What now?

So much  has happened in the last few weeks!  I finished pumping, and made a triumphant exit from the pregnant/nursing/pumping club.  It occurred to me that but for about a month between the duck and my surrobabe, I’d been in that club for nearly SIX YEARS.  Suddenly, I don’t have to worry about any of the million things that you end up obsessing over while in those stages and you know what?  It’s been very liberating and I’m really enjoying it!  A couple months ago, I’d have never been able to admit it, but I’m working really hard on ditching the mom guilt and just allowing myself to feel what I feel and own it.  Again, surprisingly liberating!  Physically, there’s been a few challenges and as the hormones were levelling off, I was blessed with a handful of particularly vicious migraines, but my neurologist gave me a little something new that really took the edge off and allowed me to mostly function.

Our kids have been so amazing through this journey and so we decided they deserved a treat and took them to Disney World for three days.  At like 6 weeks postpartum.  Way to think it through, EBS.  Way to think it through.  It felt like being in the trenches of real parenting. In the shit… While coming off of pregnancy/birth.

Walking out with the other zombies at the day’s (merciful) end, I look around at the rest of the walking wounded. A dad next to me wearing a Goofy hat complete with huge fuzzy ears, carrying a little princess coated head to toe in sparkles as she snored, lips sticky with the remnants of an overpriced cotton candy. A mom shuffling along, pushing a stroller full of absurd souvenirs, barely lifting her feet, muttering something about “goddamn rodent.”  Another man carrying his son on his shoulders, a huge wet patch extending down his back – a urine stripe like a badge of honour that screamed “I am all that is Dad!” I felt traumatized, in need one of those foil shock blankets they use on runners. Yes, we were deep in the shit, and it was COMPLETELY worth it.

Then, a month later, Schmoopy and I went on our first vacation ever.  Well, not EVER ever, but every time we’ve been away, I’ve been pregnant, or we’ve had the kids with us.  Just being together, with no set timelines, few worries (can’t leave the kids without worrying!) and doing whatever we want was exactly what we needed.   I’m feeling very spoiled to have been able to sneak away twice in 2 months, though I’ll admit that leaving the littles was hard.  Up until now, the longest we’ve ever spent away is one night, so it was an adjustment got all of us.  We found the adult fun that you kind of lose when you’re in the trenches of parenting and came back refreshed, relaxed and reconnected.

While we were away, however, he blindsided me with something of which I was unaware: he pretty much wants more babies.  See the S?  BabieS.  Wait, what?!  I guess he thinks 3 or 4 kids is what our family needs.  I… disagree.  It would be unfair not to discuss it, though, so we did at length.  I told him that I *may* be willing to negotiate to 3 kids, but I’m not committing to anything beyond that.  It seemed fair, but then the cocktails happened.  I should mention that because I’ve been pregnant or nursing for 6 years, combined withfear of increasing migraines, I haven’t had more than a couple drinks in as long as I can remember.  They were $5 for 3 doubles, though!  They were on sale!  We were being frugal!  (we were being stupid)  Suffice it to say that we spent more than $5 each, and so things went a little sideways.  From what I understand, we somehow decided in our infinite wisdom, that we would just not take any precautions and “see what happens,” and then I panicked at the last minute and pulled the plug.  That doesn’t mean, however, that a pregnancy wasn’t possible.  When this information came to light, I pretty much had a mini stroke and spent the next week freaking out and peeing on sticks. I completely withdrew from everything, just trying to survive the blinding panic. When it was 100% confirmed that I was NOT in fact pregnant, I was celebrating, and he was visibly disappointed.  I think I may have seen tears, even.  His position is pretty clear.

We’ve agreed to table it after another couple weeks of discussion back and forth.  I’m definitely not ready right now and I’m really enjoying just getting to exist as a single entity.  We debated methods of birth control, waffling between an IUD and the birth control pill.  Ultimately, we settled on the pill. It’s easy to stop taking, low-cost and less permanent, but does present an element of risk since the Bean was conceived while taking it (properly!).  Then my doctor told me that it was likely to have a negative effect on my headache situation, so back to the IUD, which sucks as far as process, cost and convenience if he wins the more kids debate.  If.  That’s where it stands right now, we’re not discussing it, but I do see his eyes light up when he sees an infant or a family with three kids.

I’m headed back to work in a couple weeks and ready to figure out what the new normal looks like.  I don’t know what the future holds for our family, but what I do know is that it will be an adventure!


Pumpin’ ain’t easy

It’s no secret that I am not a fan of pumping breastmilk. It’s been kind of a necessary evil due to an oversupply and a crippling fear of mastitis. Added bonus, a sweet baby gets an extra good start in life. I love the idea and the outcome, but I could do without the actual execution. Truth be told, I’m kind of over it.

I had an unofficial goal of 6 weeks of pumping for Little Miss and we are almost there. I started with 5 minutes every 3 hours during the day (never overnight) and dropped to every 4 hours about 3.5 weeks in. At 5 weeks, I stretched to every 5 hours. Now, at 5w2d, I’m wondering if that change was too aggressive. Is it too soon to reduce?  Am I doing enough?  Am I letting them down?  Can I physically manage this?  By the time I get to the 5 hour mark, I’m definitely uncomfortable and clamouring for Arnold (my pet name for the pump, thanks to an old Arnold Schwarzenegger movie in which he refers to “de pamp”). Clamouring or not, aggressive or not, however, I’m kind of over it.

