Dual purposed blog: a journal of my experience as an intended parent through surrogacy, and a resource for others going through the same experience.
Also visit my surrogate's blog (Link on the right) for the other half of the story!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Our journey in video

Thank you to my wonderful husband who made this video.  He made it with no input from me at all.  Good summary of our journey through  the past 5 years from the lows of my pregnancy to the highs of surrogacy.

His music choice is also perfect.  I can't tell you how many prayers we as a family have sent heavenward regarding this aspect of our life.  Prayer has been a huge part of this experience.  I am here to tell you that I know that the Lord answers our prayers of faith.  Thankfully, our story had a very happy ending.  But even if it had not, I still know that the Lord is mindful of us and knows what is best for us in the end since we are unable to see the big picture.
If you go back to the first posts of this blog, you notice I have a very "I'm-going-on-a-surrogacy-journey-it-will-be-fun!-come-along" type of attitude.  It was almost too easy: Sacrifice financially a bit (ok, a lot) and then bingo: you get a baby.  I think the Lord needed to make it take years and many failures and heart breaks to make it work.  We were going to quit last year.  We had made up our mind.  But Dr. Foulk gave us one more extreme step we could take to make it work.  It took fasting, prayer and a huge leap of faith but it worked.
I know that the Lord custom makes our trials for all of us.  They are designed to make a stronger, better people.  He chooses what will be most trying to us and put us on the verge of breaking...so we need him.  So that we can use the atonement of Christ to take the pain away.  The atonement is already completed: Christ suffered for not only our sins but also our pains both physical and emotional.  We don't have to carry the burden ourselves.  We just need to utilize the atonement.
I know that these trials and experiences have changed me.  I feel so much more sensitive to people around me who are suffering.  I've been learned patience and to rely on the Lord and less on myself.  I've learned to easily let other less eternity-altering trials go.  I don't even blink at a trial if it doesn't affect my family's eternity.

Thanks for coming caring enough to read my blog.  This is a beautiful ending to a long sad story. And we lived happily ever after.....THE END.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Post-birth life

Many aspects of post-birth life to write about here.  Here are my topics, so pick your own adventure:
1. Life in the hospital
2. Legal Issues
3. Relationship with Vanessa
4. Digging for the negative
5. My relationship with Spencer

1.  Life in the hospital

After little Spencer was born, S and I got to go to the newborn nursery while they gave him his bath and shots and stuff.  I asked the nurse how many of the moms cry while watching their babies being persecuted so.  She said "none- we never have mom's back here.  Only dads".  Duh!  Cool that I get to go where no mom has gone before...
  So the way it works in a hospital after a surrogate baby is born is that they give the surrogate mom her own room and then they give baby his own room and parents can "room in" with him.  So I slept in a hospital bed for 2 nights at Spencer's side.  The room was next to Vanessa's room which was fun so we were back and forth while they were still at the hospital.  I wore a name band that matched Spencer's.  We both had "Vanessa Amundson" on our name band which was a little weird, but oh well.  Vanessa was allowed to pick 1 other person besides herself that had access to the baby.  I got the golden ticket so S didn't have any access to him without Vanessa or I present.  If I wanted to eat, I had to go to the cafeteria or something and I had to drop baby back off in the nursery (can't leave him with S in our room).  One time I did just that and dropped of Spencer at the nursery.  Then, after lunch I went to go pick him up again and a new nurse I had not seen before answered the nursery door.  I stood there in my street-clothes and said "I'm just here to get my baby".  She had that look on her face like "I know you are here to kidnap a baby and you are not going to get away with it".  Even while comparing our name bands she seemed dubious.  I'm sure the other nurses filled her in real quick after I left.
  I also found it entertaining as housekeepers and other such people came in that they would look at me and it was obvious they had no clue how I could be so thin sitting there cross legged on my hospital bed in hospital clothes.
  I'm going to be honest here and say that I felt some guilt as I watched swollen-bellied edematous women hobbling down the hallway after just giving birth.  I felt very out of place for sure.  I felt guilty for being able to enjoy my newborn so fully.  With my own 2 children that I gave birth to I wasn't able to fully enjoy my babies nearly as much because half of your attention is your own pain, exhaustion, and breastfeeding.  But this time my newborn had my undivided attention.  My worst complaint was an uncomfortable hospital bed.  Yep, I felt some guilt.
Oh, one thing S and I thought was funny was on the way home from the hospital when the hospital financial lady called me.  She said "Vanessa says you will be paying the bill for her......(reluctantly)...is that right?"  I told her yes and so she told me I'd have both hers and our hospital bill.  I know she was trying to prep us for some astronomical number she was going to tell us we owed.  "Ok, so if you can't pay it all now, that is ok.   The total is $635"   I almost laughed at her.  Is that it?????!!!  After this entire surrogacy experience we are used to some HUGE expenses.  Just steve's flight out here cost more than that.  I almost told the lady that just the medications alone to conceive little Spencer cost $10,000 and that was only the 5th attempt. It was like someone apologizing as they tell you that your dream house cost $20.  Anyway, I thought it was funny but it probably isn't that funny to everyone else.

