Surrogacy, interrupted

Several weeks ago, Mike and I traveled to LA for our medical screenings. I was anxious, sure that there would be something wrong and the whole thing would be called off. We stayed with Dads 2.0 in their gorgeous Glendale house and braved the storm of the century to get to the fertility clinic, where we both gave blood and urine samples. I underwent the always pleasant saline ultrasound (there’s really nothing like it) and met with the doctor. Then we dashed back to the car and drove cautiously back to the house as LA flooded around us. Once safely ensconced back home, the four of us cozied up to watch a movie and enjoy each other’s company. Ron fed us the best lasagna I’ve ever had, and I got to enjoy a lazy morning the next day with Maya and Ben and the Daddies (original flavor). Slightly invasive procedure aside, it was an awesome weekend.

About a week later, my test results came back, and everything was hunky dory, with the exception of a slight vitamin D deficiency. I began taking a D supplement, got official medical clearance, and we were off to the races! Lawyers were hired, contracts drawn up, and an egg donor secured.

Then I got bloody diarrhea. I know, gross. It lasted two days, and I was going to ignore it, write it off as a weird, isolated incident. But my very persistent friend Jamie convinced me that bloody diarrhea is not, in fact, normal and that I should at least email my doctor for advice. To absolutely no one’s surprise, my doctor insisted that I come in as soon as possible. I went in the same day, and while I won’t detail the entire appointment, I am happy to report that a rectal exam is far more pleasant than a Pap smear. No joke.

Fast forward a week or so. I was laying on a gurney, staring at the ceiling, waiting for my colonoscopy. A colonoscopy! I had spent the previous two days doing the bowel flush prep, grumbling the whole time about how unnecessary it all was. I was convinced that the bleeding was nothing alarming, and this all seemed like a whole lotta pain and suffering for nothing.

Well, kids, turns out the bleeding was something quite alarming. I was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer, metastasized to the peritoneum (lining of the intestines) and the liver. My life was turned upside down in the blink of an eye, and a huge part of that was the loss of this surrogacy. I very quickly had to come to terms with the fact that I would not only lose this surrogacy, but would never be pregnant again. There are plenty of things to mourn with this diagnosis, and this is a biggie.

I spoke to both sets of dads within a couple days of the diagnosis. All of them were, unsurprisingly, extraordinarily supportive and wonderful. Telling Ron and Adi that I could not move forward with them was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do, but I received nothing but love and concern from them.

I am unspeakably grateful that Gil and Tomer and Ron and Adi have allowed me to remain involved in their lives; we have become true family. While I will not be carrying any more surrogate pregnancies, my surrogacy journey is not over. As long as Maya, Ben, and Ron and Adi’s future child remain a part of my and my family’s life, my journey will continue with them.

Thanks for coming with me on this crazy ride. I will be recording some thoughts and experiences about this new adventure on my new blog My Colon Cancer: Semicolon, Not Full Stop at notfullstop.wordpress.com. It’s brand new, still got some kinks, so thank you for your patience. I will also be posting gratuitously and unapologetically  on Facebook and Instagram, partly because I’m a middle child and need the attention, but mostly because colon cancer deserves some air time. It is incredibly treatable when caught early, but devastating once metastasized. Screenings are not free unless you are over 50, and most people under that age have to beg their doctors for a colonoscopy. The symptoms are easily overlooked and ignored, especially in young people who tend not to have any symptoms until the disease is quite progressed. So I will be shouting from the virtual rooftops, as loud as my hashtags allow: Learn the symptoms and don’t explain away pain! Talk to your doctor! Listen to your guts!

xoxo,

Jenessa

Advertisements

You guys, I met someone!

Well, two someones.

I knew I wanted to do another surrogacy the second the twins were born. Call me a glutton for punishment if you’d like, but I’m proud of my particular brand of crazy. I always thought that it would happen in much the same way–I’d reapply with CSP, I’d get matched, and we’d begin the long legal and medical processes.

Then I met Roger and Mimi (names have been changed to protect the innocent). When we met in the fall of last year, they had been trying to have a baby for over five years. They tried everything, and just before we met, Mimi’s doctor had just informed her that due to her underlying health issues, even if she could get pregnant, it was no longer safe for her to carry a pregnancy. This news was devastating to them, and they reached out to their rabbi for solace and advice. Their rabbi, whom I knew through my work in the Jewish community, mentioned me and my recent surrogacy. He offered to connect us, not to match us up, necessarily, but to give them someone to talk to who had experience in the surrogacy world.

