The epilogue.

Postpartum…

On February 28, 2019 at 8:13am, a family of 3 officially became a family of 4.

On February 28, 2019 at 8:13am, collective breath was exhaled as an 8lb, 10oz baby made her entrance into the world- beautiful, strong, and healthy.

On February 28, 2019 at 8:13am, two worlds collided in the very best way when Caroline Hope was born.

On February 28, 2019 at 8:13am, so many lives became intertwined, and will remain so…Forever.

For two nights and three days after she was born, we lived lived in what simply felt like a magical fairy tale, a summer camp of sorts, where we had the best visitors and all activity surrounded this beautiful little human. Photos were taken, tears were shed, promises were made for a shared future. What seemed like an eternity left to enjoy while in the hospital quickly drew to an end. And just like that, amidst more tears, the time came for them to leave. It was the most perfect, inevitable conclusion to this chapter of our journey together, an ending that was written long before our story began.

So I did what I set out to do almost two years ago. I said ‘goodbye’.  For the first time in almost 39 weeks, I was alone. I was so fortunate to see these people- who I adore in more ways than I could ever express in a blog post- become parents to the baby girl of their dreams. I cannot explain how much my heart soared to see them hold her, to know that even though it is bittersweet to pass the torch of caring for her on to them, the torch couldn’t be going to better, more deserving people. I will love these folks forever, and not one moment less. And after 29 weeks together in this story, I thank you for staying tuned while my family grew another…

A journey by the numbers.

39 weeks…

Well, I wasn’t sure if there would even be a 39-week post, because babies do what babies do…But here we are (because I carry babies like an elephant). I’ve tried to think of an appropriate way to wrap up our collective time together- mine with the baby, mine with the family, and mine with all of you. What could I possibly say that would do this journey justice? The growing of a life, the adding to a family, the creation of a life-long friendship….So as I started to reflect on all that has happened since May of 2017, it struck me as interesting how much of it could be described in, and summed up as, A journey by the numbers…

  • It has been 253 days since I received the most delicate little being I will ever have in my care…So tiny you could only see it with a microscope, so new it didn’t have an obvious gender yet.
  • It took 51 self-injections, 172 suppositories, 127 abdominal patches, 2 medical procedures, plus birth control, steroids, baby aspirin, thyroid meds, and countless blood draws to make that embryo transfer possible.
  • There were THOUSANDS of miles traveled to make sure the stars were aligned (medically) for me to receive the transfer.
  • It has been 147 days since we found out that the precious cargo I am growing is a sweet (but very strong) baby girl.
  • There have been 28 blog posts written to share this incredible journey with all of you.
  • I have sent 8 bump pics to a long-distance family who has trusted me with their absolute most precious.
  • There have been 27 pounds gained to grow this baby to the 39 week mark, now ready to be born strong and healthy.
  • It has been a long, 12-year journey for this couple to have the baby girl they have until now only dreamed about.
  • And it is only 2 short days, 24 hours, until these folks will witness the birth of their miracle baby. Until then, stay tuned while my family grows another

Almost ‘Go’ Time

38 weeks…

It’s getting close to ‘Go’ time, which means preparing for a surgery, a hospital stay, and…after. I mentioned before that one thing that was making me especially anxious was wondering what would happen to my kids- both human and fur- while I am in the hospital. The human kids are are crazy busy with school and daily practices. It seems the ‘issue’ of how they will get where they need to be has worked itself out, fingers crossed. Will I still miss events and time with them (dogs included)? Obviously. But it is just a few days and I have really been trying to focus on the big picture where my kids and dogs are concerned. So this change in focus allows me to be fully present in the last days with this baby, her family, and the end of this leg of our journey together…And that means preparing for the hospital.

