Dad has a pair of toddlers buzzing around him in the living room, the grandmas are each cradling an infant, and mom is changing the diaper of another.
That’s how I meet the Goodwin girls.
Twins Elizabeth and Victoria, named after queens, are 2 years old. They share the throne of their kingdom with triplets Gwendolyn, Kathryn and Kaitlyn, not quite 3 months old.
Their matching pink “big sister” T-shirts and “little sister” onesies contribute to adorable cuteness overload, which is expected. More surprising is how remarkably rested parents Kelley and Will Goodwin appear.
The living room of their South Salem home is the epicenter of controlled chaos. Three bouncy chairs, three musical swings, and safety gates are central to the décor.
But they couldn’t be more joyful and grateful.
“I think maybe we appreciate it more,” Kelley says. “We had to work so hard to get it.”
Like many couples, they overcame obstacles and heartache to have a family. A cancer scare and a lawsuit added to the usual stress and anxiety that comes with infertility.
Kelley and Will never planned to have children, at least not at first.
They graduated from North Salem High School in 1998, went to college, got engaged, earned degrees, got jobs, and were proud to call themselves DINKs, the acronym for couples who have chosen not to have children. It stands for Dual Income No Kids.
“We were gung-ho in the no-child movement,” Kelley says. “We actually belonged to the international No Kidding society.”
She changed her mind out of the blue after reading her sister’s baby magazine. When she talked to Will about it, she found out he had changed his mind, too.
Becoming parents, though, proved to be a challenge.
Kelley couldn’t conceive, one of the long-term effects of having had a congenital heart defect and childhood cancer. She was born with a defect in her aorta and had to have surgery when she was 4.
She was diagnosed with leukemia at age 12 and had to have a bone marrow transplant the following year.
Their twins and triplets were born through gestational surrogacy, one of many options infertile couples have today. Gestational surrogacy, when an unrelated woman carries and gives birth to a baby for someone else, accounts for less than 4 percent of live births achieved through assisted reproductive technology in the U.S., according to the latest available data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Embryos for the Goodwins were created through in vitro fertilization using donor eggs and Will’s sperm and then implanted in a surrogate’s womb.
Nine embryos were created, with five surviving the freeze and thaw process. Two embryos were implanted with each pregnancy. During the last pregnancy, one of the embryos split, resulting in two of the girls being identical.
They chose an egg donor with similar features and interests as Kelley. The donor had curly red hair, went to culinary school and enjoyed swimming. They also have similar ethnicities.
Choosing a surrogate was more difficult. They considered going with someone they knew but wound up using a surrogate agency, which helps match intended parents with a surrogate and guide them through what essentially is a business transaction.
A contract outlines every possible issue the parents and surrogate could face and an escrow account is opened. The Goodwins paid their surrogates — they used a different one for each pregnancy — monthly.
Surrogacy is expensive, like most infertility treatment and options. The Goodwins worked with The Greatest Gift Surrogacy Center NW for both pregnancies, and Kelley cashed in her 401(k) so they could deposit $42,600 in an escrow account for the surrogate who carried the triplets. They also provided insurance, switching carriers because theirs didn’t cover surrogacy, and shopped for care providers because not all doctors accept surrogates as patients.
Even with a contract and legal representation, problems can arise.
The Goodwins won a legal judgment after they and another couple filed a civil lawsuit against the owner of The Greatest Gift Surrogacy Center NW in Sherwood. The 2016 civil lawsuit in Washington County alleged breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty and conversion of funds not belonging to the owner and her husband.
A judge found for the plaintiffs and awarded $42,600 to the Goodwins. They have yet to receive any of the money.
Kelley kicks herself for not noticing something was amiss sooner, especially considering she had fraud training while working for five years for the Internal Revenue Service.
“It was one of the less expensive surrogacy agencies in the area,” Kelley says. “And that’s why.”
All the hassle and heartache, though, has been worth it. They now have five bundles of joy.
The biggest scare came two days after the embryos were implanted for the first pregnancy. Doctors found a cancerous fibroid in Kelley’s uterus. She had a hysterectomy and thankfully the cancer was caught early and didn’t spread.
Elizabeth, a spit-fire with red curly hair, and Victoria, sporting stylish pink glasses, were born Sept. 14, 2014, at 36 weeks, at Salem Hospital. Both weighed 4 pounds, 10 ounces and didn’t have to spend any time in the neonatal intensive care unit.
The triplets were born at 33 weeks, 4 days at Providence St. Vincent Medical Center in Portland, spending two weeks in the NICU. Gwendolyn weighed 4 pounds, 9 ounces. Kathryn and Kaitlyn each weighed 4 pounds, 3 ounces.
The triplets have different birthdays. Gwendolyn arrived at 11:27 p.m. on Feb. 9, and Kathryn and Kaitlyn arrived at 12:40 and 12:44 a.m. on Feb. 10. Kathryn and Kaitlyn are identical.
Gwendolyn has darker hair, but Kathryn and Kaitlyn are difficult to tell apart. Even Kelley says she sometimes has to feel for the hemangioma on Kathryn’s head. For identification purposes, because all three are wearing matching pink onesies, the color of their leggings comes in handy. Gwendolyn is in green, Kathryn pink and Kaitlyn purple.
Kelley and Will have their hands full but are blessed with tons of help from family members and friends. Each of their moms helps out a couple days a week, and whenever else they might be needed. The wife of the pastor of the church they attend, Skyline Baptist Church, helps out once a week.
“Some days are tougher than others, but I love them to pieces,” says Elaine Wohlken, Will’s mom. “The whole effort of being over there and looking after those children is just one of joy.”
Leslie Wiege, Kelley’s mom, agrees.
“The twins are a bundle of energy and very entertaining,” Wiege says. “And the babies are just so sweet. I like to just come over and snuggle with them.”
On the third Tuesday of the month, Kelley and Will get away for some alone time, which they usually spend volunteering with their church at Marion-Polk Food Share. Kelley also gets a “sanity release” two mornings a week when she drops the twins off at preschool and runs errands.
“I can handle it when they’re all crying,” Kelley says. “It’s just the twins that are hard right now. If it was just me and the triplets, I’d be fine. But toddlers are crazy. Just finding time to do laundry is difficult.”
It helps that Will works from home as a senior implementation consultant for an educational technology company and is always available in an emergency.
Will is smiling on the couch, surrounded by his wife and five daughters when I ask what it will be like when the girls are teenagers and starting to date.
“At this point, if I had a boy I would have no idea what to do,” he says.
The Goodwins are so grateful for the girls and the help they received that they want to give back. They plan to donate their remaining embryo to another couple struggling with infertility.
An estimated one in eight couples struggle with infertility, described by many a medical professional as “a complex and often misunderstood condition.” RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association and USA Today teamed up to educate the public and create greater understanding about the condition during National Infertility Awareness Week.
Families across the country, like the Goodwins, open their hearts to share their trials and tribulations and their happiness. Each of their stories and the paths they took is different.