A surrogacy journey, jointly documented by Surrogate and Intended Mother.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

In whose best interest?

My first slightly negative post here I think, as I'm feeling a little bit cross with the system.

As I mentioned, Cheese Teamcake have our meeting with the midwife to discuss our rather complex birth plan coming up next month. The hospital we are under have so far been fantastic, and we have good reason to believe that they will carry on being supportive and accommodating. Sadly, that is not the case for all teams going through surrogacy. I know more than one case where hospitals have stuck rigidly to policies that clearly will not work for a surrogacy case and have caused great upset for the people affected.

Here are some examples of the flexability needed.

It is standard practice to allow a maximum of 2 people into the room with the woman giving birth. 
Many surrogates wish to have both the IPs present at the birth but naturally wish to have their own partner or some other close friend or relative with them as their birthing partner. It seems logical to me that the parents of the child should be allowed to be present for the birth, but that the woman going through labour should also be able to have someone there who's sole priority is their wellbeing. As I say, most hospitals are very supportive and accommodating  but some do not even try and teams are presented with a firm "no, only 2 people allowed in" with no discussion. Imagine being told you were not allowed to be present at the birth of your own child. How that feels for the surrogate who has carried out this entire journey to watch the joy and tears of 2 new parents as they meet their child for the first time.

Visiting hours.
Let's look at the logical viewpoint, bearing in mind surrogacy is completely legal and recognised in this country. It is important for the Intended Mother to start bonding with her new bundle of joy. Equally as important, is the surrogate being able to immediately take that place of special family friend, to allow them to share in the joy of this little family that they have helped create from a detached perspective. This is the healthiest thing for all involved; the mother trying to get to grips with her newborn, the surrogate trying to rest and heal and reflect on the amazing thing she has done, and the baby, who needs to start bonding via feeding, skin to skin, and all other things that hospitals recommend.

Again, unfortunately there are several cases I know of where the IPs have been told absolutely that they will only be permitted to visit during visiting hours (small windows of time, daytime only). Worse than that, this means that the surrogate has to care for the baby when the IPs are not allowed in, for example, through the night. Again, whose best interest is this in? It's certainly not in the best interest of the child, who in any other circumstance, would be being cradled, snuggled and fed by his/her mummy at every given opportunity. It cannot help the surrogate, who has already given so so much to this new family, and now has the exhausting and overwhelming task of looking after someone else's newborn. Nor is it good for the mummy, who has waited so long and fought so hard to get to this point, and is now being told they cannot be there to look after their own child.

These IPs are not asking for an en suite or anything ridiculous, they will sleep in a chair, on the floor, wherever is necessary, they just want to care for their own child. A surrogate is recognised in British Law, so why is it that some surrogates are told that if the baby is taken to special care for any reason (in which case the IPs will of course go with their child) and the surrogate refuses to stay in, they will be reported to social services for neglect?
 Things promoted all over the world as beneficial can be made impossible by these regulations
It's a ridiculous farce and does make me cross because I cannot for the life of me see why these hospitals are making these decisions as it doesn't do anyone any good. The proof that this is unnecessary lies in the fact that there are some incredible hospitals and staff out there who bend over backwards to accommodate this fairly rare but definitely not unique situation, and try and make it as smooth and as magical as any birth experience should be.

It is so sad that having worked so hard together as a team, and communicated so well, and balanced such a complex relationship so beautifully, the issue of red tape can come in and potentially ruin the most magical part, the part that both the surrogate and the IPs dream about.

It would be great to hear any other views on this, especially from anyone in the medical profession. Perhaps people have ideas of ways we might help stop this happening and how to educate those who don't really understand that surrogacy does not fit neatly into the box.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Bizarre dream.... Random post.

Two nights ago I woke from an extremely bizarre dream about Little Miss Hitchhiker. 

Em and I were sat in my living room and in front of us was LHH...complete with amniotic sac, intact waters and umbilical cord!
We were watching her move around and I was pointing out various body parts to a fixated Em.
The sac was lay on a bed of cushions and the umbilical cord was in place and was still attached to me.

When I first woke and recalled this dream I chose not to tell Em as I didn't want her to worry that it was a premonition that the baby was going to be born early. In all honesty that was my first thought and concern and it played on my mind for some of the day.

It was only later on that evening when I sat and thought about it properly that I realised at no point during the dream was there any panic or worry. Everything was perfectly normal throughout and neither of us seemed concerned that the baby was in the middle of the floor.

