June 30, 2014

Meeting Nicole

A few months after Ella and Ely were born, Nicole from IARC (the agency I use) contacted me about writing up a little something about my experience. This was my first correspondence with her. Soon after that we became email-pals... you know, kind of like when you had a pen-pal in elementary school? We bonded really well and began sharing a lot of our life and everyday stories with one another. Nicole is also a surrogate and delivered twins last October, which made it even more fun to be friends. Two years passed and we still hadn't met in person. Last Friday, we finally met. And guess what? I love talking with her in person just as much as I do through our emails. She's a real cool, funny, and down to earth chick. Hopefully we get to hang out again very soon!

May 07, 2014

The day has come

I knew the day would eventually be here, but it still kinda sucks. Guy, Dror, Alma, and Leo are leaving this week. I mean, seriously, who wouldn't miss this...

Wow... it's still incredible that they have been here since February. When they arrived, we all assumed they would be here this long, but back then, May seemed so far away. Time is a funny thing.

One year ago in late March, Guy, Dror, Jeremy, and I met for the first time at Olive Garden. Not even one year later, Guy and Dror became parents. To complete the circle, we decided we had to end their stay with a date at Olive Garden.

So until we meet again... I'll think of you every single day and cherish the memories we made.

April 24, 2014

6 weeks later

It's been 6 weeks since Alma and Leo entered this world. I can't tell you how amazing these two little babies are. They were champs at this "living outside of the uterus" thing. Born at just 31 weeks and 4 days, they reached NICU milestones quick and easily. The longest milestone to reach was feeding from a bottle. This is because most babies don't have the capability of sucking, swallowing, and breathing all at once until about 34/35/36 weeks. At just under 36 weeks, Alma decided she was done with her feeding tube and pulled it out on her own. She never looked back. Soon Leo had his removed too.

On April 14, Alma and Leo were discharged from the NICU! Just one day short of their 5 week birthday. They are now with their daddies 24/7, right where they belong. Guy and Dror are proud daddies! I could watch them talk to and love on those babies all day long.

Last Friday was the court hearing to take care of the legal stuff. All went smoothly as we knew it would. After the hearing we went to lunch to celebrate. It was a great day.

We are getting closer and closer to parting ways. There is no way this day won't be bittersweet. Guy and Dror have been here since February 21. It feels like they should permanent residents now,  but I know they are anxious to get home and begin their new routine. What a journey this has been! It's crazy to think that our original delivery date was April 24 - today.

There are events in our lives that make us wonder why things happen the way they do. Why were Alma and Leo born so early? Guy and Dror have been so amazing and strong throughout the highs and lows. I realize not all IPs would have handled the stress as well as they did. I appreciate them so much for their support and love. Of course, they were concerned by the early arrival of their precious bundles, but on the other hand, as Guy once said, "we feel lucky to have two extra months with our babies."

As for me, I am doing well. I feel almost 100% back to normal, with minor incision pain here and there. My blood pressure is usually within my normal range, but sometimes pops up to a higher reading - not high enough to be concerned though. I pumped milk for the babies, but as they are preparing to leave soon, they slowly shifted to formula. I'm happy I was able to provide them breast milk while they were in the NICU. Since I could no longer care for them inside my body, at least the milk offered some healthy benefits. I've decided to continue pumping and donating it. Pumping every 2-3 hours can be a nuisance, but this is such a good cause I can't pass up the opportunity to continue helping.

This weekend we are doing a small photo shoot. It should be fun! I'll see about sharing a few here on my blog ;)

March 29, 2014

Alma and Leo

This pregnancy took a surprising twist 1 month ago. The road was full of speed bumps, questions, and decision making. On March 10 we made the decision to move forward with delivery. It was scheduled for 8:00am the following day.

At 6:45am on delivery day, I was escorted to labor and delivery. Guy and Dror by my side. After being in the hospital for 3 weeks, we were a popular trio. While the clock ticked its way to 8:00am, we had a lot of doctors and nurses coming in to greet us.

