By Brittany Vuylsteke
When you sign up for surrogacy through an agency you are asked at least a dozen times “why do you want to be a surrogate?” I’ve thought about this in the years leading up to my decision to commit. Shawn and I are very blessed to have our little family. James is everything to us. His birth made not only parents, but aunts, uncles, and grandparents. He was surrounded by love and added to so many other lives. If I can complete my family, why not help someone else complete theirs?
We had our single embryo transfer in January and we were blessed to have her decide to stick around. The pregnancy was pretty uneventful and about as “textbook” as you could get. Toward the end it started to wear down on me. James was born a few weeks early so we assumed this one would end the same way. By 41 weeks I decided to give in and have a small intervention. I went in and had my membranes swept. I started cotton root bark and pumping that evening. I went to bed that night hoping that in the next 24 hours labor would start.
The next morning, I slept in, since I wasn’t allowed to go to work anyway. About 9:30 I woke up and rolled out of bed. I was having some contractions that were a little different that the ones I had been having for the last month, but they weren’t painful. I jumped into the shower and by the time I got out I knew I was in labor. Before I could even get dressed I called/texted my entire team. I started bouncing on my labor ball, breathing, and changing positions. By the time Shawn arrived home at 11:00 I knew I couldn’t take the pain anymore. I didn’t care if I was going to spend the next two days in labor at the birth center, I knew I wanted my giant tub of water! I called my midwife and asked her to run the water.
We arrived around 11:30 and I requested she check me. I was already a 5! I got into the water and all of a sudden a huge sense of relief came over me. Her dads, my mom, my sister, and my doula arrived shortly thereafter. I had my doula to the left and my husband to the right. Her dads pressed on my hips and I felt surrounded by support. The pain soon returned and by around 1:00 I was beyond exhausted. The pain was completely different than with James. All I could think of was the fact that I had to do this for many more hours. I knew I couldn’t do it so I started to think about requesting a transfer to a hospital for an epidural. That’s when I got curious and reached down. I felt something and decided to call in the midwife (my support actually decided to call the midwife after I yelled “I feel something” multiple times.).
My midwife came in and she told me I was complete. James was out in about ten minutes so I figured I was almost done with this labor. I was WRONG! After awhile of pushing my midwife did an exam and she told me there was cervix left. She told me I could either try to breathe through a couple contractions or she could push it behind the baby’s head. I basically told her no. She was actually very respectful of that decision. She could have reached in and moved it, but she respected my decision (as insane as it was) and allowed me to push. I ended up pushing for about 75 minutes before she was finally born. It probably would have been cut dramatically if I had allowed her to move my cervix, but this was the decision I made and everyone respected it (in case you can’t tell this was really important to me).
One of her dads sat on the side of the tub the entire time I was pushing, just waiting to catch his baby. After over an hour of pushing she was finally here, still in her sac, and he got the chance to grab her. It’s all a little blurry from here and I’m sure facts are missing. What I remember is trying to catch my breathe (I wasn’t going anywhere, I had done my part), when my midwife in the strongest voice said to me “you need to get out the tub NOW”. She has never spoken to me like that before so I knew she meant business. I hopped out and they put her on the ground (on a blanket and warmer) while they tried to get her to breathe. This little girl isn’t my daughter, but as long as she’s still attached to me, I still feel responsible for her. They ended up having to give her a few puffs of oxygen in order to get her to breathe. As soon as she started crying they were able to cut the cord (it was done pulsing anyway). Once again my midwife got stern with me and told me to lay down. She told me she needed me to trust her because I was losing a lot of blood. It took three shots in the thigh, two pills up the rear, and an internal attempt to stop the bleeding.
After I was done bleeding I was able to take the focus off myself and watch her dads start the bond with their baby. They were already skin to skin falling in love. Words can’t describe what I saw, and I’m not articulate enough to do it justice, but I’ll try. Watching them with her, especially in those first few minutes was almost as amazing as the first few minutes with my son. They had worked so hard and put in so much energy into becoming parents and at this moment they finally had her in her arms. I was surrounded by my husband, mom, sister, and doula in those moments so I was surrounded by support. They eventually took her upstairs to their room and I had a chance to focus on my healing.
They came down a few hours later and I got a chance to see her and hold her. My son arrived later that evening after daycare and he finally got a chance to put a face to the name and bump. My other sister had arrived so everyone got a chance to see and hold her. She was perfect and healthy.
I spent the next two days resting and having great visits from her. I watched her dads learn about her personality and preferences. I loved watching them figure her out. I got 10 months (yes, it was technically 10 months), to learn about her (like she kicks even when she sleeps), but this was their chance.
Ten days postpartum we dropped them off at the airport so they could return home. This was the end of a chapter in all of our lives, but not the end of an amazing relationship and friendship. The bond we have formed with our two families is something that can’t be recreated. I have already enjoyed watching her grow via pictures. I love to hear stories about her, but I’m glad to be back with my family too. James completely understands the entire process and has had no problems processing it. We were very open from the beginning about the entire thing. I’m so grateful for all the love and support I have received from everyone.
Looking forward to our next journey…. Maybe she needs a sibling……