There are some experiences that bond folks together for life — just ask the Benton and Cardenas families. A friendship began to form between these four people when Amy Cardenas and Neva Benton met in college. During this time, Kelsey came into the picture and would later become Neva’s wife.
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When 2020 came around, Amy married her boyfriend, John. In no time, these couples formed a close friendship. Still, none of them could have guessed just how close they would become… until Amy and John flew from Arizona to Kansas to visit their friends. Here, Kelsey and Neva had an important question to ask. They had already let Amy in on what they were thinking, but it was time to hear John’s thoughts.
“We were in Kansas visiting Kelsey and Neva and we were sitting down for dinner and drinks,” Amy told “Good Morning America.” “I was like, [to John], ‘They have a question for you.’ And Neva was like, ‘Hey, can we use your sperm? We would like to have a kid,’ and then Kelsey is like, ‘And I’ll donate an egg and carry for you.'”
In other words, Kelsey offered to carry a baby that she and her wife would keep as well as a baby for John and Amy.
At the time, Amy and John weren’t married or engaged, but they had already discussed having a family one day. Because Amy had a hysterectomy for her stage 4 endometriosis, the option of surrogacy was certainly an appealing one.
Still, the idea of surrogacy for both couples started out as a joke between them. Over the course of two years, though, these jokes turned into genuine conversations and discussions on the logistics. Eventually, the four of them realized it was exactly what they wanted to do.
Utilizing an at-home insemination service called Mosie Baby, Kelsey was able to get pregnant on both tries. The first baby to arrive in June 2021 was Ora, a daughter for Amy and John. At this point, the couple had already adopted three children from foster care, making this their fourth little one.
A little over two years later in July 2023, it was time for Neva and Kelsey to welcome their own child into the world. Despite all of the planning these couples did when it came to the surrogacies, baby Ezri decided to throw some unpredictability into the mix.
While at home, Kelsey began to feel contractions sooner than expected. Before she knew it, she was going into labor. They tried their best to start heading to the hospital, but it was simply too late for that.
“So [Neva’s] arranging all of this stuff on the back end, to get people at the house to hang out while the kids are asleep,” Kelsey recalled. “Amy and John are on their way home. And so then I come to the foot of our bed and I had another contraction and I felt pushing, and it was not an intentional push, my body just did it. And I was like, ‘Oh, yeah, nope, definitely not going to make it [to the hospital].”
While the couple waited for paramedics to arrive, Kelsey prepared to give birth in their bathroom. As unprepared as she was, especially to give birth without an epidural or any medical professionals nearby, baby Ezri made her debut within the hour.
Luckily, the Cardenases made it in time for John to cut the umbilical cord, with paramedics present, and for Amy to initiate skin-to-skin contact with Ezri.
“Before she was even here, she was loved by not just John and I, but Kelsey and Neva and people that are really close to us,” Amy said. “She has been wanted and loved since day one, so I really hope that she feels that.”
In sharing their stories, the Cardenas and Benton families are helping others learn more about surrogacy and how it may be the right option for them.
“If I can advise anybody that decides to go down this route of surrogacy, it really is more of a test of faith and perseverance,” John said. “If you want anything enough that you’re going to work on it, the hard work part just comes naturally. You really got to keep the faith and you’ve really got to keep the perseverance to get through it.”
Once strangers, these four friends have become so much more — they’re family. And that’s something they say will never change.
“It’s more family than it is a friendship,” Amy said. “We’re auntie and uncle to their children and it just seems like the most natural thing, and they’re auntie and auntie to Ezri, so it’s like a bond now — it’s like the rest of our lives.”
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