“I was shaking. I was like, ‘What is this?'”
A baby boy, as it turns out. Lauren, like her mother before her, had gotten pregnant the old-fashioned way, without hormones or fertility assistance. She would be due the week after her surrogate, “giving us three babies under the age of 13 months,” Lauren explains. “I am a very big planner,” she adds, breaking into a grin. “I do not like surprises. Funny, right?”
“Are we capable of providing for three kids?”
In mid-March, Lauren went into labor. Jennifer began having contractions the very next day. She would end up giving birth to Vivienne just 13 hours after Lauren had her baby, Wesley. A terrifying month followed when Wesley was in and out of the hospital with medical complications. But now, at last, the whole family is finally healthy and together at home.
A few weeks after the crisis has passed, Lauren and Joe are sitting outside their suburban ranch house with all three kids. Oliver toddles around the grass while Wesley and Vivienne sit in their bouncers, plump fists waving happily when their big brother stops by to give them kisses. The couple tell me they’re filled with gratitude — and no small amount of trepidation.
“We are both really scared,” Joe confesses. “We definitely feel blessed, but we are realistic people. Are we capable of providing for three kids? It’s going to be a really rough year.”
The Kamniks are now on a tight feeding, sleeping, and bathing schedule. “With three babies under 18 months,” Lauren says, “you need to be. The biggest change is that there is absolutely no time right now for ourselves. And if by some miracle they are all sleeping, there are bottles to be cleaned, laundry to wash. The notion of downtime is history.”
They’ve quickly adjusted to the constant clutter of baby paraphernalia and family photos, but Joe in particular is concerned about their finances — and other practicalities. “Like, how are we even going to be able to go to the grocery store?” he asks.
But they know these worries pale in comparison to the ones they held not so long ago, when they feared they’d never become parents at all. Because at root, Lauren says firmly, “We both believe money and careers come and go — but the love of a strong family is forever.”
“I want people to have hope”
It’s been a nutty ride, but Lauren and Joe have bonded tightly over the supreme unlikelihood of their story. “Every time I tell it to someone, they go, ‘What?'” Lauren says. “But I wouldn’t change anything. Not even the bad bits. It made us a better family. An unusual family, but a really strong one.”
The Kamniks know their situation will always require some explaining. “But I’m proud of the way my family has been created,” Lauren underscores. “What I think people will hear when I tell them our story is that we wanted children so badly that we took every road we could to get there.”
“There are three possibilities for having a child,” Joe says. “And we did all three. We’ve shown that anything is possible.”
What has surprised the couple most over the course of their journey and in the chaos of their new lives?
“The biggest surprise is that I didn’t know how much love I had to give,” Lauren answers. That being said, she adds, “This is it for us. One of us is getting surgery. We are done.”
A wry smile creeps over her face. “Though the lawyer did call not too long ago.” Oliver’s mother was pregnant again. “He asked if we wanted a second. I was willing to talk about it.”
Joe, not so much.
“I said we could be the next Brangelina!” Lauren laughs.
I ask her what she’s learned from all of this. She looks again at her three children, at their soft, damp faces, their wispy hair and tiny mouths.
“I want people to have hope,” she says. “Family is possible. It may not look the way you expected it to — but that can be the biggest blessing of all.”