Sweet surrobaby has arrived, and it was a perfect ending to a truly wonderful journey!
We arrived at the hospital at 5:30am on Wednesday, 7/24, for a scheduled c-section at 39 weeks.
Brad and I arrived just ahead of the dads, which worked out well because the nurses were able to get me hooked up to the monitors and go through all of their questions. Baby boy was wiggling like crazy, making it a little difficult to monitor him, but I was enjoying the last belly movements while I could! Once the dads got there they placed their things in what would be their room, just down the hall, and then we all hung out together in my room. It was kind of a hurry-up-and-wait sort of morning, so it was nice to have them there to chit chat and pass the time.
My doctor (Dr. Carter) came in to talk through the procedure (and to make sure we knew of every possible scary thing that could potentially go wrong, it seemed), as did the CRNA. Finally just before 7:30am they took me back to the OR. I sat on the cold, skinny metal table, leaned forward, and hugged a pillow while the CRNA placed the numbing medication into my spine. That was the worst part — the initial numbing medication that felt like a long-lasting bee sting to the spinal cord. Not pleasant, but tolerable. Once I was nice and numb he administered the spinal, which I couldn’t feel and made me completely numb from the chest down. Then the CRNA and a nurse helped me lay down and get into position. They propped me up slightly on my left side with a wedge pillow, and my arms were stretched out to the side like a bird flapping its wings. The CRNA asked me to let him know if I began to feel dizzy or sick.
Within about a minute, my head started to spin. My arms felt tingly. I told him how I was feeling, and he quickly administered medication and assured me it would help. Dr. Carter, who had been standing back while they prepped me, came right to my side and held my hand. She was wonderful from beginning to end on this pregnancy journey! True to the CRNA’s word, the dizziness passed rather quickly, and then it was smooth sailing from there on out.
Once I was prepped, they placed a blue screen up at about chest level, which blocked my view of what they were about to do (thank goodness 😳😂) and then they brought the dads back.
It was really, really important to me that both dads be in the room when their baby was born. I had been told that the hospital usually only allows one person in the OR, but sometimes makes an exception. At my 38 week prenatal appointment, Dr. Carter informed me that the CRNA on for my C-section was one who liked to stick to the rules. He would only allow one support person in the room. I instantly burst into tears, probably shocking my doctor because until that point at every appointment I had been all “I feel good! That sounds good!” — super easy-going and agreeable. But this was something that was SO important to me, I took the news pretty hard. I explained to her how much I felt both dads should see the birth of their baby; it’s a moment they can never get back. I told her how throughout the surrogacy process it was THAT moment that I anticipated the most — seeing them see their baby for the first time. Dr. Carter said that the hospital always wants to make it the best experience they can, and she would see what she could do. About an hour later she called to let me know they switched CRNA’s to one who was good with two support people in the room. I was so grateful.
So, back to the big day. The dads both came into the room, and took their seats by my head. They chatted a little bit with Gabe, the awesome CRNA (who I kind of love a little bit for helping me fulfill this dream), and then the procedure got going. Both dads were so sweet and concerned about my well-being. “Are you doing okay, are you good?” They kept checking on me and making sure I was doing well.
The first part of the procedure went pretty quickly. It seemed like before we knew it, Gabe was lowering a drop down window in the blue screen, and the doctors were exclaiming “Here we go! He’s a big boy!” and they held baby boy to the little window so we could all see him. The doctor cut the cord extra long, and then baby boy was taken over to the warming table nearby, where both dads were able to check him out as we all listened to his powerful little lungs protest the cold air and the bright lights.
It was the moment I had dreamed of.
The dads got emotional, the baby was healthy and strong (and sturdy, we would soon learn) and everything was perfect. Dad cut the cord shorter, and baby was weighed before getting wrapped up. The nurse exclaimed “10 pounds, 11 ounces!” And a collective “Wow!” “Oh my gosh!” “Whoa!” came from every person and filled the room.
Tears fell, rolling down my cheeks and staying there because I couldn’t use my hands to wipe them away; they were still stretched out like a bird. I couldn’t stop smiling.
The dads brought baby to me, their proud smiles evident beneath their surgical masks.
We took some photos, and then dads and baby left the OR to go back to their room; it was time to begin bonding. I had 9 wonderful months with their little treasure; it was their turn.
My doctor had previously been concerned with how I would feel when they left the room. She didn’t want me to feel stressed out while I was still on the operating table, because the more difficult, longer part of the c-section was still to come. However, when they left, I didn’t feel any stress at all. I only felt peace. I was absolutely filled with joy to have done what I set out to do - I helped a family grow. I gave those precious boys a brother & those wonderful dads a son. I was very calm and peaceful for the next 45 minutes or so while the doctors finished everything up.
