How to have a baby, when you can’t have a baby
My name is Bernice, and I am one half of an infertile couple, and one third of a miracle making team.
I am 41 (if I whisper it, it doesn’t sound so bad), and have secondary infertility. I had the immense honour of bringing two amazing human beings into the world in my early 20’s, both are now flying the coop. Thank goodness I was an impatient young woman, because if I had waited to become a mother, I would never have had the personal experience of pregnancy and birth due to severe endometriosis with complications.
This condition was finally diagnosed when I turned 30 and after 6+ fairly major surgeries, a hysterectomy soon followed.
I had always felt that my family was not complete. I know I have been blessed more than many, but there is simply nothing that would take that feeling away that I was not finished with my parenting.
After a hysterectomy, and a divorce, you would think that I would have been able to overcome this deep feeling, this knowing that more children were to come. However that was not the case and somehow I just trusted that it would work out somehow.
Enter stage left my darling Husband. We fell in love, and it was a great sadness to me that I could never give him the gift of fatherhood…. At least that is what I thought until we discovered surrogacy.
I still had one ovary left, so there was a chance that my darling and I would still be able to have a much longed for child together. The older children were so supportive of this idea and so we got things underway. At that point we were looking at Gestational Surrogacy where my sister was going to carry our biological child. Because of the complexity of surrogacy it is a lengthy process to have all the medical checks, then to go through the Ethics Committee for approval to proceed as well and having to go through the full adoption process with CYFs as the baby would need to be fully adopted by us, even though it would be biologically ours – go figure, but thems the breaks!
We were a good part of the way through this process when sadly my remaining ovary laid its last egg. It was a devastating blow and there was a lot of grief around this. We would never be able to have our own biological child. For ever and a day my darling husband and Iwould never know what we could have made together. At that point we became an infertile couple, which was an odd place to be – given that I had had children and he was very fertile, but that was that. Nothing to be done about it.
We took some time out to regroup and do some very deep soul searching about what parenting meant to us. It wasn’t about whose nose they had or whether the little mite had inherited Great Aunty Mabel’s weird shaped toes! We soon came to the realisation that parenting for us was not about seeing ourselves inour baby’s face, it was about all the sleepless nights, nappies, feeding, the smiles, the milestones, the first time they say “mamma and dadda”. It was about making that lifelong commitment to this little scrap of humanity that no matter what, they were yours and youwere theirs. It was about that deep knowing that there was nothing you wouldn’t endure for them, and there was nothing you wouldn’t do for them to help them grow into the amazing human beings they had the potential to be.
And so we began the journey to parenthood via Traditional Surrogacy.
This differs from Gestational surrogacy in that the surrogate not only carries the baby, but she also donates her genetics. So the baby is biologically my husband’s and the surrogate’s, but most definitely my much longed for soul baby.
Usually at this point, people have two main questions on their minds. 1) how much do you pay them 2) do they have sex.
They are fair enough questions, and it does make me smile when I see people trying to work out tactful ways of asking…. Or not asking lol
Surrogacy in New Zealand is altruistic. This means that the surrogates do it simplybecause they wish to. It is illegal to pay for surrogacy or to offer any enticements, so the whole experience is very personal and built purely on the bond that is forged between the parents and the surrogate. It is a lifelong journey, especially in the case of Traditional Surrogacy where there is also the biological link with the surrogate.
The short answer to the other question is: no.
The baby is conceived by artificial insemination usually done privately at home where the father provides the sample in a syringe and the surrogate inseminates herself at the time of ovulation. It is, in fact, one of the most unromantic, non contact ways to make a baby lol.
That’s the boring ‘dry’ version just to provide some background. Obviously the actual process is usually surrounded by a lot more hilarity, some embarrassment, and a great deal of planning. I will come back to this in future entries *wink*
Alongside this, the intended parents need to go through the process to become prospective adoptive parents as per CYFs rules, so a Social Worker becomes a feature in this complex relationship also. That, in a nutshell, is how you make a baby when you can’t make a baby.
Our journey to parenthood together via surrogacy has brought us a beautiful little girl who was born in June 2008. We have ongoing close contact with Katherine (our surrogate for our daughter Ysabellah) and her family. It was always our hope that she would have a sibling to grow up with but it was going to take a bit more time, effort and juggling for that to happen. Katherine was heading off to do other things so we had somemore thinking to do about finishing our family. After chatting at length with Katherine about this we decided to go into the adoption pool but also to put our hand up within the online surrogacy community (www.nz-surrogacy.com) where we met Katherine and were active community members, to say that we would like to have another child. We knew that the chances of our being chosen by a prospective surrogate or birth mother were slim, given that we had already been so blessed, and so we started preparing ourselves for the fact that the landscape of our family may not change…. and tried to be settled with that.
After 20 years trying to complete my family against the odds, I was beginning to accept that perhaps I had been given more than my quota of miracles.
We set ourselves some mental and emotional time-lines. We said to ourselves that if we had not matched with a surrogate by March 2011 that we would close that door, and if we had not been chosen from the adoption pool by December 2011 then we would close that door and end the quest to have another child.
I can scarcely believe it, even now, but on February 27th 2011 we were chosen by the wonderful Olivia to be her Intended parents and to undertake a surrogacy journey with her. I still remember the moment we got the txt… and the relief, the hopes, the immense emotion that just spilled forth. We had been chosen. We had gone from absolutely 0% chance of having this much longed for baby to having 100% chance to try.
In December 2011 we received another mind-blowing txt…. We were pregnant!!!
The road to this miraculous BFP is a story in itself…… and one that Olivia and I are very much looking forward to sharing with you.
Like so many infertile couples, getting to this point has not been without its fair share of bumps along the road.
On a personal physical level, I had experienced 2 miscarriages myself and carried the emotional loss of those babies very deeply for many years. It is all too often we hear of beautiful women mentioning their angel babies, and all too often we see that certain look pass across their faces, a glimpse of the deep grief and longing that lives there.
Before we were blessed with Ysabellah, we were on another surrogacy journey with a special woman who wanted so much to help us. She also went through so much for us, enduring an early miscarriage, and then with our next try she endured extreme morning sickness, and then sadly another miscarriage at 12 weeks.
Watching someone else go through such a traumatic experience for you and because of you brings with it a unique set of emotions. Guilt became an almost constant companion for me and this was something that I was going to have to learn to conquer in the future.
Jo began spotting right on the day we turned 12 weeks so we raced in to have an urgent scan. This perfect little body was there on the screen, with perfect little arms and legs, the cutest little round head and body….. but the only thing missing was a heartbeat. The baby came away the next day and Jo was hospitalised for retained placenta. We brought the baby home, named her Yvette, and buried her in a special place. The weight of that guilt for what Jo had gone through weighed so heavily on us that we just couldn’t put her through that again. Deciding not to go ahead was the most difficult decision we have made on this journey thus far. We were all so devastated.
A surrogacy relationship is one of the most complex relationships a person can experience. And like any relationship, when it ends for what ever reason, it takes a lot of love and communication to work through that.
Mark and I had to decide at this point if we had the fortitude to put ourselves ‘out there’ again in the hope that another amazing woman might choose us to be her Intended Parents. We had been friends with Katherine since joining the online surrogacy community way back in 2006 and when she offered to take a journey with us it all just fell into place.
After our wedding in September 2007 we were away on our honeymoon in Taupo when the call came from Katherine that she was ovulating! So it was a quick trip home so the insems could take place and whallah…. Ysabellah ended up being our honeymoon baby… in a quirky way – Something to tell her when she is a bit older lol.
That too was a very traumatic and guilt laden experience, seeing my friend suffer so much with morning sickness and subsequent pregnancy woes, and then when it was time to bring Ysabellah home after spending a couple of weeks with Katherine and her family, it was a wrench. We keep close contact with Katherine and her family which is so important that our little girl grows up knowing where she has come from.
I have learnt so much about myself and about relationships during these years where surrogacy has been part of our lives. I have had to learn about guilt, what it is, why it is, and how to not let that overshadow what is such an amazing time in a persons life…. Creating a baby!
Even with the hoop jumping required by NZ law to adopt the children that are biologically Mark’s, dealing with Social Workers, and eventually the legal process of adoption, the complexity of the IP/surrogate relationship, the extended family that comes with the biological ties to the surrogates family, and the sadness that this precious child can not be carried within my own body…. What an amazing experience it is to be so blessed with our precious Ysabellah and to be even further blessed to be on this journey expecting this little miracle with a very special woman and friend.
.. Enter stage right…. Our beautiful Surro Angel…
Hi, I’m Olivia, the other third of this great baby making team. I am 33 and a single mother to my 3 year old daughter Tatum.
People ask what made me decide to become a surrogate. I had always thought about being an egg donor since my early 20’s, but it was important that I had my own family first. I have worked as a Nanny for the last 15 years and love the joy children bring into my life and can’t even imagine how hard it must be for someone who can’t have children.
