Miscarriage,Christmas card,Surrogacy

Couple overcomes 6 miscarriages, cacancer to fulfill dream of having kids

February 5, 2017
in Kids

DES MOINES -- Chad and Stacey Baker’s sprawling, complex saga of how their family came to be defies the sort of breezy summary that fits on the back of a Christmas card. This year’s obvious highlight, the birth Aug. 10 of their second child, a daughter, merely hints at the deeper and more remarkable story. When I first wrote about the West Des Moines couple two years ago, the series unwound across six chapters in the pages of The Register. We also produced a detailed video documentary. At that point, the Bakers had clung to each other through eight years of heartache. In their struggle to start a family they fought through a series of six miscarriages, plus two bouts of cancer that left Chad on the brink of death. But look at them now. Look at him, Gavin. And her, Hadley. These are their children. The Bakers’ precious, beautiful, healthy children. Gavin is a gregarious 2-year-old. Like many tots his age, in a heartbeat he can pivot from sheer euphoria to screaming rage. But mostly he’s a charmer who loves nothing more than to stomp barefoot through the house — leaned forward, his jaws chomping away at the air — pretending he’s a fierce Tyrannosaurus rex. But don’t worry: His prey of choice is a giant bowl of berries. Or he can be bribed with M&Ms. “He feels things thoroughly,” Stacey said with a smile. Then there’s little sister Hadley, the 4-month old. As her stout brother bounces around her, she came into this world at barely more than 5 pounds. At her two-week checkup, she ranked among the lowest 1 percent in weight and still tips the scale at just over 10 pounds. “Little but mighty” is her nickname. She’s wiry and strong when you cradle her in your arms. The couple is desperately waiting for her to sleep through the night. A few short Christmases ago, the Bakers didn’t allow themselves to imagine a heartwarming family scene at the holidays anything like this. Fate had given them more than enough reason to flinch. “It’s not like we walk around every day thinking, ‘Look at this miracle we live in.’” Stacey said. Yet nearly every day, she added, her thoughts drift into a reverie of disbelief. How did these children get here? “It’s pretty amazing,” Stacey said, “all the connections that had to happen in order to bring these kids into the world.” 'Cancer and infertility — for years' People often make that common flip remark to the Bakers: Ever wonder what you did with all your time before kids? “I know what we did,” Stacey says. “We did a lot of great things. We had a lot of fun. We had a wonderful marriage and good friends and family.” The Bakers love their children, but because of their empathy for all those who struggle with infertility, they’re adamant that giving birth to and rearing children does not automatically bestow a full — or purposeful — life. That can be hard to remember at this time of year, when childlike wonder is the idealized view of Christmas. The Bakers, both 42, grew up in small towns in northern Iowa: he in Sibley, she in Garner. They married in 2004 and worked hard to develop rewarding careers. She now manages a floor full of nurses at Mercy Medical Center, and he’s an executive with a biofuels firm in Ames. They suffered their first miscarriage in 2007, but their doctor reassured them that they were not alone. As many as half of all pregnancies end in miscarriage, often before a woman realizes she’s pregnant. About 10 percent to 15 percent of women who are aware they’re pregnant will miscarry. But by 2010 the couple’s life descended into tragedy: They suffered their third miscarriage. Stacey’s father suddenly died. And Chad’s two rounds of testicular cancer threatened not only his ability to father children but his very life. "There was a lot of depression," Stacey said two years ago. "All that was going on in our life was cancer and infertility — for years." The Bakers at that time still doted on their 84-pound black Labrador, Daisy. She was like their first, shaggy child. Daisy also was a key link in this unlikely chain: A woman who had been the Bakers’ dog-sitter, Summer Marnin, swooped into their lives in 2013 just after the couple had officially decided to end all attempts to start a family. She texted Stacey with an unsolicited offer: How old is too old to be a surrogate? Marnin at that time was a single mom, 36, raising two teenage daughters. She hadn’t been pregnant in years. Yet she stepped forward to become the Bakers’ gestational carrier. She and her daughters had fallen in love with how the couple had persevered through setbacks and maintained their hope and humor. (To clarify: A surrogate mother's own egg is part of the pregnancy; the child is genetically...

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