I have sat down to write this several times, but I just never could seem to finish it before now. Writing this all down makes it so official. So much love, energy, hope and work goes into surrogacy. To finally arrive at the long awaited, and much anticipated, culmination of the journey is bittersweet.
Thank you for your patience. I give you the birth story of baby R as I remember it (which is fuzzy in places because of the anxiety of the moment, the meds, the long hours and the post-delivery complications):
July 16th, 10:00 am: I arrived for my follow-up appointment on Thursday, July 16th and my palms were sweating as I waited anxiously in the lobby to be called back by the nurse. I tried to do calming focused breathing so as not to have an elevated blood pressure when I was called back to be check. This appointment is when I would get my results from the 24 hour urine test and we would set a date to be induced based on those results. My doctor had mentioned that we would likely either induce on Saturday, Monday or Wednesday. At the time of my appointment I was 38+1 weeks along, and we wanted to try to get to 39 weeks which is the new recommendation for inductions.
My blood pressure was checked and was high. I forget the exact numbers, but I know it was above the 160/90 mark which is the danger point they cautioned me about previously. The doctor came into the exam room and we went over the results of the 24 hour urine protein test, blood pressure and my symptoms. My 24 hour test results came back over 400 which means there was too much protein present in my urine. That coupled with the blood pressure and other symptoms meant I needed to be induced, but when? The doctor asked me to wait a few minutes while she consulted with my regular ob (she was on vacation) and said she would be right back with me. A few minutes later she came in with news I was not expecting…
“Okay, so based on everything we’ve decided it’s best to deliver you today…. so, I’m going to send you downstairs to be induced now. ” (My doctor’s office is located in the Women & Children’s portion of my hospital, so labor and delivery is just one floor down.)
Panic immediately set in. I asked her to repeat herself. Surely I had just misunderstood her. Nope, they were inducing me now. I
asked politely begged to wait until the next morning. I said I could go straight home and not leave the bed until I cam in to deliver the next day. I explained the dads had just taken off from Paris and wouldn’t be here until late that night. I started crying a little bit. They’d waited so long and we had worked so hard and now they might miss the birth of the son. How could this be happening?!?
10:17 am: The doctor gave me a hug (I love her!) and sympathized with the situation, but explained that because of the test results and blood pressure waiting any longer could have very dangerous consequence for my health and, as a result, the baby. She explained a few things about what would happen and then sent me on my way to labor and delivery.
I stepped out into the hall and as I walked to the elevators I realized I was crying. Ugh. I hate crying. I was just feeling very overwhelmed. I sat down in a lobby chair and pulled myself together and began to text and call everyone involved… my partner, my agency, our third party coordinator, etc.
My poor partner immediately started crying. Bless her heart, she’s just an emotional person and was freaked out by the thought of all this happening so quickly. I got her calmed down and gave her instructions for exactly what all I needed her to do: get my hospital bag (so glad that was already packed), pick up my kiddo from camp, board our dog, etc. Once I gave her all the instructions she talked to her boss and left work early to take care of everything and come to hospital to be with me.
Since the parents were in the air, there was no way for me to update them. We sent messages to let them know, but it would be hours before they landed in Atlanta and got them. This made me so anxious, but there was nothing I could do, so I hopped on the elevator and went down to be admitted to L&D.
I met with the head nurse in charge and reminded her I was a surrogate and she assured me she knew all about it and had my paperwork. She was so nice. I asked about the guys having their own room with baby and she said they were pretty full right now but she would make a note and check again when discharges happened later on.
I got settled into my room and met my nurse who was AMAZING. She was beyond nice and so considerate of the entire situation. I got into my hospital gown, went to the restroom and hopped into bed. Next came a ton of paper work and instructions. Because of the blood pressure they were putting me on magnesium through IV. This meant I wouldn’t be allowed to get up at all… i.e. bathroom only in a bedpan, how lovely, I snuck to the bathroom one last time when the nurse left the room. I wanted to avoid a bedpan as long as possible. No getting out of bed also meant I had no hope for naturally getting the baby to progress down on his own and try the pain management techniques I’d been practicing to try and avoid an epi as long as possible. No birthing ball. No walking. No squatting. Just me and the bed. I choked back my frustration and disappointment.
