As couples go, Debbie and Phil Vibber and Stacey and Dave Beehler are very close. The men have worked together as long as they can remember, and the women have been best friends since they met through their husbands 11 years ago. Their children -- six collectively -- are so comfortable with one another that they all seem like one big family. And with good reason: The couples are connected in a way that goes to the heart of true friendship.
The story of their amazing bond began in the Phoenix suburbs in the mid-1990s, when the Vibbers and the Beehlers were each trying to start a family. Debbie got pregnant right away. First came Justin, now 6, then Jordan, 4. "I loved being pregnant," Debbie, 31, recalls. "I was never sick and had easy deliveries. I even loved maternity clothes!"
Her best friend wasn't quite so lucky. Though she'd been trying for years, Stacey wasn't able to conceive. When she finally managed to get pregnant with the aid of fertility drugs, she miscarried at six weeks. "I was very disappointed, but at least I knew I was able to get pregnant," says Stacey, who's 36.
She soon realized, however, that staying pregnant was the problem. She got pregnant ten times, mostly with the help of fertility drugs, but for undetermined reasons, she miscarried every time.
Debbie's easy pregnancies just underscored Stacey's troubles. "I was happy for her because I knew how much her family meant to her," Stacey recalls. "But there were times I'd wake up in the middle of the night wondering, 'Why not me?'"A Generous Gesture
Debbie sympathized with her friend's difficulties, and in 1998, after a series of heart-to-heart talks with Phil, made an extraordinary offer: She volunteered to be a surrogate mom for the Beehlers. "Phil and I loved having children, and both of us wanted the same thing for Stacey and Dave," Debbie says.
But it wasn't until almost two years later that the Beehlers seriously considered the proposition. Stacey and Debbie talked at length about every possible thing that could go wrong. Stacey was concerned that Debbie might become attached to the baby or get depressed when she went home with empty arms. For Debbie, that wasn't an issue. "I knew this wouldn't be my child," she says. "And that was fine: I already had my own kids."
She did have other concerns, though: Debbie worried how the surrogacy would affect her own family. And she was concerned that she might miscarry after the Beehlers spent thousands of dollars on the in vitro fertilization of Stacey's eggs. Still, the reality was that surrogacy was the only shot the Beehlers would ever have for a biological child -- and Debbie was the best person for the job.