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!