My Surrogacy Birth Story


The following short story is adapted from the series of posts that I shared over the course of 9 posts on my Instagram feed. You can view the original posts there.



On September 28th, 2020 I gave birth to a beautiful, healthy, 8 lb, 3 oz baby who I had the opportunity to carry and nurture for 9 months to the date. She was received by her loving parents who have been praying and dreaming of her for years.

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Many of you have followed me through this journey over the course of the last 9 months! I’m so excited to finally share the birth story with you. It’s epic! I’ll be sharing in the form of a short story so that you can follow along with me through the complexities of it all. Thank you for being part of our journey and for all of your love and messages of support!



Welcome Baby Martina! It was an honor to care for you and help bring you into this world and into your parents arms! 💗


DEADLINES

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Deadlines are a way to control the time in which things occur. I usually like deadlines. In birth though, deadlines can create panic, stress, and worry in the birthing person. The birth center I worked with throughout my pregnancy and planned to give birth at could only provide care for me up to 41 weeks and 6 days. At 42 weeks, I was would need to transfer care to the local hospital for an induction because the midwives did not have clearance to extend my care past that time.

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As I approached the cutoff to continue care with the birth center, I remained hopeful that my week-long early labor would pick up in time but still, the stress started to set in. My doula Karissa Raya and I had been exploring all the things to help induce labor naturally for the last 2 weeks since I had started having mild and irregular contractions! Red raspberry tea leaf, spicy foods, fermented foods, masturbation and orgasm, nipple stimulation, walking, climbing stairs, eating the labor inducing salad, squatting, womb massage, and chiropractic care are a few of the things we tried.



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The night before the birth center would drop me from their care, they offered to administer a foley catheter (pictured to the right) to try to manually dilate my cervix which was already 1cm. I agreed to the foley catheter since I used it when I was in early labor with CR (my daughter) and it worked for me. If it works, it will stimulate the cervix, causing contractions and fall out when the cervix is dilated 3-4cm.


The midwives I was working with were able to administer this tool only in the event that the cervix was already at least 1 cm dilated and thinning, as well as because I was scheduled for an induction in the hospital the next day. If the foley catheter does it's job, the medical induction should be expedited and therefore, less intervention is needed.

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My close friend and mentor Panquetzani of Indigemama had been doing weekly body work on me and supporting me through the last few weeks of pregnancy. I text her frustrated and sad that my timeline to give birth at the birth center was closing. She came over to help me try one last thing; a strict circuit of skilled rebozo work and herbal remedies in the hours counting down to midnight. According to the birth center's policy, if the Foley catheter fell out by midnight and I was in active labor, I could stick to my plan to give birth at the birth center. After 2 hours of Panquetzani’s circuit, the foley bulb fell out! I called the birth center so happy to report that it worked. The midwife told me to come in so she could check my progress.



A PAUSE FOR REST

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Karissa met me at the birth center just after midnight. The midwife checked my cervix and said I was 3cm dilated but my cervix was posterior and baby seemed asynclitic which means that the baby’s head is tilted toward the shoulder which is not the most ideal position for birth because it makes it difficult for the baby’s head to fully engage in the pelvis. She suggested we go back home and do more of the rebozo circuit I had been doing with Panquetzani to get baby in the sweet spot. Contractions were also not super strong or consistent though they were coming in so there was not enough activity to warrant staying at the birth center.


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Karissa and I went back to my house with a plan. We were going to do the circuit again, take a nap, do it a couple more times and then call the birth center again to be checked. I would be induced at the hospital the next morning if my labor didn’t become more active soon. After hours of all the bodywork and movement, I was exhausted. It was 3 am when we decided it was time to take a nap. The nap was supposed to be 30 mins but ended up being 2.5 hours. When I woke up, my surges had slowed down. I called the midwife feeling defeated knowing it was probably too late to entertain any possibility of being able to birth at the birth center. I was right.

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The midwife agreed to check my cervix again at 7am that morning on my way to the hospital to give me some peace of mind that the baby’s position had changed for the better. It did. Baby was locked and loaded but I was still 3cm.

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I realized I needed to start accepting the new plan. I was scheduled to be induced at the hospital at 9am that morning. Karissa and I grabbed breakfast, and then went home to process the change of plans.


SHOWING UP

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Sometimes the hardest thing to do is to show up.

