Wednesday night I got a call from my IPs to confirm pickup time and they wanted my final guess at the baby's gender. I believed for the first 30 weeks that it was a girl. I've been wrong with every single pregnancy that I've had so I felt doubtful, of course! For the last 10 weeks I had a hunch that it was a boy, and I'll explain that hunch in a bit. My final guess was girl based on the fact that was my feelings the first 30 weeks of the pregnancy, however, I would be VERY surprised if it was a girl. I know is sounds strange but we'll get to that...
We received a message from Liz right away Thursday morning, August 18th, that we didn't need to call to confirm our scheduled induction and we could come on in. She was already at the hospital and they were ready and waiting for us. My IPs dropped off Spencer at daycare at 7:00 and picked me up along the way to the hospital. I gave myself enough time to eat a nice breakfast and get my hair and makeup done before heading off to push out a baby! Come on, who doesn't want to look nice while having a baby?! (It's kind of an outstanding joke around our house that I get all done up to push out a baby so you're very welcome to laugh if you'd like, but just wait until you see the birth photos...I'm sure my hair looks awesome!) ;)
Ben and I chatted at length about all the people attending the birth and his and Lydia's length of stay for an induced labor. I thought it would be best for people to give me some time to get things moving in the right direction before they made their way to the hospital. Lydia had swimming practice in the morning that I thought she should go to, and it made the most sense for Ben to go to work for a while before picking up Lydia. Then they could head to the hospital when I thought things were getting far enough along so they didn't have to spend their entire day just waiting around. It can get boring and add unnecessary stress to the laboring mama, or surrogate in my case. I made my entire fan club aware that I would let them know when they were welcome to join us at the hospital.
When we arrived at the hospital we were directed from the emergency room entrance down to labor and delivery. I was pretty nervous and excited as we made our way into our room about how the day was going to unfold. My whole being just believed that Liz would be able to open the bag of water and we would end up in the water birth room by the end of the day! Liz greeted us and explained that I'd get hooked up to my IV and we would start the antibiotics started right away. Our nurse, Polly, was amazing! She has a lovely presence about her and was a perfect fit for me with her sweet and calm demeanor. I changed quickly into the hospital gown and then Polly got me all hooked up to the fetal monitor, placed the IV, and we started the antibiotics. Liz checked my cervix shortly thereafter. I was dilated to 3 cm and baby had moved up a bit since the night before. She wanted us to start walking around the hospital right away to see if we could get baby to move down, and once I had the full dose of antibiotics in I could get taken off the IV and we would start walking stairs.
Liz had been at the hospital for quite some time already, so she went home to get all freshened up and eat some breakfast. She would let us know when she got back and she would check out where things were at that point. I pushed the IV pole while my IPs walked along side of me as we started to explore the hospital halls. Once we came to the first set of stairs IP-B said that IP-B would carry the IV pole for me if we wanted to start stairs right away. There were a few women sitting at their desk across the set of stairs and said as they pointed, "There is an elevator right around the corner." We all laughed and said, "We're actually wanting to run up and down these stairs. You might be seeing a lot of us today!" IP-B and I ran up and down the stairs several times while IP-A joined us for a few flights but then stopped to look at some artwork as we continued running up and down the stairs. As soon as the dose of antibiotics was complete we made our way back to our laboring room to get all unhooked. I got back into my street cloths so we could hit the halls and stairs hard to try to move baby down. We walked a lot and we walked hard! We walked all over the hospital halls and found every staircase they have. IP-B ran into one of his aunts in the hospital so they stopped to chat with her for a while and I continued to book it through the halls. At one point I told my IPs they were going to have to run to keep up with me. I was on a mission to get this baby to move down so we could avoid Pitocin at all cost!
