Former ‘Good Morning America’ host on her priorities
For seventeen years Joan Lunden appeared daily as a co-host on “Good Morning America.” After saying goodbye to early morning television in 1999, Lunden developed a series with A&E, called “Behind Closed Doors with Joan Lunden” and has penned several books about parenting.
She also made headlines with her decision to have a child at age 54. After numerous failed attempts at in vitro, she was able to have twins, Kate and Max, through the help of a surrogate mother. She is ecstatic about being a parent to infants again. In an interview with MSNBC’s Deborah Norville, Lunden talked about why she wanted to have a baby, the surrogate process, juggling motherhood and work, her years on “Good Morning America,” and her new healthy living book, Growing Up Healthy.
On becoming a new mom again
Deborah Norville, Host: I remember thinking last year when I heard that you and Jeff were going to have these babies through a surrogate, I was reminded of the question Jay Leno asked Hugh Grant, “What were you thinking?”
Joan Lunden: Our life is all about the choices we make, and when I was looking for a mate for life, I really was looking for someone who was a family man, somebody who would embrace my girls as much as they were going to embrace me. I guess I just wasn’t finished having children yet.
We tried in vitro fertilization many times, but it wasn’t working. My doctor said, “No, keep trying, because it’s a numbers game. We’re going to get this done.”
But when you’re approaching 50, it’s also a time game and you have to ask yourself, ‘Is it really about me being pregnant, or is it about parenting and having babies?’ So we decided to use a surrogate.
NORVILLE: Is it different the second time around? You’ve had such a big space [between children], because your youngest is 16.
LUNDEN: I’m much less daunted by it. I think I’m more patient, more secure. And quite honestly, because I went on my own little journey to health and fitness, I’m much more fit now than I was 20 years ago when I had my first round of children.
On the surrogacy process
NORVILLE: Sadly, there are over nine million women in this country who are dealing with some sort of a fertility issue or another. And many of them do consider surrogacy, but how do you go about this process and deal with all the stress and turmoil that may come along with it?
LUNDEN: That’s the reason why I’ve talked about it. Most people out there hear the horror stories. They hear about the ones that end in the emotional heartache and the tug-of-war. I thought it was important these days that they hear a story that ended with a happy ending. Surrogacy used to be difficult, because the woman that was carrying the child was biologically related to the child. And sometimes you can still do it that way, but you do not have to do it that way anymore.
NORVILLE: Does the mother of your children have any biological connection to them?
LUNDEN: She has no genetic relationship. The embryos were implanted in her. We actually went out to California to do our implantation because the laws in California are tried, true, and tested. You’re the parent of that baby before she has the baby.
Whereas in other states you have to wait 6 months to adopt the baby, from the “birthing mother.” You don’t have to worry about somebody trying to take a stake in your child later.
NORVILLE: Solving fertility issues can be expensive, particularly in vitro. Most people go the in vitro route first and spend almost $10,000 per cycle, which they can not at most times afford. Do you think that insurance should cover that? Is childbearing a right or a privilege?
LUNDEN: I think that in our society we should do everything to encourage child-bearing and family-making. And I think that if insurance will cover Viagra for men, it should also be covering these kinds of methods to try to build families.
Some of them will, but usually only for one or two cycles. Often it takes five or six cycles for success to finally happen for a lot of these couples. So it drains them. They’re emotionally and financially drained.
NORVILLE: How did you select this woman? There are a number of people, through these surrogate agencies who want to be there for the couple that has the child. Yet, how do they match you and your husband up with the surrogate and her husband?
LUNDEN: It’s quite frankly one of trickiest parts of the whole thing, because everybody has personalities. And you need to match up the right personalities.
If you have the intended parents—that’s what we’re called— who want to call every day and be heavily involved throughout the whole pregnancy, and if you have someone who doesn’t want to have that kind of involvement, you’ve set up a situation that’s not going to be a happy, wonderful situation for the person who went into it for all the right reasons.
Then, you consider other possible situations that could occur from the get-go. You need to think about the following questions: What happens if you have triplets? Will you do selective reduction? Is she willing to carry them?
Everyone has to be on the same page with these decisions. You have to decide how much contact you are going to have afterward, and put the relationship with the surrogate family into perspective. Do they want to see the babies? Do they just want a card once a year? Do they want to say, “I’m glad I did that for you” and never see you again?
