Surrogacy Series (Part Eight): The Conclusion. And Maybe a Little Drama.

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It’s time for me to wrap up this surrogacy series.

I gave birth on Memorial Day and made it a point to write this conclusion before Labor Day rolled around. These two holidays serving as bookends on a surrogates version of the 4th trimester.

For me, this summer was a time to reflect, recover, and as it turned out, reopen the YMCA. Except the gym reopening happened first, and then the reflection and much-needed recovery – from all of it.

What a whirlwind these past few months have been.

I left the private Facebook group for surrogates from the agency I went through. I definitely do not miss all of those notifications. It would be completely okay with me if no one ever sent me another link to an article about surrogacy. Really, I don’t need to read it. I lived it.

I am ready to close this chapter of my life. Surrogacy isn’t my “thing” but it’s something I did.

Boy, did I ever do it.

During a pandemic. Without the parents there. 

In my last post, I told you about the birth. But that was just the beginning.

My sister and I had a newborn to take care of! We were ready albeit weary. Due to the fantastic timing of my labor, we’d barely slept for two nights in a row. I was giggling as my epidural slowly wore off, feelings of exhaustion and accomplishment taking me over.

Up until now, I’ve affectionately referred to the baby as “surro babe”. Going forward I will refer to him by what we now call him, which is the American version of his Chinese name.

George.

Baby George spent the first few hours of his life in my sisters’ arms. I pumped and Joelle gave him his first bottle of breast milk. Eventually, I held him too. I didn’t feel any sense of attachment or that he was “mine”. It probably helped that he looks nothing like me.

More than that, I think it goes to show how strong the mind-body connection is. More accurately in this case, the mind-body disconnection. I was never confused in my head or in my heart about what my uterus was doing; growing someone else’s baby.

Since it was a holiday, I waited until what felt like an appropriate time to contact my coordinator at the surrogacy agency. I announced George’s arrival and told her that the doctor said we’d be discharged sometime on Tuesday (the following day). She said that sounded good and that the woman who would be his temporary legal guardian (another employee of the agency) would be ready to come get him the next day.

Pay attention, that was foreshadowing.

As the day went on, I was being asked all sorts of questions that I didn’t have the answer to. Had they selected a pediatrician? Did they want him circumcised? I played the part of middle-man, sending messages to the parents and our coordinator, waiting for answers that I could relay to the hospital staff.

Next, came an onslaught of TIME SENSITIVE!! emails from the parents’ lawyer who was understandably working hurriedly to get them into the country now that their son was born. I had questions to answer, documents to review, forms to complete.

All the while, I was recovering from giving birth, pumping milk for the baby, and trying to rest.

It was not ideal but I take pride in being a high capacity person. So, I handled it.

That night, my sister and I had a chance to type up a detailed timeline of George’s birth, which we sent to the parents along with the birth photos that my sister took. We wanted to help them feel a part of things.

I remember seeing a headline in my newsfeed about the murder of Georgy Flloyd but I didn’t understand at the time what exactly had taken place as the news was just a few hours old. As we now know, it didn’t take long before chaos ensued around that tragic event.

Much like in the little world of my hospital room, chaos would ensue the following day.

We got some patchy sleep Monday night when the baby allowed. My sister was the best at soothing him. He definitely preferred her to me!  Have I mentioned what a saint she is?! I’ll never ever forget that she did this for me. 

Tuesday morning met me with more emails from the lawyer, which I tended to between the many visits from hospital staff. The baby had his 24- hour check-up and once again, I was asked questions that I could not answer.  

I was feeling annoyed that these important decisions had been overlooked and left for me to deal with through my fog of sleep deprivation. But, I understood that we were all in an unprecedented situation and everyone was doing their best to figure things out.

By late morning, I received the “all clear” from the OB for discharge. We were just waiting on the pediatrician to give baby the green light. I was in communication with the temporary legal guardian. She told me was ready to come pick him up as soon as she got the word.

This is when things went awry.

What ensued was an entangled web of miscommunication between the surrogacy agency, the hospitals’ social worker, and myself. I’ll try my best to summarize…

The pediatrician approved the baby for discharge. He had slight jaundice but nothing alarming. It would be monitored at his follow up appointment scheduled for the next day. The temporary guardian told me that she was on her way to pick him up.

But she was not. 

Out of nowhere, I got word from my coordinator at the agency that we needed to stay another night at the hospital. There wasn’t a good explanation of why, as we were both doing fine and had been approved by the doctors to leave.

The social worker at the hospital got involved. It appeared that she and I were getting different reasons from the agency for why we needed to stay. I won’t get into all of that, but none of it made any sense. We were both confused and frustrated.

I’m not normally the type of person you want to mess with, but this is especially true when I haven’t slept for days and have postpartum hormones surging through my body.

