The emotional moment a woman who suffered six miscarriages burst into tears after her best friend surrogate gave birth to her baby was caught in a series of moving pictures.
Erin Boelhower, 33, endured nine IVF transfers and more than 600 injections over the course of three years trying to get pregnant with husband Matthew, 33.
They suffered a string of miscarriages but never lost hope that they would one day become parents
Their dream finally became a reality when Boelhower’s best friend Rachel Checolinski, 34, gave her the gift of a lifetime and offered to be her surrogate.
Two of Boelhower’s embryos were transferred to Checolinski’s uterus in January and she was confirmed pregnant later that month.
The pals spent the next nine months side-by-side and Boelhower was at the hospital with Checolinski, a mother-of-three, when she went into labor with baby Scottie on September 19.
A precious photo shows Boelhower overwhelmed with emotion as she holds her newborn daughter for the first time, while husband Matthew bawls in the background.
“I have no clue how I lived this long without Scottie," Boelhower, a sales rep from Woodstock, Ill., said. “I will never forget everything that we went through to get her here and she was definitely worth it all.”
Checolinski, 34, a full-time mom from Fond Du Lac, Wisc., met Boelhower in 2008 when they worked at an airport together.
“I feel like the lucky one. I’m so grateful Erin allowed me to be her surrogate," she said.
As soon as Boelhower married her husband Matthew, a corrections officer and former Marine, in October 2012, the couple began trying for children.
After a year with no positive pregnancy test, Boelhower discovered that her left fallopian tube was infected and needed to be removed, making it very difficult for her to conceive naturally.
“I was in the shower one day, praying for her, and suddenly the answer came. I could be her surrogate.”
After surgery, she was diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and hypothyroidism.
The couple then began intrauterine insemination (IUI), a fertility treatment where sperm is placed inside a woman’s uterus.
“This would be the beginning of our hundreds of injections," Boelhower said. “I was terrified of needles. When we first started these treatments, I would go to Matt’s work every night for him to inject me with the hormones - that’s how scared of injections I was."
“Matt and I tried three IUIs with no luck. None of them with even the slightest speck of that second line on a pregnancy test," she said.
In November 2014,the couple began their first cycle of IVF.
At Thanksgiving that year, Boelhower discovered she was pregnant for the first time.
She learned that she had miscarried the baby on her 30th birthday, during her six-week scan.
“It’s heartbreaking. You do IVF and then it works. But you never think a miscarriage will happen to you," she said. “You are not only disappointed in yourself, but you feel bad because you are not giving your husband the baby he dreamed of, or your mother the grandchild she dreamed of.”
Checolinski, mom to Amarach, 13, Cillian, 5, and Teagan, 3, was beside her every step of the way.
After Boelhower's fourth miscarriage, Checolinski offered her the gift of a lifetime: she wanted to be her surrogate.
“I wrote on Instagram about how I was reaching my breaking point and she sent me a message," Boelhower said. “She said: ‘What if a friend is your surrogate?’ It was such a generous offer. I couldn’t get my head around it.”
Checolinski's own difficulties conceiving her second child with husband Dan, 34, a pilot, had convinced her that she should be a surrogate for Boelhower.
“I struggled for two years to conceive Cillian so I knew the pain of wanting something really badly and not being able to fulfill that dream," she said. “I had been there through all of Erin’s infertility treatments, I cried with her when she lost each one of her babies. I would say to her: ‘I wish there’s something I could do.’"
“I was in the shower one day, praying for her, and suddenly the answer came," Checolinski said. "I could be her surrogate.”
It was only when Boelhower suffered her sixth miscarriage in June 2017 that she accepted Checolinski’s offer.
The Boelhowers raised $40,000 to cover the costs of the surrogacy agency, fertility clinic, legal fees, and Checolinski's medical bills.
In January 2018, Checolinski took a pregnancy test and discovered she was pregnant with Boelhower’s baby.
“I knew I was carrying and having a baby that wasn’t mine," she said. “I was most excited about seeing my best friend become a mom and holding the baby she had always wanted.”
On September 19, Checolinski gave birth to Scottie, who weighed 6 pounds, 8 ounces, at Aurora Health Centre in Oshkosh, Wisc.
“What made it even more special was that Scottie was born on my late father Scott’s birthday. He passed away from stomach cancer in 2015," Boelhower said. “It was very hard for me to watch Rachel screaming in pain during the labor and knowing it was all for me."
“Rachel is one of Scottie’s godmothers," she said. "She is pumping for Scottie now so that she grows up on breast milk. I want Scottie to know how big a role Rachel has played in her life. It’s an unbreakable bond.”