CoVa Couple Starts Their Family Through Surrogacy
Ashley Whitlow Photography
Chris and Candace Wohl married right out of college, but their plan was to wait a while before having children. That plan changed when Chris developed a brain tumor a year into their marriage. After Chris endured dozens of visits to the hospital, several brushes with death and two craniotomies, the couple had a change in perspective.
“I saw my husband skate the door of death,” Candace says. “We decided life was too short and we should start our family.”
After a year of unsuccessfully trying to get pregnant, the Wohls decided to visit their OB-GYN. The first step was intrauterine insemination (IUI), also referred to as artificial insemination or, as Candace calls it, the “turkey baster method.” When that was unsuccessful, the Wohls moved on to in vitro fertilization (IVF).
“That is a big step from something that is somewhat affordable to a ginormous bill,” Candace says.
IVF treatments in the U.S. usually range from $10,000 to $15,000 for one round, not including the cost of medication, which usually falls between $1,500 and $3,000 per cycle. Some insurance plans will cover certain aspects of fertility treatments, but most do not provide coverage for the bulk of the expense.
“Sadly, cost is the No. 1 barrier to family building,” Candace says.
The Wohls went through a total of six rounds of IVF. Candace was always an excellent responder to the initial part of the treatment. Unfortunately, despite having what her doctor referred to as “beautiful embryos,” her uterus would not support them. On top of that, she developed the beginning stages of uterine cancer. After the fifth round of IVF, the doctors told her she had one last try before she would need to have a partial hysterectomy.
With the understanding that this was the last chance she had at carrying a pregnancy, Candace prepared for her last round of IVF. Meanwhile, MTV had found the Wohls through their blog, "Our Misconception," and began filming their journey for the “True Life” documentary, “I’m Desperate to Have a Baby.”
“They followed us during our sixth round of IVF, as well as another couple that was going through their first attempt. We were both cycling at the same time,” Candace recalls. “That woman got pregnant, and I found out I was yet again not pregnant. The moment I found out, the two grown men filming us broke down crying. They told us this was the hardest documentary they’d ever filmed.”
All the fundraising, the constant trips to the doctor, the countless procedures, drugs, shots and hormonal roller coasters had come down to this devastating moment. That same day, the Wohls decided on their next step: adoption.
They met with adoption agencies right away and began fundraising. The Wohls had taken on six rounds of IVF themselves, and there was no way they would now be able to take on the financial burden of adoption.
“I got a lot of flak for that. People would say, ‘How can you afford to have a child if you can’t afford to bring one into the world?’ The difference is when you are infertile, you have to pay a lump sum up front to have a child. Yes, I could afford a child. But at that point, after six rounds of IVF, I couldn’t afford to bring one into the world,” Candace says.
The Wohls proceeded to raise funds for their adoption. It was then that a friend’s sister found the couple on social media and approached them with an offer to be their gestational carrier—their surrogate.
“I completely dismissed it. Adoption was our answer,” Candace says.
But Candace’s mother reminded her about the two embryos she had left from her last round of IVF. This chance was not likely to come around again. So, Candace and Chris talked it over, and they decided to go for it.
“The pregnancy went wonderfully. Our surrogate gave us the most beautiful gift a woman could ever give to an infertile couple,” Candace says.
Candace was able to attend every single doctor’s appointment with her surrogate, and they developed a special relationship during those nine months. But the process was certainly not without its struggles.
“Having this child through surrogacy was like watching a quarterback run with your last game ball at the last few seconds of the game. You hope nothing happens—that no trip or slip keeps the quarterback from making it to the goal. The only thing you can do is cheer on the sidelines because you have no control. All you can do is pray and hope they make it,” Candace says.
Fortunately for the Wohls, their quarterback made it to the goal line. Their daughter, Grayson, was born in June of 2014. After seven years of fighting an uphill battle to become parents, the Wohls finally had a child of their own. Candace also defied the odds and was able to induce lactation and breastfeed her daughter right after she was born. She had to dry pump for five months leading up to the delivery, along with taking breastfeeding supplements. She also took the medication Domperidone, which is generally used for gastrointestinal tract problems but can also increase the production of prolactin, the hormone that stimulates milk production.
“I watched someone else painfully labor my child. My body had failed me in that regard. But being able to breastfeed my daughter was like giving Mother Nature the middle finger. It was very healing for me,” Candace says.
Three years later, Candace continues to be a supporter and advocate for infertile couples. She and Chris continue to blog on "Our Misconception." Additionally, Candace runs the Hampton Roads RESOLVE support group, which provides support for men and women experiencing infertility. Candace is also very involved with infertility advocacy work. She goes to Capitol Hill each year for Advocacy Day to fight for reproductive rights for people struggling with infertility.
“Infertility impacts the same amount of people who are diagnosed with diabetes. Yet, you don’t hear about these issues as often,” Wohl says. “Advocating for people suffering from this disease is healing for me too. I can’t do anything about what’s happened to me, but I can help change things for the better for future generations.”