Sunday, October 22, 2000

Cole's Birth Story (my first surrogacy)

Sun. October 22, 2000

I awoke at around 4:45am this morning and felt very uncomfortable in bed and very restless.  Still having contractions.  Nothing that hurt.  But,  up to this point none of the contractions that had been dilating me had any punch to them anyway.  So, got out of bed and painted my toe nails and timed the contractions for an hour, wondering if I should wake my IPs (Intended Parents) to let them know what I had been going through all night.  Well, I decided against that idea and went back to bed thinking that I absolutely didn't want to make another trip to L&D without this being the real deal.  Although I was very much hoping that things would progress through the day because my OB just happened to be on call that day at the hospital.  So, back in bed I slept until close to 11:00am and very thankful that my IPs had said we were just going to stick around the hotel because I was very tired from being up with the contractions part of the night and morning.

Things sort of calmed down the remainder of the morning until just after lunch when I was able to see my two little boys on the computer laptop that my IPs had for me to enjoy in my room.  I didn’t have a video camera for the boys to see me, but I was able to see them and talk to them back and forth using my microphone.  It was such an emotional visit.  I cried a couple of times and realized that I had already been away from them for a week now…but it didn’t seem like it was that long because I had been so busy with our “runs” to the hospital and etc.  I hadn’t been this upset since I had to leave them a week ago when I was dropped off at my hotel and seeing my family leave. I took a nap and then we all decided to go out for Mexican food at Joe T. Garcia’s in the Stock Yard district of Ft. Worth.   It was a very nice dinner, but while we were eating I began feeling the contractions line up again in a pattern, so we began timing them.  The waitress stopped and asked when I was due and someone chimed in, “today” (which wasn’t true, I was only 37 wks).  The waitress was shocked and said  I couldn’t have the baby there at the restaurant…lol.  We were all beginning to think that because the contractions hadn’t stopped that we would have to just drive on to the hospital as were closer to it from the restaurant then from the hotel.  The contractions were coming about 5 min apart by the end of the meal.  But, we decided instead to drive back to the hotel and call the doctor. Back at the hotel, the contractions continued and began getting closer and closer together, but still not hurting.  We put a call into the Dr. and waited for her to give us a call back and the OK to come on into the hospital.  While we waited, my IM’s Mom made me some red raspberry tea and I drank that down in hopes that it would coax my contractions on so they wouldn’t stall before we hit L&D.  Think the stuff did the trick.  The Dr. told us to come on in and we packed up and loaded ourselves into my IPs Tahoe for the ride to the hospital once again.  We had so much stuff packed in that my IM had to sit in the very back and crawl out the rear door to get in and out.  Very funny.  Before we left I emailed all my friends and family (DH included) and let them know we were on the way to the hospital and were hoping this was the “real deal”.

In the car ride to the hospital, I received a phone call from DH who proceeded to tell me that he and our two boys were in the downstairs bathroom waiting out a tornado warning.  There was a tornado heading into town and the tornado alarms were going off.  I told him that we were on the way to the hospital and he just freaked out and said that I had “perfect timing”.  I then got very upset and tried my best to hold it together and not cry, but it was to late.  I was crying terribly (but quietly) and scared to death that my family was in trouble and I was helplessly miles away.  I guess the boys thought it was fun being together like that in the bathroom (not knowing what was going on) and really started pushing my DH’s buttons.  He was so stressed and even more upset that I was “pulling” this during his ordeal.   I wanted so desperately to be with my family…they needed me.  So, after informing my IP’s on what was happening at home, they tried to reassure me that everything would be just fine, even though we were all very unsure at that moment.

