Nicholas and William Hart met in 2009 at college in Grand Forks, North Dakota. They knew they had something special and their relationship progressed quickly. After only a few months of dating, they moved in together. Both knew that children were part of their future and they considered surrogacy and adoption as possible routes for them to become dads. However, when they began discussing possible paths to fatherhood, they both realized that being genetically related to their children was important to them. They decided to first explore surrogacy, and then possibly adoption for any future children.
After Nicholas and William were married in 2011, they each approached their sisters to see if they were willing to donate their eggs in order to produce two two children genetically related to both dads. William asked his sister, Rebecca, and Nicholas asked his sister, Becky. If their sisters agreed, the plan was to find a willing surrogate to carry the embryos. Both Becky and Rebecca agreed, but unfortunately, that was the easiest step of their journey. It was after this relatively easy beginning that Nicholas and William began to encounter roadblocks and hurdles along their 4 year journey to parenthood.
The initial concern was expense. The associated price tag with surrogacy is a mountain of a roadblock in and of itself. At first, the couple approached a friend to be their gestational carrier, and she agreed. However, the couple later learned that, in order to serve as a gestational carrier, our clinic required that the surrogate already have carried a healthy pregnancy to term. Nicholas and William began to worry. They had not factored in the additional expense of paying a surrogate through an agency.
Luckily for the men, Danielle, Nicholas' sister, offered to be the gestational surrogate as she'd already had two children of her own. This was the ideal situation for Danielle as she did not think she or her husband was entirely comfortable having a child genetically related to her, but she loved being pregnant, and wanted to help her brother and his husband realize their dream.
Before any egg retrieval or implantation could occur, they all had to undergo extensive genetic testing, obtain a Gestational Carrier Agreement that was approved and worked on by two separate law firms – one representing Nicholas and William, and the other representing Danielle as the carrier - and psychological evaluations as part of the screening process. This was all before the surrogacy clinic would work with them.
"At the time we felt since it was all family, this was all somewhat unneeded, especially given the added expense," said William, "We later realized the importance of some of the questions and situations we were asked to process."
They also had to buy a secondary health insurance plan to cover Danielle as their own refused to cover anything related to a surrogate pregnancy.
After all paperwork was drawn up and approved by all parties, they were able to complete the egg retrievals and create embryos.
Enter their second roadblock: when it came time for the egg retrieval, the couple found out that William's sister, Rebecca, could not donate any eggs due to some complications. This meant the couple would be unable to move forward with Rebecca as an egg donor.
"This was a difficult time for us since our initial hope was that we would have embryos from both couples - Nick with Willie's sister, Rebecca and also Willie with Nick's sister Becky." explained Nicholas. "We had wanted to carry one baby from each pair at the same time so that even though the babies wouldn't share matching genetic material, they would still share the same womb."
However, they decided to carry on and had a successful transfer of two embryos. One of the two embryos did not develop. The other, after resulting in pregnancy, ended in miscarriage at the 14 week mark. The miscarriage was emotionally hard on everyone involved, made even more difficult after Danielle had to undergo a surgical procedure often performed after a first-trimester miscarriage.
"After surgery, and all the emotions that went with that, I did have second thoughts about trying again," shared Danielle. "I felt like I had failed Nick and Willie. But I also knew that they desperately wanted to be dads and that I wanted to do this for them."
So Danielle and her husband, Kyle, who she says was incredibly supportive throughout the entire process, sat down and talked. They spoke to Danielle and Nicholas' parents, and then they spoke to Nicholas and William. Together, they all decided to try again.
Danielle quickly became pregnant for the second time and everything seemed to go perfectly. After the 23rd week, the dads confirmed they were having a baby girl. And during a routine appointment on October 24, Danielle found out that she was starting to dilate. The dads rushed to Danielle's side and their daughter, ElleLouise Irene, was born at 4:14 a.m. on October 25, 2017.
"We had our whole team in the room for the labor and delivery: Nick, Willie, Danielle, Kyle, and Becky," said William. "It was the most beautiful experience of our lives!"
As a loving parent of two kids, Danielle made conscientious decisions to make sure she didn't form a maternal attachment to the child.
"It was important to me to really work on just being an aunt even though she was growing inside me," said Danielle. "I also wanted to make sure that the baby went straight to Nick and Willie after birth."
The dads held their beautiful baby girl just moments after she was born.
The next step was to have ElleLouise legally recognized as Nicholas and William's daughter, rather than Danielle's. The petition had already been drawn up prior to the birth, ready to present to a judge. This was to avoid the dads having to adopt their daughter from Danielle if she was recognized as the mother.
"We ended up having no issues legally and our law firm was fantastic in representing our groundbreaking case in North Dakota," explained Nicholas.
To Danielle and Becky, the new dads are eternally grateful, and to their parents and Danielle's husband Kyle, who was a tower of support throughout the entire process, they cannot thank them enough.
One of the strangest parts of the process was for Danielle, explaining her pregnancy to the people at church.
"They knew I was pregnant and of course assumed we were having another one," shared Danielle. "We are Catholic so some people had a strange reaction when I told them that I was having a baby for my brother. I usually just left it at that."