Triplet Troubles: A Story Of Building An Unconventional Family
This couple shot to fame after local news and TV stations published that she, a white woman, had given birth to three black kids! How is that even possible?
Now, before you raise an eyebrow and cast judgment, know that this loyal wife is married to a white man. They had been wanting children for as long as they could remember, but they had difficulty starting a family. Their frustration and patience were rewarded, and the couple’s house is home to five beautiful children.
They shared the good news on social media, and to their surprise, the news had been met with different degrees of acceptance and backlash from both the black and the white community. How so? Read on to find out.
The Happy Couple
Rachel and Aaron Halbert may have met through a shared faith, but the love the two shared kept them together. After years of dating, and then a few more as a married couple, they decided to expand their little family.
When on vacation, Aaron noticed that Rachel’s eyes would look longingly at kids. “What’s up?” Rachel would flash that smile to dismiss the question. But Aaron knew better.” Let’s not wait. Let’s build a family of our own!” And at that, Rachel beamed.
First off, just how many kids would they have? Rachel laughed at Aaron holding up a number. “Five? No. Too many. How about ten?” Rachel teased, “sure, so long as they’re all boys!” Aaron narrowed his eyes and then said, “heey, give me a break!“
The couple tried for months. And they kept trying. They didn’t think anything of it when, after several months, there was no baby on the way. It was only when they tried for a year that they felt something was truly wrong.
It’s not that Rachel didn’t find her job fulfilling. It was just that any endeavor, no matter how worthwhile, brings a certain amount of stress. Aaron couldn’t help but worry. He asked his wife if they should reconsider for the time being.
But Rachel was firm in saying she wanted a baby. They decided to consult a doctor. Rachel couldn’t stop wringing her hands. Aaron had to lock her hands in his to keep her from fidgeting. She looked into his loving eyes, knowing they’d get through it together.
Eventually, the tests came back, and the doctor consulted them about the results. He laid out their options. It was a tough matter to handle altogether, but both felt most inclined to adopt a baby. They decided to visit their local adoption agency.
Rachel felt a sharp pain in her heart, but delighted in the fact that she was surrounded by lots of children. They had an idea of a child they would adopt, but they reconsidered when they saw that black kids were less likely to be adopted.
Love At First Sight
The agency found two African-American toddlers. The couple was only looking to adopt one child, but as soon as they saw the faces of those two, they couldn’t bring themselves to choose one over the other. “There’s room for both in our family.”
There was no hesitation. Rachel and Aaron signed the papers and went home as a family of four. They named this cute girl Catherine and that curious boy Ford. The two were ecstatic to teach them the ins and outs of tying their shoes and playing ball.
A Loving Home
The Halbert household was lively and full of love. Aaron and Rachel were naturals at parenting. They easily fell into the rhythm of waking up early, cooking breakfast for four, eating with the children, doing some chores, and then leaving for work.
Life was perfect; that’s when they decided to have more. Just as they had done years ago, Rachel and Aaron discussed adopting another child. But this time around, instead of visiting an adoption agency, fate nudged them in a different direction.
It was as if everything fell into its right place. The Halberts ran into an old friend whom they had dinner with. They all shared what was new and where their lives were headed when their friend suggested the idea of embryo adoption.
Rachel couldn’t believe what she was hearing. She looked at her husband and they knew that they could create a difference in their own way. It might have been a small effort, but a gargantuan one for an unborn child.
Note that there is a difference between freezing eggs and freezing embryos. The former is exactly what it sounds like. Women, for any number of reasons, can choose to freeze eggs that are unfertilized. The latter is, to put it simply, a fertilized egg.
Don’t feel bad if you didn’t already know that. Perhaps this sparked some old memories of middle or high school health class when you first learned the real story of the birds and the bees. Let’s do a quick refresher on the difference and freezing processes.
As we said before, frozen eggs are unfertilized. That means that a woman can choose to have her eggs frozen independently of a partner. In fact, that’s why some do it. Women who feel their biological clock ticking while they wait for “the one” find this an appealing option.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that every woman who wants to be a mother at some point in the future goes through this process. For one, is expensive! It costs, on average, $8k plus medications. To top it off, success isn’t guaranteed.
The main benefit of freezing embryos versus eggs is the increased success rate. Some clinics claim to have a 90% thawing success rate. But increased success means increased cost. It can cost over $10k, and that’s without the medications, which can rack up to $5k.