2.  Legal issues
The particular details of my legal issues this surrogacy I will save for another blog post another day.  I'll summarize and say that my attorney was supposed to get us what is called a Pre-Birth Order.  Some states use them and some do not.  A pre-birth order is a legal document signed by a judge that you are supposed to have on hand at the delivery that declares that the intended parents will be on the birth certificate and not the surrogate mother.  We were supposed to have it 2 months ago.  But, since we didn't have it in place Vanessa is on the birth certificate and she declares who the father is (of course S is the father).  Then her husband has to sign something verifying that the baby is not his.  So Vanessa and S are on the the birth certificate and I am not.  Now it will be figured out in the courts in the next few weeks and then the "original" birth certificate will be "sealed" and S and I will be on the birth certificate.    Vanessa and I both predicted about 6 months ago that this would happen and I had decided that it wouldn't be that big of a deal since I knew Vanessa would still give me my baby and all.  But I didn't anticipate some of the complicating factors it would cause. First of all, I couldn't make any decisions for Spencer in the hospital.  I couldn't approve blood tests and I couldn't sign the consent for the circumcision. The doctor came in to the room ready to have me sign the paperwork for the circumcision and I opened my big fat mouth and told him I wasn't legally the mom.  Vanessa had already gone home and S was not at the hospital at the moment.  Thus, the doctor wouldn't do it and we had to wait a week to do it at the pediatricians office.   So later, at the pediatricians office 2 days after birth we told the doctor and staff there that I was not the legal mother (yet) and that S would not be in the state still on the scheduled day of the procedure.  We asked if he could sign the paperwork ahead of time.  They said yes and he signed all of the paperwork.  Then, after S left the state, they called me and said they had changed their minds and they wanted a legal guardian present at the procedure.   So, thankfully I have a great relationship with Vanessa and she was able to pop in the morning of the circumcision and sign paperwork for it.  The ridiculous thing about that entire situation is that there was absolutely no solid evidence at all that Vanessa was the legal mother.  We had not birth certificate or paperwork from the hospital.  I could have pulled any Jane Doe off of the street and declared her to be the legal guardian.  
Jordan Valley hospital had only dealt with 2 surrogacies in the past.  Both of those situations there had been pre-birth orders in place.  They have a "Birth Certificate Specialist' at the hospital.  We made her job really hard the day we were there.  She was on the phone with people from the State trying to figure out what to do with us because she had no idea.  My attorney had given me a run down of what would have to be done with the birth certificiate and paperwork, and I showed the hospital lady the email from my attorney, but she didn't believe any of it and had to go find it out herself the hard way.  All of this slowed our progress in getting out to of the hospital.
At this point if Spencer has to get blood drawn again or something there is no way I'm going to mention the fact that I'm not the legal mother.  It is a huge pain and I will be by the end of the month anyway and I'll be made the mom retroactively from the moment of birth.  No sense in complicating things anymore.  Lesson learned.

