Sarah understood better than most the struggles of fertility. After much disappointment, she finally gave birth to the baby of her dreams. But just seven weeks later, the new mom found herself back in the delivery room...
For Sarah LaFleur, nothing in life has ever come without hard work - a challenge she personally enjoyed. After realizing she was no longer enjoying her high-flying job, she gave it up for a career in fashion.
Her husband was also on a path to success. Chris Schonberger was an incredibly impressive entrepreneur in the food and television industries. But despite their joint career achievements, their personal lives would soon be filled with many tragic disappointments.
After another day of throwing all her clothes out of the wardrobe and frustratingly deciding she had nothing to wear to work, Sarah decided to make the change she wanted to see in the world. On that premise, she set up her vey own company: M.M.LaFleur.
Believing all of the female work clothes in the industry were low-quality and poorly designed, she teamed up with designer Miyako Nakamura to create a line of comfortable yet fashionable workwear. Her brand was immediately popular, serving millions of loyal customers.
Sarah's husband, Chris, had also established his own business venture. According to his website, famous blog First We Feast, he "viewed food as an illuminating lens into pop culture, music, travel, and more through its innovative slate of food-driven video franchises."
With its extremely high ratings, the blog evolved into a YouTube channel and a popular website. A fan-favorite series of theirs soon became Hot Ones. With 17 seasons down, the episodes feature its host Sean Evans interviewing celebrities while they both eat hot wings.
Career Before Family
After meeting and dating in college, the power couple had spent their 20's more focused on the demands of their blossoming careers than each other. Ultimately, the couple decided to meet their professional goals before starting a family. However, in 2015, after turning 30, they made some big decisions.
The time had come for the pair to tie the knot. In the lead-up to the wedding, the baby fever began to kick in, and Sarah found herself thinking about starting a family. She told Marie Claire, her mind was racing, “Oh my gosh, I need to be careful not to get pregnant because I don’t want to be pregnant at my wedding party.”
Sarah and Chris were happy to delay having children because Sarah was confident that she would have no issue falling pregnant when the time came. After the wedding celebrations had ended, the couple turned their attention to their potential family. With their careers at a peak, it felt like the right time. Or so they thought...
After a friend's recommendation, Sarah decided to visit a fertility specialist. Only a precautionary measure at this point, she was simply hoping to learn some helpful expert information before she began to try conceiving. But what she soon came to discover changed everything.
Tests Gone Wrong
After discovering the couple had not yet begun trying, the doctor was not concerned about their fertility and recommended they return after a six-month trial period. Sarah told Marie Claire that after seeing their concerned faces, the specialist told them, “If you really want to run some basic tests, we can do that.”
Basic, they were not. In a surprising turn of events for both the doctor and Sarah, a test involving dye and stirrups left Sarah in excruciating amounts of pain. Shortly after the procedure, she was rushed back to the hospital due to unbearable pain. Sadly, the doctor had some more bad news for the couple.
During these routine tests, the specialist had discovered that Sarah had just one fallopian tube rather than the usual two. Unfortunately, another doctor recognized that the problem was more significant than they initially thought. Sarah had a condition known in the medical world as Unicornuate Uterus.
Although it may sound like a magical unicorn creature, this condition is less friendly than the name suggests. Women with a Unicornuate Uterus will only have one-half of a uterus and just one fallopian tube. Although it is rare, it's widely found to result in infertility.
Fighting Against All Odds
As Sarah researched the condition, she learned that although there was a possibility she could get pregnant, the fetus would unlikely survive through a full-term pregnancy. Chances were high that the pregnancy would end with a miscarriage or premature birth.
Desperately seeking the advice of another fertility specialist, the doctor explained to the couple the unpromising odds of a successful pregnancy. He suggested they consider other fertility approaches; modern medicine had given hope to millions of couples who thought having children would not be possible.
1 in 500
Although the odds were not in her favor in terms of getting pregnant, Sarah had beaten the odds by having the condition in the first place. With only one in five hundred women struggling with a unicornuate uterus, Sarah was part of a very small patient group.
Many questioned Sarah, not understanding how a seemingly healthy woman could have these fertility struggles. Within the medical field, the condition was majorly under-researched and misunderstood. Friends and family begged the couple to consider surrogacy, but they were not yet ready to give up on conceiving naturally...
A Magical Moment
As Sarah waited those suspenseful three minutes to see the result of yet another home pregnancy test, she began to feel hopeful. Could she have gotten pregnant despite all the doctor's unhopeful predictions? Although surrogacy was a viable option, she had always dreamed of carrying her own child.
And then the magical moment arrived: the couple jumped in excitement as they saw the positive result on the test stick. Aware of the potential risks ahead, Sarah and Chris kept the happy news to themselves until they were confident it would turn out okay. Unfortunately, their concerns would be proven valid.
