Sister-in-law becomes gestational carrier when couple has trouble conceiving

When Betsy McKamey was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at age 12, her first question for the doctor wasn’t “can I still have candy,” it was “can I still have babies one day?” From that young age, she knew the road to parenthood might be difficult, but, thanks to her sister-in-law, her dream of becoming a mother was realized.

Betsy and her husband, Matthew, married in 2009 and began trying to have children five years later. When it didn’t happen naturally, they sought intervention, like taking Clomid, having an intrauterine insemination procedure (IUI), then in vitro fertilization (IVF). When none of that worked and they were left with two viable embryos, they spoke with their doctor about using a gestational carrier.

“We met with an agency in Atlanta and there was so much to think about,” said McKamey, 41, of Canton. “It’s so expensive and there’s so much to think about. I kept thinking about how Jessica, my brother David’s wife, had mentioned before that she would carry a baby for us, but people say a lot of things. You just never know.”

It was a Friday in September 2018 when McKamey called her sister-in-law, Jessica Cooper, and asked if she would consider being her gestational carrier.

“I asked her to let me have the weekend to discuss it with David, but I felt really good about it,” said Cooper of Evans. “We knew they had struggled for years, and it broke our hearts. Our third child was born in 2016 and I knew we were finished. I didn’t long for another baby.”

David and Jessica Cooper were both on board to help the McKameys become parents. Tears of joy were mutual when Cooper called McKamey to say yes, she should would be her gestational carrier.

From there, the two couples learned all the ins and outs of the process. All four had to meet with McKamey’s specialist in Atlanta, then they were required to meet with a counselor. Jessica and David Cooper also had to meet with the counselor as a couple, then Jessica Cooper had to have a private session. Every “what if” scenario was discussed to be sure everyone was on the same page.

All the paperwork and legalities were settled by the start of 2019 and the embryo transfer happened that February. Nine days later, they got the news.

“The doctor’s office called Betsy first, then me,” said Jessica Cooper. “I was pregnant.”

The baby, who they knew was a boy, was called by his name, Cooper, throughout the pregnancy, or as Jessica Cooper’s kids endearingly called him, “Baby Cooper.”

“My kids were so excited throughout the pregnancy, and they always knew this wasn’t our baby,” said Jessica Cooper. “We sat them down in the beginning and explained as best as we could for their young ages. They always knew we’d be giving the baby to Aunt B.”

Jessica Cooper is often asked if it was difficult to not get attached to the baby while it grew in her belly. She says it wasn’t.

“I was able to separate the feelings I had from my prior three pregnancies,” said Jessica Cooper. “I wasn’t in the process of naming it or setting up a nursery. I was just his home.”

Credit: Courtesy of Betsy McKamey

Credit: Courtesy of Betsy McKamey

Jessica Cooper was induced on Nov. 4, 2019, and Cooper Matthew McKamey was born at 7:16 p.m., 7 pounds, 15 ounces, with dark hair, just like his parents.

“There had been such a build up and when Cooper was placed in my arms, there was a huge release,” said McKamey, her voice breaking. “It had been such a long process, so many years I wondered if this day would ever come. Then he was in my arms, my baby, and I was a mother.”

Cooper recently turned 3. McKamey describes him as smart, funny, a ball of energy. It is the McKameys’ hope that Cooper will be a big brother one day. They’re currently looking for a gestational carrier.

“I don’t think I could do it again, I’m just unsure if my body could do it,” said Jessica Cooper. “But I wouldn’t change a thing with Cooper. I love seeing them together as a family. It was all worth it. It’s so rewarding to be able to help a couple create family, to give love in such a special way. It’s amazing the way everything fell into place, no hiccups. It was a God thing.”

McKamey continues to thank Jessica Cooper often. She sends her flowers every year on Cooper’s birthday, gives her a Christmas gift from Cooper each year, and sends texts like “I’m so thankful for you every day.”

“The selflessness Jessica showed us — it’s like God’s love for us,” said McKamey. “I don’t deserve it, I didn’t earn it, but she gave it freely. I can never repay her for her sacrifice. She is as much a part of Cooper as I am.”