It’s extremely satisfying for me to be able to help feed another baby. I feel appreciated/valued and helpful. Unfortunately, to have these good feelings, my life has to kind of revolve around Arnold. Every 3/4/5 hours, I need to either be home or set up to pump. Supplies need to be sterilized. I need to be well-hydrated, and pay attention to eating regularly (which I have a tendency to forget). I have avoided my dear old friend alcohol, except for my “white Christmas,” wherein I had 3 little glasses of wine and dumped almost 20 oz of expressed milk (whimper). I need to take these mini time-outs throughout the day, and stay up until the last pump of the evening, otherwise sleep is not happening. Even if I want to call it a night a bit early, I then have to wake up earlier to compensate. Not the end of the world, but not necessarily ideal. I want one night where I can go to bed when I want and sleep until I’m done sleeping without waking up in a swamp. At the same time, I want to know that I’m not giving up. I want to make sure she gets the best possible start. I want to leave the house for more than a couple hours. It’s been fun, but I’m kind of over it.

It’s hard to explain but I feel decidedly…selfish (?) making this change. I breastfed my own littles for about 2 years each so it feels odd to be deciding that it’s done so soon. Logically, I know this to not be the case, but emotionally it’s been a surprising struggle. Then this afternoon as I agonized over when/how to cut back and wrap this phase up, my husband said that pumping and breastfeeding are two very different things and that he thinks I’ve done more than enough, so there’s no shame to be had here. Then he said the words I didn’t know I needed to hear from someone else:

“It’s ok to be done.”

With that, I realized that I was beating myself up over something that I shouldn’t. I realized that I HAVE done my best and that it’s time to take care of what I want and need now. With that, I realized it’s time to stop demanding so much of myself, that my job here is done. With 5 simple words, I feel I have been given the permission to let go and move on. I’m taking that “permission” and tomorrow, I’m going to start the process of suppressing lactation. There are some herbal supplements, teas etc that can help and while it won’t be an instant change, I find myself eagerly anticipating having my time and my body to myself a little.  He’s right, I admit it: I AM over it. I am officially done with pumping.

Of course, as with many of the things that are happening in this journey right now, it’s bittersweet. Once I am done supplying milk, the physical part is officially over. After this, it’s just a matter of moving on and maintaining a relationship with a beautiful new family that we had a hand in creating. If there’s one thing I know, it’s that I will carry this experience with me forever. It’s shaped me/us and changed our lives immeasurably. I’ll never be over that.

To the New Parents

Be forewarned… There will be schmaltz ahead.  It’s hard to express these big things sans schmaltz.

Mom and Dad,

When we first set off on this journey, you wouldn’t even allow yourself to dream about a baby.  I’ll never forget how you carried yourselves when we met for coffee in that god awful joint I picked, so anxious, so incredulous that this could even be a possibility.  I knew on the spot that this was going to happen.  It was like dating, when you know, you know.  While I’m aware it may come across simplistic, or maybe even cavalier, doing this with you, for you was such an easy decision to make.

I’m not religious, but I feel as though this is as close to a real miracle as I will ever get.  It’s amazing how life puts you right where you need to be, right when you need to be there.  After my friend A passed away, I wanted so badly to find a way to share her light.  Giving was just “her,” right down to her core and helping you to have your baby helped me pick up the pieces and honour her in a way that she would have loved.  The balance of science/hope/love and patience and of our relationship was like a beautiful dance that all fell into place in the most extraordinary way.  I don’t imagine it was ever easy for you, but I hope you know you handled it extremely well.  I always felt appreciated and supported, and definitely loved.

I want you to know that for all its –ahem- discomforts and its MANY embarrassing moments, sharing this with you was a pure joy.  I won’t lie and say that it was always easy, but it was ALWAYS a joy.  Pain always has a purpose, and the purpose ended up being a saucy little stunner!  You two were unbelievably brave to entrust someone else with your most precious possibilities and I’m deeply honoured that the someone else was me.  Really, that it was us, my whole family.  We are all forever changed by E and by you – how could we not be?  From despair to elation to hysterical laughter, I don’t think I’ve ever cried so much in my life or felt so many feels in such a short period of time.  When I felt shitty or tired or bitchy (not that that EVER happened), I only needed to think of you all and I realized how inconsequential the short term truly is in the grand scheme of our lives.

What I didn’t know is how completely changed the whole experience would leave me.  I feel completely the same and yet, somehow, completely different.  My heart feels more full, my mind is more clear.  I learned to slow down a little (for which Schmoopy was very grateful!) but more importantly, I learned how completely fortunate I am.  I realize more fully the gift that I’ve been given in having two healthy, beautiful, mouthy, hilarious kids.  I realize that the body that I sometimes hate, that I often bitch about and make fun of is actually an incredible, powerful tool that can make incredible things happen.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ll probably still make fun of this ol’ thing, but I’ve been given tremendous perspective as to what I am capable of doing.  I didn’t realize I needed that.

Then there’s E.  Your beautiful, perfect, healthy little baby.  YOUR BABY.  Holy shit, guys, you have a baby!  Seeing you go from Guy and Girl to Dad and Mom was beautiful.  Watching Mom throw open her arms to welcome her with Dad’s shaking hand on my shoulder may have been one of the most moving moments of my life.  I’m not great with big emotions and being told that she was going to have my name with her forever was pretty much as big as they come.  While I’m sure I didn’t adequately express it, I feel flattered and overwhelmed.  She is a perfect mix of you both and is destined for big things, even if she is carrying my name with her along the way!

Over the years, I’ve found that the secret to my happiness has been to never turn down the opportunity to do something AWESOME, regardless of how insane it may sound.  I try really hard to take steps away from the familiar without hesitation, to dive headlong into adventures like these without looking back and on nothing more than blind faith that it will all work out.  The prospect of surrogacy is about as insane as it gets, but I am so glad we took this leap together without looking back because “awesome” just doesn’t do it justice.  The creation of your family has become one of the greatest adventures of my life.  It has brought me more happiness and fulfillment than I could have ever imagined –  I am proud of what we’ve all done and would do it again without hesitation.

I hope that when you look back on the last year or so, you feel the same peace and awe that I feel.  While I know it’s not goodbye, this phase of the journey is closing and I wanted to tell you that we all feel very blessed to have been able to do this together.  We love you three so, so much and wish so many good things for you all!  Be happy, be well, be good to one another.  Take those leaps into insanity every chance you get, I promise you won’t regret it!

