Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A New Day

My father in law surprised us with this beautiful video of the babies the other day. I wanted to share it here with you all. This was right after the babies were at home together for the first time.

(I have more to update and will try to post tomorrow on "day to day" things. :) Thanks so much for all the kind comments on my birth story post. I didn't think anyone would actually make it through that whole thing, so thank you! I'm so glad you enjoyed it!)

video

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The birth story and beyond...a short novel

Well, it has happened - I suddenly had a burning desire to write the birth story. Perhaps it is the fact that I woke up sick this morning and am unable to sleep. Perhaps it is the fact that our house is so cold that only a polar bear would feel at home and I need to generate heat by typing. (I'm used to 75 degrees in the house, but we have had to turn down the thermostat to 68 for the babies and I am polar bearly surviving...sorry, the pun was irresistable. The lack of sleep may be making me corny. :)

Part of why I haven't written this to date, aside from the fact that the babies take up 99% of my time, is that I really wasn't sure how to process those three days in the hospital. I wasn't sure how I could possibly write a legitimate birth story when I couldn't yet identify my own feelings or put into words how I felt. What I have come to is this: the three days at the hospital were the most stressful three days of my life. There, I said it. I feel like birth stories are always these glowing reports of joyous elation and the fact that it was a very stressful three days for me in many ways made me feel like something was wrong with me. Don't get me wrong, it was also the most amazing three days of my life. But that amazement was absolutely balanced with a stress level I have never before experienced. MUCH of that was a direct result of being an IM and my conflicted feelings seeing a friend go through so much. Surrogacy is a unique experience from that perspective and in the interest of providing a real account to help other expecting IMs understand how they might feel, I will be as honest as I can about the lows as well as the more obvious highs.

Before the Delivery

J came off bed rest at 36 weeks. She still had contractions, but they weren't changing her cervix and they had actually decreased since going on bed rest a couple of weeks prior. We all were elated to make it to the 36 week mark because we felt the babies would be fine if they came after that point. We also thought that they would come soon after she got off bed rest since the contractions would start again. Even so, when we went to our routine NST the morning after J's first day off bed rest, I would have bet the moon that that WASN'T the day. Pretty much every other appointment I thought it would happen but I was confident it would NOT happen that day. I didn't leave out extra food for the cats, I didn't wear what I wanted to wear for delivery. But as soon as J got hooked up to the monitors, I could see those contractions coming on way stronger than ever before and I started to realize...that was probably going to be it. J had felt funny earlier in the morning too. While watching the contractions I was getting excited. I really wanted those babies to come! I really wanted J to not have to be pregnant anymore too, so I was gladly willing to have the babies a little early in exchange for her being able to get on with her life. Soon, we were moved to the L&D triage for more monitoring. It became clear quickly that this was the day. She was dilating fast and they scheduled the c-section for 4 pm since she had eaten that morning. But nothing was slowing down the dilation after a while and they said she needed to just go in for the c-section about 1 pm instead. We went from going to our routine NST to being scheduled for the birth 4 hours later. I went outside to call B, who was watching J's children at her house. Me: "Hi. We're having the babies today." B: "Okaaay. Really?" Me: "Yes" (in shock) B: "Okaaayy, I'll make arrangements to get down there." (in shock) Nothing prepares you, no matter how much warning, for the moment that you realize that's THE day. Nothing at all. I was totally shaking at this point.

Eventually, B and R (J's husband) arrived. We were all led to a room where they could wait while I "attended" the big event. I suited up in one of those white snow suit things and hair cap with mask. They whisked J away to the room for the spinal and other preparation. The three of us sat in the room just laughing nervously and looking at the clock. I felt like I was going to throw up. I was very nervous. When they came and told me it was time to go in I was very scared and stressed. No one had told me what it would be like in there and it was just a total unknown. I kissed B goodbye and headed down the hallway.

The Delivery Room

I was led into the delivery room (an operating room), where there were probably 10 medical professionals and lots of equipment and tools. J was strapped into the table with the curtain down so she couldn't see anything. I was directed to sit on a stool by her head, behind the curtain, though I was on the end of it so I could see the doctors and everything. I was struck by how serious the mood was. It wasn't like a "hey, this is so exciting, your children are about to be born!" room. It was a "we are about to do a major medical procedure so everyone get your ducks in a row" room. It felt VERY tense. I was afraid to move. I literally sat like a statue on the stool. No one talked to me or told me what to expect, I was just placed on the stool. I looked at J and she was staring straight up at the ceiling. I figured she was sort of out of it from meds and such and didn't want to make her talk so I didn't talk to her. I wanted to comfort her somehow but I didn't know what to do. I rubbed her arm a little but felt a cord and was afraid to pull something out. I tried to rub her hand but thought she probably wanted to be left alone to concentrate. Then suddenly a nurse asked her something and she replied as clear as day. I remember feeling very shocked that she was so lucid. Then I wondered, does she want me to talk to her? Should I be doing or saying something? Does she think I don't realize how scared she probably is because I'm not doing more? I was, quite honestly, terrified. Terrified not knowing what was about to happen, terrified not knowing how to help J, terrified seeing the surgical tools, terrified that we may or may not have two healthy babies in the next few minutes. I was practically paralyzed with fear and numbness. Then they started the c-section. J is a really independent, strong and unemotional person - but I could see she was scared and anxious. It was horrible sitting there seeing her grimace as they pulled and tugged on her. I didn't touch her or say anything because it looked like she was concentrating. Not long after I saw a gush of water to the floor. I made the association: water broke, baby coming. Sure enough, within 5 seconds I saw kicking purplish legs and feet emerge. I simply can't put a word on that feeling because I don't know what it was. Complete fear? Complete shock? Complete disbelief there was a live baby in there? Complete joy to see two legs? Some combination of these? I honestly feel like all of these happened so simultaneously that they canceled each other out and I was left numb. I burst into tears, completely overwhelmed. I could hardly catch my breath. People were exclaiming, "wow, he's a big one!" They wisked Nathan away to one of the beds in the room for the doctors and nurses to evaluate. I was still sitting on the stool. No one told me what to do and I was so scared to make a bad move. One minute later I saw identical feet and legs come out. More exclamations of "she's big too!" and comments on how there was no doubt they were siblings. It was surreal. There really were two live babies in there. If you have never struggled with infertility, maybe that seems like a weird thing to say. But if you have, you probably understand what I mean. You just don't believe they are really there until you see them. It all hit home: we had two live babies!

Kenna was moved to the other bed for evaluation. So there were my two children, far from view, surrounded by people. Could I see them? Could I take pictures? Could I move from my statue position on the stool? Heck if I knew, no one said a word to me. Finally the doctor (who was our OB) looked at me and said something like, "you should go see your babies". It was almost in a tone like, "why aren't you over there?" I felt so uncomfortable, like I was an unwelcome foreigner in the room, the hovering parent when more important things like medical evaluations were going on. I asked a nurse on the way to the beds if I could take a picture now and she said yes. My legs felt heavy and my heart pounded as I walked toward the babies, still surrounded by people. I couldn't believe I was about to see them the first time. Would they look normal? Would they be healthy? Would they look like us? Would I automatically know they were my babies? Would they look so different I would think the embryos were mixed up on transfer day and that's the only reason we got pregnant? I was so stressed and nervous to go over there. I looked at Nathan first. He just looked like a baby - not someone I "knew". It was hard to look at him through everyone so I took a picture. The doctor then got mad at me and said, "no pictures yet! I will tell you when!" Me (shaking): "Oh, I asked someone else and they said it was OK. I'm sorry." I looked at Nathan a little longer, just staring at him in disbelief. A real baby. My real baby? Then I looked at Kenna. She was gurgling up a lot of fluid and they seemed concerned. I didn't dare ask any questions. I asked them if I could take a picture of her and they said sure (while they continued working on her). Like a journalist working to document a scene that didn't quite register, I just started snapping pictures.

No one had said, "the babies look great!" or "this is all normal procedure, they are doing great!" or "their apgar scores are/were..." I realized at one point while taking pictures that I had practically stopped breathing I was so stressed at not knowing what was happening. I finally got the courage to ask one of these intense medical professionals, "are they OK? Are they normal?" Honestly, I don't even recall what they said, just that Kenna had a lot of fluid they were trying to get out. In the meantime, they went to weigh Nathan. Since I always see that people have pictures of the new baby on a weight scale I walked over and desperately tried to angle my camera between everyone. No one had even told me they were going to weigh him at that point - it was just luck that I saw they were taking him over to do that and I tagged along. They wrapped him up and finally said, "are you ready to hold him?" I gulped and said, "sure!" They put him in my arms and I couldn't have been stiffer. I just stared at him in disbelief, standing in the middle of the operating room with people whirling around me. It sort of felt like standing in the middle of a tornado. I asked if I could walk over and show him to J. They said yes so I turned around and headed over when I saw something that I wish I hadn't: they were stitching up J. I will leave out the details of what I saw, but suffice it to say that it was so shocking to have accidentally seen that that there was a part of me that wanted to rewind everything, give the babies back, and magically make J not have to go through that. I was *horrified* that a friend was experiencing what I got a glimpse of. I felt like running out of the room and bawling. It was almost too much to bear. I walked on to see her and was holding him up when I got to her head. She looked over and all I could eek out was, "this is Nathan!" I stood there for a minute holding him so she could see him and she asked how much they weighed. She was grimacing from the stitch up process though and I figured that she wanted to be left alone so after a little bit I walked away with him, over to see what was happening with Kenna.