Liz arrived back at the hospital around 10:15ish so we quickly made our way back to the labor room (it is actually a labor and delivery room but I viewed it as my labor room because I planned on going to the water birth room for the delivery). I was anxious to see if all our efforts had made baby move down a bit. I got back into my hospital gown and Polly hooked me back up to the fetal monitor again. Liz checked my cervix again. I was dilated to 4 cm and baby was low enough that she was able to open the bag of water (10:30 am)! Normally when my water is broken I can almost hear the pop and feel a huge gush of water flow out - that was not the case this time. Liz had a very hard time telling if she even broke the water and said she felt like she snagged it about 20 times. Her gloves barley had fluid on them and I felt a tiny amount of fluid flow out when I stood up and went to the bathroom. Normally I would have a trail of water following me and I would be surrounded by water until the baby was born. Again, this wasn't the case this time. Clearly the fluid was very low! I hung out on the fetal monitor a little while and Polly helped me get hooked up to the breast pump to do some nipple stimulation. We Chatted a while and then all of the sudden Polly said, "Look, you have colostrum already!" Polly got a syringe and sucked up every last drop of the colostrum so the baby could have it after it was born. We walked around the hospital halls again for a while until I was due for my second dose of antibiotics at noon. Liz still questioned if she actually broke my water even a couple hours after she did. I felt the dancing, or almost bouncing from side to side, made the biggest progress in terms of getting contractions. We spent a very long time visiting as I danced and tried my best to make progress on moving this baby down and out. I still believed this was all going to work out, but I was getting doubtful as the afternoon progressed. At 12:30 I sent out a mass text that my contractions were starting to get a little stronger (but not really that strong) and they were still pretty far apart. I think I asked Liz a few times about when she thought we might have to start Pitocin if things weren't moving. She said typically three to four hours after breaking the water she sees things progressing. If, at that point, we hadn't started seeing progress then we would talk about Pitocin. She did a very lovely job diverting my brain away from the worry of Pitocin!
I couldn't get my brain off the fact that I had people waiting to be notified to come to the hospital. At 12:45 I suggested that people could make their way to the hospital but I thought it was still going to be a while. Ben and Lydia were first to arrive around 1:30 and my mom, sister, sister-in-law, and my dad arrived shortly thereafter. Dad surprised me by coming. I asked him several months ago if he would like to watch the birth and he never gave me a definitive answer. My mom told me that he wasn't planning on coming, but I'm so happy he was at the hospital even if he didn't watch the birth! Brianna, our photographer, got there shortly after 2:00. I enjoyed the greeting from everyone and quickly invited them to wait in the waiting room as labor progressed. I noticed that when I was left in a quiet room with few people that I was working harder at focusing on labor. I felt so much more at ease having everyone at the hospital but in the waiting room. Brianna stayed with me most of the time she was there so she could photograph everything. We had quite a bit of fun posing for photo ops between contractions. I had a fan blowing on me ever since my water was broke because I was extremely hot, so we had quite a bit of fun with the fan blowing my hair in some pictures!
In the waiting room our big secret broke loose. At our first monitoring appointment with the Perinatologist my IPs and Lydia accidentally learned the gender of the baby. We told the tech, who has been in the business for 30 some years, that we didn't know the gender and didn't want to know. We all looked away when she was in the buttocks region. She took a photo, as requested, of the gender and wrote boy or girl on the photo and printed it out and put it in an envelope for us. At some point in the appointment, while I was lying on my side, she put up four pictures on the screen and the upper right photo was the gender of the baby. Lydia saw it and immediately said she needed to go to the bathroom. She didn't know what to do other than leave the room. When the appointment was over, IP-A left to go to the bathroom, and Lydia told IP-B and I that she accidentally saw the gender and bolted it out of the room. IP-B said time stood still for many minutes while eyes were glued on the screen, although it was only on the screen for moments they told me. I felt sad and ill! I didn't see it and I really didn't want to know the gender. We met IP-A in the waiting room and IP-B and Lydia didn't say a word. IP-A was talking about the baby in the waiting room and said something like, "You know it's going to be a girl!" (at this time we didn't know that IP-A saw the same picture too). Someone called the baby a "she" while we were still chatting and Lydia quickly said, "or he!". I found myself consumed by over-listening to what they were calling the baby (I concluded within the last 10 weeks that the baby was a boy by what people had been calling it). IP-A sent me a text some hours after we left the appointment and told me that IP-A indeed saw the same picture too. Ben had been anxious to know the gender since I got pregnant, so I thought it would be safe to have Lydia share her secret with her dad and then be sworn to secrecy. I was sure that by the end of the day I would decide to find out. I felt like it was a day from hell - I was tormented by making a decision weather or not to find out the gender. It took all day, but I finally decided I didn't want to know! My IPs decided that we just wouldn't tell anyone that they knew the gender for simplicity reasons. I heard that the waiting room at the hospital, while I was in labor, was on fire with everyone trying to coerce Lydia to spill the beans. She's the BEST secret keeper I know!
