Thursday, October 17, 2013

One Month Later

It's been a month since Baby M arrived and I'm feeling great! Physically, my energy levels are back to normal and I've managed to lose all the extra weight from the pregnancy. Dealing with the emotional turmoil the first few weeks was kind of challenging.

During the pregnancy, I didn't have any problem with not getting too attached to the baby. Babies, before they're born are more of a "concept" (to me) and less of a reality. Once he arrived and I got to see the joy literally written on the faces of his parents, it was impossible to maintain that distance. It wasn't long before they felt like family. I've had so many people (whose support I am unbelievably grateful for) tell me how wonderful it was for me to become a surrogate and help create a family. After going through the whole process, I can tell you that even knowing how much this meant to my surro-family, I feel like the winner. It has been so rewarding to see and feel all that happiness and know that I was a huge part in creating it!

So now life returns to normal. Doing all the things I was doing before - but without a baby bump. This includes therapy appointments, preschool, housework and tackling some of the bigger home improvement/maintenance things that were put on hold for a while. As much as the end of pregnancy is challenging, I totally miss it already.

One thing that is different for me is that I am still able to help others right now. I decided long ago that I would pump breast milk and donate it to others through either a local network or a milk bank. So far, it's going wonderfully and I've been able to help several local families. At the one month mark, I'm just shy of a total of 1000 ounces ~ that's the equivalent of almost 8 gallons! (or over 29 liters for all you metric-loving folks out there) Amazing!! I'm hoping to keep it going for another 2 months at least. Perhaps more....

I hope that one day, I'll be able to do this all again. In the meantime, I have wonderful new friends on the other side of the Atlantic and the satisfaction in knowing that I really changed a life ~ several lives ~ for the better. That's the best!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013


This post is essentially the tale of how my surro-baby arrived Earthside. If you're not into labor stories, you may want to skip this post. I swear I did my best to leave out anything which would be considered "too much information." Consider yourself warned. 

With my last post, I mentioned that the countdown had begun... Little did I know that there would be no actual countdown. The next day (at 36 weeks and 1 day pregnant), after putting my youngest children to bed for a nap, I started having regular contractions when I laid down on the sofa for a rest. Once a few hours had gone by and they were still just as regular, I thought it might be a good idea to call the doctor and see if they wanted me to come in for an exam to see if I was actually in labor or not.

As I suspected, they did request that I head on over to Labor & Delivery at the hospital. I didn't feel it was an urgent situation, so once my husband arrived home from work and had dinner managed for our kiddos, I packed a small bag of essentials (just in case) plus the camera and kissed everyone goodbye, while assuring the older ones that I was fairly sure I'd be home later that evening.

I arrived at the hospital and got to visit the triage room in Labor & Delivery - something I'd never done before. In my own pregnancies, I was always in active labor by the time I went to the hospital, so I was always ushered directly to a delivery suite... but not this time.

fantastic hospital attire

The nurse got me hooked up to the monitoring equipment and after getting my vital signs and a good tracing on the baby, informed me that I was having regular contractions and that the midwife on the floor would be in to see me shortly.

contraction monitoring

When she arrived, I found it was the same midwife who delivered my daughter 8 years ago. She was not part of the OB practice I visited, but was the on-call from another practice who delivers at the same hospital. I thought she was great the first time and I was very excited to see her again, though I still had my doubts that I was actually in labor.

After she examined me, she concluded that she needed to check me again in another hour or two to see if I was making any progress. If I was, and still having regular contractions, then she would be admitting me to the hospital.

In the meantime, I had sent a message to the intended fathers to let them know not to panic (yet) - but that I was at the hospital getting checked to see what was going on. Unfortunately, the time zone difference put all of this activity in the middle of the night for them and I was worried that they were losing a night of sleep for no good reason at all. I wanted to keep them updated but also disturb their rest as little as possible in case of a false alarm. Thankfully, we didn't have to wait long for an answer.

I did some walking in the hallway while texting with my husband and some of my friends who knew what was going on. The contractions continued and while definitely noticeable, were not REALLY painful. I was still hopeful that this was just prodromal labor, getting things started for the real action later in the following week or two.

When the midwife checked again around 10:00 pm, she found that I had dilated just a little more and she was pretty confident that this was the real thing. Less than 10 seconds later, I realized that my "water" broke and I knew I was staying. The nurse helped me gather my things and shuffle (waddle?) across the hall to my labor room. I called my husband and told him to have our sitter come over to the house to stay with the children overnight and then hurry himself over to me. This was a different situation as I'd never had my "water" break so early in labor, but in the past, once it did, the whole thing was over in about an hour or two - sometimes much less.

At that point, I contacted the intended fathers and my surrogacy agency and let them know what had happened and they started making all the plans to get here as soon as possible. At that point, it became very real and I started to get a little more excited - even though I knew I had a long night ahead of me.