Things Take a Sudden Turn
After a girl's lunch with her friends, where she had secretly skipped over the wine for the sake of her unborn child, Sarah returned to the office and immediately knew something was wrong. Rushing to the bathroom, she discovered she was bleeding and recognized what that meant.
When the bleeding continued for an extensive period of time, she understood she had miscarried. She was devastated. Knowing nothing in her life comes easy, she tried again to get pregnant. Tragically, two more pregnancies would end in this way. What was their next option?
Exploring All Options
Before they would turn to surrogacy, Sarah and Chris decided to give in vitro fertilization a try. In February 2018, the couple began the process, hopeful that this would result in the pregnancy they wished for. Disappointingly, the doctors could only retrieve a few eggs from Sarah during the first cycle.
In total, seven eggs were harvested, and they waited patiently to see if any would fertilize. They discovered only three were viable and put all their hopes into the one embryo transferred to Sarah's uterus. In a chain of bad news, they were told it had not developed into a pregnancy. Perhaps there was something else going on.
An Underlying Condition?
When Sarah's team of doctors found out that she had suffered her whole adult life with severe cramping pains during her periods, they were concerned there may be an underlying condition in play. Believing this could be another factor contributing to her infertility struggles, they ran some tests.
That was when they diagnosed Sarah with another condition called endometriosis. Like with her Unicornuate Uterus, there was limited knowledge about this disease - but in this case, there was a treatment available. Before the procedure took place, the couple decided to try one more round of IVF.
Although the couple had promised themselves they would not get too hopeful to avoid further disappointment, they couldn't help but believe they were finally due for some good luck. With the endometriosis under control through medication, even the doctors were hopeful of their chances.
Sure enough, a promising amount of embryos resulted, and two months later, Sarah prepared for the transfer process. To the utter shock of the confused doctors, the fertilized embryo had, yet again, not developed into a pregnancy. Sarah and Chris were heartbroken once again and were running out of options.
A New Plan Is Hatched
Once again, the couple's doctors and friends tried to persuade the couple to move toward surrogacy. However, Sarah was still holding onto her dream of experiencing pregnancy for herself. Understanding their desperation, doctors wrecked their brains for another solution.
After some research, the doctors presented the pair with an alternative approach. They informed them that there was a fertility clinic practicing "autoimmune stuff," which they could try to visit. It was a unique and experimental approach to IVF treatments, but Sarah was willing to give it a shot.
An Expensive Dream
This entire fertility process had put the couple under significant financial strain. Not only would they have to pay for Sarah's endometriosis surgery, but the planned autoimmune treatments were also remarkably expensive due to their experimental and cutting-edge nature.
The pair did the math and calculated that they were looking at the cost of at least $3000/week over the course of many weeks. This was not even including the price of Sarah's other medications that she was on at the time. They worried they would not be able to afford to keep going much longer.
Feeling the Pressure
Sarah and Chris were unbearably overwhelmed - and not just financially. They needed to find the time in their already busy schedules for multiple medical appointments. For Sarah, her growing business required her full attention, and she struggled with being pulled in so many different directions.
Determined not to give up on her professional or personal dreams, she told herself she could find a way to do it all. Sadly, in January 2019, after being told she would need a five-hour-long transfusion procedure, she realized that she didn't have five hours to spare. And just like that, she called it quits on her fertility journey.
Setting Her Sights Elsewhere
But she wasn't done just yet. Although they had done almost everything in their power to avoid it, Sarah and Chris finally decided to seriously consider the surrogacy route. After researching the process, they decided to give it a go and began the search for a suitable surrogate.
Finally, Sarah met Trisha, a young woman from Minnesota. After meeting with her and discussing the details of the arrangement, the couple was confident in her ability to take good care of their unborn child. She was the perfect fit, and they were excited to finally get things started.
The Big Moment
Once all the paperwork and details were in order, Sarah made the trip to Minneapolis to meet up with Trisha and her husband Mason one last time before the embryo transfer. With everyone fully on board, the procedure took place there in Minnesota and proved to be an overwhelming moment for everyone involved.
While Sarah stood holding her surrogate's hand, watching the embryo being transferred, she could not believe this selfless act of kindness that Trisha was doing for her. As she shed a tear, she looked around the room and saw she was not the only one feeling the emotion of the moment.
The anxiety kicked in for both women as they waited to see if the embryo had taken. Talking to Marie Claire about the suspenseful time, Sarah recalls telling her surrogate, "Trisha, I hope you know, whatever happens, it's going to be okay." That being said, she was gutted to find out the pregnancy attempt had failed.
While most of us would have completely given up all hope at this point, Sarah admirably pushed through and found the strength to continue. She had learned to prepare herself for disappointment at every stage, and she believed this helped to cope with the setbacks.
