Our story starts on Labor Day weekend 2006, when my IM, Sabina replied to a classified ad I placed on a surrogacy website looking for a new couple to help. My 2nd couple, Taryn and JD were enjoying their now 6 month old son, Kyen, to the fullest and weren't yet ready to start on a sibling project to add to their family. So, after a few emails with Sabina and hearing how she and husband, Richard, struggled for years with infertility and early miscarriage - I knew I'd found my third couple. Although they lived in southern California, and I in Oklahoma, we had an instant connection and thus our friendship began. Sabina had even been to my rural home town many times (in western Oklahoma) for business - quite the small world, huh? Richard already had two older children (a teenage daughter and college age son in Florida) and I could sense how adding another member to their family would be a cherished experience. My husband and I met them a month later in CA for my medical evaluation by their reproductive endocrinologist - Noel and Richard got along very well! So, after contracts were signed, I flew back to CA in early December for the embryo transfer. We transferred 3 embryos (see video below) & I flew back home after a day of bed rest in their home. I shared the news of our pregnancy via an email card and pictures just before Christmas - what a gift!
Fast forward to Friday, August 17th, through another uneventful and almost textbook pregnancy - I received a phone call the evening before, from the hospital in OKC where I was scheduled for an early morning induction, telling me that too many women went into labor naturally and they wouldn't have a room for me that morning. Of course I was quite upset because my couple had arrived the day before eager to meet this baby - who they had named Alex, almost from the moment of conception (whether a boy or girl). Not to mention, I had a sitter from a local service scheduled for Friday morning and afternoon to care for my 3 year old son while my two older sons were at school, my husband and mother had taken the day off from work, and I had a professional photographer hired to take pictures of our special delivery. I was determined to get into the hospital and made several calls that morning to the L&D nurses and my OB, letting them know we were going to have a baby, THAT day, come hell or high water!
I was already having quite a few contractions and at my last OB check, 4 days prior, was very favorable for induction at almost 3cm dilated and over 50% effaced. I called my IPs, who were staying at a local hotel, to meet me, my husband, and mother (who had just arrived in town) at a local mall to walk around a bit in hopes of self starting labor - so the hospital would HAVE to take me! We walked around for a couple hours, doing a bit of shopping to distract us from the morning's disappointment. Just as my IPs arrived to eat lunch with my husband and my mom (I couldn't have anything to eat or drink since I was still technically scheduled for an induction - hadn't had anything since midnight the following day), the hospital called me on my cell phone said to come in, they had a room!!
My husband, mom, and I left for the hospital, while my IPs stayed at the mall to buy Richard a belt - LOL. We arrived at the hospital at about 1:53pm. Soon after, Sabina and Richard, as well as our photographer, joined us. I gowned up and the nurses began my IV. Turns out we'd have the same nurse, Virginia, who was present at Kyen's delivery a year before - I thought that was neat...she was training a new nurse who was assigned to us as well. My mom explained to Sabina how the fetal monitor worked and they stood next to my bed listening to the baby's heartbeat and told me when I'd start to have a contraction (they could see them building on the screen before I felt a thing. Probably because I'd gotten so used to the hardening feeling of the prior months' braxton hicks, false labor, contractions).
At about 2:04pm, the "devil drip" was started - very slowly. I didn't want what happened during Kyen's labor to happen again - cranked up to 124 units of Pitocin for several hours before I was able to get an epidural, which was VERY painful! I told the nurses to make sure that the anesthesiologist was walking down the hallway to my room before I was given a higher dose (I was only on 4 - 6 units for an hour, so it was a very small amount). I was still having regular contractions, even without the medication, coming about every 5 to 7 minutes (thanks to my morning walk and likely dehydration). We were given paperwork to fill out...and because we had a pre-birth order (PBO), approved just the week prior, I never needed to sign anything stating I was the mother of this baby and Sabina's name, and fingerprints, went on all the papers we were given. I also had my first cervical check, near 2:30pm, and found to be making progress - now 4 cm.
My husband and Richard, sat and chatted away on the couch, while my mom and Sabina felt of my belly - telling Alex he had been given his eviction notice. The baby started having hiccups, and my belly was moving quite vigorously with each one. Sabina and my mom took turns watching and feeling my stomach as it bumped up and down with each of Alex's movements...it was a cute! We were all getting very excited to meet this sweet baby. While we waited for my OB to come in and break my water (she was finishing up her lunch), we made bets about what the baby would weigh. I had guessed he'd be close to what my first surro son, Cole, weighed (8lb 3oz) - since they were both induced at almost the exact same gestation (38 wks) and their Dad's were large at birth (9 - 10 lbs). My IPs, mom, and husband guessed Alex would be larger, like 8 to 9lbs.
