My Surrogacy Journey and Birth Story for Ethan
This is the story of my surrogacy journey to give new life. Somewhere along the way we formed life long friendships and an extended family. The foremost reason I love being a surrogate is because I look at my children and cannot imagine my life without them. This in itself brought me to the idea of being a surrogate several years ago. I have always had uncomplicated pregnancies and deliveries and for the most part I love being pregnant. After the birth of my first surro son Joey in October of 2005 I still had a strong desire to help another family to become first time parents. This led me to approach my agent Shirley for a new match. She introduced me to a couple from Illinois. Through reading their profile I found that for various reasons the intended mom was unfortunately unable to carry a pregnancy on her own. This did not change that they still really had a strong desire to have a biological child. After reading their profile and speaking to them I knew that I wanted to meet this couple and possibly go forward to help them have a biological child.
On March 18th, 2006 my husband Jimmy and I flew to meet the couple for the first time. Before this meeting we had only seen pictures and read their profile. I was very nervous about this meeting as I really wanted to make a good impression. I really wanted them to like me and I wanted to like them. This was hard for me also because I felt as if I was in a way betraying my former surroson’s parents whom I already felt really connected to. The relationship of a surrogate to her previous intended parents is a really deep one, much deeper than I had ever expected to feel. But the new couple was really laid back and easy to talk to. We all seemed to click right from the start so the paperwork and medical testing soon began.
By May or June, the IM and I had started meds to get on the same cycle. The next few weeks were pretty stressful with the hormones from the meds and the regular visits back and forth for blood work and ultrasound appointments. The hardest part was getting the two medical offices to communicate with each other as well as us. All of the stress was well worth it, on June 21st, the IM went for her egg retrieval which thankfully resulted in good quality eggs. Unfortunately after this appointment. she began having some health issues that landed her in the hospital by midweek. By the end of the week, my new match was having her gallbladder removed which meant that she would be unable to be present for the transfer. This made both of us very sad in that we were also missing an opportunity that we would have had to get to know each other better spending time together over these couple of days. The transfer could not be delayed and went forward as planned on 06-26-06. We transferred two 5 day blastocysts. I was sent home with no orders of bed rest, just told to take it easy couple days. By 07-04-06, my birthday, I tested positive on a HPT. I was very excited about the positive results and I took a photo of the home pregnancy test and emailed it to the IPs. They were excited but still wanted to wait for the beta results. On 07-07-06 we got our first positive beta test at 602. The IPs sent me some beautiful yellow flowers to mark the beginning of our journey together. On 07-24-06 I heard the heartbeat for the first time which was at 140. I think now knowing the baby had a heart rate put all of our minds more at ease. We initially started with two embies but the second embryo never seemed to catch up with the first and discontinued growing. This was disheartening at first but having one good strong viable baby was all that mattered.
The IM and I kept in touch daily via email and with occasional calls and webcam visits. I called her after every prenatal visit to let her know the babies growth progress. The pregnancy was pretty uneventful with no morning sickness or major issues. At one point there was a scare that there was placenta previa where the placenta covers the cervix which can cause major complications and require a cesarean. I was worried about this but thankfully by about 33 weeks of pregnancy this had cleared itself up.
On October 17, 2006, the IPs were able to come to Columbus for a visit. Jimmy and I had arranged to have a 3d/4d ultrasound done as our gift to them. This was an awesome way to introduce them to their new baby. They discovered that they were having a son and they were elated. I think this ultrasound was the point at which it all became so much more real for them. They decided to call the baby whom we had all referred to as "Bubba"- "Ethan". After the ultrasound we all went back to our place and hung out before going to Cracker Barrel with our five kids. If this dinner did not break them in to having children nothing would. It was very hard for all of us to say goodbye that evening as we did not know when they would be able to make it back into town again with all of our work schedules and family commitments as well as the holidays. It was extremely hard for the IM to leave her baby that night. As hard as it was we all said our goodbyes and headed for home.
The next few months we were all busy with family and holiday events but we still managed to stay in contact daily. They sent holiday gifts to all of our kids which the kids loved. I continued to send belly pics to the IPs monthly so they could see Baby Ethan was growing. My children constantly rubbed my belly and talked to Ethan as did we. We all loved him very much already. I enjoy pregnancy with each and every kick and movement. The movement made me secure in knowing that Ethan was doing well on a daily basis. My doctor constantly joked that Ethan had long legs and a big butt due to the way he was positioned in my belly.