We met for coffee a few times over the next several weeks. I was moved by their story, and we hit it off. After our third meeting, we began discussing my carrying a pregnancy for them, and before I knew it, we were both speaking to the agency, preparing to begin the process. But before too long, I got a phone call from Mimi. She had met with her fertility specialist and mentioned offhand the complications I experienced during my previous delivery. He told her that he would not work with a surrogate who had a history of preeclampsia and complicated births. He refused to even see me or review my records. The couple did not want to change doctors at this point, so that was that. Door closed.

Before this, I had only briefly thought about how my HELLP syndrome might affect my ability to act a surrogate again. I began to doubt that any doctor (or any intended parents) would want to take the risk. I put my desire for another surrogacy on the back burner and withdrew my reapplication from CSP.

Fast forward 8 months. It was July, and Mike and I were down in LA visiting Maya, Ben, and their daddies. They had invited friends over for Shabbat dinner, two guys named Adi and Ron (names have not been changed because they’re super awesome and chill). I had met Adi on my last visit to LA, and he had made an impression with his amazing rapport with the babies.

The evening was friendly and fun–the conversation flowed and we all laughed and talked like old friends. Over the course of the conversation, the surrogacy came up, of course, and I learned that not only were Adi and Ron in the thick of planning their wedding, but they were also thinking about babies. I glanced over at Gil and Tomer, and I caught them exchanging a look and a smile.

We’re being set up! I thought, and I had to laugh. I had pretty much talked myself out of trying again; the sting of rejection from that one IVF doctor was enough to cloud my desire with doubt. But I really liked these guys, and the thought of keeping it in the family, so to speak, was attractive. When Ron invited us over for dessert the next night, we accepted, eagerly anticipating speaking with them further about the possibility.

The next night went just as well as the first. We discussed some possibilities and made a plan to sleep on it then talk more over Skype the next week. The major things I had to think about were whether to use the agency again or go private and if I would be willing to carry twins again. I was open to foregoing the agency and going through a fertility lawyer instead, as long as all of the same safeguards were in place. And as for twins, as luck would have it, Ron and Adi were thinking they would transfer only one embryo, anyway.

Adi, Gil, Tomer, and I at Adi and Ron's wedding.

Snapshot of Adi, Gil, Tomer, and me at Adi and Ron’s wedding.

Because Ron and Adi were planning their wedding, we put most things on hold until after the festivities. So in December, we began the process in earnest. The dads got their sperm analyzed, I visited my OB, and they began looking for an egg donor. I tried (am still trying) not to get my hopes up, understanding that I could very well be rejected by another IVF doctor. I spoke to a perinatologist (high-risk OB) at Kaiser, who wrote a letter to the IVF doctor with his opinion that my risk of developing HELLP or another form of preeclampsia again is low, assuming a singleton pregnancy and different genetic material.  The IVF doctor accepted this letter and agreed to see me himself for a saline ultrasound and some bloodwork.

And here we are. My appointment with him is in two weeks, and I’m trying my damnedest not to get my hopes up or to get too attached to this theoretical pregnancy. Everything happened so fast and went so smoothly last time. There are a million what-ifs–what if something’s wrong with my uterus, what if they discover something funky in my bloodwork, what if the first transfer fails, and then the second and third, what if I miscarry, what if the fetus isn’t healthy…what if what if what if? I had forgotten the uncertainty of the early stages of this process. I had forgotten the pressure of holding the hopes and dreams of two awesome people in my uterus.

I’ll take it one step at a time. Next step is a quick trip to LA for the saline ultrasound. One benefit of doing this surrogacy privately is that the dads can be more involved in these early stages. Mike and I are staying with them, and I am looking forward to having a couple days to bond with them and process with them a little bit. And bonus: we get a little visit in with my first surro-family!

Buckle up, friends! Here we go.