Now, as we said, the fees for freezing eggs/embryos aren’t insignificant. In fact, the bills can keep coming. It costs money to keep eggs/embryos frozen, and many potential parents find themselves paying a few hundred dollars a month if they are waiting for the right time to have another child.
Since IVF is a procedure used all over the world, it should come as no surprise to learn that every country has its own rules. For example, some, like Sweden and the UK, have a time limit on how long embryos can be stored.
Countries without these limitations in place have a trickier time. Ideally, every potential parent would clearly and explicitly state their wishes regarding the unclaimed embryos. Yet a number of factors, such as the passing of a loved one, could leave a gray area.
There are many courses of action that can be taken if an embryo isn’t used. The parent(s) can choose between disposal and donation (either to science or barren mothers). To be clear, we’re not passing judgment on any of the available options. We’re just talking about science here.
If the “progenitor(s)” want to donate, they can do so to scientific endeavors, hopeful couples who want to have children, or to embryo donation clinics. The most important part is making a decision, otherwise, they’re putting unnecessary pressure on the fertility clinic.
In the industry, the term “abandoned” refers to embryos that have been left in a state of limbo by the donor(s). While there’s no set-in-stone rule, if, after a period of five years of persistent attempts to contact the donor(s), there’s no response, it’s up to the clinic to decide.
Again, we are not making any comments on ethics, religion, or personal feelings. Well, we will admit to feeling sorry for the clinic staff members who clearly did not sign up for this. It shouldn’t be their call to make.
Once again, Rachel and Aaron were planning to adopt, this time from an embryo bank. This process would be significantly more taxing (physically) than their previous adoption, but Rachel was enthusiastic and ready for it. And with her husband by her side, the future looked bright.
Rachel underwent a matching process. There were a lot of factors to consider — the embryo grade, the woman’s age, and her reproductive health. Fortunately, Rachel was young and was medically cleared for embryo adoption. Then, the adoption center asked the couple an important question.
“Do you have an ethnicity in mind?” Rachel and Aaron looked at each other, confused at what the embryologist had said. The professional explained further, “usually couples prefer to adopt an embryo of a shared ethnicity.” Without missing a beat, Rachel asked, “do you have minority embryos?“
The embryologist couldn’t hide his surprise. The donation center’s sentiment is that all embryos, no matter who the biological parents are, deserve a good home and a loving family. Yes, there were minority embryos available, if that is what they wanted.
The doctor advised Rachel that she would be taking a series of medications to help prepare her uterus for pregnancy. She could either take birth control pills or choose to have a hormone injection. Other than that, the process was painless.
After a couple of days, Rachel was scheduled for embryo implantation. She laid on a bed with feet drawn up on stirrups. “Take deep breaths.” With some anesthesia, the doctor inserted a long catheter containing a number of embryos through her cervix and into the womb, where they were released.
The Magic Number
The doctor and the couple decide upon a number of embryos that will be transferred to the woman’s uterus. Depending on the woman’s age, the embryo quality, and the age of the female egg donor, it’s common that up to three embryos are transferred into the womb.
Aside from that, their chosen clinic allows up to three attempts of embryo adoption. After getting pregnant, the couple may choose to have sibling embryos frozen until after the woman delivers the baby. Couples only have to pay a storage fee to the fertility clinic.
Only the Best
It was only Rachel’s luck that she had gotten pregnant on the first attempt. She and her husband could not have been happier. They broke the news to their kids who had been equally excited at welcoming a baby in the house.
Rachel put off the strenuous work, religiously went to the doctor’s appointments, and ate healthily. She wanted this baby to grow in the best environment they could provide as a family. Though partway into the pregnancy, they had to change their plans a bit.
Free for All
Remember when we told you that the doctor could transfer anywhere from one to three fertilized embryos into the surrogate’s womb? With that in mind, the question of “how can a surrogate mother have multiple births” isn’t so puzzling anymore.
Rachel was shocked to learn that the two implanted embryos had taken…and one had split into two! The doctor shared the news with the young couple, telling them to brace themselves. They should be expecting triplets in the coming months!
Aaron explained that the family they were now preparing for was nothing like the dreams the couple once had. If you’d asked them twelve years ago what their family would look like, well, it wasn’t this. But they are grateful nonetheless for their blessed babies.
