Friday, January 31, 2014


It is the eve of the twins' first birthday and I find myself doing a lot of reflecting. Reflecting on the fact that the last year disappeared in the blink of an eye, reflecting on the changes my body has been through, reflecting on how much my own children have grown in the past year. I'm thinking of how much love two parents had inside them, waiting for the chance to meet their babies, how much they suffered, worked, prayed, paid, yearned for those two sweet babies. I am lost in thoughts of the journey we all took together.

One year ago I was at a normal checkup, happily waiting for those girls to let me know it was time, when my plans were forced into motion earlier than I wanted. I had made it to my goal date of 37 weeks, but I was feeling so great that I just wanted to keep on being pregnant and let nature take its course. Well, nature spiked my blood pressure so high that we had to help things along a little bit. Fortunately, my birth team was amazing and supportive and I was still able to give birth vaginally without pain meds. I was able to have the twins' mother there beside me when I delivered and place those sweet girls in her arms. I was able to see their father's face when he beheld his daughters for the first time. I was able to see a baby born "In the Caul" with her bag of waters still intact and hear my husband say how amazing it was. I was witness to a room full of medical professionals shocked and in awe at seeing a vaginal, twin, breech birth.

I was honored and privileged to be a vessel for two lives at the same time. I got to feel two sets of movements inside me, feel two babies fighting for space. I got to hold those precious little ones close and snuggle and kiss them and say hello in person after speaking to them through my tummy for so long. Being chosen to help this family still blows me away; I can think of nothing more overwhelming than to find the person you trust enough to carry your children. So here I am a year later still honored, still thrilled to have taken this journey. I watched a family being made! I am so happy for that family and for the years of love and joy they will have together. Happy birthday to the beautiful Ziva and Ziv and to their amazing parents.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013


In the days since the twins' birth, I have been overwhelmed by the amount of love and support we have received from friends and family. We have had delicious meals prepared for us, offers to help run errands, sleepovers at Nana's house and countless words of support. It has been humbling to say the least. I know we are super fortunate to have so many people who care about us and more people than I can count have followed this journey from the very beginning. My last entry for this blog is to address a specific issue that has been recurring throughout this surrogacy and has become more frequent in the last week: How I am REALLY doing with going through and entire pregnancy and not having a baby of my own.
I addressed this issue early on, reassuring everyone that I wasn't going to have a hard time at the end of this pregnancy because I wasn't actually "giving up" the babies; they weren't mine. As I stated before, I get why people would be concerned and would feel the need to ask and check on me, but I've been solid in these feelings since Day 1. "But what about the hormones???" people ask. "Won't you be super hormonal and miss having a little one to bond with???".  To be perfectly honest and blunt, NO. I do NOT miss having a newborn in my house. I love my children with every fiber of my being and every sleepless night and every breakdown and every pull-your-hair-out struggle was worth it because they are my heart. But I do not want to go through that again. It was gut-wrenchingly hard both times; I did not have "easy" babies :) Does that matter now-no, I would do it all over for them in a heartbeat. But the key phrase there is "for them"; for MY children. The twins are not my children.
My amazingly insightful midwife Nancy and I had a great conversation the day after the birth, processing the whole experience. She told me that there were some key points during the birth experience that she was watching closely to gauge my emotional state (as is her job). The first was right after the birth, when the baby nurse was putting hospital bracelets on the babies and had one for the "mother". Not knowing the scenario, she naturally reached for my wrist to put the bracelet on and I immediately said "No, no, I'm not their mother, SHE is!" and pointed to the mom, "I'm just the surrogate!" I didn't remember that until she reminded me. The second was when I had the pleasure of handing those babies, one at a time, to their parents. Nancy told me I was beaming, smiling in adoration; but not in yearning. It felt right to pass them on, it felt good. It was the moment I have been anticipating since I met the parents, the absolute joy of giving them the gift they have been working so hard for, for so many years.
Not once have I cried in sadness over the birth. Not once have I regretted my decisions. I am so, so happy to be on this end of the journey, to be done with this incredible experience. "So, REALLY, how are you doing???"  I am so very ready to focus solely on my family and all the fun, exciting things we have on the horizon. I helped someone else complete their family and now I am ready to just be with mine. While I appreciate the concern (after all, those inquiring just want me to know they care) I really hope my loved ones know me enough to know that I mean what I say, and I say what I mean. I am good. I am really, really good. I am happy.  I am blessed with amazing family and friends, and I thank you all for following me through this surrogacy.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Down the rabbit hole: the birth of the twins

So here it is, the final phase of this journey. I don't say the end of the journey, because the lives that were created have joined two families together forever. But it is the long-anticipated birth story of two beautiful girls, so here we go.........