3.  My relationship with Vanessa.
This entire surrogacy experience has been so fairy-tale like.  It was the ideal surrogacy experience.  I would never do without a legal contract (even with family) but there wasn't once where we had to use it or argue anything.
We agree at this point that we will have an open relationship.  Considering we don't live in the same State, we probably won't see each other much-- but we have  special friendship.  I've loved the few times she has visited since we had Spencer.  It is fun to watch her hold him and I know we both feel a sense of pride for his cuteness.  I added the most important ingredients and she added the others and did all of the cooking : )
I agree with Vanessa that I think she should have a life-time "auntie Vanessa" sort of relationship.  It is great that we both feel the same about this.  I guess in the end, it is the intended parents who make the final call.  Just glad we agree! Vanessa will always be special to us and she'll get school picture every year and we'll keep in touch.

4.  Digging for the Negative

Overall, my experience with surrogacy experience with Vanessa was so so very wonderful.  I'm going to point out that I truly am digging here for negativity.  The only reason again for you people out there who potentially might do this yourself.  Just things to think about to prevent possibly problems.
There are 2 things that I thought of that bothered me in our entire year long experience.
#1-  The fact that we almost delivered our baby at a hospital where we where she was not insured.  It didn't end up being a problem in the end since Vanessa figured it out a few weeks ago and she was very great to work with and easy going about switching.  Being an intended parent, I have to pay for all of the medical bills and pay for part of insurance, but I have no access to any information about what coverage my surrogate has or where.  I had no way of knowing which hospitals where in network versus out of network.  Vanessa told me originally that that our original hospital choice was in-network and I had no reason not to believe her.  She just assumed that since the doctor she was using (and who was in-network) worked at that particualar hospital, that the hospital was covered too.  It was an innocent mistake by someone who hasn't dealt that much with insurance.  Good thing she figured it out month 8 because it could have majorly cost us and we had absolutely no way of finding out for ourselves.    Anyway-- happy it ended up not being a problem.
#2-  The fact that Vanessa and her husband chose to try to get the baby to come without consulting with S or I first.   I am in no way angry with her for this.  In fact, at this point I'm really glad that they decided to get things moving when they did because the timing really was perfect.  I'm glad it didn't happen after S left to go back to Illinois.  That day at lunch we had joked about having her go run a marathon to get things moving.  But it was very much a joke.  S and I had discussed it with just the 2 of us as a possibility.  But we had come to the conclusion that even if he missed the birth, or we had to buy another $700 flight, we wanted to let baby come when he was ready to give him the best chance of good health.    So, I was a bit hurt to find out Vanessa and Clark and made the decision for us-- jumping jacks, jumping on the bed and stripping her membranes.  Anyway-  it is history now, and I'm absolutely glad at this point that she did it.  Things worked about beautifully.
I might be more sensitive about this topic because in my first contract with my first surrogate.  Our attorney gave us what was "standard" for a contract and then we were to adjust it to meet our needs.  The only thing that I was absolutely against was the fact that according to the contract, the surrogate was to be paid in full if she gave birth any time after 32 weeks as long as the baby eventually made it either home or to a well-baby unit in the hospital.  I've been pregnant before and I know that the last month is miserable so I know it is a temptation for all to try to end it early.  What keeps mom's from doing it is their desire to give their child the best chance at health.  But if this was a surrogate mom like my first surrogate (whom it did not have any sort of relationship with) what is to stop her from doing jumping jacks and castor oil at 32 weeks?  Even if the baby has permanent birth defects and problems for life, she still gets paid in full.  I would have preferred that the payments be pro-rated and surrogate be paid for the number of weeks that they were actually pregnant, but my attorney insisted that that was asking too much.  So with both of my surrogates the contract said they are paid in full if they deliver after 36 weeks.... and I didn't like it.  I just didn't like the idea of them not having financial motivation to keep the pregnancy going for as long as possible.  Now I know that Vanessa truly cared about me and my child and wasn't trying to end the pregnancy early just to end her own symptoms.  She just figured with S leaving in 3 days she didn't want to make his trip a waste of time/$.  Also, her husband was starting a new job in 2 days and she was moving in 7 days.  Lots going on. I see her perspective.
Anyway-  obviously both of these "negative" things I brought up didn't actually end up being negative.  Everything was peachy perfect.  But they had the potential of being negative.

