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STUTTGART, Germany — For most parents, seeing your baby being delivered is one of life’s most magical moments.

In Tara Tropea’s case, “I woke up and saw (Bob) and he was crying,” she said. “And I didn’t see a baby.”

Bob and Tara Tropea’s first child, Kayla, was born Feb. 1, 2006. She weighed in at a healthy 6 pounds, 4 ounces.

But because of complications, Tara Tropea didn’t experience the delivery, waking up four hours after her difficult delivery. Doctors had to perform an emergency hysterectomy after the placenta that had carried Kayla was found to have attached to Tara’s uterus.

“We have a problem,” the doctor had told Bob Tropea. “She’s bleeding, she couldn’t stop and we had to take her uterus.”

After the hysterectomy, the Tropeas were told that Tara could have no more babies. But the young Stuttgart couple later decided they still would.

The Tropeas are searching for a woman who can deliver the birthing moment they missed.

They’ve placed an ad in a base publication in Stuttgart as well as in Stars and Stripes. “Loving couple is looking for a gestational surrogate. Call Tara or Bob.”

A gestational surrogate is someone to carry an embryo in her womb that was made from Tara’s egg and Bob’s sperm. Someone to deliver a newborn directly into their arms.

“It would be almost in a small way putting at ease something that went horribly wrong the first time,” said Bob Tropea, a 26-year-old Army specialist with 52nd Signal Battalion in Stuttgart.

Tara, 23, and Bob had dreamed of having two or more children.

After some soul searching, they decided to look for a surrogate, a woman who will perform the service free of charge, because the Tropeas can’t afford the $20,000 or more such services are charged in the U.S.

The Tropeas are asking a lot.

The surrogate mother would endure morning sickness, frequent urination, and a hormonal rollercoaster, and feel the baby kicking inside of her. She would give birth and hand the baby over to someone else.

“Of course it is going to be difficult for a lady to give up a child after carrying it for nine months,” Bob Tropea said. “If she wants to stay close to us and participate …”

“We don’t want somebody to be distant,” Tara Tropea added.

The Tropeas started from scratch to learn about surrogacy.

Military bases have support groups and counseling for those who are financially strapped, having family problems, hooked on booze or shellshocked from battle. But counseling for infertility, or for those considering using a surrogate?

“Over here there’s no support for it,” Tara Tropea said. “Who do you go to and talk to about it? Nobody knows the answers.”

Tara Tropea said she has been counseled by a chaplain’s assistant. That has helped clear her mind but hasn’t provided answers on surrogacy. So the Tropeas have hit the Internet looking for answers.

Is it legal in Germany? How can it be done? How would it be paid for?

“The research on this, we’re leading the way,” Bob Tropea said.

The plan is to find an American woman in Germany willing to do the job. After making a contract with the surrogate and using fertility drugs to optimize their chances, the Tropeas and the surrogate would travel to England, where in-vitro-fertilization is legal.

They’d produce 10 or so fertilized embryos, two of which would be placed into the surrogate’s womb. The rest of the embryos would be frozen. The Tropeas and the surrogate mother would then return to Germany to see out the pregnancy.

The Tropeas would pay for surrogate’s travel expenses and implanting of the embryo. The surrogate’s own insurance would ideally pay for her maternity care and the delivery. TRICARE, which insures military members and their families, would pay for the pregnancy of a surrogate if she were covered by that program, for example.

The Tropeas have considered adopting a child, but say it wouldn’t be quite the same. Kayla is their flesh and blood, and they recognize when she is acting like daddy, or doing things like mommy.

“We’re still young, and we want to exhaust what means we have now to find a surrogate,” Bob Tropea said. “We could always do adoption in the future.”

Three women have contacted the Tropeas so far, they said. A military spouse from Ansbach said she would do it but has potential health issues. A woman from Heidelberg called to say she was also considering a surrogate. One from Stuttgart is starting her in-vitro cycle.

Some conversations have become tearful. “It feels good to be helping people in the process,” Tara Tropea said, by sharing thoughts and feelings.

To be handed a baby fresh from the womb, to hear her first cry, this is what the Tropeas want. To experience the mother-child bond from the first minute.

And to have a playmate for Kayla so she won’t have to go to the zoo by herself.

“It would be a completion,” Tara Tropea said, “of our family.”

To reach the Tropea family, e-mail them at: btktropea@aol.com

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