Kayla Jones looks down at her newborn son, Kross Allen Jones, with a mother's love shining in her eyes. He was a much-anticipated blessing that wouldn't have been possible without a willing sacrifice from her mother-in-law, Patty Resecker, who carried Kross for Kayla and her son, Cody Jones.
It's obvious by being around the two women that they have a special bond forged by a life-changing shared experience. They laugh and talk with a comfort and ease that many in-laws aren't blessed with. Neither of them can take her eyes off Kross, a very pretty 2-week-old with a head full of brown hair.
Kayla has nicknamed him Little Monster for his ferocious temper he puts on full display when he's hungry or has a dirty diaper.
Even the least glamorous parenting moments are a blessing to Kayla, who didn't know if she'd ever be in this position.
From a young age, Kayla, 29, knew that she wouldn't be able to give birth to her own child. When she was 17, her physician discovered a benign tumor that required the removal of her uterus. She went into her senior year of high school knowing she wouldn't become a mother the conventional way, but it seemed like a concern for the future, and she didn't worry about it too much then.
"When I first found out, I was sad, but then I kind of forgot about it. I was 17," she said.
Though Kayla and Cody went to school together, they didn't start dating until a year after high school.
"He was a nice guy, and I wasn't interested in that in high school, but I learned my lesson," Kayla said, laughing.
They dated for a while, but before things got really serious, Kayla sat Cody down and explained her fertility issues.
"He had a pretty good idea about it since we'd gone to school together. I'd missed quite a bit of school, and people knew I'd had some problems," Kayla said. "But I sat him down and explained it to him. I didn't want to keep him from having children, but he always told me I was enough for him."
After they married, Kayla's maternal instinct started growing stronger. She realized she wanted to be a mother, she wanted to see Cody become a father, and she started looking for a way for them to start a family.
Surrogacy seemed like the right answer. The only drawback was she needed someone willing to carry their baby for them.
They had a couple of people in mind, but for one reason or another, nothing worked out until 50-year-old Patty offered to carry their baby.
Getting pregnant isn't a guarantee for anyone, and their path to pregnancy had some setbacks. They settled on using IVFMD in Irving, Texas, for fertility treatments.
"It's expensive, but he was the most reasonable, and they made us comfortable," Kayla said.
The price tag for treatment was more than $25,000.
"We quit counting after that," Kayla said.
Patty wasn't sure she was a viable candidate for surrogacy. She was already in menopause, but the doctor said that actually made it easier. They started taking the necessary medications to prepare for the next step, when Kayla's eggs were retrieved and fertilized with Cody's sperm to be implanted in Patty's uterus.
People often choose to implant two embryos when doing in vitro fertilization because it increases the chance of a successful pregancy. Because of Patty's age, the family decided one would be better.
"We didn't want to take a chance with Patty's health," Kayla said.
Excitement was high after the first attempt at implantation.
Kayla and Patty got together daily to take a pregnancy test. Kayla would call ahead, then show up at Patty's house right down the road with a pregnancy test. They waited together in anticipation, hoping to see a line in the right place, but the tests were all negative. By the time the three of them were scheduled to go back to the clinic a few weeks later, they knew they probably weren't pregnant.
It was dissapointing, but they didn't give up.
Within a few weeks they tried again, and another embryo was implanted. This time, doctors did a procedure called an endometrial scratch to make her uterine lining more welcoming for an embryo to attach.
This time, Kayla and Patty kept the pregnancy tests put away.
"It was too hard to do it every day. I said I wasn't going to do it at all, but the Friday before our doctor's appointment on Monday, I couldn't take it anymore. I called Patty and told her to leave some urine on the porch for me," Kayla said.
This pregnancy test bore better news. It was positive. Kayla and Cody were expecting their first child, and Patty was carrying her grandbaby.
The couple couldn't wait to share the good news with Patty. They called her and told her they were coming to Red River Federal Credit Union where she works to get another urine sample. Instead, when they arrived, they handed her a box with a pair of baby booties in it.
When she opened it and figured out what it meant, she couldn't contain her excitement.
"I hollered when I figured it out," Patty said. "I'd already prepared myself after the first time it didn't take. I thought my body wouldn't take it. I felt like I'd failed them, and I didn't want to fail them. What would they do then?"
After the initial shock were off, they settled in for the long, amazing journey of surrogate pregnancy.
"It helped knowing Patty so well. I can't imagine a stranger doing it for me. But it was also hard, in a way. I would feel upset because I wasn't the one who was pregnant, and then I'd think how lucky I am that I'm in the situation I am and how many people would love to trade places with me," Kayla said.
After a mostly uneventful pregnancy, Patty gave birth to her grandson via C-section Dec. 30, 2017, at CHRISTUS St. Michael Health System. He weighed in at 8 pounds, 2 ounces and was 24 1/4 inches long.
"I had my three children naturally, and I wanted to do it naturally if I could, but my body wasn't working. I wasn't dilating or anything, and he was measuring int he 98th percentile for size, so my doctor was afraid of putting my body and the baby through a natural delivery," Patty said.
The most important memory Patty wanted from the delivery was seeing the faces of the people she loves as they met the love of their life.
"I remember hearing that he had hair, and I could hear Kayla laugh-crying. Cody was rubbing my hand, and my husband was standing behind me. I remember tears coming in my eyes, and I was just like, 'Ah, I've done it.' It was not only their baby, but my grandbaby," Patty said.
Though the delivery was easy, Patty got sick within a few days of delivery, so she stayed away from the baby to keep from passing along her illness.
She said it may have been for the best, because it gave Kayla and Cody time to bond with their bundle of joy.
Kayla is relishing every second of an experience she thought she may never have.
"It's the most rewarding thing ever," Kayla said. "It didn't feel real for a couple of days. It's surreal to be able to hold him. I'd had a fear, probably an irrational fear, that he wouldn't want me to hold him, but I was able to have skin-to-skin contact with him for about an hour after he was born, and that helped us bond."
Tears came to Patty's eyes when she talked about the experience, then she quickly brushed them away with a laugh.
"It's awesome to see them walking around here holding a baby. We didn't know if this would ever happen," Patty said. "I just feel like it's all meant to be or it wouldn't have happened."