A woman who suffered six miscarriages has finally welcomed a baby after her best friend served as her surrogate.
Erin Boelhower, 33, from Woodstock, Illinois, endured nine IVF transfers and more than 600 injections over the course of three years trying to get pregnant with husband Matthew, 33.
Erin and Matthew were left devastated after suffering a string of miscarriages, but never lost hope that they would one day become parents.
Family: Erin Boelhower, 33, welcomed her first child, Scottie, last month after her best friend Rachel Checolinski, 34, offered to be her surrogate
Emotional: The new mother was moved to tears as she cradled her baby after spending years trying to conceive a child
Gift of a lifetime: Rachel (center) offered Erin and and her husband Matthew (left), 33, to be their surrogate after seeing the couple go through the pain of infertility together
Tears of joy: Erin sobbed as she finally got to cradle her newborn daughter
Crying: The mother was overcome with emotion when she got to hold her baby girl
Moved: Erin kept shedding tears as she held the baby against her chest
Their dream finally became a reality when Erin’s best friend Rachel Checolinski, 34, gave them the gift of a lifetime and offered to be their surrogate.
In January, two of Erin’s embryos were transferred to Rachel’s uterus. That same month, a test revealed she was pregnant.
The pals spent the next nine months side by side and Erin was at the hospital with Rachel, herself a mother of three, when she went into labor with baby Scottie on September 19.
A precious photo shows Erin overwhelmed with emotion as she holds her newborn daughter for the first time, while husband Matthew bawls in the background.
I have no clue how I lived this long without Scottie,’ Erin said.
‘I will never forget everything that we went through to get her here and she was definitely worth it all.’
Friends: Erin was by Rachel’s side as her best friend gave birth to baby Scottie at Aurora Health Centre in Oshkosh, Wisconsin
Together: Matthew and Erin immediately started bonding with their long-awaited child
Mother: Erin suffered six miscarriages before finally welcoming Scottie thanks to Rachel
All together: Erin was in the hospital with Rachel as her best friend went into labor
Rachel, a full-time mom from Fond Du Lac, Wisconsin, met Erin in 2008 when they worked at an airport together.
‘I feel like the lucky one,’ Rachel said.’I’m so grateful Erin allowed me to be her surrogate.’
As soon as Erin married her husband Matthew, a former Marine, in October 2012, the couple began trying for children. Matthew now works as a corrections officer while Erin is a sales rep.
After a year with no positive pregnancy test, Erin discovered that her left fallopian tube was infected and needed to be removed, making it very difficult for her to conceive naturally.
After surgery, she was diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and hypothyroidism.
The couple then began intrauterine insemination (IUI), a fertility treatment where sperm is placed inside a woman’s uterus.
‘This would be the beginning of our hundreds of injections,’ Erin said.
‘I was terrified of needles. When we first started these treatments, I would go to Matt’s work every night for him to inject me with the hormones — that’s how scared of injections I was.
‘Matt and I tried three IUIs with no luck. None of them with even the slightest speck of that second line on a pregnancy test.’
Father-daughter: Matthew held baby Scottie skin to skin after she was born
Bliss: Erin and Matthew kissed while finally cradling their newborn daughter
Understanding: Rachel, a mother of three, struggled to conceive her second child and knew what it felt like to wrestle with fertility issues
In November 2014 Erin and Matt began their first cycle of IVF. On Thanksgiving that year, Erin discovered she was pregnant for the first time.
She learnt that she had miscarried the baby on her 30th birthday, during her six-week scan.
‘It’s heartbreaking. You do IVF and then it works. But you never think a miscarriage will happen to you,’ she said.
‘You are not only disappointed in yourself, but you feel bad because you are not giving your husband the baby he dreamed of, or your mother the grandchild she dreamed of.’
Erin’s best friend Rachel, mom of Amarach, 13, Cillian, five, and Teagan, three, was beside her every step of the way.
After Erin’s fourth miscarriage, Rachel volunteered to be her surrogate.
Overwhelmed: Erin was clearly overcome with emotion as she got to hold newborn Scottie
Surrogacy: Scottie now counts Rachel among her godmothers and she will one day learn what a big part Rachel played in her life
Trying: Erin accepted Rachel’s offer of surrogacy after several failed attempts to conceive a child with Matthew
Matching: Rachel and Erin both wore the same floral print while in the hospital to welcome Scottie
Gift: ‘I knew I was carrying and having a baby that wasn’t mine,’ Rachel (pictured holding Scottie) said. ‘I was most excited about seeing my best friend become a mom’
‘I wrote on Instagram about how I was reaching my breaking point and she sent me a message,’ Erin said. ‘She said: “What if a friend is your surrogate?”
‘It was such a generous offer. I couldn’t get my head around it.’
Rachel’s own difficulties conceiving her second child with husband Dan, 34, a pilot, had convinced her that she should be a surrogate for Erin.
‘I struggled for two years to conceive Cillian so I knew the pain of wanting something really badly and not being able to fulfill that dream,’ Rachel said.
‘I had been there through all of Erin’s infertility treatments, I cried with her when she lost each one of her babies.
‘I would say to her: ‘I wish there’s something I could do.’
‘I was in the shower one day, praying for her, and suddenly the answer came. I could be her surrogate.’
It was only when Erin suffered her sixth miscarriage in June 2017 that she accepted Rachel’s offer.