I looked in egg donation after I had my daughter, but the fertility clinic didn’t recommend it because my medications for Crohn’s Disease would clash with the hormone medications needed to take for egg donation.
So that left me with the only option of being a Traditional Surrogate. I joined the nz-surrogacy site in December 2009 and once I got my head around all the info needed when considering being a Traditional Surrogate there was no stopping me!
I desperately wanted to help a lovely couple experience the joy of having a child or children.
My Mum is my main supporter and I just couldn’t do this without her. Also my best friend Rachael has been my rock and is behind me 100%
This journey started with my finding Bernice and Mark on the nz-surrogacy website. I started messaging Bernice to get to know her a bit more, many messages and phone calls later I knew they were the perfect IP’s for me. We just “clicked” and knowing that they had been through the surrogacy journey before made me feel at ease that they knew what they were doing and had the experience.
We have a great connection and great communication makes this possible. Bernice and Mark are very supportive and we are in touch every day. It’s so great being able to chat about anything and everything and have become close friends.
It can be really easy to put pressure on yourself when trying to get pregnant for someone else, but we all worked our way through that. The night that I ovulated I sent Bernice a message with a pxt of the positive Ovulation Predictor Kit test, because I wasn’t really sure if it was positive or not. Bernice got really excited and her and Mark jumped in the car to head up to me. It was already 10:30pm and we live a couple of hours apart, so it was pretty funny them pulling up at my place at 1 o’clock in the morning to drop off the sample! The 2 week wait seemed to take for EVER.
Testing day was supposed to be on Christmas day, but I did a sneaky test on the 20th. I didn’t believe it had actually happened at first, I took 4 home pregnancy tests just to make sure! We had our Big Fat Positive!
I was so excited to tell them they were pregnant! I sent them a pxt straight after the first positive test. Bernice phoned me straight away. She couldn’t say much, in between the tears and being speechless. It was pretty special.
I’m enjoying being pregnant now the morning sickness has finished. The first scan was really cool. Mark and Bernice were there and it felt so good to see the baby there with its little heartbeat. I felt like I was doing a really good job and loved seeing how it made them feel to see their baby on the screen.
The next big thing that I am focused on now is making sure I take good care of growing their baby for the next 9 months. I have very precious cargo onboard.
I enjoy telling people about our journey as a “team”, everyone is very interested and they ask lots of questions. And I’m proud to be a surrogate and spreading the word to educate people
It has been a fabulous couple of weeks. We had a scan last week…. That was not without its own degree of excitement! Part way through there was a power outage so Olivia and I got to have a second peek at baby when we had to go back a few hours later. Baby measured 13 weeks which confirmed the dates of the first scan. A due date still has to be determined as by our dates the baby is measuring 2 weeks ahead, and with an elective c-section on the horizon… those 2 weeks could be quite important.
Still, that’s for the doctors to sort out… for now we are just delighted that baby is looking gorgeous and healthy.
What a buzz to see those tiny arms and legs waving about! Super huge mushy moments that’s for sure!
I didn’t envy Olivia at all with the pressure on her full bladder during the scan. I promised that I wouldn’t utter a word about waterfalls, rivers, dripping taps, torrential flooding or any other such water related topics till after the scan…. Doing my wee (pardon the pun) bit to be supportive lol.
Now that we are past that 12 weeks mark, my anxiety level has eased somewhat. There is still that ‘hold my breath’ moment with each scan while I search for a heartbeat on the screen. And despite my anxiety… there it is each time, fluttering away saying “Hello Mummy, I’m here. I’m fine, now stop worrying!”
We left with a lovely selection of images on a disc and a printed one of Baby’s profile. I have it here by my computer and as each scan comes around, the image gets updated. So instead of gazing adoringly at this fuzzy little grey blob from the 7 week scan, I can now gaze adoringly at the cutest little button nose…. Albeit that it does require a bit of squinting and looking at it in just the right way to make that out.
For a bit of fun near the end of the scan, we got to have a quick wee peek between Baby’s legs. The lovely lady who did the scan was putting her 20c on a boy… so now we count down for the next 7 weeks to see if she was right.
When I came home and told Mark and showed him the pictures it really clicked for him that this baby is definitely on its way. Boy or girl, it really doesn’t matter….It just made it that little bit more real for us to have someone say… there is a ‘something’ in there lol.
During our wait for the second go at the scan Olivia and I did a bit of looking around for maternity clothes. That was really fun to do that together. She really is doing such an amazing job in caring for our little one, and we always have such a great time when we get to hang out together, so looking at preggy clothes is the icing on the cake… and having a bit of a giggle about things not quite fitting at this in between stage – own clothes too tight, maternity clothes too big.
I have been in the process of collecting baby stuff these past months. I had to admit to Olivia that I may have potentially overdone it on the mint green! “Hello, my name is Bernice, I am addicted to the trade-me baby section”
The deal is NO MORE MINT GREEN. It has become our inside joke now. And I admit, that I am actually totally over white, cream and mint green baby stuff. Going to wait now until we know the flavour for sure….. maybe.
The great name debate continues in our house. I have been banned from the baby name book for a while. I am working through my different phases though. So far the Greek philosophers, ancient gods and goddesses, and a good portion of European aristocracy have been worked through. Artists and inventors are next…. Lol
I keep joking with Olivia that by the time Baby arrives and I have worked my way through my name-phases… it will end up with Jane or Bob.
Even though the baby isn’t here in the house with us physically, it is such a huge part of our daily lives. Daily contact with Olivia, catching up on her latest food fetish, and the daily bits and pieces that go with pregnancy mean such a lot. Saying goodnight to our little miracle each night on the computer and knowing that Olivia sends all of our love to our baby…. That is just magic.
…. and from Olivia….
This pregnancy is definitely different to when I had my daughter. Things seem to be happening a lot sooner. One of the down sides has been the carpal tunnel syndrome. I didn’t have to deal with this until much later last time, but this time I am feeling it already. I know people did mention that everything happens quicker the second time around…. But now I guess I have a much clearer understanding of that lol.
I am slowly getting used to having to pee so often and the broken nights that come with that. I am not entirely sure, but I think I may be having early flutters. It seemed too early for that, but I guess with how everything else is going this time round, it could be possible. I messaged Bernice to tell her that either I was losing my mind, or I was having movement…. It was an exciting time… but the jury is still out as to whether I am actually losing my mind, or they are actually flutters!. Her reply was it’s either gas or flutters…. Will let you know.
Things are moving along though. The last scan – 13 weeks – was amazing. It was so cool to see the little arms and legs moving about. At one point the baby was sitting up or so it looked on the screen. I think the lady who did the scan was a little bit confused at first, as Bernice was the one making all the oo-ing and ah-ing noises, and I was the quiet one just lying on the bed getting my bladder compressed. In the end we explained that Bernice is the Mummy – thus all the Mummy noises – and I was the surrogate lol.
It feels like a great relief to be in the 2nd trimester now. It’s a great milestone and we are all enjoying it. I haven’t experienced a miscarriage before, but I know Bernice and Mark have, and I know that reaching that magic 12 week mark was really important to them. Some of that nervousness rubbed off on me, so when we saw the baby in all ‘his’ glory, it was a big relief.
As each week passes my relationship with Bernice and Mark continues to grow which is really lovely. We get to share many special moments together… and that’s what it’s all about.
My tummy is definitely getting bigger now. I am at that awkward phase of not quite fitting in my clothes and not quite fitting maternity clothes. The hunt for perfect pregnancy pants continues!
When I had Tatum I had this really cool t-shirt that I wore and it said “Due in …..” because I got so fed up with people asking me when I was due…. Although it was printed in French so that got a few longer stares. I was talking with Bernice about it, so the ‘great t-shirt hunt’ began. We ended up getting a couple of maternity t-shirts printed up saying “surrogate baby on board – due in August”. That should answer most people’s questions lol
I admit that I am having a really fun time at the moment telling people that I am a surrogate. It does come with a bit of a ‘shock’ factor. They seem to be really surprised and say how brave I am. So far everyone I have shared it with has said that it isn’t something they could do, but generally the response has been positive and supportive of my decision to do this. It is nice to be reminded that surrogacy really is something special.
I had my first midwife appointment the other week and it went great. This time around I have a different midwife who I was really hoping to have. She had been away on maternity leave herself, so the timing worked out perfectly. She is very excited about my surrogacy journey. We had a huge chat about my medical history and previous pregnancy and also discussed what our plans are with this surrogacy pregnancy. Obviously with an elective c-section planned, a good deal of things will be out of our hands… like a due date! But having a really understanding midwife will make all the difference. She will have her hands full with me to look after and the baby and IP’s, but she is up to the task.