We planned their next visit for January 2007. They came to visit that Saturday where we just hung out at our place looking at pics and hanging out with the kids. They brought a wonderful gift for us of a Ceiva picture frame. The frame uploads pics online at night. This would allow them to send pictures and updates of Mr. Ethan after he was born even when they may not have time to stay in touch. This picture frame to me has very sentimental value because this let me know that they were committed to staying in touch and keeping us updated with pics of their new family in the future. My kids absolutely adore the new parents. The dad is this really tall man that the kids think is a jungle gym to climb on. Jadelyn seemed to like them immediately which was very unusual for her. We had a great day just hanging out and talking. As I had hoped the IPs were both able to feel and see Mr. Ethan kicking and squirming around in my belly. Things were getting a bit tight and uncomfortable in my belly for both Ethan and I at this point. That evening we adults headed out for a dinner at a small local restaurant called Planks. We then headed over for some awesome ice-cream at Graeters and on to see a play at a very small local theater. The play actually turned out to be very nice and it was a fun evening out for all. Again, it was really hard to say goodbye when the night came to an end. We knew that we would all not see each other again until Ethan’s delivery time drew near.
I had opted to not be induced this time around due to a previous bad experience with induction. I was very honest and upfront with the intended parents with the fact that I did not want an induction. This made it hard to plan the birth with the distance we had between as well as other commitments that we all have. It was a waiting game from week to week on when Ethan might arrive. We all hoped that Ethan would wait until we could all be together to make his arrival. My appointments at the OBGYN were pretty uneventful week to week. By my 39 week appointment I was still only 1 cm dilated the baby was still high. I decided to wait until 40 weeks to make any induction decisions as the intended parents planned to be in town on my due date of 03-14-07. We had hoped that they could make it in town for the weekly appointment but traffic kept that from happening. At my checkup on my due date I was 3 cm dilated and 50% effaced and the baby was a bit lower so some progress was made. I decided to have the doctor strip my membranes to try to get things moving along on their own over the next 48 hours. In the meantime we scheduled an induction for Friday 03-16-07 at 7 am just in case the baby decided not to come on his own before then. I knew the intended parents had a limited amount of time to be in town due to the dad’s job and I wanted to make things go as smoothly as possible for all of us. That evening the intended parents met us at the kid’s gymnastic place where we could all just talk while the kids were in class. I had begun having contractions that evening though mild ones. The doctor thankfully wrote me off of work as of that day as I was pretty much not productive at work at this point anyway. The next day we all met for lunch at the North Market where we had some wonderful spicy Pad Thai. After eating the spicy food and taking the stairs I was having more contractions as well. After lunch, my couple went shopping in search of a power supply for their camcorder that they had forgotten at home. They needed to be ready for the appearance of their little man. They then wanted to take in their last movie and night out before having their new baby. Jimmy and I headed for home where I cleaned house vacuuming and putting away clothes, running up and down the stairs etc; trying to get things moving. It all worked as by 9:30 that night I was having contractions 5-10 minutes apart all night long. I actually got up and dressed at midnight thinking we would need to head for the hospital but the contractions never stayed close enough together.
By morning we got the kids up and took them to preschool and headed for the hospital. I was of course nervous and scared. I wanted everything to go smoothly and for all of us to have a wonderful birth experience as it is one of those things that you just can't redo. I was very nervous about how things would go after the birth. How would the parents feel? How would I feel? Would I go through post partum depression again? How much would they feel comfortable in including me in days after his birth? Will they want to stay in touch and be friends? I knew how my family and I felt about them and their son and hoped that they felt the same so that we would all remain close after Ethan’s birth but you never really know until it is all over with how things will go.