Merry Christmas to the whole family, and extra snuggles to E!

Extremebabysitter, Schmoopy, Bean, Duck and our Mutt

PS – oh and I was thinking, when you’re ready, let’s maybe do it again sometime?


To you, little one

Dearest E,

There’s so much I wish I could tell you. I wish there was a way to put into words how magical your story is and how deeply blessed I was to be a part of it. You are a miracle.

It was an honour being your first babysitter. From the moment that you were passed to me, a bright silver flash on a black and white screen, I knew you were here to stay. From the moment my appetite disappeared just a few days later, I knew you were a girl. From the moment you locked eyes with your parents, I knew you were home.  I couldn’t be more proud to have been a player in your amazing story, sweet girl.

Our time together was easy. You took nothing from my life whatsoever, but rather made it more beautiful. Sometimes people tell me that I am wonderful for carrying you, but sometimes?  Sometimes, as lame as it sounds, it was the idea of you that carried me. My hopes for you and your family, the pure beauty of every step of this journey… Dreaming of the moment you made your mom and dad parents was like a salve for my very broken heart. You see, I’d lost someone special to me about a year before you and I became a pair and this was my way of honouring her. She was made of pure love, kind and generous and she desperately wanted to have babies.  She is the reason I was able to help your amazing mom and dad.  I hope that you will remember to be strong and loving and kind like she was.

While we were together, you loved tzatziki, popcorn, potatoes, CANDY, and apples more than anything. You loved listening to music almost as much as you loved the sounds of your parents’ voices on the belly headphones they bought you. Truth be told, you had big reactions to both, but you seemed to go nuts for your dad – rolling towards his voice and kicking hard.  I called you Squiggle because you were SO active!  You and I were buddies and you never forgot to remind me when it was 1030pm or 630 am with a bouncy, bladder kickin’ dance party!  I’d like to apologize now for my horrific  off-key singing in the car, where we spent a lot of time… Having a baby means lots of appointments and driving!  As you grew, so did I of course, but it was never an inconvenience. Watching my belly get bigger and rounder was one of the simple joys of carrying you. Knowing you were growing big (and strong!) was a pleasure and a gift.  You were merciful and I had very few pregnancy symptoms/complaints. I was able to do everything I usually would until the very end, even though it was sometimes exhausting keeping up. A mother always (ALWAYS) worries about her babies and I’m grateful that the bean and the duck didn’t lose any of my time or affection as you grew. Thank you for that.

E, no matter the distance between us and the passing of time, please remember that I am always here as your friend and ALWAYS ready to talk to you – and to remind you just how special you truly are.  You ARE special.  You were so fiercely loved and wanted right from the start. They had some very high highs, and some very low lows over the years but your parents would have moved heaven and earth just to meet you. You are blessed to have them –  they adore you more than you will ever understand…. Even though sometimes you may feel otherwise. I know that being a kid is tough, especially when your parents just don’t get it, but try to remember that it’s all because they love you and want you to be safe, happy, and healthy.

My hopes for you are simple: I want you to live a good life. I’m not talking about getting a great job, making lots of money and buying a big house. I’m talking about strength of character, about being happy. I hope you’ll be brave, that you’ll be willing to try new things. I hope that you’ll be strong like your parents. I hope you’ll travel as much as you can. Understanding that for all its sorrows and pain, that the world is truly a beautiful place will change your life. I hope that you’ll remember to live with kindness and compassion, with the knowledge that people are inherently good. I hope you’ll seek the wisdom of your mom and dad and follow at least some of their advice. I hope you’ll be bold and chase whatever dreams you have. Above all, I hope that you’ll find the joy in your everyday. Remember to dream big and to never stop imagining the “what ifs” in this life. You’re destined for greatness!

You will always have your own place in my heart and on my mind.  I will hold on to the memories of watching from the front row as you made your parents’ dreams come true (and as your dad struggled to figure out your first diaper change!). I will never forget the moment your mom held you for the first time, tears of joy streaming down her face.  Watching you lock eyes with your dad for the first time, his still misty from his own tears, yours dark, ancient and wise.  Seeing you greeted by your grandparents and welcomed into your new family. Our first snuggle, the day after you were born. Leaving you there with your mom and dad while I went home to be with my babies.  Visiting you at your home and watching the new normal in the first few days.  Wondering who you’re going to be. These moments will always bring me to tears. I am full of gratitude for being given the tremendous opportunity to know you.

Thank you, E, for choosing me, for sticking with me. Thank you for filling my heart with hope and for reminding me what a gift my babies are and how precious life is. Thank you for simply being the wonder that you are. Welcome to the world, little one. It’s been waiting just for you.

With so much love,

Your forever friend

The Aftermath

It’s been a little over 2 weeks since Little Miss made her grand appearance.

In prepping for the event, I searched extensively for blogs or accounts of surrogates’ emotions after the birth and found them to be fairly scarce.  When she was born, LM didn’t look anything like my babies and I found myself feeling no attachment whatsoever.  Immediately after her birth, as everyone focused on this perfect little person, I felt like an outsider, an empty vessel whose job was complete and who no longer belonged there.  Although there was a lot of love coming my way, I felt completely lost, not knowing what to do or say.  Not wanting to interrupt.  Not wanting to interfere.  Don’t get me wrong, I felt a lot of love for her and for/from Mom and Dad, but I didn’t feel like I’d just had a baby at all!  Even as I dealt with the immediate postpartum glamour, it was more like I was visiting a friend who had just delivered.  I think that knowing that she was never ours to begin with made the transition way easier.  Walking out of the hospital without a baby was a little surreal but again, with all the preparation time, it wasn’t bad.  There have been times where I feel as though I feel people staring at my tubby gut and I just want to yell that “I just had a baby 2 weeks ago!”  Instead I just feel flabby and a little gross/embarrassed.  Schmoopy assures me that you “almost can’t even tell,” but I can.  Logically, I know that the pressure that I feel from myself to bounce back is pretty unreasonable, but irrational me replies that I can do better.  I’m trying to learn to adjust expectations and be kind to myself, but it’s not going all that well.

