FORT LAUDERDALE–On the surface, it looks like Lauren Michael Sassani has a blessed life. The $4 million house, the closets full of gowns, the perfectly decorated bedroom, the selected private pre-school, and the ever-so-proper nanny that fussed over her launch into the world. Lauren, you see, has just celebrated her first birthday, and one senses that she would be happy to tell you ALL about it, if only she talked. At the moment, however, she’s absorbed in walking and waving and giggling with a teasing smile that in a dozen plus years will surely drive all the teenage boys crazy.
Currently, however, it’s Lauren’s two dads that are quick to tell you that THEY are the ones who are truly blessed. Dr. Russell Sassani of Take Shape plastic surgery fame, and his husband Michael Schneider planned the arrival of Lauren a year ago through surrogacy—a journey that had its own surprises and rewards.
“I had like an apparition,” Michael said, “in which this little child appeared and said, ‘You have to have me now.’”
“We had tried years earlier, at the start of our 16-year relationship, to have a baby, and things didn’t work out,” Russell adds. “And then I opened my practice and then Michael joined the business, and we got very, very busy there for a while. And then we had our first two babies–our dachshunds, Else and Reinhart.”
“Whether you believe in that or not, that apparition spurred me to action, and we began to actively look at surrogacy again,” Michael says.
“The first step was to get married, because surrogacy is easier for a married couple than it is for bachelors, so we got married in San Francisco, because it wasn’t yet legal in Florida,” Russell adds.
“We interviewed a friend of ours who ran a surrogacy agency in February of 2014, and got married in April, 2014. We had our choice of two surrogates in Florida, and eventually selected one in Tampa—who was a nurse and with whom we formed a personal connection instantly,” Michael interjects as if talking as one.
“At our wedding reception that took place in May in Minneapolis where my family is located, I actually announced that the sperm and egg where being implanted that very day. Totally circumstantially.
“We used Jeannette Ziobro at Life Through Surrogacy to locate our gestational carrier. (http://www.lifethroughsurrogacy.com.) We used Dr. Minna Ruth Selub at First I.V.F. (a division of Florida Institute for Reproductive Sciences and Technologies). (http://www.firstivf.net) for the In Vitro Fertilzation part. We were very lucky in that four embryos were implanted, but only one ‘took.’”
The surrogate’s pregnancy went without incident, helped no doubt in part from her career as a nurse. The pregnancy and birth went so smoothly in fact that she offered to surrogate for the Russell and Michael should they care to add a sibling into Lauren’s world. (Note: While at the time she was a single mom, the surrogate has since gotten married and is now pregnant with her own baby. Happy endings all around.)
“I’d love for Lauren to have a sibling,” Russell said. “As older parents, we’re not going to be around forever, so we would like for her to have someone after we’re gone.”
During the entire surrogacy saga, the couple’s only negative interaction came from friends who thought they were too old to start a family. “I think it was more a judgment on their lives rather then our own,” Michael said, who admits that life changes completely with the birth of a child.
“When I held her on my stomach after Lauren was born, there is a remarkable thing that happened. It’s really impossible to explain. But it feels as if we exchanged souls, and became one. We are truly, truly blessed.”
Dr. Russell Sassani’s Take Shape Plastic Surgery practice is located in Plantation at 4161 NW 5th St #100, Plantation, FL 33317. 954-585-3800. http://www.takeshape.info/