A Christmas miracle: a labour of love provides the gift of life

BEFORE AND AFTER—Parents-to-be Vance Wood and Deana Debassige-Wood are all smiles at they stand beside Ms. Debassige-Wood’s sister Deidre Debassige, centre, who carried baby Lakelin, inset photo right, to term for them.

M’CHIGEENG – Lakelin Dale Earl Wood is one very lucky baby: not many are born with three loving parents, a mom, a dad and a birth mother. 

Deana Debassige-Wood and Vance Wood were married three years ago, but they had been together for several years before that and were trying to conceive a baby even before the knot was tied. After struggling to conceive for some time without avail, the couple decided to turn to in vitro fertilization (IVF).

IVF is a complex series of procedures that is used to help with fertility or to prevent genetic problems and, in this case, assist with the conception of a child. During IVF, mature eggs are harvested from the woman’s ovaries; and then fertilized by sperm in a lab before being inserted into the womb of the person who will be carrying the baby.

“Vance and I began our journey five years ago with many attempts to start a family,” shared Ms. Debassige-Wood back in August. “After two years of trying, we decided to seek help with fertility doctors at Mount Sinai. This started our journey into IVF.”

While the story of their baby’s birth is by nature a very personal event, Ms. Debassige-Wood said the couple have become used to sharing their story. “We’ve shared our journey with many family and friends over the years so it doesn’t come hard to us to share this story with everyone now,” she said. “After numerous trips to Toronto, countless needles, two rounds of IVF and two failed transfers, we were left with one remaining embryo and were conflicted with the decision to attempt another transfer or seek a gestational carrier.”

Herein our story of two becomes three before four.

“In June of 2020, our hero, Deidre, approached us and offered to carry our baby for us,” recalled Ms. Debassige-Wood. “We were over the moon excited about the thought of my little sister being our carrier. This began numerous appointments with lawyers, counsellors and doctors. After many months of completing this process, we received news of a successful embryo transfer in March.” Her announcement on Facebook, expressed in all-caps, proclaimed the couple’s unbridled excitement: “We are now expecting our MIRACLE BABY IN DECEMBER 2021!” wrote Ms. Debassige-Wood.

“We’d like thank Deidre for making it all possible,” wrote Ms. Debassige-Wood. “She’s truly our hero and we’re unbelievably proud of her. It’s the greatest gift in the world and my sister is making our dreams come true! We would also like to thank Jeremy, Deidre’s partner, who has also been very supportive throughout this process. Furthermore, a huge shout out to the grandparents-to-be (Debbie, Earl, Cathy, and Dale) who have shown us their unconditional love and support over the years. We could not have done this without all of you. We love you all and we are so excited to start our family with Baby Wood.”

On November 20, Ms. Wood expressed her gratitude to her sister for taking on such a deeply personal role. “‘My Sister’s Love is a love like no other, it’s one that reminds me I will never walk alone. It’s a love that I cherish, respect, and honor’,” wrote Ms. Debassige-Wood. “This woman is my baby sister, there are 11 years between us, so I’ve always been a protective older sister. She watched us struggle with becoming parents for years and, at the age of 22, she became my protector. A true hero that offered to be the vessel that carries our miracle baby into this world. I was blessed the day she was born and I’ve been blessed by her again. I know how lucky we are and that a love like this doesn’t happen too often. We will be forever grateful for your love.”

At 36 weeks, “almost baby time,” Ms. Debassige-Wood went on to add, “I’d also like to mention the strength she has demonstrated during this pregnancy. She’s a full-time mommy, loving partner, a full-time student with eight classes last semester at Laurentian University and carries a part-time position with Indigenous Sport and Wellness Ontario. On top of all that, the pregnancy commitments to numerous appointments. It has been a very busy eight months and here she is at 36 weeks, it’s almost baby time! She is definitely one of the strongest women I know and we are so proud of her! Love you so much, sister.”

At 12:29 am, on Monday, December 6 Lakelin Dale Earl Wood stepped into the world at eight pounds, 15 ounces and 20.5 inches long.

“He’s strong, healthy and hungry! Hehe,” she announced, adding “Deidre did absolutely amazing. She’ll always be our little hero and Lakelin’s guardian angel. Our family is now complete. Looking forward to the adventures this boy will bring to our lives. Thanks again for everyone’s support, we love you all. Also, another huge thanks to our mother Debbie (Debassige), who has been our rock through it all. We love you, Momma Bear/Grammie!”

