A SISTER'S GIFT
They say sisters share childhood memories and grown-up dreams.
This couldn't be more the case for Detroit Lakes woman Lisa Morgan and her sister, Shannon LeFebre.
For years, they shared the dream of having children, and while Morgan saw that dream come true three times, LeFebre continued to struggle with infertility.
"I miscarried twice in a previous marriage, and with my husband now, I think maybe the egg just wasn't attaching to my uterus or something," LeFebre said.
But then, Morgan planted something else into her sister -- an idea that maybe she could carry her baby for her.
"I thought, this is really something I can do for her."
LeFebre was amazed and excited about the offer.
"For the first time, it seemed possible. If I had went this route with a stranger, it would have cost me upwards of $60,000, plus the whole process would have been too overwhelming. So when Lisa offered to do it, it gave me real hope," she said.
The idea stayed on the back burner for eight years.
Finally, after watching her sister suffer through one let down after another with in vitro fertilization and other methods, Morgan took the bull by the horns.
"I said, I'm not getting any younger, if we're going to do this, let's do it now."
So, at 42 years old, Morgan began a regimen of shots from the MeritCare Reproductive Center to strengthen her uterus.
Six weeks later, LeFebre's egg, fertilized by her husband, Jon was placed into her sister's uterus.
From there, the dream literally grew.
Morgan was what is called a "gestational carrier." She was an incubator for her sister's child.
"My hopes were so much higher with her, it all felt so positive," LeFebre said.
Also positive was the stick that proved the pregnancy took.
"She sent me a picture of it," laughed LeFebre.
The sisters made many seven-hour treks back and forth from Detroit Lakes to Hettinger, N.D. (where Shannon and her husband live), attending frequent doctor appointments together in Fargo.
"I saw all the changes and all the ultra-sounds. It was so cool to see my sister and my baby grow," LeFebre said, "I was even able to see in the ultrasound that the baby had my nose."
That excitement turned to anxiety, though, as the pregnancy took a scary twist at 28 weeks.
Morgan developed a liver infection, which at first was believed to be pregnancy related.
LeFebre felt horrible with worries that this miracle her sister was giving her was possibly, in return, causing her pain.
"It made me feel so bad," said LeFebre. "Lisa was so, so sick.
"I was fully prepared for my baby to be born at 28 weeks because I was pretty confident in the team of doctors and that the baby would be OK. I just wanted to get my sister better."
It didn't come to that.
More tests showed Morgan's illness was not pregnancy related, but a virus she could have caught at any time.
She was given medication and the happy news that the baby had stayed healthy throughout the ordeal.
Both were cleared for a term-pregnancy, and everything else went according to plan.
A week before her due date, Mayo doctors decided it was time for the sisters to meet their dream.
LeFebre stayed by Morgan's side, helping her push through a 38-hour delivery.
"I had been with her through the delivery of her first child, but this was my own child. It was so cool, I just couldn't wait to see her."
Finally, at 12:13 a.m. on Dec. 2, a baby girl was born at 8 pounds, 3 ounces.
LeFebre stared in amazement.
"She looked like a little mini-me, and she instantly felt like mine. I'm not much of a crier, but I sure cried then."
As LeFebre and her husband counted fingers and toes and did all the things new parents do, Morgan just watched.
"My brother-in-law gave me a thumbs up as they looked at her in the bassinet. Just the looks on their faces made everything I'd been through worth it."
A moment like this would leave many wondering, was it emotionally difficult for Morgan to give the baby up after carrying her for nine months?
"No," she said.
"I never had that maternal feeling, I always felt like an aunt. From the beginning to the end, it was always my sister's baby, I just felt like I was babysitting early on."
This "babysitter" earned middle name rights, as the couple named her Anna Lisa LeFebre.
LeFebre now sits with her smiley, 3-month-old daughter and wonders how she can even begin to show her gratitude.
"I've said 'thank you,' but the words feel too small for what she did. It feels like it should be bigger. How do you even say 'thank you' for something like this?"
"My sister is the only person in the world I would have done this for," Morgan said.
And with a new baby and new sense of appreciation and love, these sisters now have both their childhood memories and grown-up dreams.