Reciprocal IVF journey: Jacksonville couple gives birth 3 days apart after carrying each other’s babies

‘I understood everything that she was going through’: Couple shared highs, lows of journey together

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – “Every single person” thought Faith and Cassandre Rich were bonkers.

Two babies at the same time?

“Nobody believed we were going to do it. Even the fertility clinic, to be honest,” said the lesbian couple from Jacksonville, Florida, who are now sharing their journey to parenthood to inform and encourage other LGBTQ+ members about the process and beauty of starting a family.

Faith, 29, and Cassandre, 31, got pregnant through Reciprocal IVF at Florida Institute for Reproductive Medicine (FIRM) in Jacksonville.

Reciprocal IVF is a fertility treatment option for same-sex female couples that allows both partners to be intimately involved in the child creation process, according to Pacific Fertility Center. Reciprocal IVF allows both individuals to play an intimate role in the biological development of the baby. The partner who provides the eggs is genetically related to the child, and the partner who carries the baby is biologically bonded to the child through pregnancy. NOTE: IVF may not work for everyone. Speak with your doctor to see if these complex series of procedures are right for you.

Faith and Cassandre decided to swap eggs and carry the other’s baby — at the same time. The babies — Audrey Joe Rich and Marley Jane Rich — were born healthy and happy at Baptist Medical Center Jacksonville, three days apart from each other in March.

Faith, 29, and Cassandre Rich, 31, got pregnant through Reciprocal IVF at Florida Institute for Reproductive Medicine (FIRM) in Jacksonville. (News4JAX)

Faith and Cassandre said there are ways you can attempt to become a parent through IVF without breaking the bank.

“The first step we did was a lot of research into reciprocal IVF and what we would be looking at as far as cost,” Faith said. “We realized very quickly that cost is a factor. It’s the biggest factor in it.”

Faith said they knew they needed to make it cost-efficient, but they didn’t want to compromise on how they wanted to carry their children.

“We joined a bunch of Facebook groups that show you which jobs to apply for. Amazon is who I ended up going through and getting a job with. They offer amazing fertility benefits and adoption benefits,” Faith said.

They said Amazon covered a majority of the costs through its fertility benefits, and they encouraged other couples to look into what employers offer for fertility coverage.

“Unfortunately, with our health care system, there are not a lot of people who do offer it,” Faith said. “So you’re looking for private companies offering those good benefits so that you can build your family.”

IVF Journey: Jacksonville couple carries each other’s babies, gives birth three days apart (News4JAX)

The Riches said the journey was a bit scary and stressful at first. They knew there was a chance they wouldn’t get pregnant, or that only one of them would. For them, it all worked out.

“When we went to our first appointment back on Feb. 1 of last year, I was devastated,” Faith said. “Like 30% chance that it was even going to take, on top of my egg count. I barely had any eggs, and they didn’t even think we were going to be able to retrieve anything from me. So, it’s a stressful journey, but you have the right partner it makes it worth it.”

The couple said another stressful part was picking the sperm donor.

“We did use a donor, and we chose to use the same donor because we did want the girls to be like genetic siblings as well as, you know, just being siblings,” Cassandre said. “That whole process was extremely overwhelming.”

She said searching the “sperm market” was intense with all the categories to consider.

“You can get baby photos and voice recordings and testimonials from friends and like all these different things,” Cassandre said.

She said you could even learn if your donor had ever failed a college class.

“We narrowed it down to what we wanted as far as height, eyes and hair color, and genetics — health,” Cassandre said. “And everything else, we left it.”

The couple said one of the best parts of their journey was understanding what each other was going through.

“I understood everything that she was going through,” Faith said. “I completely got why she cried over ordering the Starbucks drink that she thought she wanted, but that’s not really what she wanted. You know what I’m saying? And then she understood when I cried because the Whopper I ordered had ketchup on it even though I told them no ketchup. Like, I cried over ketchup.”

Cassandre said she thinks going through the process together definitely helped.

“Our communication skills did nothing but grow the entire time,” she said, adding that the understanding went beyond logical because they were physically experiencing the same things. “You’re going through the same hormonal fluctuations and shifts and trying to pick something up that you (could) pick up four months ago, and now it’s like your arms just don’t work or the random foot pains or the weird things that are inexplicable except for the fact that you’re just pregnant and you have to just deal with it.

Faith said anyone can carry a baby if they want to, no matter if they are masculine-presenting or not.

“If the issue is that you’re masc (masculine-presenting), and you’re worried about what society’s going to say, really sit down with yourself and have a heart-to-heart with yourself. And if it’s something you want, honey — do it. Go for it,” Faith said. “Screw society, you know. I mean I live in a world where society judges me every day of my life just for being me and I’m going to go out and I’m going to be me.”

The couple said they want to show other couples that their dreams can come true.

“I just want everybody to know they can do it,” Faith said. “There are resources; there is help. Everybody makes it seem like it’s impossible for the community, and it’s not.”

Another tip from the Riches was to find your village. They said it is a team effort and they are grateful for the amazing friends and family members in their lives.

In the end, the Riches got richer! Press the play button above to hear more of Faith and Cassandre’s story.

Faith Marie Rich and Cassandre Rich . (News4JAX)

About the Author:

Carianne Luter is a social media producer for News4Jax and has worked at Channel 4 since December 2015. She graduated from the University of North Florida with a communication degree.