Eventually, we made it to the hospital at around 8:00pm.  We were all a wreck and although I hadn’t experienced any “pains” from the contractions I came onto the L&D floor looking pretty rough and the nurses were quick to comment, saying I looked like this time I was in “true” labor.  But, they had no idea what was causing my tears.  So, we get into our room and I get hooked up to the monitors.  My blood pressure had shoot way up and had to be taken several times over the first hour or so that we were there.  I was still having contractions and the nurse checked my cervix to reveal that I was now 4 cm dilated, over 70% effaced, and my bag of water was bulging.  The Dr. decided this was “IT” and informed us she would be in to break my water to get things progressing and the baby born.  My IP’s were thrilled and proceeded to call the rest of their family and have them drive the 5 hours to Ft. Worth for the birth.

My DH called back to tell us that the tornado warning had lifted and they were able to come out of the bathroom, but that now the electricity was out and it was storming very badly.  He didn’t think he could make it there for the birth because he couldn’t watch the news to tell if it was safe to go out.  At this time, I was able to calm down a bit and decided that it would be safer if he just stayed there for now and when it was clear for him to come he could.  I didn’t want him to risk his life to get to me.  I reassured him that I would be fine with IM being my labor coach and to just try to get to Ft. Worth as quickly as he could.  And to add to the fact, he had been up all day (he had to work that morning early) and was also extremely tired, because by this time it was getting close to 10pm.  But, he called my Parents anyway to come pick up the boys so he could get to Ft. Worth to be with me.  My Parents had watched the boys all weekend and just dropped them back off at our house that afternoon, and had to drive an hour right back to our home to pick them up again…in a storm no less.  What a troop of dedicated, loving family I have huh?  So, None the less DH was on his way…loaded up on coffee, sodas, and chocolate covered coffee beans to try to help him stay awake on the 3 hour drive to Ft. Worth.

Back at the hospital, we patiently waited for my Dr. to come in and break my water.  I had asked to receive an enema to keep “the show” prettier when it came time to push and I had already gotten both dosages of antibiotics for the Group B.  My OB finally arrived at around midnight and ruptured my membranes.  Soon after my water being broken, I was allowed to walk the halls to try to intensify the contractions and bring on some stronger labor pains.  My IM and I walked around while IF filmed us and took pictures for us to share in the experience of the moment.  I was then placed back on the monitors to see how things were progressing.  Well, I still wasn’t doing as much contracting as we all wanted to get this little guy here at a faster rate, so they got me all hooked up to the “devil drip” machine…yippee.  By 2am, not long after given the Pitocin, I started having some pretty good pains.  IM was there by my side the entire time, holding my hand and telling me when the pains would start to decline and go away.  It was such a relief to know that even though my DH couldn’t be there with me during this time that my IM was able to pull through for me and support me during my labor.  I kept telling her she could go sit in the rocker and relax some if she wanted, but she insisted on sitting by my bedside and getting me my chap stick and ice chips and holding my hand when I was in pain always asking if there was something more she could do or help me with.  Although she did leave maybe once to greet her family members as they arrived at our room.  (They all pretty much stayed out, as they didn’t want to bother us.  But they did come in initially to give me a hug… which was very nice.)

I was pretty close to 7cm dilated and over 80% effaced when I finally asked for an epidural.  The contractions at this point were starting to come about every 3 minutes and extremely painful.  My OB had the nurse crank up the Pitocin dosage several times and I was just about on the maximum dosage to keep my contractions good a strong.  The “epidural man” had to be woke up as it was pretty close to 3:00 am when I called for him (the hospital wasn’t very busy on this night and so he had some time to sleep a bit).  So, when he finally came into give me the epidural he was very groggy and took his sweet time.  This was the most traumatizing event of the entire experience for me.  And I have had epidurals with both my previous pregnancies and none were as slow and agonizing as this one.  The nurse had me sit up on the bedside with my back arched into a C-shape.  Not a very comfortable position to say the least.  Then she kept holding my head so I wouldn’t move, well, I was having some extremely painful labor pains and it was nearly impossible for me to try to stay on top of the pains due to the position they had me in….and for so long.  It must have taken this man 20 minutes or so to get the epi in.  I tried to stay strong and breath through the pain, but I couldn’t hack it anymore and started bawling my eyes out.  It was getting hard to breath sitting so still with all the pain from the contractions.  I felt like I was about to pass out a couple of times because I couldn’t catch my breath since I was crying so much.  The tears dripped from my eyes onto the floor and the nurse tried to wipe them as they fell.  My poor IM was right next us watching the whole thing and I could tell this was all upsetting her as well.  It was not a fun thing to have to go through.   She told me later that the nurse said to her that she had never seen an epidural given so slowly…and I agreed…it was terrible!