Link

Radiolab

Hey guys! I know it’s been a while–not much happening on the surrogacy front at the moment–but I feel compelled to share the link to the most recent Radiolab episode. It’s not often that one’s favorite podcast does a story on a topic so near and dear to one’s heart, so imagine my surprise when this Radiolab story popped up on my newsfeed. “Birthstory,” it’s called. It’s about an Israeli couple who have three babies (3!) via two Nepali surrogates. It’s a fascinating story that brings to light many issues surrounding international surrogacy. Have a listen, and let me know what you think.

WNYC_Radiolab_logoBirthstory

You know the drill – all it takes is one sperm, one egg, and blammo – you got yourself a baby. Right? Well, in this episode, conception takes on a new form – it’s the sperm and the egg, plus: two wombs, four countries, and money. Lots of money. 

 At first, this is the story of an Israeli couple, two guys, who go to another continent to get themselves a baby – three, in fact – by hiring surrogates to carry the children for them. As we follow them on their journey, an earth shaking revelation shifts our focus from them, to the surrogate mothers. Unfolding in real time, as countries around the world consider bans on surrogacy, this episode looks at a relationship that manages to feel deeply affecting, and deeply uncomfortable, all at the same time. 

Birthstory is a collaboration with the brilliant radio show and podcast Israel Story, created to tell stories for, and about, Israel. Go check ‘em out! This episode was produced and reported by Molly Webster. Special thanks go to: Israel Story, and their producers Maya Kosover, and Yochai Maital; reporters Nilanjana Bhowmick in India and Bhrikuti Rai in Nepal plus the International Reporting Project; Doron Mamet, Dr Nayana Patel, and Vicki Ferrara; with translation help from Aya Keefe, Karthik Ravindra, Turna Ray, Tom Wasserman, Pradeep Thapa, and Adhikaar, an organization in Ridgewood, Queens advocating for the Nepali-speaking community. 

Opinion Time: why surrogacy should be legal, regulated, and fair

I have seen several really tragic stories in the news the last couple of weeks about surrogate pregnancies gone wrong. Very brief overview: one was a surrogate for two dads in the UK. They met through a Facebook group and had no written contract. The surrogate changed her mind and was advised by the owner of the Facebook group to lie to the dads and tell them she had miscarried. She carried the baby to term, claimed it as her own, and now the dads are fighting for custody. The other is about a paraplegic woman, an Israeli, whose niece carried a pregnancy for her. The baby was taken away and placed in foster care because surrogacy is only legal when the intended parents are a married husband and wife. The mom is now fighting for custody. The third is about a gay couple who hired a surrogate in Thailand. In Thailand, the surrogate is placed on the birth certificate, and the parents and surrogate must appear in court to get the birth certificate changed. The surrogate has gone MIA, refusing to complete the paperwork, so now the dads, the baby, and their older child are stuck in Thailand, unable to return to Spain where they live. In all three of these instances, the babies had absolutely no genetic relation to the surrogate, and in all but one (the woman in Israel), the babies were the biological children of one of their parents.

The common denominator here is that all of these surrogacies took place in countries that have outdated, discriminatory surrogacy laws or where surrogacy is largely unregulated. There are no protections in place for either the surrogate or the parents. I am not a lawyer, and I’m not going to pretend to understand the intricacies of surrogacy law, but I do have more first-hand experience with surrogacy than your average joe. Here is what I firmly believe: surrogacy must be legal, it must be regulated, and, in most cases, it must be done through a reputable agency.

Once I decided to become a surrogate, I did a ton of research on the various agencies in California. I chose one of the most established agencies with a long history of successful surrogacies which also happened to be the first surrogacy agency to accept gay couples at intended parents. The screening process for me was very rigorous: I went through a multitude of physical examinations and, perhaps even more importantly, several psychological screenings. My husband did the same. I was counseled on every step of the process, prepared for the emotional toll a surrogacy can take. My counselor was in constant contact with me throughout the process, especially at the end, when it was time for the babies to be born and to go home with their dads. When surrogacy is unregulated and done without a third party, there is no support for the surrogate. While what the surrogates in those stories from the UK and Thailand did was completely reprehensible, I must remind myself that these women had no one trained to counsel them through the process. I went into the experience completely prepared, with eyes wide open, with layers and layers of support, and it was still very difficult to say goodbye to those babes. I can only imagine what it would be like to enter into a surrogacy unprepared.