On reflection (and I'd love for any dream experts out there to be able to confirm or dispute this theory for me) I suspect this dream was quite symbolic of how both Em and I view the pregnancy. 
Em can only see her baby from an outsiders point of view, she knows she's there and she knows she's safe and being looked after but can't physically connect with this and relies on me to keep her updated on movements and feelings.
I know I am pregnant and the baby is physically connected to me but I know she is not mine. I look after her and nurture her in utero but have a certain degree of detachment from her, hence the dream showing her being safe and well in her sac getting what she needs from me...but in the middle of the floor.

I may be completely off the mark here but it really interested me and I felt I wanted to share it, I'd love to hear your views on it.
Reading this will be the first Em knows of the details too so I'll be intrigued to see if she would interpret things in the same way....

Apologies for the randomness ;)

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Past the half way point...

20 weeks is a huge milestone in many ways. The pregnancy reaches the half way marker, from now on it's closer to the finish than it is the start. The 20 week scan time where you hopefully get to find out baby is doing just fine and maybe get to stop referring to it as 'it'. In our case there is a visible bump and regular movements can be felt. It is a great stage to be at.

There is something about this half way point though that seems to make people suddenly realise how real everything is...

Everyone but me, it's been real for me since day dot and I'd thought long and hard about every single step of the upcoming journey in detail before it had even begun.
So why do people choose now to worry that I'm going to fall apart?
I've had a fair few 'Oooh, are you still OK? It's getting a bit real now isn't it?' type comments lately and if I'm honest they kind of bug me.
I've been pregnant for nearly 22 weeks, am blooming, am getting more and more excited for Em and Adam by the day, I think it's safe to say I'm doing all right.
I get that people are (hopefully?) just looking out for me but to me it feels as though there is a line of people waiting for me to fail.
I do hope that's not the case and can honestly reassure everybody that I am doing great and if anything the closer to the birth we get the more excited I am about Em and Adam finally becoming parents.

I would like to add that Em, Adam and family are excluded from the above as that is a whole different kind of it finally feeling real. I love that now we are past this point they are relaxing and enjoying this more and more. 20 weeks for them really is HUGE and a milestone they'd only ever dreamed of reaching.
They are beaming with excitement every time I see or speak to them and I am still truly honoured to be able to share this with them.

The 20 week scan was amazing, after my initial defensive daggers rising in preparation for a fight with the sonographer when she said only one person could come in with me,it was another really emotional appointment. I struggled to see Em so worried and it felt bizarre not having those worries myself. With daily movements from wriggle bum and maybe with this being pregnancy number 3 for me I just knew deep down everything was perfect in there and so wasn't nervous at all. It was easy to see that Em was though and so as usual idle chit chat and silly jokes were a must.

I was quite emotional seeing LHH on the screen again, I was as amazed as when seeing my own on there but for entirely different reasons and all to do with the happiness I stole a glimpse of on Em and Adam's faces.
The scans have always felt a little awkward for me, I've said before I feel like I'm intruding on a precious moment I shouldn't be a part of. With Em being detached from the pregnancy this was their chance to connect with their baby, so where I can I shrink out of the picture and let them enjoy those moments as they would if Em was pregnant herself.
Huge hugs were had afterwards though and normal teamie excitement resumed it's natural course.

Aside from the scan the best bit about teamie weekend was by far Em and Adam getting to feel LHH move (the boys may well disagree and go for the party food and beer...).
With me feeling movements for a while and Em only having my running commentary to go by it was hugely exciting for them both to feel a kick and had we not have had other company in the room I suspect Em and I would have burst into tears.
I have been desperately trying to capture L(miss)HH wriggling on video since but the monkey appears to be camera shy and so haven't managed it yet.

There are both exciting and not so exciting things to look forward to over the next few months. We have our meeting booked with the Matron (ooooh) at the hospital to go over our birth plan and what provisions they are going to put in place for Em and Adam to care for the baby once she's born. We have booked a teamie break away for the Easter holidays to bore the boys to tears with more endless girly chit chat.
Slightly less excitingly I shall hopefully be starting some physio and pilates very soon to try and tackle the pesky pains in my back and hips. And in other news I shall soon not be able to see, let alone reach my feet!