5.  Relationship with Spencer

I absolutely adore that tiny guy.  I sometimes feel like I need to pinch myself when I realize that my dream of so many years has come true!   Sometimes when he's been sleeping for a while and I go to "check and make sure he is still cute" I see how sweet he is and I have to do a double-take and remind myself that he is mine.
His poor sweet little head and face has been smothered with kisses from his adoring mom, grandma, and 2 sisters who can't get enough of him.
Some family members this week asked me about my relationship with Spencer as a newborn compared to my other children whose pregnancies I bore myself. I'm going to be honest with the world and my blog and say that the relationship is not the same.  But I definitely feel like breastfeeding might be a big part of that.  When you breast feed, there is a hormonal attachment going on.  If you are away from baby for too long and you start to become engorged, your body sends signals to your brain and you miss your baby.  When mothers try to wheen from breastfeeding they often experience a depression.  I have none of this.  I know that I could have taken the medications to try to start lactation.  But for some reason, it just didn't seem important (and it still doesn't).  All that is important is getting a healthy baby.  the rest of fluff and not worth stressing over.
All moms of multiple children know that when you have another baby sometimes you can forget that you have a newborn when you get busy in your old routine with the other children.  I remember the first time Lydia was old enough to go and play instead of being in my arms at a park.  I found myself keeping an eye on Kiera because I was used to it and I had to keep reminding myself "oh- I have two to watch now!"   Well, I find I'm more likely to forget Spencer than with my others probably because I'm not recovering from childbirth and I'm not lactating.
Lets talk about love at first sight.  Again, I'm being perfectly honest here.  When baby #1 (Kiera) was born.  I think I had some initial negative feelings mixed in with love for a little stranger.  That she had put me through  hell.  I very quickly forgave her and learned to love her over the next few days.   Baby #2--  pregnancy had not been quite as bad (still terrible compared to everyone else).  Last 3 months had been pretty darn good.  When Lydia was born it was love at first sight.  I felt like I knew her and the love just expanded from there.
When Spencer was born he felt like a stranger to me but nevertheless it was love before first sight.  I broke down in tears in the delivery room at the sight of the nurse preparing the warming-bed for him just knowing that in a few moments my tiny son would be laying there.  The birth was so much more of an emotional experience.  It had been so highly anticipated.  During the pregnancy the time that I had the most uninterrupted time to think was when I was running on my treadmill.  I'd start imagining the delivery and meeting my tiny son and I'd break down bawling.  (running and bawling are difficult to do at the same time).   So in summary, I adore Spencer.  I loved him at first sight equal to my 2nd daughter and even more son than my first.  But I do find that I'm more likely to forget that I have him when I get busy with something.  And I feel the hormonal attachment is not the same as when nursing.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

pictures say a million words

So these pictures are royally out of order. The main problem is that they are from 5 different cameras. I'm sorry folks, but it would be way too much work to put them in correct order.  I don't have the time with a new baby and 2 adjusting older siblings. But, you can get the idea in a backwards sort of way. Awesome music video of the experience in progress
Girls meet brother

Kiera adoring his toes

meeting baby brother

The Nelson family and Clark and Vanessa

Wonderful supportive husband Clark

Vanessa holding Spencer on the outside : )

"I'm so exhausted!"

Mother and surrogate mother

Putting on my wristband with Vanessa's name

She FINALLY gets some ice chips!

Looking for family features

Newborn nursery

Vanessa taking pictures just hours post-birth

Comparing arm size to Spencer size

Me and my tiny roommate in our room for 2 days

Going home

2 day old visit from Vanessa

At Texas Roadhouse just 11 hours before we headed to the hospital.  All of us joking "now that we are all here and ready, he won't come!"

Picture says it all

After seeing our sweet son for first time

Guys hanging out on the side-lines during labor

Delivering a placenta.  Photographer was yelled at by doctor for this picture

Sunday, July 1, 2012

He's here!