By 2:47pm, my OB had made her way in to break my water. I was effaced to nearly 75% and 5 cm by that time. Dr. Hughes was introduced to my IF before he left the room (he'd also go outside during my internal evaluations - the girls stayed). The water was clear when broke, and I was able to get up soon after to use the restroom. The anesthesiologist was called to come to my room and I was told he'd be there after he finished up a c-section. Noel, my mom, and I started making plans about who would go pick up my sons since we only had the baby sister scheduled until 3:30pm and she couldn't stay any longer to watch them at our home. So, my mom decided she'd go and pick them up and bring them back up to the hospital, since she didn't want to miss being with me, in case something happened and I needed her support. She's always attended my other deliveries - except Cole's in TX...and I wouldn't dream of not having her there. We weren't worried about the older boys being present for the birth since they were both at their younger brother, Topher's delivery. But, our 3 year old had never witnessed a birth before. We all agreed, that he was old enough and could be contained in the corner with his 10 and almost 9 year old brothers...it might also give him some closure since he's been so attached to feeling my belly every night to soothe him and to see that the baby would be out, safe with his parents. He never really understood where baby Kyen (my surro son born the year prior) had come from - even though we showed him pictures, etc..
As we sat and waited for my epidural, I found that with each contraction I was having a feeling of weakness move over my body - almost as though I would faint. Instead of only feeling the tightening and pressure from the contractions, I could feel myself getting more and more dizzy each time a contraction would start to build. We thought it might be my blood pressure - but it was fine. So, my nurses had me try laying from side to side, to see if it would improve things. I never got sick to my stomach, but I could tell I was experiencing some dehydration or low blood sugar effects from not eating for so long. I've never had this happen at any of my other inductions (probably because I've always got in to the hospital at the times I was scheduled - early in the morning). I had little doubt that getting bumped to an afternoon induction this time created the problem. My IPs wandered back and forth from the couch to watching the baby's heart rate and my contractions on the monitor. After feeling a little better, between contractions, I made sure to freshen up my makeup, LOL - had to look my best when I met my surro son. :)
At about 3:18pm, the epi man arrived! So happy to see him, we joked through the procedure about how he could stick me anytime, etc.. This anesthesiologist did a wonderful and quick job. I only had one contraction as he was administering the epidural - quite a pleasant experience (unlike others in prior deliveries, when I would have back to back contractions, trying to stay still, in so much pain). I was now only feeling waves of dizziness, without the tightening of my belly with each contraction...it was quite a unique labor for me. I guess they're right in saying that every pregnancy and labor experience is different. Once I was comfortable - we visited some more and watched TV and the fetal monitor...waiting for my mom to get back to the hospital with the boys. We took this time to take some pictures too.
Just after 4:45pm, my cervix was checked again and I was found to be 6 to 7cm and nearly 100% effaced. My mom returned with our sons and I was given a popsicle to try to help me feel better - I was a bit nauseous too by this time. Mom took my boys back and forth from the cafeteria for snacks to keep them occupied. I got a call from my sisters shortly after 5:15pm. My younger sister, Jennie, and nieces, as well as my twin sister, were on their way to the hospital (2 hour drive) and we knew they likely wouldn't make it to the delivery. But they wished me luck and my twin asked our mom to please call her when it was time to push so she could try to listen in on the birth. So, I decided since everyone else was here and ready, that I'd do what I could to relax and lay from side to side in bed...hoping it would speed up the dilation process - as I've found it helpful in prior labors. I was able to get a 5 to 10 minute nap too. And just as my IPs decide to head down to the cafeteria for a quick bite, the nurse came in my room saying that she noticed a pattern of what looked like head compressions on the monitor. She checked me and I was nearly complete with the baby engaged at a zero station. The nurse thought it would be a bit longer before I'd be ready to push, but I wasn't quite sure. Because just as soon as I sat up in bed, while the nurse was getting some things typed into the computer, I felt instant rectal pressure. "Yep, this is it," I said as I placed my hand between my legs and could feel the swelling from the baby's head starting to crown! I yelled to my husband to get my IPs back in the room it was time to push!
