This is a story.
An incredible surrogate story of rare friendship and faith.
I wanted to honor these two families who joined together to make a miracle happen – by the only way I know how – pouring my love and passion into them and documenting their story.
I hope you continue to read Melissa’s beautiful words of how her son Clayton was brought into this world.
(Fair warning: You might want to grab a box of kleenex.)

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Clayton’s story began on a day in August, 1998, when a boy from Iowa, and a boy from Yale, MI walked into a residence hall at Michigan State University, with hope, a little fear, a lot of excitement, and desire to begin the rest of their lives. Kyle and Zach met that first day, and have been friends ever since, living together throughout their college years, and forging a friendship with a group of men that will last a lifetime. The girlfriends soon became fast friends, and a flurry of weddings created an even tighter bond amongst this group of kids that were growing together into “good people”.

Following the weddings, there was a baby boom of sorts while all of the families began expanding. Zach and I were so happy for all of our friends, with notes of sadness, as for many years we struggled with infertility. With great joy and happiness, along with a lot of struggle and work, Zach and I were able to conceive our first son Colton through IVF. We had a rough pregnancy, and an even more long difficult recovery, but we had a beautiful baby boy on March 13, 2012.

We continued to watch as our friends expanded their families and we had a strong yearning to provide Colton a sibling and have him experience the joy, and the experiences, that having a sibling can provide. We began trying as soon as we were cleared. We soon found out it was going to be a rough road, as I was diagnosed with “Asherman’s Syndrome” or uterine scar tissue, however, we were diligent in our desire, and therefore found the best doctor in the US to treat my condition. We went through multiple rounds of surgeries, multiple rounds of IVF, a few ‘short lived’ positives, and many devastating negative pregnancy tests. Our close friends were aware of our struggles as we cancelled many vacations, get togethers, and life plans all due to our many medical trials to grow our family.

Throughout our struggle, Amy started to receive small messages from God, she felt that she wanted to help, and realized that there was a way that she could. She continued to pray about it, and it would sneak up on her at different points in her day to day life, always at the back of her mind. She would dismiss the thoughts, or push them aside, and they kept on reoccurring. It reached a point in which she decided that she would make the unbelievable offer to be our surrogate, and just see what would happen.

On Memorial Day of 2015, we had the opportunity to have a get together with as many of the Michigan State families that were able to come. Somehow during that crazy weekend, we found ourselves in the kitchen, Kyle, Amy, Zach and myself, alone, which is a miracle in itself. It was then that Amy brought forth her amazing selfless offer to carry a baby for us. Zach and I were blown away. We were just so overwhelmed with gratitude and emotion for the offer, there was pretty much just tears and some blubbering. At this point, we had not given up on our pursuit to get me pregnant, but the offer was just so beautiful and altruistic and humble, and I will never ever forget those moments, and that night in which Zach and I whispered about how amazing and special of an offer this was. We tucked it away, as did Amy, as we continued to see medical professionals to get myself pregnant.

In mid-2015, Zach and I decided after multiple scar removal surgeries to try another ‘fresh’ IVF cycle. We were finally successful! We found out we were pregnant with twins. With great joy we listened to our babies heartbeats around week 7. In week 9, I had a vivid dream in which a great Aunt visited me, and told me I would lose this pregnancy but everything would be OK. I woke up feeling a great sense of devastation. We found out one week later that we lost both babies the week prior, probably around the same time as my dream. Our sadness was deep and hard, however, we picked our chins up, and decided to try again with our frozen embryos. Before we could try again, I had to have an easy surgery to remove a fibroid. I scheduled the surgery in January of 2016 after the holidays. I went in and was knocked out for the surgery, I woke up after it was complete and heard a nurse say, “Does she know”? I was knocked back out. When I woke up again, my mom had the terrible task of telling her daughter that she could never carry a baby again (as it was supposed to be routine, Zach was on a work trip). Unbelievable despair followed…we had so much hope and it was crushed.

The next day, around lunch time, I received a text message from Kyle, “Can you talk?”. I had told nobody at this point that I was even having this surgery or the devastating news that followed. The Lappins had not discussed again with us the potential of Amy’s offer because we were continuing on our journey to get myself pregnant. When I saw Kyle’s text that next day, my stomach dropped. I thought to myself ‘really?’…he probably wants to say that they are going to move on with their lives, and maybe Amy didn’t want to have this offer out there anymore, which I totally understood, and was prepared to hear. Kyle and I got through pleasantries when we connected on the phone. The whole time, I was just going through motions, trying to get through the phone call with the weight of yesterday’s realization on my mind. Well, God had different plans, Kyle had called to tell me that he had a dream about me the night before, and felt a need to talk with me to let me know that he supports Amy if we did choose to have her carry our baby. I didn’t tell him at that point what happened the day before, I just shook, and cried a little and thanked him. That call is what we needed, when Zach and I, the previous year had discussed Amy’s offer lightly, we both agreed that we would need to make sure she had Kyle’s support in this as well.

To keep the story short, things progressed, we travelled to Chicago in March to have some in person conversations about this possibility. God continued to show his presence throughout the journey.  Amy had a beautiful pregnancy, and went through a lot of pain, hormones, emotions, and anticipation in helping us bring Clayton into this world. The gift she provided Zach, myself, and Colton is indescribable in words. It cannot be matched. The gift she provided Clayton is life, the ability to live, the ability to have joy, sadness, time, everything. I can’t even begin to think of words to say ‘thank you’, as those words just don’t exist. Clayton will forever know this story, and know that Amy is the amazing angel that made his life possible.

On March 6, 2017, Clayton John Keen was born. Amy’s bravery, love, dedication, and strength were proven once again when she endured her most difficult delivery out of her five, bringing Clayton into this world. I hope that Lucas, Sydney, Josh, and Nathan, will know what a ‘superwoman’ of a mom they have. Our families that started out as friends ~19 years ago are now joined eternally as ‘family.’

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This little dumpling came to visit me, and I fell in love with his chill personality.
We hugged, we played, we giggled. We basically became besties right off the bat.
I have been so lucky to get extra scrumptious little boys in the studio, and I am loving every second of it since we are a family of girls.
Boden, you stole my heart.
I hope you had the best first birthday, cutie pie. Let’s play again soon!

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Every baby arrives with their own unique story.
I love getting to know each family that I photograph, and hearing their family story that they hold close to their hearts.  It makes my job so special.
This sweet baby boy surprised his family by arriving 11 weeks early, weighing 3.3 pounds.
With lots of love and care, he spent many days in the NICU being spoiled by the nurses as he gained weight, learned how to suck, breath, and swallow on his own before being released to go home.
As a parent, I couldn’t imagine the extra emotions involved having to leave the hospital
without your baby in your arms.
It takes strong, positive, and graceful parents to endure these obstacles.
Christopher’s parents were perfectly made just for his birth story.
On day 64 Christopher Fox was able to go home!
What I loved so much about this family is that they embraced the challenges that they endured as first time parents.
They have a healthy baby boy, and are so very grateful.

Christopher came to see me when he was a little over 2 months old, and weighing about 8lbs.
He was a dream baby, and I fell in love with his adorable grunts and smiles.
This is a newborn story that I will for sure always remember.

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