They told me that she needed to go to the NICU because she had so much fluid. They said it was common for c-section babies. Honestly, I didn't think much of it at that point. I thought she would be there for a couple of hours while we bonded with Nathan and then she would come back. Before they left, one nice nurse asked if I wanted a picture of them together. I was so grateful for that opportunity. I remember shaking so hard but telling myself that I would be furious later if that picture was blury. I held my breath and got a good one (the one I originally posted).

Then they said for me to follow out of the room and J would be wheeled back to us in a bit. I felt so bad leaving with the babies and J staying there, but it was also a relief to get out of that room. I couldn't wait to see B and share the babies. Apparently, he had already seen Kenna as they were wheeling her away to the NICU. The nurse wheeled Nathan into our room and put him in the warmer thing. We were now free to get to know him.

Post-Delivery - the Rest of Day 1

If there was a ton of bricks on me in the delivery room, a good majority of them were removed when it was just one nurse, me, B and R with little Nathan to enjoy in the postpartum room. What a RELIEF to feel like we could be excited and happy! What a RELIEF to just touch him, love him, and not feel like I was about to do something wrong any minute. What a RELIEF to finally look at him as long as we wanted and know that he was perfectly fine. It was so awesome to share that with B and just be so joyful that our little boy looked great and was the cutest little boy ever born. :) My heart melted as B picked him up. R got some fabulous pictures of our first moments fawning over little Nathan together and I'm so grateful to him for thinking to do that. They capture such raw emotion - joy, pride, relief and elation. This is my favorite one - the proud new parents smiling and snapping photos:



Soon after, J was wheeled in and I was SO happy to see her. She looked good despite the whole ordeal. I could tell how tired she was, but I was so relieved that she looked like she didn't completely hate us. I was so proud to be able to hand her Nathan. She looked so cute holding him. She hadn't even seen Kenna because I hadn't been allowed to hold her before they took her to the NICU. We spent some more time with little Nathan and he was quickly going from "stranger baby" to our precious little guy. I was surprised how fast that happened. He just felt like ours once we had a few minutes to get to know him on our own terms.

We then were told we could go see Kenna in the NICU. They hadn't admitted her yet because they were still observing her. But later that day they said they had to admit her because she was having some trouble breathing due to that fluid. She needed to be put on oxygen. I still thought it would be a really short stay (maybe a day or two) so I didn't freak out. I was disappointed, but I knew we could get to know Nathan in the meantime.

It was finally time for us to get moved to the room where we would stay from then on. The hospital was very generous with us and gave us a large room with a curtain partition between two beds so that B and I could stay in a hospital bed ourselves. It was perfect because I didn't feel like we were leaving J to be in another room, yet it gave both her and us privacy.

Once we got to this room, we could then invite B's parents in, who had been in the waiting room for quite a while. I couldn't wait to share Nathan with them! They have been incredibly supportive throughout this process and were as excited as we were for these little ones to join our family. They were beaming when they got to see and hold him. It made me beam too. :) They gave me the most beautiful gift - a silver necklace with engraved boy/girl twins. I just love it and it's so special to wear!

Nurses continued to come in and out constantly to do all the normal newborn checking. Nathan had low blood sugar so they kept pricking his heel regularly to monitor the levels after his every-2-hour feedings. They came to give him a bath, to give us birth certificate papers, and all kinds of other things. Oh, and probably to tell us for the 800th time to make sure he always sleeps on his back to help prevent SIDS.

I delighted in all the normal newborn stuff with Nathan because it made me feel so normal as a parent. I also loved having my own hospital bed because in a weird way, getting to lie there and hold him made me feel like all the other moms of the world who lie in a hospital bed after birth with their little ones. I really, really loved that opportunity though I know how strange that must sound.

Meanwhile, J was very, very sick from all the meds. It was very difficult to be there, basking in the joy of little Nathan, while J was absolutely miserable one curtain away. I hated not being able to help her. I assumed she wanted to be alone and not visit during that time so we just kind of kept to ourselves unless she said she needed something. I constantly second guessed what we were doing, and wondered if we could somehow do more.

That first night I couldn't believe the constant flow of people coming in and out of the room. It was miserable! There was no rest for the weary, that's for sure! They kept checking to make sure we were feeding regularly, changing diapers, looking at how much he ate, etc. When he would cry, they would come in as if we were doing something wrong. At one point when he was screaming during a diaper change, there were 3 nurses surrounding us just staring at us changing the diaper. I just about screamed I was so annoyed...I finally said, "Everything's fine here, JUST CHANGING A DIAPER!!!"

B was over in his chair asleep and had said his cell phone alarm to remind us to feed every two hours, but I hardly slept so everytime he stumbled over to tell me it was time, I was already well into the feeding. He was amazed, given that I'm not a night person at all. But I couldn't wait to hold and feed my baby! It was just a pleasure to learn a little something more about his care each time. I was definitely in love by that point.

The Second Day

The second day was really a blur for me, but I would sum it up as the day we realized Kenna's NICU stay was not going to be so short after all. J had said she couldn't believe how we weren't more stressed about having Kenna in the NICU on the first day (I think she was really worried about her). I kept saying that it would be short and I had always expected a little NICU time since they would come early. But the realization that we had an indefinite stay on our hands on the second day finally sent me flying. I remember going to the NICU to see her one particular time that day, not getting any straight answers about how long she would be there, and finally bursting into tears. They said, "probably just several days, a week or two". That was NOT within my realm of expectation. I remember my eyes bulging out at that point and saying, "A WEEK OR TWO?!?!?!" NOW I was stressed. It was hard to be exhausted and managing Nathan in the room and at the same time trading off who would go for NICU feedings. I just wanted Kenna with us. I was incredibly frustrated with the NICU then, and for the rest of her eventual 9 day stay. The main doctor didn't speak English well and was completely unwilling to provide an estimate of her stay. I finally got to the point where I said, "Look, you have to understand our point of view on this. I completely get that you don't want to disappoint parents and tell them the baby will only be here a couple of days when it turns out to be longer. I'm sure that you have been burned many times by that. But you have to understand that at this point we have NO IDEA if you the likelihood is greater that it will be a couple of days or a couple of weeks. We don't even know if this is life threatening or something!" His gentle response? "Not life threatening, but things can change." She was just there for oxygen! There was one kind nurse of the entire bunch who was kind enough to provide encouragement without overpromising. She said it was a common problem for slightly preterm babies, and for c sections, and that it would probably just be a few days to get her on her feet. I was so grateful for that.

J was absolutely miserable on day 2. It certainly didn't get any easier to see her that way either. I was literally ecstatic when they told us we would all (except Kenna) be going home the next day. I wanted J to rest more peacefully and I wanted to finally feel like we were on our own without a constant stream of nurses coming in and out. I couldn't wait.

B knew how stressed I was about Kenna and J and kept comforting me. That second night he stayed in the hospital bed with me rather than the chair because R came to stay with J. It was wonderful to have him next to me. When Nathan started crying, we put him between us and those were some of the most special moments of our stay. B was just the best husband and daddy imaginable, comforting both me and Nathan! At one point in the middle of the night he whispered, "I picked a song for you" (referring to his mp3 player which I didn't even realize he had brought). He put the headphones on me while I was lying there and played me a Christian song we both love that was especially appropriate at that moment. As I laid there listening to it, I closed my eyes, held Nathan in one arm, with my face against B's, and drifted off to sleep in a special moment I'll never forget.

The Third Day

Day 3 was all about going home preparations. I got Nathan into his going home outfit and he was so cute to finally be in the clothes we had purchased (as opposed to hospital stock)! It was exciting to feel like I was "making him mine". I took a million pictures in that little outfit. He was adorable. They brought the celebratory lunch and cider for us, and B, J, R and I all shared it. It was a nice end to the hospital time. J seemed to be less sick than the day before so I felt a bit more positive. We said bye to Kenna and I felt really sad that she couldn't come home with us. But we agreed that we would bring Nathan back when she was ready so that we could all leave together on the "second try" (which we eventually did!).

We got down to the cars and it was time to go. What on earth do you say to J and R at that point? "Thanks for the babies! See you soon!"? "That was great, you're the best!"? Looking back I don't even remember what I said. I guess I knew that there was nothing profound I could say to sum it all up at that point. We all hugged and J and R drove away. We got Nathan all strapped in and I sat in the back seat with him on the way home. Between there and home and I just couldn't stop crying. I was exhausted, relieved, and ecstatic that we were headed home, part of our little family together at home for the first time.

Once we got home and got Nathan out and settled a little, I sat on the couch holding him. And then I cried so hard I didn't think I could stop. My tears just covered his little body. I kept telling him, "I love you so much". The joy had finally exploded from my heart in the safety of my home. Pure, unbridled joy. Pure, unbridled love. He and Kenna had arrived safely. The dream had come true. There really was a happily ever after for us. May we never, ever take that for granted.