It was just after 5:30pm when the nurses began breaking down my bed. With each contraction I felt more and more pressure and as though the baby would just slip out. Little did I know, this baby would take a bit more then a slight push to deliver. Sabina and Richard quickly made it back into the room and I watched them from the corner of my eye as they held one another close. My IM became emotional at this point and started to shed a few tears looking away from us - knowing her long awaited son was about to be born. I had to wipe away a couple tears as well. The boys were in their prospective corner standing on the couch by the window. My oldest son and mom had "video footage duty" and stood to the side and foot of my bed to try and capture all the commotion of the room. My husband and the photographer were to my right with their cameras in hand too...this would be a well documented event, for sure! I was getting nervous that my OB wouldn't make it for the delivery when I saw her assistant arrive gowned up and ready before the doctor was even in the room. But, just in time, Dr. Hughes finally arrived - sporting the Oklahoma State crocs I bought her as a delivery gift (both she and I graduated from OSU). Later, she told us she just didn't have time to put on the scrubs we'd also included - but she was wearing the appropriate black and white, which was close enough...we just wanted to get Alex here and didn't even notice anyway. :) My IPs were standing near the baby's warmer. Another nurse was called into the room to care for the baby, they called her a baby advocate (I guess that's the updated lingo for what they call a baby nurse nowadays). I had a little argument with my OB's assistant when she placed a blue towel on my stomach, setting me up as though the baby would be placed there after arrival. But, I quickly set her straight and Virginia, the nurse at Kyen's birth, helped get Sabina a couple towels and blanket to catch her son (she rightfully needed to be the first one to hold her baby)!
It was time to push - my OB had me start just as a contraction was coming to an end. So after a push or two, we stopped to wait for another to come before I resumed pushing. After about 3 minutes, I started to bear down again and counted 1, 2, 3...I hadn't needed to count through a push since my third delivery (1st surro baby) in 2000, they'd usually come in an easy push or two - no counting required. But, here I was pushing through 2, now 3, and 4, full count pushes! My OB kept saying I was doing great and the baby had lots of hair. I gave the last two pushes everything I had - I could hear Sabina say, "Almost darlin'...your almost there." I gasped between my last push, "Gosh he's huge!...I think I'm going to change my vote." Everyone laughed and Sabina called me a cheater...ha. I could see my doctor maneuver downward as I was still pushing and then she told me I could stop - Alex was here!! I immediately started to cry seeing the baby being lifted to his Mommy. And as she giggled with emotion, Sabina bent down to hold her precious son for the first time, saying "Heather, you did great!" She was so happy!! The doctor put on the cord clamp when Alex decided to have his first pee - and we all laughed! I couldn't believe how big he was and I said so immediately. Still in his mother's arms, the baby let out his first cry... that's when the tears started for me again - hearing Sabina's "Awwww", and pulling Alex closer as his Daddy snipped him lose from the cord that nourished him for 9 months. It was another beautiful moment...nothing can describe the feelings in that one little piece of time. It was 5:47pm.
The baby was handed off to the baby nurse as everyone in the room rushed to that side of the room. My mom was bawling along with me. I wiped my tears and Sabina reached around some equipment from across the room to hold my hand and tell me, good job! Richard and Sabina took a moment to hold one another as they watched the nurse with their son at the warmer. Pictures were taken and finally the baby was lifted up for all of us to see - obviously no longer warm and happy, he took the opportunity - again - to pee, LOL. Alex was a beautiful baby boy with so much dark hair! His apgars were a healthy 8 and 9. Richard was such the proud Papa sporting his custom, baby foot, stamped t-shirt and Sabina couldn't stop smiling.
I had a bit of a problem with Alex's placenta sticking to the top of my fundus, so my OB found it necessary to manually extract it. It was quite a scary time, because I've had the same thing happen after Cole and the twin's deliveries...but, thankfully this time I was able to avoid a D&C since it came out in one piece. I had quite a bit of bleeding initially and swelling that quickly improved throughout the rest of the evening. And ended up with a 2nd degree laceration as well - ouch! But it was very much worth it...especially to see the baby being cleaned off, wrapped and given back to his doting Mom. And as she handed Alex to Daddy for the first time, they embraced one another...it was quite the intimate moment, and thankfully also captured by our photographer (since the delivery, I cherish these pictures most of all, as they document best why I love being a surrogate). Once I was mended and cleaned up, we said goodbye and a huge thank you to my OB. Then I was handed the baby by Sabina. Everyone had already said they knew he was bigger then 8lbs, and I started to believe them when I held him for the first time...he was so solid and heavy - for 38 wks gestation, I was very proud! My IPs both took the time to thank me before Alex was taken to the nursery to be weighed. I quickly asked the nurses to order me a dinner tray - because I was now feeling even more fatigue, dizziness, and a headache starting to develop. My younger sister arrived with my nieces with gifts for the baby and a beautiful flower arrangement for me. Meanwhile, in the nursery, Alex weighed in at a whopping 9lbs 9oz and 21 1/2 inches long - wow! The biggest baby I've had so far - my middle son now second largest at 9lbs 2oz. Sabina then had to feed Alex some sugar water since he was so big.