The baby’s parents will arrive in a week just in case I go into labor before my scheduled delivery. Their packing lists have been written, re-written, added to, and subtracted from…So much so that Santa would blush. Of course, I only have to pack for myself, and not for days of driving, either. They have to pack for themselves, AND the baby, AND for a long drive, no less. And with only an 18 year old son, they are essentially 1st time parents. They ran their lists by me, which I love because it makes me feel valued and not just like an employee. Baby care books have been read cover-to-cover, the car seat is in the car, and the nursery is set up and awaiting the arrival of its sweet little inhabitant.

The hospital tour was detailed and informative, and the pre-birth order and any other legal information was passed along to the staff. Upon arrival next week, I will be checked in and prepped for surgery. A case worker will likely come in and speak with us briefly to make sure everything is legally in place and parenting/naming is clear. During the surgery both parents will hopefully be in the operating room, space permitting. They will stand at my head, holding my hands if they wish (I’m making an exception to my ‘no touching’ rule, lol). Once the baby is out, the OB will show her to us briefly, she will be cleaned, weighed and checked out, and handed off to her parents for the important skin-to-skin contact. While they love on her, I will be stitched up and off to recovery on my own. We will have separate postpartum rooms for the duration of our stay- me for at least 2 days, them for at least 24 hours. We don’t simply go our separate ways here, though. My kids will come up to meet and hold the baby, and I am going to pump for her while I am at the hospital.

But, as it is said, all good things must come to an end. The baby will go home with her parents. Their lives as a family of 3 will end, and lives as a family of 4 will begin. I will miss having my little buddy with me everywhere I go, and our time together will be a beautiful memory I will forever cherish. While they spend the next weeks and months getting comfortable raising their little miracle, I will enjoy a 2 month maternity leave, and keep busy with a few new projects of my own. I have 9 days left until I get to meet this little kicking machine and see the sheer joy in her parents eyes as they hold their baby for the first time. Until then, stay tuned while my family grows another

Happy ending.

37 weeks…

If there is one word (albeit hyphenated) I would use to describe myself, it would be ‘non-traditional.’ Being a gestational carrier just perpetuates that description. And I kind of love not following the rules- after all, the best stories are those with a twist, right? Sometimes you simply have to write your own happy ending. Though creating a family is not exactly a ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ story, you certainly do not have to settle for, and surrender to, the final chapter as yours was written for you.

As someone who has silently shouted ‘Plot twist‘ several times already in my own life (and will continue to do so), and being the type of person who doesn’t settle into any part of my story that has ceased to bring me happiness or fulfillment, I love being a small part of someone else taking ‘control’ of their own destiny. The book of life isn’t written in one single genre, beginning to end. If we are lucky, it will read like a fantasy with just enough mystery to keep us guessing, and a bit of comedy to get us laughing again when drama and tragedy inevitably make an appearance. And sometimes- like when having a child on your own doesn’t seem to be the direction your story is headed- your fairy godmother appears to make your dreams come true in some sort of poetic-justice-meets-fairy-tale kind of way.

There are days early on in the process when being a gestational carrier reads like intense science fiction, and the gc plays the part of the person on whom the genetic experiments occur. When the parents of this baby recount to her the memoir of how she came to be, I hope it is absolutely EPIC. I don’t know how they will write me in, but it doesn’t really matter, I suppose. I’m honestly just extremely grateful to be part of the story at all. And as they close the chapter about a family of 3 and start the chapter about a family of 4, I will be there to make an appearance. Until then, stay tuned while my family grows another

Going the distance.

36 weeks…

When you carry a baby for someone else, especially someone you didn’t know beforehand, you may not partner with a family in the same city, state, or even country. Have I worked with a family somewhat nearby? Yes. The twins I carried were relatively local to me, and it was definitely convenient for many reasons. But the family of this baby is not local, not even the same time zone. And while we have taken it in stride so far, this week the full ramifications of what that distance has- and could- mean, started to creep into my thoughts.