I lost a lot of blood, more than “normal”, in part due to the size of the baby. The way Dr. Carter explained it was that the uterus (actually she said I have a "very impressive uterus" - woo hoo!) had stretched out significantly to accommodate a rather large baby. It’s filled with blood vessels that were being held shut by the pressure of the baby. Once the baby was removed, there was nothing applying pressure anymore and so I bled quite a bit. This meant that they kept an eye on my blood counts and had me take iron (still taking iron, in fact) while I was in the hospital. She said they usually do a transfusion if a certain level gets to 7, but mine stayed right around 8 so I was able to avoid that. I was a little lightheaded for a bit afterwards, but nothing terrible.
I was considered to be in “recovery” for awhile after the procedure, so no visitors were allowed besides Brad. Once I was stable enough for visitors, he went and picked up my mom and the kiddos so they could visit. The dads brought the baby in, and it was so wonderful to hold him and look at his little face. Over the course of the pregnancy, when I felt his movements I would often feel them in several places at once, like he was extending all of his limbs simultaneously like a starfish. That became my nickname for him: little starfish.
Hello, little starfish. ❤️
He’s incredibly adorable (maybe I’m biased... but he really is) and at 10lb 11oz you won’t be surprised to learn that he has the chubbiest little cheeks and little tiny rolls on his arms already!
They were able to leave the hospital the next day, but brought baby over to visit multiple times while they were there. It was really rewarding to see their contentment; they finally had their baby in their arms.
Brad stayed the night with me, bless his heart, on what had to be an uncomfortable vinyl-covered little half-couch thing. His support has meant so much to me throughout this whole process. He has truly been my rock.
I was discharged from the hospital on Friday, just two days after the c-section. I learned that in France, women stay in the hospital for six days following a c-section 😳 I didn’t so much mind being in the hospital (you call a number and they bring you any food you want, any time you want? Yes, please!) but I found it really challenging to sleep there. This was especially true the first night, when they were in and out all night checking my vitals, taking labs, and who knows what else. I slept better the second night, but still not as good as being at home.
Now the last week has flown by in a blur. I’m pumping breast milk for the baby, which means that I’m on a schedule as if a baby is here, even though he’s not. When he would be eating, I'm up pumping. I’ve had to do some paperwork to allow baby to get a passport and leave the country, and had to have these things notarized. We’ve had a few get-togethers with the family, including berry picking and meeting at the outlet mall. We’ll continue to see each other as much as we can over the next three weeks before they head home to France.
I’ve tried to put my feet up as much as I can, because I’m having quite a bit of swelling in my feet and legs, which is totally normal and I was told to expect, but that doesn’t make it any more pleasant. Hopefully that goes away pretty soon! My incision is still sore, but healing nicely.
When I left the hospital, Dr. Carter asked how I was feeling. “It must be hard, having bonded with the baby and now he’s not here, he’s not going home with you.”
I did bond with the baby, but it was an entirely different experience because actually I bonded with the whole family. I’m going to be sad when they all go to France, but I’m so thankful that our families will remain connected!
I know I said his birth was a perfect ending to this journey, but really I feel like it’s a perfect beginning. We now have another family on the other side of the world, and I love that we will be able to watch this sweet boy grow! Brad and I are already planning our visit to France next summer!
Just a couple of final thoughts...
I’ve been intentional about not sharing the names of the guys or their family, or sharing photos of their faces (aside from the one of baby above, which I shared with permission), out of respect for their privacy. I’ve really enjoyed sharing my journey with you, from my perspective as a surrogate. But this has been *my* story, and their story isn’t mine to tell. So if you’re wondering why I haven’t given more specific details about the family, that’s been my frame of mind. I know that it can be frustrating, to be invested in a journey but not know some of the significant details. Here’s one incredibly special tidbit, however...
A couple of months ago they let me know that they had chosen a name for the baby. I was so excited to find out what they had picked, and even more excited to not have to wait until the baby was born! They told me his name, and then they explained that they chose a name beginning with “Ta” to honor me. ❤️😭 I am still so blown away by this gesture; I never saw it coming and am just so very touched. (On a humorous note, their three year old has insisted that they shouldn't call the baby his "Ta" name, they should call him "Tanya" 😂 And I have to say, I truly adore the way those little boys say Tanya in their little French accents!)
Surrogacy has been the greatest gift to me. I can’t put into words what an honor it has been to be trusted with this little life, to watch my belly grow and feel little starfish’s movements, to share these moments with the dads through pictures and videos, and to feel the sweet anticipation of giving the greatest gift I will ever give. It has been a remarkable experience from start to end, and I am truly so grateful for it.
Another unexpected joy that has come from this has been connecting with so many of you. I started out deciding to share this journey because so many of our family and friends are out of state, and I wanted a way to include everyone that wanted to be included. I wasn’t expecting the kind of response that I got, which has been incredibly positive and uplifting. I’ve heard from so many women who have experienced infertility, who have gone through IVF to build their own families, who have lost precious babies. Hearing their stories, being a “safe” place to share their experiences, and being able to talk openly and shed light on things like IVF and non-traditional ways of building a family has been an unexpected gift in this process.
So thank you, to all of you who have shared this journey with me. It has added another special layer to this time in my life, another thing to be thankful for.