It seemed Lauren and Joe Kamnik would never have a family - until they started seeing things differently. Then life threw a few curve balls their way for good measure.
“You’ll never get pregnant.”
With those words, Lauren and Joe Kamnik’s spirits fell. The couple, from Arlington, Virginia, had already been through so much in their quest for a baby. To hear their doctor give such a bleak diagnosis was heartbreaking.
Lauren had been 29 when she and her husband started trying for a baby. Her mother had also had trouble conceiving, and Lauren didn’t want to miss her chance to be a mum, so when it didn’t happen as fast as the couple would have liked, they saw a fertility specialist.
After three failed attempts at intrauterine insemination (IUI), they decided to move on to IVF. Lauren dreaded the idea of injecting herself with hormones, but was desperate.
“Ever since I’ve known Joe, I’ve always had these images of him teaching our kids how to throw a football, or videotaping a ballet recital,” she told Redbook. “And I strongly believe that my main purpose on this planet is to be a good mum.”
But several attempts at IVF also failed. The couple was devastated, but Lauren especially took it to heart.
“It was my body that wasn’t working. I remember telling Joe, ‘If you had married someone else you’d have a baby by now.’ It was a lot of self-blame,” she said.
Unable to imagine her life without children, Lauren was talking to a friend one day when she had a breakthrough. Her friend told her, “Lauren, it might not be in the traditional way, but if you want to be a parent, one day you will be a parent.”
It was as if a lightbulb had gone in on her head. Her friend was right – although it might not happen right away, it could, eventually, happen in some way.
Lauren, a social worker, started looking into adoption. And when the doctor gave them their bleak infertility prognosis, it just spurred them on to look at other options. They decided to look into surrogacy, too.
Surrogacy and adoption both typically take longer than 12 months to come to fruition. Still, finding a mum of two who was keen to be a surrogate – “On Craigslist, believe it or not,” Lauren said – made them cautiously optimistic. They knew it could take years for the process to work, and even then they weren’t guaranteed a baby, but it was a start.
As the surrogacy process got underway, the Kamniks filed an application for adoption. Just three days later, they received a call – another couple’s adoption had fallen through, and there was a baby waiting for them in Florida. If they wanted him, they had to get him immediately.
“By seven that night, we were in the car driving,” Lauren said. The couple had no baby gear, and had to have an emergency nappy-changing lesson from a friend, but they were going to be parents!
“We speed-read two books on our trip to Florida – a book on names and What to Expect: The First Year. We basically took a Parenting 101 course in the car.”
Of course, it was all worth it once they met baby Oliver. Lauren and Joe loved their new son immediately, and were so happy to have met him. They were now a family of three.
Meanwhile, the surrogacy process was continuing – the couple had always wanted at least two children. And five months after baby Oliver joined them, Lauren and Joe learnt that their surrogate was expecting.
“We thought, ‘Well, there it is. We have our family.’ It was finally all working out,” Joe said.
A week later, still giddy at the thought of being parents to another baby, Lauren started to feel strange. During a visit to the beach, she realised her swimmers were fitting her differently than normal.
On a hunch, she decided to take a pregnancy test. It was positive. The next four tests were positive too. A doctor then confirmed it: she was indeed pregnant.
Strangely, it followed her mum’s fertility pattern – after adopting Lauren’s brother, she’d fallen pregnant with her daughter. Lauren and her brother are only 15 months apart. Lauren and Joe, however, would have three babies under 13 months.
In March, Lauren went into labour, her surrogate following the next day; Lauren gave birth to son Wesley, with baby Vivienne arriving 13 hours later.
After spending a month in hospital due to health complications, baby Wesley was allowed to come home, joining Oliver, Vivienne, and their very pleased parents.
“There are three [possible ways] for having a child, and we did all three,” Joe said. “We’ve shown that anything is possible.”
As for Lauren, she says she’s learnt that she didn’t realise just how much love she had to give. And she wants other struggling couples to have hope.
“Family is possible,” she said. “It may not look the way you expected it to, but that can be the biggest blessing of all.”