Having experience as a birth doula, I’m very aware of the role hormones and environment can play during labour and delivery. However, even when you know about this and do your best to account for them, sometimes reality is just different. Case in point: my 4-day off and on surrogacy labour! My midwife, the two dads, and my husband had discussed contingencies and made as much of a plan as is possible when it comes to birth. My midwife and I talked about the importance of protecting my birth space to help me feel safe (the most impactful way to get those hormones flowing), the dads hired a birth doula/educator/surrogate/home birther to help talk them through the various scenarios.
My husband was ready to do anything and everything I needed. We all expected a fast delivery, because my third was fairly speedy.
It was very important to me that the dads be present – one of them was planning on catching his daughter!
What unfolded was an emotionally exhausting stop and go dance that lasted for days. I was stressed because I my husband was gone for work, the dads weren’t in the city, and I was panicked I would go into labour and everyone would miss it! Of course, everybody rearranged their lives and came ASAP, and then nothing happened. I didn’t want the dads to miss anything, so when labour would start ramping up I would call them to come. The moment they would show up, everything would slow. It was frustrating. I was upset. I felt so much pressure to “hurry up and have a baby already” that it was completely interrupting my flow of hormones. Nobody was actually saying that, of course. Everyone around me was nothing but supportive and encouraging. The dads were beyond perfect. Attentive yet unobtrusive, exceedingly calm and patient, and so respectful of my mercurial needs. But I couldn’t shake that feeling! I had several big cries over those few days; I was annoyed and impatient, as well as guilty that my family kept dropping everything to come provide childcare. I am eternally thankful for my stoic midwives and our plan to birth at home. I know that had I been in the hospital, at 6-7cm with sporadic contractions for days, interventions to progress my labour would have been strongly suggested. Being at home, cared for by midwives, I had the luxury of time and space. And so did the dads!
The eventual decision to have the midwives rupture my membranes (something I had avoided with my own babies) was one I came to after days of thought – not something rushed and/or forced upon me in the moment. We had already tried all the things. If it had been my own baby, I would have continued to wait it out. She would be born eventually! But it wasn’t my baby, and I was just so done. I was ready to finished with that part of the journey.
The actual birth itself was so different than my own babies…I thought I would want to hold her right away as I did with my own. But I had zero desire. The moment she was born, into her daddy’s arms and straight onto his chest, I felt my task complete. Watching their new little family forming right before my eyes was the reason I started down the path the surrogacy, and was the culmination of so much time, effort, love and collaboration from so many people. I was so content with just soaking it all up from my front row seat.
Being at home, I had the decadent ability to simply go upstairs to my own shower; my own bed. I was brought delicious home cooked food. And no baby to worry about! Once I was tucked in, the dads brought Quinn to me. We had a lovely nursing session, chatted, filled out the appropriate paperwork, and then the dads went home with some pumped milk. And I went to sleep…uninterrupted for 10 hours. It was wonderful.
I don’t believe that any altruistic act of service is truly selfless. The simple fact is, most surrogates choose to become one because they get something out of it – but the something isn’t tangible or materialistic like people think. It’s all about the feelings. The knowledge that your contribution led to the completion of a family is huge. That feeling of being so enormously generous is incredible. Knowing you’re doing something simply because you can, and because it will bring so much happiness to others – that’s the good stuff.
No, it’s not selfless…not for me. I wanted all of those big, huge, enormous, feel-good feelings!