Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A BIG change in plans...and a birth story!

For once I was quite the optimist while writing my last post just two weeks ago that we could get these babies to full term! Everything was going along just fine. So yesterday at our 30 week appointment we all arrived not expecting too much. They did an ultrasound, and Liam's fluid levels were actually going down (which was unexpected and exciting!). They did a growth check and both babies were estimated at just under 4 pounds each. And I was feeling really good and not having any regular or painful contractions. So it was all great news and we were all thinking that making it to 35 or 36 weeks wouldn't be a problem at all!! Just before we left the office though they brought me back quick into a room and did an internal exam, just to make sure there weren't any changes from the previous check two weeks prior. That is where things started to go in a different direction!

So the doctor decided that my cervix was dilated to 1, which can be perfectly normal at this point and not mean anything significant, but that it was shortening slightly. So just to be on the very safe side (because she truly believed that the babies wouldn't be coming ANY time soon!), she decided to send us down to Labor and Delivery and do a non-stress test on the babies to monitor any contractions. So we go down with me in a wheelchair, which I thought was a bit ridiculous. I mean, did they really have to do this all? We still have at LEAST 4 weeks left! They even put us in a back room that they claimed they only put patients that they didn't plan on having sticking around very long in. This all along reassuring us that they would do a quick scan and let us be on our way.

So the contraction monitor was picking up some minor contractions that I wasn't even feeling and I was thinking maybe it was just the babies moving around causing the fluctuations. Especially because every single time they adjusted Luke's heart monitor, he would find it with a hand or foot and literally bump it off my stomach! They also did another cervix check which showed no change from earlier, but they decided it would be best to just be on the safe side, once again, and start a dosage of steroid shots which would help the boys lungs to develop more quickly. The only thing with this is that there are 2 doses they give 24 hours apart. So that meant they were going to monitor me for 24 hours. Well, that didn't seem to be the worst thing and it was reassuring to know that at least we were giving the boys a better chance at birth, no matter when that would occur. So I call Brandon and tell him to plan for me to be gone until the next day, when they said I could get the second dose and then drive myself home. Several hours after this they did another internal check and said I was now dilated to a two. But I still wasn't feeling any of the contractions. So they decided to start a course of 4 pills 20 minutes apart to stop the contractions. Yes, the ones I wasn't feeling and also when questioned by the actual OB, I felt really foolish because I still could not distinguish the contractions from baby movements. By now we are going into the afternoon (my original appointment was at 8:45 in the morning) and the whole day is sort of turning into a blur. They wouldn't let me eat anything because, yet AGAIN, to be on the safe side they wanted my contractions to stop first. I am also on a terribly uncomfortable delivery bed, but they assured me that once the contractions had stopped they could move me to an actual room and give me food. By now the starvation is setting in. I had a banana at like 6:30 in the morning and had nothing since thinking that I would stop and grab something after our appointment in the morning. So they eventually told us the contractions were about 4 minutes apart, and now I am feeling them, although still not too intense or painful. After starting a different medication to try and stop the contractions is when I REALLY started to feel them (and was a bit confused - this medication was supposed to stop them, wasn't it??). But no, full on contractions and that's when my back started to get intense sharp pains. Still in denial that I was going into labor, I convinced myself that it was just from lying in this incredibly uncomfortable bed. I was thinking, come on doctors, this is just a mistake! Just give me a comfy bed, maybe some crackers or something, and all of this will stop! But eventually i was forced to come to terms that I was feeling the contractions all over and in my back causing the pain. The next check (now going on 9:30) showed that I was dilated to a 3, contractions every 2 minutes, and they were sending in someone from the NICU to talk to us!!

I think we were all tired and sort of in a daze of where the day had taken us. It took a while to sink in that this was it! So the phone calls began. "ummm, Brandon, you know when I said I was coming home tomorrow, well not so much! The babies are coming out tonight. Get here ASAP!!" Luckily we were able to get Brandon's mom to be at our house while the kids were sleeping and Brandon and my parents were headed down to meet us. It didn't even dawn on me to ask him to bring me anything I might need for my hospital stay, because remember I wasn't supposed to even be at this point for several more weeks! He did bring a backpack so I thought, great! he brought me some things. But apparently he was in a panic mode too and ended up bringing an empty backpack ;) Because he was over an hour away we weren't sure if he would make it in time, but luckily we were able to wait until he arrived to suit up and get prepped.