At 7 am we checked in at the hospital, interesting they all knew when we checked in that I was "the surrogate" before we ever said anything. The nurse got me all hooked up for monitoring the contractions that I was already having. Jimmy and I had let the parents know that we would contact them when I was all hooked up and things are progressing since we know that can sometimes take a couple of hours and in this case we were right. My contractions were coming regularly still just not close enough together to really do anything so it was decided that I would still need a small amount of pitocin to get things moving. The nurse contacted my doctor to come check me. When he checked me I was 3-4 cm but 70% effaced. This was a bit disheartening to hear after having had contractions all night long. The doctor was very surprised that I had made it without delivering before today as he had thought I would go on my own before the induction. At least at this point conditions were much more favorable for an induction to go well than they had been even a week before. Dr. Brown authorized and epidural to be given before the pitocin was started. The anesthesiologist was in a cesarean so things were put on hold for a little while. The mom and dad arrived at about 8 or 9 am I think. It was a bit of a blur as it all went so fast and I had not slept all night. The anesthesiologist, Patti, finally made it in around 10:15 am. All of the staff was very interested in hearing our surrogacy story and why someone would do this. All I really had to say at this point is that I really care for this couple and want to help them complete their family. Patti took her time inserting the epidural as I had had a spinal headache in the past and she wanted to avoid this happening again. She did a great job and in minutes I was feeling only one hot spot at the top of my abdomen which I could easily deal with and I could feel more pressure instead of pain everywhere else. The mom and dad were allowed to come back into the room and wait it out with us. We were able to talk for a while now and joked around about how much we all thought the baby would weigh. The fluids were again started as well as the pitocin. The nurse, Sandi Bennett, was now checking the contractions and progress. The contractions began coming more regularly which would get things moving quicker than we would all think. Dr Brown came back and broke my water once things started moving though I was still at only 4 cm. The nurse left and came back a while later as the babies heart rate was going down with contractions. She checked me for dilation and said I was a very stretch 6 cm. She thought we maybe had 2 hours to go from here. I had a feeling it would not be two hours though from past experiences. She needed to reposition the monitor and have me move to my left side. My couple decided to head down to grab some lunch since they believed they had about two hours to go. The dad was a bit nervous about leaving though. By the time they made it back up with their food the nurse had actually checked me a couple more times due to the baby’s heart rate dropping. She was trying to decide if she should place an internal monitor on the babies scalp. I decided to sit up to help the baby come down with gravity and when the nurse rechecked me minutes later I was fully dilated and ready to push. The nurse and I discussed what I wanted to happen when the baby was born. I told her that I really wanted to be able to hand the baby off to his mom as I had waited months to be able to do this. When the mom and dad made it back to the room they were told it is time. I think they were a bit shocked that things had gone this quickly as they never even had time to eat. Dr Brown was in a cesarean so I had to wait for him to finish up, thankfully he had was doing just that when he was told that I was ready. When the doctor came in to check me he asked if I had done a practice push. When the nurse told him no he had me do one push only to say ok stop we need to get prep first as we have an experienced pusher here. A few moments later they were ready and with the next contraction the babies head was almost out and the nurse had to push on my abdomen to help out his shoulders when he got stuck. I remember Dr. Brown saying something out the baby being a little bigger than we had thought. Two more pushes and the baby Ethan was out.
The dad was able to cut the cord and the baby let out a big cry. This cry was music to my ears. The baby was then whisked over the small area where they clean them up and do a quick assessment. They then brought him over to me where I kissed him, said hello there little man go meet your momma and then I passed him immediately off to her. The look of relief on her face to finally be able to hold her baby is an amazingly wonderful feeling. The moments immediately following Ethan's birth of just watching Ethan’s new parents stare at him in amazement are some of the most fulfilling moments of my life outside of my own children. In the meantime I am delivering the placenta and being stitched up for a few minor tears. Dr. Brown asked if this delivery went better for me and I said, 100% yes. This one was my easiest delivery yet. The baby was allowed to stay in the room for 1 hour to visit before being taken to the nursery to be checked for vitals. My hubby kissed me and told me that I did a good job. I loved just watching the new parents with the new son, their newly formed family, this made it all worthwhile. I think even Dr. Brown was amazed as he hung around for a little while just watching us all interact. After the baby was taken to the nursery they all followed to take pictures and find out his weight and length. I took this quiet time to have a brief nap. Jimmy returned to tell me that the baby was 8 lbs 11 oz and 22.5 inches long. He was much bigger than I had thought. The mom and dad returned a short while later and made their calls to family and friends to announce their son’s arrival to the world. I could see and feel the excitement in their voices. Eventually my room was prepared and we all gathered our things to be moved to the 5th floor room where I would stay for the next 2 days. Ethan had to stay in the nursery for observation for 4 hours so we all just hung out waiting for Mr. Ethan to come back to the room. The mom uploaded photos to send to her family and friends since they were not able to be there.
