CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. – Before January of 2016, Kelli Sopic and Megan Barkdoll had never met one another. Fast forward to the evening of March 8, 2017, when an unforgettable moment that was the culmination of love, care, and sacrifice, sealed the women and their families together forever, as Megan gave birth to Kelli and her husband's healthy baby boy at Chambersburg Hospital.
Megan, who lives in Greencastle with her husband and two young children explained her decision to be a gestational surrogate was very simple; while she and her husband Zach don't plan to have any more children, Megan said she always enjoyed being pregnant, and thought if she could bring the same happiness her children brought her to another family by carrying a baby for them; it would be more than worth it.
In early 2016, she was connected to Kelli Sopic, of Curwensville, Pennsylvania through a lawyer specializing in surrogacy. The women say they instantly felt a connection when they met. Kelli, a career labor and delivery nurse who thrived in supporting and helping women bring children into the world had to face a dark reality in her own life, a medical procedure left her unable to carry her own child.
After meeting, the couples embarked on a six-month journey of medical testing and procedures. In July of 2016 Megan was thrilled to find out she was pregnant.
"I wanted to make sure my children wouldn't be confused about what was going on, but it was important to me that they learn about giving to others," she remembered.
After a healthy, full-term pregnancy, Megan, along with her husband, and Kelli and Nathan by her side, delivered a healthy baby boy, Rhett, inside Chambersburg Hospital's Family Birthing Unit.
"It was just so rewarding to see Kelli and Nathan in that moment," she said, explaining that immediately after Rhett was born, he was placed on Kelli's chest for skin-to-skin bonding time. "It just felt so good to see that moment; love was just oozing out of Kelli and Nate as they looked at their new son."
The hospital worked with the families to make sure their wishes could be honored during both the delivery and recovery process.
"They were just so caring and understanding and considerate of our needs and in not rushing us," recalled Megan. She said that the couples, who had separate rooms at the hospital, joked with nurses calling the setup their apartment.
And while her work as a surrogate might seem fulfilled, Megan says her responsibilities to baby Rhett aren't quite done yet. She's committed to pumping breastmilk for baby Rhett for as long as she can, even though it means setting an alarm in the middle of the night. She says she saw the benefits of breastfeeding her own two children, and wanted this baby to have the same benefits through his first year too.
The families plan regular visits, and say they are excited to watch their children grow up as family. It was also an experience they are eager to share, hoping other families will be inspired to consider surrogacy as an option for starting a family, and hoping other women will consider becoming surrogates.
"I think people label it as something with a big price tag, but I want them to know through this positive experience that it is doable, there are options," Kelli said.
Summit Health is a non-profit network of hospitals and physician practices dedicated to building a healthier community.
As Franklin County's leading healthcare provider, Summit Health offers family care, specialists, lab and imaging services, a fitness center, urgent care centers, and two award-winning hospitals.