While vacationing in Las Vegas in 2017, two couples were discussing their desire to start families when Neva Benton made a joke to her friend John Cardenas.
Neva and her wife, Kelsey, were considering using a surrogate or an in vitro method to have a child. John and his wife, Amy, couldn’t carry a pregnancy because of a hysterectomy Amy underwent to treat endometriosis.
“Just give us your sperm,” Neva recalled telling John. “We’ll have a baby, and then we’ll just give you an egg. It’s not a big deal.”
While the four of them laughed, Neva and Kelsey considered the idea seriously in the following years. When Neva broached the topic to the Cardenases again in 2019, she said she was no longer joking.
In 2020, John donated sperm so that Kelsey could become pregnant through an insemination service. The Bentons’ baby was born the next year in Kansas. Kelsey, now 32, then acted as a surrogate for the Cardenases and birthed the Arizona couple’s child in July.
The couples are planning to raise the children – who are biological siblings – as cousins to form one large family.
“We’re forever together,” Amy, 39, told the Washington Post. “It’s really beautiful and it’s really nice, and it just feels right.”
Amy and Neva became friends while attending Sterling College in Kansas in the mid-2000s and have stayed in touch since.
In 2011, Amy said she learned she had stage 4 endometriosis, a condition that causes uterine-like tissue to grow on other parts of the body. She said a hysterectomy was her best treatment option, but she grieved for years afterward, thinking she would never have a child.
After moving to Arizona in 2015, Amy met John. Kelsey and Neva also started dating that year while working at a summer camp in Elmdale, Kansas. They got married there in July 2016.
Kelsey and Neva later adopted three children and joked about having a double-digit number of kids one day as they fostered multiple children in the meantime.
Amy and John got engaged in February 2019. They discussed starting a family, but they were hesitant about using a surrogate.
The couples often visited each other, and Neva, who’s now 41, used one trip in December 2019 to discuss a potential surrogacy plan.
They were eating duck-bacon grilled cheese sandwiches and drinking cocktails at the Monarch in Wichita, Kansas, when John went to the bathroom. Neva then asked Amy if she thought John would donate his sperm. Amy thought it was a joke – like the one in Las Vegas in 2017 – but this time, Neva was serious.
When John returned to the booth, the women filled him in, and he said he would consider it. Both couples had researched surrogacy, but they thought relying on a friend would ease the time-consuming and expensive process.
The next week, the couples discussed the plan on a call – how they would finance the pregnancies, who would be responsible for certain tasks, the relationship their children would have and how they would tell their kids about the surrogacy – and reached an agreement.
“We both knew going into it that in order to have our families, it would look a little different,” Amy said.
Neva officiated Amy and John’s wedding in February 2020 in Gold Canyon, Arizona; Kelsey was a bridesmaid. Meanwhile, the couples bought an insemination kit and wrote up a surrogacy contract with an attorney’s assistance. Kelsey tracked her menstrual cycles; John, who’s now 41, took pills and adjusted his diet to produce healthy sperm.
In September 2020, Kelsey and Neva both attempted to get pregnant, but Kelsey conceived on her first try. Their daughter, Ora Benton, was born in June 2021 at Wesley Medical Center in Wichita.
Watching Neva hold Ora afterward, Kelsey started looking forward to carrying a pregnancy for the Cardenases.
Kelsey waited until last October to become pregnant again. While she was carrying, she told her children that the baby was for Aunt Amy and Uncle John.
Amy and John visited Kansas for the first ultrasound, the anatomy scan and the gender reveal. Kelsey and Amy also bought black-and-white Bond Touch bracelets. When the baby kicked or Kelsey had contractions, she touched her bracelet, which caused Amy’s bracelet to vibrate in Yuma, Arizona. That way, Amy could experience aspects of the pregnancy.
The couples often spoke on FaceTime and traded pictures. Kelsey struggled to keep down her favorite beverage, coffee, during her pregnancy, so she told Amy and John they couldn’t have their favorite drink, Diet Coke. Kelsey said the second pregnancy was more difficult, experiencing sciatica, Braxton-Hicks contractions and an aversion to chicken.
Kelsey was expecting the baby on July 12, so Amy and John drove to Kechi, Kansas, at the start of the month. On July 7, Kelsey asked Amy to pick up her 17-year-old foster son from work. After Amy left, Kelsey started feeling contractions. Neva suggested they go to the hospital, but when Kelsey stood up from the bed and felt sharp pains, she didn’t think she would have time.
Neva called 911 and laid pillows and blankets in a bathtub. When Amy and John returned to the house, ambulances were pulling up. About 20 minutes later, Neva saw the baby being born.
About a dozen people were in the bathroom when John cut the umbilical cord. Amy felt a joy she thought she would never experience holding their daughter, Ezri. The couples then rode in an ambulance to Wesley Medical Center.
On July 14, Amy and John began driving about 1,200 miles home with Ezri, who loves to babble and be carried. She smiled for the first time about two weeks ago. Ora, who turned 2 in June, has become more playful as she has grown, climbing on furniture and asking her parents to toss her into the air.
Both couples intend to tell their kids how they were born and how they are related. The families are planning to spend holidays together, and in a few years, they want to go on a Disney cruise. In the meantime, they’re investing in larger vans.