The logistics of giving birth etc are more complicated when having a baby for someone else, so it was just great to have a midwife that felt she could handle all of that.
Our next big milestone is the 20 weeks scan. I can’t wait to find out if the 13 weeks prediction of a boy was right. Not to much longer to go.
This pregnancy has been a very different experience for me in many ways. With my daughter, it was unplanned so I spent the first trimester in shock! I was living overseas in Switzerland at the time so the maternity care was very different also. This pregnancy was planned…. Very planned!…. and I am definitely in a different place emotionally because I know that this baby isn’t for me, this baby is for Bernice and Mark. This baby will go home with its parents, and not come home with me. That is a very different place to grow a baby from.
16 weeks today.
That feels very significant!
Olivia had proper tickles last night! It was so exciting to hear that. Apparently Snowflake (our pet name for the baby as its last name is Snow) isn’t that impressed when she lies on her tummy.
This week is indeed very special. We have been matched for a year, and Snowflake is feeling more and more real each day.
It has also been a significant time for me emotionally.
Since we started our surrogacy journey in 2006 I have kept a journal. These books have been through thick and thin with me. In these pages I have faced lots of painful things, grieved for my lost fertility, grieved for my inability to have a baby that is genetically my husband’s and mine, grieved for my destroyed body and the scars that criss-cross it from all the surgeries.
I have faced up to what it is to be an infertile couple and dealt with the guilt of that.
I have delved into some very deep places within and taken the steps to really appreciate what parenting is…. and parenting is not about genetics…. its about the middle of the night wake ups, soothing an upset tummy, pooey nappies and ‘mothers medals’ down your back when the baby has spilled without you realising. Its about sitting up all night watching them breath when they are sick and celebrating all the firsts and all the lasts as they grow and evolve into amazing human beings, and know with every ounce of your being that your are theirs and they are yours.
These pages carry my excitement and anticipation and surreal feelings of being chosen to be someone’s IM (intended mother), that someone saw us as worthy of such an amazing gift.
I shared in these pages the raft of emotions I went through when another woman was carrying my husband’s baby… the sadness and the immense joy and how those two emotions can sit side by side. The heaviness of the guilt I felt at what someone else was going through on my behalf.
The tremendous grief of loss, of miscarriage, of the impact that had on all of us.
The stress and anxiety of walking through the unknown – surrogacy, adoption, birth families – and of coming to terms with the extra emotional noise that surrounds those experiences.
I have worked through how to have sadness and guilt sit on the same seat as immense gratitude as we journeyed with all the very special women that have helped us realise our dream of being parents together.
I have shared my private thoughts, the good, the bad, the ugly …. and the overwhelming amazement at becoming a mummy to such a precious little miracle with our daughter Ysabellah. I have expressed what it is to bond, to shut out the noise and to just find a way to ‘be’ in that space with my daughter and to grow together in a union of love, of family, of joy and of utter commitment.
The experience of working out how everyone fits together once the baby is born, of walking new paths and finding peace with things that are out of my control.
In that private place I was able to work through how I hoped our future would look and how I struggled with the need to put our hearts on our sleeves again in order for that to happen.
I worked through the process of having to humble ourselves again and ask for such a lot of help from others. And of how the presence of social workers, organisations, and dozens of people were part of our decision to want to have another baby, and how to process the judgements and opinions that came with that.
And these precious pages also hold our lines in the sand. The timelines we finally had to set down for ourselves where we would have to accept that the landscape in which we see our family would not change, and letting that be ok.
My writing of late has been of a very different tone. I found myself writing of the amazement, the joy, the excitement, the acceptance of what ever lay ahead for us. There were no more questions being asked as I wrote, and no more ponderings of the unknown.
Being chosen by Olivia changed our future. Having wee Snowflake on the way has healed and resolved so much for me and I have come to the huge realisation that after 6+ years of writing these particular journals, I have finally worked through the things that I needed to work through and I have arrived at the place I always hoped I would be.
Not just because our dreams have come true…. but because I have faced my demons. The grief, the guilt, and all the other sacks of sadness I was carrying are no longer a burden. They are simply a part of me, and have a place that has no more or less significance than any other aspect of me.
I have kept journals for the children always, from before they were born and will keep them going until they are 21. Nothing is lost or forgotten.
But the significance of this journal is that I no longer need my own processing space. I am there… my personal, emotional goal post.
I made my final entry in my surrogacy journals on the 27th Feb…. our 1st anniversary with Olivia and 16 years after the ache of wanting to have a baby began for me.
Today I am making the first entry in Snowflakes Journal, where I shall tell them all about their first flutters, Olivia’s strange eating habits, and how much we love them. No reservations, no guilt, no grief, no issues, just love for my little miracle and gratitude for this special woman making it happen.
20 weeks…. Wahoo!!
The big countdown was on. The anatomy scan loomed large on the horizon and the anticipation of it was really quite delicious. Getting to catch up with Olivia AND seeing the baby, AND seeing that everything was alright, AND confirming the gender…. There was a lot to get excited about!
The baby name book got one last hammering and I even had it packed ready to take on the trip up from Wellington to Palmerston North with us… just in case there was a last minute scramble at the scan for a girls name… as we had already settled on a boys name. Mark blessed all the gods he could think of when I said, as we were pulling out of the drive way, “Oh bugger I’ve left the baby name book on the table”. Funnily enough he seemed to accelerate at that point with a grin on his face. I guess this whole name thing has been a bit of an obsession these past – um – well – years.
We met Olivia at the radiology place, and trooped into the room. After a quick explanation to the nice lady doing the scan as to who Mark and I are and what we were doing there taking up wall space (Must say Olivia is getting very good at explaining things hee hee) with a smile from the scan-lady, things got underway.
After much oooing and awwwwing (on my behalf that is) a few tears here and there (as usual – yes on my behalf too lol) Snowflake was deemed to be within ‘normal’ parameters. What more could we ask for!
We had all decided that finding out the gender was definitely on our ‘to do’ list. Snowflake decided to make the nice scan-lady work for it though, as she couldn’t quite get the right angle. After a bit of a wriggle, and a very purposefully danced jig by Olivia, we had another try……
Mark’s chest seemed to expand several inches! A very proud daddy moment! Of course I can’t say out loud (so I’ll just whisper it between you and me) but there were a few very big feelings going on for him. Another little girl would have been just perfect too, the love a father has for his little girl can not be measured…. And now for him to have the opportunity of experiencing that tremendous love for his son…. That is very special new territory.
There was a joined sigh of relief from the rest of the ‘team’ when Mark commented that the baby name book could now FINALLY be retired! For me… I felt that it was a job well done, and yes, I think I am ready to relinquish the well thumbed, creased, marked and drawn over book to rest….. (and I have to say, on reflection, when I look back over all the names I had marked at one point or another, thank goodness this baby wasn’t on the way any sooner or I shudder to think what the poor mite would have ended up being called! The phrase “what was I thinking” went around in my head as I read through some of my name picks!)
I just sat there blubbing and once again got poor Olivia in another of my ‘her lying on the table with me giving her a headlock hug’ expressions of emotion.
When we went to get the copies of the CD of the scan photos the lady at the reception commented on how happy we looked. Got it in one!
After lunch we had a nice little photo shoot to commemorate this big milestone. Some people have asked why we name the baby so early. Little Leo is such a real part of our everyday life, even though he isn’t in my tummy and we don’t have him here at home with us, we know that he is getting the best of care right where he is. Waiting for our son, Leonardo, connects us on such a deep level. Every day that passes, every week we get closer to meeting him in person just consolidates that.
Olivia is looking amazing! Each time we hang out together it just amazes me to see her belly grow and to imagine our little son tucked away in there, growing and waiting. Every night I say goodnight to him and Olivia.
Every night I send a mummy kiss to him, and the biggest hug I can possible fit on my facebook message page to the wonderful woman carrying him. I just have to say that the grace with which Olivia is going through this pregnancy is amazing. She shares everything with me and I couldn’t ask for more. I know that there are times when things are really uncomfortable for her.
All I can do is send a hug or some pampering and be here to listen, I can’t make it easier for her, as much as I wish I could. Olivia…. You are a star.
So now the baby-stuff-gathering begins in earnest…. No more mint green!
…. Now the real ‘low-down’ on how things are going from the woman doing all the hard yards xxx ….
Time seems to have slowed down for me. I’m glad to be at the half way point and really hoping it will speed up a bit now. Things are a bit uncomfortable with my carpal tunnel playing up every day now. I’m used to it now but it’s a nuisance that it has started much earlier in this pregnancy. I’m also finding it harder lugging my ever expanding belly around lol. It’s getting heavy! I’ll be waddling soon I reckon. Getting a good nights sleep is a bit of an issue too, so I’m pretty tired. Hopefully my new preggy pillow will help with that. I’ve gained 7kg so far, so I am noticing that extra weight, especially when I’m trying to get up off the couch or out of bed.