Otherwise, my emotional state is pretty ok.  Except that… I’m lonely.  I could have gone back to work the day after delivery but I’m going to take the time to which I’m entitled.  The littles go to school and daycare, and our friends all work, so I’m mostly alone all day but I feel as though I’ve been running around like a crazy person ever since the day after delivery!  I did get pretty worn out at the standard 3-day mark and spend a couple days lounging and lazing…aaaaand doing all our Christmas shopping online.  And tidying the house.  Ok, ok, I TRIED to lounge and laze, and that has to count for something.  Otherwise, I’m preparing for Christmas, tidying the house, doing yardwork, catching up on all my administrative stuff, like paperwork etc, planning a mini getaway next month but… mostly all of this has been done alone.  It’s a little sad and I’m definitely feeling some blues but once all the running is done, I plan to take a photography course and to put some time in at the gym, so brighter days are coming.  I also try to remind myself that this time will pass quickly and that there are a lot of “me” things I can do, things that would otherwise never happen.  Self-growth will be refreshing.

Physically, the recovery has been easier than I expected.  I could have walked right out of the operating room, but was required to ride…lame.  I felt shaky and hungry, but after a shower and some food, that faded quickly.  I was pleased to find that I didn’t require any repair work, when I was sure that stitches would have been a guarantee given baby’s position!  It was a pleasant surprise.  After my own babies, my -ahem- crotchal region was comparable to the first 6 minutes of Saving Private Ryan for at least a week, but this time?  Not even a hint of swelling or discomfort!  I don’t know how it happened, but I chalk it up to good deed karma. I was able to leave the hospital (walking unassisted) about 3 hours post-delivery and was out and about the next morning.  My biggest complaints, now that we’re two weeks out, have been the hideous self-inflicted scratches all over my body from the antibiotics, their assorted delightful side effects which are being managed with probiotics.  Oh, and the pain from 2 BLOWN veins and the epi.  The bruising and discomfort were actually surprisingly intense where my poor tiny veins were blown, and my back was unhappy for about 8-9 days, almost as though I’d been punched in the spine.  While I never expected that from an epidural (and I would NEVER NEVER choose to have one)…  If that’s the biggest complaint, really it’s not so bad, right?  I weighed myself 10 days after delivery and am 10 pounds exactly above my starting weight, which admittedly was a smidge “fluffy,” so I have about 30 lbs to drop.  I couldn’t get our midwife to agree to starting gym time today, but she said after 3 weeks, she’d reluctantly agree.  Good enough, I suppose.

I hate pumping.  HATE it.  After a few days, my poor nipples were swollen, cracked, blistered, and painful, but thankfully it ended after about 3 days of misery. I breastfed my littles for about 2 years each and avoided pumping as much as possible, only busting out the pump if absolutely necessary.  Since I have an abundant supply, however, pumping was kind of an absolute necessity to prevent my nightmare: mastitis.  I had it with each of our kidlets twice and wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy (if I HAD a worst enemy, that is).  I’m trying to not increase production, so I’m aiming to minimize how often the pump comes out.  I hit it every 3 hours for FIVE minutes between 730 am and 1030pm, and we’ve given Mom, Dad and LM over 600 ounces in 2 weeks!  I feel decidedly bovine.  MOOOOO!  There’s no official plan as to how long this will go on, but unofficially I’m thinking 6-8 weeks.  That will give LM a great start, and hopefully stock the freezer for a few weeks too!

Our contact with Mom and Dad has decreased as expected while they are busy adapting to this new little person!  I miss connecting as regularly, but of course I understand.  Schmoopy and Dad see each other a couple times a week for the “milk run” but otherwise it’s mostly the occasional text.  I may pop down to see the girls briefly after an (unrelated) doctor’s appointment tomorrow but I am truly scared of interfering.  I don’t want anyone to feel obligated to visit – and I hope I made that clear to Mom when I asked.  I’m just not sure how to navigate our new normal.   I feel very apprehensive and unsure of how to handle things.  This is kind of a mix of expected and not… If only there were an established etiquette.  For now, the goal is to be present but not intrusive and to stay connected without annoying.  I hope we’re succeeding.

It’s been a huge adjustment, but overall, not a difficult one.  My heart is full of love and appreciation for both my own little family and theirs.  My head is full of beautiful memories of the whole experience.  I feel like I could explode from all the feels.  Very, VERY soon, I will have to finish the letter I’ve drafted for the little person formerly known as Squiggle and maybe I’ll post it here, since it outlines those feels in a way that almost makes sense!  For now, it’s back to organizing the cupboards and closets.


And pumping.

Just like that, she’s here!

Schmoopy and I were outside on Wednesday night (aka the day after my last post!) and I joked that we’d be 39 weeks in a few hours, “ok, full moon… Do your thing.”

Within about 10 mins, I felt a pretty decent contraction. We laughed. A few mins later, another. We laughed again. When the next one came, not so funny anymore. I decided to lie down for a bit and then we’d decide whether or not to call mom and dad. One more contraction and Bryan was on the phone.

My parents arrived to take care of the Bean and the Duck.  While I was relieved to have them here, I really despised having extra people watching me, especially as I repeatedly vomited.  Our midwives were concerned that the baby’s position wasn’t optimal, so they asked us to come in right away even though I knew we weren’t “there” yet.

We got to L&D at midnight or so, dilated to a 3, with regular contractions. Our midwives were all off call (except for Lia, the student) so we met with Andy who was doing her best to catch up. Mom and Dad arrived in no time, wearing the most amazing “this is all our fault” shirts.  I just about died!  Being that baby was still breech and I was gbs+ and had to have the big gun antibiotics, we were admitted immediately by the OB on call and got all that going even though it was still very much early labour.  Luckily, he was willing to try a breech delivery and so everything was still ok.

