Elijah’s smile lights up his little face, framed by a full head of thick, dark hair.
“He’s just silly; he’s a love,” says Erica Harmelech of Glastonbury, who once wondered if she’d ever become a mom.
While trying to conceive, with help from a high risk team, she suffered a pulmonary embolism. Since pregnancy was no longer an option, she began to think about surrogacy.
“It was terribly strange to me,” says Erica’s husband, Etan. But after research the Harmelechs decided it was the right choice, became matched with a surrogate and embarked on an IVF procedure with her eggs and his sperm . The next year was filled with nerves, gratitude and, ultimately, joy.
“It’s weird, it’s complicated, it’s a variety of feelings,” says Erica, remembering the moment when she heard the surrogate was pregnant, admitting she felt “terrified” until after the first trimester.
While a lot of mothers change their lifestyle as their belly grows, Erica struggled to figure out how to prepare: “You can’t change your eating habits, you can’t change your social habits, so I knit! I knit, like, four-thousand hats!”
The couple only saw their surrogate, living in Kentucky, two times during the pregnancy, but they were in the hospital room when Elijah was born.
“She wanted us to do ‘skin-to-skin’ in the room with her,” says a grateful Erica. “We have a very open relationship.” The baby hadn’t heard his parents’ voices, but he took to them right away.
“When I held him, for me, that was the moment I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s our kid. That’s our guy,” remembers Etan.
See Sarah Cody’s interview with the Harmelech family below:
“Sometimes it’s stressful,” says attorney Victoria Ferrara, founder of the matching agency, Worldwide Surrogacy Specialists in Fairfield. “You’re dealing with people’s hopes and dreams of having a baby.”
Insurance can be a complicated issue. The Harmelechs’ plan was used for fertility treatments, and the surrogate’s insurance covered the pregnancy. Surrogacy’s huge price tag — about $100,000 from start to finish, including clinic services, legal fees and the surrogate’s payment — can also be an obstacle.
“We couldn’t afford surrogacy,” says Erica. “So everybody in our family and everybody in our community gave whatever they could.”
Ferrara helps people understand the complexities. “It’s like a puzzle, putting the pieces together for establishing legal parentage for the ‘Intended Parents’,” she says. “Every state is different in terms of figuring that out.”
Elijah, now 5 months old, will always be 100 percent aware of his birth story.
“I think it’s a great lesson for him about kindness and giving,” says Erica. “He literally is a child of love, and I think that’s cool for him to know.”
The Harmelechs saved an embryo from their first IVF procedure and would love to give Elijah a sibling, but they remain overwhelmed by the financial commitment. For now they will keep playing with their son, their dream come true.