This is the family that Freddie and Chelsea Freeman wanted: lots of siblings who will grow up playing together, loving each other, helping each other. But the Freemans never could've imagined how they would get to where they are now, with 4-year-old Charlie and his two baby brothers.
After trying for pregnancy for a couple of years after Charlie was born, the Freemans explored fertility options, met with doctors and heard uncertainty about whether Chelsea would be able to have more children. Last spring, the Freemans arranged for a surrogate to carry their child -- and in a surprising and happy development, Chelsea also became pregnant nearly simultaneously.
Charlie now has two little brothers: Brandon John, born Dec. 30, his name in honor of Chelsea's grandfather; and Maximus Turner, born eight days ago on Valentine's Day, his middle name a reference to the ballpark where Freddie Freeman played his first home game with the Atlanta Braves. The babies and Chelsea are doing well and are healthy, although it's inevitable that father and mother will be sleep-deprived.
"We're going to be tired for 25 years," said Freddie, the longtime first baseman and 2020 National League MVP.
The Freemans said they will borrow the verbiage of another couple who had babies under similar circumstances: "Twins, with a twist."
The Freemans talked about their journey Monday evening, with aspirations of providing hope for couples struggling with fertility questions and to help destigmatize the choice of a surrogate.
"Every pregnancy and fertility journey is a little bit different for everyone, and we wanted to respect our surrogate's privacy, as well," Freddie said. "I think it's an inspirational story that we have.
"We tried for a couple of years, and it didn't happen. We were talking with doctors, and they suggested surrogacy. We jumped at that, because we wanted to be blessed with more kids."
Officially a family of five 💙💙💙 pic.twitter.com/jAorRj3pFr— Chelsea Freeman (@chelseafree5) February 21, 2021
Freddie's mother, Rosemary, died when he was 10 years old. He grew up very close with his father, Fred. After Chelsea met Freddie, she learned very quickly that he wanted to have a big family.
"As long as I've known him, he said that since he was a little boy, he always knew he wanted to be a dad," Chelsea said in an interview in November. "As important as being a baseball player to him is, I think being a dad is even more important."
When the Freemans decided to start a family, Chelsea quickly became pregnant with Charlie. At his delivery, she had an emergency cesarean section. Freddie noted Monday that some of the complications in that procedure might have affected their attempts for a second child.
"I thought, 'You know, this time it'll be the same,'" Chelsea said. "I had a couple of girlfriends and we were all trying at the same time. Slowly, they got pregnant and I didn't. That was a tough time for us.
"It was too painful to even talk about at that point. So eventually, after it'd been like a year and a half, I was like, 'We need to come up with a plan.'"
As the months passed and the home pregnancy tests came up negative, the couple began consulting with physicians.
"It was a lot of doctors' appointments, a lot of procedures, a lot of tests," Chelsea said. "A lot of them by myself, because it was during the baseball season. It's all worth it in the end, but going through that ... definitely one of the hardest things mentally that you could go through."
"The hardest part about going through infertility is the emotion. You are so drained, because you don't know why -- like, 'Why isn't it happening? How is this part of God's plan?' You think about those things."
As Freddie said, "We did all of the doctors' appointments and, you know, it wasn't happening. We didn't know if we were ever going to have another kid again. We were told by a couple of people she wasn't going to be able to carry anymore."
They quickly embraced the idea of a surrogate. Last spring, Chelsea underwent a procedure to prepare for an embryo transfer; Freddie carried a phone in the back pocket of his uniform to hear word.
The onset of COVID-19 delayed the embryo transfer, however. Nine days before the rescheduled date, Chelsea took another pregnancy test -- one of dozens and dozens after Charlie's birth -- and saw she was pregnant.
"I started crying, and then I was freaking out," she remembered. "And then it's just all of those emotions again. It really did feel like immediately I was healed, all the stress and everything lifted off my shoulders when I saw that positive."
Freddie was working out at the time. So Chelsea scrambled to arrange for a way to tell him, asking Charlie to draw a picture of her with a baby in her belly. When Freddie came through the door, he was initially confused -- until he saw the positive test.
"No way," he said. "Are you serious?"
He hugged Chelsea, and they broke down together.
"We went from one to three," he said, happily.
The doctors asked if they wanted to go ahead with the embryo transfer. The Freemans did not hesitate in saying yes.
Freddie is generally a private person, with no interest in social media. But last year, Chelsea took to Instagram to talk about the fertility issues that they had faced.
"When she told that story," Freddie recalled, "it was just like -- we're normal people, you know. I know you guys see me on TV a lot, playing baseball, but we go through the same things. We tried so hard."
Chelsea said, "It was always my dream to have three kids by the time I was 30. When my 29th birthday came around and I still wasn't pregnant, I never thought it would be possible. I think our story is definitely a story that God always has a bigger plan. ... Whether a family is looking towards fostering, adoption or surrogacy, children -- no matter which way they come -- are truly a blessing for any family."
Now the Freemans are a party of five -- with Charlie at the perfect age to be an older sibling, Freddie said, helping with pacifiers and blankets and, on Monday evening, wearing pajamas that matched those of his little brothers.