Call it last-minute nerves, or pre-delivery jitters, but as the end of this pregnancy draws near at a RAPID pace, I find myself playing the ‘what-if‘ game when I am alone with my thoughts. It was difficult enough experiencing ultrasounds and finding out the baby’s gender without her parents there. To me, those days are highlights of any pregnancy and I just really felt bad that they had to miss out. The parents were able to fly in for a visit in January, go to a doctor’s appointment, meet my OB in person (finally), and tour the hospital. That visit helped a LOT.

I am super sensitive to their very unique situation, and I make sure to set time aside after every appointment to call them and give them updates. This week one of the parents was unable to make the call (due to being called into work) and asked via the other if it would be ok to reach out to me later in the day. Of course! Less than an hour later we were on the phone, and she was in tears because she felt bad for missing my first call. I think the time, the distance, the nerves, the sheer magnitude of the journey, had finally just come to a head. Oh how I wish she were here so I could hug her! I keep trying to put myself in their shoes, to imagine what it must be like to attempt to go about your day having to fully trust someone else with your baby, your heart, your happiness. Though exciting, it would be overwhelming, terrifying, and exhausting.

So what has me playing the aforementioned ‘what-if‘ game? The delivery. Not the c-section itself. I am confident in my OB. He has successfully delivered 4 children out of this body, 3 via c-section. Yeah. We’ve got this. No, my concern is the family being there to hold their little miracle the minute she is born. While I have never gone into spontaneous labor, when you are a gestational carrier, you cannot really bank anything on history. And we all know that babies have ideas of their own. With that in mind, what if she tries to make her grand appearance before her parent’s arrival to my fair town? Yes. Yes. They intend to arrive a few days early just in case, but what if they are not early enough? They are an 11+ hour (plus a time change) drive away if they push it, but they are allocating 2 days to make the trip if all goes according to plan. But what if it doesn’t? They could attempt to fly, but airlines are about as predictable as babies. What if their flight is delayed? What if? What if? What if? Quick! Someone change the subject and give my mind a break!!

Guys…At the end of the day, I am sure it is all going to go smoothly. Everything will be F I N E fine. Certainly I am just getting anxious, especially with several moving parts and a 100% lack of control during almost every stretch of this experience. I sent the pictured coordinate bracelet to the baby’s mom as a symbol of our journey together, of our strong bond- so close, albeit over so many miles away. In just over 3 weeks, the the figurative and literal distance of this journey- 12 years and 675 miles– will be more than worth it. Until then, stay tuned while my family grows another

 

Hope.

35 weeks…

HOPE. Such a small word. But those 4 little letters often carry the weight of the world on their shoulders. And that weight is then transferred to whomever- or in whatever- that hope lies…intentional or not. Being the person who is charged with turning that hope into a reality can feel overwhelming at times.

Hope, it is said, is not a strategy. But when you get to that point- the one where hope is all you have left after wishing on stars, eyelashes, and birthday candles, crossing fingers and toes, and praying to every entity you can think of- you may find yourself clinging to that hope with everything you have…and trying with all of your might to turn that hope into a strategy after all.

When what is understood to be such a natural, expected, organic part of life- reproduction- turns out not to be…and all medical options have been exhausted, hope comes into play full force. That hope may even go from being an abstract feeling, to taking physical shape in the form of a person, of a woman whose basket you will gladly place all of your eggs…literally and figuratively.

For a couple attempting to get pregnant on their own, most will stop at nothing to make it happen. Even when costs and bills seem endless, that shred of hope keeps them going. On the hardest days when there is yet another negative test, or a pregnancy that just wasn’t meant to be, that shred of hope keeps them going. Until the day the doctor gives the final head shake, the one indicating there just isn’t any hope left, that shred of hope keeps them going. And then it is time to change course…To think outside the box…To manifest that hope into the form of a person…To find a gestational carrier.