We met Deborah, our surrogate, and we knew we didn’t have to worry about anything. We went through the Center for Surrogate Parenting in Los Angeles. They are probably the oldest and best known. They take care of everything for you. We went to Cincinnati for the birth, and we were right there. I cut the umbilical cord.
We talk to them a lot. Their three daughters have become close with my three daughters. They’re flying in for the twins’ first birthday. I want Kate and Max to always know this woman who did such an extraordinary and selfless and loving thing as to give them life, to help give them life. I don’t think that they should grow up and not know her.
On raising newborns at 54
NORVILLE: Your kids are going to have one of the older moms when it comes time for junior high and high school and cheerleading tryouts and all that sort of stuff. But do you predict that there will be other moms in the same age group as you?
LUNDEN: Absolutely. I know so many people right now, even just within my own realm of friends that are doing the same thing.
It’s part of our lifestyle. So many women waited until later to get married and then even later after they got married to have children. And then they have problems, and it takes them five, six, seven years to have children.
NORVILLE: Since you’ve been very public about who the surrogate and the family are, it’s also going to be a little different and difficult for your kids. None of these issues that seem kind of new and different to us today, will seem like that big of a deal twenty years from now.
LUNDEN: Believe me, they’re going to get to kindergarten and there’s going to be eight sets of twins because of all the other moms that did in vitro and had twins.
The mother of my 16-year-old’s best friend in school, she’s also divorced, had three teenagers, and married somebody eight years younger. She did in vitro and had twins. So already, to my 16-year-old daughter, this standard is old hat to her.”
On setting parenting trends on “Good Morning America”
NORVILLE: You know, millions of Americans used to wake up and see you an “Good Morning America,” for 17 years. Do you still hold the record for longest serving woman in morning television?
LUNDEN: Yes. I feel fortunate I have this amazing relationship with so many people in America, because I was in their homes at a very private time of day. They probably might have still had their robe on and their slippers and haven’t made the beds.
So when I go out, anywhere I go, they come up and they hug you and they know the names of your children. They know so many intimate details about your life.
It’s very different from someone who’s on in the evening on a prime time show, where they might look at them and talk to them, but they wouldn’t come up and feel like their subject lives down the street.
NORVILLE: The evening news is much more scripted. You don’t get to say, “My kids drive me crazy and I didn’t get to sleep until 2 a.m. in the morning.” You were a trailblazer in a lot of ways. You did not hide your pregnancy on air. Did you feel pressure about that?
LUNDEN: We had a very low coffee table. My pregnancy was right out there. I had a lot of women write me and say thank you for showing my husband, my boss, that our brains do not get smaller as our stomachs get bigger.
I didn’t think of myself as a trailblazer at all. I was just living my life. And I happened to find out that I was pregnant with my first child the same day I got the call and found out I was the new co-host of “Good Morning America,” within an hour of each other.
I remember going out to do the press conference to say I’m the new co-host of “Good Morning America,” and they said to me upstairs, “Don’t say too much about having the baby, because, you know, we want people to take you seriously.”
Everybody there, all of the reporters from ‘Newsweek’ and ‘TIME,’ they only wanted to talk to me about bringing the baby to work because it was something new.
It was the beginning of setting priorities that are important and sticking to them. The idea that I actually would want to breast-feed my child and bring the child to work every day and make sure that I took the child on the road with me when I went on the road – it started a ripple effect. It really changed policies in corporations all across America.
That’s what people really care about. Celebrities come and go. The movie opens and it closes. But meanwhile, they’re at the water cooler talking about the interview I did with somebody on a parenting issue or how to deal with their finances at home.
I also shared part of my private life. I think that a lot of people out there saw in me their life, a normal person dealing with raising babies.
On her book, “Growing Up Healthy”
NORVILLE: You just finished your latest book called Growing Up Healthy: Protecting Your Child From Diseases Now Through Adulthood. What makes this book different from other parenting ones?
LUNDEN: This is different from other nutrition books because of the fact that it shows the link between the foods that we eat, our children and their increased risk for coronary artery disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer, hypertension and osteoporosis.
