How 2 single women determined to become mothers created 3 families

MATT KNOX, LISA SIVERTSEN and KATIE KINDELAN
·5 min read

Abbey LeVine and Wendy, who asked that her last name not be used, were two single women in New York when they met on vacation eight years ago.

Today, the two friends are each single mothers who have, together, through modern technology, created three families.

"I joke that it’s the sisterhood of the traveling embryos," Wendy told "Good Morning America" of her journey to motherhood with LeVine. "We’re going to have this special bond."

"I think of it as I’m building my own tribe of trailblazers," added LeVine. "It’s been very, very empowering to create a family when I wanted to, how I wanted to."

Wendy and LeVine's journeys to motherhood began when they were each in their 40s and single, after divorce and relationships that weren't going anywhere, and decided to build their families on their own.

"I think like a lot of women these days, I didn't know that I wanted to really become a mom until I was over 35," said LeVine. "Something clicked for me about 12 years ago, and I said to myself, 'I want to leave a legacy on this planet,' and like overnight I got a huge urge to carry a child."

While LeVine continued to date to find a partner to have a child with, Wendy, now 44, began trying to conceive via in-vitro fertilization using her own eggs. When that was unsuccessful, she turned to donor eggs and created 17 embryos.

After failed attempts to get pregnant using 10 of the embryos, including several miscarriages, Wendy turned to adoption.

"When they told me that I probably just wouldn't be able to get pregnant, that was really hard to hear," she said. "I wasn't sure if I could adopt as a single person. I sort of thought I couldn't."

"And then when I started looking into it, I saw that there were a lot of avenues for adoption as a single person so I started talking to some people and started that process," said Wendy, who adopted her daughter in 2017. "I feel pretty lucky and now I have this amazing daughter."

Wendy still had embryos left from her IVF journey, and made the connection with LeVine when she started talking about pursuing embryo donation herself.

"One night I was on the phone with her walking my dog and she said to me, 'Dammit, I wish I could have someone carry these embryos,'" LeVine recalled. "And I just thought well I’m healthy and I’m in good shape so I should be able to carry two, one for you, one for me."

MORE: Baby born from 27-year-old frozen embryo breaks record

While Wendy ultimately pursued adoption, LeVine began the process of IVF using her friend's donated embryos.

"Once Wendy had a successful adoption, she was able to give up her embryos and she wanted her friends to build families," said LeVine. "That's the thing about Wendy, she's the hero of this story. This is completely her dreams coming to fruition."

After undergoing three surgeries to prepare for embryo implementation and after having one failed implementation, LeVine became pregnant.

She gave birth to her daughter Gala in September 2019, one month before she turned 47.

VIDEO: How 2 single women, determined to become mothers, ended up creating 3 families (ABCNews.com)
VIDEO: How 2 single women, determined to become mothers, ended up creating 3 families (ABCNews.com)

"I had vetted a couple different ways to build a family, and for one reason or another they weren't working out for me, so the fact that this embryo donation came along, it's very special," said LeVine. "[Wendy] believes she got the perfect child, I believe I got the perfect child."

Because of the process used via donor eggs and donor sperm, LeVine's daughter Gala has no biological connection to Wendy.

Gala will soon have a biological sister though thanks to LeVine and Wendy's continued generosity.

The three embryos remaining from Wendy's initial donor IVF process were donated to one of LeVine's best friends in California who was unable to have a successful IVF with her fiancée. She is expecting a daughter in March who will be Gala's full biological sibling, according to LeVine.

"It's so possible and empowering to build a family how you want to build a family," she said. "I'm more than excited to go on vacation with my best friend and her daughter and Wendy and her family and figure out how this looks in building a modern family."

MORE: 'Fertility warriors': How one family's IVF journey led to embryo adoption

"I think this is what humans do for each other and I would do this for any other human or woman who wanted to get pregnant, man or woman," Wendy said of the embryo donation chain. "The woman who donated her eggs to me, that's a beautiful thing."

While embryo donation is becoming more common in the United States, it is still an expensive process, costing an average of $10,000 to $12,000 per cycle, according to Dr. Aimee Eyvazzadeh, a California-based fertility specialist and reproductive endocrinologist, who noted that fertility clinics are often willing to work with patients on payment plans to make the process more affordable.

Embryo donation also requires a legal process that other forms of IVF may not, according to Eyvazzadeh.

"There's legal work that's involved and obviously you want to make sure you know the quality of the embryos that you're accepting, the genetics of both the egg source and the sperm source, and then know more about the implantation process and whether or not that's for you," she said. "[Embryo donation] is a very high-touch type of treatment where you have to make sure everyone is like-minded and on the same page around what the donation actually means and that people are equally even-keeled about what will happen in the future."

Eyvazzadeh describes embryo donation as helping to fill what she calls the "gender fertility gap" where men are able to have kids almost whenever they want, while women see their reproductive system decline as they age.

'It's not about, 'Oh, I wanted that fairy-tale life,' it's about, 'Oh, I'm going to change the fairy-tale for myself and this is going to be the new one,'" she said. "One day I hope there's a technology that will basically cure the need for donor eggs, but until then donor eggs are the best way for women to have the healthy family of their dreams while potentially also carrying it themselves."

How 2 single women determined to become mothers created 3 families originally appeared on goodmorningamerica.com