When Ethan was brought back to the room the new daddy was hoarding him from his momma. I could tell that he was one proud daddy. Ethan’s poor little head was all bruised up from the delivery but it was still shaped perfectly. Jimmy left around 6 pm to go be with our kids at home. When the mom and dad headed out for the evening they stopped and looked at me and told me that I was welcome to have the baby in the room anytime that I wanted to and that they were very ok with that. They wanted me to spend any time with Ethan that I needed. Just the sentiment in this made me want to hug both of them and cry. I was amazed and elated that they were so at ease with all of this. It still makes me want to cry that they on some level understood how I would feel. Though they were hesitant to leave Ethan they took him back to the nursery and headed out for the evening. I got some very much needed sleep though I awoke many times throughout the night with all of the strange noises.
Saturday morning the nurse brought Ethan back to the room and I fed him a bottle. I tried to wait for mom and dad to feed him but Ethan was not having any of the waiting to be fed. It had been a very long time since I had fed a new born baby but it all came back to me very quickly. I just sat and stared at him and talked to him as I had been doing for months. He seemed to be very alert and awake just staring back at me and listening intently as if he recognized my voice. After his parents arrived I passed baby Ethan off and went to shower. When I was done showering, the mom had a few gifts that she had brought back to the room for me to open. The first gift was a beautiful thick chain with a heart on it. This gift was a gift from Ethan for the heart that we shared all of these months. The next gift was a gift handmade by the mom which must have taken her a lot of time and a lot of heartfelt thought. I wish I was creative enough to give back as heartfelt of a gift as this one was. It is called "The Tree of Life" it was a photo box with branches and leaves made out of all different colored hearts. At the bottom it reads, “This tree represents the life you have given us and the bond that keeps the leaves and branches together will forever bind us as a family with love. This is a beautiful gift that of course sets my tears in motion. This is a beautiful gift that I will treasure forever. Next the mom told me that Ethan’s Hebrew name is "Shae" meaning gift because he is exactly that, a gift. He is certainly a gift, a gift to us all. It is he who will forever connect and bind our families. The mom’s grandparents sent a beautiful pot with flowers unlike any flowers I had ever seen. There was a note card that said thanks you for everything with much love.
The photographer came in to take Ethan’s picture which turned out wonderfully. Jimmy brought our three smaller children to the hospital for a visit. The kids had been asking the mom for months if they could hold baby Ethan when he was born and that day had finally arrived. Each of the kids got to spend some time holding the baby. Joey looked so very big and proud to be holding his new surrobrother Ethan. Jianna just kissed and hugged him over and over just as she did when he was in my belly. Jadelyn was very excited to hold him though I think she was more excited that her momma finally had her lap back for holding her again. The kids did not stay too long as it was a small room and they are very active. Jimmy took the kids and headed home though he had to come right back as he had forgotten our gifts for Ethan. I was now able to upload my pics to share with my family as well since Jimmy brought me my lap top. The hospital had amazing internet speed too. Jimmy returned a while later with our gifts for Ethan which were nothing compared to what I had been given. The kids bought Ethan very soft blue teddy bear, a Peter rabbit lovey and a blue blankie that we hope he will love as much as my kids love theirs. I also bought Ethan a few outfits that I hope will fit him for a couple of months anyway since he is a big guy I am not so sure. My girlfriend also knitted a blanket for Ethan in a very pretty colors of blue and green.
We spent the remainder of the day just hanging out. I love just watching the new parents with their new son. They had to learn to hold him, change him and comfort him. It was long ago that I was a first time parent experiencing this for the first time. The new mom and dad kiddingly argued over who got to hold the baby as daddy was still hoarding him. At some point the nurse had come in to take blood from Ethan for a blood sugar test and we all cringed when Ethan cried. That evening when they were heading out I asked them to just leave the baby in the room. I spent a couple of hours of quality time alone with Ethan just holding him, looking at him and talking to him. This time was the best gift that my couple possibly could have given to me. I will cherish this time forever as I know how quickly they grow up and how much Ethan will have changed before I get the opportunity to see him again. At about 11:45 the nurse took him to the nursery so I could get some rest. I had a hard time sleeping knowing tomorrow would be the day we would all say goodbye.
