Story time! I always love reading a good birth story, and I knew I would have to type this one out before the details got hazy. Being a surrogate has already been an experience I would never forget, but I think that the birth of this little surro-baby is really the icing on the cake! Everyone is happy and healthy and enjoying moving into this next phase in all of our lives.
Zhu Mae must have been eager to get to her parents, who had been patiently waiting for her for the last ten years. Surrogacy was a final option to try to create the family they had been dreaming of, and I had had no signs of labor until Zhu’s mama landed safely in California from China. She had only been here for a week, but she was anxious and excited to meet her baby.
Tuesday night I started having some contractions that I figured were Braxton hicks.. there really wasn’t much to them. No pattern, no pain, and they were hard to keep track of because I felt I was hardly feeling anything except for a gentle hardening of my stomach. I was paying attention to this though, and the next morning I decided to make sure I had everything in order for labor to come soon. I checked my hospital bag, cleaned the house, and warned my husband that I had been having some light contractions. All throughout the day I kicked my feet up when I could, and wondered if I was taking it too easy since there were no other signs of labor.
At some point during the early noon hours, early labor signs started to make an appearance. I still didn’t feel too excited, I knew labor could be days away. I had some discharge.. no big deal. Some more contractions… okay. I started to give my husband and grandma a heads up, but otherwise kept quiet so as not to get everyone too excited. The contractions I had been feeling dwindled and faded away to nothing by the time Will got home from work early, and I figured it had been a false alarm.
I wanted to make a quick trip to the store to stock up on snacks in case labor picked up in the night and I had to leave my kids to go to the hospital. We all piled into the van and I waddled around Clarke’s and then Trader Joe’s grabbing things that could easily be given to a hungry kid while their mom was away. I warned Will that this might make labor start up again.
When we got home I started a big pot of soup, and noticed little twinges while I cooked. Okay then! Labor was picking back up, maybe this baby would be coming after all! I decided to take a bath while my kids and husband ate dinner because I was feeling anxious about the thought of having a baby~ something I planned to do medication-free and that I’ve done before, so I unfortunately knew all about how it feels. Although I was ready to bring this baby home, I’m under no illusions about the intensity of having a baby! So I crawled into a bath with a book and soaked for a few minutes. I only noticed two or three contractions, and got out, slipped into my comfiest pajamas and sat down on my birth ball at the dinner table to eat the soup I had made. I ate a bite.. another bite.. and then suddenly I had to put my spoon down and breathe through a contraction.
Whoa. That was weird, I really had to focus. I stood up and told Will that I would start timing contractions now because I had had a strong one. I had to pee and waddled into the bathroom.
On the toilet I suddenly had another contraction that surprised me in it’s sudden intensity. I breathed through it and thought “Oh damn, this labor might be tough!”
I didn’t need to time these, I knew from their intensity that labor was coming, and just as I was going to text my grandma to make her way to the house so she could watch the girls, I was hit with a contraction that caused me to lift off the toilet and hold onto the doorway. I waddled out to our bedroom and leaned on the bed.
“Will! I’m okay, don’t worry, but it’s time. Call my grandma first so we can leave and call The Mom.”
I figured I had 20 minutes of laboring at home before my grandma got to the house and that would be perfect because I’d arrive at the hospital just in time! After all, this just started a couple of minutes ago. I was feeling pretty confident until the next contraction hit.
With no real thought as to why, I dashed across the hall to our kid’s bathroom (the dirtier of the two bathrooms..?) and sat on their taller toilet. I guess I wanted the height and the small stool that they use as leverage to work through these contractions. I couldn’t speak all of a sudden and when Will saw my face he asked if I was okay. I shook my head no.
Once the contraction stopped I quickly texted my grandma. “It’s time, come over.”
Another one hit and my leg began to shake and I quickly registered this as a sign of transition. But it couldn't be.. right?!
I texted The Mom that it was time to meet me at the hospital. I had barely hit send and the next contraction lifted me up again. I had to focus completely and vaguely was aware of Will standing at the doorway trying to figure out what the next plan of action was.
The contraction stopped and I got ready to speak to him, but then the next one came in a wave and I couldn’t speak.
Oh my God, is this happening this fast??
Will had walked away and I yelled to call 911. I was trying to get myself off of the toilet because I was afraid of how I’d catch a baby there and I could hardly move- the contractions were now right on top of each other.
I suddenly realized that trying to control myself wasn’t going to do a damn thing, this baby was coming! I let out a roar while steadying myself on the toilet and the wall and felt the baby move down.
Oh God, oh God, oh God…
Another roar and I heard my kids scamper around in the living room, but knew this was helping me and I had to just go with it. I could also hear Will on the phone with 911. In the sweetest and calmest voice he said “Hi! So uh, my wife is in labor…”
No, I’m having a baby in a toilet!
I knew pushing was coming next, I’d felt the head move all the way down into my pelvis, and I managed to somehow point frantically enough at a waterproof mattress pad that Will understood me enough to throw it down on the floor in front of me. I quickly crawled down on my hands and knees over it and felt that burning sensation they call the ring of fire.
Holy hell this is happening…
Behind me Will is talking calmly to the woman on the phone. He is telling her I am in position and then I don’t hear anything because I am concentrating on what my body wants to do next. I wait for another contraction to begin pushing the baby. I don’t push, my body does it for me and I reach down and feel the head.
I push once as slowly as I can because I can feel that I might be tearing, and then take a breathe and push again. The head is out! With as much concentration as I can, I focus on pushing slowly and controlled so that the baby can come out easily for Will to catch.
One more push.
And then so much relief! I see feet and hands and a flash of a new face behind me as I suddenly break out into “Oh my God! Oh my God! Oh shit, that just happened! Oh my God!”
The next moment our door is opened by paramedics and I yell to the girls to not be frightened, and I see black boots on the floor mixed in with my kids toys, and I am suddenly aware that we are in the most dirty room of the house with almost no room for all of us. I also pretty much don’t care because I just pushed out a baby and the contractions and pain have stopped and I feel amazing!
I was carried downstairs in a tarp with no pants on, blood down my legs and one of our new bathroom towels draped over me just enough to cover my naked body. A few neighbors waved at me. My grandma was walking up to our apartment- she had just gotten there to watch the girls. I tried not to be mortified by the curious stares and closed my eyes instead. But not before I waved up at my smiling kids who were watching me from the balcony. “By girls, I love you! See you soon!” They seemed very amused by all of this commotion and blew me kisses.
Baby Zhu never made a real peep. She dozed off and sometimes stared at me curiously while I explained that her mom was on the way and they would be together very soon. I felt like she understood. That is, after all, why she was here. She was ready and she couldn’t wait. She couldn’t even wait long enough for me to leave my bathroom and get to the hospital.
Welcome to the world beautiful baby girl! You and your mama worked hard to bring you here, and I'm so thankful I was able to be a part of that journey.