Apart from that, things are going really well. I’m feeling Leo moving around a lot more which is really cool, and reassuring that he is still growing away in there. I always message Bernice and tell her what her son has been up to each day. It’s great to be able to talk about him kicking and little things like how he and I enjoyed another cheese and onion sandwich (which is still my favourite thing!) or that he and I polished off another litre of milk – just can’t get enough.
I feel that I channel all his parents love to him from their messages etc, even though they can’t be right here with him. He still gets all that love from them; it’s a very special bond. I’m so very happy for them to be experiencing this pregnancy via me. Their excitement makes me excited….. especially at the scan. It was so great to see Bernice and Mark see their wee baby again on the screen, and of course excited that hopefully they would be able to find out the flavour.
It feels so much more real now that Bernice and Mark have named their son. I think it’s great for them to have that extra connection with him, and referring to him as Leo instead of Snowflake… well that’s pretty cool too.
I have been out and about wearing my “surrogate baby on board – due in August” t-shirt lately. It seems to get quite a response from people. I get lots of smiles and a few comments. A few people have stopped to say “I just have to say how lovely your t-shirt is” I love the attention I must admit, because it’s not everyday you see someone wearing a t-shirt like mine!
I find myself educating a lot of people about surrogacy in NZ. Most people have pre-conceived ideas of what its all about and often compare the situation to stuff they see or hear on TV about American commercial surrogacy (where the surrogate is paid to carry and deliver the baby) It is often a real surprise to people to hear how surrogacy here works, and that I am simply doing this because I want to, and I don’t get paid. Altruistic surrogacy is something that most people haven’t even considered. I love answering their questions and giving them an insight into the ‘surrogacy world’.
So from here at the half way point, I’m really looking forward to starting pregnancy yoga class and finishing work in 9 weeks. I think by then I will be more than ready to take a bit of a break and start getting ready for the big event. Hopefully we will have a due date somewhere around there too. Because it will be a caesarean birth there will be some decisions made by the obstetrician around that. Next event on our pregnancy calendar is the next midwife visit.
We are now in our 28th week. 30 weeks is a big milestone for me and it is looming up fast! Once we hit 30 weeks then the countdown is on! The past few weeks have felt really really slow.
It has been a bit of an emotional roller coaster lately which has made life interesting. I seem to stress about little things, like my latest drama of not being able to find comfy knickers! Damn hormones.
Physically it has also been a rough couple of weeks with dizzy spells and a very painful shoulder. The dizzy spells remain unexplained and the shoulder has been put down to extra fluid in my joint due to pregnancy. I have been going to physio twice a week but it just wasn’t helping so I ended up having a steroid injection right into the joint. I was like a whole new woman after that!. Still seeing a physio once a week to help regain my movement in that shoulder but hopefully only a couple more sessions should do it.
I am finding putting shoes on now very challenging, but I’ve got rolling out of bed down to a fine art lol. It is very hard getting up and down off the floor, in and out of the car, up and down off the couch, in and out of bed. I can no longer have a bath because it’s too hard to get in and out as I found out the other night when I had to get my mum in to help me out!
It seems I have my sweet tooth back – was craving chocolate brownie last week! Smoothies are on the radar now too, where as before it was all onion and cheese sandwiches.
Leonardo is moving around a lot more now. He woke me up during the night for the first time last week, he gave me quite the boot, but I soon went back to sleep. You can definitely feel movements from the outside now and can also see them! He never seems to play the game when Bernice visits, but she did get to see him give the Doppler a good couple of kicks during our last midwife visit which she was pretty excited about.
Recently I worked at our local Women’s Expo and wore my t-shirts that advertises this wee baby I’m carrying is a surrogate baby. I got loads of lovely comments and answered lots of questions that people had. I really enjoy educating people about Surrogacy in NZ because most of the time people have the wrong idea and think it’s illegal. There is no question I won’t answer. And I even had a couple of people ask how to go about finding a surrogate here in NZ.
For Mother’s Day I wanted to do something special for Bernice so I sent her a musical e-card from Leo which I know she loved.
Only 3 weeks till I finish work and I’m looking forward to it. I will miss the baby boy I look after but certainly won’t miss the early morning starts of 7am! Hopefully it will help fix my shoulder too, without all the extra lifting that goes with nannying.
Next month will be great because Bernice and my friend Rachael are throwing me a Surrogate Shower High Tea. I’m really looking forward to it. I won a baby shower package from Kitset Parties on face book (their website is http://www.kitsetparties.co.nz ) When I explained that I was a surrogate so couldn’t really use the prize they designed a whole new invitation for us. They did a great job in capturing what surrogacy is all about.
I have had a few midwife visits now and Bernice has been able to come to most of them. Maree Candish is wonderful. She’s very caring, answers openly any questions we have and is comfortable with our surrogacy situation. Its great knowing we are in such good hands.
Bernice and I were talking a little while ago about our girls and how they are reacting to the pregnancy. Tatum (my daughter) is very interested in the mechanics of things, like how Leo gets his food and what the umbilical cord does. She tells me really cute things like I better eat something because Leo is hungry. She has asked why Bernice can’t have Leo in her tummy so I explain that her tummy is broken so he is growing in my tummy instead. Ysabellah (Bernice and Mark’s daughter who is the same age as Tatum) is having a really different experience. Bernice was saying that she talks a lot about her baby ‘brudder Leonaaaarto’ and when he is going to come home and live with them but she has also asked when Leo can move into Bernice’s tummy, so she has had to explain the same thing.
It’s really interesting seeing the two girls deal with the pregnancy in different ways. Tatum lives with my ever expanding belly and what comes with that, where as Bellah lives with the emotional stuff and the preparation going on in her home for after he is born.
….and from Bernice…..
While the weeks are passing slowly at the moment, it has been a busy time lately. We are getting all our ‘I’s’ dotted a ‘T’s’ crossed for the adoption process that will happen once Leonardo arrives. It was lovely to be able to tell our social worker that we have our little miracle on the way. We have kept him in the loop all the way through so that he can be with us throughout the process and not just get hit with a big surprise at the end.
Even though Leo is Mark’s biological son, the law is not really set up for surrogacy situations and as such we need to go through the full adoption process to legally be his parents when he is born. This means we have had to renew all our paper work, medical checks, police checks, referees and home visits. This is the 3rd time that our renewal has come up so it isn’t as daunting now as it once was. It feels good to be getting all of that sorted now so that we can just relax and enjoy the rest of the pregnancy without all the paper work hanging over us. Maybe, one day, surrogacy will have an easier ride rather than having to fit into the adoption law that dates back to 1955!
On a more fun note, Olivia and I have been chatting through practical things that we can set up for her post birth. Since she will be having a caesarean it is going to take time for her to be back to her completely mobile self – so the great ‘meal making mission’ has begun! I am hoping to have her freezer nice and stocked up with meals that just need a re-heat for her, and also for us…. Because I’m pretty sure I won’t be up to much cooking with a newborn to care for and settle into their new home, and a 4 year old to help transition to being a big sister. It was really fun being able to send txt’s saying “tonight at ‘Che Olivia’, chef is making……” The only complaint so far being that I make her hungry telling her what I’m cooking and she can’t have it yet.
That is one of the unique things about surrogacy. It is such a ‘team’ thing. It can take a bit of getting used to, but when it gels, it’s a very powerful experience. You are all working towards the same goal… a beautiful baby and a wonderful experience for everyone. Being able to talk about everything and anything along the way has been invaluable. I am so grateful that we are in a place where we can just talk about ‘stuff’.
Something I have learnt over the years of involvement with surrogacy is that it is really important to not let yourself get lost in the equation. If I was pregnant then I would be experiencing not just the pregnancy but all the love and attention that goes along with that. As an ‘intended mother’ that doesn’t happen, and I know that it can be a struggle adjusting to that. So how we deal with that is to do things in our own way, so that those special mummy moments happen in other ways. I find sharing our journey with friends and family gives me that feeling of having my loved ones involved. They share our excitement and anticipation, and our gratitude to Olivia. Without that love and support I think it would be a very isolating time for us.
Something that Olivia does which helps me with this so much are the little messages and txts she sends me from Leo…. Like my gorgeous e-card for mother’s day from him…. That was just magic! I also love how she tells me what he has been up to today and what they have been out doing together, like enjoying a cheese and onion sandwich (blech). At the risk of being mushy… that all means the world to me and makes me feel involved.