Anyway, things began to progress very nicely after I received some relief from the contractions and my IP’s and their family seemed to be having a good time coming over to watch the monitors and letting me know I was having a contraction and asking if I could feel anything.  It was cute!  They all tried to get me to sleep a bit at this time, but I couldn’t rest very well knowing my husband still hadn’t made it there yet.  He had a quicker drive to Ft. Worth then IP’s family and so I know he had to drive very slowly since he hadn’t arrived.  He did call my IP’s cell phones and let us know he had just about an hour left to drive.  While we waited we all wrote down guesses of what Baby Cole’s birth weight and arrival time might be as we were all beginning to get very anxious about seeing the little fellow.  This helped to pass the time some and keep our minds occupied.

By just after 4:00am, my nurse was told to check me and I was dilated to just over 9cm, 100% effaced and just about ready to push except for a little bit of cervix that was still in the way.  My DH arrived soon afterward and was sort of relieved that I had already progressed this far as he was very tired and ready to crawl into bed with me from exhaustion.  But, it was time to start pushing and I made him get our video camera out and begin filming the “big event”.  My IM stood to one side of my bed along side the nurse, My DH stood near the other side of my bed with the video camera and also in the room just behind DH was IM’s brother, operating IP’s video camera on the tripod, and IF to his left.  My IM’s parents, SIL, and IF’s Dad stood just outside the room behind the curtain (with it opened just a bit as to not be to exposed to the “show” but still able to witness the birth of their newest family member).

My whole body was still extremely numb from the epidural and I asked the nurse to please turn it off so I could feel the need to push.  But, when it was time to get started I was still unable to feel a thing.  Therefore it took me several contractions, at least 5, to get Cole’s head to begin to crown.  IM was all decked out in a hospital gown and holding a little blanket to wrap her son up with as soon as he arrived and I tried to watch (even during my pushes) her face throughout as I didn’t want to miss a single moment of joy in her eyes.

Just as I was beginning to think I’d never get little Cole pushed out of me, his head popped right out and shocked the heck out of the Dr. as he was staring straight up at her when she went to turn him and get all the mucus cleared from his throat and nose…he wasn’t even breathing yet.  My IM began crying and I started to tear up too, but I kept telling myself I couldn’t cry yet because I had to see her eyes the moment she held her son for the first time.  Half a push later, Cole Anthony R. entered the world.  What an emotional moment it all was, as the Dr. clamped Cole’s cord off for his Daddy to cut, and IM standing to the side waiting for the first glimpse into the eyes of her little miracle.  The Dr. was standing in front of IM and I couldn’t see her very well, but I could hear her words that will forever be etched in my memory.  She said, “OHHHH, there he is…We’ve been waiting for you!…Look Heather…He’s perfect!”  Just then the nurse unhooks my monitor belts and pushes the nurse call button and says very loudly, “We’ve got a baby boy born at 5:16…” and I just loose it…I can’t see my IM through all the tears filling my eyes.  She comes around to my side from behind the Dr. and says to me through her own tears, “You did good!…” and the Dr. hands her the baby.

