The dream of starting a family was not an easy one for Erica and Richard Gray.
Seven years ago, at the age of 27, Erica went for an annual Pap smear.
Her doctor found some abnormal cells and called on Thanksgiving Day.
“I kind of knew something wasn’t great, and she let me know, ‘You have stage three cervical cancer,” said Gray.
Gray discussed her options with an oncologist. In the end, both decided that a hysterectomy was her best option.
“I clearly knew that would take away my chances of having children, which was certainly a hard pill to swallow. My health was most important at the time, ”said Gray.
Undeterred, the Grays spent the better half of the next decade looking for someone to carry their child.
It’s a quest that unexpectedly brought them back to Medical City’s oncology department, where a surgical technologist overheard Gray’s doctor talking about her struggle to find a surrogate.
“I was like, ‘That’s something I’ve always wanted to do,” Kasia Birdwell said.
Texts were exchanged and the strangers made plans to meet for dinner in August 2019.
The rest is history.
With two of her own children at home, Birdwell said she had always had easy pregnancies.
And after watching a co-worker become a surrogate, she wanted to do the same.
‘It’s a lot to go through. I mean she does her body a lot for someone else. And most of all on top of everything else she’s trying to accomplish in life, work, nursing school and her two own kids and just taking care of her own family. Thinking about someone else’s family means a lot to us, ”Gray said.
COVID-19 made their already unique situation more difficult.
Their first embryo transfer was canceled due to the pandemic, and the Grays were unable to attend as doctors listened to their baby’s heartbeat for the first time.
Still, while Birdwell was carrying their son, she did her best to FaceTime and keep them as close to the pregnancy as possible.
“It’s been such a great journey. It’s a different bond than you could ever explain. It’s more than just having a friend or a best friend, you know. made us so close, ”said Birdwell.
Ever strangers, Gray said the women are now as close as sisters.
Still, she said it was sometimes difficult to see how someone else was carrying her child. But she’s forever grateful to Birdwell for helping them start a family.
At 10:34 PM on March 4, Richard Edwin Gray V entered the world in Medical City Dallas.
He was placed in the arms of his mother, father and finally the woman who carried him.
Gray said he grows up and knows her as Aunt Kasia.
“I hope women see it’s possible. Again, it may not be the exact story you thought it would be, but it ends just the way it should,” Gray said.