Friday, October 15, 2010

My experience with GMA on military surrogacy.

Taryn, Elizabeth, & Myself following GMA interview.
Elizabeth Vargas recently interviewed me for a piece on military wives as surrogates for Good Morning America.  The story was based off a editorial article a NPR reporter wrote for November's Glamour magazine, that I was also interviewed for, but only authorized a brief "anonymous" comment to be released due to the article's overall unfavorable tone regarding surrogates. 

Originally, our segment was meant to air on an episode of another ABC show, 20/20, thus the reason Elizabeth Vargus conducted our interview.  However, when we arrived for the actual interview, the show's producers and Elizabeth mentioned our interview may get pushed to a feature piece on GMA, due to the more timely issue of school bullying. 

Regardless, we were thrilled to get the opportunity to share a part of our story with the public, but more importantly, it gave me a chance to reunite with the family I helped  more then 5 years prior!
  • Here is the GMA video (also embedded in my blog's sidebar):
It turned out better then I expected, knowing the controversial nature of the piece. But, it still didn't highlight the points we elaborated (over and over again) in our interviews - which are that in ALL of my contracts (and I think most surrogate contracts) my couples were ALWAYS responsible for any bills that came out of my pregnancies for their babies, whether insurance paid or not.

In the end, Tricare didn't pay a dime of my care because I was so open and honest about being a surrogate and my contracts reflected that my couples were the responsible parties (as they should be...because ultimately, we wouldn't be pregnant otherwise). Furthermore, if ANY military surrogate tries to misuse/mislead/hide, or abuse the covered benefits of maternity care during her pregnancy for a civilian couple, by hiding that she were a surrogate (in the case of Coleen, also featured in the media piece) or write into their contracts that their couples are not responsible for payment of their medical care (CRAZY to even attempt, IMO) - Tricare considers that beneficiary fraudulent and will not only retract the payments from her maternity care, but she can face some VERY serious ramifications of her medical benefits being taken away from her.

I wanted the public to take away from the piece that a surrogate should NEVER, come away from a pregnancy for another couple in debt! - Tricare beneficiary or not; regardless of how desperate she may be to try to help a couple! Let's not to discount a surrogate's ultimate compassion for her couple and the huge expense the surrogacy process can be for infertile couples, but the surrogate's (and her family's) financial future should always supersede her desire to cut costs for the couple she is helping as their surrogate!

As a surrogate, make sure your contract reflects your couple's full responsibility during your care, then, if Tricare pays (or not), the surrogate has some legal recourse. And just as importantly, the intended couples of military dependents should be aware that the possibility exists that a surrogate pregnancy may not be fully, or even partially, covered through Tricare's policy - get a supplemental policy from the beginning, or arrange ahead of time with the surrogate's medical care providers and hospital that private pay may be necessary (IPs should plan accordingly).

...OK, enough ranting, LOL
  • Here are a couple pictures from my trip to Delaware for the interview, and a reunion with the family I helped...all-in-all, it was a VERY memorable experience! 

Dinner in Delaware with the family I helped in 2006.
Having fun with my now 5 year old, surrogate son, Kyen.

It's Showtime!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Most Wanted Surrogates in the World Magazine:

I've been asked to post the link to the Glamour Magazine article that sparked the ABC news feature on military surrogates that I appeared on for Good Morning America.

If you are interested in reading, see the link below.  I'm only briefly quoted and my name was changed to "Emily Jackson".

The Most Wanted Surrogates in the World Magazine:

Here is the original text from the article (if for some reason the link is broken):

The Most Wanted Surrogates in the World

0928 beth goodman at
Beth Goodman, eight months pregnant with another couple's daughter