Although this was not at all the delivery I was thinking of for these babies, it actually turned out to be quite an amazing experience. They allowed Brandon to be by my side for the c-section which was really wonderful because he was able to talk to me throughout the whole thing and hold my hand. Ann and Joe got to watch from a window right in the room as well, so they got to be together and watch the birth of their babies :) Out of the 3 c-sections I have had, this was by far the easiest and least painful. The problem is behind that sheet and strapped to a table, you have no idea what is going on. But to my wonderful surprise each baby let out the most beautiful tiny crying noise as they came out. I wasn't expecting to hear them cry because of how little they both were, but that sound alone eased every anxiety I had about being in surgery. They were immediately taken over to Ann and Joe and I was so happy they were able to be with them while Brandon stayed with me. It was the perfect transition! I got all stitched up and sent to recovery and Ann and Joe were able to eventually go up to the NICU where the babies were brought to (even though they both cried, they had some difficulty breathing and needed to have tubes put in) and my parents went with them with their camera. Because again we weren't expecting this, Ann and Joe didn't even have a camera with them, so this worked out great!

So the stats (I think! I need to reconfirm, but): Luke born at 12:07 am at 3 lbs 11 oz, Liam born at 12:08 am at 3 lbs 8 oz. These are great weights for babies only at 30 weeks! I didn't get to see them because I didn't get released from recovery until 4:30 am - so at that point Brandon and me were exhausted and went right to sleep. So there I am laying in a bed and the experience is over! Incredible - and pretty surreal to think I came in the morning thinking nothing of it and now there are two new babies in this world being cared for and I am no longer pregnant!

This has been an incredibly long and crazy journey. I first started the process over 2 years ago, right after Carmela was born. And here we are, literally years later, and I finally achieved the ending I had hoped for all along. I know this is what I was meant to do. I know the meaning of why I had to go through my first surrogacy journey, and I truly believe I had to go through that to be able to get to the point of meeting Ann and Joe and being the one to help bring Luke and Liam into the world. They are beautiful and perfect little babies and we were meant to go through this together. Although I do have guilt that I wasn't able to get them to full term, I believe they came when they were supposed to and everything happening now is just meant to be. And once again thankful that things turned out how they did. Being here at the hospital when labor started allowed us to get that steroid shot in to help them and we were in the best location possible for all of this to happen.

So here I am sitting in my hospital room - everything is so quiet! This has been like a mini-vacation for me :) People bringing me food, getting to actually read a book and watch TV, going to the bathroom (gasp) by myself!! Haha - I do miss Leo and Carmela (and Brandon) terribly, but this is a really relaxing way to recover and I can't wait to get back to them and get back to my "normal" life :) I also hopefully will get to see the babies this morning. I haven't been able to yet because of trying to just recover from surgery yesterday, but today I feel wonderful and can't wait to get to see in person these little lives who will always have a piece of my heart! I did get news yesterday that Luke started breathing on his own, although it doesn't surprise me he is a fighter - he's been showing all his moves on my ribs and stomach for the past couple of months now :) And Liam's condition is looking much more promising than we originally thought. There is no actual separation or blockage in stomach - just a narrowing of the tube. So hopefully that will just be an easy fix and he can be on his way too. They aren't able to actually feed them a bottle for another 2 weeks because they are still too little, but I know that once they start getting the nutrition they need, they will both get out of here quickly - they want to be home with their mom and dad!!!

