BLOOMINGTON — Deanna Evans and Patty Tegenkamp have been friends since their early teens, supporting each other through break-ups and the deaths of family members. They've shared secrets and heartaches.
Now they've even shared a pregnancy.
Patty's three previous pregnancies terminated after only 23 weeks, leaving her both childless and frustrated. Deanna couldn't bear to see her suffer again and volunteered to carry Patty's child, so earlier this year Patty and husband Scott had two of their fertilized embryos implanted in Deanna's uterus. One implant was successful, and on Halloween, Deanna delivered Evan Scott, the child Patty has longed for since she was a little girl.
"Some women become a surrogate for the money, but it's a lot to do just for that," said Deanna, who served as Patty's surrogate. "For me, it was worth it just to see the look on Patty's face."
Evan is OSF St. Joseph Medical Center's first surrogate child, at 7 pounds and 20.5 inches. Although the pregnancy wasn't typical, he entered the world like most children - crying.
"It was the most beautiful, most wonderful sound I ever heard," said Patty. "How anyone can take this for granted is beyond me."
While Deanna said the delivery was normal, it wasn't without surprises. Patty joined Deanna in the delivery room and was beside her throughout the delivery, but disappeared while Evan was taken to be weighed.
"I looked around and couldn't see her with Evan. Then I realized she was on the floor," said Deanna. "She was on her knees praising God."
Their journey began a few years ago after Patty's third troubled pregnancy. She'd lost a son earlier — Daniel — then daughter Janian. Knowing Patty and Scott were determined to become parents, Deanna offered to be their surrogate, but the couple decided to try in vitro fertilization instead.
The in vitro procedure involved removing one of Patty's eggs and fertilizing it with Scott's sperm. The embryo was nurtured at the clinic for five days before it was placed back into Patty's uterus. The couple discovered Patty was carrying twins and was hopeful she would be able to carry Nathaniel and Nicholas to term. She became despondent when she lost them after the 23rd week, and they were resigned to being a childless couple.
However, Deanna reiterated her offer to act as a surrogate, and they eventually agreed.
Soon Deanna and the couple were making trips three times a week to Chicago, where Deanna received medical counseling and injections to prepare her body for the in vitro procedure. In addition, Deanna and the Tegenkamps began legal counseling to ensure a state-mandated contract existed outlining the legal rights of each.
"The clinic (Midwest Fertility Clinic) would not perform the procedure without a contract," said Deanna. "I didn't want to do this because we're friends and I was not about to take this child from her. Evan is hers. I just let them use my womb."
Despite having had two children of her own, Deanna had difficulty with the first two implant efforts. She and the Tegenkamps decided to make one final attempt, so the remaining embryos were thawed and the best two were implanted in Deanna. The final effort was successful, and soon the couple and Deanna began preparing for Evan. Deanna said her kids, Dakota, 13, and Hank, 10; and husband Mike were as excited as if he was going to be joining their family.
"Mike took over all the chores I could no longer do and really took care of me when I had morning sickness," said Deanna. "Dakota is excited about babysitting… Hank wants to teach him how to play football. It took a while for him to understand that he's not going to be an uncle, although he still wants to be. Since Patty and I are as close as sisters, Evan will be considered to be a cousin."
Holding back hope
The Tegenkamps were initially reluctant to even get hopeful. However, as Deanna's pregnancy progressed, Patty said reality eventually set in and they became more optimistic.
"Scott was still not really excited even after seven months because I had never made it to the baby shower stage before," said Patty. "But then things started coming together when we were cleaning the spare room and realized the baby was coming and we didn't have anything for him."
Scott threw himself into preparing the room by replacing the floor and painting. Meanwhile, Deanna knew Patty wanted a Mickey Mouse theme and was having trouble finding the window treatments, crib bumpers, and sheets with his image, so she hired custom drape maker Chris Stabe to make them and added a Mickey quilt and crib name plate herself.
"She was still working for me while carrying my baby," said Patty through tears. "She's been my rock and has always been there for me."
Patty said their friendship, which began when Patty's family moved to LeRoy where Deanna lived when she was in her early teens, is closer than most sisters and others are surprised to learn they aren't related. Initially she was a friend to Deanna's older sister, Angie, but she soon realized she was talking to Deanna more than Angie. Their friendship continued and strengthened over the years even though Deanna left the state. She later returned and settled in Bloomington.
At 36, Deanna is a Concord Custom Cleaners manager at Bloomington's Oakland and Normal's Main Street branches. She looks forward to returning to work and seeing the regular customers who encouraged her and were amazed at her sacrifice. Patty, 38, is a social services director at ASTA Care Center and is in charge of the volunteer program for Passage and Hospice.
Surrogacy is not new and appears to be gaining prominence, although privacy and legal concerns prevent actual numbers from being tallied. Patty noted it can be economically attractive to young women, who may charge $30,000 or more as a surrogate to pay for college or pay off debts. Though Deanna did not charge for carrying the baby, Patty estimates she and Scott have spent more than $25,000 on legal and medical expenses to try to have a child.
"We've been trying to have a baby for 10 years and she's given me what I always wanted — a baby boy," said Patty. "I'm blessed in so many ways."
"It couldn't be more perfect," Scott added. "I am overwhelmed by how everything has turned out. The generosity of everyone, especially Deanna, is overwhelming."
Deanna said she is glad to help the couple but doesn't see her involvement as a sacrifice.
"What wouldn't you do for your best friend?" said Deanna. "Nothing I've been through in this pregnancy is equal to what she's been through. This is nothing."
The law recognizes two types of surrogacy:
• Traditional — The traditional surrogate agrees to carry the fertilized egg at no charge. Typically, the surrogate mother is a sister or friend of the intended parents.
• Gestational — The surrogate agrees to carry the fertilized egg for a price. The usual fee in Northern Illinois is about $15,000.
Although a surrogacy arrangement can be conducted without a lawyer, a contract arranged through a lawyer experienced in surrogacy laws is strongly recommended. In many cases, an adoption proceeding is necessary. the proceeding legally terminates the parental rights of the surrogate mother.
Illinois established the Gestational Surrogacy Act on Jan. 1, 2005, that requires the surrogate to be at least 21 years old, have previously given birth to a child, have completed a medical and mental health evaluation, and have received legal advice by independent counsel regarding the terms of the surrogacy contract.
SOURCE: H. Joseph Gitlin, family law lawyer in Woodstock, who chaired the American Bar Association Surrogacy Committee during the famous "Baby M" case, in which a surrogate mother refused to give the child to the biological parents