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When I passed my 41 week and 6 day cutoff to give birth at the birth center, the new plan was to go to the hospital to be induced the next morning (Monday, September 28, 2020). I was already in labor though and had been for a week! I was resistant; I didn’t want to go. Karissa and I processed this new reality in phases. I cried when I needed to. I was grieving the birth experience I wanted and was coming around to surrendering to the birth experience I needed.

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We went back to my house, I jumped in the shower, and then we ate breakfast. We were running late to the induction appointment but I didn’t care. I didn’t even want to go. Before we left for the hospital I went to visit my mom where CR had spent the night. I watched her sleeping so peacefully, in awe of her, in gratitude for her patience with me throughout this entire experience, and feeling a bit like I was letting her down. I never wanted to leave her behind for this birth, but due to COVID, she wasn’t allowed to come with me no matter where I was going to give birth. I had reasoned with myself that if I was going to leave her behind, it was to give birth at the birth center as planned. That wasn’t happening though. Now I was leaving her behind to give birth at the place I resisted the most. With tears in my eyes, I kissed her goodbye and told her I’d be back home with her soon.


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Before I left, I cried in my mom’s arms and told her I was so sad. I also told her that even through the sadness and grief, I was confident that I could still birth this baby without intervention just like I did with CR 9 years ago. She told me she knew I could too.

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I had to protect my energy for what was to come as I entered the hospital. (Pictured to the right)


CREATING MY BIRTH CAVE

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As soon as we to arrived the hospital around 9:30 am, we started re-creating the birth cave I had in my room over the last week as I worked through early labor. We closed the shades, turned the lights down, Karissa worked her essential oils magic, we played easy-going music, and worked on a new circuit to do in the hospital to continue the surges I had maintained since I woke up from my nap. Karissa braided my hair and held space for me during every surge. 💗

I told the nurse who checked me in that my goal was to avoid medication and intervention. I shared with her what the last few hours looked like and assured her that I was already in labor and didn’t need to be induced. She said the induction method of choice would be Pitocin if the doctor decided to move forward with the induction. I asked her to give me time to allow my surges to intensify on their own. She said she would do what she could.

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She checked my cervix around 11 am and I was now at 4cm, 50% effaced and baby was at -3 station. I was placed on the fetal monitor for 30 minutes. Surges were coming in every 5-7 minutes and baby was doing well. After the 30 minutes of monitoring, the nurse said she would talk to the doctor about my request to be given time. The doctor came in a little bit later and agreed to give me the time I was asking for. They left us alone to do our thing for most of the day.

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The intended mother was there and watched silently as I labored. The hospital’s visitor policy only allowed 1 visitor and a doula so the intended father had to wait downstairs. This was very difficult for the intended parents but we all had to be flexible under the circumstances...


TRUST YOUR BODY

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From the cervical exam at 11 AM to about 5 PM we were left alone for the most part to labor how I wanted to with the occasional intermittent monitor. Baby’s heart rate continued to be strong. My contractions however, were not showing up on the monitor (Technology does not always come through!) so the medical staff asked if I’d be okay with the Novii wireless monitor which is supposed to track surges and baby’s heart rate more effectively. I obliged in hopes that they would see I was progressing and leave me alone. My contractions were getting closer together and more intense.

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At 5 PM I was checked again and had progressed to 5 cm, 80% effaced. The nurse told me that the doctor was wanting to start Pitocin soon if no significant progress was made. I asked her what the rush was and she said “You came in for an induction and you aren’t being induced.” to which I responded, “I’m progressing on my own. I would like to be given more time.” Shortly after, the doctor came in to give me the same talk. I entertained the conversation fully knowing and trusting that my body was already doing what it needed to birth this baby. The doctor wanted to start Pitocin. The nurse bought me some more time by suggesting we start Pitocin after I eat something so we tentatively agreed on starting it around 6:30pm. I was frustrated, but Karissa reminded me we could keep buying more time if needed since she could tell my labor was also shifting into more active intensity. She said she noticed I wasn’t talking anymore. 🤐

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I spent a lot of my time after this in the bathroom. It was dark and I could be alone there. It also felt really good to sit on the toilet during contractions. At one point I was sitting on the birth ball and when I got up, I felt a small gush of fluid. From then on things moved quickly!