Everyone in the room is bawling and IM’s first words to her son once in her arms are, “Hi, baby…Oh I know…it will be alright…I’m here.”  She then takes him over to the warmer for the nurse to clean him up a bit and rushes back to my side.  We embrace and she says, “Thank you, thank you, he’s beautiful!”  And we both cry together briefly before she goes back to be with her son.  The emotions in the room were so joyous.  IM’s Mom peeks around the curtain and tells her Grandson, “ohhh, you hear you Granny talking to you don’t you..”, as little Cole quiets down a little.  The nurse weighs him soon afterwards right there in the room in front of us and everyone gathers around to see who came the closest on his birth weight.  IM won…she knew he was going to be a big boy, even though he was only 37 wks gestation…he weighed in at a whopping 8lbs. 3oz. and 19 ¾ inches long.
The birth went fairly well, only had a slight superficial tear.  However, the Dr. struggled a bit to get the placenta delivered, as it didn’t want to come out in one piece.  So, she had to pull most of it out manually and worked on me for a good 30 to 45 minutes.  All the while I took still shot pictures of the IP’s and their family with the baby.  My DH and nurse were upset with me because of this and wanted me to rest instead.  They thought I was crazy…but I didn’t want to miss a single moment and just had to document it all in case I didn’t get any pictures sent from IP’s family to show all my family when I got home.  (The Dr. was probably going blind from the flash of my camera in her eyes and this is probably why she took so long to get me all stitched and cleaned up…lol)

After we said goodbye to my Dr. and the wonderful nurse, Katie, who took care of us.  I was wheeled up to the recovery floor of the hospital.  There was a glitch however, and I was made to hold Cole (which I didn’t mind at all to do) all the way up to the room.  Even though we had thought that IM could have done this herself, and she was hoping to do, and should have been able to do, because this was HER son, not mine.  But, the new nurse we had taking care of me started throwing hospital policies up in our faces and we just decided we were all to tired to mess with these ignorant people.  I was sad however that IM had to be treated so badly just after the wonderful birth of her son and bring her down a bit.  It hurt her (and me) very much, during our time in the hospital to be talked to and disrespected by the nurse and staff even after they were told this was a surrogacy and the baby was genetically hers.   We had to share a room too by the way (which I didn’t mind doing either) because they said the floor was to full.  But, it just seemed strange to us when we saw empty rooms all through the hallways.  Oh, well, we did have a nice time being all together, I think, (except it would have been nice to have an extra bed for IP’s to sleep on) and it gave me a chance to be around the baby more and watch his family interact with him.

We were all very tired after receiving many visitors the day of Cole’s birth.  But, it was nice getting to meet all my IP’s family members and I even got a visit from surrogate friends, Rhonda and Erin P.   Cole has such a wonderful temperament and is a very good baby (eats well too) that he didn’t mind at all being passed around from person to person. Everyone brought Baby Cole and I some wonderful gifts too.  The room smelled so good from all the flowers and plants.  My DH didn’t stay with me very much during my stay at the hospital either which was fine and he was a Doll and bought me a dozen roses (that bloomed for 2 wks straight).  He was much more comfortable in the hotel.    So, that first night, my IP’s tried to stay at the hospital together and switch off taking care of the baby.  But, it was just too hard for either of them to get much sleep and what made things worse was that they would both jump up at any little sound their little boy would make.  So, long story short (and believe me, the story about the first night and morning is a dozy), my IP’s ended up retiring to the hotel too the second day and night for some well deserved sleep while Cole was taken to the nursery.  I ended up staying an extra day in the hospital so that my IP’s could spend more time with the baby since he had to stay for 48 hours after birth.  Had I not stayed in the room the hospital staff would have had Cole stuck in the nursery the entire next day only allowing one person at a time in to visit with him.  I was happy to stay!  IM’s Mom helped care for Cole too while we were there and I was able to visit with her quite a bit, which was very nice!  IP’s whole family made me feel so very loved and appreciated and I really enjoyed my time with all of them.