-Steve and I got just 24 hours before he was born.  Tough choice on same-day tickets but obviously we chose right
-Vanessa's water broke during the night and we all were speeding to the hospital.  Baby was very near to being born in on the roads of South Jordan thanks to our freeway exit being closed.
-1 push and baby was out.  Very literally.  I turned to tell Steve I see his head and by the time I turned back around he was out.
-Spencer was born at 1:06am 6 lbs 4 oz and 18 1/2 inches long.   Healthy as can be.  
-Vanessa is doing great other than severe arm pain which we were hoping would resolve with birth
-Absolutely magical experience.  Loving our sweet son.  

I decided to come to Utah a bit more than a week early (had tickets for the 6th).  Vanessa was in her doctor's office doing paperwork stuff when she saw her doctor passing by and he asked if she wanted to be checked.  Were it not for this check he did, I never would have made it to Utah on time.  3cm dilated and 80% effaced.  She had another appointment in 2 days so at first S and I decided we would just wait until then and then make decisions on travel plans.  I had checked on train tickets and there were none available until the 4th of july.  But, the next morning I re-checked and there were 3 (I needed 3 for me and my girls) for that very day.  I bought the tickets at 11:30am and I left for Utah 5 hours later after some frantic packing....without waiting for that 2nd appointment results.
The train ride takes 30 hours.  The next morning while on the train I got the news from Vanessa about her being 4cm and 90%.   So then S. and I have to make the decision on if we should fly him out now or wait.  $700 plane ticket and he is supposed to be at work on Monday.  I felt strongly that he should come so he too bought same-day tickets.  
My train was re-routed through wyoming due to the fires in Colorado.  Delays are not appreciated when I knew it could potentially mean I miss the birth of my baby.  I was pretty stressed.  Vanessa promised to take it easy and thankfully it worked and she didn't go into labor.  The only thing I could think to do was just pray.  Of course my initial thought is "I need to ask Heavenly Father to not let him come for the next 12 hours".  But of course praying helps put things in perspective.  The only thing that I could pray for is that my baby would be healthy and safe.  I just couldn't bring myself to ask the Lord for more than that.
Me and my kids arrived in Utah on Saturday at 12:30am.  Steve arrived at 3:30am.  That day we went to lunch with Vanessa and Clark.  Then we managed to get some pictures together.  We planned on spending the evening together but I backed out because I was so exhausted from 2 nights on a train.  
I went to bed at 7pm.  Of course that means that I woke up at midnight and was done sleeping.  I was laying there in bed thinking "maybe I'll go clean the bathroom" when my phone rang.  My heart skipped a beat when I saw it was Vanessa and my mouth went dry as she told me her water broke.  
We had to make an instant decision:  go to the closer hospital (with no insurance coverage for baby) or make the 20-30 minute drive to the hospital that insurance would pay for.  Ultimately I gave the decision to Vanessa so she opted for the further one and there was no time for discussion.  We got in the car and started racing to the hospital.  We cautiously ran about 5 red lights and intended to speed all of the way there.  Unfortunately, we got right behind a cop.  I knew I would be able to explain fast enough if got pulled over...."we're going to the hospital!  Where having a baby!"  "um......"      
As luck would have it, our exit in SLC was CLOSED.  Vanessa called and told me about 1 minute before we got to it.  They did not have a GPS but we did so I told her we'd catch up to her and we'd guide the way.  But once we were there we could not reach Vanessa by phone.  It went straight to voicemail.  I was going absolutely nuts thinking to myself "the only reason she would turn off her phone is if she was having the baby right now".   We managed to get to the hospital where we discovered her car right out front with the doors open and empty.  I'm dashing full speed through the hospital trying to figure out where she is at wondering if my baby has already been born.
He wasn't there yet but she was at a 10 and the nurses were telling her not to push since the doctor wasn't there. It was very weird to be bed-side to someone going through such terrible pain in my behalf.  Very humbling for sure.  I wanted to help-- but my contribution was holding the ice chips. After a few minutes of her in terrible pain begging to push they let her.  I saw about a golf-ball size amount of hair and turned to tell Steve to come and see his son's head.  It literally took 2 seconds and by the time I turned around he was laying on the bed.  He came out on the first push!   
I was so overwhelmed with emotion.  Even more so than with my babies that I gave birth to.  I think when you give birth yourself you are still in that "labor and delivery amnesia" a bit and things don't fully register or something.  The emotion I felt was the same emotion of when I was kneeling in the temple being married to the love of my life for time and all eternity.  I was sobbing over the alter just overcome with the fact that my eternity was permanently changing....for the good.    Same feeling seeing my sweet baby boy for the first time.
This entire thing has been so miraculous to me.  Were it not for Vanessa's doctor running into her while she was doing paperwork at the office and volunteering to check her on the spot we would have never known how quickly she was progressing and never have made the decision to buy same day tickets to come out here.  Baby was born just 24 hours after I arrived and less than 24 after Steve arrived.  I feel like this is one of those "tender mercies" that the Lord gives us.  Yes, it would have been fine for us to miss the birth practically....but I REALLY wanted to be there with Steve and have this magical moment together.
So at this point me and baby Spencer get to hang out together in our hospital room.  We are next door to Vanessa so we've spent plenty of time in there going over the excitement and craziness of it all and awing over my sweet son.  It is fun to have such a great relationship together.  I can't imagine how it would feel to have a surrogate who wasn't really my friend.  I think this postpartum part of it would feel very awkward.  Being in the same hospital unit but yet not wanting to spend time together because you are not really close.  
Vanessa, of course, exceeds her wonderfulness and within 8 hours of giving birth she is doing a photo shoot for us.  
What an absolutely beautiful experience.  I love my life and my sweet baby son!  And we all are living happily ever after......not the end.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Getting Antsy in IL

