AKRON, Ohio — When identical triplets Parker, Robin and Sylvie O’Neill are sufficiently old to grasp the full story of their journey to birth, they may find out about a narrative of serendipity, love and selflessness.
The 1-month-old ladies are the daughters of husbands Kevin O’Neill and Eric Portenga of Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Their surrogate was Maureen Farris of West Akron, Ohio.
“We love these girls’ birth story, and I hope someday we can sit around the table and share it with them and tell them and they’ll love it as well and be proud of it as we are,” Farris mentioned.
The ladies had been born Sept. 9 by cesarean part at Cleveland Clinic Akron General and brought on to the neonatal intensive care unit at Akron General. They spent 18 days within the NICU.
But the ladies’ journey to start began a number of years in the past on one other continent.
O’Neill and Michigan native Portenga met in O’Neill’s native Scotland, when Portenga was pursuing his doctoral diploma in earth science. They fell in love and married 5 years in the past, residing for a while in Scotland. Jobs introduced the couple to Michigan.
A number of years in the past, the couple began researching adoption and surrogacy, interviewing companies that would assist them.
A mutual buddy, Cathy Cherico, ended up connecting the couple with Farris, their future surrogate.
They jokingly name Cherico the “surrogate whisperer” as a result of it is the second set of buddies she would join to begin a household. Cherico, who lives in Ann Arbor and met O’Neill and Portenga via her boss and have become shut buddies, knew of their battle as a homosexual couple desirous to undertake or discover a surrogate.
In her thoughts, Cherico had been considering of Farris, a university classmate when each had been finding out to be academics on the University of Akron a couple of decade in the past.
Farris instructed Cherico and buddies she loved being pregnant, however she and her husband Jeremiah Currier weren’t going to have extra youngsters.
Unbeknownst to Cherico, Farris mentioned she had been desirous about surrogacy if anybody ever wanted it, however she by no means pursued it and even talked about it to her husband.
More than a yr later in June, in the future earlier than her different surrogate buddy gave start to a boy, Cherico acquired a textual content from Farris, who shared that she stop her job to remain a house.
“I felt that the universe was telling me something and I needed to listen,” Cherico mentioned.
She texted Farris and apologized if her ask was wildly inappropriate: Would Farris take into account serving as a surrogate for a homosexual couple who wished a baby?
“In my thoughts, I hadn’t even talked about it to my husband but, so it was form of like, ‘Oh my God, the universe is working way too quickly!’ But I need to at least investigate it,” Farris recalled. “I told Cathy I was interested.”
A ‘soulmate connection’
Cherico suggested the couples meet by themselves to see if they were on the same page.
O’Neill mentioned their “first date” was excellent.
“Once we met, it simply felt like a soulmate connection in a means the place we may inform we had been actually getting alongside and having fun with one another’s firm,” she mentioned. “I understood that they would be the dads and they were wonderful people from the minute I met them.”
Farris and the couple agreed she would not use her own eggs.
“I knew that I could keep that mindset of ushering these babies into their family’s lives if I knew I could maintain that mindset if it wasn’t genetically my child,” she mentioned.
They all agreed Farris and her household could be concerned within the child’s life.
“In our mind’s eye before this started, the surrogate was always going to have to be a part of the kid’s life,” O’Neill mentioned.
‘Are you guys sitting down?’
In early January, one embryo was transferred into Farris’ uterus. Due to COVID-19 visitation guidelines, Portenga may solely be within the hallway through FaceTime. O’Neill was in Scotland visiting his mother and father, so he additionally watched through FaceTime as did Farris’ husband, who was at residence.
Then they waited 10 days earlier than Farris may go in for a blood take a look at to find out if she was pregnant.
Once they discovered they had been pregnant, the first ultrasound was at six weeks.
The physician mentioned: “Oh my God, it split. It’s identical twins.”
Per week later, Farris had some recognizing and one of many child’s heartbeat was slower than regular, so Farris went in for one other appointment because the expectant dads once more watched through FaceTime.
The physician heard the primary child’s heartbeat after which the second — after which she paused.
“Are you guys sitting down?” the physician requested. “There’s something else here.”
The physician was uncertain if she was listening to an echo or or one of many child’s heartbeat via the umbilical twine or one thing else. She wished Farris to go to a specialist at Akron Children’s Hospital.
It took one other 10 days for them to get an appointment for an ultrasound.
At Children’s, just one particular person may go in with Farris and there may very well be no footage or FaceTime throughout the appointment. O’Neill went in with Farris, and Portenga waited within the atrium.
“After about an hour or so, they come back to the atrium and unfurl this huge stretch of ultrasound photos,” Portenga mentioned.
The ultrasound pictures had been labeled Baby A, Baby B and Baby C.
The one fertilized egg implanted in Farris had break up a number of occasions, leading to an especially rare set of identical triplets.
Experts do not agree on the precise odds, nevertheless it’s estimated as few as 1 in 1,000,000 pregnancies — or much less — lead to identical triplets.
“Nobody ever dreams of having triplets,” O’Neill mentioned. “It’s just a bizarre fantasy. It changed our mindset of being so overjoyed to ‘Oh my God, we’re getting three and all the logistics that come with it.”
Farris said she was “along for the journey” when she found out she was carrying identical triplets. But she admits she naively didn’t know what it meant to carry multiple babies.
“I got bigger faster … I was always weeks ahead where a single pregnancy would be,” she said. Her first and second trimesters were pretty normal, but her third trimester was grueling physically, Farris said.
A cesarean section was scheduled at 34 weeks, but both Farris and the babies were healthy, so the delivery was pushed back to 35 weeks and a day to give the girls more time in utero.
They were delivered Sept. 9. Their names are in alphabetical order by their birth order: Parker was 4 pounds, 14 ounces; Robin was 4 pounds, 11 ounces and Sylvie was 4 pounds, 8 ounces.
The girls had none of the health concerns that often come with multiples and premature babies. Their dads and Farris said they know they are so fortunate. The girls stayed in the NICU for 18 days to gain weight before they could be released to go home to Michigan.
It’s nonetheless up within the air, however O’Neill mentioned they suppose the ladies will name Farris “Auntie Mo.”
The girls’ personalities have already come through, their dads said.
“Sylvie makes the cutest little noises just all the time,” Portenga mentioned. O’Neill describes it as a squeak.
“Whenever she’s taking the bottle or being burped or sleeping or whatever, there’s these cutest little singing songs. She’s the little singer,” Portenga mentioned.
She’s additionally probably the most chill and cries the least — at the least to date, O’Neill mentioned.
Robin, as the center baby, is both “all-out screaming and crying or super chill. There’s no in between,” Portenga mentioned.
Parker, who was the primary one out, “eats the best. You put a bottle in front of her and it’s gone,” Portenga said.
For now, the dads are enjoying their paternity time and adjusting to their new family.
When the girls want to know more about their birth story, the dads said they’re an open book.
“It was important for us as two dads, we know our kids are going to have questions from other kids in their classes or things like that may come up. We want them to have answers for those things and to know that just like any other family, that they were born out of love,” Portenga mentioned.
Follow Beacon Journal employees reporter Betty Lin-Fisher on Twitter: @blinfisherABJ