Friday, December 19, 2008

What I've learned so far

Before I get to the "regularly scheduled post", I wanted to post a pic of J, us and the babies (with her permission) if you haven't visited her blog. This was when we were about to leave the NICU with Kenna. Doesn't she look fantastic? Can you believe she had a c-section last week??



Yes, the birth story is conspicuously missing from my blog still...it's just that I have a lot to write and want to do it justice so I need a block of time I can do it. Please check back in 6 or 7 months. :) I'm kidding, of course, and hope to find time in the next week while still fresh in memory!

In the meantime, I thought I would share my thoughts/learnings from my first 10 days of being a mom. In no particular order...

1. I am SOOOOO glad I read a kazillion books during the pregnancy. I can't count the number of people who told me to throw out the books because it would all come naturally and I have to admit that I wondered if it was all in vain since the comment came up so much. But honestly? I can't even imagine doing this if I hadn't read each and every one of the books. I really haven't had any trouble figuring out what I'm doing because I have this stored up info in my head and it all comes back to me at the right times. For me, I definitely would not have just figured things out on my own.

2. Changing baby boys is much more difficult than changing baby girls due to what I like to call the "pee in your face" factor. It was really hard until I got down a method to cover up the "pee shooter". :) I still feel some relief when I am about to do Kenna's diaper and remember I don't have to worry about a little pee shooter under there.

3. The worries I have now absolutely pale in comparison to those I had during the pregnancy. I know everyone says, "oh, wait until you have kids, then you will worry even more!" Well, maybe that will happen eventually, but so far it doesn't even rank on the same chart for me. I do check to see they are breathing at night here and there but I am not nearly as obsessive as I thought I would be about things. I was so scared they would never be here but now that they are I really don't feel overly concerned about things. They are in my arms and that's what I REALLY feared wouldn't happen. I don't see them as any more fragile or delicate than any other baby/child. I guess I just finally feel like I can be that long hoped for "normal" person.

4. I'm SO glad I didn't try breastfeeding. OMG, I can't even imagine the stress involved when you don't know how much they are eating. I have meticulously recorded every feeding and diaper change so I know what they are getting.

5. I'm SO glad that J has been pumping for us because I feel great that I'm giving them about 50%+ breast milk right now! I'm so grateful she was willing to do this for a bit. I never realized that you could pump exclusively if you wanted to. I didn't induce lactation because I didn't want to breast feed, but if I could do it over again I would induce lactation to pump 100%. That way I could control the portions and have the knowledge of what they are getting, but also get to give them breast milk. I missed the boat on that. It just didn't occur to me that that was another option.

6. IThank God for schedules! :) I can't imagine not doing this on a schedule. I am in awe of the people who do on demand feeding and attachment parenting. I think if we let him, Nathan would eat every half an hour. It would be absolutely crazy. Kenna is much more content to wait. We are on a religious 1-4-7-10-1-4-7-10 schedule (times of day - 1p, 4p, etc.). If Nathan is really rooting around and getting cranky, I'll start him 15 minutes earlier than schedule but no earlier. It works great. I focus on getting them each a full feeding no matter what of a minimum 2 oz (but really try for 2.5 oz+ each). That way they don't wake up early starving. (This is all based on Baby Wise.) They each do a feeding in about 15-20 minutes now. We also adhere to the eat-activity-sleep pattern from the Baby Whisperer, which works well also. Nathan rarely wakes up during the day so it is more eat-sleep-eat-sleep for him. But Kenna is very alert and even seems to enjoy me reading to her! Nathan wakes up solely during the time when daddy is on duty at night and trying to sleep. We are hoping this will resolve. :) I know some people are anti-schedule, but it's working great for us. The NICU recommended this schedule when we brought Kenna home.

7. Babies really do have different personalities! Nathan was a cherub the first week. Then he started being VERY restless while sleeping. Tossing, turning, grunting, etc. It's IMPOSSIBLE to sleep when he is sleeping in the room. He looks SO grouchy while in the restless phase. I've started calling him my little stink face. ha! When he is fed he looks perfectly content. But after you put him down again lots of restlessness. If he could lay in your arms for hours while passively sucking milk when he feels like it, he would be in heaven. But, I work with him to make sure he gets down what he needs to in a 20 minute timeframe (based on our pediatrician's guidance, they shouldn't spend much more time than that). Kenna is a feeding superstar now! She ate almost 3 oz this morning...a week ago they were trying to push her to 1.25 oz! I would consider her our "easy baby" at this point (knock on wood). She almost never cries - if she does, the reason is immediately apparent.

8. Babies are SO LOUD when they sleep! Or I should say Nathan is SO LOUD! Tonight we are going to try moving them out of our room already and into the nursery cribs. The nursery is down the hall further than I feel comfortable with at this point so we're going to sleep in the guest room right next to it and see how that goes.

9. I don't mind baby poop at all. :) It really hasn't been a big deal.

10. B minds baby poop a lot. In our little "eat sleep poop" journals there is a check box for "wet" and "poop" diapers so you can keep track (to make sure they are getting enough nutrition). You are just supposed to place a check but B sometimes feels compelled to leave a special note under a given poop diaper such as, "whoa" or "tons". :)

11. I think it's adorable when our babies pass gas. Is that weird? lol

12. There was a day I took 223 pictures. Yes, 223. They do so many cute things and look so precious together now that Kenna is home that I can't stop myself!

13. It is quite an event to take two babies out at the same time. We took them to the doctor for their first appointment together yesterday and it was quite the challenge to get them prepared. I better understand why people with kids are always late. :) (Both babies did great - Nathan is now 6 lbs 12 oz, which is 6 oz over birth weight, and Kenna is exactly her birth weight of 6 lbs 12 oz.)

14. I have super woman energy right now. Really. I'm getting 6-7 hours of sleep per night, but really 6 uninterrupted. In times past, 6 hours would make me feel so terrible I would literally be sick when I got up. I have felt pretty rested and have exhibited a patience during the rough 3a-8a stretch that I never thought possible of myself. I'm horribly impatient but somehow I am a different person now. I just keep thanking God for this in particular. It is SO not me. B, who normally gets relatively little sleep, is struggling way more. It's a crazy reversal if you knew our normal sleep patterns. Along the same lines, I've never been so on top of laundry, cleaning, etc. I've become extremely efficient because I can see how you could get behind SO fast. Perhaps out of that fear, I am constantly scurrying around. Maybe that is what is waking me up. :) The house has never been as well run as it is now!

15. Baby crying has only really frustrated me a couple of times. I was terrified I would be annoyed constantly because I've always hated the sound of babies crying. But it really doesn't bother me much. Kenna rarely cries to begin with and when Nathan "cries" it is usually sleep fussiness (half awake half asleep) and I generally let him work it out on his own. I don't scoop him up unless he really ends up in a full scale cry - I'd say 8 times out of 10 he goes on back to sleep without intervention.

16. Holy laundry. Can we really go through this much laundry? I'm doing it like...every day?! I used to do it every other week!

17. I love putting their little clothes on just as much as I thought I would. They are so cute in all their Christmas wear!

18. I'm really taking people's advice to cherish every day. I can already see the changes in their faces in just a week and a half - I can imagine how fast this will go by. I know we probably won't have more kids so I am just hanging on to every moment. Perhaps that is why I have so much patience right now too.

19. You really DON'T have to warm bottles. People kept telling us you have to warm bottles so we finally bought a bottle warmer assuming we would use it. But there is no need (at least for us) - our babies happily suck down the milk whether it is straight from the fridge or room temp! That's one expense I regret.

20. Loving the babies really has come naturally. I have had no trouble at all bonding with them, and I was probably the poster child for someone likely to not bond for a while - didn't carry the pregnancy and was never a "baby person" to begin with. But I adore them and feel 100% that they are my babies and I am their mommy. I feel like I know them so well already. I just can't wait for every day to spend with them. When I wake up in the morning, I may be tired, but I can't wait to unwrap their swaddles to give them a big kiss and sing them a song. I can't wait for every day of the rest of my life with them. :)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Look who came home today!!

We brought Kenna home today about noon and she is doing great! It's so wonderfully amazing to have both babies with us! I'm so excited! J and her family met us there so they could be part of the "coming home" experience. We took some great pictures and I will let her post the ones of her on her blog. Here are some others! (As a side note, we gave the babies breast milk for the first time today and all went great - they didn't seem to notice the difference.)





Monday, December 15, 2008

One more picture

I felt bad that I only posted Nathan's pics so I uploaded one that I think is the best of Kenna from the NICU. I just think she looks so cute here, like she is pumping her fist in the air to get to come home tomorrow! This was taken yesterday.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Pictures!

First of all - they said this morning that Kenna should come home tomorrow if she does as well today after they remove the IV!! HOORAY! I was so excited when B called to tell me the news that I was jumping up and down. :)

As promised, here are some pictures! It is hard to pick just a few to post because we have taken over 500 (!!!) THIS WEEK! LOL Yes, we are in love. :)

Unfortunately we don't have a lot of good ones of Kenna because she always has all the wires and it's not easy to take good pics in the NICU. So, I promise to post lots of cute ones of her when she gets home. For now, these are of Nathan with more to follow tomorrow (hopefully!) of Kenna.