I got vanco’d and it sucked worse than the first time. I was tearing my skin off from the itching, and 11 days later I’m still dealing with some of the self-inflicted wounds, and tummy issues. At this point, I gave a flat out no way to another dose whether at 12 hours as recommended if labour didn’t pick up. I was worried that labour wasn’t progressing and that we’d done the antibiotic too early.  My vote was that we just call it a day and induce. The day OB, Dr. M, agreed that baby and I were well-protected and that inducing to push things along was an ok idea.  He was more willing and optimistic about a breech delivery and had done many!  Bonus!  The boys went to “sleep” in their shitty hospital chairs and mom and I stayed up laboring lightly-ish and  chatting.

Late morning, my intended OB came in to visit and we added some pitocin to the party. Even though I wasn’t in active labour, I was still scared that we’d miss our window and have to be nuked a second time – no. Fucking. Way. Just as we were about to go to my safe place in the tub, anesthesia called to do my unwanted epidural. Our nurse had pushed them off a couple times but they were worried about timelines and csection risks. I will own that the epi was kind of a nice treat… I was having some major performance anxiety knowing that mom and dad would be watching and this kind of took away the risk of a lot of the grunting and moaning that make me feel self-conscious.

By early afternoon, not much change. My OB, Dr. F came in between surgeries and broke my water… Not a huge gush, so we assumed that baby was acting as a cork. A couple hours later, still no change but we discovered that the initial break was forewaters when my water ACTUALLY broke on poor Dr. M.  The whole mood of the room changed!  At this point, we’d been kind of stalled out, at the maximum dose of Pitocin, but every time I’d have a contraction, Squiggle would launch herself back up and into my ribs.  Without a head (or in this case a bum!) putting pressure, dilation was slooooow and I was getting frustrated – and worrying about being pressured into a c-section.

As soon as my water was legitimately broken, early labour kicked into active and we were off and running. We went from 4cm to 8 in about 20 mins, and I suggested that we consider expediting our move to the OR. Luckily, the nurses believed me when I said that things had a tendency to move quickly for me once we crossed 5cm and off we went.  Evidently, the surgical bed had been loaded into the room backwards, which didn’t occur to the nurses, and they were incessantly fucking with it.  I’d asked several times that we keep the chatter to a minimum and one nurse just wouldn’t quit bitching about the damn bed… While I was trying to take directions from the OB and desperately trying not to push.  Finally I told everyone to shut the hell up, and the whiner was banned to the corner.  A win for the fat lady!  Schmoopy was at my left, Mom and Dad at my right and I was on my back, legs in stirrups, announcing that this was the “worst possible angle.”  It couldn’t be changed, so we dealt with it and got ready to rock.  Unfortunately, at the angle I was stuck in, and without the assistance of gravity… I had to work!  Luckily, I’d let the epidural run down, so at this point, I felt almost everything.  Had I left it cranked, I don’t know how this would have been doable.  I was vaguely aware of Schmoopy rubbing my head and of Mom and Dad’s breathing but I was so focused on what I was doing, and on the nurse who wouldn’t shut her trap that there wasn’t room for much else in my head.  At this point, the contractions seemed unbelievably weak and I was working harder than I ever have.  Then, from out of nowhere, an oxygen mask appeared between contractions.  I found out later that baby was having some decelerations and apparently I wasn’t breathing enough.  We had a bit of a laugh when our OB applied some lubricant, and I suggested a spray of Pam instead, but otherwise it was pretty much all business.  Suddenly, I was being asked to push when I didn’t have contractions, which was brutal!  I felt like I was achieving nothing!  My own kids took almost no effort, but this was INTENSE, and then… There she was.  Thursday, November 26th 2015, 8:06pm, one week before her due date.  As she was born, Mom (who’d changed into nothing but a hospital robe up top to make skin to skin bonding easier) came to the business end and threw open her top to welcome her baby.  Dad cut the cord a minute or two later to allow it to stop pulsing and also collect some cord blood for banking and they retreated while I got to work on delivering the placenta.  After a baby, it’s delivered rather unceremoniously with a big fat blop, but a relieving blop!  I thought I’d delivered it at one point but it turned out to be a fair amount of blood… I warned the docs, and they were able to move thankfully, before getting showered. Yikes, mortifying!  Mercifully, the placenta followed about a minute later.

While I was focused on this task, Mom and Dad announced that they were not going to keep Squiggle as baby’s permanent name, but rather Firstname MYname Lastname.  Yep, they named this poor child after…me.  Every time she gets in trouble and gets full named, they’re going to be reminded that this is MY fault!  Awesome.  The tears in that OR were flowing.  Everyone except for the OB and little Miss was somewhere between crying, ugly crying and openly sobbing… and despite the tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of medical equipment, there was not one box of Kleenex in that damn room.  Someone asked how big I thought she was, and despite not having seen her yet, I threw out 7lbs 7oz.  She was 3373 grams, which is?  7lbs 7oz.  I wasn’t allowed to walk out of the OR and back to our room, but I could have!  I felt great!

At some point in the day, I’d realized that baby would recognize my voice, so as soon as she was born, I stopped talking unless it was absolutely necessary.  In the end, this was probably an overreaction because Little Miss KNEW her mama and daddy right away and was keyed right into her, staring and bonding.  She didn’t see anyone else – and I don’t think Mom did either. I’m not religious, but this was probably as close to a miracle as I will probably ever see.  The world around the three of them simply stopped existing as we watched them become a family.  About 40 minutes after she was born, after my (glorious!) postpartum shower, and as the midwives did the newborn exam, I finally wandered over to take a closer look at my wombmate.  There are simply no words to describe the feeling.  She was beautiful, and perfect and she was theirs.  I held one hand and Mom the other, but Little Miss had no idea that I was even there, as fixated as she was on Mom.  It didn’t even feel as though I’d just given birth, but more as though I was visiting a friend who just had.