Healthy baby: Scottie weighed six pounds and eight ounces when she was born
Proud parents: Matthew and Erin are pictured taking their daughter Scottie outside
Celebration: Erin has a baby shower, which Rachel of course attended while she was pregnant with Scottie
Bond: ‘I want Scottie to know how big a role Rachel has played in her life,’ Erin (pictured with Rachel) said. ‘It’s an unbreakable bond’
Trying: As soon as Erin married Matthew in October 2012, the couple (pictured on their wedding day) began trying for children
Best friends then: Rachel is pictured with the bride during Erin’s wedding to Matthew in 2012
Erin and Matthew raised $40,000 to cover the costs of the surrogacy agency, fertility clinic, legal fees, and Rachel’s medical bills.
In January 2018, Rachel took a pregnancy test and discovered she was pregnant with Erin’s baby.
‘I knew I was carrying and having a baby that wasn’t mine,’ Rachel said. ‘I was most excited about seeing my best friend become a mom and holding the baby she had always wanted.’
On September 19, Rachel gave birth to Scottie, who weighed six pounds eight ounces, at Aurora Health Centre in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.
‘What made it even more special was that Scottie was born on my late father Scott’s birthday. He passed away from stomach cancer in 2015,’ Erin said.
‘It was very hard for me to watch Rachel screaming in pain during the labor and knowing it was all for me.
‘Rachel is one of Scottie’s godmothers. She is pumping for Scottie now so that she grows up on breast milk.
‘I want Scottie to know how big a role Rachel has played in her life. It’s an unbreakable bond.’
Erin and Matthew previously spoke to Love What Matters about their difficulties to conceive a child.
After a routine pap smear in March 2013, Erin found out she had an abnormal cervical cancer screen result and would need a LEEP (loop electrosurgical excision procedure) to remove the cells.
Heartbreak: Erin and Matthew previously revealed how they came to the decision to use a surrogate after Erin suffered six miscarriages
Difficulty: In May 2014 Erin and her husband met with a fertility specialist and started IVF in November 2014 (pictured, Erin’s bruised stomach following IVF injections)
Bittersweet: Despite getting pregnant on their first IVF attempt, when Erin went for her six week scan, there was no heartbeat
Silver lining: After nine IVF attempts and six miscarriages, the couple decided to use a surrogate after Rachel offered to be their gestational surrogate
A doctor advised that she should wait a year before trying to conceive and despite doing ovulation tests, tracking her cycle and taking her basal body temperature, she couldn’t get pregnant.
After an ultrasound discovered two cysts on her left ovary, Erin had to pick between waiting to see if the cysts would resolve on their own or if she should undergo surgery to remove them.
‘I opted to have the surgery. Upon surgery, it was discovered that what looked like giant cysts on the ultrasound machine was actually my left Fallopian tube,’ she explained.
‘At some point, it had become infected, died, and needed to be removed. At this time, I was also diagnosed with PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) and hypothyroidism.’
After surgery, she started taking Clomid, a drug to help stimulate ovulation.
‘I was starting to get very frustrated and discouraged because so many of my family and friends were having kids and starting their families. And so many of them had used Clomid with success so I thought we would be no different. It was beginning to become very stressful and emotional. Never did I ever think infertility would affect me…and this was literally, only the beginning,’ she added.
In May 2014 Erin and her husband met with a fertility specialist and doctors there decided that their first course of action should be IUI (intrauterine insemination) which she described as ‘basically a ‘turkey baster’ method to inject sperm into the uterus to aide fertilization’.
After three failed attempts, the couple decided to start IVF in November 2014.
‘It was almost like I became a human pin cushion overnight,’ Erin said of the experience. ‘My stomach was covered in bruises and the side effects of the drugs had my emotions going haywire.’
Some days she had to do five or more injections.
Her first egg retrieval took place in 2014 and nine days after two embryos were transferred, Erin was given a blood test to test for HcG, the pregnancy hormone.
‘I got the call that day that would forever change my life. We were pregnant, finally. I had a life growing inside of me and it was pure magic,’ she recounted.
However, at six and a half weeks pregnant on her 30th birthday, Erin and her husband Matt were told there was no heartbeat.
From 2014 to 2017, the couple would go on to do a total of five egg retrievals and nine IVF transfers with 15 embryos.
They also suffered six miscarriages.
Torn: ‘As badly as I wanted to carry my child, I couldn’t continue to pump my body full of hormones and lose our babies,’ Erin said of her decision to progress with a surrogate
Success: On January 12, 2018, the couple transferred two embryos into Rachel and on January 21, it was confirmed that Rachel was pregnant with one baby
Expecting: Rachel is pictured during an examination while she was pregnant with Scottie
Happy ending: The couple kept friends and followers in the loop by tracking their pregnancy on their Instagram account Our Journey to Three
‘With each new cycle, new hope was found only to be followed by fear, devastation, and heartbreak. We saw different doctors, tried different protocols, anything for us to reach our dream of becoming parents. We became the living definition of insanity — doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. And it was exhausting,’ Erin said of the painful time.
And she also shared how seeing their friends creating their own families was particularly painful.
After her fifth miscarriage, the couple decided to explore other options and when Erin’s best friend Rachel Checolinski offered to be their gestational surrogate, they decided to take her up on her offer.
‘As badly as I wanted to carry my child, I couldn’t continue to pump my body full of hormones and lose our babies. For the past five years, we were living on an emotional roller coaster and it was time to get off and move on. At one point during our journey, my husband said to me, “Being a mom is more important than being pregnant.” And he was so right.’
The couple had also spent several thousand dollars on treatment and although surrogates usually cost in the region of $50,000 and upwards, by Rachel offering to carry Erin and Matt’s child, the couple could save on the gestational carrier fee.
On January 12, 2018, the couple transferred two embryos into Rachel and on January 21, it was confirmed that Rachel was pregnant with one baby and the couple later found out that they were having a girl.