancy even though we were in a different city.”
Likewise, Melissa and Dave welcomed Chelsea into their lives. But amazingly, so did their entire community.
“Our church put her on the prayer list and made her a prayer shawl. People always asked how she was doing,” Dave said. “People still ask about how she’s doing, even today.”
The two families still text and swap photo updates of their children.
Dave and Melissa know that their son may one day be curious about how he came into their family, and they’re ready to encourage and support him. “Families are created in different ways. To create ours, we had a lot of doctors and a special lady named Chelsea,” Melissa said. “We will be very open about how our family was created.”
Leaning on American Surrogacy and Rolling with the Punches
Even with the ease of the intended parent-surrogate relationship and the support of their American Surrogacy specialists, the “obstacle course” continued. Texas was struggling with a major spike in COVID-19 cases and with the Delta variant on the rise, hospital policies changed from one day to the next in an effort to protect patients within the maternity hospitals.
Despite the uncertainty, American Surrogacy and the director of Women’s Service at the hospital managed to keep the two families together as much as possible.
“From the beginning, we said Cameran would be with Chelsea in the delivery room,” Melissa said. If the situation allowed, they hoped to all be there to support Chelsea and to welcome the baby, but they knew that the hospital’s COVID policies could change. “At the last minute, they said we could all three be there.”
With Cameran, Dave, and Melissa encouraging Chelsea in the delivery room, Alden was born.
As soon as their son made his arrival, hospital staff whisked Dave, Melissa, and newborn Alden away. Cameran gave the signal to let them know that Chelsea was alright, and then the new family was quickly moved to their room. Why? The hospital was changing COVID protocols at that very moment.
“We had to go to the car and get all our stuff because if we left again we wouldn’t be allowed back in,” Melissa explained. The hospital did everything they could to ensure that both families were near each other but with the new COVID protocols, visiting between rooms was very limited. “We snuck a gift over to Chelsea and to quickly visit them across the hall.”
“Luckily, [Alden] was born healthy so he stayed with us in the hospital. And we’ve been together ever since!” Melissa said.
Three days after Alden was born, everyone was given a clean bill of health, said their goodbyes, and were discharged. But that doesn’t mean Dave, Melissa, and Alden’s relationship with Chelsea and her family is coming to an end. The gift that Chelsea gave to them – the gift of parenthood, will benefit so many lives.
“Thank you is inadequate,” Dave said. “The gratitude we have for everything Chelsea did – making our dreams come true. She was a stranger, and that she was open and willing to do this for somebody she’d never met is phenomenal. It was amazing and we were so blessed.”
“That’s a huge sacrifice,” Melissa added.
Dave agreed. “We were so blessed that she was willing to take that journey with us. Not only her but her family and friends.”
Looking back on their struggle to become a family, Dave and Melissa describe it as “a journey.”
“There will be ups and downs,” said Dave, “But good things are worth waiting for. If you have faith, strength, and can persevere, then the right thing will happen.”
Both of them feel that surrogacy was ultimately the right path for their family. “Surrogacy just allows so many more opportunities to be along for the ride,” Melissa said.
If you’re thinking about growing your family through adoption or surrogacy, Melissa encourages hopeful parents to research all of the different opportunities. “Really learn what’s best for you and your family,” Melissa said. “You realistically have to answer that so that it’s a good fit now, later, and forever.”
“You just need to find the best fit for your family,” Dave agreed. “Adoption is right for a lot of people. Surrogacy is right for a lot of people. There are pros and cons to both. Do the research and figure out what works best for your family.”
As for life with Alden: “We’re loving every minute.”
Want to learn more about surrogacy? Call us at 1-800-875-2229 or fill out an application online now to become a surrogate or an intended parent.
Read more American Surrogacy stories here.