A holiday miracle? Times three.

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Ellen Futterman, Editor-in-Chief

One of the realities of being a journalist is that you’re always on the lookout for your next good story. Rarely, do we find time to look back, or update readers on stories that in some ways are still works in progress.

So as 2021 winds down, I’d like to tell you the outcome — at least so far — of a Mother’s Day story that had a big impact on me, and judging from reader reaction, on you as well.

Let’s rewind to May, when we met Jewish St. Louisan Nikki Freyman, who became a surrogate for her best friend Kati Kaup, and her husband, Gerome Gregory. Kati was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis as an infant and had a double lung transplant in 2015. While her doctors were optimistic that she could live a long life, they cautioned her against getting pregnant, fearing it would be too risky.

In 2019, Kati underwent IVF (in vitro fertilization), which produced two embryos suitable for transfer. They were frozen until they could be implanted into a surrogate, or surrogates. (You can read all about it in the original story at https://bit.ly/JL-Mothers.)

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In February, Nikki was implanted with one of the embryos. She and Kati learned the transfer was successful about 10 days later.

Once Nikki was pregnant, she and her husband, Dan, explained to their daughters, Meryl, 2, and Piper, 5 ½, that Kati and Gerome really want to have a baby, but Kati’s body doesn’t work like mommy’s — so what would (they) think about mommy growing a baby for them. Meryl was too young to understand but throughout the pregnancy, Piper referred to Nikki’s growing belly as “Kati’s baby.”

On Nov. 8 — the birthday of Kati’s grandmother — Nikki was induced as planned. She finally delivered Baby London Nicole (the middle name in honor of surrogate Nikki) on Nov. 9 at 5:59 p.m. (just in time for the University of Kansas tipoff, Dan Freyman noted) at Missouri Baptist Hospital, where she weighed in at 7 pounds, 1 ounce and was 21.5 inches long. Kati and Gerome were at Nikki’s side — Gerome got to cut the umbilical cord and announce the baby was a girl (they had decided not to find out the baby’s gender in advance).

“People have asked if it was hard to give the baby away but from the get-go, from the way we talked to Piper about it — that we were growing a baby for Kati and Gerome — and knowing we will have a relationship with Kati and Gerome and the baby forever makes a difference,” said Nikki, who belongs to Central Reform Congregation. “When the baby came out it was purely about Kati and Gerome becoming parents. The second she came out I was so happy for them. They got to have all the experiences of childbirth without carrying. In that moment (after delivery) it was just about them becoming parents. So no, it wasn’t bittersweet. It was just so sweet.”

After they left the hospital, Kati and Gerome drove to Nikki and Dan’s home so that Piper and Meryl could meet London. Then the new parents drove their daughter home to Ft. Lauderdale, where Kati reports that London is a “dream baby.”

But she won’t be an only child for long. Kati and Gerome are expecting twin daughters around New Year’s Eve with a surrogate named Ashley, who lives in Oklahoma. Ashley is a married mother of four; Kati and Gerome found her through a matching support group.

So if all goes as planned, Kati and Gerome will have three daughters, born within a couple of months apart.

“We bought a bigger house, we moved, we got married, we sold both smaller cars for a bigger one that can fit three car seats,” said Kati. “When you find out that you’re having three babies you have to jump into this logistics mode. You’re processing the emotional side but also how is this going to change our everyday life, from the size of our house to what help will we need. We have been so busy trying to get our lives ready for three babies.”

Luckily, the couple has a large family support system and a nanny to help them. In addition, Nikki and Piper are planning to visit in a couple of weeks so that they can get to know baby London better.

“If you look at the odds of when we went through IVF — it was like no one even knew if we would get any viable eggs, and we got viable eggs. Then we got two embryos,” said Kati. “Then Nikki’s transfer was successful on the first round and we had one embryo left. Then Ashley’s transfer was successful. With all of those odds, and then when the embryo split and we had twins coming, that’s only a 2% chance of that happening.

“For us to start this process with two embryos and to get three hopefully healthy babies, it’s a total miracle on top of a miracle that is actually happening. It’s not lost on us that it’s wild this happened. And three girls – it’s going to be so much fun.”

Nikki agrees and couldn’t be happier for her best friend and for the daughters she and Gerome will raise. Nikki even kept a blog during the pregnancy for London to read when she is older.

“They will always have this really, really special bond and relationship,” said Kati. “It wasn’t like she just carried the baby, she did so much more. It’s amazing how she went through labor — she was so calm. I have this image in my head, as soon as the baby came out, of Nikki and me just looking at each other like, ‘Oh my God, we did this. We really did this.’ ”