Carbon County Neighbor: A Christmas Story about love

By: 
Eleanor Guerrero
CCN Senior Reporter

(Left to right): Michelle with Nicole O’Shea (right) and Andrielle. O’Shea has a Christmas Story to tell about love.

The moment Michelle and Todd realized their healthy baby was born.

Nicole O’Shea, of Red Lodge, has interests that might be unusual to others. “There are certain things in life you are drawn to. It’s something that has always been interesting to me,” she said recently. “I’ve researched it a long time.” She’s not talking about a hobby-she’s talking about surrogacy. O’Shea said the proper title is “gestational carrier” or “GC.”
“I want to answer all the questions,” she said. “I’m happy to share. The hardest thing is all the confusion. Some don’t even believe it!” People are curious.
She started researching being a GC (their sperm, their egg) long before she ever had a situation. GC’s are distinguished from “Traditional Surrogacy” since they are not related.
O’Shea already had a family of her own-a husband, Josh, and three children: Isaac, 14, Kate 6, and Mick 5 (at Christmas). Then the situation found her.
“My girlfriend’s sister, Michelle, had trouble conceiving. She had had uterine cancer. When she was in her 20’s, she had saved her eggs. Now, 42, and with a grant from the Lance Armstrong Foundation, she could do embryo creation,” said O’Shea.
People came forward to help her. No one qualified, not even Michelle’s sisters.
There are disqualifiers other than a bad match. “You must have a child of your own (in case you lose a reproductive organ). Another was a migraine sufferer,” she explains. Migraines can get worse with the IVF meds required.
“I knew her sister when I was in college in Michigan at University of Concordia. I had heard bits of Michelle’s struggle,” says O’Shea.
In the past, when O’Shea dreamed about giving the gift of life to someone who couldn’t otherwise conceive a child, “I never felt quite that connected.” Until Michelle’s need came to her attention. “It made sense to do it for a family I had a connection to.”
She wants to set the record straight and answer the most common questions. Some people do it for money. O’Shea had no interest in that. She only had her expenses covered: medical, legal, travel and lost wages.
Why go through that again when you already have had three children? “I had fabulous pregnancies,” she says with a smile. Although, she mentions lightly, they all had to be induced.
Another common question: Was it hard to give up the baby? “No,” says O’Shea. “We had lengthy conversations about it. It’s not right for everyone. There’s no biological connection. It doesn’t share my DNA. I knew from the beginning it was glorified babysitting.”
There was a lot of family conferencing to make the decision, especially with her husband. “I asked him, ‘What do you think of this?’” O’Shea says she has pretty much always had his support for most things. They discussed the impact to their children. “We thought about it for a long time. In the end, he said it was my decision.”
But it was not that simple: the journey included the two years she spent considering it and two more years of medical and psychological testing.
Her children were nonplussed. “My boys said, “Oh, it’s just one more thing mom is doing.’ My daughter was really into it.”
The baby came on Nov. 14. For months she had been having Braxton-Hicks (false labor contractions). “I was in denial,” said O’Shea. She let her husband rest until 5 a.m. “I may have waited too long,” she recalls. This baby did not need to be induced.
They rushed to Beartooth Billings Clinic where Dr. Thomas Fouts told them, “You need to get (via ambulance) to Billings. You will deliver very shortly.” She was afraid they would have to pull over and have it on the road. They made it just in time. Despite having a “geriatric pregnancy” at 36, the baby was fine. O’Shea gave birth to a healthy baby girl, 7 lb., 5 oz., named “Andrielle.” O’Shea is grateful to the EMS, ambulance crew and Dr. Fouts.
O’Shea had an audience in the birthing room: her husband, Michelle and her husband, Todd, the doctor and two nurses. But also present were four nursing assistants who wouldn’t miss it for the world.
The moment came for O’Shea to turn over the baby. She says, “Any doubts I had disappeared when I handed the baby over to her. It’s the best thing I’ve done in my life. I’ve had so many people give to me and do things for me I can’t repay. It’s one thing I can do to give back to the world.”
Even at the hospital, Todd, the father to be, kept his guard up. The couple had suffered so many heartbreaking disappointments with this procedure and prior attempts. He refused to hope. But when he finally saw the baby, he believed.
As she handed the baby over O’Shea said, “I felt like a superhero in that moment. You just don’t care about trivial things any more. Once you’ve been in that moment of love…it changes you.”
O’Shea filmed the birth herself! Eleven people can shed a lot of tears. “The moment was miraculous!” she says.
Afterwards, “You see the world a little differently.” She reflects,
“How hard it is for some people. You don’t realize how lucky you are.”
Her daughter keeps pulling up the latest pictures of the baby online. O’Shea sees Andrielle as family but just a little distant. “She’s like my niece!” she declares proudly.
She muses, “While at first glance it may seem like an extraordinary thing to do for someone, I assure you it has been just as much a gift for me as it was them.” A most extraordinary Christmas gift.
When asked if she would ever do it again, O’Shea says it’s not likely. She’s moved on. “It’s become part of my life story.” Then she paused and said, “But if they wanted a sibling…”
Anyone seeking information may contact O’Shea at: niclohof@gmail.com.

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