After a succession of devastating miscarriages, Erin Boelhower still believed that she and her husband Matthew would one day have a child together. But when nine IVF treatments over the course of three years failed, it might have seemed like there was nothing left to try. Then, however, her best friend presented an incredible solution.
Erin is a 33-year-old sales rep from Woodstock, Illinois. She’s been friends with Rachel Checolinski, a 34-year-old stay-at-home mom also from Wisconsin, since 2008. The pair hit it off when they were employed at the same airport, and they formed a bond that saw them become best friends.
Erin and 33-year-old Matthew, an ex-Marine who now works as a corrections officer, married in 2012. They were each 27 at the time and not wanting to waste any time in having a family, they immediately started trying for a baby. The path to parenthood, however, was paved with difficulties.
One pregnancy test followed another, but for 12 months the results showed up negative. A visit to the doctors revealed that Erin had developed an infection in one of her fallopian tubes. Its removal, however, would mean that a natural conception would subsequently prove incredibly tricky.
Erin’s problems didn’t end there, though. When the surgery had been completed, doctors discovered she had both hypothyroidism and polycystic ovarian syndrome. Although neither condition posed a particular threat to the wannabe mom’s health, they meant conception would range from difficult to impossible, with a risk of miscarriage if successful.
So Erin and her husband weighed up their options and decided to try other methods of conception. First they gave intrauterine insemination (IUI) a shot, whereby Matthew’s sperm was placed directly into Erin’s uterus. “This would be the beginning of our hundreds of injections,” Erin told the New York Post in October 2018.
“I was terrified of needles,” Erin admitted. “When we first started these treatments, I would go to Matt’s work every night for him to inject me with the hormones – that’s how scared of injections I was.” After three attempts at IUI, however, pregnancy still evaded her.
By November 2014 the couple were ready for a more drastic option and started IVF treatment. Initially, it seemed to be working – within just weeks, in fact, Erin learned she was pregnant. But her and Matt’s excitement was to be short lived. At her six-week scan, which took place on the day she turned 30, Erin discovered that she’d suffered a miscarriage.
“It’s heartbreaking,” Erin admitted. “You do IVF, and then it works. But you never think a miscarriage will happen to you. You are not only disappointed in yourself, but you feel bad because you are not giving your husband the baby he dreamed of, or your mother the grandchild she dreamed of.”
But with her best friend’s support, Erin got through the ordeal and was determined to try again. She tried three more times, in fact, but the joy of each initial conception only ended in heartbreak. When it came to miscarriage number four, Erin began to wonder how much more she could take.
“I wrote on Instagram about how I was reaching my breaking point,” Erin explained. Rachel read the post and, hating to see her friend suffering, contacted Erin to make a suggestion. “She said, ‘What if a friend is your surrogate?’” Erin recalled. “It was such a generous offer. I couldn’t get my head around it.”
Rachel already had three kids of her own – 13-year-old Amarach, five-year-old Cillian and three-year-old Teagan. She nonetheless knew only too well what Erin was going through. In fact, it was the problems she herself had experienced becoming pregnant with Cillian that gave Rachel the idea to volunteer to surrogate.
Indeed, the second pregnancy for Rachel and her 34-year-old spouse Dan had been a tricky one. “I struggled for two years to conceive Cillian,” she recalled. “So I knew the pain of wanting something really badly and not being able to fulfill that dream.”
Rachel had supported Erin throughout all of her previous struggles, too. “I had been there through all of Erin’s infertility treatments, I cried with her when she lost each one of her babies,” Rachel stated. “I would say to her, ‘I wish there’s something I could do.’ I was in the shower one day, praying for her, and suddenly the answer came. I could be her surrogate.”
At first, though, Erin was unsure about whether to accept Rachel’s incredible offer. But in June 2017 – after further IVF treatments and two more failed pregnancies – she knew what needed to happen. Erin had gone through three years, nine IVF transfers and over 600 injections but had nothing to show for it beyond six heartbreaking miscarriages. She was ready to accept Rachel’s proposal.
Erin and her husband subsequently put together the necessary funds for to pay for the treatment and legal costs. At the start of 2018 Rachel was implanted with a couple of her best friend’s embryos. And shortly afterwards, she discovered that she was pregnant. Rachel was set to have Erin’s long-awaited baby.
Erin and Rachel were inseparable for the ensuing nine months, and this time everything went without a hitch. Rachel’s labor began on September 19, with Erin present throughout the birth. Later that day, Rachel delivered a baby girl, whom Erin and Matt named Scottie.
“It was very hard for me to watch Rachel screaming in pain during the labor and knowing it was all for me,” Erin admitted. “What made it even more special was that Scottie was born on my late father Scott’s birthday. He passed away from stomach cancer in 2015.”
“I knew I was carrying and having a baby that wasn’t mine,” Rachel added. “I was most excited about seeing my best friend become a mom and holding the baby she had always wanted.”
And Erin now has the baby she always dreamed of. “I have no clue how I lived this long without Scottie,” she said. “I will never forget everything that we went through to get her here, and she was definitely worth it all.” And Rachel continues to be involved in Scottie’s life as one her godmothers, “I want [her] to know how big a role Rachel has played in her life,” Erin added. “It’s an unbreakable bond.”