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To Mom, from Mom

Veronica Whitney

GYPSUM – Laura Lee Verlinde became pregnant at age 41 for somebody else. She had to miss her son’s goal in a hockey game. She had to undergo an emergency C-section and get a blood transfusion. She lost sleep. And she saw baby Conner go to New York with April and John Griffin soon after giving birth to the boy in Vail this March.Though she uses the term surrogate mother, Verlinde was actually a “gestational carrier,” which means she carried the biological baby of another couple.”The gift you give in being a surrogate isn’t just to the biological parents, but it’s to you and your family as well. It touches so many people,” said Verlinde, 42, a Gypsum mother of two boys.It moved her so much, Verlinde said, she’s ready to do it again. “I would do it for them in a heartbeat,” she said. “Just because it was a great experience.”Back in Carmel, N.Y., the Griffins, who baptized Conner last week, said Verlinde is an angel.”This is the best gift we’ve ever received,” said April Griffin, an accountant.”Every day is now Mother’s and Father’s Day and Christmas and Easter,” John Griffin said. “This is a woman who did everything for us…. She gave us life.”‘It wasn’t about money’Verlinde, who now lives in Cotton Ranch, was living in Boston with her family when, on Jan. 1, 2004, she saw an ad in a newspaper. “It said ‘surrogate mothers wanted,’ it was from a law firm in New York,” she said.After talking it over with her husband, Ray, a vice president for WestStar Bank, Verlinde sent her information to the law firm. “I was surprised when my profile was sent to nine couples,” she said. The match with the Griffins came pretty quick.”We were looking for somebody with stability, with kids, not somebody who was just doing it for the money,” said John Griffin, a stay-at-home dad. “When we saw Laura Lee’s profile and the pictures, they looked like a happy family. It was obvious it wasn’t about money.”April Griffin couldn’t carry a pregnancy because she’s diabetic, but doctors were able to retrieve healthy eggs from her, which they then combined with John’s sperm. The embryo formed was then successfully transferred to Verlinde who became pregnant on the first try. Verlinde, who moved with her family to the Vail Valley in August, said she doesn’t think she could have become a surrogate mother if the baby had been biologically hers.”It was her egg and his sperm, and we had developed such a great relationship,” Verlinde said. “I couldn’t wait to see them walk out of the hospital with this baby and be a family, they’ve tried for so long.”Complications occurred during the last months of the pregnancy and the delivery. Verlinde was bedridden for the last two months of her pregnancy due to high blood pressure. The doctor had to perform an emergency C-section.”I never expected it to be like that because my other pregnancies were good,” Verlinde said. “The best thing for me was to watch them with this baby the first four days before they left. It was truly a family event,” she said. “The only regrets I have was that I missed one of my son’s hockey games where he had a goal. Because I was on bed rest, I couldn’t do all the chaperoning.”Red Sox fanVerlinde became a surrogate even though she already had two healthy sons – Adam, 12, and Grant, 9, – and a successful husband. “I did it because I could and because I know how much my kids mean to me,” she said.Though she got paid $15,000 – the money she earned went to her children’s college funds – Verlinde said it wasn’t the money.”The attorney said we could come in at whatever we wanted. But you can’t put a price to it. All my husband wanted was that this didn’t end up costing us any money,” she said. “What has come out of this is priceless.””That made it more enriching for us,” Ray Verlinde added. “It was for the experience to do something that will impact somebody’s life for the rest of their lives. It was worth all the nuisances of dealing with the pregnancy.”The idea that Verlinde wouldn’t give up the baby after the delivery wasn’t a concern for John Griffin or his wife, he said.”Not after seeing the kind of family they were,” he said. “We went to bed every night knowing she was taking care of herself.”Verlinde said she never bonded with the baby while he was in her womb. “Anytime anyone would ask me I’d tell them, ‘I’m a surrogate,'” she said.Verlinde said she also prepared her boys for the birth. “They said, ‘If it’s a little girl, can we keep it?’ But they knew all the way we were doing this for John and April,” she said.Though her only connection to Conner was through her blood supply during the pregnancy, Verlinde jokingly said she hopes the boy has skiing in his blood.”I’d like to think he’s a Red Sox fan. (The Griffins) are Yankees fans,” she said. “I will encourage other women to do it, but I can’t imagine doing this and breaking ties with the baby.”Verlinde said she hopes the two families will stay in touch.”Together we all went through a miracle,” she said. “Being that my kids go to a Christian school, I didn’t know how the teachers and the kids would take that. But from what I understand the Virgin Mary was a surrogate.””Every day is now mother’s and father’s day and Christmas and Easter. This is a woman who did everything for us…. She gave us life.”- John GriffinStaff Writer Veronica Whitney can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 454 or vwhitney@vaildaily.com. Vail, Colorado


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