For 16 years, Elaine and Erasmo Puebla raised three children from her previous marriage, adopted two boys and took in several children. But with Elaine having tied her tubes, she and her husband Erasmo, 42, of Sullivan City, could not have children of their own. Even though Erasmo was happy to raise all those kids, they were not his flesh and blood. “It was not the same,” Elaine said.
So she had a tubal reversal surgery in Florida, where the couple used to live. But several expensive attempts at in-vitro fertilization failed, and the couple stopped trying. Elaine got depressed.
After moving to the Valley, though, she decided to give it another try. Where “there is a will, there is a way,” Erasmo said. Elaine went to a fertilization clinic, where Dr. Esteban Ortega Brown gave her hope. But the couple hit another obstacle: Elaine’s age of 45 meant getting pregnant would pose risks to the baby.
Dr Esteban Brown offered another solution.
Elaine had frozen her husband’s sperm, so they needed only find an egg donor and a surrogate mother. Several members of her family volunteered, and she chose her 20-year-old daughter-in-law. Using the egg of an anonymous donor from Dr. Brown’s clinic in McAllen, the physical elements were lined up. But the couple still had legal obstacles — specific to surrogate motherhood — to resolve.
En route to a judge’s approval, the family had to go through psychiatric evaluations and health screenings and pre-empt any custody issues — all the while knowing that the fertilization attempt might fail. The couple finally got the green light from the court, and Brown performed an in-vitro fertilization. It worked. The surrogate was pregnant.
On Jan. 25, she gave birth to twins — a boy and a girl.
Erasmo Puebla Jr. and Gabriela Puebla are 8 months old now. He weighs 26 pounds; she weighs 25. The babies were born under the name of the surrogate mother, and friction arose between her and Elaine as the latter went through the legal process of making them Pueblas. But the ultimate custody agreement was never threatened. “You can get frustrated with your family, like my son woke up in a bad mood, that’s just family,” Elaine said. It would have been difficult to bring a stranger into her house, though, so Elaine is happy that her surrogate was a relative.
At “least I knew my daughter-in-law was not on drugs,” Elaine said.
The uterus has a window in a natural cycle that accepts embryos, but with an in-vitro fertilization, that window doesn’t come about naturally, Brown said. So a surrogate must take hormone shots for at least a month before switching to suppositories. The daily shots had the surrogate’s rear-end covered in bruises, and she would resist taking them sometimes, Elaine said. In addition to the shots, the surrogate carried the babies for 30 weeks and pumped milk for almost two months — including a month while the babies were in the neonatal intensive care unit — and then at home.
Needless to say, the Pueblas are grateful for their surrogate. They did not disclose whether they paid her, but did say the overall process cost more than $40,000, including legal fees and doctor’s bills. For Erasmo, it’s a new beginning and a burst of youth that comes decades after he first had children. “I waited 20 years for this,” Erasmo said. “It’s something really incredible for me.” And Elaine can’t thank their surrogate enough.
“I am really grateful for (her),” Elaine said. “There is nothing I wouldn’t do for her … look what she’s given me,” she said, pointing to her babies.
Martha L. Hernández covers health, business and general assignments for The Monitor and El Nuevo Heraldo. She can be reached at (956) 683-4846