Second of two parts.
By many measures, Laura Davis is an ordinary Southern California mom.
With straight chestnut hair that falls just above her shoulders and round brown eyes that widen when she talks about her two kids, she endures a daily crawl down the 405 to her office in Irvine, then hustles home for dinners and school plays.
She runs the egg-donation program at West Coast Surrogacy, while her husband, Beau, sells wine for a distribution company. They live in a jacaranda-lined neighborhood of tidy houses in Long Beach, where their golden Lab, Wilson, noses up to visitors at the screen door.
When she is pregnant, she misses yellowtail sushi and crisp Chardonnay. She favors stretchy maxi dresses or long skirts, often in basic black, with a jean jacket — stylish, but not aggressively trendy.
In other ways, Davis is highly unusual — the distillation of decades of ethical debate and medical progress. On and off since 2009, Davis has given her time and body to help other parents have children.
Phrased more clinically, Davis has served as a gestational carrier — meaning that the babies she carried in her womb bore none of her genetic material. Embryos — formed from a mother's eggs in one case and egg donors' in the others, with sperm from the infants' respective fathers — were carefully transferred to Davis' uterus following the in vitro fertilization process.
For the most part, Davis takes misconceptions about surrogacy in stride.
She'll watch her own kids patiently explain to women who congratulate them on a new sibling that their mom is helping someone who can't carry a baby on her own. She'll listen to mothers who say they can't imagine being pregnant again.
"I've gotten reactions like, 'Oh, how could you give your baby away?'" she said. "I use that to educate them on the fact that it's not my baby."
In an odd way, it was Davis' sense of detachment from her own children while they were in the womb that prepared her for surrogacy — though initially, it terrified her when her bond with her first child felt abstract, more intellectual than instinctive.
"I actually cried to my [obstetrician] about it," Davis said.
That distance evaporated the moment she took the warm bundle that was her son, Jackson, in 2004 — the first time she looked at a child and knew the tiny fingers, the blinking eyes, were of her own making.
She had a similar feeling when she first held her daughter, Campbell, about a year later.
Knowing she was done having her own children, Davis channeled her longing to feel that again into her resolve to help other parents experience it for themselves.
Online research had led her in 2008 to West Coast Surrogacy and founder Amy Stewart Kaplan, who was essentially a one-woman operation at the time.
The following year, Davis delivered twins for a couple.
While most twins are delivered by caesarean section, Davis and the twins' parents both hoped for a natural birth. They got one.