Thursday January 31st I had a regular appointment scheduled with my doctor, and for some reason, I had a feeling something was going to be up. I thought it would be that my dilation had increased, but I was in for a bit of a shock. My blood pressure was elevated through the roof, past the point that the doctor felt comfortable letting me go home. I normally have low blood pressure, so for it to be that elevated was scary. Dr. Fitzhugh sent me immediately to the hospital for monitoring in the hopes that we could get it to come down, and if not, we would decide what to do from there. I wasn't happy, but I knew it was the right thing to do. Unfortunately, after monitoring, my blood pressure kept going higher, and my doctor decided that we had to induce. I was concerned because I knew that would make labor harder (pitocin induced contractions SUCK!) but I was still feeling like we were on the right path. Plus, I had my support team: my amazing hubby, who is a fantastic amateur doula :) and my rock star midwife Nancy. So there I was, hooked up to an IV (which I hate) with antibiotics for Group Strep B, magnesium for my blood pressure, and pitocin to induce my labor. I was already 2cm dilated so I was pretty sure that my body would take over quickly and labor would get going. And it did :) The crappy thing about being hooked to an IV during labor is that is limits your mobility, which makes labor more difficult, especially when you want to do it without pain medication. My plan was to rest as much as possible until the contractions got tough. The next time my cervix was checked, I was 5cm! Woohoo! But now I was really feeling them, so breathing techniques became important. My nurse and midwife adjusted the bed so that I was sitting upright, almost like I was on a throne, to take pressure off my back. Any time I see a woman on tv or in a movie, lying flat on her back during labor, I want to scream. It is the worst position you can be in during labor; it hurts like hell and it slows down your labor. So it was important that I be in a position where gravity could help. I was able to stand up some, but couldn't walk because the blood pressure meds make you dizzy. By now, I was fully in the throes of active labor and everyone knew it because things had gotten more serious. I was agitated by being so limited in my movements, and Russell REALLY knew it cause he knows me so well. So what does he do? Being my hubby, he suggests exactly what I needed: to get my stupid freaking clothes off :) That made a big difference because I felt so much less hindered. ( The first time I talked to the intended parents, I told the father that he probably wouldn't want to be in the delivery room with me because I prefer to labor naked :) )
By this point, things were really serious and I was having some doubts. My team was so reassuring that I could do this naturally, so we kept at it. Nancy checked my dilation at this point for hopes of motivation, and we got it: I was 9cm!!! I had labored through crappy-ass pitocin contractions and was almost at the finish line. The hospital policy at this particular hospital is that all twin deliveries are done in the O.R. just in case there is an emergency and a last minute c-section has to be done. I didn't like that idea, but honestly at that point it didn't really matter to me. So they wheeled me into the OR after throwing a blanket over me (still naked!) and there was an entire surgical team over in the corner all set up "just in case". Well, we knew that baby A was in perfect position and baby B was breech, but we also knew my doctor was very skilled in turning babies AND in breech deliveries. The surgical team was on standby, "in case baby b needed a c-section". Dr. Fitzhugh's comment to them was "Why would she? She is doing just fine."  As we are moving me from my bed to the surgical bed (which is nothing but a skinny metal gurney with a thin mattress) I knew I had to push. I hate the phrase "urge to push" because I just don't think it is an appropriate term: it just doesn't really describe that "unstoppable force" feeling when you need to push. So I quickly get on the table, grab my husband on one side and the nurse on the other and with the first push, baby A's head is out! Second push and she is here!!! I couldn't believe it. We knew B was breech so with the next push Dr. Fitzhugh reached up, grabbed her feet, and she was delivered feet first, with her bag of waters still intact. Absolutely amazing. Unreal that they were born 2 minutes apart, in the OR, with an entire surgical team standing there completely shocked while this crazy naked lady was hooked to an IV that did not include pain medication. I am still shocked myself. The whole labor process, from pitocin induction to delivery, was 6 hours. I was supported and surrounded by the people I wanted there: my hubby, the mother, my midwife and my doctor, plus an awesome nurse who I now adore. The dad then came in, as soon as I was covered, and I got to see these amazing people meet their daughters. I held the babies while the mother cut the cord and then passed them off to their parents. Pure and utter joy! I have never been worried that I would feel sad to hand off the babies and I truly wasn't. It felt amazing to hold and meet them, but it felt like holding my friend's babies, not my own. Despite the bright lights and cold, sterile environment, that was a room overflowing with love and excitement :)

I am honored that I was trusted enough to carry these children for people who wanted them so badly. I am thrilled that pregnancy was a great experience. I am ridiculously happy that despite circumstances, I was able to have a natural, vaginal (breech!!!) delivery. I feel blessed beyond words to have traveled this journey.