California has the best surrogacy laws in the country. Legally, the babies I carried were never mine. My contract stated that I had no parental rights, that the legal parents were, in fact, the babies’ parents. It even laid out next of kin by three degrees, should anything have happened to both of the dads. In addition to that, toward the end of the pregnancy, I was “sued for custody,” which was essentially just a legal document saying, once again, that I gave up parental rights and the dads were to have full custody from the moment of birth. Once the babies were born, both dads were automatically on the birth certificates. This legal process was easy and left no room for error or interpretation. All the parties involved were protected, and all our obligations were clear.

Bottom line is, when surrogacy is illegal or unregulated, none of these protections or support systems are in place, and someone is likely to get hurt.

So, what can we do about it? I, for one, will continue to tell people my story, to show everyone that surrogacy is a legitimate, safe way for people to grow their families. When I read horrid, judgmental, ignorant comments on a news article, I will respond respectfully and thoughtfully. I will teach my children that there is more than one way (or two or three) to create a family, and each is as beautiful as the next. Surrogacy became incrementally easier for gay couples with the SCOTUS decision to legalize gay marriage nation-wide, but there are still outdated, unfair laws across the nation and around the world. Children, surrogates, and parents alike are going to continue to be hurt if surrogacy is not legalized and regulated and if the laws continue to discriminate against certain kinds of family. Please help me spread the word about the beauty of surrogacy.

You want to do this again?!

“Would you think I’m totally crazy if I said I absolutely want to do this again?”

Mike shot me a quick sideways glance and then hesitated just a beat too long before saying, “No, not at all.”

We were driving to Sonoma for my last surrogate support group. I was three and a half weeks postpartum, still in maternity clothes, still sore and in a little bit of pain from the delivery, still super hormonal. So I don’t blame Mike for thinking I’m crazy. But it’s the truth: I want to do it again.

This past year has been a crazy roller coaster ride, full of complicated combinations of emotions. There were all of the intense joys and pains of pregnancy, with the added compounding factor of a surrogacy and all it entails. It was one of the hardest things I have ever done, but also one of, if not the most rewarding. For every painful or uncomfortable moment I experienced, I can think of three more joyful, beautiful moments. And every picture I get from the dads chronicling the twins’ first weeks on the outside gives me warm, gooey, happy feelings that make me so proud of the part I played in the creation of this family.

The hardest part by far has been the toll this pregnancy has taken on my relationship with my kids and having to watch Mike take the brunt of the fallout. Experiencing this pregnancy with them and teaching them that families come in all shapes and sizes was amazing, but because this pregnancy was more difficult than my past pregnancies, I found myself unable to parent my kids fully, both physically and emotionally. This was especially difficult on my 2-year-old, Solomon, who entered a very difficult stage a couple months into the surrogacy. In particular, he began throwing tantrums. Not your run-of-the-mill, ignore them and they’ll go away tantrums. Oh, no. These are awe-inspiring, out of control, possessed by demons, all that’s missing is projectile vomit and a spinning head tantrums. They are scary–for me and Mike, for him, and for Ramona (and probably for our neighbors, too). And they’ve continued post delivery, with the added bonus of Solly completely rejecting me. In the throes of a tantrum, if I get anywhere near him, if I even enter the room he is in, he will scream even harder, shrieking at me to “Walk away Mom!” If I go to him when he wakes up crying in the middle of the night, he’ll whimper, “I want Daddy,” and cry pitifully until I relent and send Mike in. It’s completely heartbreaking, and I will often collapse under the crushing guilt of knowing that my partial absence during this pregnancy is somewhat to blame for this rejection.

I have begun the work of rebuilding my relationship with Sol, and although it is obviously going to be a long road, I rejoice every time he comes to me, unprompted, for a cuddle, or when he says to Mike, “No, I want Mommy to do it!” Sometimes I have the urge to take off both our shirts and hold him skin to skin like I would a newborn, reestablishing our bond, but sadly, no almost-three-year-old would stand for that. So I’ll just go day by day, knowing that this too shall pass.

So why do I want to do another surrogacy? It’s a little hard to explain. During this entire process, I felt like I was doing something, like I had a purpose. This may sound crazy to most of you, but maybe I was meant to have a bunch of babies for other people. Every single doctor who had his or her hands up in me (and it was a lot of doctors) told me that with my very high, very long cervix, I am an ideal carrier. I’m done having babies for myself, and it would be a shame to put my high, long cervix on the bench forever, right? So I’ll give myself time to heal, I’ll enjoy being with my family as just me, sans nausea and a giant belly, I’ll give Solly time to grow out of his tantrums, and then after a while I’ll begin to think about my next surrogacy journey, whatever that might look like.

