On July 22, the National Post ran the Goldsteins' unusual birth announcement. It welcomed Nathan Jacob, born June 20, and went on: "Nathan is thrilled to announce the arrival of twin sisters Leila Abigail and Eden Brooke," born three weeks later on July 12. The birth notice called them the three miracles. ''The funniest is when we're walking around, there's people that say, 'Oh my God! I saw your announcement -- we just thought two of the kids weren't ready to be born yet, so one came out and the other ones came after.' "
The couple -- who bought a new house and car to accommodate their sudden family -- has taken to glossing over the details when they're on the go. "Depending on how much time we have to stop, we tell them the whole story. If we're in a bit of a rush, we say, 'Yeah, they're triplets,' " said father David Goldstein, a lawyer. His mother, Annette, calls them the virtual triplets. After five years of miscarriages, six in-vitro fertilizations and one ectopic pregnancy that damaged Ms. Goldstein's fallopian tube, the couple turned to gestational carriage. While traditional surrogacy often uses the carrier's eggs and the father's sperm, a carrier in a gestational surrogacy has no genetic relationship to the child -- the eggs are the mother's.
The carrier in this case was 31-year-old Leia Picard, a mother of two. When she connected with the Goldsteins in 1996 after serving as a surrogate for another couple, Ms. Picard was living on a Canadian forces base in Borden, Ont. "Our paths would have never crossed. We were in very different lives," said Ms. Picard, who said she made no profit from the encounter. Like many other surrogate mothers, Ms. Picard was beholden with the idea of "sharing the gift." "For me, I couldn't imagine not having my daughters. I really strongly believe ... that for people who are committed to each other and having a family, that should be available to them in whatever way, shape or form," she said.
But one week before she was to transfer her embryos to Ms. Picard, Ms. Goldstein discovered she was pregnant. The announcement raised some tension between the couple and their carrier. "For me, it was very important to do this for a childless couple. I really had a battle within myself as to if I wanted to go forward," said Ms. Picard. The Goldsteins, who were still unsure about their own pregnancy, pressed for the surrogacy. "It's very difficult in Canada to find a gestational carrier. Once we found one and secured one, we almost didn't want to let the great thing go," said Mr. Goldstein. They were also thrilled at the prospect of siblings for their baby, something they hoped would happen in with the help of another surrogacy.
At six weeks, Ms. Picard learned she was pregnant with twins, often the case with surrogates. The American Society for Reproductive Medicine, a non-profit organization of fertility experts, estimates a 22% chance of twins for gestational surrogates because they are implanted with more than one embryo. In Ms. Picard's case, it was six. During her pregnancy, she faced regular bouts of bleeding, and was put on bed rest at 14 weeks. "I basically had to put my family on the backburner," said Ms. Picard, remembering days spent in bed playing board games and watching movies with her own children, while pregnant with somebody else's.
She found solace in Surrogate Mothers Online, a support group where "surromommies" post ecstatic messages about their transfer dates, which come to substitute birth dates. On message boards teeming with graphics of flowers, butterflies and babies, they tip each other off to deals on pregnancy sticks. With the help of elaborate emoticons, they console each other about morning sickness. They also steer each other through burdens unique to surromoms such as the excruciating pain of hormone injections, and thornier issues of legality and compensation.
Health Canada estimates up to one in eight Canadian couples experience infertility. More than ever before, Canadians are opting for assisted human reproduction to build their families. Although the federal government outlawed profiting from surrogacy in 2004, surrogates can be reimbursed for related expenses such as medical treatment, counselling, maternity clothes and -- in Ms. Picard's case -- compensation for missed work. At first, pregnancy symptoms united the two mothers through the unusual situation. The pair got closer as Ms. Picard watched Ms. Goldstein go through the cautious motions of the first-time mom such as steering clear of a running microwave. Last month, they watched together as doctors held the twin girls after they were born.
"It's not baby-selling, and it's not people wanting the perfect blond-haired, blue-eyed child," said Ms. Picard, who believes society still embraces a misguided view of surrogacy and reproductive technology. "It's people not wanting anything other than to complete their family." email@example.com
SURROGACY AND THE LAW
Since the enactment of the Assisted Human Reproduction Act in March, 2004, surrogacy laws in Canada are changing. It is now illegal to profit from surrogacy. The federal law responded to rapid developments in new reproductive technologies and fears women's wombs were at risk of becoming a commodity. "You cannot be paying a surrogate. You can reimburse the expenditures," said Francine Manseau, senior policy advisor for Health Canada's Assisted Human Reproduction office.
Before 2004, some surrogates were being paid more than $15,000, Ms. Manseau said. They still are in the United States, which has no national policy on surrogacy. Laws vary widely from state to state: some allow payment, others criminalize all commercial surrogacy, others ban payment but don't enforce the law.
In Canada, the federal government is now at work on regulating surrogacy-related expenses. Today, there is no limit on the type of things a surrogate could be reimbursed for, Ms. Manseau said. This year, the government also established the Assisted Human Reproduction Agency of Canada, which will be responsible for licensing, inspecting and enforcing activities controlled under the Act once a board of directors is appointed later this year.