The next morning I awoke with good spirit think I will not cry today as it has been a wonderfully good experience that I would not change a thing about. All of the nurses and staffing at the hospital were very supportive and respectful of everyone’s feelings. I then showered and the hormones were beginning to kick in. The thought of them all heading back home was a bit much. The nurse came in to tell me Ethan had an issue in the nursery the night before when taking a bottle. This was a breaking point which led to an immediate meltdown for me. As a surrogate I could try to pretend that I have no feelings for Ethan but I cannot help but have great feelings for a being that was inside of me for 10 long months. I spent time nurturing and caring for him all of these months to be sure his parents have a healthy baby. Of course I care about and love him as well as his parents. The nurse reassured me that he was fine. They had the neonataloligist see Ethan and everyone cleared him as being healthy. Apparently during the feeding he began to act funny and turned a bit pale. When they checked his blood oxygen level it had dropped a bit. They kept him hooked up for a while longer during the night and his stats were fine. They think he just gets overexcited when starting a feeding and takes a minute to calm down. The nurse, Angela, brought the baby in to assure me that he was fine. I told her that I was ok and that hormones were just taking over.
The mom and dad came in a bit later and the nurse also explained to them what had happened during the night. Mr. Ethan then headed to the nursery to take a one hour car seat test to be sure it would be safe for him to travel the six hours back to Chicago. Ethan passed the car seat test with flying colors. They then came in to do his PKU test again which he did not even complain at. The pediatrician came in to discuss Ethan’s release. He said he is a healthy little guy. He wanted to make sure mom and dad knew that they were in for the least amount of sleep over the next two weeks that they would even have experienced in their lives. He also wanted to make sure that they took the drive slowly back home and to make sure that they stopped to rest as needed as there was no real hurry to get home. Last but not least Ethan could not leave unless they had his scarlet and grey. Jimmy and I reassured the doctor that we would take care of Baby Bubba having his scarlet and grey. The baby was now released. I began to feed him one last bottle and the uncontrollable tears started. I was so sad at the thought of them all leaving though I knew it was inevitable. The mom dressed baby Ethan and placed him in his car seat. My doctor came in to release me as well. Angela, the nurse, carried Ethan out in his car seat. We all walked out together and waited for our husbands to pull the cars around front. The nurse made small talk with the mom as we waited. Angela handed Ethan to his dad to place him in the car. By now I am a blubbering mess. The nurse turns and gives me a big hug and tells me what a wonderful thing I did. My couple gave me a hug. The mom tells me that she wishes she could take me home with them. I told her that I could not have helped more deserving parents and to always love and enjoy him. I thanked her for including my family and I in everything. They can never really know how much it all meant to me. I kissed baby Ethan goodbye. Then I cried the whole trip home.
I have never been good at saying goodbye as it always seems so permanent. My couple call later that evening to let us know that they all made it home safely. Ethan had thankfully slept most of the trip other than the big poop he made at Max and Ermas. It was good to know that they were home and safe. I knew their entire family was at their home awaiting their arrival to meet the newest addition to their family, which made me smile.
The next day the mom calls me saying "Please Help". Apparently with the new surroundings and noises Ethan had been awake most of the night and had broken in mom and dad the hard way. He evidently cried a lot which I know is very stressful. I know how guilty I have felt when I could not figure out what was wrong with one of my kids. I assured her that we have all had these nights and that she will learn the baby and know why he is crying, it just takes time. Right now I think all they need is time alone to have the opportunity to bond. I know in a week or so she will not be able to imagine life without him.
I know this is the end of my surrogacy journey giving life to Ethan. It will be hard not knowing everything that happens to him day in and day out. It is just the beginning though of a life long relationship with our newly extended family. I miss the feeling of being pregnant and feeling Ethan kick and hiccup but I am fulfilled in knowing that I have helped them to complete their family.