My role was over, my job complete and while I had worried that I’d feel empty and unimportant, I felt loving and loved and appreciated.  I also felt exhilarated and exhausted having not slept in 40+ hours, nor eaten in about 30.  Schmoopy grabbed me a meatball sub, which was arguably the best thing I’ve ever eaten.  I remember at one point realizing that “I should probably try to chew this,” as I wolfed it down and could have probably eaten 6 or 7 more of them!  Once we took care of the bare necessities for release, about 3 hours after baby was born, I walked my ass out of that hospital (while the nurses applauded!) and Schmoop took me home where I slept for 5 straight hours. Amazing!

In the morning, I got up with my mother and my littles and sent them off to school/daycare.  Then Schmoopy needed to head to the chiropractor and for a haircut so… I joined him.  The chiropractic adjustment was JUST what I needed – until I had my hair washed.  I’d clawed my head raw thanks to the antibiotics, and having a scrub with peppermint shampoo made me feel superhuman!

After getting snap/crackle/popped and cleaned up, we went back to the hospital to visit and for our 1 day old midwife appointment.  Both baby and I got gold stars on our progress, and I held her for the first time.  As we had our first snuggle, I realized that I felt no bond whatsoever with this perfect little baby.  I felt full of love for her and her amazing parents, but she just… wasn’t mine. I was grateful to not feel sad, but rather elated, to see her with them!  We brought our littles back that evening to say hello and goodbye, and to bring cupcakes for Little Miss’ “birthday party,” and they did great!  They knew that she was Mom and Dad’s and weren’t confused at all.  Frankly, they were probably more interested in the cupcakes, and that’s totally cool with me!

When it was time to go, I had a little cry while I held LM.  I wanted so badly to tell her something profound, but all I could squeak out was, “be good to them.”  Mom and Dad offered us a moment alone, but we didn’t need it.  It was so overwhelming realizing that we’d done it.  We’d navigated the legal waters, gotten pregnant, delivered a BREECH baby and now she was going home.  We did it, and they were a beautiful, happy family of three.  Dad kept thanking me and said that trying to find the words to express how they felt was almost impossible.  I get it.  There ARE no words on either side, so I told him the only thing that I could think of, which hasn’t changed or evolved to anything more than 3 words:

Go, be happy.

The end is nigh. Ish.

I vote we change Squiggle’s name to “tenacious B(aby)”.

She has not flipped, as far as I can tell, and D-day is imminent.  I’ve tried massage, chiropractic, moxibustion, acupuncture, physical positions from spinningbabies, swimming, visualization, homeopathic remedies, and heat/cold/music.  We went for an OB consult a few days after Black Wednesday (the day we got the news of the breech positioning) and I was terrified it would be an automatic c-section.  Our phenomenal midwives referred us to Dr. F, and came with us for the consult with her.  As it turns out, the intention that day was to attempt an ECV on the spot.  As we were waiting for her to arrive, we got bonus news!  I tested positive for Group B Strep (GBS)… more on that later.  The OB breezed in and our midwife gave her the rundown.  Dr. F was unbelievably cool!  First, she fluffed off the GBS diagnosis with a little wave and a, “no worry for me.”  Next as she performed an ultrasound to confirm the breech-ness, she announced “this is no problem.”  Sadly, with an anterior (frontal) placenta and her head in my ribs, there was no good way to get a grip on the babe to turn her.  My head was spinning as I was SURE we’d be sentenced to a C-section.  Not so!  As it turns out, our OB is European-trained and unlike North American physicians, they’re taught that breech is a variation of normal – as well as how to safely deliver a baby who won’t turn!  She apparently enjoys the challenge and is happy to attempt with the right candidates, which we are!

On to the GBS.  This is the shittiest thing ever.  In short, a good percentage of adult women (15-40%) are carriers of the group b strep bacteria.  Of those women, a percentage are “colonized,” meaning their babies are at risk of becoming infected.  The risk to babies is relatively minor, but the side effect can be fatal.  I tested positive with the Bean and Negative with the Duck, so I’m a carrier, but wasn’t colonized when she showed up.  The course of action is to either treat with antibiotics in labour, regardless OR wait for certain risk factors (24+ hours after water breaks or a fever in labour) before dosing.  I personally prefer to treat based on risk alone.  Mostly because there are 2 main antibiotics used – penicillin and clyndamycin – and I am deathly allergic to penicillin. With the Bean, the strain of GBS I had was resistant to clyndamycin so an alternate antibiotic had to be used: vancomycin.  Vanco can only be administered via IV while admitted to a hospital and under extremely close observation, particularly for heart failure.  I was told that its strength is such that if it can’t kill what you’ve got, nothing can.  The joke was even made that if it can’t kill what you’ve got,what you’ve got will kill you. (hahaha right?  so hilarious) If you’re feeling frisky, take a look at the side effects,  this drug is truly heinous.. I would liken it to being NUKED.