Deidre Debassige, the “gestational carrier” announced her own feelings to the world shortly after Lakelin’s birth. “Lakelin Wood; made with love, prayers and a little bit of science. 12.06.21,” she wrote.

“2018 I prayed for you, cried for you.”

“2019 I dreamt about you, longed for you.”

“2020 I offered to carry you.”

“2021 We were blessed with you.”

“After watching my sister Deana and her husband Vance yearn to start their family and have a child, after watching my sister struggle and go through the pain and heartbreak; my world began to flip upside down. My sister and I have always been best friends. Her happiness is mine and her heartache is also mine. The amount of nights I stayed up crying for my sister and praying for you. In 2018, I watched my sister go through the IVF process and sadly had two failed attempts. I went to see a medium, cried to her and asked her how can I help my sister get through this. She very calmly shared with me, ‘your sister will not be able to carry her children, but if you can help her through that pain and accept it, and open her eyes to another way of having children, she will have children of her own.’ As she was speaking, the medium was looking at me as if to tell me something more, waiting for me to get it… ‘can I carry my sisters baby?’ I asked. She smiled and in that moment I knew everything I needed to know.”

“From that day on I thought about you every day,” she said to the yet unborn baby, while wrestling with understandable doubts and second thoughts. “‘Can I do this?’ ‘Will my sister want this?’ ‘What if it doesn’t work, what if I break her heart?’ ‘Will we get through this?’ ‘Will my partner Jeremy stick with me through this?’ ‘Will my son Kade be okay with this?’ I remember always thinking to myself, ‘How can I not do this, knowing I have the ability to? I’m healthy, I’m young, I’ve had a healthy pregnancy before and a healthy delivery, it would be selfish of me to not try. Because if I can, my sister gets to be a mommy, she gets her baby, she gets her family.”

Ms. Debassige said she played all of those conversations out in her head before approaching family members, one at a time. “First, I sat with Jeremy and explained what I wanted to do,” she recalled. “I looked for his blessing and he gave it to me. My respect and love for him grew tenfold that day. Then I sat with my parents and my mom’s tears and my dad’s hug was all the affirmation I needed to know this was right. In the summer of 2020 Deana and Vance had one last embryo remaining and were left with the decision to try one more time, or try with a surrogate. I knew it was time, so I looked at my sister and offered to carry you. Her tears were hard and strong but meant something different this time, I think we both saw the beginning of something amazing that day.”

What followed were many months of meetings, with specialists, counsellors and even lawyers, transforming into reality on March 29 when the trio were informed of a successful embryo transfer. 

“The next nine months truly flew by, and your parents were right there by my side every step of the way,” Ms. Debassige told baby Lakelin after his birth. “It has now been two weeks since you blessed our family and I’ve had time to process it all. My journey as a surrogate has come to an end, and I’m beyond grateful, no words will ever be able to describe how I feel inside. The look on my sister’s face, the love in her eyes is all I’ll ever need to know this journey was more than worth it. Welcome to the world my handsome nephew Lakelin Wood, I will love you forever as if you were my own.”

Ms. Debassige noted how the hospital had made a special dispensation for the trio when it came time for the birth. “It was pretty special,” she said. “With everything happening with COVID there were strict limits, but the hospital made a special exception for us.” Ms. Debassige got an opportunity to hold her sister’s baby for five minutes after his birth, and with that she had to make due for the next couple of weeks as the family then had to split up. “It was a week-and-a-half before I could hold him again,” she said. But then the family spent three days together at Grandma Bear’s home. “That was special too,” recalled Ms. Debassige. “It was heartwarming,” she said. “We were at my mom’s home and there were kids playing in the background.”

Ms. Debassige-Wood had some advice for others who might be considering following the IVF route when experiencing challenges in conceiving, given the many hoops and hurdles that must be jumped through and over to get there. “It’s so worth it,” she said.

Baby Lakelin came into this world as a highly anticipated and most joyful arrival, and that is very fitting given this is the season of celebration of another anticipated arrival. From all of us at The Expositor, welcome home, baby Lakelin. We look forward to chronicling your life’s accomplishments, nurtured in the bosom of your loving family.