Tammy and Jordan Myers — the Michigan couple who have been fighting to adopt their own biological twins, born via a gestational carrier — are relieved after a judge legally made them the parents of Eames and Ellison on Thursday, the Myerses exclusively tell PEOPLE.
"Words cannot express how excited we are to put this adoption process behind us," says Tammy, 41, of Grand Rapids. "This ongoing whirlwind has become our normal, and this craziness has all led to this special moment."
It has been almost 365 days since PEOPLE last caught up with the Myers family, who one year ago were excitedly preparing to celebrate their first Christmas as a family of five.
This Christmas, they'll have even more to celebrate: The end of a legal battle that began before twins Eames and Ellison were born Jan. 11, 2021 via a gestational carrier — a route Tammy and Jordan chose because Tammy's breast cancer treatments made her unable to carry children. The couple were already parents to daughter Corryn, now 10, but had yearned to grow their family.
Tammy Myers The Myers family (from left: Ellison, Tammy, Eames, Corryn and Jordan) in 2022
Because of Michigan's restrictive laws surrounding surrogacy — and despite Eames and Ellison being Tammy and Jordan's children biologically and being in their care since birth with the full agreement of their gestational carrier — the couple were forced to adopt their own children.
"It has been a long two-year process," Tammy tells PEOPLE, "but the timing also seems a bit perfect with the recent introduction of the new surrogacy bills in the Michigan House of Representatives."
"It's a great day: We are finally being recognized as our biological twins' legal parents, and I'm feeling very hopeful that we will see a change to this crazy, outdated Michigan law," she continues.
Tammy Myers From left: Eames, Corryn and Ellison Myers
When PEOPLE first profiled the story in November 2021, the twins were 10 months old, born eight weeks early — significant because, due to their early arrival, Tammy, Jordan and their attorney did not have the chance to complete a pre-birth order, which would have given them legal rights to the babies before they were born.
The couple had to fight for emergency legal rights to the twins, which was denied, as was a second attempt at obtaining Jordan's paternal rights to the children. (Even if Jordan had been granted paternal rights, Tammy would have still had to adopt her own biological children as a stepparent because she did not carry them herself.)
This forced the couple into the worst-case scenario: having to adopt their own biological children because of Michigan's 1988 Surrogate Parenting Act, which makes compensated surrogacy illegal for carriers and intended parents and, even if a surrogate isn't compensated, says that any agreement made between parties won't be recognized in court.
When PEOPLE spoke to the couple last November, they hoped the adoption process would be finalized around the twins' first birthday in January 2022 — but, because of a backlog in the courts, it was delayed. "It's a very slow process," Tammy says.
Tammy and Jordan Myers From left: Ellison, Corryn and Eames in 2021
Though their own journey through the Michigan courts is coming to a close, the Myerses are not done fighting: They have been advocating for the passage of four bills introduced by Michigan Senators Winnie Brinks and Curtis Hertel Jr. and Representatives Samantha Steckloff and Christine Morse that will update the state's surrogacy laws and keep families together in a manner keeping with modern medicine and processes.
"Michigan is one of the only states with a law so restrictive that it forces intended parents to adopt their own children born via surrogacy," Brinks has said, according to the Michigan House Democrats. "It is well past time that our laws reflect the advances in assisted reproductive technology that allow Michiganders to have the freedom of fulfilling their dreams of becoming parents and growing their families through surrogacy."
Like Tammy, Steckloff is a breast cancer survivor who has found adoption to be a near impossibility.
"I know that there are many Michigan families like mine who are looking to surrogacy as the only path toward building a family," she said. "We have been working on this issue for years now, and I look forward to continuing to work hard to get it to the Governor's desk."
Though Tammy and Jordan, 39, are finally the twins' adoptive parents, they have been their legal guardians since birth and have watched Eames and Ellison emerge from being babies to full-on toddlers who walk, run, play hide-and-seek and talk. The twins' first utterance was "dada," and the first real word spoken was "no" for Eames and "uh oh" for Ellison.
"They're so much fun and have changed so much over the past year," Tammy says. "They were a little bit behind because they were preemies, but over the past year they've fully caught up growth-wise and developmentally. They're happy, full-of-life little toddlers."
Meanwhile, Corryn started fifth grade this year, made the cheerleading team and remains the couple's most consistent babysitter, Tammy says: "She will even change a diaper or two."
Tammy Myers Jordan and Tammy Myers with Ellison and Eames
After today's hearing, not much will change at their home, except the twins will finally be able to be put on the family health insurance plan. Before today — and in an example of the Michigan laws surrounding this topic — the twins' gestational carrier Lauren and, by virtue of being married to her, Lauren's husband Jonathan (who had nothing to do with any part of the surrogacy process, outside of supporting his wife) were listed on the birth certificate. Finally, it will bear Tammy and Jordan's names. (Lauren and Jonathan will still be involved in the twins' lives — they are Eames and Ellison's godparents.)
"We have had them in our care since they were released from the NICU, and from a medical standpoint, we are their parents," Tammy says. "There have been a few occasions where [we've been asked], 'Are you the parent or the legal guardian?' And we do have to say, technically, that we are the legal guardian. Now, we'll finally be able to say, 'These are legally our children.'"
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When 2023 dawns, the couple hope to see the bills pushed through legislatively so that no other Michigan parent has to endure what they have over the past two years.
"The fight's not over with," Jordan says. "It's over with from our case's standpoint, but hopefully we'll eventually get these bills put in place where things will change for the better."
In that sense, today marks a new beginning: a mission to take one family's ordeal and use it to make a difference for the collective good.
Tammy Myers The Myers family (from left): Jordan, Eames, Corryn, Tammy and Ellison in 2021
"Although this journey has been traumatic and long, it has also been pretty amazing at the same time," Tammy says. "With support coming from people around the globe, it's also hard not to feel that every single aspect of this experience was part of a much bigger plan—every moment representing another puzzle piece that has fallen into place. The big picture is finally clear, and my heart is so full."