My vote was to check sensitivities, and if the strain was susceptible to clindamycin, just treat.  It’s a compromise of what I’d want, but ok.  I said that vanco was my hardline, and I would NOT take it without risk factors presenting themselves.  I was not going to negotiate.  Then the sensitivities came back and vanco was the only option.  I told Schmoopy that no way would I raze my poor exhausted body before/during labour on a maybe. Then Mom called and was a total mess, worrying about the potential impacts to baby – 1/200 babies exposed COULD be infected and  of those babies (appx 1000/year in the US), one would risk permanent side effects.  This was not a good call, not even a bit.  While I know it wasn’t her intention, and that she was just being the great mom she’s going to be… and I feel awful admitting this… the pressure and guilt was pretty heavy.  My risk of *serious* side effects like heart failure and permanent hearing loss are fairly minimal, the risk of  all the other unpleasant ones is almost 100%.  No one really escapes this drug unscathed.  The conversation was brutal – to the point where I felt that the risk of side effects to me were irrelevant.  I understand and respect that as a mother, protecting and advocating for her baby above all else, but in truth, the call ended with me feeling extremely unimportant/disposable when our risks of serious side effects (mine from drugs and hers from GBS) were pretty close to equivalent.  In the end because I’m a people pleaser, I agreed to being nuked.  So they’re happy, because sweet baby is protected, but I’m terrified because it’s MY job to protect my kids too.  Any permanent side effects I potentially suffer will affect them and their lives too.  I’m still pretty broken about the whole thing, it’s truly the definition of a no-win scenario for me.

At least now, we have the plan, and it is fairly simple.  We gave Tenacious B some time to flip or get the hell out of my lungs/ribs so that she can be externally assisted in getting where she needs to be.  In 3 sleeps (!), we will return to see the OB, who is coming in on her day off just for us.  She’ll attempt an ECV and induce if we’re successful.  If unsuccessful, we’ll see if my body is favourable/ready for delivery.  If NOT, we’ll wait a couple more days.  If SO, we’ll induce and work towards a vaginal breech delivery.  I will have to agree to have an epidural, and deliver in an operating room that will be prepped for an emergency C-section.  Dr. F is quite confident that if this is the alternative we end up with, we’ll still have a successful delivery (without knives).  Hell, the epi may be a nice treat!  I wish I could express how totally incredible this doctor is.  We asked what would happen if I went into natural labour while she was off call or before the ECV attempt, and her response was, “day or night any day, page me and I’m here.”  As though it were nothing.  I could have cried, just knowing that no matter what, we have an OB willing to work with us, to TRY.  That’s all I need.

As we continue to play crotch watch and hope the baby formerly known as Squiggle decides to be nice and flip, I realize how utterly physically (thanks, flu) and emotionally exhausting the last two weeks or so have been… I’m completely burned out and ready to get to the joyful part where a couple becomes a family.  There are concessions to be made, and it isn’t picture perfect, but when is it ever?  Hell, it’s a full moon tonight…

Flip baby, flip!

Things aren’t always what we picture, are they?

At our 37 week appointment this week, we found ourselves a fun surprise – Squiggle seemed to have decided that breech positioning is where the party is.  Unfortunately, I had the flu, so our midwife couldn’t really tell where she was hiding without the potential of a catastrophe… So off we went for an ultrasound, which of course confirmed that this little booger is frank breech: bum down, feet up by her face.  Of all the breech positions, this is the most merciful of the bunch.  After the ultrasound, we popped into the fertility clinic (they share an office) to see if our doc was in, which she wasn’t.  We had a visit/chat with her lovely nurse, however, which was great until we mentioned the breech-ness.  “Oh, that’s a c-section,” she announced, without missing a beat.  We changed the subject, but she brought it up a couple more times.  At that point, all the stress, illness, not eating for 3 days all caught up and I found myself ugly crying sobbing in the hallway like a goon.  I tried to get to the washroom before the waterworks, but couldn’t do it.  It was mortifying.  I hate that everyone saw it.  ugh.

As a result of the news, there’s been a huge flurry of activity the last couple of days.  Schmoopy turned the hot tub down to 97 degrees and I’ve been floating as much as possible.  We’ve tried the spinningbabies.com positions to encourage her to flip.  3 visits to the chiropractor to perform the webster technique and for a massage.  Anything we can do, we’re doing.

Unfortunately, because we’re at “early term,” we now have to consult with an OB-GYN, which we’ll be doing tomorrow.  We’re seeing the best one locally, and our midwife has assured us that not only is she highly experienced with ECV (external cephalic version – turning baby from the outside), but also with delivering breech babies.  Apparently, she’s one of but a few OBs willing to help attempt a vaginal delivery!  Of all the options, I’m extremely pleased that she’s the one who has taken us on, and I keep reminding myself that there’s still time.  I picture it like this: We have our consult.  If baby hasn’t flipped, we book an ECV/induction.  If she still hasn’t flipped by that date, and the ECV fails, we’d then STILL have to book an induction/possible c-section so there’d be yet more time.  I hope.  My biggest fear is that we’ll go in and she’ll say that it’s more emergent than we imagine it to be.

Regardless of the how, this beautiful little baby will be born.  She will be healthy and strong, and we will figure it out.  That’s what matters. We’re going to be ok.

The wall has been HIT.

Be forewarned, I’m about to have a pity party.

I’ll admit it.  I’m tired.  I’m burned out.  I’ve hit the wall.

The hard part is that I don’t 100% feel like there’s anyone to whine to.  I know that Mom would give anything to be in my position, AND she and Dad feel awful any time I’m feeling less than perfect.  I don’t want to make them feel guilty – they have enough to worry/stress about. Schmoopy has pretty much been a saint, picking up my slack, dealing with all the assorted glamours of pregnancy and only occasionally bitching about it.  I don’t want to tell any of them how bad this week has been.  So, internet, you get my complaining:

  • I’m exhausted and barely sleeping more than a couple hours at a time.  If I do get any sleep, Schmoop coming in from work at 3am wakes me up and then my brain kicks in and it’s all over.  I just want one night to sleep from when I’m tired until I’m done sleeping.
  • I’m not eating all that great. We are running out of stomach space, and in a cruel twist of irony, my appetite (which has been effectively non-existent since March) is raging but nothing sounds appealing.  I’m subsisting on apples/peanut butter, yogurt, smoothies and…yeah that’s about it. Oh, and the kids’ halloween candy, but even that is just “meh.”  Even if it were McDonald’s, I wish I wanted SOMEthing. Anything.
  • I’m starting to get slow and sore.  If this were our own baby, I wouldn’t feel bad about that, but the fact is that my kids aren’t about to have a sibling, so I owe it to them to be as close to normal as I can.  Besides sleep deprivation causing a shorter than usual fuse, I’m doing ok at it but I feel terrible for not being as tolerant as usual.  The cost of being this active is also far from insignificant.
  • WORST of all?  I’m jealous.  Insanely jealous.  While I know this is totally inaccurate, it feels like everyone else involved gets to enjoy their day to day lives.  If they want to sleep, eyes closed, sleep.  If they want to go away for a weekend, or even out with friends, no problem.  If they want to lift something, easy.  Eating? Sure.  Meanwhile, I get to be fat on the bed.  Then I get to be fat in the kitchen.  Then I get to be fat on the couch.  Combined with it being literally the busiest time of year at work, and Schmoop’s work schedule, I haven’t had a couple hours “off” in weeks, it’s just constant running and it’s very isolating.

I know this is what I signed up for, we all knew that being pregnant isn’t always easy… It should come as no surprise.  If I didn’t want this, I shouldn’t have been a surrogate, blah blah blah. I don’t regret this all – FAR from it – and I’m not one to admit weakness, but I just need a damn break.  Just an afternoon to not have to deal with anything.  Then again, I”ll probably feel like I’m ditching my littles.  It’s a no-win scenario.

Whining aside, little miss is doing great.  We’ve arranged with our midwives to have a homebirth kit in our home since the Duck’s labour and delivery was so quick.  We went from 4cm and “early labour” to delivered in 1 hr 1 min.  If anyone told me at any point during that hour that it was time to get in the car, my answer would have been…less than favourable.  I refuse to have a side of the highway baby, so the plan is for us to go to the hospital as soon as it’s a maybe, but also to be prepped at home on the off chance that we have another quickie!

36 weeks in, she’s head down, measuring right on track and working on her karate moves!  Even with an anterior (forward) placenta, she makes herself felt.  She’s so strong, almost…aggressive, and it’s amazing.  We’re all getting used to the idea that as of next week, we’ll be considered “term” and she can come any time!  I’d love it if she sticks it out until my maternity leave starts since I don’t really want to have to do more paperwork (burned out, remember?), but whatever she decides, I’m good with.  It’s all about this amazing little person, and her amazing parents, so what’s a few more weeks of (fun?) to change someone’s life, right?  We’re so close.  So, so close.  Baby steps.

A Few Good Scares!

Canadian Thanksgiving was last weekend, so we relished the opportunity to go home to family.  We’ve agreed with Mom and Dad that none of us would travel after that, which made it something of a temporary Farewell Tour.  As an added bonus, I finally found myself with a bit of an appetite!  In a cruel twist of irony, now that I’ve found it, we’re running out of tummy room.  Bullshit.  I even had to tap out before I tackled my whole piece of pie.  Devastating bullshit.  Either way, seeing my extended family was fantastic.  They’re so wonderfully supportive and loving in general, but they’ve bumped it up recently. If I ever need someone to tell me that I’m doing ok, that I’m awesome, that my kids really AREN’T being shitty, these are the people I go to and this time was no different.  Schmoop and I had so many extra sets of loving hands to help that we even got to go on a date – unheard of!  I also got to spend a fair amount of time sitting and resting while people brought me things and managed the little boogers.  I’ll admit, it was LOVELY.  The timing couldn’t have been better because on Saturday, it finally happened:

I. HIT. THE. WALL.  All of a sudden, after almost no symptoms whatsoever, my body caught on.  I seriously woke up and my body was yelling, “dude.  I don’t know if you’ve noticed but…we’re pregnant.  How did this HAPPEN to us?!”  Now, it’s slow down and gestate time, which is an easier proposition now, since everyone who needs to finally knows, including the kids.   They took it amazingly well.  The Duck doesn’t really care.  Being 2 years old, she is more concerned with her own frenetic activities.  The Bean was well-prepared with books about the concept of surrogacy.  He was excited beyond belief, but mature well beyond his 4 years.  His eyes shone, and he told me that he was happy that we could help Mom and Dad and to have a new friend. The kid even knew that it wasn’t a situation to discuss with the kids from school (we told him it may confuse them because they don’t have the books, but really, I worry about forcing parents to have conversations they aren’t ready for or about their personal beliefs).  His gentle spirit, understanding and willingness to accept the journey made my heart soar and almost burst with pride.  So now, we’re left to just wait and wait, and wait, and see.

In my experience, it’s fairly common to have at least a couple good “am I in labour” moments in each pregnancy.  This one, while no different, takes on a whole different layer of complexity.

When your pregnancy is your own, it’s totally realistic to sit alone and obsessively wonder, but no one needs to know that you’re doing it.  In a surrogacy situation, it would be SUPREMELY unfair to get to the point of calling the midwife/going to L&D/having a pre-term birth without giving the intended parents as much notice as possible.  I just picture saying, “hey guys, we think there may be a problem, we’re heading in… Oh yeah it’s been going on for HOURS.”  As a result, someone else gets an inside look on the inherent lunacy of the pregnant woman.

This week (33 if anyone’s counting!), I had a really long, consistent run of contractions.  I was fairly sure it was a Braxton-Hicks situation… Which is super common… but they were wrapping around into my back and pretty evenly timed.  Luckily they weren’t getting longer/stronger/closer, so I was nowhere near alarmed, but of course I had to fill Mom and Dad in.  They were understandably concerned, so I paged our midwife for her opinion (knowing full well what she’d say, but wanting to keep them comfortable).  She agreed with me that we should just wait, rest, hydrate and see if anything intensified.  After about 14 hours (!) of contractions every 12-15 mins, things settled.  Little miss gave me a couple moments of legitimate concern when some of the contractions took my breath away – so I am grateful that we got over it, and that she’s going to stay cooking in there for a while longer.  (But not too long, little one, my patience has its limits. xox)