(NEW YORK) — At 49 years old, Chalise Smith made a big decision.
She committed to becoming a surrogate for one of her daughters, 25-year-old Kaitlyn Munoz, who for years had been struggling with infertility and had undergone egg retrieval and in vitro fertilization in an effort to start a family with her husband, Miguel Munoz.
In May, the Utah woman gave birth to a healthy baby girl who is, genetically, her daughter and son-in-law’s child.
It was not a decision the mom of eight said she made “lightheartedly.”
Smith, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said she was so moved after following her daughter’s infertility journey for so long, that she felt called to be a surrogate. She turned to her faith and seriously considered what she wanted to do before approaching her family.
“It was on my mind daily. I thought about it. I prayed about it, just wondering and asking if this was a direction or path for me, and before I even told Kaitlyn and Miguel or my husband, I just kept these thoughts to myself,” Smith told ABC News’ Good Morning America.
“So about three weeks later, I was just folding laundry one day and I had this impression to call Kaitlyn and let her know that I had been thinking about this, and I would like to offer to be the surrogate for these embryos,” she said, adding that she and her daughter had always had a “strong relationship.”
When Kaitlyn Munoz got the fateful call from her mom, she was at a low point in her infertility journey. Even though she had successfully carried her first child, a son named Callahan, via IVF, her doctor told her in January 2021 that she had an autoimmune disease that had damaged her kidneys and they “were not in good condition to carry [another] pregnancy,” she said.
“I was having a hard time with the realization I wouldn’t be able to carry another pregnancy and I was just thinking about that, and that moment my mom called me,” Kaitlyn Munoz said. “I was sharing how I was feeling and she called me to tell me that she was offering to be a surrogate for me. So the timing of it was crazy.”
“I was definitely surprised,” she continued. “I mean, I’m a third of eight kids. So she is Wonder Woman, and the idea that she was willing to get pregnant at 49, and she turned 50 while being pregnant — just the fact that she was willing to do that for me was amazing.”
After getting her husband and family on board, Smith had to get medically cleared to carry her ninth pregnancy. She said she was physically healthy and didn’t have any underlying conditions, and her past eight pregnancies had gone relatively well; soon after, she was given the go-ahead by her doctor.
“It went really well,” Smith told GMA. ‘With the IVF cycle, I had the shots for the first 10 weeks of the pregnancy. My husband became a great nurse administering those shots. We told our extended family 15 weeks after I passed some of those markers in that first trimester and from there on, it was great.”
“We went to Disneyland for my 50th birthday,” she added. “I was a little worried about — I was six months pregnant — but I just trooped across that park every day with my kids and it never became a problem, so I feel like honestly, I was really blessed.”
Baby Alayna Kait-Chalise was born on May 17 at 7 pounds, 13 ounces, and 21 inches long — “a nice and healthy baby,” according to Smith.
Kaitlyn Munoz made sure to honor her mom in Alayna’s name.
“She’s my first girl. I wanted her named after me, but I definitely wanted to name her after my mom, as well, because my mom carried her,” she said.
So far, Kaitlyn Munoz said her daughter is doing “amazing.”
“She has such a calm nature and she is just the sweetest little thing,” the El Paso, Texas resident said. “She lets you know when she’s hungry but other than that, she sleeps and just chills with us throughout the day.”
Kaitlyn Munoz said her 2-year-old son is already smitten with his new sibling, too.
“He loves her,” she said. “If she’s in her bassinet, and I’m walking around, picking up something, he always looks at me and says, ‘Oh, where’s baby Alayna?’ So he’s very concerned for her and he just adores her and wants to hold her all the time.”
For now, Kaitlyn Munoz said she and her husband are focused on her two children but are keeping the door open about the possibility of expanding their family in the future.
“I’m grateful for my son and my daughter now and I’m glad that I have one of each, and maybe down the road, we’ll decide that we want to move forward with adoption. But right now, we’re happy with the two that we have,” she said.
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