I will never feel little Leonardo kicking in my body, or have him wake me in the middle of the night with a well placed boot, and I am sad about that. There is a grief there that once acknowledged doesn’t seem so big or painful. By acknowledging it and not ignoring it, I am then able to really get joy and anticipation from hearing that he is still doing all of those amazing things and having them described to me is something I really treasure. (Olivia has very kindly offered to txt me in the middle of the night when he wakes her up…. Um… very kind of her to offer to share that with me…. Thank goodness she was joking lol)
There are some of the opinion who say “You’re getting the baby, what are you complaining about!”. I don’t have a short reply to that. Yes, we are getting a baby. Yes we have so incredibly much to be grateful for…. But to come through a surrogacy well, in my opinion, it is very important to acknowledge the things that you don’t get to experience as well. Not in a ‘poor me’ way, just in a ‘yep, that is something that is happening’ way.
Something that I have been talking through with Mark and Olivia has been breastfeeding. With Ysabellah I did induced lactation so I could breastfeed her. It is a very intensive regime but can be very successful with the right support. Before Bells was born I took medication to bring on lactation and pumped 2 hourly day and night for almost 2 months before she arrived. It was exhausting but I was determined to do it because it felt like the only thing I could actually physically do for my daughter. Sadly after she was born she needed to spend some time in hospital for severe jaundice and the hospital we were at did not understand induced lactation and took her off the breast. All of that work was lost and I felt so inadequate in so many ways.
I won’t bore you all with the full emotional ins and outs, but the end result was that I was quite traumatised by that experience.
I thought I had dealt with it, but it kept coming up, and it was only recently that I was able to identify what was going on inside me. While I have fully accepted my inability to carry Leo, I guess not being able to breastfeed him is something I have been struggling with. I am not able to do the induced lactation this time because of medication I am on, so I have had to let that possibility go.
After talking with my Darling Hubby and with Olivia, and having such amazing support from both of them I am seriously thinking about simulated‘breastfeeding’ with a feeding supplement so that even though I can’t nourish our baby from my body, I can still experience that precious experience of having our baby at the breast. The supplementary feeder feeds formula through a tiny tube so that he can suckle and get his nourishment.
Olivia’s midwife is just wonderful. I really feel like part of the whole equation with her and she makes me feel very safe and supported with the emotional stuff and post birth stuff that will be in my hands, while she supports and cares so beautifully for Olivia’s emotional and physical needs during and after the pregnancy. I think it is a rare gift that this Midwife has to grasp the complexities of a surrogacy where you effectively have 2 mothers each with different needs. I’m looking forward to talking with her about the supplementary feeder and the breastfeeding.
I still have some emotional hang ups to work through with this, but one step at a time.
So that’s all the big serious stuff…. The fun stuff has been my ‘hunter gatherer’ missions to get clothes etc ready! I can’t wait until it is time to wash it all and see little Leo’s tiny clothes swaying in the breeze on the wash line, and prepare all his baby things to take to Palmerston North with us ready for his birth.
I have to say that Olivia has been so so so amazing! Even with all the difficulties she has had with injuries to her shoulder and horrible dizzy spells on top of all the normal pregnancy stuff, she is so gracious and courageous with it all. She also has an amazing way of sharing with me what she is going through without it feeling like it is my fault or anything like that. Olivia… you are such a hunny!
So roll on the surro shower! Going to have to come up with some interesting games I think lol….
~From Olivia ~
It feels great to be over the 30 week hump. There has been lots happening to keep me busy.
It’s been 5 weeks since I needed to wear my carpal tunnel brace which I’m so happy about! I was worried that it was going to last all pregnancy but it hasn’t so I’m loving that. My belly continues to grow and get heavier and heavier and things are a bit of an effort these days. Even the mail box is a bit of a mission, but I’m hanging in there. I have had a lot more free time lately, now that I’m not working. There are lots of jobs I should be doing around the house but I keep putting them off. At least at the moment I have an excuse with a bad cold to have my feet up and stay warm most of the day.
I see the midwife every 2 weeks now which seems to make the time tick by quicker. Things are good, blood pressure and what not is behaving so that’s all good. I had a pregnancy massage this week which was heaven and just what I needed after a stressful week with other bits and pieces. Leonardo is changing how he moves around now, I guess with less room in there he has gone from kicking and booting to a more shrugging and rolling motion. I really noticed the difference this week. He is 1/5th engaged already, which will be helpful if our plans for a c-section end up changing.
We had the first OB appointment this week which Bernice came up for. The OB we saw was lovely. She was super nice answered all our questions. An elective C-section will be booked in for 39 weeks but if I go into labour beforehand I might try for a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarian). It is something that I had thought about earlier but then figured it probably wouldn’t be possible. But the OB mentioned that we can give things a go if it happens and see how it works out. At least I know that it’s totally up to me and how I feel at the time. Knowing me I will have my first contraction and be asking for the c-section straight away. LOL
We have Midwife and OB appointments again in 2 weeks and next week a growth scan. Bernice has been such a trooper and made it to every midwife appointment and scan and I’ve loved having her at all of them, but now there is so much more happening and more often I cant expect her to make every appointment.
I am being kept busy sorting out my lawyer for the adoption when Leo is born. It should have been pretty straight forward, but for some reason this lawyer has managed to make even the simplest thing seem really really complicated. It is adding stress when it doesn’t need to, but we’ll get there. The hard part is having to educate people who are supposed to know all about this stuff. It wastes a lot of time and gets VERY frustrating. Hopefully it will all be sorted soon so I can relax and just get on with growing this baby!
On a plus side, I have started to pack my hospital bag and have even started writing a list of things I need to put in it (I’m really not a list person at all so this is such a new concept to me!)
Bernice and I were joking the other night about both of us having to pack a hospital bag. It’s pretty cool.
Something else that we have been talking about is how some people have reacted to Bernice breastfeeding Leo when he’s born. I know there is a lot for people to get their heads around with surrogacy, and there have been some questions about how I feel about her doing this? I think it’s great what she is doing and I’m completely comfortable with it. Leo is Bernice’s baby so whatever she wants to do is not a worry with me, and I know it is something very special to her, just like any mother making those sorts of decisions about feeding their baby.
~From Bernice ~
Just a few more weeks and its time to get the bags packed and our logistics all finalised for our move north for the birth. Mark is still frantically rebuilding our bedroom so that we can move back in before the big event. Leonardo will be in with us for a while so having that room finished is pretty important. It is coming along beautifully though and so far we are on track to be done on time…. And if nothing else… it sure is helping the time to pass!
I can’t wait to start getting all his things set up and to see his little bed made up with the blankets I have crocheted for him. They are made from bamboo and feel just so snugly! Love in every stitch.
It has been lovely to see Maree the midwife a couple of times these past 2 weeks. She has this knack of making everything feel ok. This week she was talking me through what to expect during a c-section and what will happen with Leo once he is out. She will be there sorting things out anyway, so that feels very reassuring. Olivia and I have been joking as to who is going to be holding who’s hand! I have been watching c-sections on you tube to desensitise so I can at least be of some help to Olivia…. But I suspect it will be her reassuring me and mopping up my tears! I have however promised not to give her any headlock hugs while she can’t defend herself on the table LOL.
We saw the obstetrician for the first time too this week and there is another appointment in a couple of weeks, as well as a growth scan just to check everything is fine… which I am sure it is. Olivia is doing an AMAZING job.
While we were there the OB talked with Olivia about the possibility of a normal birth (VBAC) if she wanted to try. If she chooses this option then they will monitor her and Leo very closely and if things show signs of not going so well then it will be an emergency c-section. It was a curve ball as we had got used to the idea of it just being an elective c-section. We are all booked in for an elective at 39 weeks anyway, it’s more if Olivia goes into labour early. She can change her mind at any time which leaves things open for her. I just said she needs to do what feels right at the time. I trust Olivia with every ounce of my being and her care of Leonardo, I know that it will all just flow along and that my concerns are completely normal for a mummy to have, whether that is a mummy carrying, or a mummy waiting on the other side of the pregnancy…. It’s normal to worry. I would be worrying even if an elective wasn’t on the cards and we were just waiting for labour to start naturally lol.
I just want this to be a really good experience for Olivia so that when this pregnancy is over, she looks back and feels that everything was just how she would have wished it. There is a great team looking after us all so I just need to trust that. I would hate for her to feel cheated out of trying for a normal delivery if she can. The great thing about it is that she can change her mind at any moment and if labour isn’t agreeing with her, she can still opt for the c-section. Definitely a case of wait and see and go with the flow.
We have Olivia’s surro shower next weekend which I am really looking forward to. Things have fallen in to place with this too and I can’t wait to meet her lovely friends who have been so supportive and wonderful during this journey.
From our side of things it has been more of the adoption stuff, getting things finalised with our social worker. We are just waiting on the home-visit now and then that is the last thing we need to do to get our side of things all finished up. I am really nervous about the home visit, which is so silly, but with the renovations going on, things are a little chaotic. Our SW has been with us a long time though, and knows us pretty well, so I should just slap myself around with soggy lettuce leaf and get on with it!
