VICTORIA — Margo and Ian Sheldon tried to have a baby for six years, enduring the pain of multiple miscarriages and a full-term still birth.
Last week, four days apart, their two babies arrived.
The near-twin births came after Margo’s foster sister, Meena Buckham, offered to be a surrogate and carry the couple’s child. Shortly after, Margo found out that she and Ian had conceived naturally.
After both babies were born at Victoria General Hospital, Ian is calling them "twins with a twist."
"It's a very long awaited day, I'm totally thrilled," said Margo, after being discharged from hospital Monday. "There’s been a lot of tears today."
Buckham delivered Sofia Grace Sheldon on June 16, with her husband, Kevin, and Margo by her side. Sofia's brother Austin Olivier Sheldon was born Saturday.
Buckham brought Sofia to the hospital Monday so the Sheldons could be united as a family of four. Margo beamed as she cradled Austin, while Ian held Sofia, who has a matching shock of dark brown hair.
Margo, 42, calls Austin and Sofia her "double rainbow babies," which refers to babies born after miscarriages or still births.
"It's the miracle of all miracles," Ian said, adding medical staff at Victoria General Hospital have been marvelling at the births.
"They're saying they're a bit like twins but not carried in the same womb," Ian said. A friend came up with the term "moon twins" because they're born under the same moon, he said.
Kat Leblanc, an Island Health perinatal social worker who helps families going through surrogate births, said she has never seen a situation where both the biological mother and the surrogate were pregnant at the same time.
"I think it’s very rare, I’ve personally never seen it," Leblanc said.
Sofia came five days before her due date of June 21, and Austin was born two weeks before his due date of July 4.
Austin, the chill one, is a bit "meatier," Margo said, weighing seven pounds, 14 ounces compared to the wide-eyed Sofia, who was born six pounds, 13 ounces.
Margo and Ian live in Jasper but chose to deliver in Victoria because Buckham, a 44-year-old mother of two, lives in nearby Langford, where she works as an educational assistant.
The couple chose Austin’s middle name, Olivier, to honour his still born brother and Sofia’s middle name "because we’ve been given so much grace along this journey here," Ian said.
Doctors could not find a medical reason to explain why Margo was having repeated miscarriages, she said.
During a trip to Shuswap Lake in 2018, just after Margo discovered the baby she was carrying in her sixth pregnancy did not have a heart beat, she told her foster sister, Buckham , that she still wanted a family, but could not bear the pain of another loss.
"She asked how I was doing," Margo recalled. "I said 'I'm dying, I can't do this again.'"
Standing at the kitchen sink doing the dishes, Buckham offered to be the couple’s surrogate.
"Ian and Margo have been trying for so long to start a family and I knew they would be great parents," Buckham said. "I figured, if I'm able to, I would totally give that gift to her."
As a teen, Buckham was raised by Margo's parents, so she and Margo were raised like sisters.
"I think it's one of the most selfless and beautiful acts," Ian said of Buckham's offer. "It's courageous and so huge of the heart."
The couple plans to spend two more weeks in Victoria before returning to Jasper with their babies.
Margo said after all their pain and loss, the family has a "happy ending and new beginning."
"I don't want to say all the sadness was worth it, but I feel like the bravery paid off. It’s such a massive sense of relief and completion and a sense of peace. I'm finally a mom."
(Victoria Times Colonist)
This report distributed by The Canadian Press was first reported June 24, 2020.
Katie DeRosa, Victoria Times Colonist, The Canadian Press