Surrogacy Series (Part Seven): The Birth

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It’s been five weeks since I gave birth to surro babe. This is how I affectionately refer to him online, since I can’t share any identifying information. You have no idea how much this over-sharer has struggled with having to keep so many things close to my chest. My phone is filled with pictures that the interwebs will never see. 

The birth story, however, is mine to share…

I ended my last update on a sad note, knowing that the intended parents were definitely not going to make it for the birth. Something I never would have imagined as a possibility when I began this journey. Due to the restrictions in place because of COVID-19, it became necessary for the baby to be born first, in order for the court proceedings to happen which would finally allow them entry into the country as the legal parents.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned after these last few months, it’s that human beings tend to handle bad news better than uncertainty.

Uncertainty is the worst

The plan had been to have my doula at the hospital with me, as my one support person. The only problem was that she’d leave soon after the birth and then I’d be alone with the baby until we were discharged. I wasn’t comfortable with this but I’d resigned myself to the fact that it was how it had to be.

Acceptance.

A few days before my due date, my sister and I were on our daily walk when we had one of those light bulb moments. She could be my support person! How had we not thought of this before?!

Joelle lives in California but she’d been in Mankato ever since the pandemic hit. With her husband deployed and a six-month-old baby, it made sense for them to move in with our parents to ride out the quarantine. We’d just never thought she’d still be here by the time the baby was due so it never occurred to us as a possibility. Until it did.

An additional benefit for the parents is that Joelle happens to be a professional photographer. So she would be able to capture not only the birth but all of the first 48 hours for them. 

Suddenly, my entire attitude changed. I love a good “re-frame” of a situation. 

Excitement.

It was like we had taken on a project and we were going to rock it together! We packed our hospital bags, bought an outfit for the baby, told our mom that she would be on Grandma duty for a couple days and waited for labor to start!  

At about 2:00am on May 24th, my due date, I woke up to contractions. They came on quickly and were only a few minutes apart. I called my sister and my doula and they both came over. The doula was able to show Joelle how to squeeze my hips during a contraction and she gave her other tips as well for when we got to the hospital.

But by 6:00am the contractions had puttered out. My doula explained it was prodromal labor, which stops and starts before active labor begins. That hadn’t happened with my son so I was a little frustrated. She assured me that things would pick up again soon, so we all parted ways to get some rest.

Luckily, it was Memorial Day weekend and my husband had taken our son up north to the family cabin in order to give me some space. I took a shower, napped, watch a couple movies, and ended up at my parents house for dinner.

Contractions started up again early in the evening. I was messaging with my doula and doing various things to help get the baby in a good position and keep labor moving along. I felt the watchful eyes of my mother and sister on me.

By 9:00pm, I knew it was the real deal this time and I wanted to go home to labor. My sister grabbed her bag and drove me back to my house where we met the doula.

The three of us spent the next hour or so in my living room as contractions became more and more intense. Finally, I made the call that it was time to go to the hospital. While my doula-and-sister labor team was doing a great job supporting me, I was so ready for those pain meds.

Off we went. Those car rides to the hospital are always interesting. Facing backwards, hugging the passenger seat, moaning and groaning the whole way.

We hugged the doula goodbye outside of the emergency room doors. Then my sister and I masked up and headed in. They took our temperatures and checked me in.

Up in the room, they admitted me and I made it clear that I wanted an epidural, stat! Unfortunately, I have teeny tiny veins so it took an hour and four different nurses to get my IV in. Finally, the anesthesiologist was able to be called.

I’m going to go ahead and say that was the least pleasant hour of my entire life thus far. I do not remember being in as much pain when I was laboring with my son. I kept thinking that I wanted my husband to know that this time was way worse. Even though I chose my sister to be my one support person, and I would make that same decision a million times over, it was strange to not have my own husband there as a “witness”.  

Joelle was a saint through it all. I remember at one point, I snapped at her because I could smell the granola bar she’d been eating on her breath. Poor thing just kept squeezing my hips and brushing my hair out of my face. She knew it was just the pain talking.

The epidural was in by midnight and I was able to relax. The doctor checked me and said that he expected the baby to come by morning. Joelle and I discussed our “game plan” with the nurse. Since this was a unique situation, it was important that everyone knew how we wanted things to go after delivery.

We sent updates to the parents, the doula and my husband and then settled in to get some sleep. 

I remember this moment very clearly. After so many stressful weeks leading up to the birth and not knowing what would happen, I was finally at peace. Of course, I wish the parents had been able to be there but that ship had obviously sailed. The time had come and it was good. We were having a one-of-a-kind sister sleepover that neither of us will ever forget!

A few hours later, the doctor came in and said I was ready to push. They prepped the room and my sister got her camera ready.

It only took one contraction and three pushes. To quote the doula, I’m a “very efficient pusher!”

Surro babe entered this crazy world at 4:33am on May 25th, Memorial Day. A nurse cut the cord. Then they cleaned him up and handed him straight to my sister for kangaroo care.

Once the room settled down, I called the parents on FaceTime so they could “meet” their son. We asked what his name was. They told us and instead of repeating it, I smiled and said “aww!” because I couldn’t pronounce it. We pointed out his enormous feet and they saw his wide-open eyes and head full of hair.

After a few minutes, we hung up and promised to send many more updates soon. I wondered what a strange mixture of excitement and sadness they must have been feeling. To see a perfect stranger snuggling your newborn son and to not even know when you’ll get to do the same. I can’t even imagine.

When I began this surrogacy series, I always assumed the birth story would wrap things up and be the final post. However, due to the unique circumstances, the birth was not even close to the end of the journey. The hospital stay itself brought complicated emotions, a little bit of drama and some tears. Then there were the weeks that followed. I will tell you all about it in the conclusion of this series.

As for this post, I want to end it with gratitude for a healthy pregnancy and a smooth delivery!

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Stephanie is a fitness professional on a mission to undo the damage done by much of her industry when it comes to body image, confidence and self-worth. She enjoys sharing her journey as she sheds the “fit chick” label and embraces authentic living from the inside out! A Mankato native, Stephanie is currently the Director of Healthy Living at the Mankato Family YMCA. She lives with her husband, Nick, and their 18-month old son, Beau. He is the light of their life! She enjoys finally sleeping through the night again, teaching and taking group fitness classes, and sharing her love for Restorative Yoga with all the other tired moms!