Am I certifiable? Maybe. But deep down, I know this is the right path for me. This is what I can do for couples facing the trials of infertility and for gay couples who long for children of their own. I want to do something to help people, and this is what I do well, so this is what I will do.

Our Birth Story (with far too much detail)

**Long post ahead. But it's worth it, I swear!**

A little more than a week ago, I got the call from my OB. “How about having some babies today?” she asked, in her trademark chipper voice.

“Um, ok! What’s going on?”

“You’ve been officially diagnosed with HELLP syndrome. Your liver enzymes are way high and your platelet count is dropping. If we let you go any longer, you could go into liver failure or you could begin to have seizures.”

“Sounds convincing. I’ll call the dads.”

IMG_1826And thus commenced an 18 hour labor. I got to the hospital around 10:45 on Tuesday morning, where I stopped by the perinatology department for one last ultrasound. The perinatologist wanted to double check the relative sizes of the babies and their position to make sure that vaginal delivery was still the best option. I thought we would be meeting with the doctor to discuss all the options, but I was sent to Labor and Delivery without speaking to anyone.

What followed was an hour or so of not really knowing what was going on while they monitored the babies’ heartbeats and my contractions. Turns out I was actually in early labor anyhow. Weird. Finally, the senior resident in charge of my case (we call her Blonde Doctor, not in a pejorative way, but because she is very pretty and blonde and I love the TV show Scrubs) came in to talk to me. She told me that in my case, vaginal delivery is still the safest option, even with Baby B being breech, because my low platelet count could cause excessive bleeding during a C-section. And because I was in early labor, my body would likely react favorably to the pitocin (the synthetic hormone used to induce labor, known for producing incredibly painful, relentless contractions).

IMG_5345All of this sounded ok. The daddies were on their way with an ETA of about 6:00pm. I had been preparing for a pitocin-induced labor for weeks, and I had read up on what to expect during a breech extraction (do a google image search–I dare you). But then Blonde Doctor gave me some bad news–I had to be on magnesium sulfate during the entire labor and for 24 hours after the delivery. Magnesium sulfate, commonly referred to as “the devil’s drug,” is used to prevent seizures, one of the most dangerous complications of HELLP syndrome. It is a muscle relaxant, which is not what you want to be on during labor while your uterus is trying its damnedest to contract, and it causes wooziness, hot flashes, grogginess, nausea, vomiting, and all-around yuckiness–all things I would have liked to avoid during labor. But I also did not want to begin having seizures, so, at about 12:00pm, I began pitocin and magnesium.

One of the super-fun things about being on mag during labor is that you have to be on complete bedrest. And as those of you who have ever been in labor can affirm, in bed is the worst possible place to be. None of those magical yoga poses to help ease the pain and help the baby descend, no way to relieve the horrible pressure on your back and hips, and, because there is no dignity in childbirth, no trips to toilet. That’s right–for the first 7 hours of labor, before they placed my epidural, I had to use a bedpan. And let me just take this opportunity to say that nurses are the most amazing people on the planet. I cannot imagine a more selfless occupation. Thank you to each and every one of my nurses, including the one who had to help me heave my gigantic ass onto a bedpan every 90 minutes for 7 hours.

Once I began the magnesium, I entered what I began to call “mag time.” The hours were simultaneously endless and impossibly fast. The time passed in a liquid fashion, sometimes flowing so swiftly that I could not believe the clock and sometimes seeming to stop altogether. My contracts got stronger and stronger, and my labs continued to deteriorate. I worried and worried that the dads would not make it in time, and I had very conflicting feelings about wanting it to just be over and wanting to hold on until the dads got there. (If I could go back in time, I would tell myself to take a chill pill–I would have 12 more hours of labor after the dads arrived!) Finally, at 6:00pm, 6 hours after beginning the drips, Gil and Tomer arrived!

About an hour later, I decided to get my epidural. I probably could have gone longer, but Blonde Doctor was worried that if my platelet count continued to drop, they would not be able to place one at all. So my anesthesiologist, Liz, placed a very careful epidural. (Liz, by the way, has a child in Ramona’s class. It was so great to have someone I know be there for me, especially later on when things got dicey.)

