I think this blog is important to write. Not just for my own therapeutic needs, but for the many people who are curious about how I felt the first week after giving birth to Luca. The ‘It must be strange to go home without a baby’ comment kept being repeated and I began to understand that people around me were having difficulty grasping this final leg of my journey. So this is to try and help you see through my eyes and heart.
My first night home from the hospital we had supper at my Mom’s house. We got home around 8pm and I put my kids to bed. I missed them terribly while I was gone and felt bad about leaving them in the middle of the night. Once they were sleeping I felt an instinctual Mom urge to clean. It wasn’t that my house was in disarray, a big thanks to my Mom and Rene for keeping it tidy, but I just felt the need to flutter around looking for something to do. Rene finally told me to sit down and stop worrying about the house.
But when I sat, I opened up my MacBook and began to read. I read all the comments people had posted on Facebook and all the emails people had sent me. I wanted to respond to each one because they had taken the time to say such nice words. I wanted to catch up with friends and let everyone know I was home and doing fine. I spent hours reading and writing that night. Finally Rene told me I needed sleep.
So I slept. At least I slept on and off. After birth pains had me up sporadically. Some of the time I was in absolute pain and other times it was just uncomfortable. So in the morning, my wonderful husband sensed I was tired and got up and got the kids all ready for school. Of course there was a ‘legging’ emergency and I needed to get up to put Madelyn’s tights on under her dress, but all in all it was a smooth morning. Cole stayed home with me and we did a whole lot of nothing.
I can’t say I didn’t feel the urge to text the guys about their first night home with Luca. I wanted so badly to see them, but I didn’t want to invade on their time with him. I grew Luca for nine months and now it was Frank and Norm’s time to enjoy being home with Luca finally. I got to feel all his kicks and hiccups and now they got to really experience first hand what it is like to be official Dads. I wanted to give them their space.
For those of you who wonder what it was like to leave Luca at the hospital, I will say this: It felt like mission accomplished! I was so happy to be going home with my family and to know Luca was with his family. The protective instincts I felt for Luca while I carried him will always flutter inside me, but I knew there wasn’t anybody else in this world that would protect him and keep him safer than his Daddy and Papa. And so we said goodbye. We hugged and kissed and that was it. No crying, no sadness, nothing but normal feelings.
The next morning, it hit me. I was sitting at the kitchen table, eating breakfast with Cole. One moment I was fine – the next moment I was crying. Of course it was hormones wrecking havoc on my body. I was expecting something of a tidal wave at one point and it did come. But let me be clear about this: it wasn’t a sense of loss or sadness I was feeling. It was a sheer overwhelming wave of good emotions that overtook me. It was all the beautiful things people were saying and the sense of pride welling up inside me.
But it was also something else. While I was carrying Luca, his Dads needed me. Now my job was done. I wasn’t needed anymore. And that sense of emptiness started to take hold of me. We had built a relationship with Frank and Norm over a year and it was them that we spent so much time loving and laughing with.
And I wept. Cole crawled into my lap and snuggled with me, as I rocked in my chair. And at that moment when I was crying and not understanding what was wrong with me, my blackberry dinged. I left Cole watching cartoons and went to check my phone in the kitchen. Frank had sent me a picture of Luca sleeping peacefully. He sent me a message about his first night home and asked if I had time for a phone call. My response was, “OMG, yes!”
It was as though Frank had sensed my need and filled the void instantly. That was all I needed. He called and we talked and as hard as I tried I couldn’t help myself from breaking down and crying. I told him how strange it was to feel how I felt and he reassured me that I was always a part of Luca’s life.
Now I am a logical person. I don’t usually get emotional and I rarely cry. In fact my kids have only ever seen me cry a handful of times and each time they thought it was so strange, because Mommies don’t cry. I knew realistically that we would always be friends with Frank and Norm. If I were to say to you, it wasn’t Luca I missed as much as it was Frank and Norm, that might sound odd to you. I explained how I felt about Luca in my ‘Birth Blog’, but the surprise feeling that swept over me was centered on the guys. Frank and Norm had been a huge part of our lives for a year. Then voila – done. It felt something like a bird leaving the nest; like when my kids learn to do something on their own and don’t need my help anymore. Strange, I know. I had always kept Luca safe inside me, but I also always looked out for his Dads. I always felt protective and ‘momma-bearish’ when it came to Frank and Norm. And now it was time to let them out of the nest! They had to take Luca home and learn how to be Dads all on their own.
