After Sask. family welcomes kids with help of surrogates, mom paying it forward with egg donation

·4 min read
Big brother John Bogdan looks at his baby sister, Kate Juli, who was born on May 18, 2022, in Regina. Both children came into the world with the help of surrogates. (Submitted by Courtney Sastaunik - image credit)
Big brother John Bogdan looks at his baby sister, Kate Juli, who was born on May 18, 2022, in Regina. Both children came into the world with the help of surrogates. (Submitted by Courtney Sastaunik - image credit)

With two babies less than seven months apart in age, sleep is not something Courtney Sastaunik and her husband, Chris, have much time for these days.

Despite all the care the two little ones need right now, the parents have been over the moon since their daughter, Kate Juli, came rushing into the world last week and completed the Regina family.

Sastaunik's sister-in-law Tara Fortier was front and centre when the couple became parents once again — she was Sastaunik's surrogate, and gave birth to Kate on May 18, 2022.

"Our hearts are full, but man, are our arms full too," after Kate's birth, said Sastaunik.

"The fact that she was here and healthy and finally in our arms was just such an overwhelming feeling."

For surrogate Fortier, giving birth to her niece was also a very special moment.

Submitted by Courtney Sastaunik
Submitted by Courtney Sastaunik

The mother of two treated the pregnancy like she was carrying her own baby, she said, while knowing this was her niece.

"The labour and delivery was not fun physically, but seeing the look on Courtney's face when she came out was absolutely priceless," said Fortier.

"It was a beautiful pregnancy, and I felt great for the most part, and I'm excited to just get to be an awesome auntie to little Kate."

Challenging road to parenthood

Fortier was the third woman who helped Sastaunik become a mother.

Sastaunik knew since she was a teenager that she wouldn't be able to carry her biological children herself.

She was born with Müllerian agenesis, a rare syndrome in which the müllerian duct doesn't develop, resulting in a missing uterus.

She and her husband had sought the help of a surrogate before.

Submitted by Courtney Sastaunik
Submitted by Courtney Sastaunik

In December 2020, during a 20-week ultrasound, Sastaunik and her husband learned that they lost their first child, Josie, who was growing inside the body of a different surrogate.

"I remember clearly the days, weeks and months after Josie died feeling immense guilt over feeling any joy, excitement or happiness for our future," Sastaunik wrote in an Instagram post earlier this month, before Kate was born.

In 2021, Sastaunik's best friend, Charissa Jaarsma, stepped up as the couple's second surrogate and birthed their son, John.

"When we found out we were expecting John, little rays of joy started to … [peek] through again," Sastaunik wrote on Instagram, though that was "often clouded by fear and anxiety that riddles those who experience pregnancy after loss."

While the birth of her son did not "erase the pain of the void Josie left in our hearts, he reminds me every day that we have so much to be grateful for," she wrote.

Submitted by Courtney Sastaunik
Submitted by Courtney Sastaunik

Last week, John became a big brother at the young age of just over six months — but so far he doesn't seem to show too much interest in his baby sister.

"He shows curiosity for about five seconds and then he's on to the next thing," said Sastaunik.

"My husband is off work, so having two parents to do two kids is wonderful. It'll be interesting once he goes back to work to see how I juggle the two of them."

Donating eggs

Now that her family is complete, Sastaunik has decided to pay it forward and help another couple become parents.

The Regina mother has started the process of becoming an egg donor, and will begin the egg retrieval process this summer in Ontario, she said.

"I'm donating to a same-sex couple from Belgium … and I'm just so excited," said Sastaunik.

"The fact that we're almost through medical evaluations and moving on to the next step, I think they're finally feeling a little more like this is real and they're going to be a family soon."

Due to her struggles with infertility, Sastaunik said she understands the yearning to be a parent.

After three women helped her to have a family, she feels honoured to be part of the Belgian couple's process of becoming fathers.

While it is hard to predict what emotional challenges the donation process might entail, Sastaunik said she's not worried about that right now.

"The overpowering feeling right now is that I'm just so excited for the guys to start making their family," she said.

"If you can just go through a little bit of discomfort to help them get what they want out of life and to be able to have the joy of being a parent, I feel like, why wouldn't you?"

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