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Judging from conversations with other pregnant people in online forums and groups that I am a part of, birth and delivery during a pandemic can vary wildly depending on the location. My delivery took place at Skyridge Medical Center in Lonetree, CO--a large and well-known facility in the Denver Metro area. Skyridge generally sees between 10-20 surrogate births a year in their facility and while that is a low number compared to overall births, I was very impressed with the systems and procedures they had in place to accomodate me as a surrogate and Carrie as the intended mother.
Due to hospital rules and regulations regarding COVID, many other surrogates I know had to make the agonizing decision whether to include the intended parent/s or their own support person in the delivery room with them. Because Skyridge is a hospital experienced with surrogacy, they had regulations outlined to allow both the surrogate and the baby to each to have a support person present. I knew that if things were to change that I would absolutely want Carrie to be present for the birth of her child whether that meant that I would be able to have an additional support person present or not. As some surrogates don't have a close relationship with the intended parents of the child they are carrying, you can probably imagine how that could turn into a very difficult decision.
Because my daughter was born via c-section, I decided to opt for a repeat c-section birth. I did have the option to try and deliver naturally, and I spent a lot of time in conversation with Carrie, chatting it through with trusted friends, and in consultations with my physicians before making the decision. I had recovered quickly and without complication from my first c-section, didn't feel the need to experience natural childbirth, and knew that a repeat presented less risk to the baby during delivery, so opted for the repeat c-section. As births rarely go as planned (ask just about any mother or father out there), I prepped for what I hoped would happen while holding it loosely in case the baby or my body had other plans.
In preparing for the birth, we decided that it would be best to have Drew, my husband, stay home with our daughter, and to have my sister-in-law (and one of my besties), Jaime, come and be my support person in the hospital. She was thrilled as she had never gotten to experience a birth outside of being the delivering mother. When the delivery day arrived we loaded up in the car and made our way to the hospital.
Baby Day! - February 2021
It is remarkable how different a planned c-section is than an emergency c-section. The intake process was calm, easy, and exciting as we waiting for Carrie to arrive and the operating room to open up for our scheduled time. The nurses and doctors shared with us how fun it is for them to experience these births as well, especially ones where the surrogate and intended parent are friends and the circumstances are happy and laid back.
Carrie, Jaime and me waiting for our turn in the operating room.
The delivery went smoothly and beautifully. Carrie and Jaime watched the entire surgery and birth from start to finish. Jaime held my hand through the procedure and was able to take photos of the process with her other hand while talking me through everything that was happening. The atmosphere in the room was so full of joy and anticipation. Hearing that baby's cry for the first time was magical, and my heart burst with pride and joy seeing Carrie hold and care for the new baby that she had longed and waited for.
Jaime holding my hand during the c-section.
Carrie caring for and holding her son directly after delivery.
The hospital gave us recovery rooms next to each other, so after the delivery we were able to spend time together until Carrie and the baby were cleared to go home. Holding the baby for the first time felt like holding a niece, a nephew, or the child of one of my best friends. There was no part of me that felt this was my child or even wished that he was my child. I was happy to hold and snuggle him, but even more thrilled to see him finally be with his mother.
Enjoying some time with baby after delivery
Before Carrie headed home, Drew and Selah got to come in to the lobby of the hospital to see and hold the baby. I got to watch over FaceTime and it was so special. Drew and Selah were amazing and supportive through the entire thing, and they also had fun being part of the process. It felt like good closure to the season for them to be able to hold and meet the baby in person before he went home.
Surrogacy is something else. It’s hard to explain how amazing and magical it is. Watching my beautiful belly buddy leave with his mama wasn’t even bittersweet - it was just sweet. I will cherish this experience as one of the most special of my life, and I’m so thankful to have been able to be a part of it and to have the type of relationship with Carrie that we will be able to be a part of their lives going forward.
Drew and Selah meeting the baby for the first time.
Happy mama and baby heading home.
My recovery started out smooth, but we did end up hitting a few scary bumps along the way - all during the first week after the delivery. I was able to go home two days postpartum and was feeling tired, sore, and swollen, but overall okay especially after just having a major abdominal surgery. The day after my discharge from the hospital I went in to my OB clinic for a quick incision check. As the nurse took my blood pressure she began to have a worried looked on her face. I wasn't feeling anything other than sore and swollen at the time, but my blood pressure was a scary 170/80. I never had any blood pressure issues prior to pregnancy, during pregnancy, or in the two days postpartum in the hospital, so this was a bit shocking. After retaking my pressures a few times and watching it continue to slowly creep higher, we were told to return to the hospital via the emergency department. Drew had taken me to my appointment that day, so we got in the car, let Jaime and Selah know that we were going back to the hospital, and went straight there. A very short time later I was diagnosed with postpartum preeclampsia
- a rare and scary condition marked by high blood pressure, swelling, abdominal pain, shortness of breath, headaches, and vision changes. I had experienced some shortness of breath the night prior, was quite swollen, and had a headache beginning as we were arriving at the hospital. It didn't take long before I was readmitted and quickly started on medication to lower my blood pressure and a 24 hour magnesium sulfate IV treatment to prevent seizures. It is unknown why some women experience preeclampsia during pregnancy, and apparently quite rare to experience postpartum preeclampsia. I didn't even know preeclampsia after a delivery was possible until I was diagnosed.
I spent another 5 days in the hospital while my blood pressure regulated. I lost a shocking 20+ pounds of water weight in just a handful of days as my blood pressures and swelling went down during treatment - that's how swollen I was! Drew and I were so thankful that Jaime was still in town as she was able to stay at home with Selah. They had a wonderful time hanging out just the two of them, and Selah adored having time with Jaime all to herself. Drew stayed in the hospital with me and we spent much of those days just sleeping and getting rest. It was scary in the moments when treatments were getting started and my blood pressures were still high, but as things started to calm and my body began to regulate, we were able to relax knowing that everything was going to be okay with time. I can only imagine how difficult dealing with that condition would be with a baby to care for as well. We were in a unique situation that gave us time and space to rest and sleep.
As I write this, I am almost 8 weeks postpartum and feeling great. I have had no further issues with blood pressure, and I healed quickly from my c-section. I had hoped to carry a baby once more as a surrogate, but preeclampsia is more likely to return in subsequent pregnancies after having it once, and it's likely that this will be my one and only journey as a surrogate. I will continue to share about my experience, encourage those looking into it for themselves as either a surrogate or intended parent, and do my best to shed light on the beauty of surrogacy. I marvel at the update photos that Carrie regularly sends me and look forward to holding that beautiful baby of hers in my arms again soon.
If you are interested in learning more about surrogacy, or becoming a surrogate or an intended parent, below is a list of trusted resources to get you started.
Sarah Collins is the artist and owner of Whimsicals Paperie,
a business that offers unique stationery, paper goods and gifts. Products focus on intentionality, organization and connection and feature encouraging words and Sarah's hand-drawn illustrations to bring joy, beauty and thoughtfulness into everyday life. All of Whimsical Paperie's paper products are created in-house in her Colorado studio.