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Monday, July 13, 2015

Mom, 3 surrogates come together for baby shower

DENVER - Sarah Levine and Eric Landot's very long path to parenthood took them overseas and involved a very large team that became a very tight-knit, extended family.

Levine is a Denver native who moved to Paris for work and fell in love.

When she and her husband wanted to start a family, she was 39 years old and faced a lot of trouble trying to conceive.

"We tried everything," Levine said. "I had a miscarriage. I had an ectopic pregnancy. I was trying everything and it wasn't working."

Levin and Landot flew to Lone Tree for a consult with Dr. William Schoolcraft, the founder of the Colorado Center for Reproductive Medicine.

During the standard medical testing at CCRM, they discovered Levine had endometrial cancer.

Levine had a hysterectomy. Her uterus was taken but her ovaries remained intact.

When she was free of cancer, Levine and Landot flew back to the United States for another appointment at CCRM.

This is not uncommon. Dr. Schoolcraft refers to this as "medical tourism."

"It's usually after having tried in-vitro fertilization locally in their hometown a few times and feeling like 'this is my last try,'" Schoolcraft said. "They'll travel. Even though it's a burden, a woman may see this as her last chance at successfully having a child of her own genetics."

Quite often women facing cancer will freeze their eggs before starting chemotherapy or radiation in order to protect them. That was not necessary for Levine because she did not need extensive cancer treatments following the hysterectomy.

"She had the capacity to make eggs and her husband to make sperm to create their own biological child but she had no way to carry it so that's where the gestational carrier really made sense for her," Dr. Schoolcraft said.

In France, where the couple lived, surrogacy has been illegal since 1994. That's why they went with a surrogate, also referred to as a gestational carrier, here in Colorado.

The couple's first son Oscar arrived in 2011 with the help of a gestational carrier, Aimee Melton. She's a friend of Levine's sister.

"Sarah is just the best," Melton said. "When it seemed that all the avenues to fertility were closed to her, she wrote her own script."

Melton said that she had always been interested at the idea of surrogacy but waited until her second child was one year old before she met up with Levine and Landot.

"I went into surrogacy cautiously because I didn't know how it would feel," Melton said. "I am happy to say it was an amazing experience that I have never regretted. I love getting to watch Oscar grow and Sarah's family expand."

Levine's sister Jessica Breese offered to carry the family's second child. Breese is a Denver midwife who assists in deliveries. In 2013, she gave birth to Vivianne.

And now, their third child has arrived with the help of a Thornton woman, Jessica Troy. Troy is a mother of two children and a doula who has coached other mothers during pregnancies and births.

When Kennan was born on July 3, Melton – their first surrogate -- served as the midwife.

"Getting to deliver Kennan was truly the icing on the cake," Melton said.

This extended family came together Sunday at Melton's home for a baby shower, celebrating 9-day-old Kennan. The only one missing was dad, Eric, who is back in France working as an attorney.

The party was also joyous because of a decision that came down from the French Supreme Court on the day Kennan was born.

Since 1994, children born via surrogacy were not acknowledged as citizens by the French government.

However, on July 3, the French Supreme Court ruled that those children must be granted citizenship and that they cannot be penalized for the decisions of their parents.

"Surrogacy has brought all of this incredible love to my family," Levine said. "It's because these women have been so willing to give of themselves to build this amazing family."

CCRM assists with about 100 pregnancies involving gestational carriers every year. Colorado is one of the states where surrogacy is permitted. The legality varies from state to state.

What makes this family stand out to Dr. Schoolcraft is how everyone involved is very intertwined.

"Sarah keeps coming up with these amazing volunteers to help her carry these children," Schoolcraft said.

Levine says she and her husband paid surrogate fees comparable to the rest of the industry. Research of various sites that assist with surrogacy estimate costs for the gestational carrier to be between $30,000 to $50,000.

Levine says the bonds she has made with her "womb sisters" is priceless. They agree.

"It's like our whole families get along," Kennan's surrogate Jessica Troy said. "It is perfect. It's been the amazing part of the whole thing."

The Levine-Landot family is spending the entire summer in Colorado. They plan to fly back to Paris at the end of August after Kennan finishes his initial rounds of vaccinations.

"When I'm with my children, it's like every day is Thanksgiving," Levine said. "I recognize how incredibly blessed I am to have these three children and have then in the way I've been able to grow sisters at the same time."


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