Meanwhile, back in the laboring room, my contractions were starting to get a little stronger, but they still were not as strong as I thought they should be. IP-B downloaded a contraction app to start timing the contractions to give us something to do. I wasn't experiencing my normal "gush" while staying relaxed through the contractions. I always had considered the "gush" as my reward, but I didn't need it yet, my contractions weren't that terrible. Around 3:00 I asked Polly how long she was working that day and she responded, "I'm done really soon. I only work until 3:30!" Liz about fell out of her chair. Polly said she wished she could stay but had an important meeting to attend at 5:30. Liz didn't have to say anymore, I could tell she was devastated. Polly got me an exercise ball, one of my favorite laboring tools, to see if a different position might help. Ben started trying to massage my back, but he was quickly fired for being too aggressive. Liz took over and that's when I realized my back was having more discomfort than I have ever experienced during labor. Her massage felt AMAMZING - She has a gift! The baby had hiccups during labor. I've never had a baby have hiccups during contractions before. It was kind of an odd feeling, but it was the first time since labor began that I paid any attention to the baby's movement inside me. I spent some time feeling the baby's hiccups and rubbing my belly one last time. It was another bittersweet moment! I honestly didn't have much pain at all but I was starting to feel rectal pressure. I told Liz I was having rectal pressure, but feeling a little disbelief myself, and then she asked if I felt like I needed to poop. I had a slight feeling I needed to poop and never said anything because I still wasn't in pain. Liz asked if I wanted her to check where I as at, and I really did want her to check me but I didn't want to lie down in the bed, instead we started to devise a game plan on how to get across and down the hall to the water birth room. I was contracting pretty close together but it was still not super painful, and it was at this moment that I realized I didn't think I would need Pitocin. I needed to go to the bathroom, so my plan was after the next contraction that I would pee and then make my way down the hall. I went pee and then decided, while still in the bathroom, that I should have another contraction while standing next to the bed before going down the hall. Polly took a turn at my back massage for that contraction. I think someone helped cover up my backside as we quickly made our way into the water birth room. Someone else must have carried the exercise ball for me (things I can't remember).
I got all situated back on the birthing ball in the water birth room and suggested that people come in one at a time to labor with me. I wanted Lydia to experience labor so she was in and out of the room with me throughout the afternoon, but she had more fun in the waiting room where people were chatting and she didn't have to be quiet. My mom joined me for a few contractions and then said she was going to get my sister. Megan may have gotten to witness one contraction and then I sent her to gather the whole group in the hallway because the rectal pressure was getting very strong and I had an urge to push. The only problem was I wasn't in as much pain as I thought I should be. I had been very calm and relaxed, without my gush, but still waiting for the intense pain to start to know I was transitioning. While Megan was gathering the group of people in the hall, I got into the tub. I remember stepping in and sitting down and saying, "OHHHH, that feels so good!" And then it began!...
Everyone quietly filed into the room and basically surrounded the bathtub. I remember searching for Lydia and I didn't see her so I asked, "Where is Lydia?" Someone told me, "She went to the bathroom quickly." I replied, "Tell her to hurry because she's going to miss it!" I went into a zone after that, and I was ready to push right away! Not too long after being in the tub the pain was intolerable and I said, "Liz, tell me again why I thought this was a good idea?!" Liz responded with something like - Because you are helping a family have this beautiful baby that otherwise couldn't. She encouraged me to relax and take a nice deep breath. She also said we had to get to this point and baby would be here soon. I guess that's when the entire room broke into tears. The pain was excruciating as I started to push the baby out. I felt like the baby was coming so I said, "Here comes the baby..." and only bubbles surfaced to the top of the water as I said, "Oh, it was just a fart!" I opened my eyes to see everyone laughing while tears were flowing down every single persons face, even the nurse in the corner who I hadn't met yet. I ended up farting twice while pushing out the baby. The pain was so unbelievable that I decided at that moment that Ben was right, this had to be the last baby to exit my body. I had Lydia dab my tears in-between contractions. I knew as the baby was crowing that I was done with this chapter of my life. The baby was crowning and apparently they could see the head when I asked if the head was already out. Liz instructed me to put my chin to my chest instead of my natural instinct to put my head up and back. That was just the ticket I needed. I think I got the head out with the next push. Then Liz said, "Ok Josie, listen carefully. The head is out and I need you to give me one more push." I took a deep breath and knew the shoulders were coming, I gave out a yelp, and with that out slid the baby (4:57 pm). Once the shoulders are out the baby slips out so fast. It's a weird and quick sensation. I can't remember for sure, but I think I said, "Oh, THANK GOD!" I was so glad that pain was over and that there was a healthy baby that was placed into IP-A's hands. IP-A and IP-B knelt down beside the tub and held their little baby. That's such an indescribable moment to witness these two wonderful people become parents again. They wanted baby's cord to stay connected until it was done pulsating, so they peacefully sat there holding their baby next to me.