Beth Goodman, eight months pregnant with another couple's daughter
After tucking in her two children, Jack, six, and Andrea, four, Beth Goodman* settles in for another bedtime routine: saying good night to the baby girl she'll give birth to in a few weeks. Sitting on her bed, Goodman opens a children's picture book, releasing a tinny home recording of another woman's softly accented voice: "I love you softer than a cloud." Goodman listens, strokes her belly and says, "I do this every night, because I want the baby to hear the sound of her real mother."
Goodman, 30, is a commercial surrogate, meaning she is being paid to carry a baby for someone else. For her, taking the job was an emotional decision, born of a desire to help an infertile couple start a family. But it also made financial sense. When Goodman signed up for surrogacy in 2007, her husband, John, 31, was earning about $26,000 a year working for the United States military in Florida; she made more as a bank teller, but the $26,000 Goodman will receive for carrying the baby to term will be a godsend, enough to start a college fund for their children.
Although you'd hardly know it from meeting this personable, all-American mom, Goodman is part of a brewing controversy surrounding surrogacy. Approximately 1,000 surrogates give birth in America every year, according to one informal estimate, and surrogacy industry insiders say a disproportionate number are military wives. Because no one keeps nationwide records, exact numbers are impossible to come by, but to get an idea of how common surrogacy is among military spouses, consider this: Active-duty U.S. service members make up less than one half of one percent of the U.S. population. Yet agencies Glamour spoke with said military wives make up 12 to 15 percent of their surrogate pool. And according to an unscientific poll on the popular surrogacy support group website, more than 19 percent of respondents said they were military surrogates.
What drives these women to take on such an emotionally and physically demanding job? All of the surrogates we spoke to cited the desire to help another couple finally have a family. Then there's the bottom line. Financial concerns figure into these decisions—for military wives, often struggling to make ends meet; for infertile couples who could save thousands of dollars using a military surrogate; and for agencies happy to make such a match.

"Military Wives Make Very Good Surrogates"

Goodman's journey began in 2007, after watching the pilot episode of the television show Army Wives, which depicted a character delivering twins through surrogacy. "I thought it was really neat," she says. "People who don't approve of surrogacy often say, If God wanted a couple to have a baby, he would have made it so they could.' But if I can give my kidney to someone who needs it, why not give a baby to someone who can't have one?"
With some Web research, she found surrogacy-agency sites where she learned more about what it takes to serve as a surrogate, and read heartbreaking stories from couples desperate for a carrier. I'm perfect for this, Goodman thought. She loved being pregnant with her own two children, and their births were quick. "With my daughter I was at work right until 7:30 P.M. and delivered at 9:45 P.M.," she says. "I didn't know I was in labor all day." And the money was undeniably irresistible: How many chances do you get to make an extra $26,000?
A few months after watching the Army Wives episode, Goodman filled out an online application and questionnaire, and submitted it to an agency. Within two weeks, someone got back to her. She'd passed the initial screening. For final approval, Goodman had to undergo a series of extensive psychological and medical evaluations. Once she got the OK, it was time to find a couple who wanted her to carry their baby.
That part, it turns out, was relatively easy. Infertile couples seeking a surrogate so outnumber would-be carriers that women usually have their choice of clients. In Goodman's case, the agency sent her three profiles of hopeful couples pleading for a birth mother. "I wanted to help all of them," she says. "I thought, How am I supposed to pick just one?" Goodman ultimately chose a childless couple from a European country where paid surrogacy is illegal. The wife was older and physically unable to have a child of her own, and "that's what drew me to her profile," Goodman says. "I was worried about: What other surrogate would want to work with an older intended mom? To me, age is just a number."
In August 2009, after two failed attempts at in vitro fertilization (IVF), Goodman was impregnated using the sperm of the husband and an egg from a donor. She took the whole process very seriously, meeting the couple twice before she became pregnant, then chatting weekly on the phone and e-mailing daily during the pregnancy. Goodman also kept a meticulously detailed log of every doctor's appointment and pregnancy milestone.
"Military wives make very good surrogates," says Karen Synesiou, director of the Los Angeles-based Center for Surrogate Parenting, who says she eagerly signs them up. "They're independent and self-sufficient since their husbands are away from home a lot."
That's true of Goodman, who had taken on more than her share of family responsibilities over the years when her husband left home on duty. When Hurricane Wilma hit Florida in 2005, Goodman fled to safety with her toddler son while her husband stayed behind to help with disaster efforts. "I was eight months pregnant and had to evacuate with my son, a dog and a cat," she recalls. "Add one more kid and one more dog and I could do it all over again." Synesiou, who matched Goodman with the European couple, says Goodman's solid commitment made her a perfect surrogate. "When military wives have a contract," she says, "they do everything and anything to abide by it."