Enjoy!

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Updates!

First of all, to all of you who have been reading my blog, either a little time or a long time, I want to say thank you so much for caring about our journey, praying for us, and leaving encouraging comments. It has made the journey even more fun and special to be able to share it with others who are interested in surrogacy and hopefully encourage some along the way. I have loved "meeting" others through blogs and through comments. I so much appreciate it when you take the time to leave comments and loved reading through all the happy congratulations on the announcement post. Thank you SO MUCH to everyone for the kind words, and for sticking with us through the last few months!

I have so much to say about the delivery, the days at the hospital, the time since we have been home! But things are still a little hectic getting into the swing of it all and managing between home with Nathan and the NICU with Kenna so I haven't quite had the time. I hope to very soon because I can't wait to share with you! That said, I wanted to update you on Kenna because I know some of you are probably wondering how she is doing.

Kenna is doing great right now. She initially landed in the NICU because she had fluid in her lungs from the delivery. They had to put her on oxygen because she was working so hard to breathe. Her respiratory rate was about twice what it should at that point. They were feeding her through IV. By the next day she was already off the oxygen with a normal respiratory rate. The next step was to bottle feed to make sure she could suck/eat/breathe at the same time. She had a really weak suck and it was difficult for her to get going. She got tired really easily. They started her at about 15 cc's and she did OK so they kept moving her up with each feeding. By the time they got to 30 (one ounce), she had become stressed and had to go back on oxygen. I was really upset at that point because it just felt like things were worse than I initally thought. But, the nurses told us that Nathan is the exception and that babies usually have a few minor issues like Kenna has at 36 weeks and Nathan did great to go home right away. They encouraged us that it was normal and that she would be fine so I felt better. She soon went off oxygen and they decided to not push the feeding as fast. Since then, they have slowly moved her up and she took 45 cc's last night! And, she hasn't had a need for oxygen again. When we called for an update this morning they said that the doctor said if the IV falls out (they get saturated), don't put it in again. That's a great sign because right now she has been getting some nutrition from IV, some from bottle while she was learning. If the IV doesn't need to stay in that means she is self sufficient and should come home very soon. It's been frustrating because the people at the NICU WILL NOT give you an estimate of home coming because they don't want to disappoint. Still, that leaves you constantly wondering, are we talking 2 days, 2 weeks, 2 months?? I think there is a chance she might come home as early as Tuesday but that's just me saying that. I think it's pretty certain some time this week and we hope sooner rather than later. Thank you so much for all the prayers. We can't wait to have her home. We have gotten to know Nathan better since we are with him more and I can't wait to know her in the same way.

Nathan had his first appointment with the doctor and he got his first "percentiles". They are for full term babies and she said some early babies won't even be on the chart. Well, even for being 4 weeks early he is in the 25th percentile for height, 20th percentile for weight and 75th percentile for head size! LOL His head doesn't look that giant! :) He is doing great and all was well at the appointment.

I can't wait to post more pictures and will soon. I hope today later. I have to go to the NICU to visit and feed Kenna right now. I just want to say that it has been the most amazing week of my life and I never imagined I could love two babies from the first moment like this. I absolutely adore them and can't wait to spend the rest of our lives together.

Please visit J's blog for details on the delivery - the birth story from her perspective! http://surro4nandb.easyjournal.com/

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Our babies have arrived!

As you probably suspected by now, our babies are here!!

Nathanael Bryan arrived at 1:01 pm on Monday, December 8 via c-section; 6 pounds 6 oz and 19.25 inches
Kenna Sophia arrived at 1:02 pm the same day via c-section; 6 pounds 12 oz and 19.75 inches

(Kenna left, Nathan right)



J did an amazing job and having seen the extent of a c-section I am in more awe than ever that anyone would ever do this by choice for another. She and R are absolute angels in our lives. J was able to go home yesterday and is doing as well as can be expected given it was a c-section. It's definitely not an easy recovery and it was just awful to see how much pain she was in.

We came home with Nathan yesterday afternoon. Kenna has been in the NICU since birth with some (so far) normal-for-preemie issues with breathing and sucking. At first she was working way too hard to breathe so they had her on oxygen. The next day she already was off it and doing fine with breathing, but wasn't sucking/feeding well. Last night she had the need for oxygen again and still isn't sucking/feeding well. Our little girl will probably be there a few more days while she gets it figured out and we will be taking turns going to the hospital. The nurses tell us it's very common for early babies (even despite her large size!) and that we have nothing to worry about. It just looks like Nathan was ready to come before his sister. He is doing great and is really alert.

I love them both so much it hurts and just constantly cry from the overwhelming emotions of it all.

I will post much more about the birth story and the last few days, but I wanted to finally get on and post that they are here! We feel like we've been hit by a bus sleep wise so we're working on adjusting. ;) I hope to get a little more settled today and will do a better post with details later today or tomorrow.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Our cats are ready for the babies too...

No News...

Sorry if I left you hanging after the NST (thanks Amy for pointing that out!)! Since everything has been so uneventful I didn't think to update yesterday. :) But we passed just fine with a few small contractions and were on our way out the door. No babies yet! Can you believe we are just 9 days away from being full term at this point? What an amazing thing! J being on bed rest was a sacrifice that has made a huge difference for the health of the babies. I'm very excited (and I'm sure she is even more so) that today and tomorrow are her last days of restriction! As of Sunday morning she is allowed to live normally again. We were joking that at this point, however, she is now so uncomfortable that she couldn't live normally if she tried. :)

This morning our phone rang at like 6 a.m. (a rare occurrence) and I thought for sure that was going to be it. My heart started pounding as B reached over to look at the caller ID. I gasped, "is it THEM?!!" But, alas, it was not. Since we are so close to 36 weeks now, I do hope we make it past Sunday. After that, though, they need to present themselves soon! I also hope it's not a middle of the night thing. I would be pretty bummed to go to the hospital unshowered for the birth of our babies. :)

Next NST is on Monday!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Baby weights

Last night we had our (probably last) growth ultrasound, where they measure the key parts of the babies' bodies to make sure they are growing at the appropriate rate still and that they aren't too different in size. They say that babies grow about half a pound per week during this time, so based on my calculations vs. the last ultrasound I hoped they would be a little over six pounds at this point. Well, based on the current estimates (you can never be totally sure until they come out), it looks like K is 6 pounds 15 ounces and N is 6 pounds 8 ounces! They are BIG! For the first time in the whole pregnancy, K is bigger than her brother. I couldn't believe she is almost 7 pounds at 35 weeks. They aren't allowed to tell us the measurements (you have to wait for the doctor's appointment) but after staring long enough at the screen I could tell that almost all the measurements were over 37 weeks...they are measuring about two weeks ahead. That would account for the hefty weights! I am really excited that they seem to be thriving so much!

The next NST is tomorrow. We'll basically have them every Monday/Thursday until the babies come with a peri appointment next Tuesday, an OB appointment the following Monday, and another peri appointment on the 19th. We don't have appointments after that, and I really hope we won't have need for them at that point!

Monday, December 1, 2008

NY Times article on gestational surrogacy

(If you are looking for the latest update, I just posted it...scroll down past this post.)

The NY Times ran a feature story this weekend on gestational surrogacy (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/30/magazine/30Surrogate-t.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1&ei=5070&emc=eta1). The author is someone who was already a writer for the Times. She was very honest in the article about what she went through before surrogacy (11 IVFs), and her thoughts and feelings during the surrogacy. I thought it was a good story to give the general public an "intro" into what gestational surrogacy is. Unfortunately the corresponding photographs featured the writer in front of her upscale house (with her baby nurse behind her) and the surrogate on a weathered porch, making it seem that the story of surrogacy is all about rich women using poor women to have babies. Granted, the writer came across as slightly snobish at times, but to put photos like that on the front page really handicapped the story from the beginning for the average reader with already preconceived notions.

When I saw that 404 people had commented on the story, I braced myself for the worst before digging in (and oh, yes, I dug in and read all 404 comments - obviously this is a story near and dear to my heart and it is an interesting opportunity to read the unbridled responses of strangers to the notion of surrogacy). I know that it is really hard for the average person to grasp infertility treatments when they haven't struggled with infertility, and to grasp surrogacy? Almost impossible. I anticipated a slew of comments about how terrible it was she didn't adopt, how she was exploiting this other woman, and how egotistical it is to want to propogate your own genes. I was exactly right. But I was shocked at the absolute disgust people expressed and some key themes that I would not have thought would stand out to so many.

I was also surprised that the overwhelming majority of people who responded felt so strongly negative about the surrogacy. I wondered if anyone we have told about surrogacy thinks like that. I certainly haven't noticed anyone even trying to cover up a negative shock about it, and I'm very observant in that way. It was hard to determine how many of them felt that way because of the pictures (which many mentioned) or because of the slightly arrogant manner in which the article was written. But even aside from these issues there were plenty of other points brought up over and over. I wish I could get all those people into a lecture hall and address their points because they (the points) are so illogical and uneducated. I will try to make myself feel better by responding to their points here and pretending they will read them (or rather hoping that they will somehow be so intrigued with the issue that they google for more information and end up here). :)

Point 1: "How dare you spend so much on this kind of venture rather than doing something good/more honorable with the money?"

