IMAGE Sweetly Cherished Photography. via Cosmopolitan.com
Nurturing a new life inside you is a miracle. And while becoming a mother is a dream come true for many, there are different paths to pregnancy and motherhood, none of which are devoid of challenges. Some have a hard time conceiving and look to the wonders of science--in vitro fertilization (IVF) or surrogacy--to be able to welcome a child into this world.
For this couple, the blessing came not just once, but twice -- in a matter of weeks. And no, their children are not twins, but "twinblings".
What are twinblings, you ask? You'd have to know their story to understand.
Chicago’s Nancy and Justin Rohde had just turned 30 and were three years into their marriage when they decided to have kids. Unfortunately, parenthood didn't come easy as they were derailed by five failed rounds of IVF and a miscarriage by a surrogate in a span of just three years. They were devastated and exhausted, to say the least, and were about to give up on having kids when they found a new surrogate, Ashley Brown, a married stay-at-home mom of three who lives in Utah. This would be Ashley’s first surrogacy journey. She went ahead with the process of preparing her body to nurture Nancy and Justin's embryo.
Back in Chicago, the Rohdes wanted to raise their odds of finally having a child and decided to give IVF another try, even if they were so sure that it wouldn't work knowing their history. But alas, Nancy became pregnant. "I thought for sure that they had mixed up my blood results with somebody else's," Nancy tells Michelle Ruiz of Cosmopolitan. While she’s positively pregnant, doctors found that her uterine lining was too thin and there was a big chance she could miscarry so Nancy and Justin asked Ashley to go ahead with surrogacy.
Surprise, surprise! Five weeks to the day after Nancy's positive pregnancy test, Ashley was pregnant, too. The Rohdes were suddenly expecting two babies.
Throughout the nine months, Nancy and Ashley were checking on each other constantly every week by text or email. “Nancy's got an app on her phone tracking the two girls and I've got one just for the baby that I'm carrying,” Ashley says. “I'm still really scared that something is going to go wrong with one or both pregnancies,” Nancy admitted. However, Justin, and even Ashley’s husband Josh were supportive all the way.
"When Ashley was 20 weeks, we flew out to Utah and did the 20-week ultrasound. As soon as we saw the baby she's carrying on the screen, that was the moment we were like, ‘Wow, this is really happening.’ I was feeling the baby in me moving around a lot and Ashley was feeling that as well. We were joking that they were dancing because they were close to each other,” Nancy said. As both pregnancies progressed, Nancy’s baby was small in size, while Ashley was worried about delivering a healthy baby for a couple that she thought had struggled enough.
On May 2, Nancy gave birth to a healthy baby girl, Lillian Quinn in Chicago. However, she encountered a few complications, including a torn placenta, anemia, and preeclampsia, so Justin stepped up to the plate and took charge of caring for Lilly while his wife recuperates. A month after giving birth and receiving treatment, Nancy was well enough to travel with Justin to Utah in time for Ashley’s delivery. On June 27, the Rohdes welcomed their second daughter, Audrey Eleonor. The twinblings were born five weeks apart, in different states, to different mothers but with the same biological parents.
"I don't have even the slightest ounce of regret or ‘What have I gotten myself into?’ I have to imagine that people who accidentally have kids probably have a little bit of those feelings. They're so beautiful. I put Lilly down in a pack 'n play and then I put Audrey down next to her and Audrey kind of rolled onto her side to snuggle with Lilly," Justin says proudly. Nancy adds, "We're tired. Overwhelmed. It's frustrating at times when they won't sleep. But I just feel so lucky to hold them."
The two families are forever connected by their one-of-a-kind journey. Some surrogates don’t want to keep in touch, but Nancy and Ashley definitely do. And someday, Nancy and Justin will want to tell the girls their extraordinary birthing stories.
Read more about the Rohdes road to parenthood here.