Vanessa called today.  3cm dilated and 80% effaced.  Having some strong/uncomfortable contractions.
I NEED to know what this means!!!   If she was to tell me right now that she thinks she could possibly be going into labor it would probably take me 12-20 hours to get to her depending on time of day and flights.
I do NOT  want to miss this baby being born.
Although I would normally want my baby cook as long as possible, I think I prefer having an earlier induction date just to be on the safe side so everything can be happily in place at the time of birth.  Vanessa sees the doctor again in 2 days.  Waiting for suggestions from someone professional on whether or not I should start heading west.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Last minute hospital switch

So this isn't such an exciting post for family or friends, but it is part of the surrogacy experience so I thought I'd better document it.
Today (T-24 days) we decided to change hospitals and doctors and such.  We will now be delivering in the Salt Lake Valley (and the doctor's appointments will be there too--about 28 miles away).  The problem:  insurance.  Bla!  So Vanessa has insurance (which we pay for) to pay for the delivery.  We have different insurance which will cover the baby.  Both of these insurance plans have multiple hospitals close to Vanessa that are in-network.  However, they cover the exact opposite hospitals.  So we had 2 choices: either go to the very rural hospitals, or this hospital in SL.
We have in our legal contract that we are delivering our baby at the hospital in Provo.  But that will not be the case.  Should we have figured this out before now?  Absolutely.  Let me tell how the mistake was made so others can avoid the error.  So in the let's-make-a-legal-contract phase I asked Vanessa which hospital she would want to deliver at.  She suggests a hospital and I made sure my insurance would cover it (assuming that she suggested it because she already knew it was covered by her insurance).  She had verified that her doctor who is across the street from the hospital was in-network and therefore assumed that the hospital was in-network too.  The only access I have to Vanessa's insurance is what she can send me by email and such.  I can not call and verify coverage because I am not her.
Oh well.  Good thing we figured it out!  Problem solved.  Now I just have to pray that Vanessa doesn't deliver my son on the freeway on the way to the hospital!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

My friend Jessie threw me a baby shower.  It was so sweet of her to do.  I didn't  find out until I was loading up my trunk with gifts leaving that it was her birthday.  Very sweet of her.  
As you can see in the top picture, one of my good friends was 9 months pregnant (gave birth 2 days later).  Honestly it was a little weird not being pregnant for a baby shower.  I guess we celebrate fat tummies a bit at baby showers.  But, it was fun to have supportive friends help me celebrate our little one.  This is all making it so real and exciting!
My entire nursery is set up.  I'm ready to go.  I just want to be ready just in case.  If she were to go into labor tomorrow I'd be crazed just trying to pack and get to Utah.  No time for last minute baby prep.   I hope hope hope that all goes as planned and we are there for the delivery.  

Counting down the days....