Now the Bells receive so many gifts from the couple that it makes them feel uncomfortable at times. Perfume for Lisa and vodka for Brent. Laptop computers for Klaire and their older son, Jake. A year ago, the whole family flew to Stockholm for a two-week vacation. "If Lisa wanted something, all she'd have to do is ask," Brent says. "If we called our 'parents' and said, 'Hey, we're at dinner and we want to buy the house a round,' they'd send us a check tomorrow."
But for every person who thanks a surrogate mom for being an unselfish life-giver, there's another who accuses her of playing God. The nurses in Columbia, Missouri, made their disapproval well-known when Joe Bitner's wife was in the hospital for bed rest. "When she'd get upset, they'd say, 'You get what you deserve,'" says Bitner, a 39-year-old church custodian. "I was afraid that if I made a big deal about it, it might be even worse for her."
The Bells' town is so conservative that the Catholic hospital was reluctant to allow Lisa to give birth there. Though it can make life easier, Brent doesn't like to pass the babies off as his own. "When she's seven months pregnant, we're not going to get into it with the guy in the grocery-store line," he says. "When he asks, 'Do you know if you're having a boy or a girl.' 'Boy.' 'Are you excited?' 'You betcha.'" With his coworkers, however, he tries to explain the situation. So far, the guys haven't given him any guff. "In case you haven't noticed, I'm a little above average in size," Brent says.
The people in Lisa's office took to gossiping about her first surrogacy, and Brent's parents and siblings viewed that nine-month adventure as a medical condition they dared not discuss. In the end, though, only members of the immediate family get a say in the matter. Before Lisa agrees to get pregnant, each votes on the idea. Klaire was the lone holdout the last time around. Or rather the one child who thought to remind her mother of what was at stake. After raising aloft a cell-phone photo of Lisa during her second surrogate pregnancy, her belly stretched way out, the Bells' daughter ultimately endorsed the idea. Brent agrees that he'd rather not see his wife go through the rough stuff. "I voted to support her 100 percent," he says. "But sometimes it sucks. It's in that eighth month, when I'm bringing her an all-white plate because she can't eat anything with flavor, that it hurts. During the last trimester, I'm saying, 'We're not going through this crap again.' But then, after the birth, Lisa is glowing and the parents are glowing, and all of that shit goes away."
Alexander and Anna are born on October 15, about a week after the Bells made a ceramic cast of Lisa's bulging stomach. Brent, who was Lisa's "squeeze man" during the delivery, calls the couple in Sweden at about 4 a.m. their time to share the news. In a few days, they'll arrive in Joplin to pick up their son and daughter, Brent explains on the phone from the hospital. He sounds tired and stressed. "They couldn't get a direct flight," he says.