Giving birth to a child, whether it be her own biological child, or someone else’s, is a God-given gift Louise resident Keri Jones does not take for granted.
“Surrogacy was very much my calling,” Jones said, “Sometime giving looks different than volunteering or donating money. Sometimes it’s surrogacy with all its ups and downs. Without God’s blessings I don’t know if I could have done all the appointments and injections and days of morning sickness.”
Jones, who has three children with husband Jarret, gave birth last week to her fourth surrogate child, a girl named Nova Valentina Harrison-Schwitiz.
“Being a parent is by far the best thing I have ever done in my life,” Jones said. “Being a surrogate lets me give that same opportunity to someone that without my help might not get to be a parent.”
This birth came quickly as Jones’ husband drove her to the nearest emergency room at El Campo Memorial Hospital.
“I will forever be grateful for each and everyone in the ECMH ER that morning,” she said.
Jones recounts the morning she went into labor.
“I woke up about 4:30 a.m. not feeling very well. I decided I’d take a shower. At 5 a.m. my husband’s alarm went off and I told him I did not think he was going to work today.”
At this time, her contractions were anywhere from 5 to 8 minutes apart.
“At 6 a.m. I was ready to go to the hospital. I wrote a note for the substitute teacher for my classes and we woke up our kids. My husband finished loading the car. By this time, 6:20 a.m., my contractions are on top of each other. I couldn’t move. My water broke about 6:30 a.m. and I was in a ton of pain.”
Her husband helps her get into the car, even though at this time she finds walking almost impossible.
“By 6:45 a.m. or so we were in the car headed to the hospital. There was no way I would have made it to Sugar Land. Jarret drove as fast as he could to ECMH. He ran in and told them his wife was about to deliver a baby. They came with a wheelchair. I was taken inside, stood up and by the time I laid down on the bed, they told me to push, and the baby was here,” she said. “The nurses and doctors dealt with me and the bleeding while taking excellent care of the baby. I will never forget the excellent care I received from the staff in El Campo.”
They were both transferred to Memorial Hermann Sugar Land shortly after delivery. She went by ambulance and “Memorial Hermann sent a neonatal team to transfer the baby since El Campo ambulances are not equipped to deal with newborns,” she said.
The newborn’s parents arrived at El Campo Memorial Hospital about two hours after delivery.
“My favorite moment in surrogacy is getting to see the parents see their baby for the first time,” Jones said. “It is a miraculous experience. I know that each family I have helped create are grateful for my role. But in turn I am also grateful for them. They have all brought something different to my life as well.”
Jones first became interested in surrogacy after seeing an ad on Facebook.
“It stuck in my head and for months I thought and prayed over the opportunity,” she said. “I am lucky to have a supportive husband and family that made the decision much easier.”
At age 35, Jones gave birth to her fourth child which was her first surrogate child.
Jones says each surrogacy has been different.
“The first was for an international couple from Norway so there was a very different culture my family and I were exposed to,” she said. “The second was to a same sex couple that exposed my family to real life that not all families look the same. The third was a traditional couple in Houston, but there was more drama and it didn’t end on the best of terms.”
This fourth surrogacy was for a same sex couple who live in Austin.
While going through an agency is optional, Jones prefers it.
“I have always used an agency because I like having other people help with the matching and contract parts of the journey,” she said. “You can do it independently but I never felt that was the right path for me.”
Jones receives lots of support from her husband, three children and parents.
“My husband is so very important to the whole process for me,” she said. “He is my support. He’s the one who deals with back aches and cravings and moodiness and helps with shots. He has to be on board for this to work. From five days prior to embryo transfer to about 12 weeks pregnant I have to take progesterone injections once a day. They are one of the hardest parts of the whole process ... definitely painful.”
Shots are injected in the hip.
“We have to agree on a couple for me to proceed through the process,” she said. “My children are also very important in the process. There is no way a pregnancy wouldn’t affect them. They are so gracious and understanding. They are proud of what we have done to help other families.”
Jones is currently at home, resting and regaining her strength.
“It was a pretty intense delivery and I guess as I get older it is harder to recover,” she said. “This was by far the fastest (delivery). I usually average 12 hour labors. The longest ever, baby number five, and surrogate number two, was at 25 hours. I have been induced twice, child number two and six.”
Because of the complications with this delivery, which she did not have with any of the previous births, this will be her last surrogacy.
“I am 41 now, I will not be a surrogate again,” she said. “This was definitely dangerous and my life could have been in danger had I delivered in the car or at home. I have not had any complications with any other pregnancy. It’s one of the things they screen for during medical clearance in the surrogacy process. My husband and I have decided this was the end of my surrogacy journey and as great as it has been it’s time to stop.”
Jones also finds support via Facebook groups in which some actually have a meeting. “I’ve been to a few,” she said.
For those considering surrogacy, Jones offers some advice.
“I would tell anyone considering surrogacy that there are some important things to consider, she said. “It is a hurry up and wait process. It is filled with ups and downs. It takes a support system for sure. And it’s important to remember it is not your baby. A surrogate, the correct term is actually gestational carrier, is really just and extreme babysitter.”
A medical and psychological screening are also performed each time.