Keep in mind, we had been at the hospital since 11pm on Sunday night and it was now Tuesday afternoon. Anyone who has given birth at a hospital knows that sleep is incredibly hard to come by. To stay another night would have resulted in close to 60 hours at the hospital by the time it was all said and done, following a perfectly smooth delivery. 

The time had come for me to stand up for myself. I made it very clear to the agency that I had done everything that had been asked of me and that I refused to be held hostage without a good reason. I no longer cared how anyone else was inconvenienced; the “selfless surrogate” was done.

And it wasn’t just me. My sister had left her own baby with our mom in order to be there at the hospital with me and George. Everyone wanted to go home. 

Eventually, they came forward with a “solution”.

I could be discharged on my own, leaving the baby behind for the hospital staff to care for.

Looking back, I can see how they might have thought this was how to appease me. But at the time, it was the most asinine thing I’d ever heard in my life.

I angrily responded to my coordinator at the agency, “Does anyone even care about what I want??”

I bawled to the nurse and the social worker as I tried to explain that I wanted to go home but I couldn’t just leave George.

You see, it’s complicated. As a surrogate, I had put up an emotional wall long before the positive pregnancy test. This baby had two loving parents who wanted him desperately. My emotions were not required, just my body. I was simply the vessel to get him into their arms.  And that’s how I’d behaved throughout the entire pregnancy. Unemotional. Unattached. 

Until I found out the parents wouldn’t be there for the birth.   

When I learned that I’d need to care for the baby at the hospital, I had no other choice but to take that emotional wall down. I had to become vulnerable in order to give this baby the loving care he deserved.

It wasn’t a parental love but it was love.

George needed me. He needed my sister. We had committed to this.

I felt like the agency was toying with my emotions. Even though I knew it was unintentional, I was upset that my humanness was being ignored. I needed to go home, I needed to sleep, but I also needed to stay with George until he was in the care of the temporary guardian. Why was it so hard for them to understand?!

I received an email from the operations manager at the surrogacy agency (apparently I’d been passed up to the head honcho). She apologized for the situation but confirmed yet again, that the baby was entitled to 48 hours in the hospital and that I could leave if I wanted to but the baby would stay another night. 

I read the email to my sister and we made our decision. If the only choices were to stay with the baby or leave without him, then we would stay another night and see this thing through. 

But the emotional rollercoaster wasn’t over yet. 

Mere minutes after making the decision to stay and informing our families, I received a text from my coordinator at the agency that the temporary guardian was on her way to Mankato.

Wait, what?

I was in no state to talk to anyone at that point. The social worker from the hospital offered to call the temporary guardian for me, to confirm that she really was on her way this time. (Side note: this social worker was amazing. She was so empathetic and helpful through the entire mess.)

Once it was confirmed to be true, Joelle and I spent the next hour or so cherishing the last of our time with baby George. I knew I would see him again, but this was the end of this special little bubble of time. Even though his first hours of life should have belonged to his parents, I feel blessed that I did have that extra time with the baby I carried.  

We dressed him in the going “home” outfit that we’d picked out for him and did a photoshoot together. My sister and I will forever have those images to remember that crazy 36 hours in our lives!

We weren’t actually required to wear masks in the room but we just did it for the picture 🙂

Soon after, my husband and the temporary guardian arrived. Technically, until the court date, Nick and I were assumed by law to be the parents. Therefore, we had to sign papers in order to establish temporary guardianship.

Then we all walked out of the hospital together.

As it turns out, you don’t just push someone else’s baby out and then go home to binge Netflix for a week. There was much to do in order to get the parents into the country.

Over the next week, I had more paperwork to complete from getting his birth certificate to shipping notarized documents to the lawyer’s office. I was also pumping and delivering milk to the baby.

We had a court hearing over Zoom to establish parentage. It felt as celebratory as it could, given the circumstances. The judge allowed time for everyone to take a screenshot at the end of the hearing to commemorate the day. That made everyone laugh.

Two weeks after he was born, his parents finally arrived in Minneapolis!

I had the option to be there when they picked him up from the guardian’s house but I ended up choosing not to. The moment we’d all hoped for at the beginning of this process had been long lost. I didn’t want to try to manufacture it. I was just thrilled to know that they were finally united. 

A few weeks later, the three of them drove down to Mankato to spend the evening at our house. This was my first time meeting the mother. We hugged immediately – forget social distancing. She is so incredibly sweet. It was wonderful to see them as excited and nervous new parents!

They are still in Minneapolis as flights to China are very few and very expensive. We stay in touch with occasional updates. I hope to see them one last time before they return home, whenever that is.

“Would you do it again?”

That’s the number one question I get asked. Do I want to be a surrogate again? Nope! It was never my intention to do it more than once.

But I have absolutely no regrets. Despite the drama at the end due to COVID, which could never have been predicted or helped, it was a very fulfilling and fruitful experience for me.

I made a family.

Thank you for following along on my journey!

Chapter closed.