Charissa Jaarsma delivered a six pound baby boy at the Regina General Hospital late Friday night as her husband and the baby’s ecstatic parents, Courtney and Chris Sastaunik, watched on.
John Bogdan Sastaunik weighed in at six pounds 14 ounces. The delivery was the culmination of years of infertility, IVF and loss for both Jaarsma and Courtney.
“There are no words.… It almost feels like he’s been here all along. He fits so perfectly into our family and into our hearts. Words will never describe the gift that Aunty Charissa has given to us. He’s just so perfect,” Courtney said.
Courtney and Chris Sastaunik with son John. (Courtney Sastaunik)John Bogdan Sastaunik was born Friday Oct. 29. He was named after his mother’s grandfather John and Bogdan for his father’s grandparents. (Courtney Sastaunik)
At age 16, Courtney learned that she was born with Müllerian Agenesis — a rare syndrome in which the Müllerian duct doesn’t develop, resulting in a missing uterus.
“I was told that, ‘No, you won’t be able to carry your own children, but you do have the opportunity to have biological children of your own through surrogacy,'” she said.
Although Courtney wasn’t able to carry her own child, both of her ovaries were intact and working.
LISTEN | Courtney Sastaunik and Charissa Jaarsma spoke with host Shauna Powers on Saskatchewan Weekend before John was born
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The couple first tried surrogacy last year and were thrilled to discover their surrogate was pregnant.
But at the 20-week ultrasound the couple were told the baby had died.
“Josie Irene was born sleeping at 7:39 p.m. on December 29 with her daddy’s ears and dimple between her nose and upper lip and her mommy’s lips and toes,” Courtney wrote on Instagram after the death of their baby.
Weeks later, the couple decided to try surrogacy again, this time with Courtney’s best friend Charissa Jaarsma carrying the baby.
For Jaarsma, a nurse on the Regina General Hospital’s labour and delivery ward, the path to motherhood was also fraught.
Like Courtney, Jaarsma struggled to conceive, spending thousands of dollars on IVF treatments and eventually adopting her first child, Jonah.
“My second son is also not biologically related to us, but I was blessed enough to be able to carry him in my belly and birth him,” Jaarsma explained.
It was that experience that made her want to help her friend through surrogacy, she added.
“People have helped me immensely and given me this huge gift that I’m never going to be able to repay them for,” said Jaarsma. “I might as well just pay it forward.”
And pay it forward she did.
Just before midnight on Friday, Oct. 29, Jaarsma delivered the Sastauniks’ son John, named after Courtney’s beloved grandfather and Chris’s grandparents.
“She was an absolute rock star,” Courtney said of her friend.
“There was one moment I was just crying from the emotion, and she stopped between contractions to give me a hug and to console me while birthing my baby.”
Courtney, her husband Chris and Jaarsma’s husband Justin were all in the room when John was born.
“I was able to breastfeed for the first time because I’ve actually induced lactation as well so I can breastfeed my own baby. So it’s been a lot of firsts in the last couple of days here,” Courtney said.
Courtney Sastaunik enjoying some skin-on-skin contact with her son John shortly after his birth. Charissa Jaarsma, Sastaunik’s best friend and surrogate, looks on. (Courtney Sastaunik)
She said leaving the hospital was particularly emotional.
When Josie was stillborn last year, they left the hospital with nothing more than the emotional memory of a few hours spent with her.
This time, Courtney took pictures of her husband Chris as he walked down the hospital corridor carrying their son in his car seat.
Chris Sastaunik leaving the hospital with his new son John. (Courtney Sastaunik)
She wondered if her friend might be feeling a similar emptiness leaving the hospital without a baby.
“She made the comment that immediately after he was born, it wasn’t the same as with her son. She was just so excited that my baby had been born. And she said there was no connection other than that of a proud auntie.”
Jaarsma didn’t have a lot of time to rest following John’s delivery. According to Courtney, her friend was right back on mom duty to her own two boys, finishing up Halloween costumes and taking them trick-or-treating.
“She’s just really enjoying getting to come over here and spoil John and then go home to her bed where she can sleep through the night without a baby crying.”
For the Sastauniks, rest-filled nights likely won’t be happening anytime soon.
“He really enjoys sleeping in his crib or in his bassinet during the day. But at night he wants nothing to do with them,” Sastaunik said, adding that she is treasuring each moment with her son, even if they happen in the middle of the night.