So that day I cried some. It was only one day post partum and I allowed myself the time to break down. I texted Rene at the barn and told him I was crying. This is the day my husband would wrap around me with the absolute warmth of his love, but he would surprise me with the things he said. For anyone who knows Rene, you know he is a man of little words. He doesn’t show emotion and he doesn’t get inspirational. And this is what he did that day. He texted me back, “Stay strong. You know this is the hard part. You can handle it. I love you.”
And if I didn’t believe my love for Rene could take up more of my heart, that day it overflowed. Later he came home and we sat outside. Cole played and we waited for the kids to get off the bus. He shared his thoughts about the labour and told me how it killed him to watch me in so much pain. He opened up to me in a way I didn’t know he had the capacity for. And this helped me see the bigger picture.
I couldn’t help but feel something deep inside me that I didn’t recognize. A weird sense of something… It took me a week to figure it out and understand why I struggled the first few days to stand steady. Explanation to come…
Day 3 – Postpartum (Friday)
I didn’t sleep well during the night. Pains were still plaguing me. The kids had a PD Day, so I arranged for them all to go to daycare. My wonderful husband came home from work and took them to Daycare for me, so I could just lounge in my pajamas. I took a bath. And then I wrote.
As a writer, any time I ever needed to explain my own feelings to myself, I put it to paper… or typed, as I guess we usually do these days. And so I began my Birth Blog. I spent a good portion of the day writing. I cried while I wrote, but not like the day before. I edited the birth pictures of Luca and posted them.
That afternoon a friend stopped by and we had a glass of wine together. I may have slowly finished the bottle by the early evening. I also may have opened another bottle and had a glass from it. I was a wee bit tipsy and Rene couldn’t help but laugh at my sloppy walking and spontaneous giggling. I put music on and the boys and I danced together, while my girls were enjoying a birthday party at the neighbour’s house. It felt good to let loose and just laugh. I imagine I looked like a dork and after ten months of not drinking I surely did not need a whole bottle of wine, but I figured, what the heck!
That evening I received a beautiful picture of Luca staring right at the camera. Frank updated me on his crazy appetite and we exchanged a few fond words. As always, it was just the right amount of love to make me feel perfectly warm.
Day 4 – Postpartum (Saturday)
I didn’t get to sleep till 4 am last night. I was in horrible pain and couldn’t lay down at all for hours. It felt like birth contractions all over again. I even called Strathroy Hospital at one point and talked with them about it. I opted not to go into Emerg, thinking maybe all I needed was some extra time to heal.
So three hours of sleep later, I was up and getting the kids ready to go visit Grandma and Grandpa. She kindly offered to take the oldest three for the night. My plan was to drop them off and try and get some sleep. My sister Pam was there with my nephews, helping my Mom with Thanksgiving supper. It ended up that I stayed and just visited and relaxed with my Mom and sister all day.
At one point I was texting with Frank and asked about a day in the week to come visit them and Luca. The Wednesday I suggested was full with Luca’s first doctor appointment and his newborn shoot with Cynthia Bendle. I suggested Friday instead, but the conversation was left open-ended.
Saturday night I came home and crashed at 10 pm. I slept all night. Cole graciously slept all night. I didn’t feel one contraction and I didn’t have to get up to pee at all – the best part of not being pregnant. I felt like a million bucks when I sprang out of bed at 8 am. I guess I just needed that extra day of healing.
Sunday I buzzed around the house with Cole, doing some laundry, cleaning, and cuddle time. It was a perfect day to chill out and take in some down time. Late afternoon we ventured to Mom’s for Thanksgiving supper, which was outstanding as usual.
Some time at Mom’s I got a text from Frank with a picture. Frank’s family was over from Toronto and his sister Silvana had gave the guys glass coasters with pictures inside of each of the kids and us holding Luca at the hospital and a picture of Frank and Norm holding him. It was such a sweet gift and melted my heart as usual. Silvana said, “This is the family that helped make ours.”