When I first opened my eyes I spotted Polly standing near the baby warmer in the right corner. Polly was still there?! I thought she had to leave? I'm not sure what had happened but she apparently stayed for the birth and I'll forever be grateful for that! I remember looking at the baby while it was still connected to me and rubbing its tiny little foot. It seemed like forever until I heard someone to my left ask if it was a boy or girl. I heard this calm sweet voice come from IP-B, "Yes, It's a girl! You got your bookends, Josie!" I was shocked - I couldn't believe it was a girl! Liz asked if I wanted to feel the cord pulsating so I reached and touched the slippery firm cord and felt the last connection I had to this sweet little girl. All of the sudden a rush of energy came into the delivery room when Spencer came in. I couldn't figure out why or how Spencer came into the room, but I heard my mom ask if that was ok. I really didn't have a care in the world at that moment so it didn't bother me. I was completely overtaken by the magical moment that just happened. I did ask if I could have an ibuprofen right after they cut the cord. After five or so minutes I felt like I had an urge to push again but we continued to let the cord pulsate. Soon after I felt the urge again and Liz asked if I was ready to have the cord cut so I could get out and deliver the placenta. She said the cord wasn't pulsating much anyway. I was very much ready to deliver the placenta so IP-B cut the cord. I heard them joke that there wouldn't be blood that would splatter this time. When they cut the cord I said, "Ouch!...Just kidding!" I thought it was pretty funny!
Making my way to a standing position and stepping out of the tub was incredibly difficult! I stood up with the help of Ben and Liz and I thought the placenta was falling out of me, but instead a huge clot fell into the tub. It took a lot of courage to lift my leg over the side of the tub and step down. I think my legs were already shaking by then and my husband helped me strip off my wet tank top and bra. Liz directed me on how to maneuver onto the bed. I was given a couple nice warm blankets to cover up with as I got into the bed. Lickety-split, the placenta delivery was a piece of cake! Liz asked me to give a gentle push and it was out within a minute or two of lying down. Spencer was watching as Liz pushed on my stomach a few times and blood flowed out. I felt bad he had to witness that. IP-B did a nice job of redirecting his attention to his new sister. There was such relief at that moment that the birth was completely over and their baby girl was here and healthy! I watched them snuggle her and it warmed my heart to watch Spencer who was in awe of this precious life that entered his world. I witnessed perfection! A perfect family that was formed in a miraculous way. I loved that my husband and our daughter watched along side of me as we saw this family become complete in that moment. It was such an honor to be a part of!
I requested a hot bath as soon as we wrapped in the delivery room. I got some ibuprofen and some ice for my vag and was finally able to see this tiny miracle that I carried for the last 40 weeks. IP-B brought her over for me to see and I asked if I could hold her. She was breathtakingly beautiful! I enjoyed a few minutes holding her and passed her back to her parents so they could continue to enjoy snuggles. We gathered everyone for a big group photo, my family congratulated me and told me how proud they were, and they said their farewells so my IPs could have family time. I asked Ben to run home and get the boys so they could meet their newest wombmate. When the room got a little more quiet the nurse came in to weigh the baby and take all of her measurements. She weighed in at 6 pounds 10 ounces and was 18 1/2 inches long. We took a few more photos and everyone left to go to my IPs room. The sweet nurse asked if I wanted to walk to my room or ride in a wheelchair. I wanted to walk of course! I stood up and the bleeding was so heavy that I made a huge mess on the floor. We both decided that it would be best if I rode in the wheelchair so I didn't make a trail of blood as I walked down the hall. She took me directly to my bathroom and had a hot bath waiting for me.
Right as I got into the bathtub Ben arrived with the kids. Lydia joined me in the bathroom as I cleaned up and I had a chance to visit with her about her thoughts on what she just witnessed. She seemed to be on cloud nine! I think it was hard for her to watch her mom in so much pain as I pushed the baby out, but she was so happy to be a part of this miraculous moment. She had a lot of questions and felt my doughy stomach while I was in the tub. She had a hard time with seeing all the bleeding that I had. I didn't spend more than 10 minutes in the tub, I got dressed, and was most anxious to give my husband a hug. I spent the last few months dreaming about really hugging my husband, and it was as lovely as I imagined. Our kids were excited to go next door to meet the baby. My IPs room was full of guests already. The kids patiently waited their turn to hold the baby for a very short time and then they took off. My IPs room was a bit too busy for me and I was feeling kind of dizzy, so I had IP-B walk with me back to my room. I drank a lot of water and sat down to rest for a while. Once my IPs room cleared out they had some alone time with the baby to decide on a name for her. They came over to my room to share the news that they named the baby, Chloe Elizabeth. I was able to snuggle Chloe for a while before I got extremely exhausted and knew I needed to go to bed. I called my amazing husband to thank him for everything and got all tucked into bed feeling proud and complete!
*Many of you have asked if you can share this blog with others. You're encouraged to share the love and beauty of surrogacy!
*I'll add pictures once we get them back from Brianna. You're welcome to check back on this blog post in the near future to see Chloe's entrance into the world!