IOWA — From the time she was a teenager Emily Toribio has known her path to motherhood would be an unconventional one.
“At that point, I was diagnosed with premature ovarian failure,” she explains, “essentially I lost my eggs and don’t have any more.”
It was a heartbreaking diagnosis, but Emily says she’s glad it gave her the opportunity to discuss the ramifications with her future husband. Manny Toribio remembers the conversation well. “I think the conversation was more an understanding of the commitment that comes with marriage,” he says.
Emily and Manny knew they were going to need an egg donor and thought they had one lined up but she changed her mind. “Once that happened we felt like we were back at the drawing board,” says Emily, “what we thought was going to be our plan, wasn’t our plan.”
It was a setback, but a temporary one, because another patient at the fertility clinic donated her leftover eggs. They had a new plan, and Emily started prepping her body for IVF. Her body didn’t respond well to the hormones but embryo transfer went on as planned. And it worked.
“We were so thrilled,” Emily remembers, “the blood test came back positive and we got to see baby’s first ultrasound.” A few weeks later they were back at the clinic for a follow-up appointment. “I could just tell on our nurse’s face that something wasn’t right. She couldn’t find a heartbeat.”
Emily and Manny grieved the loss of that child, and then started working on a new plan — choosing an egg donor. “You get kind of a menu from the doctor of ten basic points,” Emily explains, “you pick eye color, hair color, education…”
A full donor profile includes medical history, insight into why she decided to donate her eggs, and even baby pictures. “It’s interesting,” says Manny, “you’re taking that baby picture and your wife’s picture and wondering, would they kind of make the same baby?”
They settled on “the one”, and Emily once again started the process of popping pills and getting shots in the hopes that this round of IVF would result in a baby. “I don’t think we held out much hope,” says Emily, “when the nurse told us the test was positive we really didn’t believe it. And I was anxious the whole pregnancy, worried that something would happen.”
Something did happen. Not to the baby, but to Emily. “My liver was starting to shut down, vital organs were shutting down and my doctor came in and said the plan is to do an emergency C-section.” Emily remembers saying, “This is not the plan! Nothing’s gone according to plan. Can I at least have a normal delivery?!?” It wasn’t meant to be.
Moments after their daughter Elena was born, Emily started hemorrhaging. She needed multiple blood transfusions and nearly died.
Emily’s recovery was lengthy and her doctor made it clear she shouldn’t attempt another pregnancy. So the Toribios knew they would need another new plan in order to add to their family. “And so we’ve landed on surrogacy,” Emily says with a smile, “we’re so excited about that journey.”
The journey was delayed because of the pandemic but one of Emily and Manny’s embryos was eventually transferred in June, and Vincent Emmanuel Toribio was born February 11th. They were there for the delivery. “It was beautiful,” says Emily, “it was an experience that I felt like the four of us got to do it together and we were shedding tears of joy together.”
They’ve formed a bond with their surrogate and her family but Emily admits the process felt strange at times.
“It was a totally different experience for me going from carrying a child the first time to someone else carrying our child. It does feel a little disconnected.” She says that changed the minute Vinny was born.
“We just feel so blessed that the stars aligned and we were connected to this angel of a woman,” Emily says, “it might not be the path you intended or the plan that you had laid out, but making a family comes in a million different ways and once that baby is in your arms it doesn’t matter. It’s your baby. It’s your baby.”