We all hear, ‘Feed your kids healthier foods.’ But I don’t think most parents realize the cause and effect. I don’t know if they understand that the consequences of feeding a child a diet that is high in saturated fat, low in fiber, low in fruits and vegetables, high in sodium and high in sugar will increase that child’s risk of living their life with a debilitating or deadly chronic disease.
Obesity is the biggest problem; the biggest cause of coronary artery disease. This country has over 9 million children clinically obese.
They’re eating packaged goods; chips and cookies and crackers that are filled with trans fats, which clog your arteries, that are filled with sodium.
If somebody said “You can make sure your child is going to grow up and not have coronary artery disease or cancer in later life and maybe extend their life for 10, 15 years,” wouldn’t you do that?
NORVILLE: There are a lot of great options. Kids will eat junk if it’s put in front of them. But if you put healthy options and nothing else, if they’re hungry, do you think they’re going to go for the carrots?
LUNDEN: They will. But most parents don’t think that’s true. And a lot of parents just don’t want to stand up to their kids. You need to shop the perimeter of the store, buy the fresh foods and make nutritious meals. This is why I felt it was so important to have recipes in this book.
It’s not enough to tell them, “Eat the fruits, the berries, and the dark green leafy vegetables.” You’ve got to give them some recipes, because moms have no time. They are worn out. You have to make it easy for them at 5 p.m.
NORVILLE: What’s the answer for a parent who truly wants to feed their child well, but doesn’t have the time, doesn’t have the brainpower to sift through all of the fine print?
LUNDEN: That’s not acceptable. You have to take the time to learn and you have to educate yourself nutritionally, because family is the most important thing in your life.
Joan Lunden: Twins Again!
Television personality Joan Lunden and husband, Jeffery Konigsberg, are welcoming twins again. A surrogate mother gave birth to Jack and Kimberly, who join two-year-old Kate Elizabeth and Max Aaron at Lunden’s Connecticut home. Joan Lunden, age 56, also has three daughters. Can you imagine having two sets of twins under the age of two?
Teaming With Love
Eight hands are on Deborah Bolig’s bulging stomach, searching for signs of two kicking 5-month-old fetuses. “Which one is on the left?” asks former Good Morning America host Joan Lunden. “The boy,” Bolig answers. “He’s been kicking a lot more than the girl.” Again, all eight hands probe. “The babies have been a little quiet this morning,” she adds. “As soon as things quiet down, they will wake up.” While Bolig’s husband, Pete, looks on proudly, Lunden wraps the pregnant woman in a hug as Lunden’s husband, Jeff Konigsberg, drapes a protective arm around Bolig’s shoulder. “Deborah tells me everything that’s going on,” says Lunden with giddy delight. “When you have a really nice relationship with the surrogate and her husband, it’s great.”
For many fans, who cheered the blonde dynamo on through three pregnancies during her 17 years cohosting GMA and sighed contentedly when, eight years after a bitter divorce, she wed Konigsberg, the big surprise is that Lunden has chosen at 52 to build on her brood of three grown daughters. “Even before I met Jeff, I really wanted to find somebody who wanted to have a family,” says Lunden, who has written two parenting books. For men and women battling fertility problems, the bigger headline is that Lunden and Konigsberg, 42, are enjoying such a happy, stress-free experience with surrogacy, a word that often conjures up images of heart-wrenching custody battles. “You usually only hear about surrogacy when there’s a horror story,” says Lunden. “Word needs to get out that it is a viable option if done safely and correctly with a good agency so everyone is protected.” As for Lunden, whose current gig as host and producer of A&E’s Behind Closed Doors has included rock climbing and skydiving, the prospect of twins seems a great adventure. “I’m not the typical fiftysomething. I don’t even have a second thought about it,” she says. “I’m choosing a lifestyle where I will have a couple of little ankle biters chasing me around for the next 10 years. I want it!
If all goes according to plan, on or around June 9, Bolig, 42, also a mother of three girls, will give birth in Cincinnati to twins with whom she has no genetic connection. Konigsberg provided the sperm; a different woman (perhaps Lunden — she declines to say) provided the eggs. Embryos that resulted from in vitro fertilization (IVF) were then implanted in Bolig, the “gestational surrogate.” Lunden and Konigsberg, who at this point are called the intended parents, will be on hand for the delivery, at which point they will become the actual parents, with only their names listed on the birth certificates. Why are they so confident about a happy ending? “This,” says Lunden, “is a journey that started quite a while ago.”
