And Baby Makes Six

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.

NT: Hyperovulation!

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?

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Robrt L. Pela has been a weekly contributor to Phoenix New Times since 1991, primarily as a cultural critic. His radio essays air on National Public Radio affiliate KJZZ's Morning Edition.
Contact: Robrt L. Pela