I wish I could have a baby for her. How families help each other create families – The Cincinnati Enquirer

A story of friendship and babies, how three women strengthened their bond through surrogacy

Amy Polly, Gloria Settelmayer and Amanda Greenberg grew up in the same small town of Goshen, Ohio and as the years grew, so did their relationship.

Amanda Rossmann, Cincinnati Enquirer

Gloria Settelmayer cries like shes pregnant laughing one minute, wiping away tears the next. Youll have to forgive her, though, because her friendfrom high school is pregnant.

And that friend is carrying her child.

Settelmayer greets Amanda Greenbergwith a smile at her Goshen Township home in May. The two have been friends for years, even though they joke about how mean Settelmayer was back in school. This year, their friendship has evolved into something more, just when Settelmayer needed it most.

Already a mother of three,Greenberg wears loose-fitting clothing because she just came from school, where she teaches third grade and doesnt want toprompt questions about gestational surrogacy.Greenberg is 14 weeks pregnant.

Settelmayer touches Greenberg's belly.

"Youre showing, she says.

This is the first time Settelmayer almost cries today. It wont be the last. A few minutes later, she cries while looking through a scrapbook she once made for her sister-in-law, Amy Polly.Polly grew up with Settelmayer and Greenberg. In 2017, Polly was the onepregnant with Settelmayer's child. Settelmayer has done this before.

She just never thought shed be doing it again.

Born in a small town in Clermont County, Settelmayer always wanted a big family. Her husband is an only child and both of his parents are gone. But each pregnancy with their two boys got harder andharder. It wasnt just throwing up nine times a day. It was seizures and medications. It was miscarriage after miscarriage, both early in pregnancy and late.

In 2017, it looked unlikely that Settelmayer could have another successful pregnancy. She wanted totry again, but her husband didnt want to put her through it.

I felt like I couldnt do my job, Settelmayer says.

Her husband suggested a surrogate agency, but Settelmayer never felt comfortable. She didnt want a stranger making decisions that could affect her child. She wanted someone she knew enough to trust, and someone who knew her enough to know she might be a littleoverbearing. Someone who wouldnt mind being referred to as her "baby momma"in Facebook messages.

Amy Polly, Settelmayer's sister-in-law,had been in the delivery room when Settelmayer gave birth before. She knew about the complications, and she consoled her after the miscarriages. She wished she could do something more.

I wish I could have a baby for her, she once said.

So that's what she did.But the idea of surrogacy worried Pollys mom. Even if it wasnt her DNA, how could she not grow attached to the child growing inside of her?

I dont want you to be sad, Polly remembersher saying.

The truth is Polly did grow attached to a little girl she called her "belly buddy," but never in a way where she would regret giving the child away. She was just babysitting, Polly told her kids. She was an oven, she told them.

At the grocery store, people asked her young children if they were excited to become big siblings.

Mommy isnt keeping it, the kids would respond.

In 2017, when Polly went to the hospital for the surrogate child's birth, Settelmayer did too. They stayed overnight in rooms next to each other. Polly was induced one week after the babys due date, and doctors told her she might need a cesarean section. It was a long and tough delivery.

Settelmayer held a leg during labor, and Pollys husband held another.

It felt like my head was going to explode, Polly says.

When the baby was born, Polly cried. Not because she was sad, like her mom feared, but because she knew what this moment meant. As she was crying, Settelmayer cut the umbilical cord. And when a nurse took the screaming baby to a warming station, Settelmayer reached over the hospital bed and hugged Polly.

Settelmayer would spend the night with her newborn daughter, feeding her a bottle and holding her close to her bare chest.

Polly didnt hold her until the next morning.

Almost four years later, Polly talks about watching Settelmayer and her husband hold the baby girl she birthed like a grandparent might. Like someone watching their own kids. Like family.

Its amazing, Polly says.

She turns to Greenberg, the mother of three who is now pregnant with Settelmayers fourth child.

Youll see, she says.

For Settelmayer, her daughters birth was a dream come true. A happy ending. A beautiful story about a beautiful young girl who was everything she could have ever asked for.

But a few years later, she and her husband needed to decide what to do with their frozen embryos. They could move them into long-term storage, dispose of them, donate them to scienceor give them to another family.

They could also use them for themselves.

Settelmayer, a 37-year-old English teacher, dreaded asking anyone to carry a child for her again. Shed been given such a gift by her sister-in-law, who was she to ask for more?

Her husband again brought up a surrogateagency. This time, Settelmayer even made a few phone calls. But she still had doubts. Until Greenberg came over to swim in her pool one day.Settelmayer told her about the doubts, about her feelings of failure and inadequacy.

You know Ill carry a baby for you, right? Greenberg said.

She didn't need to discuss it anymore.If only we allhad friends like this.

Friends who give up their bodies for nine months. Friends who deal with constant questions about a baby that isnt theirs. Friends who proudly wear a T-shirt that says, Yes, my wife is pregnant. No, its not mine. Its my buddys. Friends who tell you youre stupid for feeling selfish for wanting another kid. Friends who take hormone shots for you, schedule appointments around you, cut back on coffee and wait to dye their hair until the second trimester for you.

These are the friends Gloria Settelmayer has. And youll have to forgive her if it makes her emotional.

Because its amazing how easy these friends make surrogacy sound. And they will tell you this says more about Settelmayer than it does about them. Because it takes a special person to carry someone elses baby. But more than that, it takes a special person to be surrounded by these kinds of people.

When Settelmayer looks at her daughter, born through surrogacy and now 3 years old, she doesnt think of failure. She thinks of joy. She thinks of love. She thinks of the big family she always wanted, and the one she now has.

Because her daughter, and soon her third son, will grow up feeling loved by more than mom and dad. Theyll grow up knowing their parents fought for them and never gave up. Theyll know their mom did what she could and then some. Theyll know that life doesnt always go according to plan, and even when it's hard, theyll know that sometimes makes it better.

Theyll know mom will probably cry.

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I wish I could have a baby for her. How families help each other create families - The Cincinnati Enquirer

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