I feel very blessed right now. I feel honored to have been a part of this experience and that I was trusted so greatly by Ann and Joe to allow me to take part in something so personal and special to them. I can finally say that I was able to help create a family, and there are not many things in life you can do like this that will possibly go on forever and ever, as they grow older and create their own families and so on and so on. And the only way I was able to do this at all is because of the amazing support and help from just about everyone in my life. Everyone who has offered their prayers and good thoughts all along - this has helped more than anyone could know, especially during the challenging times we have gone through. My parents love and helping hand throughout the whole thing (not to mention the understanding when I could not be contributing at work so much, and my mom took on the demanding task of watching my babies while I was taking care of Luke and Liam) gave me the ability to devote a lot of time and attention to the pregnancy, especially when the not so good news came our way. My kids who accepted the fact that mommy couldn't do all the fun stuff we normally do together because I was carrying around babies (plus them kissing my belly and talking about them all the time, knowing that they weren't coming home with us). And most especially Brandon. Husbands kind of get the short end of the stick when it comes to pregnancy, especially when the baby isn't theirs! He put up with my moodswings, impatience, picked up the slack when I was just too exhausted to clean and cook, and even helped me get over the fear of having to give myself injections of medications! He was on board with me from the very beginning and never questioned my feelings that this was something I wanted to do, and without him and his constant support, I could never have gone through this for the past years. It has showed me an amazing side of him that makes me love him even more!! So they say it takes a village to raise a child.... well it takes a village and more to create lives through surrogacy, and each person plays an integral role. I have enjoyed very much sharing this experience through this blog, and I plan to still make posts updating on the twins until they are both home and healthy. If you have made it to the end of this post (I know it is forever long!) thank you for taking interest in this part of my life. It has been sad at times, tragic at others, but has also been fun, interesting, and incredible, all at the same time. I love you all for going through it all with me!!!!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Third Trimester!

It's official - third trimester is here :) The light at the end of the tunnel is faintly glowing in the distance! We have been really busy with appointments for these little guys. Our weekly ultrasounds so far have been going really good though (knock on wood). We haven't had to have any fluid removed yet, which is fantastic. Anything to avoid extra risks placed on this pregnancy is welcome! My cervix is still where it should be, and contractions have been pretty minimal, so no signs of going into preterm labor anytime soon. Today at our ultrasound we also got to meet with one of the Neonatologists (pediatrician that works in the baby intensive care unit) and also with the Perinatal support team. Everyone at Evanston has been absolutely wonderful. They seem to have a really great support system set up for the families that go through them. They also took the time today to give us a tour of the NICU. Some of the tiniest sweetest babies you have ever seen were in there - little miracles! Although it is sad to know that Liam will be one of those sweet little babies, it is really comforting to know that he will be taken care of in such a great facility. My big hope is that we can get far along enough - at least 35 weeks - so that brother Luke doesn't have to be put there as well. 7 weeks! That seems manageable enough. It reminds me of a quote "Nothing is particularly hard if you divide it into small jobs," Henry Ford. It is really true. Being pregnant with twins is hard. My stomach feels like it can't possibly budge another inch (but I know it will), I can't sleep - when I lay down my hips feel like they are going to split (but I know they won't), and most of the time when I walk I feel like I am going to pee myself each step (okay, this might eventually unfortunately happen) :) But to divide it up (by trimester, by month, by week), it makes it so much more manageable. And knowing each week we check off means giving the boys a better and better chance of doing well just makes it that much more appreciated. I mean 7 weeks is like, nothing. I can handle anything for that short amount of time (right??!!)!

It also has become more clear to me today than before that with the ending of this pregnancy, my role will be finished. Where I leave off is where the work for Ann and Joe truly begins. Part of this is a relief to me. It is a pretty heavy responsibility having somebody's future and family placed in your hands (or in your womb as the case may be!). I know it must also be incredibly stressful being the parents and having to trust something so absolutely important to you in another person's care. Knowing this, I have taken care of these babies so far as if they were my own. I have invested a lot of myself into this pregnancy and care about their wellbeing no differently than I did for my own kids. So the down side to the end for me is that in the matter of a day, whenever that day may happen, I will go from taking complete care of the babies, to just being a bystander. Which is okay - it will just be a strange transition for all of us. And of course most especially for Ann and Joe, as they will begin their new life with caring for TWO babies ;)