Side Note: It was at this point that I made a mental note that this would be the fourth baby I delivered who would arrive in the middle of the night, after I'd been awake and busy the entire day before. Babies should seriously be more considerate of the mama's schedule and energy levels!  :-)

Luckily, it was only another hour or so until my husband arrived and at that point, I still wasn't terribly uncomfortable. I know that I handle labor better when standing and that in the past, warm water has been helpful in relieving pain, so once the contractions picked up in intensity, I decided to pass some time in the shower. After that, I planned to stand and sway through contractions with my husband as my support, but I repeatedly would become very dizzy and feel faint following each contraction. Finally, I reached a point where I felt I didn't have any choice but to lie on my side in the bed, even though I wasn't able to manage the pain as well in that position.

Thankfully, that really hard part of labor didn't last long. Correction: at the time, it felt unending, but realistically it was only about an hour. In my mind, I had acknowledged that this labor was harder than the last two I experienced and I had reached a point where I was seriously considering giving up on an non-medicated birth and asking for an epidural. But in my heart, I knew that could bring it's own set of complications and it was very likely there wouldn't be time anyway. That's when the benefit of having a midwife to tend to a laboring mother became very evident - she was able to stay with me and talk me through it all and reinforced the belief that I was able to do this on my own. Quickly, the end came and with just a few pushes, I delivered Baby M into the world at 3:35 am. My guess was 6 pounds, 6 ounces. He weighed 7 pounds, 0.2 ounces and measured 18 inches long at only 36 weeks. I was stunned!

7 pounds, 0.2 ounces or 3.180 kg

Because he was a late-preterm baby, I was concerned about his health but he quickly proved that he was going to be fine. He had a nice healthy cry and all of the other measures assessed were just as good. At that point, my husband's job as a support person to me was mostly over so he switched to photographer and went to work trying to capture all those first moments that Baby M's daddies weren't able to witness themselves.

getting footprinted

After getting weighed and cleaned up a bit, they brought him back to me for some skin-to-skin care, which is especially helpful to preterm babies in regulating body temperature. We spent a few hours in Labor & Delivery before moving up to the Maternity unit and since my husband had to return home to help get all the kids started on their "business-as-usual" day, I had the pleasure of Baby M's company all day, on my own. His daddies were on their way, but wouldn't be arriving until very late that night and so would plan to come to the hospital the following morning.

First Day of Life

The moment they arrived was pivotal and so sudden. At one moment it was just myself and Baby M and then next, there was a new family created! It was so fantastic, I had to resist the urge to leap out of the bed and literally almost toss the baby into their arms. So, calmly, I greeted them and introduced them to their little guy. I wish I could share a photo of the moment ~ it was priceless, but for privacy reasons, I have to leave their faces out of this blog. Thankfully, I can share photos of Baby M instead.

That morning was a whirlwind of visits from the pediatrician, the nurses, the audiologist who administered the standard hearing test and the newborn photographer. We also met with the clinical specialist at the hospital, who was in charge of the paperwork needed to transfer medical responsibility of Baby M from myself to his fathers. Once everything was done, they were able to move to their own room next door and begin bonding with their son.

sleepy baby

This was my first real opportunity to reflect on all that had happened as everything prior went so quickly. It was a bit of a shock to know that the project that kept us all in touch for the last 18 months was suddenly at an end, especially considering we had expected to have almost another month yet. But mostly, the feelings were positive. Watching two people, who had waited so long to become parents, learn to hold and care for this new little prince was very endearing and sometimes a little entertaining too! Parenthood has a steep learning curve but they handled it wonderfully.

My husband was able to come by and join us for a while and then the next day was filled with the signing of all the paperwork required to officially terminate my parental rights and responsibilities and get them all set to proceed with a second-parent adoption to remove my name from the birth certificate and replace it with the name of Baby M's other father.

Before the end of their visit, we also found time to get together for a professional newborn photo session outside of the hospital as well as a family dinner to include them, myself, my husband and my older children. Unfortunately, the littlest ones were not feeling well and so had to stay at home instead. My older children, who are 8 and 7, were excited to meet the baby after waiting so many months. I had initially explained the surrogacy idea to them back when we first met with the intended parents. I think it was good for them to have a chance to meet the little person to whom the whole project was dedicated (essentially) and to be able to say their goodbyes.

Finally, the fathers returned to their temporary residence to finish gathering all the required documents to be able to return home. I was lucky enough to be able to return to see them a few times (on "official" business) and they were always generous in allowing me to have the place of honor to hold Baby M as much as I wanted. I even got to feed and change diapers too. Woo hoo!!

Now they are excited to be able to go home and introduce Baby M to all his family waiting for him there. I have a lot of emotions to work through in seeing them go home. I definitely grew to feel much closer to them than I initially expected. I imagine a lot of surrogates feel the same way. I wonder if it's harder for the ones whose surro-family lives nearby or far away?

I feel like there is more to write on the topic of the emotions involved with processing all of this, but this post was meant to be about Baby M's arrival and has already gotten quite lengthy. So, until next time...

love & support - I have the best friends!