"We Were Able to Pay Off Our Debt"

Synesiou's center isn't alone; many surrogacy agencies heavily market to military wives. Classified ads seeking surrogates frequently run in areas with large military populations. In a recent issue of one magazine distributed on bases in the San Diego area, there were three ads looking for surrogates. One said, "Earn $24,000-$40,000." Another appealed to altruism: "Help an infertile couple build the family of their dreams." But military wives' sense of duty and responsibility is only one reason agencies are so eager to land them as surrogates. Money plays a role too—since some agencies know they can cut their clients' costs by using a military surrogate.
Surrogacy, after all, can be an expensive choice for couples. Clients typically pay $100,000 to $120,000, which covers costs for procedures like IVF, agency and legal fees, and the surrogate's compensation. And if the surrogate's insurance doesn't cover the medical expenses, the couple generally purchases a policy for her, which can add another $25,000 or more to the tab.
And here's where military wives are different. Many insurance companies in this country explicitly state that they will not provide pregnancy coverage if a woman is having a baby for someone else. In some cases, companies have even been known to investigate births; if they learn a baby was born to a surrogate, they may bill her for costs incurred. But Glamour's investigation found that it often doesn't work that way for the military's insurance provider, Tricare. According to industry insiders, the company has a history of paying for a surrogate's medical expenses.
Officially, Tricare says it doesn't cover surrogacy, and "if [a military spouse] is serving as a surrogate parent [using Tricare insurance], then we have a legal obligation to recoup the cost of health care," says Austin Camacho, Tricare's chief of public affairs. And indeed it sometimes does. In one case, after a military wife spoke to the media about being a surrogate, she said Tricare billed her $100,000 for the costs of her pregnancy and resulting medical complications.
Yet many military families aren't aware of this—the surrogacy policy is not specifically mentioned in the Tricare handbook they receive. And Camacho admits that it is extremely difficult to ferret out which pregnancies are the result of surrogacy. "We have 9.5 million beneficiaries, and our beneficiaries will have roughly 2,100 births every week. We have to be focused on making sure everybody gets their care," he says. "We can't be a big police force."
Tricare's relative leniency is an open secret in the surrogacy industry. An agency may even offer special incentives for military wives because of the savings they bring; one California-based agency had agreed to pay any military spouse who used her Tricare policy for surrogacy an extra $5,000.
At her agency, Synesiou says surrogates have used their Tricare insurance to pay for doctor's visits and hospital stays. She adds, though, that some military surrogates choose not to use Tricare coverage, because private insurance often offers more flexibility and choice of doctors. Others prefer to leave Tricare out of their surrogacy jobs: Emily Jackson of Stillwater, Oklahoma, whose husband is in the Navy, has been a surrogate mother to five babies in the past 10 years and refused to use Tricare to pay for any of those pregnancies. "I don't want to risk getting a huge bill," Jackson says, "or even losing my health insurance." But she may be an exception.
Is there anything wrong with would-be parents taking advantage of this insurance loophole to reduce the costs of surrogacy? Many surrogates say no. Mary Thompson, 30, carried another couple's child in 2009 while her husband was deployed in Iraq for the third time, and used Tricare to cover her health care costs. "I was happy I could save my couple some money," she says. "My husband is over there possibly giving his life for this country, and if that means I get some really good health care, well, gee darn." Her surrogate gig allowed her to achieve a dream that once seemed unattainable: meaningfully contributing to her family's income. With her husband's unpredictable schedule, she'd found it difficult even to hold down a part-time job at Target. Because of the surrogacy, "we were able to pay off our debt," Thompson says. "Then we put a new driveway in, which we needed really bad."
Goodman, who also used Tricare to pay surrogacy expenses, echoes her sentiments, saying her family is entitled to the benefits since they help "offset the lack of money our military members are paid for the service they do for our country."
But in online groups catering to military spouses, some commenters say these women have gone too far. "I admire any woman willing to be a surrogate. However, I do not think those people…should abuse the benefits put in place for military families," one wrote on the website Military SOS (Significant Others and Spouse Support).
Other critics point out that Tricare is funded by taxpayer dollars—and argue that using that money to fund the still-controversial practice of assisted fertility is a dicey proposition. "Presumably we as a country want to be generous to military families because they are undergoing great risks and taking great sacrifices on our behalf," says Debora Spar, president of Barnard College and author of The Baby Business: How Money, Science, and Politics Drive the Commerce of Conception. "But I am not sure we've signed on to subsidize military wives when the wives are producing children for other people. That wasn't part of the original bargain."
Yet surrogacy advocates say covering pregnancies—all pregnancies—is, morally, the right thing to do. "Why exclude surrogacy only?" asks Synesiou. "Why does it matter how she became pregnant or who the child will live with? Should we also exclude a pregnancy because Granny will raise the child? I think [excluding surrogacy from health insurance coverage] discriminates against the surrogate mother."