Monday, January 28, 2013

37 Weeks: Goal Met!

Here we are, on the eve of 37 weeks into this pregnancy! This is what I have hoped for from the beginning: full term for twins! I planned on working until they were born, however, my body had other plans. I have been really suffering with edema ( super swelling) from my knees down, most especially in my ankles and feet. Most pregnant women get swelling, and I totally had it with my previous pregnancies, but this is completely different. I've already bought new shoes in a bigger size so I wouldn't have to wear flip flops to work and to church, and they now no longer fit. I am down to my Reefs and my gray Puma's. I love both pairs of shoes, but now I can barely tie the Pumas :) If that were all, I would still be working. But I can't walk without being in pain. That really would be a problem for a hairstylist who has to be on her feet :) My midwife told me today that the only way I am going to get any relief is not just to put my feet up (trust me, I've been doing that!!!) but to get a good lymphatic massage and then stay horizontal for 48-72 hours. I have tried everything else on my own, to no avail. The good news in all of this is that I should probably stop working anyway and rest up for labor and also it means that one of the babies has dropped down into my pelvic area which is what is causing the blockage. So all in all it is a good thing; as soon as I'm not in pain :) When I wake up at night to go the bathroom (many, many times) my circulation is so poor that I can barely walk. Grrrrrrr!!!! I am looking forward to my massage today so hopefully some of this will be resolved.

I also know that the babies are coming soon. Soooo exciting!!! I'm looking at this as my body's way of telling me to slow down (so hard for me to do) and prepare to be a birth warrior! So sorry to my clients this week, but I'll see you as soon as I can.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Defining family

I come from what would be considered a "non-traditional" family.  My mother is half Mexican, haCaucasian. My father is about as Caucasian as they come. My mom got pregnant with me in high school and dropped out to get married and take care of me at the age of 17. Fortunately, they had lots of love and support from both sides of the family, most especially my Gaga and Papa. I didn't grow up with a lot of material things, but I never knew that :) I was always with family, aunts and uncles, cousins and grandparents. I was always surrounded by love. My parents divorced when I was 8 and my mom worked her ass off to take care of me since my dad really wasn't very involved. I always felt like she and I were a team; the two of us took care of each other. I remember getting up early with her and ironing her clothes for work while she cooked breakfast. I remember her leaving me a list of chores for the day that had BETTER be done by the time she got home. I remember her being at every. single. one. of my school activities and events, usually with snacks and treats for me and my team mates, and usually with at least one or two other family members. Everyone always knew when my family got there because my mom has the most ear-piercing whistle you have ever heard :) Cheerleading, basketball, tennis, softball, Honor Society- whatever it was, she was there. I am really thankful that my father and I have re-established our relationship since I became a parent, but for most of my life it was me and my mom taking on the world. Divorce is never easy, but it was my reality and I never felt as though I had less than someone who had their parents still together. Every family is different and I have always felt blessed to be so totally surrounded by love and support my entire life. A huge part of who I am is due to my family.
One of the coolest aspects of this journey has been how my children have handled it. People ask all the time what Stella and Roy think of this adventure. My answer is always the same: they are handling it like pros. See, the thing is, kids don't know that a situation like ours is unusual or not the norm unless someone tells them that. It isn't unusual for them because they are loving, innocent, accepting little creatures. It isn't strange that mommy is helping someone else become a mommy and daddy. It isn't weird for them that there are babies in my tummy, because that is one of the things mommies do: grow babies in their belly. It isn't odd for them that the parents of these babies are Nigerian; why would that make a difference? They have plenty of friends who don't look like them, who are a different color or who speak a different language. In their minds, love is love, a good person is a good person. They have friends who have two mommies or who only have one parent. None of that is a big deal to them. That has been one of the goals Russell and I have had throughout this process: to teach them that families come in all shapes and sizes and are made in lots of different ways. In a world that is full of hate and violence and intolerance, I want them to know that there are some things more powerful than all of the negative they will encounter: love and family. If Russell and I can instill in them the confidence and self-awareness that will allow them to make good solid choices in life, the kindness to treat others fairly and the knowledge that family, biological or chosen, will always be there for them, then I will feel like a successful mother. How each person defines family may be different; I do not believe in only one approved version of what that word means. I have felt more love and support from my single mother than a lot of people who have both parents could even dream of. My wish for my children and the children I am carrying is that they always know the love of family.