The next few hours passed in mag time, with Mike rubbing my back and snoozing at the foot of my bed, and the dads, my mom, and my stepdad talking quietly. Sometime in the middle of the night, Blonde Doctor broke my water, and I instantly progressed to 6cm. She then upped my pitocin drip as high as it would go. No more messing around–time to get these babies out! Unfortunately, this was around the same time that my epidural began to stop working. I regained the feeling in my feet and legs, and I began to feel the pitocin-fueled contractions more and more. Mike rubbed my aching back and hips more vigorously as I moaned through the contractions.

About 4 hours later, Liz came back to urge me to let her replace the epidural. “We need a working epidural in case of an emergency C. Otherwise we’ll have to put you out completely,” she explained. I was also beginning to fear the breech extraction sans pain control. So I consented to a new epidural. It was much harder to sit still for it this time, since the contractions were now coming one on top of the other. The instant I sat up, waves of nausea hit me, and my nurse pushed some zofran into my IV.

Half an hour later, the new epidural was placed, and the pain receded a little. I began to feel a lot of pressure down below, so Blonde Doctor was called in to check my progress. 10cm! I was complete! The room was suddenly bursting with activity–the dads were suiting up, the attending physician was paged, and I was rolled from my labor room to the OR. Hospital protocol is to deliver twins in the OR since the chance of an emergency C is relatively high. This meant, however, that since both dads would be there, Mike had to stay out. I began to feel my first real pricklings of fear as I was rolled past Mike and he gave my arm a quick squeeze. “Love you,” he said. I think all I did was try to smile.

Once in the OR, I shimmied over onto the table, and placed my feet in the stirrups. I was flat on my back and the pain in my ribs was excruciating. I began to feel the overwhelming urge to push but was told to wait while everyone got into place. Finally, after an eternity, Blonde Doctor took her seat. “Woah, she’s crowning already!” she said. Umm, yeah. That’s what I was trying to tell you! When I was finally given permission to push, Baby A–soon to be known as Maya–just glided into the world with three easy pushes. The wondrous sounds of a newborn baby crying filled the air as Gil cut the cord and Maya was placed in her warmer.

Now on to Baby B and the breech extraction. I was told to not push while Blonde Doctor reached up inside me and tried to locate both of Baby B’s feet. His sac was still in tact, and the doctor seemed to be having trouble getting ahold of both feet. She kept getting a hand and a foot or a foot and an elbow. The attending physician was using an ultrasound and manipulating the baby from the outside, which was just about as comfortable for me as you might imagine. Thank goodness Liz was there, letting me squeeze her hand since the dads were understandably distracted. (Liz, if you are reading this, I would like to apologize if I broke any fingers!)

Finally, after about 5 minutes, Blonde Doctor felt confident that she had both feet, so she broke the bag of water and started to ease him out. I was told to push push push! while the attending pressed down on my belly. All of the sudden, Blonde Doctor yelled, “Stop!” I stopped pushing and watched in horror as she and attending physician began to try to get Baby B’s head unstuck from just inside my cervix. I began to cry and asked over and over “Is he ok?” No one would answer. After who knows how long (turns out is was just a couple of minutes), the attending grabbed some forceps and sat beside Blonde Doctor. He inserted the forceps to widen my cervix while Blonde Doctor reached both hands in to ease the baby’s head out. She caught him, this tiny blue creature, and the silence was deafening. Baby B–soon to be called Ben–was whisked to his warmer, where they bagged him and began administering CPR.

Time stood still as I began to doubt every decision I had made over the past few days. Why had I been so insistent on a vaginal delivery? All the doctors had told me it was the safest route for me, but what about the babies? Had I been unbelievably selfish, wanting to avoid surgery? How could I ever forgive myself if something happened to baby Ben? How could the dads every forgive me? But after the longest 30 seconds of my entire life, a shrill cry split the air. The entire room exhaled as Ben began to breathe. Tomer came over and wiped my tears, which made me feel a little better, like they wouldn’t be angry with me, but for the next few days, every time someone said the words “traumatic birth,” the guilt would come bubbling back.

