Meredith Olafson rubs her hands across her swollen belly and says this will be her last baby.
"I am retiring after this one," the 47-year-old Fargo, N.D. woman says. "This uterus is closing shop."
But whenever she says this, her family gently kids her that they've heard that claim before.
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Meredith has such a soft heart, explains her husband, Jay. And then his wife will hear the sad story of another couple who can't conceive, and she'll want to help them, he says.
In the past 13 years, Olafson has given birth to 10 children for couples who couldn't have kids. That's two sets of triplets, one set of twins and two single births in addition to her own four children. Now she is six months pregnant with her sixth pregnancy for someone else — a little girl she insists will be her last — for a South Dakota couple.
Olafson could be the mother of all gestational carriers. Unlike a surrogate mother, who donates her own egg and uterus to create a child, a gestational carrier has no biological link to the baby-to-be. The egg and sperm of the intended parents, or other donors, are fertilized in vitro in a lab and then transferred to the carrier's uterus for pregnancy and delivery.
"You are literally a walking incubator," she says.
Some women are motivated to become gestational carriers for financial reasons. In certain areas, a surrogate mother or gestational carrier can command a fee as much as $250,000 for one pregnancy.
Olafson says she earns just a tiny fraction of that.
"I would be a millionaire if I lived on the East Coast," says Olafson, a friendly, open woman who lives in a modest home near Olivet Lutheran. "But we never went into this to make money. We did it so people who want a family can have a family."