It was then that Frank suggested I come to the newborn baby shoot with them. Initially I was excited to be invited, but I felt like I was imposing and didn’t want to intrude on their special time with Luca. Walking a fine line was difficult for me. I was torn between letting them know how important they were to me, and allowing them their own space to enjoy Luca. Part of my inner insecurity kept wondering if they were asking just to be nice. So I declined the offer initially. Frank’s response seemed to once again sense my struggles. “We wouldn’t ask if we didn’t want you there.” And I knew they were inviting me because that was the nature of who they were. Kind, gentle, compassionate people who knew just the right amount of giving to make my transition back to ‘normal’ just right.
Thanksgiving Monday the kids and I spent the day not doing much. We stayed home and did some tidying and mostly just did nothing. I began to feel a sense of strange boredom. I was never bored. I am the girl who takes on a thousand projects at once and finishes nothing. I am the girl who rarely sits to watch television or read until the day is almost done. I am a mom of four small kids. Life doesn’t allow for boredom. But I felt an unfamiliar unrest inside. I decided to go to London on the Wednesday and enjoy watching Cynthia taking pictures of Luca. I had no expectations of what they would entail, but my deep love for photography and art was bound to be lit under her presence.
The next day was Tuesday. It marked Luca’s one week birthday. The three older kids went back to school. Cole and I painted our nails. We didn’t do anything out of the ordinary. Frank sent me a picture of Luca drinking his bottle and filled me in on how he was sleeping. Then he sent a picture of Luca looking right at the camera and said, “He can’t wait to share some snuggles with you tomorrow.” Yup, perfect kind of giving.
Not one day all week had the guys ‘forgot’ about me. Even if it was a small picture of Luca, or a simple hello text, they included me in Luca’s life after birth. It felt… perfect.
I was dealing with my own physical parts of healing from birth, and that was enough to drain me. Caring for a baby wasn’t high on my ‘want’ list at that point. When I signed up to surrogate for complete strangers I knew one of the defining reasons why I could carry a baby, birth a baby, and give it back to his parents, was because I was done having my own kids. I had four perfect children at home. I didn’t want any more babies. I had just sent my twins off to JK full time and could now relish in the glow of one-on-one time with Cole for a few years. I didn’t want sleepless nights and leaking breasts again. Emotionally I went into this journey with the right frame of mind. If I had any doubts about being finished creating my own family, this all may have taken a very different turn.
Now for the explanation about my strange lingering feeling. Tuesday night it hit me. I was thinking about the next day when I got to be reunited for the first time with Luca and the guys and I was so excited, but anxious. I wasn’t entirely sure how I would feel. I was sitting, rocking in my chair, feeling bored, again. I looked at Rene and said, “I get it. I’ve figured out why I feel bored or absent of something.” He simply stared at me, as most husbands do when they know a big discussion is on the horizon and they won’t be able to focus on their tv show.
“I feel like I am trying to go backwards instead of forwards. I feel like now that this is all finished I am trying to figure out where life was headed before we met them.”
More staring from Rene.
“But life will never be the same. I can’t go back to before we met them and pick up where I left off. I am changed. Something like this changes you forever.” Rene nodded, knowingly.
And that was it. I wasn’t the same woman I was a year ago. Going through what we did to bring Luca into this world would forever bond us together in a unique way. I didn’t need to be insecure about how they felt. I knew their door was always open to our family. I knew Luca would always have a special spot in my heart, as would the guys. But it was time to find a ‘new normal’ that could allow me to fit back into life and move forward – with them all in my life.
And that sense of boredom, of unrest, simply faded away. I felt at peace.
I can’t describe the excitement and anxiety that encompassed me when I rolled out of bed on Wednesday. I had the kids on the bus at 8 am, Cole ready to go and myself actually presentable 20 minutes later. I dropped Cole off at daycare and started driving to London. I had other things I was going to do that morning, but none of it seemed to matter. I was going to meet up with the guys at the photo shoot close to lunch, so I was going to run some errands first and do some shopping in London. But once I got to London I knew I was headed straight to their house. I was being dragged there by a strong need to hold Luca and hug the guys. And so by 9:45am I was ringing their doorbell.
Norm answered the door. I wasn’t sure how my early arrival would make them react. You want to know what I got? I got a huge smile and one of my favourite bear hugs. But this wasn’t like any of Norm’s hugs from the past year. This hug was long, and endearing in such a way that I literally felt like I was soaking in all his love and appreciation. I felt my legs almost give way. And then Frank bounced out of the kitchen and joined our group hug. I could have let my legs give out. They would have held me up. Interesting to note, I didn’t cry. The floodgates would open later.
