An infertile cancer survivor is finally set to become a mother after her Instagram friend agreed to be her surrogate.
Marissa Smith, 30, from Toronto, was diagnosed with a reproductive cancer aged 25.
Despite 17 operations to make her body suitable for pregnancy, she was left unable to conceive.
She then stumbled across Instagram posts around surrogacy written by Ariel Taylor, 31, who had already been a surrogate three times.
The pair became close, meeting in real life, and becoming best friends.
Marissa Smith (L) and Ariel Taylor (R). Marissa is finally becoming a mother after becoming infertile following cancer
Knowing Ariel liked the American actor Jesse McCartney, Marissa then managed to get him to record a Cameo video asking if Ariel would be her surrogate.
Ariel said yes – and now she is 25 weeks pregnant with Marissa’s baby – conceived via IVF using Marissa’s husband’s sperm and Marissa’s egg.
The baby boy is due on July 9.
Mother-to-be Marissa, a special education teacher, said: ‘When I was told I wouldn’t be able to carry a pregnancy, it was very very hard.
‘I had hoped for so long to be a mother.
‘But thanks to Ariel, we can finally experience parenthood.’
In 2018, Marissa was diagnosed with a cancerous tumour in her cervix and uterus.
She then underwent four surgeries and 12 procedures to her reproductive system in a bid to make her uterus suitable for pregnancy.
But after three years and an unsuccessful round of IVF, she was told she would never become pregnant.
And in May 2020, doctors suggested they look into having a surrogate pregnancy.
Marissa Smith, 30, (L) was diagnosed with a reproductive cancer aged 25, and despite 17 operations, three years of IVF with husband was unsuccessful
Marissa Smith (L) and Ariel Taylor (R) became best friends and ‘family’ after meeting through Instagram
Ariel and Marissa. When Marissa wanted to ask Ariel to be her surrogate, she enlisted the help of actor Jesse McCartney
Marissa was matched with a surrogate and began the surrogacy process.
But in 2021, both of the two embryo transfers failed.
Although devastated, Marissa had – due to the fact she was using a surrogate – already spent much time online researching the process.
And she had stumbled across Ariel’s posts.
Ariel, who has an eight-year-old daughter and two step daughters with her fiancé, had already completed three surrogacies.
Ariel, a social worker and psychotherapist, from London, Canada, said: ‘We became friends over the fact I was a surrogate and she was using one.
‘We got really close while she was going through that process of losing her old surrogate.
‘She was having a really hard time and people don’t really understand how it feels – but we bonded so quickly because I got it.’
Marissa and Ariel both then tentatively muted Ariel becoming Marissa’s new surrogate.
Marissa said: ‘We started talking about how nice it would be to be on the journey together.
‘I knew she liked Jesse McCartney, so I got her a Cameo from him and got him to ask if she would carry my baby – I kind of proposed.
‘Obviously she agreed.’
Ariel (L) agreed to be a surrogate. She is now 25 weeks pregnant with Marissa’s baby – conceived via IVF using Marissa’s husband’s sperm and Marissa’s egg
Marissa Smith (R) and Ariel Taylor (L), bonded over their interest in surrogacy, with the story having a happy ending
The friends now go baby clothes shopping together and attend the ultrasound scans. The baby is due in July
In October 2022, Ariel was transplanted with an embryo of Marissa’s eggs and her husband’s sperm – finding out she was pregnant a week later.
The process has brought Ariel and Marissa closer together than ever – and they now consider themselves family.
Marissa revealed she is ‘over the moon’ – but admits it has been a struggle.
She said: ‘I’m still processing my trauma from my fertility issues.
‘Just because something is finally going right, it doesn’t take away the pain and trauma that we went through getting to this point.’
But she added she was still delighted at the pregnancy.
She said: ‘It’s very surreal when we’re together, I still don’t really believe she has my baby in her stomach.
‘But I couldn’t be happier and I feel so lucky to get a chance to have a surrogate because so many people don’t get that opportunity.’
Marissa goes to all the midwife appointments and ultrasounds with Ariel, and the pair go on baby shopping trips.
The best friends have already established how things will work once the baby is born – Ariel will become an aunt.
Ariel said Marissa and her husband will tell their son that Ariel was the surrogate, and there will be no secrets.
Ariel, her partner and her children are already like an ‘extended family’ to Marissa’s, she added.
Marissa said: ‘There’s nothing I could do to repay her and show her how much I appreciate what she’s doing.
‘We’ll continue our friendship for ever – she is now part of our family and we are part of hers.
‘I don’t even have words to describe how I feel towards Ariel – I’ll never be able to thank her enough for what she’s done.’
She added: ‘We’re so, so excited – we can’t wait to welcome our little guy.
‘We’ve been waiting forever for this.’
Ariel added: ‘It’s so nice for me because I love being pregnant, but don’t want another baby of my own.
‘We were friends before but the process has brought us so much closer too.
‘I also get to be a part of her getting the heartbeat and the gender reveal, the intimate special moments you wouldn’t normally get to be a part of.’