Is Surrogacy The Best Gift Your Sister Can Give?

When Kari Thorp was a teenager, it didn’t take long to realise that something was amiss in her body. The periods that her sister and friends experienced eluded Kari, who, with her mother, was concerned for her wellbeing and future family wellness and consulted a specialist.


Kari discovered that her uterus had never fully developed, and had to have a hysterectomy. She describes feeling like, ‘My dream was literally being cut from me’ though she was able to keep her ovaries, in order to avoid hormone replacement therapy. Her sister Tara remembers ‘feeling really awful, because even though at that time neither of us were in a place to have children, that was, of course in my mind right away.’


This experience fed into Kari’s relationships, as ‘You have to say at some point … “I can’t have kids,” all while nervous, will this end our relationship?’ However, Kari married Chad Thorp, and though he had a son from a previous relationship, the pair wanted to build a family together, and so Kari ‘put a bug in her sister’s ear’ about the idea of surrogacy.


Kari says ‘the biggest hurdle was watching my sister Tara have kids,’ and Tara remembers worrying ‘how will I tell Kari?’ with each of her three pregnancies. A year after giving birth to her third child in 2008, Tara agreed to give her sister the gift of a lifetime, and carry and give birth to her nephew.


Before Tara began any treatments, Kari went through a ‘practice round’ of IVF to make sure her body and ovaries would respond to the medicine. Then both sisters began treatment and had to sync their cycles, something that every woman’s body does even if, like Kari, you never have a period. The first egg retrieval did not result in pregnancy and damaged Kari’s wellness with an infection from the process. Her reproductive doctor wanted to remove her ovaries, but Kari said, ‘I wouldn’t let her. I told her that I wanted to try again.’


At a fertility conference in 2011, Kari and her mother met a new doctor from the Mayo Clinic, and made ‘the appointment thinking, what more do we have to lose?’ It was after this consultancy that Tara took a home pregnancy test, and rang her sister with the news: ‘It’s positive!’ However, her nephew was not born as easily as her own children had been, as Gavin Michael Thorp was born via caesarean, being stuck behind her pelvic bone. ‘His heartbeat was going down and my blood pressure was going down,’ Tara says, though the baby was born healthy.


Tara says that surrogacy is ‘such a short amount of time for such a beautiful gift’ and allowed her to bond with her nephew in a way that most aunts will never experience. ‘He’s my nephew, but he’s my special nephew,’ Tara says.

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