Rachelle Friedman-Chapman is like most 27-year-olds in Knightdale.
Married in 2010, she and her husband, Chris Chapman, are diehard football fans of their alma mater, East Carolina. And now they’re ready to bring a baby into the mix.
It seems like what many other young families do, except Rachelle is a quadriplegic, with limited use of her arms and no use of her legs. As a side effect of her paralysis, she also has dangerously low blood pressure regulated by medication, which is why she and her husband have turned to surrogacy to try to start a family.
“It’s not the paralysis that keeps me from carrying a child,” Friedman-Chapman said. “I personally have side effects that didn’t go away after my accident.
“I can’t exactly be on blood pressure medicine while carrying a child and without that medicine I wouldn’t be able to sit up. It wasn’t in the cards for me to be literally laying down for nine months.”
The couple is turning to surrogacy, an expensive process that doesn’t guarantee it will work on the first try. They’ve turned to the California-based organization, Surrogacy Together, which has connections with fertility doctors on the west coast.
Right now, Friedman-Chapman has already completed one of the first steps of surrogacy: in-vitro fertilization. Some surrogacy processes can start with in-vitro fertilization, while others aren't. The Chapmans chose to pursue IVF.
The Chapmans have four healthy embryos for their surrogate, a friend from Rachelle’s college days, to carry.
Friedman-Chapman said they only plan to implant one. All four embryos are the same sex, although she doesn’t know if they are boys or girls.
She’s hoping that the process will work out on the first try.
“I’m just praying that the first time, it works,” she said. “Because if it doesn’t, (the Chapmans and the surrogate and her husband) have to go back to California.”
The medical procedures cost $25,000, even with the discounted price through Surrogacy Together. Normally, the whole procedure runs about $120,000.
To that end, the Chapmans have turned to a small online following to help with the cost. Friedman-Chapman recently published a book about her experience and she has done several “Ask Me Anything” posts on Reddit, where users can submit questions via an online forum and she can answer them.
Anxieties of motherhood
Even if the family can raise money, there is no guarantee that implanting an embryo will mean a surrogate is pregnant.
Even so, Friedman-Chapman said she and her surrogate and their husbands are hoping that they can go ahead with impanting an embryo in early August, meaning the Chapman’s first child would be due around May 2015.
And in that time, Friedman-Chapman said, she’ll have to start working on several things to be prepared to be a mom.
“I have a year to perfect a lot of things,” she said. Right now, for example, she isn’t sure how things will work out in the middle of the night.
“They’re possible, but I obviously can’t jump out of bed in the middle of the night,” she said.
For the most part, Friedman-Chapman has the typical concerns a new mom would have like, is her baby healthy? But she also has to take into consideration the reality of her injury and the challenges it may pose.
“There are things that scare me because even though I’m going to be able to do a lot of things I won’t be able to do as much as a Chris can,” she said. “And as a mom, that sucks. I want to be able to be Super-Mom.”
But Friedman-Chapman said she is determined to do what she’s always wanted, even if she has to make adjustments.
“We have the house, we have the dog ... and now after being married for three years, we’re ready to have a kid,” she said.