Later my twin sister, Angie, arrived with her kids - she had sent over, earlier in the day, a potted mum plant for me. And when my IPs returned from the nursery with the baby they opened more gifts from her. I felt great after my dinner and was given a hospital pump to use to express milk for the baby - which I had offered to do for as long as possible & my IPs happily accepted. I've always volunteered to do so for my other sets of IPs, but they felt I had already given so much of myself and politely refused. Sabina and Richard were exhausted by this time, and since they felt the baby was in good hands in the nursery, decided to go on to sleep in their hotel (which they did the following night as well). My family had already gone home for the night, but Angie decided she would stay and help me a long as I needed her - which was close to 11pm by the time she left. I tried to go to bed, soon after, but needed to get up every 2 hours to pump for Alex. I didn't express much that first night, but did much better at it then I originally thought I would (about 1/2 oz of pure colostrum - which the nurses would take to the nursery and mix with Alex's formula)...much better then when my youngest son went to NICU as a newborn and I had only gotten a drop trying to pump for him.
The next day, the nurse woke me up at 6:45am because the floor was again full and they needed my room. So I was moved to the c-section wing where I got a much softer bed, but I was very much ready to get released so I could sleep in my own bed...the hospital was just way to busy and I didn't feel I received very good care this stay either. Sabina and Richard came up to the hospital by 10:00am and I was given a bracelet by the nursery. I didn't have one previously and had an upsetting time earlier in the morning while I waited for my new room...the nurse asked if I wanted to feed the baby his 7am bottle, but I wasn't allowed to, even after he was brought into my room, because I didn't have the stupid bracelet! But, at my IP's insistence the staff was made aware that they wanted me to have just as much access to Alex as they had...which was nice of them & I appreciated very much. Then just as Sabina and Richard went to lunch outside of the hospital, I was brought in the baby by the nursery...they called first and said they were busy and wanted to know if I now wanted to feed Alex. Of course, I agreed and spent a couple hours holding and caring for my sweet little surro son. My OB also stopped by to check me over and give me the OK for an early release from the hospital - everything looked great and, other then feeling pretty sleepy, I was recovering at record speed (she said, I'm superb at bouncing right back as though I'd never even had a baby). Sabina and Richard returned from lunch with a cute little flower arrangement and chocolates for me - they had given me a digital camera the day before (which got a lot of use, LOL). And later Alex was taken to get his circumcision. They opened the gifts I got them for the baby - a couple outfits; a birth certificate football; and a teddy bear that plays womb/heartbeat sounds and lullabies - that I played to Alex through the pregnancy hoping it would soothe him when he was home (as these toys did when sent with my other surro babies). My husband and youngest son arrived with a bubble tea and "delivery gift" for me - Noel had replaced the blue opal in the ring he bought me in Cozumel...it had fallen out earlier in the year & the new stone was beautiful! Waiting for my official discharge, we spent another half hour in the room with the baby and my IPs before saying goodbye to them for the day - I was feeling pretty exhausted.
Early Sunday morning, Oklahoma received a flash flood. On our way to see Sabina and Richard for breakfast (as I was also taking the opportunity to pump in the car - hoping to get more milk for the baby before they left for CA that afternoon), we had to drive through 2 ft of water (it was door high), at three different portions of the road where we live - which was very scary - but I was determined to see my IPs and Alex again before they had to leave. Thank God we made it through without the car stalling and getting stuck! We had a nice brunch and I gave them another gift - a digital picture frame preloaded with all the pictures I've taken throughout our journey, as well as video and a few songs that played along with the pictures. Then we headed to the hospital to see Alex where he was released to go home (well, technically, he could have been discharged the day prior, but his parents didn't feel comfortable with him in the hotel or flying with him the same day he'd had his circumcision).
We spent a few hours visiting and I was able to hold their sweet boy one last time. Alex is such a laid back baby with an easy temperament. I told him that I loved him and how I'd miss them. Sabina had dressed Alex in the outfit I had given them at the baby shower a month before - which was such a special gesture. My sons took pictures and video, and said their goodbyes to baby Alex too...my tears swelled when Cameron, and later Chandler, rushed to the baby's bassinet to hold his little hand. After loading up a diaper bag, Sabina (reluctantly) road down to their rental car in a wheelchair with Alex in his car seat on her lap. She'd earned this special moment that many women cherish - taking their baby home from the hospital...after such a journey to parenthood, it really must feel surreal.
They loaded Alex into their rental car, and I stepped in to kiss him goodbye and told him to be a good boy for his parents - he had been such an angel throughout the pregnancy and delivery for me, so I had little doubt he'd continue to be. I didn't let my tears fall until I hugged my IPs (as I always do when having to say goodbye). Sabina gave me a big squeeze, tears swelling in her eyes too. She said one last - thank you - and hurried in the the car, as I watched them drive away for the airport. We'll miss them & someday hope for a visit out to CA with the boys. I reflected on our journey on the way home - wiping away tears, I felt the warmth of inner happiness to have helped yet another family - what a blessing surrogacy has been in my life!