I was prepped for the OR and wheeled off. I have never had a csection, and surprisingly I wasn't all that nervous. I was in very good hands. The spinal made my blood pressure all wonky which made me feel nauseous. The anesthesiologist did an amazing job getting things under control though. The guys were brought back just as the first cut was made. I have no idea what time it was, I'm guessing it was somewhere around 8:50am. After a few intense minutes, Leo was born at 8:55am and Alma followed just 2 minutes later. The best part... they both came out crying right away. What a beautiful sound!! I think we all breathed a sigh of relief. Leo was taken immediately to the neonatal room just off of the OR and Alma, after a very quick viewing by us, followed her brother. Leo weighed 3.8 lbs and Alma was 5.8 lbs.

We were extremely excited to meet these babies, but we had no idea how they would accept being outside of the womb at just 31 weeks and 4 days. Because of their gestational age we knew without a doubt they would be headed to the NICU. I am happy to report that both Alma and Leo are superbabies. They are doing amazing. I'll write another post about their progress.

As I was getting stitched up, the new dads went off to meet their babies. I wasn't able to witness the moment they first set eyes on Alma and Leo. They stopped back to see me a few times, and gave me updates. The updates I was getting was all positive. I was the first to hear the names chosen for the babies. To see how proud Guy and Dror were of their new daddy status was incredible. These moments are truly indescribable to a surrogate.

We seriously had the best team of MFM doctors. We can not thank them enough for the care and kindness they gave us. A few attended the birth even though it wasn't necessary for them to be there, and they stopped by my postpartum room occasionally just ask how I was doing.

I was moved to a recovery room at some point that morning. This is where I would spend the next 24 hours hooked up to magnesium. I told you about the last time I had magnesium. This stuff is mean and nasty! It's used to reduce the risk of stokes and seizures in women with pre-eclampsia. I'm not being dramatic in saying that I threw up in front of every nurse, doctor and visitor (except one) that entered my room that day. Some of the lucky ones actually witnessed more than one throw up party. It would happen so suddenly I barely had time to react. Thank goodness I received a heavy duty painkiller prior to the csection. I can't imagine how painful that would have been. Another thing was I could not keep my eyes open. Not so much because I was tired, but because they were super sensitive to light, and my lids felt like they weighed about a million pounds. To my visitors that day... I'm sorry. Apparently, I was living on a completely different planet :)

Shortly after getting settled into my recovery room, I had a short visit from the babies before they were transported to the NICU. Unfortunately the visit was cut very short because of how the magnesium was affecting me, but from what I could see they looked perfect.

Healing from a csection is much different then healing from a vaginal delivery. I have never felt so much pain. The first few days were crazy painful even with medication. The best way to describe the incision is a feeling of deep burning from within the belly. It's the nerves fusing back together and it's completely normal. At first I thought I had ripped open part of the incision. Some people elect to have csections. I call these people... insane. Why would anyone put themselves through this pain if it's not necessary.

The thing about pre-eclampsia is that the only cure is delivery. Some women, like myself, are not cured right away. My blood pressure still played games with me. At 2:30am the day I was set to be discharged I was wheeled back to l&d because I needed IV meds to lower my bp. I felt so discouraged and had a mini meltdown. After almost one month in the hospital I was more than ready to go home. I knew this stunt would cause me to stay longer. After getting to l&d and getting hooked up to the IV, it took almost 3 hours to get my bp under control. I stayed in l&d until late afternoon before they allowed me to return to my postpartum room. Finally two days after my initial discharge date I was able to go home.

It's been 2 1/2 weeks since Alma and Leo were born. Life is slowly returning to normal for me. My incision can still be unpleasant at times, I'm still on meds for my bp issues, my body is still adjusting to life after surgery, and I'm doing my best at keeping up with producing breastmilk for the babies.

At the wishes of Guy and Dror, I won't be posting any pictures of Alma and Leo today. Once they are released from the NICU, I hope to post a picture or two. As you can imagine, they are little sweethearts and if given the opportunity, you could totally stare at them for hours.

Welcome to our lives, Alma and Leo!

March 10, 2014

No more waiting

After three weeks of hospitalized bedrest we've decided to move forward with delivery.

This decision is not something we took lightly. We are only at 31 1/2 weeks. Since we discovered baby boy's growth restriction and my pre-eclampsia, we've been standing and staring at a gray line. Crossing that gray line means we have reached a level where the pregnancy is dangerous to me, and is no longer beneficial to baby boy.