I have started getting things ready for my breastfeeding experience. I borrowed a pump from the lactation consultant in Lower Hutt hospital. I started getting some breast change, so spoke with the nurse at my doctors about it, and I have started taking Domperidone to see if I might just make a little bit of milk.
The normal protocol for induced lactation for adopted or surro babies, is the Dr Newman protocol. There is a very helpful online forum called http://www.asklenore.com which is run by a woman who works with women all over the world to support their lactation and breastfeeding experiences. If anyone is interested in this, it is worth a read. I won’t put all the details in here though… too much information.
Last time I did this, I did the entire protocol and got a full supply, but was completely wrung out, stressed and exhausted by the time the baby arrived. This time I have a very different approach and am much more relaxed about it. So now I am just pumping a couple of times a day, when I feel like it, and now taking the domperidone. No milk yet, but definite breast change. My poor ‘gals’ feel achy, heavy and sore so there is definitely something going on there. My greatest hope is that I might be able to give Leonardo his first feed without needing the medela nursing supplementer, but either way, it will still be a very special moment.
Olivia is going to see if she can get some colostrum off and into some syringes before the birth which will be like liquid gold for Leo as I won’t make colostrum even if I do get the milk to come in. It is a really special thought to think that he will be nourished by both of us.
We’re hoping to book in for a 3D scan soon. Ooooo can’t wait to see what he looks like! Having a photo of him here with us for those last weeks really brings it home that WE’RE HAVING A BABY!!!!!!!!!!!
~From Olivia ~
Nearly 37 weeks!
This is starting to feel like the longest pregnancy ever, so its great to be so close to the end. I will miss being pregnant, but I’m excited to see Leo as part of Mark and Bernice’s family. Part of what is making this feel so long now is that I have been sick for a couple of weeks with a really bad throat infection and double ear infection. I’ve had 2 lots of antibiotics which have helped heaps, but the cold part is hanging around and feels like it is getting worse. Hopefully I’ll be over it all soon.
A high point for me at the moment is counting down the number of sleeps till c-section. I pulled a muscle in my tummy which was agony, especially with such a ‘wide load’ on board. We had another growth scan the other day and Leo is measuring big still, and was looking to be around nearly 8 pounds already! That’s a lot of baby to carry around with still several weeks to go – so definitely counting down to D-day lol.
The pelvic pain has increased significantly and everything is really a big effort now. Biggest hassle is that I can’t go shopping for hours like I used to – my limit is about half an hour now! I’m getting short of breath a lot with my lungs being squashed.
It’s exciting having weekly midwife appointments now as that seems to make the time go quicker. Only a few more appointments until he arrives!
I had a nice catch up with a fellow surrogate the other week which was great. It was really good to share thoughts and feelings, things that only another surrogate can really understand. We also realised how different our journeys are, each situation is so unique to the people in it.
I went in for a 3D/4D scan too. It was a bit sad because it was the first scan that Bernice hadn’t been able to make it to, but she had already been up a couple of days before hand for Midwife, growth scan and OB appointments. Afterwards I raced home and emailed her the pictures straight away and she was over the moon. It was great to see Leo’s chubby cheeks! After having that scan he’s more like a little person now seeing him in 3D. The lady that did my scan was so lovely. We weren’t getting very clear pictures on the machine we were using so we were able to swap rooms and use a better machine. All up I was in there for close to an hour and got lots of lovely picture for Bernice, Mark and Ysabellah.
Now that all the legal stuff for the adoption is sorted it is a great load off my mind. It all ended up being very simple. Nothing else needs doing till the day Leo is born and I give the Social Worker a call. I am so relieved that Mark and Bernice can legally care for Leo from the day he his born and not have to wait the normal 12 days!
My hospital bag is all ready to go now. I have just finished putting all the items in, and top of my list were coffee sachets and jaffas!
Not long now. I’m looking forward to feeling lighter and sleeping better!
~From Bernice ~
Bags are packed. Plans are made. Accommodation is booked for our stay in Palmy after Leo is born so that we can spend special time with Olivia and her family. Lists upon lists upon lists have been made, crossed out, rewritten and changed. Most of the ‘i’s’ are dotted and ‘t’s’ are crossed…. I think?
Things have been pretty busy, thankfully. I think the time would be dragging otherwise. It has been very exciting having all the appointments – More opportunities to pop up and see Olivia and Leo.
I can’t believe what a wee pudding he is! The 3D scan was amazing! His big chubby cheeks and his little fist up on his forehead just melt my heart. It will be interesting to see if he does this when he is born too, as on most of the scan’s he seems to have his hand up near his face. The 3D scan was a big indulgence, but gosh I’m so glad we did it. Having those photos here at home with us while he is living with Olivia (so to speak lol) means the world. I have them stuck to my computer screen so I can see him all the time and it makes it that much more real for Ysabellah too to see photo of her baby brother around the place. When Olivia emailed them through I printed one off and had it on the front door waiting for Mark to come home.
Olivia has been doing such an amazing job, and with such graciousness with all the illness and pain she has had to deal with. I am in awe of how she is handling it all!
I have wound down my internet work and as of the end of this week will simply be a mummy awaiting the arrival of her baby… but I have the easy part of it that’s for sure! I don’t have to deal with the aches and pains of late pregnancy! Funnily enough though I have been very emotional lately. I cry at everything! When we had the last growth scan I started crying…. And it caught me quite by surprise the big feelings I had. Part of it could be that it is most likely the last time I will see him on the screen before I see him in person? I will of course be seeing Olivia and the bump before birth day, but even so, there was something that really triggered at the scan. My arms got that “I just want to hold you” ache, it’s a feeling that sits very deep in the heart and I guess I had kept that at bay all this time in case something went wrong, which can so easily happen.
I think there is also a part of me that will be sad when the pregnancy is over, even though I am so excited about meeting Leonardo and holding him, I have loved this pregnancy so much. It will take some adjustment to him being on the outside and finally with us, and in our arms and home and not in Olivia’s tummy. So there is an element of that too I think…. Although I know Olivia is well and truly ready to hand him over and get some sleep LOL.
~Olivia’s Birth Story~
I always had a “feeling” that Leo would stay put until our elective c-section date (39 weeks). Everyone around me thought I was crazy and that he would make his appearance earlier than that.
It’s fair to say I didn’t get much sleep the night before Leo’s birthday. I was trying to distract myself by watching dvds and ended up getting about 3 hours sleep. I was so excited for Bernice and Mark to finally meet their precious son and I wasn’t nervous about the impending surgery at all.
Before I knew it, it was 6.30am and Bernice and Mark had arrived to pick me up and we made our way to the hospital. The short drive across town seemed to take forever, but really it wasn’t long before we had taken our seats and we were catching up on the latest from the Olympics on the tiny TV in the corner of the waiting room.
Then we had “the call” and we were moved to the next waiting area so Bernice and I could don our lovely theatre wear. We had our last photo opportunities together as a team of 3 because very soon we were to become a team of 4!
This is when we parted ways, Bernice and I both said an emotional farewell to Mark as he made his way to the recovery waiting room and we made our way to our final waiting area before the actual theatre room. Our wonderful student midwife Reyna came in to see us and get the final instructions on how to use the high tech camera. The surgeon and other staff seemed a bit anxious that our midwife Maree had not yet arrived. I was trying to act cool, calm and collected but all I had going through my head was a previous time when Maree had missed a birth because they did the c-section earlier than planned. Thankfully Maree made it with minutes to spare and I could relax again.
Now a warning that the next part is a little blurry still and quite surreal – The nerves finally started to kick in as I was wheeled into theatre and different people popped up in front of me to introduce who they were and what their job was. I’m terrible with names at the best of times so this was just cruel! Haha
I was getting prepped for the spinal, hunched over a pillow trying my best to keep still, Maree was sitting in front of me talking ever so calmly and holding my hands, she was such a star! Next thing I know I’m lying back on the table with all sorts of machines being hooked up to me and Bernice is by my side holding my hand.
The surgeons got underway and they took quite a while because of my previous c-section scaring and two previous abdominal surgeries. My chest felt quite heavy because the spinal went up quite high so I kept forgetting to take deep breaths, luckily the lovely anaesthetist was right there to keep reminding me!
Then came the part I was dreading – when my surgeon had to almost climb right up on the table to get enough force to push down on my belly to get Leo out. It was uncomfortable but not nearly as bad as I had thought it would be and I had asked the anaesthetist to pre warn me so I could prepare mentally for it. Within minutes Leo was born and everyone in the theatre started commenting about how huge he was. Someone held him up over the screen briefly so I could see him and all I remember seeing was these gorgeous big chubby cheeks.
He was whisked away to be checked, cleaned up, weighed etc. I had told Bernice earlier that as soon as Leo was born she was to go and be with him and not to worry about me. I remember someone in the theatre making the comment that he was definitely a 10 pound baby, I just laughed and said “no way”, then came the grand announcement that he was 10 pounds 10 ounces! I thought they were joking and then being blown away when they kept telling me over and over until I really believed it.