The night before we left the hospital, IP’s and I exchanged gifts.  I was really glad we did this because I knew emotions would be running high the following day when we all said our goodbyes.  They gave me some beautiful gold angel earrings and a card that I honestly tried to read in front of them, but was really only able to read the first couple of words on the front of it because I started to tear up and didn’t want to start crying there in front of them all. (But, I did read it when I got home and it was very nice and heartwarming…I cry each time I read it)  The earrings, they said, were for being their angel. They also gave me a photo album book that matches exactly with Cole’s baby book and a wonderful sentimental card that they wrote from Cole saying how very lucky he was to have a surro Mommy like me and etc.  It brings tears to my eyes just thinking about how special those gifts, and the words that they wrote are to me.  They are fabulous, loving, Christian people!  My family gave them a Precious Moments figurine frame with a picture of IP’s and I in it, and a Precious Moments figurine of a girl holding a baby with the inscription of “Everything Grows With Love” on the bottom.  (IM collects Precious Moments figurines and they gave me one the night before our transfer…so I though it was fitting.)  We gave Cole a blanket that said Year 2000 Baby on it and a little T-shirt from our favorite restaurant in the town we went to college, Eskimo Joes.  (We went to eat there while he was in my tummy and we bought my boys the exact same T-shirt…so we had to get one for Cole too.)  I didn’t write too much in a card to Cole (as I want to write him a nice letter after I get my senses about me following my maternity leave), but I did give IP’s a nice card that I think they though was nice.  I tried to relay in it how very dear they are to me for letting me take care of their little guy for 9 months and I will miss them tremendously.                                                   

The day we left the hospital, the director of our agency came with the paperwork for my DH and I to sign, as we did a traditional stepparent adoption (which is common in many states to do even though we have no blood relationship to the baby and the IP’s are genetically the baby’s biological parents).  I thought that I might be a bit weepy during this part, but I wasn’t at all.  It was a weird feeling though, seeing my Husband and my names all over the paperwork as Cole’s biological parents.   But, a real relief after the papers were signed and knowing that they really didn’t mean a thing to anyone but the courts.  I wanted so badly for my IP’s to know that DH and I never felt that Cole was ever our child and I think that throughout our journey I was able to get that message across to them.  (I hope I did anyway)

So, after the papers were signed and the legalities taken care of, we all said goodbye.   This was the hardest thing that I had to do, bar none.  Even more so then having to go through the labor, delivery, and even the engorgement/recovery period following my return home from the birth.  I wasn’t as sad about leaving the hospital without a baby, but I was sad about having to say goodbye to these people that were like family to me during this time in my life.  I cherished my time as a surrogate and being a part of this special miracle that not many people get a chance to experience. I felt that I had closure to the situation of no longer being pregnant and very proud that the baby was healthy and where it belonged, with his parents who have been waiting for him for so long.  But, I guess I wasn’t ready to shut that chapter in my life which involved having some sort of relationship with my IP’s.  I consider then friends of mine, although we started off as strangers.  But, our friendship grew over this time that I cared for their baby and I didn’t want to give that up just yet and say goodbye.  Even though my IP’s tried to reassure me that they would still like to remain in contact with me and send periodic updates on Cole, I didn’t know for sure where things would lead.

But, I was able to hold little Cole for the last time and we all got pictures and video.  I quickly and quietly said a goodbye to him and told him that I would always remember him and the time I was able to spend taking care of him.  I said to him that I would miss him very much and to be good for his parents (which I think he definitely listened to that part, from what Stacey tells me of his wonderful temperament).  I then gave IF a hug and went to hug IM.  We both started to cry a little and I told her not to start crying because I won’t be able to stop.  She and IF (& IM’s Mom) let me know how loved and appreciated I was to them and that they will miss me too.  As they wheeled me out of the hospital, I said a prayer that this little baby, Cole, be seen as a blessing to anyone who hear about the story of how he came to be and how awesome the power of love and compassion can be for others in need.  I hope that our story can somehow reach out and touch those who are possibly experiencing very similar circumstances and show how miracles can happen.

Sunday, March 19, 2000

My Journey Begins as a Surrogate

Hello! I am a navy wife and Mom of two sons. My interest in surrogacy started long ago when my identical twin sister, younger sister, and I spoke of how we knew we would someday become Moms. Our family is very close and if for some reason any of us needed each other to carry a child for the other we would have jumped at the chance in an instant. Thankfully, neither of my sisters or myself had any trouble conceiving or delivering our children.