I am hoping that the babies are listening to the psychic link we have and will hang out inside for another week :) That being said, I am well aware that they could be ready before then. I am not having any "symptoms" of labor, just feeling heavier and clumsier and getting tired more easily. I am supposed to be feeling those things, so it isn't bad, I'm just aware that my body is changing. I am super stoked to have made it this far, feeling this good, with twins :) My intuition is telling me that labor is coming SOON and so I now feel the need to be as prepared as I can be. My hospital bag is packed, the kids' bag is packed to stay at the sitter, my list of phone calls to make is posted, my birth ball is ready. Paperwork is done. Pedicure is done. Every time I shower, I'm shaving my legs. I know my midwife and doctor won't care, but it makes me feel prettier :) I clean the house daily ( not like that is any different than usual) so I will feel comfortable leaving on short notice, since I CANNOT leave my house if it is messy. I am envisioning the labor that I want and all the possible scenarios that could happen. I've stated before that I truly believe a huge part of labor is mental and I want to be ready for it. Until recently the babies were in the breech and transverse positions and I was doing everything I could to let myself trust that they would move into the proper positions when ready. My midwife suggested seeing a chiropractor who works with pregnant women to "open up" the pelvic area to encourage the babies to flip head down. She also suggested doing 40 pelvic tilts twice a day. I did both of those things and what do you know, both babies are now head down :) The three of us are a team, about to take a big journey together, and it is time to get prepared!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Gender Issues

Let me start this by saying, if you know my grandmother, do NOT mention this blog post to her!!! For real! I know other family members will read it, and that is fine, just not my Gaga :)

I have never been a Princess girl (as most of you know) nor have I ever been one to really support gender stereotypes. I was a tomboy growing up, playing with my male cousins, wrestling, playing sports, beating the crap out of kids who picked on my cousin Jay. I didn't wear makeup until I was 26, and my mom still laughs at the fact that I am a hairstylist now. It isn't that I'm opposed to feminine things, I just don't want anyone telling me what I can and can't do because I am female.
Now that I am a mother to a daughter and a son, I love seeing the differences between the two of them. Some are obviously learned behaviors and some of them are not :) Stella LOVES a twirly dress and has a few princess things (none of them from me ;) ) but she loves woodworking with Daddy, tools and superheroes. I love when she dresses up and wants to paint her nails, but I am really glad that our house isn't overrun with Barbies and Disney Princesses. I really believe that parents need to think about the messages behind the marketing that goes into "traditional" gender roles with toys. The book "Cinderella  Ate My Daughter" is a great sociological, not boring, exploration into this idea.
Then there is my Roy. He is such a dude it is ridiculous! He wants to beat things, smash things, throw things. He is a different superhero everyday, some that he makes up on his own. I think the only reason he isn't a total jock is because his father doesn't "do sports". That part of his education will be up to me! He LOVES helping Daddy work on the motorcycles or house projects. But oh my goodness, he loves for me to paint his nails :) I do not think that his playing dress up or admiring my outfit means anything about him or his possible sexuality.  He likes to speak in a falsetto voice and say "I'm a girl!" He will put on fairy wings in a heartbeat. And he is without a doubt, super duper attached to his mommy. He tells me  100 times a day that he loves me, kisses and snuggles with me all the time, only wants mommy to get him in the mornings and tuck him in at night. He is sooooo sensitive and will tell you so. He MUST hug friends hello and goodbye. I love that my kids are not too caught up in what is for "girls vs. boys", although they will occasionally say something along those lines.
I think it is my job to encourage them to have tons of creative, imaginative free play and let them express themselves however they want. I don't want to lock them into any particular role or heaven forbid for them to feel they cannot do something because of their gender. I think that by encouraging them to play how they want they will be more sure of who they are. I want to support whatever interests they have. I want my girl to play sports and my boy to bake (and they do!) And while I want them to be free to play with whatever they want, I also don't want any toys that I feel perpetuate a negative stereotype. Which means the Bratz doll that Stella received for Christmas was quickly "lost" since I don't think it is appropriate for my little girl to have a doll in leather booty shorts, platform stripper shoes and collagen injected lips with black lip liner. Fortunately, Stella had never even heard of that brand of doll and was more interested in the microphone stand that came with her so her other dolls could use it to "rock out". I would much rather own every Disney princess doll there is than to have my little girl play with a doll that looks like a hooker. ( But I also didn't want to hurt my grandmother's feelings by explaining this to her; she meant no harm and that discussion would NOT have gone well!)