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FETAL EJECTION REFLEX

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The doctor’s plan was to start Pitocin around 6:30 PM but 6:30 PM came and went and nothing was done (unsurprisingly). My nurse came in while I was in my new cave (the bathroom) and told my doula and the intended mother that she was having a hard time finding a pump for the Pitocin so it would be a while longer. She was also going to be leaving for shift change at 7:30 PM which is something we took into consideration while strategizing how to avoid the pit.

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Around 7 PM I came out of the bathroom and told Karissa that the only way I would allow them to start the Pitocin is if they checked me again because I didn’t think I’d need it. I had a few contractions on the toilet where I felt like I was already pushing. This is called the fetal ejection reflex. It’s an uncontrollable urge to push.

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I knew I must have progressed some more. Around 7:30 PM our nurse came in with the new nurse to give report. While they talked, I told them I needed my first nurse to check me before she left since she had been the only one checking me all day. She checked me and she said I was now 8 cm! Finally, some relief.

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The room started to get busy as shift change was underway and as they casually prepped for delivery.

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“I’M PUSHING!!” 😆 I said.

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One nurse asked me “What are you feeling right now?”.

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“I’M PUSHING!” I said. 😆

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Another nurse said, “The doctor isn’t here yet, so try not to push.”

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“NOPE! This baby is coming right now!” 😆

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Everyone was scrambling to find the doctor. I stayed focused on Karissa who I told in a whisper off to the side, “This baby is coming right now, they don’t believe me.”

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I’ll never forget what she said...”I know. Go where you need to go and I’ll bring you back if we need you.”

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And so I did...✨


WELCOME BABY


Once I felt like I could push freely whether the medical staff was ready for me to or not, I gave into the urge and felt the baby's chest bones moving deep into my pelvis. 3 pushes was all it took for this little one to join us earth side. She was born at 7:46 PM.

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I looked over my shoulder to see my daughter’s bright face on my phone watching, wide-eyed as I birthed her womb mate into the world. Karissa my doula had moved quickly, setting up my phone so CR and my mom could watch the birth, snapping photos of the birth, while also being right by my side all at the same time. It was like she split herself into 3 parts.

The relief I felt in my body as the baby exited my womb was unexplainable; an instant burst of relief, joy, and space! I looked over my shoulder to the new mother and told her to take her sweater off and get ready to receive her daughter. Baby Martina was placed on my belly while the nurses who caught her assessed her. The doctor walked in shortly after to help the new mother cut the cord. She had missed the birth.

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The new mother watched in disbelief as her baby was finally here! Her husband was let in a few minutes later to join us in celebration.

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I delivered the placenta and was observed carefully for postpartum hemorrhage as a high risk candidate who has experienced one before. The doctors and nurses were all very attentive and helpful in my afterbirth care. I had a second degree tear (same as when I birthed CR) that was stitched up quickly.

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I was reeling with happiness as I looked at Karissa and said “Holy shit, we did it!” 💗

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Birth, my way.

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Victory was all of ours.



TYING IT TOGETHER

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The main points I want to highlight from my story are:


✨Sometimes the birth experience we want isn’t the birth experience we need.

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✨ Death and birth go hand in hand, sometimes we need to grieve what was to make space for what is to come.

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✨ You have rights. Your care should be a conversation, not a one-sided dictation from the medical staff. You are a decision maker in your experience and you have every right to ask all the questions and entertain all possible options and outcomes.

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✨ It helps to know how birth works so that you can make informed decisions about your care, taking a childbirth class should be a priority.

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✨ Support is essential. Strategizing is EXHAUSTING! You shouldn’t have to strategize every hour of your labor but if you do, it’s helpful to do it with an experienced birth doula at your side. I was blessed to have Karissa at my side reminding me of my own strength. 💗

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✨ Protecting your energy in labor is a must! Even as an experienced birth worker, there were still times when I experienced self-doubt. There were moments when I heard the words “I can’t do this”. In those moments I used my headphones to tune out the noise, covered my head and eyes with my rebozo, and even outwardly “shushed” 🤫 those negative thoughts away.

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Birth is challenging. It takes us to the very ends of who we are as humans and to the brink of the spirit realm where the soul of the baby you bring earth side resides. It requires mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical strength and preparation to bring them here. I do not feel exceptional. I feel the way I want all of my siblings in birth to feel after they have brought a new life into the world; like we can do anything!

Professional photography by Karissa M. Raya




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Photo credit Karissa M. Raya @olivelavida