I have to admit that this isn't something I would have thought would stand out to people after reading about surrogacy, but it came up over and over. How "unfair" it is that this woman had the resources to pay someone else to carry her baby - such a luxury for the uber rich - and how she should have given that money to a better cause was a constant theme in the comments. I will be the first to acknowledge that surrogacy and IVF is an expensive venture and that it is true that not everyone could afford to do it. So is taking a European vacation, buying a new car or buying a house. Would these people have been equally outraged that this (or another) woman paid for any of those other things? Of course not. Isn't financing the medical technology necessary to create a precious child a more noble use of funds? What if the woman donated to charitable causes far more than she spent on this surrogacy? Is she then OK? It's so illogical to say, "you have a problem that you could spend a lot of money to have a 'solution' to, but I think you should a) not pursue that solution and b) take the money you WOULD HAVE spent and give it to charitable causes". Unless a person lives an extraordinarily modest lifestyle, far beyond actual means, and donates all of the excess, he/she has absolutely no legs to stand on with such an argument.

Point 2: "I can't believe she would only pay the surrogate $25,000."

The funniest thing is that this comment often went hand in hand with the one above. So let me get this straight. You are saying that it is unfair that only "rich" people can do this, and that it is too much to spend on something of this nature - but you now want to make it MORE expensive? I agree that the sum is not much for compensating a surrogate, but it is the going rate probably BECAUSE if it were higher so few could do it. Surely the money is a nice perk, but almost any surrogate will tell you that they are doing it more because they want to help start (or continue) a family.

Point 3: "She is exploiting a poor woman."

Wow. How incredibly offensive to the kind, educated woman who DESIRED to be a surrogate. Because she was sitting on a weathered porch, we now call her poor? How arrogant of these commenters who are supposedly so concerned about exploitation. They are also insulting her intelligence, suggesting that she wasn't smart enough to not become exploited by surrogacy. The article specifically states that she has a higher education and that she and her husband are middle class. How exactly do people think women become passively exploited by surrogacy? Do they think a wealthy woman is standing in the shadows of a poor woman's house prepped and ready to tackle her with a catheter filled with embryos and impregnate her? Do they think that there are surrogacy brothels where unsuspecting women are being blindly led to do things they don't want? If there is one thing certain about surrogacy, is that it has to be an active decision on the surrogate's part. Just the IVF itself is intensive, requiring daily shots in exactly the right doses, a multitude of appointments, and frequent tests. It is a very CONSCIOUS process, not to mention the whole pregnancy itself. The surrogate in this story was a substitute teacher. Depending on where she lives, she could easily have made more than this surrogacy paid. Yet, she made the ACTIVE decision to make less and to do something extraordinarily generous. Clear choice does not equate to any form of exploitation.

Point 4: "I can't believe she didn't adopt."

As several commenters did point out, people who said this obviously know nothing of adoption. These same people often made the comments about money above...clearly they don't realize that to adopt a child in the U.S. easily costs the same as surrogacy in some cases and to adopt internationally costs multiples of what surrogacy costs in most cases. And, as I have noted in the past, the image of thousands of babies lying around waiting for a home is simply not reality. There are more people who want to adopt in the U.S. than there are babies who need adopting. Most people don't know that. I guess if I put myself in the thought process of someone who does assume that to be the case, I can better understand where they are coming from. But even so, if they have not adopted themselves (given all these babies they think need homes), why do they believe it to be the responsibility of infertile people to adopt the world's infants looking for homes? If you are able to have biological children and choose to adopt with no biological children of your own, you have a right to make the statement that infertile people should adopt because you would say that fertile people should adopt too. Fine. But if you have chosen to have even one biological child, you have expressed a desire to have that experience and should have no trouble understanding why others would have that desire too.

Point 5: "She is so egocentric for needing to pass on her genes so much."

Again, you can only make this statement if you did not have biological children by choice and chose to adopt instead (incidentally, I do know several people who have done this). If you have a biological child, that would make you equally egocentric for "needing to pass on your genes". Clearly people don't think that way so it's the "payment" and "extra effort" to pass on genes that makes the difference in their minds. Again, that's illogical - the underlying desire is the same whether you have trouble or not. If you have a biological child you can say nothing about this.

Point 6: "If you can't have a child naturally, you shouldn't be passing on your (presumably) bad genes."

This point probably infuriated me the most. At the absolute most darwinian level, I guess I understand what they mean in terms of "survival of the fittest". However, they are missing a critical point. The fittest may be someone who only has reproductive problems and perfect health otherwise. So are reproductive genes the most important ones of all for determining who should survive the darwinian race? Say on the one hand you have theoretical people who are battling multiple horrible diseases and have a life expectancy of 20 years. On the other hand you have theoretical people who are perfectly healthy except for a minor reproductive problem and life expectancy of 90 years. Which genes do you think a child would rather receive? Now, I am NOT saying that people battling diseases are any less deserving of having children or that they should not pass on their own genes - I disagree strongly with that. I'm just using this as an example of the fallacy of the argument that reproductive factors should weed people out.

Point 7: "How dare the NY Times run this story when people are struggling in this economy?"

I guess that the NY Times also shouldn't run ads for all the expensive items in their publication during these "troubled times"? I guess that if someone has the means to have a child in a medically advanced way they should say, "well, these are troubled times, I guess I will just shut down my life's most important desire to have a child because things don't look great for a lot of others"? I certainly hope that the people who made comments along these lines don't read the sports section. How dare the NY Times run stories on athletes who are making millions per year during difficult economic times?

Point 8: "This is like prostitution" (or some variant on the moral case against surrogacy).

I would bet my life's savings on there being only a handful of negative comments rather than hundreds of negative comments if the story featured a uterus transplant given to the woman, after which she carried her own baby. Few people would care in the same way because they would see it like an organ donation of any kind (sure, there would still be some skeptics, but not in the order of magnitude you see here). There is no kind of organ that you can use outside of your own body EXCEPT the uterus. It is unique in that you can literally "borrow" it for a time and the organ giver can keep it after. If you had a kidney transplant, you would certainly pay for it, and no one would shout, "kidney prostitution!" But because the giver is being compensated (not an insurance company), and the organ remains with the giver, people can't deal with the "conceptual appearance" of the following three things: a woman receiving money, a baby being born, the baby being given to someone else. It's like walking into a room and seeing people hiding behind couches, a knife on the table and all the lights out. Conceptually, it looks bad because you don't have the pieces to put the story together. However, with a little more information you would realize it's a surprise party, that people are hiding from the guest of honor, that the knife is a cake knife, and the lights are out for the surprise to work. In the same way, money + baby + giving baby to someone else does not = buying a baby. It's compensation for time to respectfully "borrow" a more medically viable organ than your own to carry and deliver a baby that was yours to begin with. THAT is gestational surrogacy.

And then there are people like J who are doing this without any compensation at all. It would be fascinating to read comments on an article about uncompensated surrogacy - I wonder just how different they would be.

Maybe in for a long haul?

First of all, it's December 1! Hip, hip, hooray (to say the least)!! We are SO happy to have made this milestone.

This morning we went for the latest non-stress test and during the whole test J had only one contraction! There were no cervical changes either. Basically, things are more calm than they have been in about two weeks...the babies are not necessarily on their way any time soon. Kenna is still lying sideways so the doctor went ahead and scheduled a c-section for December 28. Yes - December 28 - an eternity away. None of us, including the doctor, think we will make it to that day, so the far reaching date wasn't overly disappointing. If, however, we did get that far I would be slightly sad that they missed Christmas. :) J is on bed rest until Sunday (36 weeks) and we are thinking that once she gets moving again they might come soon. Since it is pretty much looking like a c-section at this point, I think next week would be perfect timing so J can recover quite a bit before Christmas. I really hope next week is it!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

35 Weeks!!

Look at that ticker! We made it to 35 weeks after all! I'm really excited this morning that we made it to a new week. Everyone has been telling me that 35 weeks is much better than 34 weeks for the health of the babies, so this is great news! One of the doctors even said they consider twins full term at 35 weeks. (I've never heard that before she said it, but I'll just take it as a good indication that we have reached a pretty stable point.)

Now, just one more day to hit December 1 for insurance reasons and we have reached our goal!

I am so grateful to have gotten to this point. As of last night, there were no changes on the contractions, and (unfortunately) no changes to Kenna's position. Tomorrow morning we have a regular OB appointment, then a little later in the morning we have another routine non-stress test. It will have been a week since the last cervix check so it will be interesting to see if anything has changed. Tuesday is a growth ultrasound, and I'm guessing Thursday will be another non-stress test. B really thinks the babies are coming on December 2. I'm guessing later this week. If you have a revised birthday prediction given all that has transpired, please post in the comments. :)

Thursday, November 27, 2008

My Thanksgiving List

What would Thanksgiving be without a Thanksgiving list? :) There are some very special things I am thankful for this year, as you can imagine. Here we go:

THE TOP 10

1. J. J tops the list because without J, there would simply be no babies. If I had a dollar for every time someone has commented how amazing J is for doing what she is doing, I would have a million dollars! We are so thankful that J's compassion led her to understand and pray about our suffering and that she took the next step to offer something so incredible, so life changing. She has literally devoted a year of her life to this journey. I am humbled that anyone would step forward to want to ease our pain in such a miraculous way. I pray that she is blessed over and over by this experience throughout her life...because I know we will be.