I’m a control freak and in one quick swoop they took away all of my control. I also wasn’t allowed to eat or drink anything except ice chips in case a c section was needed. Ugh! Sure wish I would have known that in advance. Suddenly my meager breakfast that I forced down because I was too nervous about appointment to really eat anything was coming back to haunt me. Why, oh why, hadn’t I eaten more???
Once paperwork and all that was out of the way it was time to get the show on the road. I had stalled as long as possible and couldn’t come up with any more excuses to make things go slowly. My nurse tried to start my IV. Twice. No luck. Apparently my veins weren’t happy about my induction either. She called in another nurse. She looked to be about 12, but she assured me she wasn’t. Two more sticks from her. No luck. Damn veins. I didn’t want to be induced today, but I also didn’t want to be a human pin cushion. Third nurse. Fifth stick. We have a vein! Thank you, Jesus!
1:51 PM: Magnesium and pitocin started.
2:26 PM: Felt first contraction. Pitocin is definitely working. Contractions aren’t too painful and I’m handling them okay with just focused breathing. Somewhere during this time Cindy made it up to the hospital to be with me, but I can’t remember exactly when. We chatted and I fussed at her for talking to me during a contraction. She got upset and I reminded her to get it together and none of this was me being mean I was just in some pain and focusing on breathing during contractions so couldn’t talk then.
3:00 PM: Contractions regular but not too painful yet. They checked me and I was only at 3 cm. Doctor broke my water.
4: 35 PM: Contractions picking up in intensity, I still didn’t want an epi and doing okay with focused breathing. Cindy went to pick up our daughter from summer day camp and bring her to see me for a bit before she spent the night with a family friend.
5:21 PM: Baby was being a stinkier and wouldn’t stay on the heart monitor so they had me lay on my side. They upped the pit about every 30 minutes to keep labor progressing.
6:48 PM: Dilated to 5 cm and then got stuck there but contractions kept coming and coming. Finally gave in and got an epi. My blood pressure dropped really low after epi was working and I got sick and felt very loopy. They stopped the mag and worked to get BP back up.
8:13 PM: Got BP up to 108/63. Started to finally feel better. That was completely awful! Dilated to 6 cm. Heard from the guys and they made it to Atlanta but were delayed so wouldn’t be to Birmingham until about 11 pm. I was very worried about delivering before they arrived, but felt a little better because at least they were now aware of what was going on and the possibility of arrive to a baby.
8:40 PM: Hospital staff is amazing and so accommodating. They’ve got separate room ready for guys and baby, baby will be listed strictly under them and they’ll get both id bands instead of me having to have one. The hospital lawyer came and talked to me. He said because there’s no biological link to me, once I deliver the baby everything related to him can be listed separately with the guys like he’s his own separate little patient including billing!
9:44 PM: Still at 6 cm… Doctor a little concerned that I’m not progressing very much. Pit is at 42 (whatever that means) which is above the typical limit of 40. At this point I started to freak out a little for fear that this would end in a csection.
10:44 PM: IPs landed in Birmingham!
11:31 PM: Another cervix check. I’m at 8 cm, 85% effaced and having bloody show. Woo hooooo!!!! Nurses had me sit back up for a while to try and get more pressure on cervix. I tell ya, this baby was waiting for daddies!
12:05 am (so now July 17th): Daddies finally arrived and are washing up. They made it, they made it. I felt such an immense sense of relief. Even though the day had been painful and crazy and I was BEYOND ready for it to be over, I was thrilled daddies wouldn’t miss the birth of their son. I was at 9 cm with regular steady contractions.
The timeline gets lost after that because I’d stopped updating people. The guys come to my room and we talk and they sit and then pace back and forth between the couch and the monitors. I explain what the various lines mean: heart beat, contractions, etc. Richard* (name changed for privacy) asks me questions about the induction and baby’s heart beat and other things. He’s read online about various aspects of it all. I try to answer his questions and explain why they insisted on inducing right away and whatnot.
I’m feeling completely exhausted and anxious as we approach the end. Some where around 1-2 am the nurse comes to check me again and the guys are asked to step out. They go back to their room to wait until it’s time for the pushing so I can rest for a bit. I manage to nap for about half an hour. Before I know it, it’s time! My doctor and the different nurses come in and start getting everything set up and ready to go. My partner goes and gets the guys.