In November ’96, to be precise. By then Lunden, recovered from the 1992 collapse of her 13-year marriage to TV producer Michael Krauss and still months from her bruising ouster by GMA execs, was ready again for love. Seated in a suburban deli, she spotted Konigsberg. “He had this great smile,” Lunden recalls, “and I said, ‘Why can’t I meet a nice man like that?’ ” A moment later Konigsberg, who owns and directs children’s summer camps in Maine, walked up to her table. “There was an unbelievable instant connection between us,” says Lunden. The relationship progressed quickly. A few months later, she says, “I did a fertility test, just to make sure. You want to know what your options are.” The tests indicated that pregnancy was still a possibility.
After they married in April 2000, they turned immediately to IVF to try to get Lunden pregnant. “I think we went through five attempts,” says Lunden. “They were disappointments, obviously, and big ones. I love being pregnant, and I wanted to do it so Jeff could have that experience.” About a year ago, Konigsberg told her, “I really think time is of the essence.” Hoping to maintain a biological connection, they decided to investigate surrogacy first. “Adoption wasn’t the next step for us, which is funny because my brother Jeff is adopted,” says Lunden. After doing research on the Internet and speaking with friends who had enjoyed positive surrogate experiences, they made an appointment at the Center for Surrogate Parenting (CSP) in Encino, north of Los Angeles. The choice of venue was deliberate: unlike most states, California favors the intended parents should a custody dispute arise.
During six hours of interviews with the center’s staff, the couple voiced their concerns. “How can you be assured that (the surrogate) is clean-living and not smoking or drinking?” Konigsberg asked. Lunden wondered, “Do you have to worry about the person keeping the baby?” Their concerns eased when they learned that each month CSP screens hundreds of applicants, from which only six are selected. “The surrogates have had their own biological children, and they are financially solvent,” says Konigsberg. “The center makes sure everyone is on the same page.” After discussing how much contact the pair wanted with the surrogate before, during and after the birth, the staff decided Bolig was the best candidate for them.
Then Lunden and Konigsberg needed to convince Bolig that they were the right couple for her. “We sat down and wrote Deborah a letter,” says Lunden. “I was nervous.” She needn’t have been. “In the letter the overall feeling was that they loved children,” says Bolig. Last August Lunden and Konigsberg traveled to Cincinnati. “Talk about the ultimate blind date!” says Lunden. Both women remember feeling an immediate bond. “Once I got over ‘Oh my God, it really is Joan Lunden,’ I forgot they were a high-profile couple,” says Bolig. “I thought they were a really loving, wonderful couple.” Pete says he found them “extremely down-to-earth and easy to talk to.”
Over the course of that lunch, Lunden and Konigsberg realized that Deborah, a proofreader for a bookbinding company, was in this for more than the roughly $22,000 she will earn as a CSP surrogate. (For Lunden and Konigsberg, the tab will be closer to $65,000 when medical and legal costs are factored in.) She told them that at 25, she first read about surrogacy and “knew that I wanted to do it.” So much, in fact, that prior to marrying Pete in 1988, she expressed her interest. Last February Deborah delivered twin boys for a British couple. “At the birth, I felt such pride,” she recalls. “I just created a family for them!” Lunden says she and Konigsberg “liked that Deborah had gone through it before, understood it, knew what she was getting into.” Lunden left the lunch convinced that “Deborah would take care of these children like they were her own.”
Pete’s support was also critical. “You need to have the right kind of spouse who’s going to really embrace this,” says Konigsberg. “He has the responsibility of taking care of their three daughters and making sure his wife is comfortable.” Their early impressions of Pete, 49, a corporate health and safety project manager, have been borne out. “He’s very protective of Deborah, Joan and me,” says Konigsberg. Pete says, “I get the benefit, by marriage, of being around.”
On Oct. 10 at a hospital near L.A., Lunden held Deborah’s hand as the embryos were transferred to Deborah’s uterus. “Jeff left the room when we actually did the stirrup thing,” Lunden says, laughing. Relations grew intimate so quickly that both were in the room for the first ultrasound on Nov. 7. “Deborah was lying down,” Konigsberg recalls. “The doctor said, ‘Would you like to hear the second heartbeat?’ And I said, ‘We’re having twins?’ I looked at Joan. … I gave Deborah a kiss. … Then, I kissed Joan.” Says Lunden, with a laugh: “He didn’t know who to kiss first!”
