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Tiffany Burke is carrying twin boys for her sister-in-law, Natalie
Extreme nausea has made this pregnancy difficult for Burke
Burke has no regrets, she says, about being a surrogate
It was the perfect summer day for a wedding. The bride was glowing. The groom was handsome. For nine hours, Tiffany Burke photographed the memorable moments.
“I took one break for 15 minutes, to eat really quickly,” Burke recalled. “You don’t want to miss the shots; that’s what you are paid for.”
Later that night, she pulled into the driveway of her Bellingham, Washington, home. She walked inside, put down her gear and ran to the bathroom.
“I just started puking and puking and puking,” she said. “I was just grateful that I hadn’t puked at the wedding or on the bride.”
Burke is six months pregnant. She’s already had two children. But this time, she’s carrying a baby for someone else.
Her past pregnancies were relatively easy. She did have morning sickness with both her sons: Holland, 7, and Blake, 3. This time, it’s more severe.
She is sick most days, all day. Anti-nausea medicine helps, but only to a point. Sleep is the only thing that makes her feel better. There are many days the 31-year-old stays in bed until 2 p.m.
“I have my off days, where I am crying a lot. In fact, I may start crying again right now,” she said. “But I would totally do it again.”
About two hours south of Bellingham, Natalie Lucich lives with her husband, James. James is Tiffany Burke’s brother.
Natalie and James met on a blind date, fell in love and got married in 2008.
Lucich got pregnant within the first month of trying. She had an easy pregnancy, and she was thrilled when her son Hunter was born in 2010.
“He was the perfect mix of both of us,” she recalls on her family’s blog, which they’ve been using to share their journey. “Those huge eyes melted my heart.”
After nurses whisked Hunter away to clean him up and check his vitals, a doctor began stitching Natalie up.
But an hour and three packs of thread later, she was still bleeding. Concerned, the doctor pushed on Lucich’s uterus. It wouldn’t contract. The pain was unbearable. She blacked out. She was losing blood quickly.
Lucich needed emergency surgery.
“I prayed two things before they began,” she wrote. “I prayed that I would make it through safely for my husband and my son and that they would put me under because the pain was so horrible I didn’t think I could handle any more.”
James and her dad were by Lucich’s side when she woke up after surgery. Unable to talk because she still had a breathing tube, she scribbled a note.
“Were you scared?” she asked. “Did they take my uterus?”
James told her the bad news. To save her life, doctors removed it. Lucich wrote another note. “It’s OK. We can adopt.”
It took a week for the news to set in. Lucich could have no more children naturally. Her dream had always been to have three. She was crushed.
A few days later, Burke headed over to the Luciches’ house to take pictures of the new family. Lucich confided how conflicted she felt: She was grateful for Hunter but also mourning the loss of the children she would never have.
Lucich mentioned to Burke that she still had her eggs. She and James were considering using a gestational surrogate. An embryo, created in a Petri dish from Natalie’s egg and James’ sperm, would be implanted in the surrogate mother. None of the surrogate’s DNA is involved.
“I was pissed!” Burke recalled. She was worried: What if the surrogate drank or smoked or did something to harm herself? She didn’t want the Luciches to take that chance.
Suddenly, Burke blurted out, “I’ll do it!” Embarrassed, she immediately covered her mouth and apologized.
Lucich looked at her. “I thought you didn’t want any more children, you were done being pregnant.”
“Yes,” Burke responded, “we don’t want any more natural children of our own … but I have this perfectly good uterus!”
They hugged and cried and cracked jokes about Burke carrying her brother’s baby.
But by the end of the visit, the sisters-in-law decided to talk with their husbands. What did they think about Burke helping Lucich become a mom again?
For weeks, both couples weighed the pros and the cons. Could Natalie and James afford it? It would cost them about $35,000.
Were there any health risks to Burke? After all, as they knew from Lucich’s experience, pregnancy isn’t without risk.
Finally, what about the emotional toll? “I remember thinking, what if I didn’t want to give up the baby?” Burke said.