Bernice brought Leo over to see me and I remember feeling immense relief that he was ok and finally in the arms of his Mum who had been waiting so long to meet him. The relief that washed over me allowed my whole body and mind to relax, it’s a hard thing to describe, but then I just went to sleep. I could still hear the occasional talking of people around me in the theatre but didn’t pay any attention to what they were actually saying. I think I slept for about an hour, the whole time the surgeons were busy stitching me up. Being in recovery was a bit of a blur to me, I was very tired and thirsty and annoyed at the nurse that had to keep checking my vitals every 5 minutes, why couldn’t he just let me sleep?
Next we got taken up to the post natal ward, Bernice, Leo and I settled into our double room. Previously I was a bit unsure how we would go with sharing a room but it was actually the best thing we could’ve done. I loved having Bernice as a “roomy” and having Leo cuddles whenever I needed them. We chatted up a storm every day, reflected on our journey together as a team over the past year, amazed at what a chilled baby Leo is and the hot topic was what we would choose off our menus for the following day. If we had been in separate rooms I think the adjustment would’ve been so much harder for me and I would’ve felt so alone. Our days seemed to revolve around mealtimes and when I was due for my pain medication – we laughed about this constantly!
Our 4 night stay in Palmerston North Hospital was wonderful and we had such amazing duty midwives that took great care of us. Once it was time for us to leave the hospital I was very excited for Bernice and Mark to be embarking on a new chapter of their life with Leo and I was looking forward to recovering at home with lots of smoked salmon sushi, coffee and other such delights that I gave up while pregnant.
~Bernice’s Birth Story~
The weeks leading up to the elective Caesar due date saw me going EVERYWHERE ready with the car packed with suitcases, car seat, pram, hospital bags for Leo and I, bottles, naps – in fact you name it, and I had it in the car… just in case.
My phone was permanently at my side and I soon adjusted to the leap my heart would make every time a txt or call came through. I thought he would take matters into his own hands and arrive early, but Olivia had it sussed… she said all along he would wait for delivery day and she was right.
Mark and I made the move to Palmerston North on Thursday the 9th August, and got all settled into the accommodation. Ysabellah was all settled at the neighbours for her special sleep over and everything was ready. We went out for dinner with Olivia, Tatum and Nan Robyn (Olivia’s mum) that night and had a lovely time passing the hours away before trying to get some sleep. I think we knew that sleep was going to be somewhat elusive for all of us. We had a super early start the next morning but even that enticement didn’t help us get to sleep. It was just so amazing to think that in a few short hours we were going to meet our son who had been so beautifully taken care of in Olivia’s tummy for the past 9 months.
We woke early, showered and changed and hit the road so that we could pick Olivia up at 6:30am ready to be at the hospital for 7am. Between us all we had a fair amount of luggage… much to the consternation of the admissions staff, but they dealt with us beautifully with a smile on their faces.
There was some delay as the final admission paperwork was done and around 9am we headed in to the pre-surgery area to get all kitted out in our operating room gear. Mark was not going to be in theatre with us, and he was fine with that as it was something that we had mentally and emotionally prepared for earlier, so Olivia got into her very sexy gown (at least it was a nice colour lol) and I got into a pair of scrubs, booties and hat and we waited in yet another area ready for our turn. A conveyer belt came to mind! There was a bit of stress as our midwife had not yet turned up so they were organizing for a stand in to come to theatre and take over… but just in the nick of time… there she came all bright and breezy and immediately things felt more settled. It was quite funny, I was trying to be calm on the outside and be all cool and non-plussed about Maree not being there, and Olivia was doing the same… when both of us were actually starting to stress about it!
I lost track of time a bit, but at some point Olivia was taken into the theatre ready for her spinal to be put in. The student midwife stayed outside the theatre with me and helped keep my mind occupied while they did what they had to do on the other side of the door. I could hear the heart monitor beeping away and could tell by the rise and fall of the beeps what Olivia was going through…. Had some very big feelings of guilt and worry about what she was about to go through for us, but then the excitement and anticipation took over again… and the beeping had settled to a slower pace again which I found very reassuring.
The student midwife was in charge of the camera and started capturing the big event for us.
Once Olivia was all settled on the table I was brought in and shown where to sit by Olivia’s head. I was given my instructions on what I could and couldn’t touch, and then things got underway. I felt very excited but also very calm…. But despite this, my hands were pretty clammy. I had promised Olivia that I wouldn’t submit her to any ‘headlock hugs’ while she was strapped to the table and unable to defend herself from my hugs, but it felt very reassuring have hold of her hand.
I had spent some time on YouTube watching caesareans to get me ready so I wouldn’t be overwhelmed by it all, and I am glad I did. It was a really amazing experience. The surgeons got down to business and Olivia and I chatted here and there, and the anaesthetists explained things as they went along. I don’t know how much time passed as it is all a bit of a blur, but eventually the time had come to birth Leo. I watched most of the process, but in actual fact could not see the business end of things as it was a low incision and the bump kept things out of my line of sight….. but I admit to being particularly fascinated with the array of equipment that was being used!
Olivia was amazing. She did her deep breathing and I just kept talking to her when things were getting a bit rough on her poor body. As things got closer to Leo being born the staff got quite excited and I just remember this overwhelming feeling coming over me! It was actually happening right NOW. It was a little disconcerting when the surgeon climbed up on the table and all I could see what his butt several inches from my face… the anaesthetists explained that this is the part where one surgeon pushes while the other one pulls. It looked very painful, thank goodness Olivia was numb, because the amount of pressure the surgeon put on her tummy to ‘birth’ Leo was impressive!
Time stood still. It was just magic!
I bawled and bawled – luckily Olivia couldn’t quite see my face so she thought I was doing great – most unlike me lol. When they lifted him up my heart stopped. I really couldn’t take it all in.
The surgeon who pulled him out said – “ooo he’s big” but all I could see was a slippery blue bundle of chubby arms and legs all covered in vernix… and I waited for the first cry. I had been holding my breath and all of a sudden just sobbed before I fainted. Olivia was so calm and so relieved when he was out. She said to me to go to him and find out how much he weighed. I’m so glad she did because I felt rooted to my seat.
So I went over to the table and had such a huge rush of feelings. He was perfect, pink, and had given a little cry. Everything was fine. His weight was proudly announced at 10lbs 10oz and the student midwife went to sit with Olivia for a time and to make sure she was ok.
I was so afraid to touch him. The midwife then took my hands and put them on him and from that moment on there was no holding back. I cut the cord which was itself a very symbolic and sacred event.
He was checked over and given the all clear and within moments was on my bare chest and we were wrapped up in a blanket sitting back chatting with Olivia so she could see him.
Something amazing happened. Once he was in my arms and Olivia knew he was fine and with me she just completely relaxed and she went to sleep. It was amazing. I sat there with our beautiful little son in my arms watching this amazing woman resting after an incredible job well done. Watching her sleep I felt like I was her sentinel just for a short time, making sure everyone took good and careful care of her. I said to her later that it would have made a great story if she had started snoring…. But she was very peaceful and just slept the whole time she was being stitched up.
The student midwife Reyna (who had been with us for the whole pregnancy) took the camera out to Mark so he could see photos of his son, and it was only a short time before we were all reunited in the recovery room. I was treated like a queen and wheeled out in a wheelchair so that Leo could stay with me. Everyone was just so kind and considerate. While Olivia rested and while she was being monitored I gave Leo his first breast feed. I didn’t have a lot of milk to give him, but feeling him at my breast with Mark holding us and Olivia looking on was very special.
From the recovery room we were taken to the post natal ward and into our own double room.
The staff at Palmerston North hospital were amazing. Our stay there was great and I felt so supported in my wishes to have Leo at the breast, even though I didn’t have much milk myself, they bent over backwards to support my feeding him with a nursing supplementer so he got plenty of formula as well.
One of the precious moments for me was when I saw at the bottom of the meal planner “Adoptive mum”. It made me feel welcome and involved that they had catered for me in this way.
Having those 4 days in the hospital with Olivia were precious. It would have felt wrong somehow to have been separated at that stage. It was lovely to be able to give Olivia cuddles with Leo when ever she wanted, and to be able to do small things to help her pass the time – even if it was making her really bad cups of tea in the middle of the night lol.
When it was time to head home – and us back to the motel – we felt ready, and that was the aim, that the transition of having Leo tucked away inside Olivia to the outside with me was gentle for everyone. After such an amazing journey, and such a beautiful transition time after his birth, it feels natural to be at home now and beginning the next phase of our journey… life with Leo.