Since then the couples have been in constant contact. The women speak daily; the husbands exchange e-mails. “Joan,” says Bolig, “is easy to talk to because she remembers what it’s like to be pregnant.” Lunden knows all about her surrogate’s first 12 weeks of morning sickness and her ongoing heartburn, as well as the twins’ every kick and hiccup. “She really gives me a sense of the pregnancy,” says Lunden, “so I can enjoy the experience.”
Lunden’s daughters — Jamie, 22, Lindsay, 19, and Sarah, 15 — are also getting a vicarious thrill. “Lindsay says, ‘I want to go pick everything out with you,’ ” says her mom. As for Sarah, the only one who still lives at home, “She’s really psyched she’s not going to be the youngest anymore.” All three daughters, says Lunden, will make great babysitters. “This experience has made our family that much closer,” says Konigsberg. “At a time when these girls are gaining independence, this has been an experience where they have been able to come back to the nest.” While the Boligs’ girls (Alexandra, 14, Victoria, 12, and Kate, 11) understand that the babies are not their siblings, they too are delighting in the pregnancy. “They’ve said they are proud of me,” says Bolig. “They tell their friends, ‘My mom’s a surrogate.’ ”
Back home in suburban Connecticut, Lunden and Konigsberg have already picked out cribs and changing tables, though not names. For the last month they’ve been practicing late-night feeding shifts in their six-bedroom modern house. “I’ll say, ‘Honey, you get a good night’s sleep — tonight I’ll take care of the twins,'” says Konigsberg, smiling. “So when they actually arrive, it will be Joan’s turn.” As they look ahead to the delivery, they talk about the day they’ll tell the twins about their origins. “I’m going to say, ‘Kids, your mommy needs to tell you something,’ ” Konigsberg jokes. “Not only will we tell them,” says Lunden, “but hopefully they’ll meet the Boligs at some point. Our hope would be that Deborah and Pete remain part of our lives and connected to us forever.”
— JILL SMOLOWE
— NATASHA STOYNOFF in Cincinnati
Read more about Joan Lunden in her books available on Amazon.com:
|Wake-Up Calls: Making The Most Out Of Every Day (Regardless Of What Life Throws You)
by Joan Lunden (Paperback – Sep 30, 2001)
This all-inspiring book is wonderful. I literally could not put it down. The numerous quotes are worth the price of the book alone. Joan Lunden clearly cites ways to make the most out of your stressful day and end it with a smile. She motivates you to set goals for yourself and to go towards them with a “you can do it attitude”. She emphasizes the hazards of living in the past and not in the present. She explores the importance of taking risks and accepting change. She provides an outstanding motivational voyage through life. A real 5-star adventure. The photographs in the book are an added treat.I recommend this book to anyone who wants to have a more enriching and fulfilling life.
|Growing Up Healthy: A Complete Guide to Childhood Nutrition, Birth Through Adolescence
by Joan Lunden and Myron, M.D. Winick (Paperback – Jul 19, 2005)
The work describes the particulars of childhood nutrition. For instance, food should not be used as a reward for children. Parents should control sugar (especially processed sugar) and provide meals consisting of fruits/veggies. Calcium and Vit. D supplements are another important source of long term osteoporosis control and bone health-far into the future. Sample menus are provided to take the difficulty out of depicting good nutrition. The author describes good/bad cholesterol. Vitamins B6 and B12 are vital to control homocysteine levels. Folic acid is another important vitamin utilized for a similar purpose. At the appropriate time, a child’s intake of breast milk should be curbed. The book has a considerable literature on how to raise children nutritionally fit for life. It is a solid value for the price charged.
|Joan Lunden’s Healthy Living: A Practical, Inspirational Guide to Creating Balance in Your Life
by Joan Lunden (Paperback – April 7, 1998)
The information on the tapes is presented in a manner that is easy to listen to as I walk. I listened to the tapes for the first time at home and now I take them out with me as I walk. The reminders that are presented throughout the tapes are great! She does a great job of wrapping interesting stories around some basic facts which stress the importance of total fitness. I recommend it to anyone that wants to get focused on some basic approaches to a better life.