My belly, their baby
Sam's oven no longer worked. But she needed somewhere to put her bun.
That's where Amanda Dahmes came in.
"I have something that was taken away from her," Amanda said. "I wanted to do something bigger than myself. It is the ultimate gift you can give someone else."
That gift is a baby.
A MOTHER FOR ANOTHER?
Amanda and her husband, Nicholas, of Carlos, got married in 2006 and tried to have kids right away. But Amanda found out she had polycystic ovarian syndrome, which can cause fertility problems.
If unable to conceive, they knew their options were adoption, using a surrogate, or in-vitro fertilization. Luckily, they didn't have to choose any of those. After two years of trying, one of those years on medication, the couple finally found out they were expecting.
Amanda had what she considered a perfect pregnancy. After Thomas was born in 2008, Amanda nursed him and also started taking the birth control pill.
Nine months later they were shocked, yet ecstatic, to learn that they were expecting again. After another unstressful pregnancy, Olivia was born in 2009.
"After she was born I felt a sense of completeness," Amanda said, adding that the thought of being a surrogate herself was in her thoughts throughout the pregnancy.
Then tragedy struck. Amanda's mother, only 42, unexpectedly passed away.
"Then I looked at life completely different. Looking at my kids and seeing a piece of my mom, I looked at being a gestational surrogate different than I did before," Amanda said. "I wanted to do this. I was passionate about this."
For about a year, Amanda pursued becoming a surrogate mother and interviewed several people. None of them were the right match. This past May, she expressed her frustration on Facebook about not being able to find a match.
As fate would have it, a friend saw her post. This friend had another friend who, at the same time, posted the following: "We are having a hard time finding an oven for our bun."
Sam, from Fargo, and Amanda started chatting and met face to face on May 23.
"It was like destiny, like a soul mate," Amanda said of that meeting. "It was like fitting a puzzle together. It was perfect."
MY BUN, HER OVEN
"I felt like I was on my first date with someone, like love at first sight," said Sam of the instant connection with Amanda. "Our personalities are very similar."
Sam had not had an easy go of it. Her first baby was born at 23 weeks with several health issues. She did not survive.
Ten weeks into her second pregnancy, an ultrasound revealed a rare cervical pregnancy. Sam hemorrhaged and had to have an emergency hysterectomy - at age 25.
To make matters worse, Sam has a gene mutation called BRAC 1 that is indicative of breast cancer. In March 2012, about seven months after she lost her second child, she had a double mastectomy. Her ovaries will have to be taken out within the next six to 12 months - leaving her with no way to have her own biological children.
She and her significant other, Jack, tried adoption but were heartbroken when, a few months into the process, the parents changed their minds.
Instead, they decided to pursue a gestational surrogate. Sam desperately needed a place for her bun before her ovaries were gone.
Amanda wanted to offer her belly, despite the possible physical discomfort and emotional ups and downs.
"This is so worth anything I am going through if I can have a baby for her," Amanda insists.
COMBINING THE INGREDIENTS
After signing legal contracts and going through several physical and mental health tests, the women proceeded to preheat the oven and prepare the ingredients. Both received several shots and were put on medications - Sam to stimulate the production of eggs, and Amanda to prepare her body to provide the proper environment for the fertilized eggs.
After a trigger shot, Sam's eggs released and 20 were harvested, of which 15 survived.
On July 26, doctors transferred Sam and Jack's embryo to Amanda's waiting belly. Amanda took her first pregnancy test the first week of August.
It was positive - unusual for a first attempt at such an implant. Another blood test on August 6 confirmed it. Things were cooking!
"It was so exciting," Amanda said.
But the good news was fleeting. A week later it was determined that it was a "chemical pregnancy" and the baby miscarried on August 15.
"I was heartbroken at first," Sam said. "It was hard, but given everything we've been through, we knew we could pick up the pieces and try again."
"It was devastating," Amanda agreed. But, like Sam, she knew that she couldn't dwell on the loss. "Everyone is going to have a loss and I have to accept it. This isn't my plan, it's God's plan."
The two women decided that despite the setback, they would try one more time.
"Just because it didn't work once doesn't mean we should give up," Amanda said. "My biggest thing is you have to have hope for the future. Sam has never lost hope. She is still going on."
The second transfer is planned for October, but Sam says that the costly procedure will be the last.
"If it doesn't work this time we will leave it in God's hands and decide that maybe this isn't in the cards," she concluded.
But if it does work, it will be the one place where they all hope and pray it will - in Amanda's oven.
Read about Amanda Dahmes' experiences on her online blog at www.itsmybellyandtheirbaby.blogspot.com.