2. R (J's husband). Without a supportive husband, there would also be no babies! R is an equally amazing person - how many men are willing to support a wife going through a year of pregnancy preparations and pregnancy when it is not for his own family? J and R are truly selfless people. He has probably explained countless times that his wife is pregnant with another man's baby. LOL In addition to that, he has stepped forward many times to be late to work, or leave early from work, or work from home to watch the kids and allow us all to go to appointments. Now that J is on bed rest, he has had to step up to run the house at times when J can't. Even if J alone were willing to carry two babies for us, without R's support, it just wouldn't be possible. We are so grateful for him.

3. D (J's mom). J's mom has been an absolutely amazing help as well! She came and babysat for many appointments so that B and I could both go and see our babies. She has come at late notice and been so flexible with her help watching the kids. It gave us so many wonderful memories of the pregnancy to be able to experience the ultrasounds together, and that is courtesy of J's mom. She is a wonderful lady and we are so grateful that she was willing to help in this way.

4. E & O (J's kids). Technically, E & O had no choice in the matter. BUT if they had been different kids that couldn't have adjusted well to all the changes, it probably wouldn't have been possible for J to do all this. I think they have done as well as anyone possibly could at ages 2 and 3 with all that has gone on. I know it would have been even harder on J if they seemed like they were constantly suffering, so I am grateful that they have done so well.

5. Wait for it...THE BABIES! I can't be thankful for the babies before being thankful for all the people who made their very existence possible (J and her family). I just can't believe we will get to meet them soon. I can't wait to touch their little hands and kiss their little cheeks. I'm even looking forward to a poopy diaper or two (but only one or two :). A year ago, I didn't even know if we would ever have kids. My heart was filled with tears for what might never be for us. All the dreams that you have growing up of a family and what it will be like seemed to have been shattered for us and I felt like I was swimming in a sea of disbelief, bitterness, anger, and sadness. Even though we had started talking about surrogacy at this point last year, I certainly didn't assume it would work. It seemed like just another thing to try. That was only one year ago. Today we are on the verge of being blessed with TWO babies and for that we couldn't possibly be more grateful. THANK YOU GOD!

6. B. My husband is the BEST! As cliche as it sounds, we really are best friends. We have certainly had our share of difficulties when struggling through infertility (ahem, after failed cycles) but there was never any doubt that if we had nothing else, we would have each other forever. As much as I tease B about being a brick wall without emotion sometimes, I am grateful that he has been such a rock through all this. One of us had to be. It wasn't me! Even now, as I'm feeling a bit mentally and emotionally spent, he just keeps reminding me of the end goal and telling me, "I can't wait to be parents with you." :)

7. Our families. We are very lucky to have wonderful families on both sides! Our families are both small, but there is a lot of love and support. Nathan and Kenna will be very cherished by everyone and are lucky to be surrounded by so much love.

8. Our friends. I'm so thankful for our wonderful friends, many of whom have been keeping up on the blog, sending emails of encouragement, checking in on the status of J and the babies, etc. Our friends have put the cherry on top of our journey. :)

9. My online friends. This is such an interesting phenomenon with the internet, that you can actually have friends whom you have never met. I have made friends with a lot of ladies over the last couple of years from infertility message boards and we still regularly keep up with each other. They can understand in a way that "regular" friends cannot, and that is a life saver when you are suffering. I can't even imagine going through all those IVFs without the virtual hand holding of all those other ladies in the same situation. And now, with the blog, I have had the opportunity to get to know fellow bloggers in the surrogacy world and it has been a true pleasure. It's not like you meet others involved in surrogacy very easily...if ever. What an awesome opportunity, to meet others in this unique situation online!

10. Our cats. I know, if you're not an animal person, you just don't get it. But our cats are SO important and special to us. When people come over, they just see two cats. We see our fur-babies. We spend so much time loving them, petting them, admiring how cute they are. We love them so much and they are 100% a part of the family and not just pets.

AND A BUNCH OF OTHER THINGS AS THEY COME TO MIND...I'M THANKFUL FOR:

11. People from J's church who have offered to bring over food to J while she is on bedrest.

12. Our church

13. Ample food to eat

14. A home to live in

15. Living in a country where we feel safe and have daily freedom

16. The fact that I don't think I've ever experienced boredom in my life because I have so many interests, hobbies and passions

17. The opportunities I have had to start my own business and work from home

18. The fact that J's insurance covered our surrogacy

19. The fact that B works from home and owns his own business too, so he has had a flexibility that many men don't to attend all the appointments, etc.

20. The opportunity to have visited several locations throughout the world

21. Backpacking

22. Camping

23. Hiking

24. Fishing

25. Mammoth Mountain (that's for you J and C!)

26. The rest of the Sierras

27. The fact that I experienced SCUBA diving a few times before it freaked me out and I decided I probably can't go again

28. The legacy of my grandparents, whom I loved dearly

29. My favorite restaurants: Wahoo's, Souplantation, and Cold Stone Creamery

30. The chance to put Christmas lights outside our house this year

31. Lazy days when B and I get to snuggle and read books with the fireplace on and the cats by our sides

32. Good health...OK, that doesn't belong at 32, but this is in no particular order :)

33. My love of holidays...I literally can get excited at any given time about the next upcoming holiday! I have fun with it!

34. Email...I'm not a phone person at all and email is so much more efficient

35. Our small group that meets weekly from church

36. Animals of all kinds - they make me so happy!

37. Disneyland

38. Big grassy parks

39. Living in a place that is still 80 degrees in November

40. Getting rain this week - a nice change

41. Reese's peanut butter cups, my absolute favorite combination of peanut butter and chocolate

42. The really cute nursery we have set up :)

43. Days when I can take an afternoon nap - I feel so happy when that happens!

44. Being done with Christmas shopping early this year

45. Being ready for the babies so early that I don't have to stress about what is left on the list!

46. B's sweet face in the morning when he is still waking up :)

47. Not working in an office anymore - I love working from home

48. My God-given extreme level of motivation that has carried me in life

49. Enthusiasm to write a book on what to expect for intended mothers...I have the outline already :)

50. A Thanksgiving where I can be thankful for the gift of a double sized family to come soon.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

We passed this time!

For the first time since last Tuesday, we passed the non stress test this morning! There were only a couple of contractions so we didn't need to go for more monitoring. Kenna unfortunately is still head up. J hasn't been feeling any differently, so it seems we are in a holding pattern. I think we might actually make it to 35 weeks (Sunday)! For insurance/financial reasons, we would LOVE to make it to December 1, so hold your breath with us that we get to Monday. It seems like forever away right now, but it's only a few days. I'm getting really anxious for Monday to come because then I can officially hope the babies show up any time. :) Now that the initial shock of pre-term labor has worn off, I feel much more mentally prepared for it to happen at any time. We are READY! I want it to turn Monday and then I want them to come ASAP so J can get off bed rest, which is very tough on her and her family.

Our next appointment isn't until Monday, if we make it that far! We have a regular OB appointment and a separate non-stress test that day. Then Tuesday we have a growth ultrasound. We are so close to hitting our Dec 1 goal...come on Monday!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Very small update

Since it seemed a couple of days ago that the birth might be imminent, I know a lot of people are probably checking in for updates so I thought I should post. :) Basically, J is holding steady on bed rest. She hasn't had any changes (based on how she is feeling) and is taking it easy. I feel like it might actually be a few days now. It's so weird that you can go from thinking you are having two babies one day to thinking it could be a week or even more a couple of days later! I'm definitely grateful that the babies are getting more time with J, though I hate to see her trapped on bedrest.

I spent the morning watching J's kids and then R (J's husband) came home to work and watched the kids in the afternoon. Watching young kids (2 and 3) makes me realize how little I know about kids and how to play with them. lol It doesn't really come naturally to me like it does for some people (I think B is a natural though!). J was upstairs in bed and I kept thinking that she was probably laughing at it all. :) I know it's different when you raise them from birth though so hopefully I will be a pro like J by that point!

Tomorrow morning is another NST. Hopefully they will just send us home this time so we're not stuck and L&D for monitoring for so long again! (Unless it's the real deal, of course!)

Monday, November 24, 2008

Another trip to labor and delivery

Well, today was basically a repeat from Friday, so if you would like an update, just go back and re-read that post. :)

We went for the non-stress test again and J was having regular contractions. They weren't consistent, however, like they were Friday. The nurse took the print out of all the contractions to the doctor to review when we were done based on her criteria and she came back and surprisingly said, "OK, the doctor says you are good to go!" I think we both expected they would say we needed to go to labor and delivery again so we asked her some questions about it. She gave us an explanation of why they were going to send us home that ended in "...since you're 36 weeks tomorrow, you just can wait to go into labor." We just turned 34 weeks yesterday! We pointed out the error and she went back to the doctor who THEN said, yes we need to be monitored in that case. So on we went again to labor and delivery.

