GRAND RAPIDS, Mich — In January, FOX 17 told you about a couple in Grand Rapids, still working to gain legal rights to their twins born via gestational carrier. That process often means they will have to adopt their own biological children.
Their story is one that many families are familiar with, including the Welz’s in Grand Rapids, who went through an agency to help them adopt their twins.
“It’s very disheartening going through the adoption process; it’s scary,” said Cortney Welz, the twins’ mother.
Three years after the twins were born, the battle of actually being considered their parent still haunts her.
Welz said, “We have great jobs, we have a beautiful home, and we have plenty of love to give to any child, but you’ve already climbed so many mountains to get to this point.”
And there have been a lot of mountains.
Welz was born with a condition called Gastroschisis, meaning her intestines were outside of her body at birth. She had reconstructive surgery right away and lived a healthy life through child- and- adulthood, but when it came to starting a family with her husband, Will, Welz learned that her medical condition would also greatly reduce her chances of carrying children safely.
“My uterus never grew past infancy, so it was very small,” explained Welz.
Soon after learning this, a family friend offered to carry a baby for the Welz family. Following months of discussing the physical, emotional, mental and logistical details of what this process would look like, doctors transferred Cortney and Will’s embryos into a gestational carrier in April of 2017.
“They are so smart and so fun; they have the best personalities,” Welz said of her children.
The time between that transfer and birth was spent knee deep in paperwork to adopt the babies. Currently, Michigan law doesn’t recognize intended parents like Welz as legal parents in situations where children are born via gestational carrier.
Cathy Raidna, the Founder and Executive Director of Greater Hopes, an adoption agency in Wyoming, explained how this process is viewed in the eyes of the law.
“When it’s an embryo, nobody really has parental rights to the embryo. Once it gets inside of another woman’s body, then they’ve shifted it and have started giving parental rights to the carrier, and that’s where I think this whole thing kind of gets bogged down is, who gets parental rights?” Raidna said.
Raidna has helped about 2,000 families with adoptions total in the agency's nearly 30 years. She also helped the Welz family as they sought legal rights to their twins.