Over the weekend, my blood pressure began to creep up and my meds were increased, my platelets dropped again, and today's growth ultrasound wasn't as promising as we hoped it might be. All of these conditions on their own would not be cause of great concern. All of these conditions together are signs we could be, at any time, jumping over that gray line.

After much much talk with the MFM OBs, we have decided to be proactive, and deliver these sweet bundles tomorrow. The delivery will be via c-section. Am I excited about that? Nope, not really. But I am a big girl and I can handle it. It's not my ideal delivery method, but I've accepted it. I've known for quite awhile this is how it would go down so I've had time to deal with it. I am sure tomorrow morning on the OR table I will be a ball of nerves, but I have two great men by my side. I have no doubt they will be a great support to me.

These last few weeks on bedrest have given me good memories. I have experienced a ton of love and support from friends and family and also from people I have never even met. Lots of visitors (and most brought food... can't go wrong bringing this girl food), an invaluable amount of quality time with Guy and Dror, wheelchair rides through the subway, beautiful flowers, great nurses and personal housekeepers and chefs.

I will get a better picture tomorrow morning but for now here's a 31 weeks pic:

In less than 12 hours we'll be heading in for surgery. 
The world will be blessed with two sweethearts. 
A couple will become a family of four. 
It's going to be an awesome day.

March 02, 2014

I'm still baking babies

After almost two weeks, I am still on hospitalized bedrest. I was admitted into the hospital for Pre-eclampsia with severe features, and I'll be here until the babies are born. For the first week, it felt like we were walking around with blindfolds on. We just didn't know what to expect, and the situation was making us very antsy. We still don't really know what to expect but I think we've accepted that. We are living in a world of the unknown for now. We've decided to let the pregnancy play out, and wait until something pushes us to deliver.

In the beginning of my bedrest, I worried a lot about my husband and kids. I stay at home with my kids so my husband isn't use to handling the kids' day to day stuff. The routine had completed changed for everyone. It's hard being here when I know I am needed at home. Thankfully, we have family that can help us out.

The hardest part of being on bedrest in the hospital is not being with my kids . They are my life. They are my 24/7 job. It's weird going from being needed by 4 amazing creatures to being taken care of by the nursing staff here.

The good news is that my levels are staying stable. I haven't had any high pressure readings that have landed me back in labor and delivery. I take pills to control my high blood pressure twice a day. I almost feel like I shouldn't be here, but whenever I tell my doctors they say "but you really do need to be here."

We had a growth ultrasound last Monday where we discovered that baby boy has a intrauterine growth restriction. If I understand it correctly, it means that his placenta isn't functioning at 100%. We will have weekly ultrasounds to watch his progress.

The babies are monitored every morning. I usually have it done right after breakfast. I laugh every time with the nurses because baby girl plays hide & seek and dance party USA every single day. Baby boy is such a good little guy. He can be found right away, but we all know his current living quarters don't let him go too far since his sister is taking up much of the space. We joke that when he is born he is going to go into full on stretch out mode. After the nurse finally finds baby girl, monitoring goes well, and the babies do great.

There are good and bad things about being on bedrest in the hospital.

Some of the bad: getting wake-up calls at 5am for blood draws, having to sit in a bed most of the day, having an IV at all times...

I've had four different IV's since I've been here.
Some of the good: someone cooks for me, I'm spoiled by Guy and Dror (they have brought me coffee, chocolate, and a new book), my daughter paints my toenails...

Such a sweet girl
Last Tuesday I was given a walking pass. We have a great pedestrian subway that connects the hospital to many places to eat and shop at. Guy and Dror have been kind enough to take me out of my room most days. I have to ride in a wheelchair, which feels odd. It's so great to bust out of my room though.

Yesterday my daughter came to hang out with me. She pushed me in my wheelchair. I'll be honest, I wasn't sure how she would do but she didn't complain once, and only banged into the wall, door frame and elevator a few times.We visited the public library, a few stores, ate pizza, and then had coffee and dessert. Then we came back to my room and watched a movie. It was an excellent day. I miss her so much and I'm pretty sure she misses me too.

On Friday we reached a big milestone... 30 weeks! Please keep saying a prayer for us and sending positive thoughts. I think it's working!!

February 23, 2014

Preeclampsia with severe features and a hospital stay

In my last post I talked about my high blood pressure readings. Because of the high readings, and the levels of protein found in my urine, I was told to start taking my blood pressure at home.

