By Susan Reynolds | Anything. That’s what most of us say we would do to help our children attain their heart’s desire or alleviate their heartache. But few would even think, much less attempt, to carry and give birth to their own grandchildren. Far fewer would succeed — especially if you are over 50 and peri-menopausal, as Crystal Sirignano was when she gave birth to her daughter’s twins. |
This article is based on Christine Crosby’s interview with Crystal Sirignano.
Crystal Sirignano’s incredible journey began when she and her husband DJ’s only daughter, Kendra, finally accepted that she would not be able to carry a baby to term. Kendra and her husband, Aaron, had suffered multiple unsuccessful attempts to sustain a pregnancy, including three failed IVFs costing more than $20,000 each, and a lot of heartache.
“Watching my daughter go from a really independent, happy girl to being severely depressed was unbearable,” says Crystal.
Kendra’s fertility specialist suggested a gestational carrier, using Kendra and Aaron’s fertilized embryo. But they had run out of money and didn’t have anyone else to turn to. That’s when Crystal approached a fertility doctor in Michigan to inquire whether she (and her uterus) might be healthy enough, at 51, to carry her daughter’s embryo(s) to term.
Fortunately, Crystal received the green light — in large part because she was physically fit (she’s a fitness trainer, owns Total Body Fitness, and exercises regularly), primarily a vegetarian, didn’t smoke, and rarely consumed alcohol.
“My husband was in the room when the doctor told me I ‘had the uterus of a fifteen-year-old.’ My husband also knew I would do whatever I could to help our daughter, so he was on-board immediately.”Convincing her daughter was not as easy. “Kendra thought it was too dangerous, but I begged her to let me try.”
Crystal flew from her home in Michigan to Arizona to meet with her daughter’s fertility specialist. After the doctors confirmed that Crystal had a good chance of successfully carrying and delivering a healthy baby, Kendra and Aaron agreed to giving it try.
Despite having given birth to two healthy children in her early twenties, Crystal harbored some concerns. “I felt even more nervous because it was my daughter’s last chance. That made me even more careful than I’d been with my children because these were not my babies.”
Everything went well, and Domenic and Mia were born on June 18, 2008.
Crystal and DJ now have another granddaughter, Nyah (19 months), by their son and his wife. They also have a 20-year-old granddaughter, Claire, whom Kendra and Aaron adopted at age 12.
They all call Crystal “Nona” (“we’re Italian”). Like all grandmothers, Crystal would love to spend more time with each of her four grandkids. Because her son’s family lives nearby in Michigan, she takes care of Nyah three days a week. She visits the twins and Claire in Arizona often.
The twins know the unusual role their Nona played in their birth. “Nico and Mia’s parents have always been honest with them. When someone would ask them where they came from, they would tell them that they grew in their Nona’s tummy. When they were younger, they thought for a while that I was giving birth to all babies, even the neighbor’s.
“And when Mia was about three, I once told her that she was an angel from heaven, and she said ‘No, I came from the freezer,’ explaining that ‘Mommy and Daddy put my egg in the freezer, and then into your tummy.’”
Now, she reports, “They understand as well as five-year-olds can understand.”
Crystal wrote her memoir Labor of Love in hopes of inspiring women who suffer from infertility to never give up—and to explore all avenues.
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Visit Crystal’s website to learn more about her experience or to purchase Labor of Love: A Mother’s Memoir of Giving Birth to Her Daughter’s Twins.
Susan Reynolds is a Boston-based writer whose works include Train Your Brain to Get Happy, Everything Enneagram, and Meditation for Moms.