Being the person who has been engaged to re-ignite that flame of hope is a tall order. Quite frankly, it is one I rarely think about because (thankfully) both times I tried have been successful. But that success isn’t guaranteed, and it certainly doesn’t come without difficult days. And that alone creates a pressure you may not consider as a gc when you initially sign on the dotted line. Imagine knowing that someone’s happiness relies on your body cooperating…something you have no control over. And then there are the things you can control- what you eat, your physical activity/weight gain, how you take care of yourself- more pressure. Every single thing you do is with this baby, this family, their hope, their dream in mind. Honestly, it is only when you stop to reflect on the responsibility you have assumed that you fully realize the extent of the weight you carry. And it isn’t until those days immediately post-delivery, once you have handed that little miracle over to his/her parents, that you find yourself releasing the ultimate exhale…the breath you didn’t even know you were holding. In just over 4 weeks, I will deliver my own little symbol of HOPE to her wonderful family. Until then, stay tuned while my family grows another…

Sacrifice.

34 weeks…

Ok, y’all…Time for some real talk. My goal of sharing this journey with you was/is to always provide full transparency into the life of a gestational carrier- the good, the bad, and the ugly. Luckily for me, there isn’t really any bad/ugly to speak of. But there is one thing- maybe more of an underlying feeling- that becomes tangible in a sense if/when it presents itself. And that feeling is one of sacrifice.

When you are a gc, you go into the process knowing there will be some things you have to give up (alcohol, I’m talking to you, old friend). There are also some unintended/unexpected losses (‘friends’ who don’t quite understand your purpose, for example). But this week I was reminded that while I am belly deep in this process, life goes on around me, and invariably there will be things I cannot do, things I will miss, things I will ultimately sacrifice.

I’ve always said I went into this eyes wide open. Again, I knew from the beginning that I would make sacrifices. And gladly. But because there is no way to pinpoint exactly when you will be pregnant as a gc, it is just as difficult to know exactly what you will sacrifice. With the twins, who were born in August, it was pretty uneventful. I was home the week before the kids went back to school, and they were both within walking distance, so there were no issues with transportation. Last Friday, I had my first 2-week appointment with my OB. While there, we discussed the show choir schedule for our kids (we both have one involved) in relation to my pregnancy and fast-approaching delivery. These shows start early and typically do not end until after midnight. The kids perform in West Virginia this weekend, 3 hours away. Their next two performances are over 2 hours away, consecutive weekends right before I deliver. My doctor does not feel comfortable with me driving and attending (especially solo) the West Virginia performance. He said I can go to the next two if 1) I am feeling up to the hours of travel and sitting, and 2) I have an out- meaning that in the event I go into labor, I have my vehicle handy and an immediate means to get to my hospital back here as soon as possible…Preferably with a driver other than myself. Ok. So those shows are covered.

The next show is Saturday, 3/2. I deliver Thursday, 2/28. Because of my c-section, I will be in the hospital for that one. In the middle of the night last night it hit me. In addition to worrying about who will take care of my dogs, and who will get the kids to and from school- while I am in the hospital and after, during my restricted driving (their dad works out of state)- I now have to figure out how I will get my daughter’s hair curled and pinned the night before the show, and who will get her to the bus Saturday morning. All of this on top of knowing I will miss that show. I have never once missed a performance- EVER- and it is weighing heavily on my heart. It is my plan to have someone bring her to me in the hospital on Friday afternoon/evening so I can do her hair. Beyond that I am working through options, few though they are. I don’t have family or friends close who are available to help, and I’ve never been good at asking for it anyway. Fingers crossed I have a few good Karma points to cash in and a solution will present itself. LOL!

Listen… I would never take back my decision to carry again. I’ve loved every minute of getting to know this family and the privilege of carrying this sweet baby girl for them. I’m so fortunate to have teenage kids who fully understand the importance of what we are doing, including changes we may have had to make, and things we may have to put on hold, give up, or miss. That being said, (and contrary to the definition of ‘sacrifice‘), I would never put anything above my children and would not be pregnant without their blessing. I know how fortunate I am to have such special, understanding kids. In 5 short weeks, life will begin to get back to normal for our household. Until then, stay tuned while my family grows another…