Surrogacy Birth from an Intended Parent POV (Bertie’s Birth Story)
On Tuesday morning we had a final appointment with Dr Cohen who confirmed that although the amniotic fluid had levelled out, it was still higher than it should be. The ultrasound tech spent a long time ensuring that baby was doing the practice breathing they look for at this stage and make sure there were signs of stress.
We were all set for a C-section on Wednesday.
Tuesday was spent purchasing last minute items, including a bassinet, nappies, wipes, and an all important, Halloween outfit! We went out to dinner with Ashley and Trever. Enjoying Tacos and what I assumed would be my last Marg for a while!
Wednesday morning I headed out for a last run before we had a big breakfast near the hospital. With a 12.30 c-section scheduled, I knew we wouldn’t be getting lunch. Chocolate chip pancakes, a fresh orange juice and a very large coffee – nerves were high!
We met Ashley and Trever in the carpark, and made our way to the second floor where we were checked in and prepped for the 12.30 surgery. Tom is very squeamish so sat behind a curtain while Ashley had blood taken and was checked over. Later the anaesthesiologist asked me ‘who is the guy behind the curtain?’ – erm, the Dad!
Trever and I were given protective gear to wear into theatre – they reminded me of the PPE from ICU during Covid – except that the only sizes were XXL!
Ashley was given her local anesthetic and then Trever and I were allowed into the room. Trever sat with Ashley, reassuring her, and I sat tentatively waiting for the telltale scream. Unlike the ‘guy behind the curtain’, I was fascinated. And I wanted to peer around the curtain to see what was going on! It was more aggressive/forceful than I was expected. There was the slight smell of burning and then he was out.
I immediately burst into tears and thanked Ashley for helping us create our family.
Any worries about me not bonding with him because I didn’t carry him vanished immediately. I loved him the second I lay eyes on him – despite him being covered in vernix.
There wasn’t an option for him to be passed to me after birth which I’m now sad I didn’t fight for. Prior to the c-section, the team asked if baby would be passed to Ashley or straight to the nurses – in hindsight, I wish I had asked for him to be handed to me before the nursing team.
The NICU nurses started working on him, and I was allowed to cut his cord.
We had opted for delayed cord clamping. But given that he was via C-section, Dr Cohen cut the cord initially, leaving it long so that I could cut it after they cleaned him up.
Unfortunately, his sats weren’t quite what they wanted them to be despite suctioning a lot of fluid off him stomach and lungs and giving him some oxygen. The team worked really hard on him for 30 minutes but decided that he would be best off going to NICU for breathing support. At this point, Tom had been waiting for an hour with no news, poor guy. I asked one of the nurses to go and update him. And they allowed us to a couple of minutes altogether.
I cried again watching Tom meet our son.
Prior to going into theatre, the team asked us what his name was going to be.
We had narrowed it down to two names but as soon as I saw him, I knew he was Albert, to be known as Bertie.
After having about 10 minutes together, the nurses took Bertie into NICU. Unfortunately, we hadn’t had COVID tests so weren’t allowed in yet. And because we weren’t patients, there was some back and forth as to whether we would be allowed them at the hospital or if we’d have to go to CVS to get them. I’m grateful that they did eventually let us have swabs after waiting nearly an hour. But surely they could have had us to preemptive tests before coming into the hospital in the event that he would need NICU. I knew he was doing OK but would have been beside myself if something had been more serious.
Nearly 90 minutes later they finally let us into NICU to be with Bertie. At this point he had been hooked up to the oxygen, had an OG tube in his mouth, and had a number of monitors on him. Tom said that he was looking at me to figure out how worried he should be – and honestly, I wasn’t too worried. ICU is somewhere I really like working and would like to work again in my career. And so it didn’t feel too scary.
Plus our NICU nurses were amazing.
They explained what was going on, what the plans were and helped us hold him.
After spending some time with him, Tom nipped out to get us something to eat and we went to check on how Ashley was doing. The hospital had kindly given us a room just down the corridor from hers. So we were able to pop in and out to update her and Trever on how Bertie was doing.
We returned to NICU and were able to give him his first bottle. I had brought Kendamil ready to feed 70ml bottles from the UK for the hospital which they were happy to use. He was on a Dextrose IV infusion so he didn’t take much that first feed. (He was only having about 20-30mls while in the hospital.) From there he was put on a 3 hourly feeding schedule. The nurses encouraged us to go to get some sleep after the 9pm feed. And we took them up on the offer, heading back to our room and returning for the 6am bottle.
Our plan is to give Bertie a combo of formula and Ashley’s pumped breast milk while we’re here in the US (and part of the reason for us staying a little longer to get 4-6 weeks of breast milk!)
We Facetimed with family back in the UK and sent updates to friends, introducing Albert to them all. I really wanted to have a little time just us before we shared him with everyone!
Ashley was able to come to NICU after getting a COVID test and meet Bertie on Thursday morning.
It was a really special moment.
Overnight they had weaned the oxygen and during ward round they discussed the plan to turn it off and monitor him. They wanted to keep him in NICU for 24 hours off oxygen before discharging him. They had already removed the OG tube and he just had the monitors left. And they also let us know since he was doing so well medically, we should take over the nappies and the daytime feeding. So far we had avoided the meconium poos!
From speaking to friends and following US blogs, I’d seen that many parents get thank you gifts for the hospital staff. We bought the NICU staff Crumbl cookies to say thanks, which went down well after the day staff had a particularly busy day, and the night shift were just beginning.
After another night sleeping at the hospital, and going over the newborn checks, including his hearing test etc, we were allowed to go home around lunchtime on Friday. They checked our car seat – I’d been worried whether our British car seat would be suitable. But they were happy with the safety checks and let us go home.
On our way out, we took Bertie to see Ashley and to meet Trever for the first time. She had been recovering really well and was just about to be discharged too.
Now we just wait for the NICU hospital bill… while the treatment we had was outstanding and we loved our nurses, I cannot get over how grateful I am for the NHS!
I asked for your Qs on IG – here were the most common questions;
Will he have US and UK nationality?
Yes, because he was born in the US, Bertie qualifies for an American passport. He will also get a British passport because both Tom and I are British. We are currently waiting for his birth certificate to allow us to get his American passport to travel home with.
Who does he look more like?
He basically looks identical to Tom! He seems to have my frown lines lol – and he has inherited my family dimples (although I didn’t!)
How long has the whole process taken?
We started speaking to surrogacy agencies back in August 2020, signed up with Family Inceptions in Sept 2020 and met Ashley in September 2021 (we had been through the match process the prior few months). The embryo transfer was in Feb 2022!
How long will you be in the USA?
Bertie was born two weeks early, with a due date of 3rd November. We had to leave enough time for him to be late. And for us to get his birth certificate and passport. Tom has taken a combination of annual leave, paternity leave and unpaid leave to be out here for 6-7 weeks.
Do you plan to keep in touch with your surrogate?
Yes! We have already been out for lunch a couple of times with Ashley and Trever, plus visited the Pumpkin patch with them. We could not have asked for a better match for this process and get on super well with them both. Plus with Ashley pumping, we meet up every few days for a milk handover!
Any other questions? I’m happy to answer them!