LPGA golfer Kris Tschetter and her teaching pro husband, Kirk Lucas, desperately wanted to have a baby. Down to about their last chance, they ended up with not only a daughter but also with four new members of their extended family and additions to Tschetter's gallery.
After years of fertility drugs and doctor's appointments, several near misses and the gut-wrenching aftermaths, Tschetter and Lucas welcomed their daughter, Lainey, on Jan. 15, 2003, and they're now expecting her younger sibling in November. Both children are the result of their decision to find a surrogate mother, Tiffany Tyser, to carry their babies.
A process that often is a medical and financial transaction has resulted in Tyser and her family becoming "our friends for life," according to Tschetter.
Tschetter, 39, missed the cut yesterday at the U.S. Women's Open despite a brilliant back-nine 32 Friday; Lucas, 42, has been a longtime teaching golf professional in the Washington area and counts his wife and several PGA Tour players among his most successful clients. The two live in McLean and will soon build their dream house on a piece of property in Warrenton, where they have built a practice and instruction facility. They met in 1992, married four years later and tried for the longest time to start a family.
After years of frustration, they concluded surrogacy was their best chance for parenthood. That decision reached, they needed to find a surrogate mother.
"I got a call from our lawyer in October 2001 and she said, 'I think I've found someone but you've got to meet her right away,' " Tschetter recalled. "I was leaving to go play in Japan for five weeks the following day, so we set up a meeting that night. Kirk was out of town, but I immediately felt comfortable with her. When Kirk met them both, he was, too. We both thought it felt right with them."
Tiffany Tyser, 32, a former basketball player at Seneca Valley High School, lives in Odenton with her husband, Brian, and their two children, 11-year-old Caren and 6-year-old Keith. Tiffany had previously served as a surrogate for a Philadelphia couple and delivered twins, not an unusual occurrence in surrogacy. Surrogate mothers generally receive a fee from the parents, but all concerned in the birth of Lainey are adamant in insisting money was never a priority.
"I've always had feelings for people who could not have children," Tiffany said. "My dad was adopted, and if not for someone adopting him, I might not be here myself. . . . When all is said and done, the money is not why we do this. It's just giving someone else the opportunity to have children."
"At first, I was a little reluctant about it," said Brian, who grew up in Silver Spring, played football at Kennedy High and now sells medical equipment and supplies. "But after I read about it and understood what was going on, I was very interested in supporting Tiff. It's just the ultimate act of selflessness, and I'm happy to be just a little part of it."
According to the Chicago-based Organization of Parents Through Surrogacy (OPTS), there have been an estimated 22,000 surrogate births, most in the United States, since the procedure started being used in the mid-1970s, with only about 5 percent using a blood relative to carry the child through the pregnancy. According to OPTS director Shirley Zager, there are now about 1,500 surrogate births a year in the United States.
After an unsuccessful first harvest, Tiffany became pregnant on a second attempt; Tschetter and Lucas were ecstatic. Tiffany frequently made the drive from Odenton to Arlington to see the doctor, and Tschetter went with her for every visit.
"I went through all the appointments with her," Tschetter said. "When I was home, we'd spend time together. She'd come to our house; we'd go to theirs. I talked with her every day on the phone."
At that point, Lucas was less involved.
"For whatever reason, I just couldn't make myself get totally involved" during the pregnancy, he said. "But when it happened, it was the most mind-boggling experience. I talk to Tiffany and Brian all the time and spend time with them. It's become a team concept. Her kids and her husband are into it, too. I feel like I'm really blessed."
There have been a few cases where surrogate mothers have had a change of heart once the baby is born and fight for custody. Tiffany said she has never entertained those thoughts, "not for a second."
"I left it up to the couples" as to how much she'll be able to see the children she delivered, said Tiffany, who is attending nursing school at Bowie State. "Some surrogates do request that you don't know them very well. But both these couples are very open to it. During the pregnancy, you never really think about yourself. You're thinking about the couple. With my own kids, I would get a little stressed out thinking about things like decorating the nursery, breast feeding or bottle. In surrogacy, you're more concerned about the couple, and that makes it almost more stressful than having your own children.
"But after I delivered, I didn't have to worry about any of those other things. I would say to myself -- okay Tiff, now you have to go back to the gym, you have to go back and start playing volleyball. In the whole birthing process, to see the tears in their eyes when Lainey was born, that to me was the best part of it."
Michael DiMattina, Tschetter's and Lucas's doctor at Dominion Fertility in Arlington, said any surrogate mother working with his practice gets emotional and psychological counseling before, during and after the birth and that "they know what they're doing. We're very careful about that. If I sense that a surrogate is at all uncomfortable, we won't go through the treatment.
"In all of these cases there is [separation anxiety for the surrogate]; there's normal emotional attachment for the baby you've been carrying for nine months. But these people know well in advance that it will happen. They're giving the gift of life, and there can't be anything better than that."
All first-time parents experience an upheaval in their daily routines. When the mother is a full-time touring golf pro, life becomes even more complicated. Unlike some of her playing peers, Tschetter has never felt the need to have a nanny. When she's on the road, she will often take Lainey with her, and when she's on the course, like so many other mothers on tour, she leaves her in a day care center provided by every tournament site.
When Tschetter first brought Lainey to an event, some players did a double take, because they had never recalled seeing her pregnant. For the first six months of Tiffany's pregnancy, Tschetter and Lucas told only their closest friends and family they would soon become parents.
"I only got a few strange questions," Tschetter said. "Someone actually asked me, 'Well, why couldn't you carry the baby yourself?' Well, I wanted to say, 'That's none of your business.' But out here, just about everyone has been so positive. Lorie Kane took me aside one day and said, 'I just think this is so great.' She'd had friends who had also been trying for a long time who eventually gave up. She said, 'Isn't it great you guys kept it going.' "
More than occasionally, Lainey stays back in Virginia with Lucas while Tschetter is playing. He has already made a little golf club for her, and when he is giving a lesson on his new practice facility a few miles from downtown Warrenton, she spends time trying to hit the dimpled white ball, just like her mom.
"I tell people that Kirk and I fight over custody all the time, but we're still married," Tschetter said. "On Sundays, we have a baby exchange."
Said Lucas: "It has been a truly amazing experience. Our life was good, we had no complaints. Then this possibility occurs. We had no idea what we would have missed."
This week, Tschetter, Lucas and Lainey are together here at the Women's Open on the campus of Mount Holyoke College, and they frequently talk to the Tysers back in Maryland, checking on her health and that of their soon-to-be born daughter while also reporting on Lainey's latest exploits.
"We just feel so lucky," Tschetter said. "These people are our friends, and they're really part of our family, people who have done so much for you, and you'd do anything for them. Until you have a child, you don't know how great it is. Now that we do, we can't imagine life without her. And every parent would say the exact same thing."