Two insurance collectors, Keri Crowley and Tami Trine, share a cubicle in the St. Charles Patient Financial Services building on Empire Avenue. A sign sits between them that reads, "Cravings this week: tapioca pudding, chocolate milk, chocolate pudding and blueberries."
It may seem like a small space, packed with files, photos, snacks and even a yoga ball tucked under each desk. But it is space enough for a friendship to grow. Now, new life is growing also. Trine is 14 weeks pregnant as a surrogate -- for her cubicle buddy, Crowley.
"Our friendship just kind of clicked," Trine said. "Getting to know each other more and more, sharing our backgrounds and personal stories, and then she shared that she can't have children and why."
Crowley's struggle and dream to become a mother began at just 27 years old when she had to have a hysterectomy due to endometriosis. She and her husband decided to foster a baby, a little girl they nurtured from birth and were ready to adopt, only to suffer yet more loss when the child was re-homed with distant family at a year-and-a-half old. Photos of the baby still adorn the cubicle wall. "I still post something on Facebook around her birthday, just in case she ever sees it out there and can remember," Crowley said.
That was six years ago. Following the loss, the Crowleys decided they needed time and space to heal so moved from Idaho to Bend. Crowley started working for St. Charles, and a few months later, got a new cubicle friend.
Trine has four children, three of whom are her biological children, from ages 12 to 23.
"I can't imagine what it's like for somebody who's not able to have a child," she said. "I was thinking about getting my tubes tied, then I thought, well, you know, why not give it one last hurrah? I always thought it would be kind of cool to be a surrogate and do something really nice for somebody."
So, Trine popped the question: "Have you guys ever thought about surrogacy? I'd be happy to be your oven," she recalls asking.
"I didn't believe her," Crowley said. After so many disappointments, Crowley was skeptical. "I thought she was joking."
But when they found a fertility clinic and started getting preliminary tests done, "things started falling into place," Crowley said.
The next hurdle was to raise the money for the in vitro fertilization (IVF) process, which costs about $20,000 including the egg harvesting and fertilization, hormone injections, embryo transfer and mandatory legal fees to ensure all parties have an attorney. Crowley and Trine ran bake sales and did a bottle and can drive, and Crowley and her husband are both working two jobs to save up. They hoped that by next year, they might be able to afford to start the process.
And then the doctor called them with a piece of news. There was an egg donor who had produced enough eggs to split the batch with another couple. That meant halving the cost. The Crowleys got a loan and before they knew it, it was time for the embryo transfer.
Two fertilized eggs were implanted, and then the Crowleys and Trine had to wait two weeks to see if it had worked. The doctor actually called Crowley first. Trine's shift was already done for the day and she had left the office when Crowley took the call.
"Then I had to call Tami and tell her she was pregnant," Crowley said.
Even better news? The first ultrasound showed that both embryos had implanted. The Crowleys are expecting twins.
"It's just an amazing feeling to know that I have a friend that's willing to do that and that it's actually happening," Crowley said. "We're beyond grateful. We don't even have words to express how thankful we are. We try, but there's no words to thank [Tami] for what she's doing."
While the Crowleys are covering all Trine's medical expenses, Trine is not receiving any supplemental payment for being a surrogate.
"I'm not doing this for any reason other than to help them," Trine said. "Being a parent is just the coolest thing in the world. I mean, my kids are my life. It's nine months of my life to give that to them forever. I don't even think of it as sacrifice. It's something that I get to enjoy."