When Anita Brush decided to go back to work eight years ago, she wanted to find a job that would allow her to spend time with her four children but also have an impact on other people. To Brush, becoming a surrogate mother seemed like the perfect solution.
She just never expected to give birth to eight babies in seven years.
"Every time after birth, when I'm able to hold the baby or babies afterward, and know that they're going home, it has really been a celebration," said Brush, 39, of Modesto, Calif.
Brush gave birth to Sarah and Michael Case's son Cole in 1999.
Doctors told Sarah Case that she would not be able to have another child after she gave birth to her older son, Garrett. The Mesa, Ariz., couple opted to work with a surrogate and met Brush through an agency.
"I just couldn't believe that somebody would do this for me," Sarah Case said. "When I look for Cole at night, and when I'm saying goodnight to him and reading to him, that's when I think of Anita."
Birth Mom for Gay Couples
That gratitude and the profound impact she has had on others' lives has kept Brush committed, even when carrying multiple babies.
In 2001, she gave birth to triplets for a gay couple from Ireland and two years later she carried twins for a gay couple from the Midwest. Last October, Brush gave birth to her eighth surrogate child for the same couple from the Midwest.
Brush's impact is not only felt in the United States.
The first child she carried as a surrogate was for a Japanese couple. The couple was in the delivery room when their son was born in 1997.
"My husband was counting in English and her husband was counting in Japanese," Brush said, laughing.
Brush's fees ranged from $15,000 up to $35,000 for the triplets. In total, she has earned $130,000 for the five pregnancies. But she warns that it was not easy money.
"Absolutely do not do this for the money," Brush said. "If you want to classify it as a job, it's 24 hours a day, seven days a week."
Brush, who is now a single mother, says support from her family helps her through.
"It affects us, but there aren't a lot of negative effects," said her daughter Margaret Fielder. "The only thing that's ever bothered us is when she's in the hospital and you miss her and we have to go to school and stuff. That's the only hard part."
"It's really fun, but sometimes it's kind of unusual to see your mom not pregnant anymore because she usually walks around the house pregnant all the time," added daughter Rhiannon Brush.
The kids are going to have to get used to seeing Brush without a swollen belly. She has decided her days as a surrogate mother are over.
The transition has not been easy.
"I was attached to that whole life," Brush said. "I felt like I was good at it and really had a purpose. And now it's been challenging since [retiring]. I feel like I was an athlete and now I'm past my prime."
Brush has found a way to stay involved with surrogacy. She will be moving to Los Angeles to work for the agency she worked with as a surrogate, helping other surrogates and families navigate a process she knows so well.