J was hooked up to the monitors there from 10:30 to about 5. The contractions were pretty frequent, big and consistent, though J wasn't in any pain. Doctors/nurses kept asking if she was in pain given the size of the contractions on the print out and she surprised them every time saying no. They hooked her up to an IV this time but the ongoing fluids really didn't make a difference. They gave her a shot of the medicine to keep the contractions at bay, but that didn't make much of a difference either. Kenna was breech today, so if J really went into active labor, it would have meant a c-section. Given the consistency and size of the contractions we all thought for sure that she would be more dilated when they checked and that would mean heading in for a c-section tonight. Well, they checked her 2 (3?) times today and she hadn't changed at all! She is still at 2-3 cm. So, the contractions are pretty strong, but they are just that - contractions that aren't causing active labor. Because of that, there is no need for an immediate c-section. They also didn't need to keep her there any longer because she wasn't progressing yet. The doctor sent her home with pills to keep contractions down if they get intense. If, after she takes them, the contractions are still painful and intense, then she is to call. So at this point, they are more conservative with when to call since they have monitored her so much already. Even if she hits 6 contractions in an hour, she doesn't need to call unless they FEEL different, since we know that this current level isn't changing her cervix.

One nice thing about today is that our OB was the doctor on call at triage! It was sort of comforting to see her there because she is super nice and I like her a lot. If we were going to have a c-section, it would have been great to have her there to do it. We also figured that since she knows us well at this point, she would be the most likely candidate of anyone to let an extra person in the delivery room. Our OB said she would have J on bedrest to 36 weeks instead of 35 weeks like the other doctor told us. If J is still pregnant when we hit 35 weeks we'll have to figure out whose advice we are to follow. The OB said different doctors have different opinions.

I guess at this point we could realistically go another week or maybe even two. I think there is a decent possibility of making it to next Monday but I can't imagine much more than that given all these contractions. I actually think that J's water will break soon, but that's just a hunch.

Thanks so much for all the kind comments and "hugs" from my last post. It is so nice to know people do understand out there! Today was not as scary because I knew the drill and wasn't in shock. These L&D trips make for long days, but now that I know what to expect and a little more about how labor works, I feel better. My personal hope is to make it to Dec 1 so we are 35 weeks and then not much longer so that J's life doesn't have to be turned upside down much more. It's really a burden to her and her family for her to be on bedrest since she has two small kids to be concerned about. 35 weeks would be a great compromise between the babies being healthier and J not being stuck in bed forever. :) In the meantime, please pray Kenna heads back down again!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

We made it to 34 weeks!

Well, here we are, we made it to 34 weeks and we haven't been back to labor & delivery this weekend. J is having 1-5 contractions per hour still and has not hit the 6 contractions per hour threshold necessary to call and see about going in. So what does this mean? How soon will the babies come? No clue.

We have another routing non-stress test tomorrow and I'm feeling about 90% sure we'll be in the hospital most of the day after. J only felt a small percentage of the contractions she was actually having when she was hooked up to the monitor Friday, so if she is still feeling up to 5 per hour, that means she is likely having more than that. And if she is, they will again send us from the testing area to labor & delivery to be monitored again, check for dilation, etc. I'm holding my breath for what happens from there. If she is dilating more, they will try to stop it most likely by admitting her and giving her stronger medications than the shots they give in the triage. From there, who knows how long she will be in? They may just keep her on hospital bedrest. That would be so hard on J and her family and I dread that outcome. Or, perhaps they will stabilize her and send her home. The next routine test is on Wednesday, and then we would start the process over. I'm not sure why they didn't send her home with pills to relax the contractions, like our fellow blogger Marika has right now. That seems to make the most sense but when J asked about it Friday they just said no, they weren't sending her home with any. I guess I just feel like it's a lot to put J through with all these hours being monitored at L&D, possibly even being admitted, and if that can be mitigated at all with pills at home, why not? I'm not a doctor of course, so maybe there is some obvious reason I just don't know about.

So here we are, sort of in a world of ambiguity. As you all know by now, I don't do well in this world. In fact, if I'm being completely honest, I'm absolutely dreading this week. NOT the actual birth of course, but what I anticipate to be a constant roller coaster. It is SO STRESSFUL. What is more stressful is that I think a lot of people (non-IMs) think, "Why are YOU stressed? You don't even have to give birth! J is the one who should be stressed!" And knowing that people think that stresses me out MORE because it feels like no one understands that it can be really hard to be on this side too, even if you are not giving birth. And OF COURSE J has a lot to be concerned about - good grief, I can't even imagine going through this ambiguity AND having to give birth at the end! That's not my point at all. It's just that it's a unique stress to be on this side that few people can understand. To give you a glimpse (here comes a list!):

1. Because I am very stressed but at the same time feel guilty/embarrassed for being stressed when J is the one who has to give birth, I can't even show completely how I am feeling at any given time because I have to be concerned with not freaking J out, not freaking B out, not freaking the doctors out (in the case that they might let B in the delivery room if we look calm enough), not freaking J's family out when we are at her house, etc. It's SO hard to be feeling this stressed and nervous and have to do your best to keep it on lockdown. The worst part? My version of "lockdown" is still pretty transparent. So as hard as I'm trying, I know everyone around me still thinks I'm a stress case. That's nowhere NEAR what I'm feeling! Which then just leads to more stress and embarrassment. :(

2. Being an IM always means that you don't have the "latest" information on the pregnancy per se because you are not living it. But that takes on a whole new meaning here at the end when your babies could be coming at any time. When people ask for updates now, it's more often than I get them myself, which causes more stress! It would be no big deal if I were the one who was pregnant because I could just, well, update them! But poor J is trying to rest up and she doesn't need to worry about constantly updating me that this hour she had 1 contraction, the next hour was 3, etc. At the end of the day it doesn't much matter until she hits the "magic 6", so our update in most cases is the assumption that nothing has changed because we haven't heard from her. There is absolutely nothing different that J should be doing, it's just the nature of being on this side of the surrogacy. It's just something I have to deal with. But that doesn't mean it isn't stressful. J is doing absolutely everything she can, updating periodically, being on bedrest, following doctors' instructions, etc.

3. I'm really stressed about making sure J is taken care of while on bedrest. She has an amazing family and church family that are all helping out too. People have offered to bring her dinners this week, her husband has offered to work from home part of the time, and we are definitely not "on our own" to care of her and the family. But I still of course feel it is our primary responsibility and it's hard to know exactly what to do! We would of course do anything to make sure J has all she needs and is comfortable. But we also know that it can be difficult to have other people in your house all the time, so I've been looking to J to give us direction on what we can and should do for her. That's hard though, because J is somewhat soft spoken and doesn't want to ask for much, so I'm constantly wondering if we should just jump in and do more because she probably doesn't want to ask, or if we should accept that she is drawing the line for us between her privacy and what she really needs/wants us to do. And then I wonder if there are things we haven't offered/said/done that we should have and just didn't think to because we are thinking about so much at once right now! This is all VERY stressful to me because the last thing in the world that I want is for J to feel like we are not appropriately caring for her needs during this critical time.

4. The babies' health. We are at 34 weeks now and in ALL likelihood they will do just fine. But that is still 6 weeks early. I'm concerned that there will be problems. Even more so than that, I'm concerned that there are problems that we don't even know about (birth defects, etc., unrelated to prematurity) and are days from finding out about. Problems that could flip our lives upside down. Problems that could quickly turn this from a journey of joy to despair. A friend of mine from college had a full term baby a few years back that they had no indication had any problem until the birth. Then they found out about a heart problem and the baby died a week later. The end of the pregnancy could mean the beginning of something horrible. I KNOW, I know, I know, you are all saying, why focus on that rather than that it will likely mean only something wonderful? I guess it's just my personality. I would rather fear the worst, stress about it and be relieved when it doesn't happen than be completely shocked. It's not a conscious decision, it's just what goes on in my head.

5. I worry about the babies turning around, forcing J into a c-section. She knows it could happen and isn't going crazy over it, but we all know it would really, really suck. I know she'll be recovering from birth no matter what, and that is not fun, but it's worse with a c-section. I worry about being in a state of joy and excitement with two new babies and feeling guilt that poor J is at home in pain. I worry about how we can take care of her when we are taking care of two newborns too.

6. You'll all like this one...I worry that I will still worry after the babies are here. :) lol Not about the babies themselves, I know that's natural, but about J and always wondering if we did everything "right" to make this as positive as possible. I worry that there is something that she'll always think back on, like "I still can't believe that they...(something negative)" As you read this post, you can see that 99.9% of my worries are about J. I have to emphasize that that has nothing to do with J herself or what she is doing/saying or not doing/saying. It's the nature of being an IM, and especially an IM who is a type A by nature. Some of it probably has to do specifically with the nature of having a surro who is also a friend, because I care so much about our ongoing relationship.

So there you have it. I know that the actual delivery will be very exciting and a day I will never forget. But I would love to hit fast forward to that time. :)

Friday, November 21, 2008

Holy cow! Trip to Labor and Delivery...

Things have gone from 0 to 100 really fast! Quick post because my head is spinning...

We went for another non stress test. Last week it was simple, fast and perfect. Today...we ended up in the labor and delivery triage for 6 hours.

