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Surrogate Returns Couple's Hope for a Child Fivefold

By Amy Argetsinger
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 14, 2005; Page A01

MESA, Ariz. -- In the early months of Teresa Anderson's pregnancy last fall, it seemed every other trip to the doctor brought another burst of mind-blowing, life-altering news.

First one heartbeat. Then two heartbeats. Then three, and four, and finally the bombshell truth confirmed during her January ultrasound: She was carrying five babies.

Luisa Gonzalez and her husband, Enrique Moreno, meet with Teresa Anderson. Doctors say Anderson may be the first surrogate mother to give birth to quintuplets. (Dave Cruz -- Arizona Republic)

Five! Anderson had never imagined such a thing could happen. How could anyone take care of so many children? Yet as her body has transformed and the due date draws nearer, one thought has comforted her: They aren't hers.

After the babies are born later this month, they will go home with their biological parents -- a couple who tried unsuccessfully to have a child for nearly a decade before deciding last year to take the increasingly common route of finding a surrogate mother. Like Anderson, they got more than they bargained for. Doctors say the 25-year-old may be the first surrogate mother to give birth to quintuplets.

"It is something more than I had planned for," said Anderson, a tall, vivacious woman with blond-streaked hair. "But it's what I chose."

Luisa Gonzalez, 32, the woman whose children Anderson is carrying, said she is overwhelmed with gratitude: "I feel she's part of my family now."

The unexpected development has two families contending with emotional quandaries. Anderson originally agreed to be a surrogate to earn extra money for her husband and their two young daughters. But now she says she does not feel she can accept compensation from Gonzalez and her husband, Enrique Moreno, whom she notes will be burdened enough trying to raise five children -- all boys.

Although both women say they have no regrets about the outcome, they also say they do not remember being warned that fertility treatments could trigger multiple births and serious health concerns. And one of the babies is struggling with a heart defect that will require many surgeries -- the first just minutes after his birth. Feeling the movement inside her, Anderson finds herself grappling with the same mixture of worry and hope as his parents.

"He's more active than the other ones," she said during an interview at a restaurant near her home here. "When they put the [ultrasound] wand on him, he doesn't like it. He's a fighter. Maybe that's what he's trying to tell us."

The number of women giving birth through advanced reproductive technology has increased dramatically since early success using in vitro fertilization in 1978. In 2002, more than 45,000 babies were born as a result of such techniques, accounting for a little more than 1 percent of all births across the United States.

Births by surrogate mothers remain a tiny fraction of the total, but their numbers have increased sharply, doubling between 1997 and 2000 and reaching 548 in 2002, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Anderson, a nursing student, said she decided to explore becoming a surrogate after months of discussion with her husband, Jerad, 27, a Postal Service carrier. They placed an ad on a surrogacy Web site last June and received a message shortly thereafter from the couple in Gilbert, Ariz.

She met with Moreno, 34, a landscaper, and Gonzalez, a homemaker, and was touched by their plight. The couple had been trying for nine years to conceive. Anderson, in that same period, had given birth to four children, two of whom she delivered as an unwed teenager and gave up for adoption.

"It's just amazing to me people who can't get pregnant," she said, digging into a large lunch serving of shrimp pasta, a new craving. "It's always been so easy for me!"

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