Baby Caralyn Yoho will be surrounded by loving family as they celebrate her first Christmas this week, but sadly the one-month-old will never feel her mother's touch. The little girl was born via surrogate on November 26, four months after her mum, Laura Brammeier Yoho, died from brain cancer.
Her father Nate Yoho says having the little girl in his arms this Christmas will help him deal with the grief of losing the love of his life.
"It's such an amazing gift," Nate, from Iowa, told the Des Moines Register. "Part of it's having a little bit of my wife back, I can see her when my daughter smiles. It just makes me content with everything."
Caralyn's arrival was made possible thanks to the dedication of Laura's best friend Kara Stetson, who insisted on acting as a surrogate after cancer treatment left her former college roommate unable to carry her own child.
The decision to be implanted with couple's embryo, created before Laura's chemotherapy, and to then carry their baby was an easy one for Kara, and one made out of love for the woman who been her friend since second grade.
"It’s hard to explain what having a best friend like Laura for 24 years meant to me," Kara said. "We were different enough and alike enough to get along perfectly. We never argued. We never got sick of one another.
"We were like sisters, soul mates and a best friend all rolled into one."
Fitness enthusiasts Nate and Laura met while they were both working as personal trainers in Aspen in 2007. Laura was diagnosed with brain cancer in early 2011, aged 28, after she passed out at the gym. She underwent surgery in May that year, before the couple married in August.
Laura maintained her health and fitness while battling the disease, all with the aim of realising her dream of becoming a mother.
"She got into the best physical shape of her life," Nate said. "She wasn't going to give the tumors any ground. She was fierce. She was going to fight."
When it became clear that Laura wouldn't be able to carry her old child, Kara stepped in.
After Kara fell pregnant with the Yoho's baby, there was hope Laura would live to meet her child. In early July, Laura's family and friends threw her a baby shower.
But the cancer, which kept returning, proved too aggressive, and the mum-to-be passed away on July 23, aged 30.
Four months later, Nate held the couple's newborn daughter in his arms for the first time.
"Caralyn's birth was certainly up and down,” Nate said. “I wish my wife was here but the joy of having [Caralyn] here, I know she wouldn't want me to be sad."
Since the newborn's arrival Nate has received help and support from both his and Laura's extended families. And there's no shortage of care; Kara knows the baby's life will be full of love, despite being born after her mother's death.
"If there’s anybody who has the strength to do this right, to raise Caralyn the way Laura would have wanted, it’s Nate," Kara said.
There's no doubt the little girl will also grow up surrounded by stories about and reminders of the loving mum she never got to meet.
Watch the video of Nate speaking about Laura and their daughter's birth below.