Michelle Ingenthron’s daughter, Josephine, was born Aug. 23, 2018, making Sunday their first Mother’s Day together. Ingenthron didn’t think it would ever come.
As a labor and delivery nurse at Fountain Valley Regional Hospital & Medical Center, her days revolve around guiding babies safely into the world.
Marcie Sisneros is a secretary in the adjoining neonatal intensive care unit.
Though newborns fill their lives, Ingenthron’s challenges in having a child of her own brought them together in a way they couldn’t have expected.
Ingenthron, 40, has a transplanted kidney, making pregnancy risky. Her fertility doctor suggested a gestational surrogate, something she and her husband had considered for years but were unsure about using an agency to find a carrier.
In 2012, a co-worker jokingly suggested Sisneros, who was pregnant with her second child at the time, because “she carries babies so easily.”
The pregnancy professionals shared a laugh. But for Sisneros, it was a gift she truly wanted to share.
She knew she wanted to help another woman become a mother, whether by surrogacy or egg donation, and that woman was only feet away.
After she completed her own family in 2013, Sisneros approached Ingenthron and asked if she were interested.
“Are you serious?” Ingenthron replied. “Are you really serious?”
Sisneros was for real, and ultimately so was Josephine.
The women underwent the lengthy, physically and emotionally demanding process of egg retrieval, in vitro fertilization and transfer. Eventually, Sisneros was pregnant with her friend’s child.
She didn’t announce the pregnancy until Ingenthron wanted to. When the baby kicked at work, Sisneros urged Ingenthron to rush over and feel her belly.
Josephine was born 19½ inches, 7 pounds, 2 ounces.
Now, nearly nine months later, she cocks her head when Sisneros speaks to her, as if she knows her from somewhere. To Sisneros, JoJo is her good friend’s baby.
“It’s just more precious because I got to hold on to her for a little bit,” said Sisneros, 32.
Members of the care team at Fountain Valley Regional were eager to be part of Josephine’s story, which they wanted to see come full circle at their hospital. Nurses scrambled to get on the schedule the day of Sisneros’ planned Caesarean section.
Dr. Kevin Tieu, who had delivered two of Sisneros’ sons, led the team. Ingenthron had assisted Tieu in countless births and was present for this one, though not on the clock. She, her husband, Matthew, and Sisneros’ husband, Louis, filled the delivery room.
Tieu, an obstetrician since 2004, delivers about 30 to 40 babies a month. He can count on one hand how many were carried by surrogates.
Nothing compares to this one, he said. “There’s no way you can forget something like this.”