Then I searched for that beautiful baby boy. I found him just steps away in his bassinet, sleeping soundly. I leaned over and just watched him. I can’t adequately describe how I felt in that moment. Some feelings, even a writer just can’t find words for. And as usual, Frank sensed my need. “Go ahead and pick him up.”
And I did. I scooped down and picked up that precious baby boy that I gave birth to just a week earlier. And I held him so tight. I breathed in his scent and let it wash over me in ripples. And all my anxiety melted away. I felt that sense of peace settle itself in every nook and cranny of my body. This was the moment I had wondered about. How would I feel looking down at this baby I gave birth to? And then I knew. I felt at peace with what I had done. I felt at peace with him safe in his Daddy and Papa’s home, in his home. I felt perfect pride and love for this baby that wasn’t mine. We had done a wonderful thing in bringing Luca into this world and I was perfectly content with being ‘Auntie Ang’ in any facet his parents would allow me to be.
Then the guys and I had coffee as we always did. We hung out in their kitchen like we always did. Except this time I held Luca while we chatted and caught up on the week’s events. How quickly we all transitioned to our ‘new normal’ together. It was sweet serenity.
I had intended to go shopping while they took Luca to his doctor appointment, but they invited me to go along and I simply couldn’t resist. They invited me to be part of Luca’s first weigh in. He had gained a pound in a week. There was no doubt he was eating well. While there, the doctor included me in the conversation as though the three of us were simply a normal ‘family’. It felt great to be part of these special moments.
When we reached Cynthia’s photo studio, we were all giggling and chatting as our ‘new normal’ continued to etch itself in us. We spent the next four hours watching Cynthia do her work as she expertly posed Luca and dressed him in adorable outfits. I spent much of the time perched on her couch, watching her, watching Luca, watching the joy on his parents’ faces. I flipped through photo books with Frank and we picked out baby pictures we adored and wanted Luca to pose for. And there came many times to reflect through watery eyes.
Norm and I sat on the couch together. We talked about the birth. We talked about all the things we were too tired and emotional to talk about a week earlier. And the floodgates opened and Norm held my hand. I tried to blink back tears, swallow hard, as I watched Frank busy himself with hats and props as he lovingly looked at his son, peacefully sleeping, curled up on a grey furry rug. He was so happy. And so was I.
Near the end of the session, I asked quietly if I could have a picture with Luca. Of course, Cynthia had always planned on some ‘family’ pictures. So I stood in front of the camera and held sweet, naked Luca close to my face. To keep composure I kept breathing in that new baby smell. We laughed that Luca was going to poop right on my face. When I looked up into the camera and held up my surrogate baby to my cheek, I saw Frank out of the corner of my eye, holding Norm and crying. And as much as I tried, my eyes began to water. I yelled at him to stop trying to ruin my eye makeup, but Frank was already on his way for Kleenex. It was another touching moment that branded my heart. I knew they never had to say how they felt. When they looked at me holding their son, how they felt was written all over their faces. I understood – how do you thank someone for giving you a baby? For me, no thanks were necessary anymore. I got as much out of our friendship as they did and that is truthfully how I will always feel.
Then Cynthia posed us all together – Frank, Norm, Baby Luca, and as we stood there, the camera lens just ate up all the emotion we could possibly muster in that moment all holding each other. And after when the guys had their pictures with Luca, it was my turn to be off camera and cry. How proud I felt.
The day was perfect. It was everything I could have hoped for of our first time all back together. It was almost surreal looking down at Luca as I said our goodbyes at 5 pm. I grew him and gave birth to him and he was exactly where he was meant to be. There were no tears when we said farewell that day. I felt the same way leaving Luca that day as I did in the hospital. But now I had a much more sense of completion and peace inside. I was ready to get back to life.
For all those that have supported and loved me through this journey – Thanks! I know many of you have also grown to know Frank and Norm as well, if not just through my blogs. Many of you have met the guys and were a part of my birthday party this past year. You got to see them find out they were having a boy. Perhaps some day in the near future you can all have a chance to meet Luca and see first hand the miracle that so much love can create. He is the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. But this journey is by far over.
Our ‘new normal’ is just beginning!