CHICAGO - What was once a rare occurrence is now becoming more common in the United States.
The practice of using a surrogate to have a baby may be something people don't always want to speak about openly, but we at FOX 32 are close with a couple who does.
Their goal is to help other childless couples who can't have a baby.
We bring you the story of our own Lou Canellis and his wife Monica and baby Gia, the child they didn't think would be possible.
"She acts like her, she looks like me, that's why she's so cute,” Lou said.
She is the baby Monica and Lou thought they could only dream about. When they married 13 years ago, Monica knew she would never be able to bear her own biological child. Being a childless couple was something they accepted as their fate.
Until at almost 11 years into their marriage, much to Monica’s surprise, Lou had a revelation about himself.
"It's time to grow up, you're not getting any younger, you are 51, you came from a beautiful family, three boys and mom and dad,” he said.
"As a woman, knowing you can’t have a child is very emotional and it just brought that up again,” Monica said.
Their fertility doctor encouraged not adoption, but surrogacy.
"I didn't even know what surrogacy was,” Lou said. “Are we going to use my sperm, are we using someone else’s egg? Who’s going to carry the baby cause I know (Monica) can't."
And that is how the story of baby Gia began one-and-a-half years ago.
Lou and Monica did something called gestational surrogacy. Using Lou’s sperm and a donor egg, another woman -- the gestational surrogate -- carried baby Gia to term.
The Canellis’ are in a growing group that is choosing surrogacy. It's becoming more common in the U.S. as international and national adoptions are harder to come by and more gay and lesbian couples decide to have children.
The costs for surrogacy can vary widely, but ranges from $50 to $100-thousand plus. The surrogate mother receives anywhere from $25-to 35-thousand dollars with the rest going to medical, legal fees and more.
Blandane is the surrogate the Canellis’ used. She and her husband Clinton have four boys and wanted to bring that gift of “family" to a childless couple -- in this case, Lou and Monica.
"It's not something that's worth it to sacrifice 2-3 years of your life if it does not work out right away, so you really have to get into it with your heart,” she said.
For Blandine and her husband, the pregnancy was a time to share together. Clinton was deployed overseas during her last pregnancy and delivery. He was there when Gia was born. Clinton says the hardest part was explaining the pregnancy to family and friends.
"Whenever I told them she was having a baby and it wasn't ours, they are automatically like what?” Clinton said. “I have to explain and they laugh at first, cause I say it's not my baby."
On May 10, 2018, Georgia Kailani Canellis was born. Coincidentally, Gia and Blandine share the very same birthday.
Lou and Monica wanted to share their story on this week of giving thanks, to let other couples know there is another option -- one not often discussed -- that made what they thought was an impossible dream into a beautiful reality.
"She's living proof you can have a miracle baby like we did. She's just our life and I can't wait to grow old with her,” Lou said.