Leo is 12 weeks old now. The time is just flying by in a haze of bliss I must say. My body seems to be adjusting to the broken sleep now and I find myself better able to function on a day to day level than a few weeks ago. When we came home we came under the care of an amazing midwife who lives locally and she was so wonderful and supportive of where things were at for me with a newborn that I hadn’t given birth to. We discussed the differences between going through a pregnancy and then giving birth and then having a new baby and basically being handed a brand new baby and then working out how it all works. Without the discomfort of late pregnancy, the kicking and booting, the discomfort and frequent toilet stops, it is harder to switch over to ‘full stop’ mode. I didn’t have the precursors and pre-training that naturally comes with pregnancy, so it took me a while to realise that I had to stop and rest and grab naps when I could rather than pushing through and ending up in a big puddle of despair from lack of sleep.
It was really helpful to hear that advice. I took it all onboard, and now I work my nights and days around Leo’s routines (or lack there of depending on how he is feeling) without guilt or pressure that I should be doing something else.
It pays to be a quick study when it comes to mothering a surrogate or adopted newborn LOL.
Leo is now fully on the bottle and doing really well with it. I totally loved my time feeding him at the breast, and I may even re-latch him at some point if I feel the need, but the bottle feeding is going so well and I feel so connected with him and can see and feel his connection to me. It is an experience that goes beyond words. It is a true gift of motherhood to feel that. It took me several months to feel that deep connection before, so to have it come upon me so early on has been a real bonus because I really didn’t know how long it was going to take…. Not all mothers and babies bond immediately even when they have given birth, so this phenomenon did not overly worry me as I trusted that it would happen when it happened…. And this time I have been blessed with it happening really quickly.
He is a really easy baby. We seem to have avoided the colic which is almost bordering on a miracle given that both Tatum (Olivia’s little girl) and Ysabellah (our other precious wee surro bub who is now 4 1/2) both had terrible colic. It appears that we have missed that this time around and I couldn’t be more grateful! He eats regularly and is just a delightful pudding. Being such a big baby born he missed the whole ‘newborn’ phase and went straight to looking like a 3 month old. His hair has just pretty much all fallen out – but I’m afraid we have to claim responsibility for at least some of that as we keep rubbing and kissing the top of his head LOL. Now we wait to see what colour is baby hair will be. My money is still on auburn or red
As I write this, Leo is snuggled against me in the moby wrap, on my front, sound asleep. I keep kissing his downy head, listening to his breathing and feeling the solid and warm weight of him resting against me. There are just some moments that stand still in time, moments that I want to forever etch into my mind and never forget. I never want to forget how he feels, his warmth, his smell, his little noises. This is the stuff that dreams are made of….
We have had several lovely visits with Olivia. It just makes my heart grow big to see Leo getting cuddles with her and Nan. There is a sense of rightness and connection that makes me feel this is indeed a very lucky little man to have so many people who love him.
Ysabellah has taken to big sister hood like a pro. The age gap has worked really well for us and she loves doing ‘big sister’ things and feeling very important.
The other week we had our final home visit from our Social Worker. He had such lovely things to say about Olivia and the conversations they had had, and it was so gratifying to hear the lovely things he had to say about us too. He mentioned how impressed he was with our journey and our ongoing friendship. We talked a lot about some of the reasons this experience has been so positive…. And the bulk of that comes down to communication. As part of our adoption paperwork we included our ‘letter of intent’ which is an agreement between us all, a reference point if you will, that we can refer to during the journey. It just outlines what we all agree to and what we all expect from each other, right down to the really tough nitty gritty like termination (if that would happen or not, and under what circumstances etc), to how many times we were all prepared to try for a pregnancy, what all our roles were and so on. He had not seen a document like that before and found it very helpful in his own understanding of how a good surrogacy situation works.
So now we are on the countdown to Adoption day, which is literally just around the corner. That will be our final blog entry…. End of another era.
~ From Olivia ~
It’s been 12 weeks since Leo was born and I got to have my body back.
As much as I felt like I was going to be pregnant forever, looking back now, that 9 months happened in the blink of an eye really.
My daughter Tatum was glad to get her Mummy back after my 4 days in hospital and was very excited at the fact that there is now room on my lap for her to sit and snuggle with me again. I’m feeling very much lighter and can fit back into my regular shoes again.
Emotionally things have been fine. I was prepared for the worst sort of emotional wave to come over me after giving birth, but it never came. I chose to take a prescribed medication that stopped my lactation and I think not having that hormonal side to worry about also make things much easier.
It’s quite a surreal space now to be in as a surrogate. I have to keep reminding myself that I just gave birth 12 weeks ago, and I still need to take things easy. Since surrogacy has been a huge part of my life for the last 3 years I feel like my job is done, but now what?! I’m back driving, working part time and planning to study next year. Having plans in place definitely helps the transition back into my “normal” life again.
Bernice and Leo have popped up a couple of times to visit and its great to catch up with Bernice and see how she is relishing being with her little man.
I often get asked if I will do it again. It’s quite a tricky one to answer, I would love to of course, but it would need to be the right timing again because you need to dedicate at least a year to it.
I have noticed lately that a lot of people are asking if I get to “See the baby” It makes me wonder what the perception is of surrogacy out there sometimes, so I am always happy to explain that I have a great friendship with Bernice and Mark that goes beyond the surrogacy. I don’t feel the need to see Leo all the time, but it’s nice when Bernice has a trip up and we catch up over lunch. Bernice texts and emails me photos or cute things that Leo does and I appreciate her sharing those with me.
I’m going down to Wellington in a couple of weeks to celebrate the official adoption court day. This will mean the end to all the paperwork and legal side of my surrogacy journey. For me, my journey felt finished when I gave birth to Leo, so the court day doesn’t hold much significance, but I’m excited for Bernice and Mark that Leo will “officially” be their son….. and we are celebrating with a lunch at my FAVOURITE place… Starbucks
Here we are…. The final entry in our journey blog.
What a beautiful experience it was at the court. We all went into the court room and the Judge was just lovely. She had such nice things to say to Olivia and congratulated her on doing such an amazing thing for us. She talked at length to Ysabellah which was so cute! Ysabellah and Tatum were brilliant. They both sat there so nicely and so quietly. I was so proud of them.
While she was talking with Ysabellah and asking her questions Ysabellah answered her clearly and politely and then decided to tell the Judge that she had very strong muscles to help Mummy and Daddy hold Leo ♥
The judge commented on our fantastic report from our social worker which was so glowing it was virtually in NEON (lol) and she commented many times on the special unity there is between us all, on how we as parents care for Ysabellah in knowing where she comes from, and how we will so the same for Leo.
She also granted us, very happily so, FINAL ADOPTION!!!
It’s all over. He is officially our son. He was officially named from this day forward as Leonardo Sebastian Snow (same as it has always been, but it felt good hearing it from the Judge)
Then it was hugs all round. The Judge was so gentle and caring and happy for us all. I loved that she acknowledged Olivia in that special way. Her parting words on her report as she dictated it to the court reporter were “This is a gifted child. This is a special child”. What beautiful words.
I walked out of the court in a daze of big feelings and floating on my own little cloud.
Olivia’s all time favourite place to go is Starbucks, so wee trooped off and had delicious coffee. Olivia converted me – I had a gingerbread latte and OMG YUM!!! The girls had a lovely time playing ladies while we had our coffee, then we took them to McDonald’s for their celebratory treat.
Mark, Olivia and I would like to thank everyone so much. Your constant love, support and excitement on our journey has been amazing. Thank you for sharing all our moments along the way right from Leo’s conception to this day where we are officially a family. The comments, thoughts, messages and good wishes along the way have really blessed us. It has been an honour to share this with you all. Such a
Our family is now complete thanks to the incredible generosity of some very special women and birth families that supported them.
Katherine and the Andrews family….. Thank you for our beautiful Ysabellah. Her joy of life and delight in the world touches hearts and heals souls.
To Olivia and Tatum, and Nan and all of her dear friends and family, thank you for our precious cherub Leonardo. His light shines bright, his little personality is growing full of love and joy. He teaches and he touches with his smiles and his peace.
Thank you from the bottom of our hearts not only for our beautiful children…. but for seeing us as worthy of such a gift.
A special thank you to the other amazing women who offered to help us on our long journey to this point. You know who you are and our gratitude is immense.
I hope that our story offers those of you taking the path less trod to parenthood some hope that dreams really can come true.
As part of our way of paying it forward we have set up a website and facebook page to support others going through alternative roads to parenthood via IVF/IUI, Adoption, Surrogacy, Egg, Sperm or Embryo donation… And it is also a special place for those who do so much to help others reach their dreams of becoming parents, Donors and Surrogates.
The page and the website are run by a group of wonderful people who have walked in these shoes, both parents and surrogates/donors.
Our facebook page is: http://www.facebook.com/SupportingJourneys
And our website is: http://www.supportingjourneys.co.nz
Blessings to all