J was having contractions frequently and couldn't even feel them. So we had to be moved to labor and delivery. She said last night she woke up and felt a little funny but didn't know what it was. The doctor came and checked her in L&D and she was 2 cm dilated! She has NEVER dilated before water breaking in her past 2 pregnancies. So this was a shock to all of us. We have had no issues at all in this pregnancy and no warning signals lately that we were getting close...AT ALL. (I think those of you reading this agreed since everyone's delivery prediction was mid-December!) To find this out was shocking to say the least. They gave her a shot of the terbutiline (sp?) and it helped but she still had contractions when it wore off. The FFN then came back positive. They said if it was negative they could tell us with 99% certainty they wouldn't be born this week. But if it was positive they said that really didn't mean anything.

They really want us to make it to 35 weeks and will stop labor until then as much as possible. She is on bedrest now for a week and one day to reach that point. I really thought we would easily make it to 36 weeks since all has been so smooth. We'll only be 34 weeks on Sunday (if we get that far!). I'm 1) freaking out that this is actually happening, 2) worried about the babies' health this early, 3) excited. Mostly just in a state of shock. I feel like someone hit me with a stun gun. I can't believe we could be having babies this week. I'm pretty sure we'll hit 34 weeks since that's just the day after tomorrow, but I don't know how much longer after that.

J is doing great. If you can sense my franticness in this post, just know that she is as calm as a snail and is NOT like this. LOL B is a little nervous about the babies' health this early, but is pretty calm too. So, if you're looking for me, I'll just be over here in this little corner freaking out alone. :) But seriously, how can I not freak out and feel emotional about it all? It's been a LONG journey. We could be arriving. It IS emotional. It IS crazy. It IS, it IS, it IS...OMG, I don't know what it IS, but it's a whirlwind!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Feeling Better Today

Thanks for the comments and emails - I do feel better today. :) Aside from the kind words, two things happened that made me feel better.

First, I was reminded of our pastor's sermon this Sunday, where he emphasized the beliefs-attitudes-behavior chain. If you are not familiar with it, it's something you learn in psychology and marketing classes. Behavior is driven by attitudes, which are driven by beliefs. There is no point in just changing behavior or attitudes, because everything comes from beliefs. I was lying in bed this morning thinking about what that chain looked like for me in the last day. I identified:

Belief - The delivery is probably not going to be exactly how I wish it could be.
Attitude - This really sucks and there will be a black mark forever on what should be the most wonderful possible day.
Behavior - Me sulking and being mentally exhausted stressing about delivery.

While the belief is true in this case, I realized I need to focus on a more positive (and still true) belief that will lead to different behavior:

New Belief - No matter what happens logistically on the delivery day, having two beautiful babies is going to be the most amazing day ever.
New Attitude - Excitement!
Behavior - A new spring in my step this afternoon. :)

I know, I know, I'm overly analytical. But this is the kind of thing that helps me. I have to disect, analyze, and respond. I'm all about frameworks.

So the second thing that happened was kind of weird. I had been taping the show "Bringing Home Baby" (where they track a couple with their newborn in the first 36 hours). I watched several of them but was starting to get tired of it bringing on more feelings of worry or stress, so I canceled the series recording earlier this week. I went to take a break and watch some TV this afternoon (yes, this is rare) and was annoyed to see that my DVR had recorded the show again. As I was about to erase it I noted the title on the one it strangely taped: "A woman's sister is her surrogate." Creepy, huh? I felt compelled to watch right then because of the weirdness. It was amazing. The couple even had twins! I was so gleeful to see this show in a "version" that was mine! They talked some in the episode about using her sister as a surrogate, but once the babies came home the show was pretty much the same as all the others. I started to wonder why they weren't talking more about the surrogacy aspect and then I realized that was exactly the point - once those babies came home, there was no difference in their experience compared to others'. They were "normal parents". And that just emphasized that everything is going to be OK regardless of the delivery logistics.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Dentist

On a more positive note, something funny happened this morning.

B and I always go to the dentist together. (That's not the funny part!) We have an appointment scheduled for the first Friday in December and I just don't think we should be an hour away at any time that close to delivery. So, I called to cancel and requested an appointment for the end of January.

Receptionist: "OK, so do you want to come at the same time as usual?"

Me: "Sure, that would be fine."

Receptionist: "OK, I have you down for..."

Me: "Oh wait! We are having twins next month. I guess when we have kids it won't work like that anymore?"

Receptionist (laughing): "No, it is definitely different!"

Me: "OK, better book us separately so someone is at home watching the babies." :)

What a WEIRD thing to get used to thinking about...we can't just leave the house together anymore without taking babies!

Being Different

(As an aside to this post, we had our first non-stress test today and the babies were...non-stressed! We go back on Friday for the next one. They are twice a week until delivery. The only bad thing is that Kenna has flipped and is no longer head down. Please pray that she will turn over again so we can have a vaginal delivery!)

Today I talked to the social worker at our hospital to "make sure she has received all our legal paperwork". By "make sure she has received all our legal paperwork" I mean "ask yet another person if we will be allowed in the delivery room". :) I didn't want to seem like I was calling just to ask about the delivery so first and foremost I expressed concern that all our paperwork is in order. In the paperwork is the legal judgment that we are the parents of the babies, with instructions on how the birth certificate needs to be filled out. There is a cover letter from our attorney to the social work department requesting that we be allowed in the delivery room, get hospital bands, and generally any other priviledge that a parent would have. Even if we have a vaginal delivery, it will happen in the operating room just in case J has to have a c-section anyway (for one or both). Therein lies the issue - in the OR, there can only be one support person. Our doctors have told us that that is the policy and whether or not policy is bent will depend on the doctor who delivers (whoever is on call at the time). Since I thought that our legal paperwork might make a difference - it's not like J just has a bunch of friends she wants to come in - I decided to call the people who have the paperwork and "gently" bring it up.

I had actually left a message for the person yesterday, so she was calling me back. When I answered she almost immediately let me know she had talked to multiple nurses in labor and delivery and all adamantly said "one person only" - hospital policy. I said, "Oh, OK, that's what our doctor had said, but I thought it might be different once you had our legal paperwork and everything since we are a special situation." She said no, it is hospital policy. I then asked if we would get additional bands (if they are in the NICU) and she said no (this is something else the attorney asked for). She said J would be given two bands and she will decide who to give them to. I sort of felt my heart thud at that moment. I mean, yes, that is factual, and that is what will happen. But I felt so small at that point, hearing through what she was telling me that "you'll get bands if the real mom decides she wants you to have bands". She then proceeded to say that it's not an issue (bands) if the babies aren't in the NICU because the babies will be "in her room and then you will just have to work it out with her"! Heart thud #2. Translation: "It's not up to us if you have access to the babies, if the real mom wants you to see them, she'll work something out with you." I felt 2 inches tall.

Anyone who knows me well knows that in a normal situation I would start up to 120 MPH and tell them exactly how they needed to handle this. But I know I'm on the outside in this situation and I don't want to ruin any small chance that remains by making them hate me. So I politely said, "OK, I understand, we're still excited. Thank you for your time." But rather than hang up, she seemed to feel bad at that point and asked me a couple of questions about them being twins, and commented how exciting that must be. Then we ended the conversation and I have felt sad ever since.

Of course I'm sad about the delivery issue, but honestly I'm more sad about how I was treated, and how I was perceived as almost a burden in the situation. She made me feel like a baby grabber wanting to get my dirty little hands all over our surrogate's babies. It reinforced that I am "different" than most moms. I've always been a pretty normal person (whatever that means). But the last 3 years I have had the experience of being very different. I was different not conceiving naturally, I was different doing fertility treatments, I was different doing surrogacy. Throughout the pregnancy I have embraced the difference. I have told all of our friends and family about it, I have blogged about it, I opened up to strangers about it - all because I want to help educate people about infertility, surrogacy and related issues. I have actually enjoyed this. I feel like a spokesperson for surrogacy sometimes because I have rarely come across anyone who has had any exposure to surrogacy before! But as we get closer to the end, I feel myself longing more and more to be "normal". I've had 3 years of being different, and I have embraced that difference on this journey as much as possible. I'm ready to "just" be a mom now though. I'm ready to be on the other side of delivery, past legal papers, hospital policies, and people who may not get it, to being in the car on the way home for the first time as plain old normal parents. I desperately want that.

This whole thing has made me realize how difficult being different - in any way - is. I am fortunate in that this point of difference does not impact the end goal; my rainbow is different, but my pot of gold is the same as everyone else's. I can hold on to the thought that I am almost to that pot of gold and then will go on with my life. But it makes my heart go out to all those who have "permanent" differences; those who have to fight every day against the world and its perceptions due to disabilities, sexual orientation, or any number of other things. I had two heart thuds in one conversation due to my "difference". Other people have a lifetime of heart thuds from people who don't understand. I support gay marriage in part because I have some very close gay friends and understand the challenges they face. I was talking to someone the other day who said they support gay "unions" but don't want them to use the same definition of marriage ("all the same rights though"). They just want them to be classified differently. That's the problem - they are already classified differently every day of their life. Maybe for once they just want to be classified the same.

It is good to experience "being different" - if more people had that experience, the world would be a far less judgmental place. That said, I still can't wait to be a "normal" mom. :)