Normally, after you have a baby, said baby provides a distraction from what could arguably be the worst part of child birth–delivering the placenta. But with no babies on my chest, all I had to concentrate on was the nurse’s excruciating uterine massage (sounds lovely, but it’s not) as the next few contractions tried to push the the placentas out. But the placentas would not deliver, and Blonde Doctor had to sorta pull them out. After that, I got to see the babies up close and personal for the first time. They were, of course, gorgeous and cuddly, all burritoed together. I got to hold them as I was wheeled back to the labor room, back to family.

For about half an hour, everyone gushed over the babies, and I was handed them to nurse. Maya latched right on like a total champ, and a nurse was helping me to latch Ben on when I felt a gush down below. I must have said something, because my nurse came over to take a look. She pressed down gently on my belly and whoosh! All of the sudden I felt incredibly dizzy and I started shaking uncontrollably. My nurse yelled, “Get Dr. Hebl back here!” and suddenly there were hands everywhere–taking the babies from me, laying me flat, trying to place an IV, placing towels underneath me. I was whisked out of the room while I heard people call for blood and anesthesia and doctors. I heard a nurse call over her shoulder to Mike and my mom, “Someone will come back and tell you what’s happening!”

I was rolled back into the OR, and before I was even back on the table, Blonde Doctor had her hand up inside me, up to the elbow, feeling around inside my uterus. The attending physician was back, too, using the ultrasound. The two doctors began arguing about something and the nurse kept saying she couldn’t find a vein and all there was was pulling and pressure and shaking and noise and hands. Then Liz leaned down and said into my ear, “I’m going to give you some gentle sedation now.”

Next thing I know, I’m back in the labor room, pulling off my oxygen mask. I asked a nurse what had happened. She told me that I had started to hemorrhage and they were concerned that I had retained pieces of the placenta, so they had performed an emergency D&C. And in order to save my uterus and stop the bleeding, they placed a balloon inside my uterus and towels inside my vagina. This lovely “vag pack” was to remain inside me for 24 hours following the delivery. I also had to remain on the magnesium and on bedrest.

The next two and a half days in the hospital, I rested while the dads bonded with the babies and my family flowed in and out to visit. It was just as strange and emotional and wonderful as I anticipated it would be to watch the daddies with their babies. It was a little harder than I thought it would be to let go of the responsibility, to not be a part of the decision-making process about various things, but watching Gil and Tomer hold those babes felt so, so right.

We all got discharged on Friday afternoon. I was recovering well, and Maya and Ben were both looking healthy and strong. Friday evening and Saturday were spent with family. I cuddled those babies at every opportunity, knowing that we would be saying goodbye far too soon. I remember being in awe of my own kids when they were newborns, unable to believe that my body could create something so perfect. Looking at these babies, the feeling was the same–sheer and utter perfection.

We said goodbye Saturday evening. I have a hard time showing emotion publicly, so the goodbyes were swift and straightforward. It hit me sometime that night, however, that it was over, that I would not be seeing the babies or the dads every day. My life had revolved around this pregnancy for so long that it was hard for me to imagine what life would be like when things returned to normal. I felt very weepy the next few days, hormonal and sad, but it helps to know that we will see them soon. Gil and Tomer have very generously offered to have us come stay with them sometime this summer and do Disneyland! And in the meantime, there’s Skype and pictures–lots and lots, right, guys?!

IMG_5362I think it’s all too fresh to have some insightful wrap-up of this experience. My body needs to heal, my hormones need to settle down, and I need to rediscover my rhythm with my kids and my husband. All I know is that my life is richer for having done this and that I have gained two more children to love.

Welcome to the world, Maya and Ben. May your lives be filled with love, light, and laughter.

Water is broken!

After an excruciating cervical exam, they broke my water and I instantly dilated 2 more centimeters. 

  

Everyone here is very sleepy as we hit the 12 hour mark since starting pitocin (15 hours since arriving at the hospital), but hanging in there. Yay for an amazing support team!

  

Epidurals are awesome

Slow going, but they’ve placed my epidural and upped the pitocin. I will never get used to having a numb butt.

In case anyone is curious, they have to place an early epidural because part of HELLP syndrome is low platelets, and if they go too low, they cannot place the epidural at all. And with a breech extraction in my very near future, that is just not an option. Seriously, Google breech extraction.

More to come!