I knew no one that was directly affected by infertility first hand, but my desire to give back to those less fortunate became overwhelming when I worked full time as a social worker. I mentored a single mother of two boys now pregnant w/ triplets. Because of her inability to care for these children and being approached repeatedly by couples begging me to speak with this mother about the possibility of adopting one or all of her children, I realized my desire to help infertile couples would be a very fulfilling goal to achieve.

I am also a huge Days of Our Lives fan and specifically like the actress, Diedra Hall. (She is also a twin). After seeing her story on a TV program one evening about her struggles with infertility, finally turning to surrogacy for her chance at having a family of her own, fueled my desire to help a couple in this manner too. I kept saying through the entire show, “I can do that!”

Not knowing much about surrogacy, I began searching on the Internet for as much information as I could get my hands on. Soon I began to realize that I could not enter into this journey without the help of someone else acting as a third party, therefore I sought out an agency. After applying with several agencies in August of 1999, I was accepted by three and then began screening and matching. I was told that the process could be very involved and take a very long time, but for me, it only took a little over a month to complete the psychological and physical screenings necessary to become a surrogate.

So, I was then matched in October of 1999 with several couples and I ended up choosing a couple where one of the agencies I decided on was also located, Surrogate Parenting Center of Texas. So, my husband and I flew there to meet the infertile couple with an agency representative present also. The meeting went very well and we decided to proceed after the holidays. (To alleviate my having to be to far along in the pregnancy in the summer months.)
The agency contracts with a attorney who helped to write out our 15 page contract. We all got copies and reviewed it. I contacted my own attorney here in Oklahoma and then became aware that the laws here aren't as friendly as they are in other states, such as TX, AR, CO, or CA. Although the laws aren't much unlike these other states, it still seemed pretty evident that we were about to embark on the further examining of the laws in OK and we then made arrangements to enable a easier legal route throughout our journey.
So, we took care of the legalities and set a date to start working with the Intended Parent's (IP's) Reproductive Endocrinologist (RE - fertility doctor). The clinic would be performing IVF with the use of the Intended Mother's (IM) eggs fertilized with the Intended Father's (IF) sperm. My Intended Mother started her medications to stimulate her ovaries to produce many eggs and I began suppressing my system with a drug called Lupron Depot and then began Estrogen patch supplements to build my endometrium lining for implantation of the embryos.
My IM's egg retrieval went well and they retrieved 25 eggs from her and 22 fertilized. I began taking intramuscular Progesterone injections three days prior to the transfer and within 3 days of the eggs being fertilized they transferred them into my uterus by using a very thin catheter. This was done on Valentine's Day 2000. They transferred 2, very healthy, 9 celled, three day old embryos into me and the entire procedure was very simple and painless only lasting about 20 minutes. I was placed on bed rest for 2 days following the transfer to ensure the embryos were given enough time to implant before doing to much physically.

So, then began what is commonly called the 2 week wait by other surrogates. It is the time leading up to the first pregnancy test. The test is usually a quantitative blood (beta) test. The levels have to be at least 5ml to test positive and then following the first positive beta test the numbers are rechecked several more times to make sure they are doubling every 48 to 72 hours to ensure a normal pregnancy. My beta HCG was 150ml...positive at 14 days post transfer and simply elated that it worked on the first attempt! I was able to tell my IPs myself, so I sent them a teddy bear and balloon with a card reading "Roses are Red, Violets are Blue, November is the month that I am due. Love, Baby".

So, we are now pregnant and still sitting on cloud nine. I have been released to my obstetrician (OB) now since it is so hard for me to fly back and forth to see my IP's RE being that I work full time as a case manager and have a family to raise of my own. I am continuing to take the progesterone injections daily, estrogen supplements, and prenatal pills and will have to continue to take these until the pregnancy is supported by the placenta about 12-14 gestational weeks or just after the first trimester into the pregnancy. My estimated due date is set for November 4th, 2000.