"It's Not My Baby"

Three months before Goodman was due, she hit an unexpected hurdle. Because of injuries sustained by her husband during years of military service, he could no longer be deployed, so the military medically discharged him. With nothing else keeping them in Florida, the Goodmans hoped to move back to their home state of Michigan, where they both grew up and still had family. But when Beth called the surrogacy agency to let them know she was moving, she got bad news. Surrogacy laws differ from state to state, and in Michigan, surrogacy contracts are not recognized. If Goodman delivered there, she could be imprisoned for a year and fined $10,000. So the family devised a backup plan: moving to Ohio, where surrogacy is legal. They found a town with cheap rent right across the state line from their family in Michigan. Their experience relocating—it was their fifth move in nine years—made the transition bearable, says Goodman: "You do what the military says. They say, move here,' that's where you move." And, she adds, there really was no choice. "The stop in Ohio was necessary to help make another couple's dreams of having a family come true."
Moving to a strange new place wasn't the only inconvenience of surrogacy. The Goodmans say they stopped having sex after the thirty-fourth week to prevent contractions that could put Beth in labor before the baby's parents could arrive to witness the birth. Despite such restrictions, John says he felt fine about his wife carry ing a child that wasn't his. "We were thinking of showing up to our 10-year high school reunion and telling everyone, Yeah, my wife's pregnant but not with my baby,'" he says, "just to freak everyone out." To explain the pregnancy to their two young children, the Goodmans told them, "We're helping out this other couple because the mommy's belly is broken."
As the Goodman family struggled to stay afloat, there was one relief: John's severance package from the military meant they'd have the same health insurance through Goodman's pregnancy. She gave birth, to a baby girl, in April. "It was the greatest feeling ever to watch my couple finally get to hold her," Beth says.
Goodman admits that it was emotionally confusing to nurture a pregnancy for a child who is not hers. "I think I prepared myself by knowing that it's not my baby," she says. "I wouldn't want somebody to keep my kids from me, so why would I keep someone else's child from them?"
In August, free to leave Ohio, the family bought a house near their families in Michigan, with the help of the paycheck from the baby. Beth landed a job at a check-cashing business, and John will work in security while earning a degree in criminal justice. Although the surrogacy waylaid their lives for months, Goodman says she has no regrets. The experience was so rewarding she's even considering being a surrogate again in the future, perhaps for the same couple. And now she says the money has nothing to do with it. "Even if I'm not compensated," she says, "that is fine with me."

*Habiba Nosheen and Hilke Schellmann, supported by the Investigative Fund at the Nation Institute, were nominated for an Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for their 2009 PBS documentary on the surrogacy industry. *
*Names have been changed.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Pregnancy Magazine - May 2008 Issue

I was interviewed last month for an article published in Pregnancy Magazine and received
a copy today. How fitting that it arrive on Kyen, one of my surro son's, 2nd birthday. :)
I think the article turned out very well. My husband, twin sister, and Taryn (Kyen's mom) were featured also.
The links to the article (scanned as pictures/click to enlarge) are below, if they don't show up here in the blog:
The Cover - Table of Contents - Page 1 - Page 2 - Page 3 - Page 4 - Page 5 - Page 6

Friday, December 28, 2007

Mother & Baby Article (December Issue)

I wanted to let y'all know that the article I was interviewed for in August for Mother and Baby magazine came out in the recent December issue...just got a copy in the mail today.
Some of the info was mis-interpreted from the phone interview I gave and my couples' & surro-babies' names were all changed to protect their privacy...but overall, it is a 'good' article, IMO.
Here is the direct link if the image scan of the article doesn't show up:

Here's the cover page (not mentioned on it, but shows issue article is in):
Cover Mother & Baby Magazine Dec 2007 issue

Friday, August 17, 2007

My 4th Surrogate Baby's Birth Story - Alexander

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 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 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 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 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 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 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!