Tuesday, the day after my appointment, I went to a local pharmacy to pick up a blood pressure machine. While I was there I took my blood pressure. The reading wasn't very good, something like 149/95. I hoped I was just getting an incorrect reading. Once I got home I tested myself again. Still high. I rested on my left side for 15 minutes. Took the test again. Still high. At this point I'm not sure what to do. So I continue to rest and test. After many high readings, I called my husband and told him I would need to go to OB triage to be monitored. He came home to be with the kids, and I left for the hospital. I've been here ever since.

After getting to triage, they hooked me up to the machines, and once again I was producing high readings. The monitoring started out pretty normal. Nurses and doctors coming and going. Blood work, many blood pressure readings. After about two hours (7:00pm) of being in triage, the nurse opened the door, and showed me a wheelchair. She told me I had a room ready in L&D. At this point I still thought I would be going home that night. Silly me.

I went to L&D and was hooked up to about a million cords. The nurse took my blood pressure again. It showed a ridiculously high number. She rushed out, and within two minutes, I had an IV started, and meds were being pushed through to lower the pressure. A few minutes later my pressure was taken again and it was in the 150's/90's. They also started a magnesium drip... I suggest you try to stay away from this stuff unless you enjoy headaches and puking.

After all of the drama we waited for the OB team to come up with a plan, and finish up a C-section. About 10:00pm a team of about 5 doctors came in, and didn't waste much time in telling me that I would be induced that night. I had a hard time hearing this info, but I acted brave, and told them I understood what was happening and why. After they left I completely broke down. My nurse comforted me since I had no one with me. The memories of this moment still brings tears to my eyes. It was very surreal. L&D nurses are so awesome.

Now I had the duty of calling Guy and Dror, and giving them this heartbreaking news. I dreaded telling them their babies would be delivered at just over 28 weeks. How horrifying! They were aware I was being monitored, but I don't think any of us were thinking delivery at this point. When they answered the phone I told them the bad news right away. They immediately put me at ease. They didn't panic or lose control. They would start making arrangements to get to MN ASAP.

Sleep was out of the question for the rest of the night. Doctors and nurses came and went throughout the night. The plan was to give me meds to soften my cervix, and start pitocin at some point. The goal was to deliver Wednesday afternoon/night. This would mean Guy and Dror would miss delivery, which we already assumed.

As the night rolled along, the Chief OB came in with another update. They decided to hold off on delivering for the night. My levels seemed to be stabilizing, the babies were doing great, and she just wasn't comfortable in making the call to deliver. We would wait for the MFM doctors (Maternal Fetal Medicine) to review my file in the morning. Hallelujah!!

Someone was watching over us, because the MFM doctors came in the next morning to tell me as long as everything stayed stable, and the babies looked good, we would do what is called "expectant management." This meant I would make the call as to when we would deliver. Obviously if something in my levels changed I would lose that privilege though.

Wednesday I was moved to a Antenatal room where I would start my hospitalized bedrest. The babies and I would continue to be monitored closely. The guys were all set for a long flight to MN, and... we were expecting a huge snowstorm. Perfect timing (sarcasm)...  But as long as I could stay stable, everything would be fine.

Wednesday and Thursday went by without incident. The only struggle was that G&D's connection flight from Chicago to MN was cancelled due to the snowstorm. Again, if I could just stay stable everything would be okay.

Friday morning brought good news. G&D were on their way to MN. Even though the weather was still bad, the flight would go on as planned. The morning cruised by with no bumps. The afternoon was different story. Just as G&D were coming up the elevator to the birth center, I was being wheeled back to L&D because of more high blood pressure readings.

G&D came into the room just before the nurse started hooking me up to all of the monitors. We all hugged, and then the monitored started. It wasn't a great way to start off their visit, but the nurses and doctors were able to stabilize everything again. While being monitored we were able to meet with the MFM doctors and a member of the neonatal team. I had already heard everything, but it was nice for G&D to hear it directly from the hospital staff.

Today is Sunday, and I've had a symptom free day! I won't be able to leave the hospital until after the babies are born. Hopefully we have some time before that happens. For now, we will take it one day at a time.

Here is my last at-home bump picture: