There's a sign near the front door of the Beehler residence that reads, "Welcome to the house full of babies." They're not kidding. Two years ago, Stacey and David Beehler, after more than a decade of trying to get pregnant, became the proud parents of quadruplets. But Stacey's only stretch marks are sympathetic; the babies were carried by her best friend, Debbie Vibber.
Aside from the occasional baby-gated doorway, there's little evidence that a clan of rug rats runs the Beehler's tidy, well-appointed tract home. It's just days before the quadruplets' second birthday and, while the TV plays nearby, the sound muted so as not to interrupt naptime, Stacey and Debbie and I sit down for a chat about hyperovulation, and ovaries, and Oprah, whom Stacey swears she'll never speak to again.
New Times: Stacey, how do you convince your best friend to have four babies for you?
Stacey Beehler: I didn't have to. She asked me if she could do it. She'd been through so many of my miscarriages with me, and in 1996 I had a stillborn baby. I decided to quit trying. My family tried to give us money to adopt, to stop me from putting my body through this again.
NT: Why didn't you adopt?
Beehler: I wasn't sure I could love someone else's kid as my own. I felt adoption wasn't something I should get into if I wasn't sure I could take care of some other woman's baby. And you never know when the mom's gonna come back, you see that happening on TV all the time, and the law's always on their side. I was terrified I'd end up loving an adopted baby and open the door one day and there'd be a lady there to rip my baby off.
NT: So your best friend offered to carry a baby for you.
Beehler: And I wasn't ready for that, either! I was prepared to give up, because I'd get pregnant and I miscarried ten times. I got pregnant with triplets and lost them one at a time. I figured, I have a lot of nieces and nephews, that's going to have to be enough.
NT: Why couldn't you carry to term?
Beehler: Antibodies. When I get pregnant, my body thinks it's an infection and attacks it. I got all the way to 18 weeks once, but there was stuff wrong with the baby, and then I lost it.
NT: Surrogate birth is expensive, and if it doesn't take, there's no refund.
Beehler: Oh, please. A refund? We had to do it twice, because the first time didn't work. But the real expense of doing this is the meds. I had to take a bunch of stuff to make me hyperovulate.
Beehler: Yeah, I needed to be able to produce a whole lot of eggs, because you really want to get your money's worth when you're getting ready to do this. You know that normally a woman produces only one egg per cycle?
NT: I must have read that somewhere. So, is it this quantity of eggs that leads to multiple births in a surrogate situation?
Beehler: Not necessarily. It's about how many they implant. They harvested 18 of my eggs and then they fertilized them with my husband's sperm, and ten of them took hold. Then we decided how many to implant in Debbie.
NT: It's all very science fiction.
Beehler: It can be. And then the embryologist told us the quality of our eggs was very poor.
NT: He criticized your eggs?
Beehler: He said not to hold out a lot of hope, because some of the eggs were shaped like kidneys instead of being nice and round, and some of them were really small. I almost cancelled the surgery, because I thought, "It's $4,000, what's the point if the eggs are lousy?" But we went ahead, and guess what? That embryologist didn't know jack!
NT: So you had a bunch of babies. This place must be a nuthouse when they're awake.
Beehler: It's such a good thing we didn't have this interview yesterday. They were monsters, horrible all day long.
NT: Okay, tell the truth: Don't you sometimes wish you had your life back?
Beehler: No. Never. But I do have moments where I go into a corner and cry and think, "Give me some time to myself!" I do need alone time, but I wouldn't want to go back to not having kids.
NT: Debbie, I have to ask this: How do you breastfeed four babies? I mean, can you do two at a time?
Beehler: Wait. I nursed them.
NT: You did? How does that work?
Beehler: Drugs! Before they were born, I went to see a doctor who gave me meds to fake my body out to think it was pregnant, and I produced milk. And Debbie used a breast pump for two months for me.
NT: I'm blushing. So I read that this is only the third set of quads born to a surrogate mother in the US. You two became celebrity moms after the births; you were in People magazine, and you were on The View and Inside Edition.
Beehler: Yeah, and don't forget Oprah. Which was a pain in my butt, and I'd never do her show again in a million years.
NT: But it's Oprah!
Beehler: And it was a nightmare from the beginning. Her producers promised things they didn't deliver, and they got us to do the show by saying, "If you could do something to repay Debbie, what would you do?" I told them it would be really great if I could give Debbie and her husband a trip to Vegas, because they wanted to renew their wedding vows. The Oprah people said, "Oh, okay, but don't tell Debbie because we want to surprise her on the show!" Well, that was all a big crock. They just said that to get us to do the show.
NT: So you and Oprah are feuding.
Beehler: Well, they were here in the house for like nine hours, and they had to have absolute quiet while they were filming. So my entire family was locked up in my garage while we did the taping in the house, and they could still hear stuff on the tape, so they went to our neighbors and asked them to be quiet. "Stop trimming your trees, sir!"
NT: At least you got a free trip to Chicago.
Beehler: But I didn't! At one point they told me they wanted to bring me to Chicago, and asked me to write a poem for Debbie to read on the show. So I wrote the poem and then the producer called later and said that I just wrote the poem to try to get a free trip to Chicago. I was pissed! And they said, "And no trip to Vegas for Debbie, because if we did that for her we'd have to do it for everyone."
NT: Those darn TV people!
Beehler: Well, it's kind of funny, because I watch Oprah now and I see the people doing things--holding hands, and crying--and it's all crap. They had us do things that were fake. They had me and my husband consoling each other as if it were right after a miscarriage, and me looking out the window with a look on my face that was supposed to mean, "Why don't I have any kids?" It was crazy.
NT: When you found out there were four babies on the way, did you panic? Did you want to ask Debbie to keep half of them?
Beehler: No. The first thing I thought of was the danger to Debbie's health, and then I thought about where we were going to get the money to raise four babies. And Debbie had the crap scared out of her during the ultrasound, when we found out that there were four of them in there.
NT: Some fertility clinics recommend "fetal reduction." You chose not to do that.
Beehler: It's a tough decision to make after 13 years of trying to have a baby. If Debbie had been concerned about her own well-being, I would have done it. She wasn't. There are a lot of critics out there who don't think reduction is right, but you can't judge until you're in that situation.
NT: But people are judgmental about surrogate pregnancy, anyway.
Beehler: Some people say it's not God's will to go this route, but those are people who just pop out babies easily, or who don't want kids. I don't really have words for them. These are people who don't really matter to me.
NT: Debbie, you went through the discomfort and the scarring of a complicated pregnancy, and then you handed off the babies to your best friend.
Debbie Vibber: I wasn't that uncomfortable. I was scared at first; how was my body going to carry four babies? But there was never a second thought.
Beehler: She has second thoughts now, when she looks in the mirror and sees those stretch marks.
NT: No more two-piece swimsuits for you! So, Stacey, which one is your favorite?
Beehler: I'm not saying I have a favorite.
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NT: Oh, come on!
Beehler: No mother can have a favorite. I try very hard not to favor one of them. I have to put effort into making sure they get equal time.
NT: Is being a mother as fulfilling as you imagined?
Beehler: I'm not Supermom, but this is all I ever wanted out of life. My dreams are fulfilled. There are days like yesterday where I'm ready to pull my hair out, but I'm happy. I'm finally a mother. Still, it's good when they sleep.