About 3:00 am, and we’re ready to start pushing. There are a million people in the room. Okay, we’ll more like 10 or so. Definitely not what I was expecting and MUCH more than I appreciated being present (not even counting the doctor, guys and my partner). Apparently word had gotten around that this was a surrogate birth and so about half of the labor and delivery staff found an excuse to be in the room. I remember feeling very exposed, vulnerable and frustrated. Nearly of the people were down south, i.e. right in view of my lady parts! Because of the layout of the room, the baby’s monitoring station stuff where they clean him him and measure him and all that stuff was set up in the area directly opposite my hospital bed, so I was looking straight at them, meaning they were all looking straight at me and seeing every bit of the action. Did I mention I felt exposed and frustrated. I really wanted to throw a fit, but I was exhausted… going on 12+ hours or labor and had been awake for nearly 24 hours. Instead, I tried to make jokes about the situation and and just tune them out.
Around 3:10 am the pushing begins. I could barely feel anything because of whatever it was they put in my epidural line to help with the pain. Everything was completely numb south of my belly button and this made pushing beyond hard. My nurses and doctor were incredible though. They were so patient and encouraging. We kept trying different ways of pushing. They had my hold the handrail things and push, hold a rope that one of them was holding (tug of war style) and push, hold my legs and push, you name and we tried it. FINALLY, after about 45 minutes they could see the head starting to move down and almost ready to come out. By this point the medicine making me so numb had also started to wear off and I was able to feel more.
We went back to pushing and at 4:04 am, little R made his debut into this world with his proud daddies standing right beside my bed.
The doctor put R on my belly while they wiped him down and clamped the cord for the dads’ to cut. He then immediately went to his dads for skin to skin contact on the couch in my hospital room. That was such a precious moment and I felt a little like an intruder to their private time. After some skin to skin time, the baby went to the warmer to be cleaned, measured and checked. The guys stood right by baby to witness all of these and learn the details of their son. He was a perfectly healthy 7 lb 15 oz and 19 inches long baby with a head full of hair and great lungs!
While all of this was taking place my ob was focused on the delivery of my placenta. After it delivered she saw that part of it had not detached from my uterus and had to remove that by hand. I thank God that I’d had an epidural or I’m sure I would have passed out. She kept reaching into my body and feeling around in my uterus to get everything out. While I couldn’t, thankfully, feel the pain of this, it was an uncomfortable sensation each time she reached and scooped, reached and scooped. I’m not sure exactly how long this went on, and there was some quiet discussion between my doctor and the nurses and scary looking instruments were handed to her. I learned afterwards that they’d been discussing a possible D&C if the doctor couldn’t get the rest of the placenta.
Things get less clear after that point. My blood pressure dropped really low, I spiked a fever and I developed the worst chills I’ve ever had in my life. My teeth were chattering so hard I actually was afraid they might break. No exaggeration. They covered me with heated blankets and started me on IV meds. The nurse said this was likely from the trauma of everything and placenta issues. I don’t remember how long it took to get things under control but it was scary and exhausting. I ended up with an infection and had to stay in the hospital from the time I was induced on Thursday until Sunday afternoon.
Despite all of the unplanned craziness, the scary moments and talks of cesection and D&C, the infection and exhaustion, the 24 hours without sleep or food, and everything else, it was worth it. It was completely and totally worth it. Baby R may not have come into the world as we’d all planned, but he came into the world healthy and with his parents right there to witness it all. This is a priceless moment that I will carry with me my entire life.
Baby R was discharged from the hospital the same day I was and went to stay in a hotel with his parents until it was time for them to fly home. They were here for about four weeks while they got everything finalized with the birth certificate and passport. We all got together several times and enjoyed some baby snuggles and watching the guys take care of their son. I’ve had absolutely zero attachment issues to him. Despite carrying him inside me, he never felt like my child and he wasn’t… not biologically or any other way. I know that’s a hard idea for many to understand, but it’s something that only those who’ve been a surrogate will ever fully grasp. I was just an extreme babysitter who had the rare opportunity to carry a child under my heart until it was time for his parents to take over.
Baby R and his parents are safely back home and settling into their new life as a family. I’ve no doubt it will be a life full of love and shared adventures. I hope we will stay in contact and share pictures from time to time, but I am taking things as they come with no expectations.
That is the birth story of R and the end of my first surrogacy journey… I would love to carry again in the future for another family, but that will be a bridge to cross at another time. Thank you, thank you for following my journey and sharing so much love and wisdom with me. I wish you all baby dust or luck in whatever journey you find yourself on. ❤