I cannot begin to express how lucky I feel to know and to be helping Em and Adam. We all keep saying how bizarre it is that a year ago we were not even in each other lives, we are too close for that to seem right and I can genuinely say that I know we will be in each other's live's forever (sorry boys). Having them here at Christmas time just proved how much like family they are to us.
A friend of mine once said to me 'You know you have a true friend when talking for England is as natural as sitting in a room in silence and not worrying that nobody is speaking'.
This sums up our team for me, nobody feels like they need to make a special effort when we are together, if it's perfectly normal then we are happy.
And very happy we are.

Thursday, 3 January 2013

All sorts of joy.

This post will probably sound as if I'm high on something. Well I am really, but it's simply the fact that it's now properly hit me that we're expecting a baby, and that I'm going to be a mummy.

A number of things have contributed towards this, the biggest being the 20 week scan, which I'll come on to in a minute. Adam and I went up to Coventry a few days after Christmas and stayed in a hotel near Niki & Steve so we could spend lots of quality teamie time together. It was so lovely to see them all and catch up properly, and as always, felt comfortable, relaxed, and just so "normal".

Niki now has a beautiful bump and it was so bloody exciting when she opened the door. She is looking fab on it, is glowing, and is ever-so patient, letting me put my hands on and prod her tum. On our first evening there, LHH started wiggling around, so Niki grabbed my hand and placed it on her tummy, where she could feel the jiving going on. I pressed firmly but cautiously, not really expecting to feel anything, when suddenly there was a tiny but definite bump against my hand. I looked at Niki who was grinning and tears sprang to my eyes - I had felt our baby kick for the very first time and it was the most magical moment. To actually physically feel that little person in there....a very emotional and mind-blowing experience. I was even more chuffed that Adam felt LHH give a little wriggle shortly after that; being physically detached from the pregnancy, moments like that really are extra special.

On New Year's Eve, we had our 20 week scan. I was terribly excited and couldn't wait to see our little one on the screen again, but was also very nervous. I am a bit of a worrier at the best of times, and cannot help thinking that we're too lucky and that something will go wrong. We sat in the waiting room and were called in quite quickly. The sonographer looked at us and said "we only allow one person in" and I tensed, ready for a big row, but once Niki said that there should be something on the notes about our situation she apologised straight away and said she just hadn't read through them yet. The three of us went in and I felt my heart thumping in my chest and my hands go clammy. I knew LHH was alive and kicking (quite literally) as Niki could feel it wiggling daily, but what if there was a problem? I think the "this is just a dream" feeling creates a sense of it all finishing suddenly and me "waking up".

The sonographer popped the probe onto Niki's tummy and there was our little hitch-hiker, curled up and shifting gently. The tears started and I held my breath and squeezed Adam's hand tight as she went over the key organs and parts of the body...everything was fine. To top it all off, we were able to find out that Little Hitch-hiker is in fact a Miss. We are expecting a little girl. I sobbed so much the poor sonographer actually had to pause mid scan and fetch a box of tissues for me! I must work on controlling my tears but I was just too happy to care. Everything was fine, Niki is fine, baby is fine, and it suddenly felt very very official that we are going to become parents. Yet again, we were lucky enough to have a lovely sonographer. She spent lots of time trying to show us different angles and parts of LHH, a lot of which went over my head a little as I was in such a daze just repeating in my head "she's fine, this is actually happening". Niki was just wonderful, and again, allowed us to have our excited moment and me to sob on Adam's shoulder. Once she was de-jellyed, I gave her a huge hug which I hope said the words I couldn't find.

We went home to show Steve and the kids the photos and to share the joy and excitement (although Jack was a tad disappointed it's not a boy!) I love how caring they all are; when I squashed Steve with a giant hug and said thank you he said he's not doing anything but of course he is - this would never work without his support. LHH was wriggling at one point so Beth announced that she was going to sing a lullaby to Emily & Adam's baby and softly murmured twinkle twinkle at Niki's tummy to soothe it. When they went on a family trip to a museum, Jack reminded everyone that Emily & Adam's baby was coming too. And Niki? That woman has so much love in her heart to care for and think of everyone she does....I have an awful lot of admiration for her and will never be able to thank her for everything.

So a joyful end to 2012, and now here we are in 2013...the year LHH will be born. I've always firmly believed that anything worth having is worth fighting for, and it's taken us a long time to get this far, but now every step feels so special and so magical, it's all worth it. A few happy teamie photos to finish (which appear to be posting sideways and I cannot work out how to fix it...stupid blogger...)

Back to back with a rather beautiful Niki

"Holy crap, how did that get in there!?"

NB: Glass of schloer in hand..!

With the gorgeous Jack & Beth

Teamie hugs and PIZZA!