Surrogate pregnant with 11th baby – and she would do it again

As surrogacy industry booms following celebrities openly using ‘gestational carriers’, Ohio woman says she is motivated by helping heartbroken couples – and would have baby number 12 ‘in a heartbeat’

Amelia Neath
Thursday 25 April 2024 13:51 BST
Emily Westerfield, 37, has carried and delivered 10 babies in the past 13 years
Emily Westerfield, 37, has carried and delivered 10 babies in the past 13 years (Courtesy of Emily Westerfield)

At the age of 37, an Ohio woman has successfully carried and delivered 10 healthy babies after pledging years of her life to help heartbroken couples who desperately wanted a child.

Emily Westerfield has spent a lot of the past 13 years being pregnant, carrying 10 babies to full term, three of which were her own biological children, and the rest as a surrogate, otherwise called a ‘gestational carrier’, for families who needed help bringing their babies into the world.

The mother-of-three is currently 28 weeks pregnant with baby number 11, telling Today that she is “probably the unicorn in this industry”.

Throughout her surrogacy journeys, Ms Westerfield noticed that there are many more families who require help than those out there who can help, which eventually led her to set up her own ‘family-building agency,’ Carrying Dreams, last year, designed to help people with surrogacy to egg donation.

Ms Westerfield’s agency is one example of the surrogacy industry seeing a rise in popularity and awareness, an industry that is expected to continue to soar over the next couple of years, due to medical technology advancements and changes in social attitudes, according to a report by research group IMARC obtained by Forbes.

The industry has grown from $6bn in 2018 to an estimated $17.9bn in 2023, research company Global Markets Insights says, with the forecasted figures of the surrogacy market expected to reach $129bn by 2032.

Ms Westerfield told The Independent that she hopes the future of surrogacy brings more awareness to the process, both for families and those who may consider being a gestational carrier themselves.

“I wish everyone who wanted to carry a child could, however that's not realistic and it's why places like Carrying Dreams exist - to help those who want to start a family and need advice and facilitation to get there,” she said.

“When the industry becomes larger, because it will, more people will hopefully understand and be educated on the topic of surrogacy,” she added. “Infertility and surrogacy won't be so shameful and it will be a subject of positivity and hope when in cases there sometimes isn't.” 

Surrogacy has also been represented in popular culture in recent years, after many celebrities have been open about their use of surrogates, from couple Chrissy Teigen and John Legend to socialite Paris Hilton with her other half and actor Jesse Tyler Ferguson with his husband.

However, the cost of surrogacy for families is no small expense, as the whole process can cost tens of thousands of dollars depending on legal, agency, surrogate and IVF fees, Today reports.

For those who are prepared to take this path, however, can be hindered by a lack of “people that are willing to help”, something which initially influenced Ms Westerfield to start helping families with their pregnancies.

‘I am so proud to be able to do this for other people’
‘I am so proud to be able to do this for other people’ (Courtesy Emily Westerfield)

Ms Westerfield’s surrogacy journey was sparked when she started to spend more time with her husband’s cousin, who had trouble sustaining a pregnancy for years.

"She just continuously kept having loss after loss, and it was heartbreaking," she told Today.

After Ms Westerfield was able to deliver her own three children more easily in comparison to her husband’s cousin, she began to feel a sense of guilt every time she shared pregnancy news with her.

She offered to be a gestational carrier for the cousin’s embryo, and while surrogacy was not the way they wanted to go, Ms Westerfield said that she knew that there would be many people out there who would need that sort of help.

Eventually, she signed up to a forum she likened to a “Craigslist of everybody in the infertility community,” and was quickly overwhelmed with emails and queries from people seeking her help.

The decision to choose a couple was not easy, however, as she told Today that each story was more heartbreaking than the next.

However, she eventually went with a couple who was trying to have a third child, but were unable to do it by themselves after the mother had to undergo an emergency hysterectomy in her second birth.

Ms Westerfield was able to deliver their third child, a baby girl, in 2015 after carrying the embryo the couple had created to full term.

“I noticed that as soon as I had the first one, I wanted to do this again. It was almost just like, ‘Now who else can I help?’” she told the outlet.

Since then, Ms Westerfield has delivered healthy babies in 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017, 2018, 2021 and 2022, including carrying twins twice, and is currently expecting to give birth again in July.

Ms Westerfield says that she would carry baby number 12 “in a heartbeat” and would continue to help others for “as long as my body and family allow me to”.

Starting up her own surrogacy agency, Carrying Dreams, in August 2023, she hopes to continue to educate and give resources to potential surrogates and families looking to take this path in bringing a new life into the world.

“I feel like there’s so much information out there that it’s overwhelming," Ms Westerfield told Today. "And a lot of it is outdated or incorrect, and I want to be able to speak from personal experience going through this process."

Through her agency, she helps match families with gestational carriers, making sure they fit each other’s requirements regarding physical or chromosomal abnormalities, location, contact after birth, and even vaccination status.

"I am so proud to be able to do this for other people,” Ms Westerfield told the outlet. “I know my time is very limited as we’re getting closer and closer to how many people I’m able to help, but still, I’m young enough, and I’m healthy enough to be able to do so.”

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