Jessica and Ryan Jordan had been trying to have a baby for eight years.
At first the Maple Ridge couple tried to conceive themselves, but couldn’t.
They had their first stillborn at 27 weeks. This was followed by two more late-term miscarriages and four other miscarriages.
“We came to the realization that this isn’t going to be happening for us that way,” said Jessica. So, the couple decided to look into the possibility of adoption.
However, Jessica who is now 45 and Ryan, who is 47, were in their late 30s and early 40s at the time and learned that if they adopted locally there would be no guarantee, because of their ages, that they would receive a newborn.
“You know, we had been trying so hard, I think, at first, we wanted to have an infant, not an older child,” she explained.
The couple looked into adopting internationally and decided on adopting a baby from Japan, the only place, Jessica said, where you could adopt an infant.
However, the provincial government suspended the B.C.-Japan adoption program in 2018, a suspension that has since been lifted.
It was only then that the couple thought about surrogacy.
“I honestly don’t know how we first got thinking about surrogacy. I think that it was the financial aspect of it,” said Jessica.
“When we were doing the numbers, to us it was going to cost the same amount to go to Japan to try and adopt as it was going to be to try and do surrogacy,” she added.
At first they tried in vitro fertilization to use Jessica’s own eggs, but they were unable to use the three she had left.
Then they signed up with an agency and looked at egg donors.
But, they lost thousands of dollars “being jerked around” by five different surrogates.
Finally, the Jordans threw up their hands.
They planned a trip to Austin, Texas, to cleanse their minds and figure out what direction they wanted to take.
“Are we just going to continue doing this? Or is this it? We’re just going to be us and we’ll travel and we’ll do what we need to do because we just lost so much at that point,” explained Jessica.
Then, Jessica read an article about a woman at the end of her rope, who put out a plea on Facebook for a surrogate, and found one.
She decided to do the same thing.
“We are very private. This was a big step for us to do that,” noted Jessica.
The post was circulated from one local mother’s group to another, until Devon Olson saw it.
Olson wasn’t the only person to contact the Jordans about being a surrogate for them.
There were a few, said Jessica, but they had been “jerked” around so many times already that they were cautious about who to trust. However, Jessica marvelled at how quickly they clicked with Olson and how many similarities they shared.
First and foremost, Olson also lived in Maple Ridge, and she used to live in Kamloops – where Ryan grew up.
“These similarities and these signs made us think, ‘OK, why didn’t we meet you a year ago?’,” said Jessica.
Jessica and Ryan met Olson for the first time in person on April 25, 2019, and over the course of months had many open conversations. “She was just so eager,” Jessica recounted.
“So we were excited, and there is no other way to be than to go forward and be hopeful,” she added.
Olson had always wanted to be a surrogate for somebody since she was in her 20s and attending nursing school.
She offered to be a surrogate for her cousin, who was unable to have children. But she was a single mother at the time and not “super” healthy, so the timing was not good.
However, Olson said, when she became sober, she learned a lot about life and having gratitude, and the idea of being a surrogate for someone was still in the back of her mind.
In 2019, she made a New Year’s resolution to help change someone’s life in a profound way.
And when she saw Jessica’s Facebook post she cried, knowing that she could help.
Olson had to undergo many tests to be a surrogate.
“Being a surrogate you have to be in really good health,” explained Olson. “You can’t smoke, I couldn’t drink aspartame, those kind of things,” she explained.
She had four rounds of blood work done, a psychiatric evaluation, and a sit down with a counsellor.
“My psychiatric evaluation came back perfectly fine, my medical stuff was all A-plus,” she noted.
Then Olson was put on in vitro fertilization medication, including a vaginal suppository three times a day for about three or four months.
Before the embryo transfer on Aug. 9 – that involved donor eggs and Ryan’s sperm – Olson underwent an ultrasound to make sure there was nothing wrong and that the medication she was taking was working.
In Canada surrogate mothers cannot be paid a fee or compensated in any way to carry a baby for another person. The same goes for egg donation. This is spelled out under the Government of Canada’s Assisted Human Reproduction Act.
Surrogates are only compensated for expenses related to the pregnancy, like tests they have to get done, medications, legal services, travel and accommodation expenses, loss of work, maternity wear, groceries, and more.
According to Surrogacy In Canada Online – an agency that provides information, referrals, and supports to intended parents and those interested in being surrogate mothers in Canada – the total cost of a surrogacy can be anywhere between $35,600 to $83,500, depending on the location of the surrogate and the intended parents, the clinic choice, and the number of cycles, techniques, and expenses claimed by the surrogate.
Rules regarding surrogacy agreements are contained within the B.C. Family Law Act, although surrogacy laws fall under federal and provincial legislation.
Although both parties led busy lives, Olson and the Jordans kept in contact as much as possible. They talked every day during the pregnancy, and Olson, who turned 39, would send them pictures of her progress.
Having a baby during a pandemic didn’t work in their favour either.
A C-section was scheduled for April 15. But they were told because of COVID-19, only Jessica could be at the hospital along with Olson. But the C-section was postponed until April 17, giving Olson time to convince the hospital to allow “everyone” to be there, including a support person for herself.
“It was really great that at the last minute Ryan was going to be able to experience this. I couldn’t imagine experiencing this without him,” said Jessica.
Easton Jordan was born at 8:38 a.m. on April 17, exactly one year from when the Jordan’s were first introduced to Olson.
Because of COVID, Olson only saw Easton briefly when he was born, before he was given over to the Jordans. Both parties were then quarantined in their hospital rooms.
The Jordans left the hospital at 6 p.m. the following day.
But, before they left they dropped by Olson’s room where they were only allowed to stand at the door so Olson could see Easton.
Olson was discharged the next day and moved back to Kamloops at the end of July.
The Jordans visited her the week before she moved so she could actually hold Easton before she left.
They plan to keep in touch online and would also like to visit her at her new home.
“There are some very amazing people out there and it can turn out like this,” Jessica said as she reflected upon the whole experience. However, Jessica wants to caution others about agencies and people’s intentions.
“You need to be careful with surrogates out there and the misconception that you get paid for it,” she noted.
“With Devon it wasn’t like that, 100 per cent she understood that it wasn’t that way,” added Jessica.
If Olson wasn’t turning 40 she would sign up to do it all over again.
For her, being a surrogate was an act of gratitude – gratitude for her health, her life, her ability to become pregnant and give birth without any problems.
She wishes more people were grateful for what they have in life.
“I think that the world lacks kindness, basic kindness and basic gratitude. And out of all of it, I am just so grateful and I will continue for the rest of my life to do kind things without anything in return, because it is really life changing,” said Olson.
In the beginning, Olson said, she was doing this to change another person’s life, but it changed her life in more ways than she ever thought possible.