- DeeDee Bitran and her husband used a surrogate after doctors told her she couldn’t get pregnant.
- The surrogate, Alexis Shaw, lost the baby after Bitran found out she was also pregnant.
- This is Bitran’s story, as told to Lucy Laing.
This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with DeeDee Bitran. It has been edited for length and clarity.
It was a phone call that I never expected to make.
“You will never believe it, but I’m pregnant too,” I told Alexis, the amazing woman who had agreed to be a surrogate for my husband Mitchell and I.
Even though it was so unexpected, Alexis, who was 25 at the time in 2019, was thrilled for me. It was an unusual situation — we had only just found out that Alexis was pregnant with our embryo, and now I was telling her that I was pregnant, too.
It had already been such an emotional journey for Mitchell and I.
At the age of 22, a test confirmed that I have a BRCA gene mutation, which can make you more likely to develop breast and ovarian cancer.
While about 13 percent of women will develop breast cancer at some point in their lives, the chance is between 45 to 72% for women with certain BRCA variants. For ovarian cancer, around 1% of women will develop it, rising to between 11 and 44% for people with BRCA, depending on the variant.
My grandma, great aunt, and great grandma had all had breast cancer, so I was screened for the gene, and the test came back positive.
Mitchell and I got married in 2015 when we were both 25. We knew we wanted a family, but I didn’t want to give the gene to any of our children.
In 2017 we decided to have IVF treatment to screen the embryos before putting them into my womb, to prevent the gene being passed on.
I got pregnant but had a miscarriage, and was told a procedure to scrape the uterus afterwards had made the lining of my womb thin. According to two IVF doctors, it was now impossible for me to carry a baby.
We tried IVF several more times, but my lining would never grow thick enough for an embryo to implant properly, so the cycles kept being cancelled.
My husband and I wanted a family, even if I couldn’t carry our baby
Having a family was important to Mitchell and I, and we were determined to achieve it somehow. If I couldn’t carry a baby in my womb, then we needed to find someone who could.
So we contacted an agency that connected people with surrogates. We were put in touch with Alexis, who lived in Idaho, over 2,000 miles away from us in Miami, and already had a daughter of her own.
There was an instant connection between us, and after some discussions in person and over the phone she agreed to carry our baby. We still had embryos frozen at the fertility clinic from our previous IVF cycles and Alexis had one of them implanted in her womb in October 2019.
When my period was late, I knew I couldn’t be pregnant
Before the baby was born, I was due to have a mastectomy operation — although we hadn’t yet confirmed a date — to limit my chances of developing breast cancer. It’s an extensive surgery so I didn’t want it to affect my ability to hold and care for the baby.
But my period was late, and I didn’t want to have the procedure while I was pregnant in case the baby got harmed. Considering my medical history, I was convinced I wasn’t pregnant but I still did a test just to check.
I couldn’t believe it when it came up positive. We had only just found out several weeks before that Alexis was pregnant with our embryo, too.
I didn’t know how Alexis would feel when she heard our news, but she was excited, and so were Mitchell and I. We were going to have two babies, not one, and we would be bringing them up together like twins.
Alexis supported me throughout my pregnancy, despite what she’d been through
But a few weeks later, Alexis called me. She was devastated. She’d had a lot of bleeding during the night, and had to go to the hospital. She had lost the baby. Alexis, Mitchell, and I were heartbroken.
I just had to put all my hope in my body and pray that this baby would be strong enough to hold on. We had just lost one, and I couldn’t bear to lose this little one, too.
But the odds were stacked against me. My body had never been able to successfully carry a baby before.
Despite what she had been through, Alexis and I talked a lot on the phone during my pregnancy and she supported me all the way through it.
The weeks went by, and my body hung on to the baby. It seemed like a miracle.
Ellie was born in March 2020 and she was perfect. I was in shock when she was born healthy and safe. We had tried for so long and I was finally a mom.
Then, when Ellie was just ten months old, I got pregnant again and gave birth to our son Mauricio in September 2021. The doctors said my womb must have healed itself for me to have gotten pregnant without treatment.
I’m now 32 and I will have a mastectomy when Mauricio is a little bit older and I’ve finished breast feeding. I do worry that I may have passed the gene on to Ellie and Mauricio, but for now, I’m just enjoying being a mom to my two children.
Alexis and I are still good friends and always will be. Even though she didn’t carry a baby for me in the end, I couldn’t have done it without her. Our children haven’t yet met, but I can’t wait for them to do so.