People sure are funny though! I have been asked at least 3 times (after explaining that I am a surrogate carrying twins) if the parents want both of them. Really?!! I mean, seriously, this isn't like a puppy mill or something, where I deliver and the parents get the pick of the litter - lol! This question always takes me by surprise. "No, the parents only want one of the babies. So when they are born, they will pick the best/cutest one and I get the leftover" - haha :) Of course there are certain people in my life that would love for this to happen (*cough* my mom and dad *cough cough*). I think they want as many grandchildren as they can get :) But seriously, that just seems like a ridiculous thing to think that maybe the parents wouldn't want both. I guess this question goes right up there with "Was this planned?". I haven't been asked this yet, but have heard of other surrogates being confronted with this well thought-out question. Because everyone knows there is always a risk while laying on a table for no reason in a fertility doctor's office that the doctor MAY just happen to be walking by with a dish of embryos and MAY slip and those embryos MIGHT just jump right in and set up shop, all accidentally of course :) :)

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

a bump in the road....

Well, I have hesitated in posting about this because I have tried to make this a light-hearted positive blog, but the truth is we have gotten some not-so-fabulous news. Monday, and now 26 weeks along, we went for a typical growth ultrasound. I really didn't expect much from it. Since we have had so many ultrasounds and have never seen any problems I really thought we were in the clear. We did find out Luke is 2 lbs 4 oz and Liam is 2 lbs (great weights!), but then as the tech was scanning Liam, she told us she needed to talk to a doctor. She then sent us off to Evanston hospital to get a level II ultrasound done by a specialist just a few hours later. It turns out Liam has a duodenal atresia, or a blockage in or right after his stomach. For now, this means two things. First off, Liam will definitely need surgery as soon as he is born. Best case scenario he will have enough good colon that they can repair and reattach everything, and he will spend a few weeks recovering in the NICU. However, there is no way to know exactly how serious of a problem this is until they get in there and start the surgery. Second, this condition results in the production of way too much amniotic fluid. What this means for me is that I will now have to change OBs to the ones at Evanston hospital (because they have the ability to do the surgery there) and also I now go for weekly (or twice a week) ultrasounds at the hospital to determine the fluid levels for the remainder of the pregnancy. When they get too high they will have to remove fluid in a procedure very similar to an amnio. If they don't, I will go into preterm labor. This also can partially explain why I am so big, with all the extra fluid! He thought within the next couple of weeks he would have to remove approximately a liter or so, but he won't go through the risk of this procedure until he thinks it is absolutely necessary.

The other side of this condition is that we were told that in babies that have this, about 30% of them also have Down's Syndrome :*( I mean, seriously, is this happening again??!! What could the chances possibly be?? It's like horrible deja vu to hear those statistics. He did do a complete scan of Liam and didn't find any other markers for any other problems, but of course that doesn't exactly mean there is nothing else wrong. We were given the option of doing an amnio at the appointment, but because they will be removing fluid sometime soon anyhow, Ann decided to just wait until then. They can then just send that fluid off to be analyzed.

So that is where we are currently at. I have one more appointment this week with my OB where I can get all of my records and what-not, and then starting next week will be the weekly visits in Evanston. This is a very hard situation. I feel so incredibly awful that the parents are having to go through this. I know that this is not my fault, and there is nothing I could have done to prevent this. But after my last surrogacy and now this one, I can't help but feel like it has to be me. But the reality is that these things sometimes happen and it is not what anyone would hope for, but we have to find the positives in it. For one, it is a wonderful thing they were able to catch it this early. The main goal is to prevent preterm labor so that Liam can get to the biggest size/weight possible so he can tolerate his surgery. And we have the best doctors monitoring this now, so that is fabulous. We can all be as prepared as possible and meet with the surgeons and specialists before he is born. The other really positive thing is that we are all on board together to do whatever it takes for the babies. This is extremely important to me. My last surrogacy, I felt like it was just me fighting for a baby that wasn't even wanted by the parents. But this time around is very different. Liam is very much wanted and already loved, no matter what. And it is because of this that I truly have faith that he will pull through with flying colors and go on to be the happy healthy baby that I imagined him to be. He has an amazing support team behind him, and parents that already love and care about him more than anything in the world. AND he has an amazing brother who will be by his side for now and hopefully for the rest of his life.

So any spare prayers or good thoughts would be greatly appreciated. The next couple of months are going to be a little scary, but exciting nonetheless. Because no matter what, these little babies are on their way and will be here before anybody knows it. And that, in itself, is a special miracle to be thankful for :)