Another Glimmer of Hope
With this positive mindset, Sarah set out to find another solution - not willing to stop until she held her child in her arms. It had been over a year since she quit the IVF treatments, so she asked around for recommendations. A friend told her about a drug called Lovenox which she herself had used to get pregnant.
Sarah took the information to her doctor and requested to be given the drug. Although hesitant at first, the specialist eventually agreed and started Sarah on another round of IVF with the assistance of the Lovenox. Could this be the solution she needed this whole time?
A Second Attempt
In December 2019, Sarah underwent another embryo transfer procedure, praying this time it would not end with a miscarriage. Despite the hope, the couple knew the unlikelihood of a full-term pregnancy. They decided to double their odds and team up with Trisha once again.
Trisha was immediately on board to try for a second time. During the transfer process, she suggested using two embryos to increase their chances of taking. Sarah agreed after doctors reassured her that the embryos were not particularly "high quality"; therefore, their likeliness of developing into twins was low.
A Double Win
Finally, Sarah and Chris had a win. After years of financial strain and emotional turmoil, the couple received some good news for a change. Not only had Trisha managed to get pregnant, but the doctors were confident it was twins. Six weeks in, Trisha went for a scan to check that it was all looking as it should.
And that was when they heard it: two loud heartbeats played from the ultrasound machine, confirming that Trisha was indeed carrying twins. Two healthy babies were on the way! The couple, who were extremely excited, had no idea that more good news was around the corner...
Too Good To Be True?
In a shocking turn of events, Sarah discovered that her own procedure had been successful, and she was pregnant too! However, she knew that nothing had really changed and that she was as susceptible to miscarriage as she was the last time. Therefore, she decided to hide her bump and keep the news under wraps again.
She understood the importance of keeping her mind and body calm throughout the pregnancy to give the fetus a chance of survival. This time, Sarah was able to take the pressure off her own body by telling herself that if she was to miscarry, her chances of being a mother were still high because of Trisha's double pregnancy.
Breaking the News
By sharing this incredibly special and emotional experience, Sarah and Trisha built a friendship that would likely last forever. Due to the pandemic's travel restrictions, Sarah was unable to attend the appointments in person and was forced to communicate with her surrogate and the doctors exclusively through FaceTime.
When Sarah discovered she was pregnant, she was nervous about breaking the news to her surrogate. After all, Trisha had done this remarkable selfless deed for the couple because she understood they could not have a child on their own. However, Trisha was delighted for her new friend.
Becoming a Mother
To the bewilderment of the doctors and the couple themselves, Sarah's pregnancy continued further than any previous time. Once Sarah hit the thirty-week mark, she allowed herself to feel the excitement of the moment and believed wholeheartedly that her child would arrive safely.
Perhaps attributed to her calmer state of mind for this pregnancy, Sarah made it to thirty-nine weeks! When the doctors noticed the snagged cord, they conducted an emergency cesarean, and her son Kento was born weighing eight pounds! After all the struggles, she was finally holding her child in her arms. She couldn't believe it.
After just six weeks of bonding with her newborn child, it was time for Sarah to travel to Minneapolis for the birth of her twins! After a stressful start where the twins refused to be born naturally, Trisha too underwent a cesarean. At six pounds each, Theo and Astrid were born!
Talking to Marie Claire about the memorable moment, she said, "it was one of the most surreal experiences of my life — watching your babies be born out of someone else's body." Sarah and Chris's family had grown from two to five in just under two months!
Adjusting to Reality
When Sarah and Chris debuted their three new children to their friends and family, everyone was shocked at the news. The couple had kept their journey entirely off social media, so no one had known Sarah was pregnant - nor were they aware of the secret surrogate holding twins!
The new parents were also in for a surprise, not fully comprehending how greatly their children would change their lives. Sarah told Marie Claire that she had to adapt her entire lifestyle to be a mother. Although she worked so hard to have these children, she had enjoyed her carefree life beforehand.
Knowing there would inevitably be many questions regarding the relationship between her three children, who were so close in age, the couple coined the term "triblings" to describe their children. As siblings who were almost triplets, they felt this best summed it all up!
Although Sarah could have easily referred to the children as triplets, she consciously chose not to in order not to take away from her miraculous birth and the selfless act that Trisha had done for her and Chris. Sarah understood the blessings she had been given and was happy to share her story with the world.
Happily Ever After
For six special weeks, Sarah was able to think of nothing else but her new children, tending to their every need. However, Sarah's maternity leave period was over, and it was time for her to return to work. Her fertility journey had taken over her mind for some time, and she needed to refocus her attention on her business.
Leaving new children behind can be a challenge, but Sarah was confident with her decision to go back to work. “I was like, ‘Oh my God, I feel like myself again.’ But they are just pure joy. I don’t know how else to describe it,” she told Marie Claire. After endless years of trials and tears, Sarah finally got her happy ending.