All Christopher and Janine Schmitz want is a child.
But for the last nine years their optimism has been followed by heartbreak.
The Plano couple has endured six miscarriages since Janine learned she was pregnant for the first time in 2011. The frustration has led the couple to wonder if they would ever have a child.
“It's been pretty rough,” Christopher said. “The longer this goes on the more difficult it has been. After dealing with it, it's hard to hold out hope anymore.”
But halfway across the country in North Carolina is hope – or an angel as Janine likes to call her.
The couple's best friend, Tiffany Peterson, has agreed to be Janine's surrogate. The Schmitz's know this could be their best, and last, chance to have a child.
“If this doesn't work, this is probably it,” Christopher said. “Adoption and fostering isn't a viable option. And at our age, even if we can conceive, it probably wouldn't go anywhere.”
Janine found out she was pregnant for the first time in January 2011. But she said she miscarried in February at 10 weeks. The couple immediately tried again, but that one ended at seven weeks, followed by a third one at six weeks. In December of that year the couple lost its fourth baby at nine weeks.
“All this heartache and frustration was starting to put a huge strain on both of us,” Janine said. “And we were beginning to doubt that we'd ever be able to have kids.”
Janine was unable to get pregnant again until January 2014 when the couple learned they were having twins. But four days before Janine was scheduled to be induced, she had a placental abruption, where the placenta detaches from the uterus and the babies could not receive oxygen. Janine gave birth to Sophia Adelaide and Emily Alexis, but they were already gone.
The doctors told the couple Janine was lucky to be alive because the abruption could have caused severe hemorrhaging.
“At this point we didn't really feel lucky at all,” Janine said.
The couple tried once more and conceived Mason in August of 2018, but the baby miscarried at 16 weeks.
A friend in need
Tiffany became friends with Janine and Christopher after she married Ben Peterson, Christopher's lifelong best friend, 10 years ago.
Tiffany said she and Janine bonded as they were going through their pregnancies together and felt the pain of her best friends when they were unable to have a child.
“Everything that they've gone through has been so heartbreaking,” Tiffany said.
So one day she suggested – Janine said it was more like a demand – that she serve as a surrogate for her best friends.
“They had just had a miscarriage, again,” Tiffany said. “I had been thinking about doing this for several months, so it was something I wanted to do anyway. I offered a year ago, and then after their last miscarriage I offered again.”
Tiffany said it was an easy decision.
“There was no hesitation at all,” Tiffany said. “This definitely feels like what I'm supposed to do. They deserve to be parents.”
While not everyone can say they know what Christopher and Janine have gone through, Tiffany and her husband can. Tiffany said she and Ben also had trouble having a child. Tiffany went through mild fertility treatment, and ultimately the couple was able to have three children.
Janine said she is thankful that Tiffany has given them at least a chance to have a family of their own.
“She initiated this,” Janine said. “For someone to say that we should do this, this is amazing.”
While Tiffany's offer has given hope to the Schmitz family, the couple knows there is a long financial road to make this a reality. Christopher said the first step is getting an attorney for the process, which he estimates to be approximately $5,000.
After that, the process includes the egg retrieval procedure, egg retrieval medication, mock in vitro fertilization (IVF)/transfer, the IVF/transfer procedure and the IVF/transfer medication.
Christopher said while some of that will be covered by insurance, it's estimated the entire process could cost around $40,000.
The Schmitz's know that finding the money for the procedure will be a challenge. A GoFundMe page has been set up to help in the effort.
But at least the first step is out of the way.
“It's hard to say how grateful we are,” Christopher said. “Usually people charge $30,000 to $40,000, on top of the other expenses. It's an amazing thing she's doing out of the goodness of her heart because she wants us to be happy.”