Rachel saw her tummy getting bigger and bigger with every passing month. She found it harder to get around the house, waddling to and fro, and barely had the flexibility to bend at the knees. When she sat down, she flopped on the couch.
A Little Setback
Of course, this blessing also came with its fair share of risks. The doctor advised the young couple that they should expect Rachel to deliver the babies pre-term. And babies who are born pre-term often don’t have fully mature lungs to help them breathe.
Rachel felt her pulse quicken as she heard the doctor. She grabbed Aaron’s hand and pulled herself to straighten her back. Anxiously, she asked the doctor what that meant. Aaron calmed her down by looking at her and back at the doctor. “What do we do now, Doc?“
The doctor reassured the couple. A drug would be administered to help with the babies’ lung maturity as they are incubated in neonatal care. Afterward, give or take two weeks to a month, they could bring your babies home with them.
Once he finished, Rachel lay her head back down. There was an audible sigh as she released her grasp on Aaron. She brought a hand to her heart, relieved to learn that modern medicine would be there for her and her babies.
Rachel savored every excruciating and rewarding part of the process. After all, this had been her first time carrying babies inside of her and she had managed to get triplets on the first go. Eventually, the date came for when she would have her C-section.
Rachel was wheeled into the OR, with an IV drip attached, and her husband holding her hand on the other side. Then she was laid down on a table and the operation began. “Rachel, count back from 100.” She felt her eyes go groggy at 95.
Where Are They
By the time she woke up, her brain felt fuzzy. She looked dazedly at Aaron wondering where she was until the metal fixtures and the white walls finally made sense to her. She opened her mouth to speak and she could only hear a croak.
“Where are the kids?” Aaron cupped her hand, then her face as he kissed her forehead. Rachel didn’t need to hear another word. She saw that Aaron was beaming and that was enough for her to understand that they were all fine. She rested her head.
They stayed in the hospital for a couple more weeks, allowing time for Rachel to recover and giving them the convenience of visiting their triplets. Rachel couldn’t believe her eyes. They might not be her eggs and his sperm, but they were undoubtedly theirs.
Aaron escorted his wife from her room to the neonatal unit. He wheeled her in and right up to their sleeping infants. Rachel slowly stood up to put a hand inside the incubator. “Hello there, little fella! Hi, it’s Mommy!” The newborn was no larger than her hand!
In time, the doctor gave them the go signal to take their daughters home. They had named them, Anne, Ryley, and Whitley. Rachel couldn’t hold back her joy upon seeing her newly expanded family. Rachel and Aaron returned from the hospital as parents of five wonderful children.
Catherine and Ford helped look after Rachel and the three little babies. And they would help Aaron out in the kitchen and even put bibs on the infants. The older siblings volunteered for any job they were allowed to do.
Sitting at the dinner table, the couple watched their five children tuck into their home-cooked meal. Rachel would peer up at her husband and give him a little wink. They were living their dream and were honored to have such wonderful children calling them “mom” and “dad.”
There is never a dull day with kids, more so when you have five of them. Of course, the couple had to come up with another routine to help out with the kids’ homework while feeding and bathing the babies. So it was tough work.
But of all the difficulties they would encounter, they had least expected to face judgment from strangers. Many were quick to give them disapproving looks, especially toward Rachel who they thought had been cheating on her husband. That wasn’t the worst part…
…there were a lot of rude comments directed at her children. Aaron has learned to accept that people of all ethnicities will scoff and sneer upon seeing the family going about their normal business. Sadly, this would often come from older women.
But as the couple looks at their kids, all the troubles and the difficulties slowly dissipate. Sure, it’s not what most people expected their family to look like, but Rachel and Aaron were living their dream as parents to five wonderful children.
Of course, friends and family were very encouraging of the couple’s decisions. Aaron said that seeing almost all of their family and friends show overwhelming support was heartwarming. Their unconventional family was happy to have love and support from all sides.
And the couple didn’t sit idly by. They would not stand for the discrimination directed at them or against any of their kids. Aaron defended his family, highlighting the beauty in diversity, saying, “our differences are cause for celebration, not scorn. It’s other people’s narrow-mindedness that we should frown upon.“
Aaron invites other people to view the situation differently, and be more welcoming of diversity, whether it’s of skin color, or of the ways they have built a family. Though they never set out to do so, the Halberts were happy to take on the role of diversity advocates.