Notice: this post is laden with pregnancy, c-section delivery photos (semi-graphic) and baby photos. If today is one of those days, you might choose to pass on this post. I understand.
This post is long, too. Butt, be warned.
Two years ago yesterday, Frank and I spent some time in the backyard. He was busy putting together el Cinco's new swing set. I was busy posing for a few full-term pregnancy pictures. In less than 12 hours, I'd be headed to Savannah to deliver Sam, my surrobaby.
Samuel Anthony. My intended parents -- Stephanie and Terry -- and I had spent the entire pregnancy calling him Tony. With a feigned, dramatic Italian accent, Stephanie had professed several times through the pregnancy that her son's name was Samuel Anthony. She'd say it with flair, bringing the tips of her fingers together and accentuating each syllable of his name with emphatic flourishes of her arm, in much the same manner that a gourmet chef might describe the courses of a delicately prepared, 12-course dinner.
Blond-haired, blue eyed Stephanie, born and bred Georgia girl (pronounced JO-jah gurrl when given the proper Southern drawl), and Terry, straight from New York ( New Yawk ) and made from dark-haired, olive-toned Italian stock, were just one day away from finally holding their Tony in their arms. Terry preferred Sam. Stephanie preferred Tony.
Which name used on a regular basis would depend on what he looked like when he was here. If he took on Stephanie's fairer traits he'd be Sam, and if he leaned more in the Italian Stallion direction, he'd be Tony.
Tony. Sam. I just called him Meatball. He'd measured at least a week ahead the entire pregnancy, made me crave pasta (especially ravioli), and gave me gas.
The next morning, March 26, was almost ordinary. Frank and I woke up and got the kids ready for school. We kissed them and walked them to the bus stop, waving as they were driven away. They knew that we would not be there when they got home from school because today was the day that Baby Tony was coming. They couldn't wait until I would call them on the phone to tell them all about it. Frank and I walked home hand-in-hand. I had just enough time to write what would turn out to be the last real post on my old blog. I went over the daily schedule and list of emergency numbers with my sister one more time, then she all but pushed me out the door, reassuring me that she'd do just fine with holding down the homefront while Frank and I were at the hospital.
Check-in is handled through the ER, and it looked like an odd sort of family reunion taking place there in the lobby. We were immediately caught in a swarm of hugs when we walked in. Stephanie, Terry, Steph's mom Angie, Steph's older daughter Lauren, my aunt Karon, and my 2-year old second cousin were all there. At least among the women, the tears were already flowing.
Some time during the eighth month of pregnancy, Steph, Terry and I, with our attorney, met with the head nurse of Labor and Delivery. She was a sweet, grandmotherly type and took us on a personal tour of L&D on the third floor and the Special Care nursery on the fourth floor. Due to insurance billing protocols and Stephanie and Terry's need to have a room of their own once Sam was born, they would be given a large room on the 4th floor after the delivery. L&D on the 3rd floor and Special Care on the 4th were connected by a long, tunnel-like breezeway and an elevator that ran only between the two floors. She had reassured us that on the day of delivery, the nurses will have been briefed on our surrogacy and that the "rules" would be different for us.
Frank, Terry, and Stephanie would all be allowed with me in pre-op instead of just one support person. My OB had already arranged for both Steph and Terry to be present during the c-section. Again, having only one support person is the norm. Once up in their room on the 4th floor, the new family would not be held to the same security and sterile-procedure protocols as other Special Care babies, unless Sam was actually sick and had a real medical need to be there. We would be allowed to travel between the two floors at will for visits to each other.
The nurses assigned to us in Labor and Delivery were phenomenal. We'd been on the books for a while and they were anxiously anticipating our delivery. We all felt welcome and they made the process very easy. Some surrogates have horror stories where the nurses were obviously uneasy, handling the intended parents and surrogate with fumbly kid gloves. I was relieved that the staff seemed comfortable and even shared in our joy.
As soon as I was properly gowned, shaved (there's something yo' mama won't tell you about having c-sections), and catheterized, Stephanie, Terry, and Frank came back to finish waiting out the required monitoring and last pre-op procedures. We took a pre-delivery group shot.
Before too long, it was finally time. Frank and I kissed, passed I'll see you later to each other, and I waddled over to the operating room right across the hall.
It was surreal. It was routine but not. Hop on the table. Don't fall off, because that sucker seems twice as thin as my ass is wide. Talk to the anesthesiologist. No, I'm not allergic to anything that I know of. Yes, I itch like a sonafabitch and feel like vomiting out my kidneys from nausea in reaction to the spinal, so have shots of phenergan and benadryl ready. Ms. Nice Nurse says to bend over as far as you possibly can; lean on my shoulders. From behind, Dr. NumbYoufromtheLegsDown explains what he's doing as he administers the spinal. I hate this part. The thought of that big needle going in through my back and into the spinal column is freaky. *POP* I both hear and feel it (no pain, more like a small tap) when the needle goes into the spinal column and whoooooaaaa duuuuuuude....left leg feels hot and heavy whoa...there goes the right one and WOW...can't feel anything down there and awwwwww yeah...I'm feelin' kinda nice, now. Thank you, morphine. Long time, no high, my good friend Mr. Morphine.
After I'm buzzed off my rocker and can't feel anything from the boobs down, the next few steps always seem to happen fast. I'm laid down with my arms stretched to the sides, the blue curtain goes up just under my chin, and my OB seems to mystically materialize from the walls. But this time, instead of Frank coming in and being seated at my right shoulder, Stephanie and Terry come in. They're garbed in blue scrubs with white masks. I giggle, because for some reason they remind me of the marshmallows that used to come in Smurf cereal.
Stephanie took my hand. Her piercing, clear blue eyes never left mine. As my OB began the surgery and dictated his steps, she constantly asked if I was okay or if I was in any pain. "No pain. I can't feel anything but pressure." After what feels like only a few minutes, Dr. Edwards said, "Here he comes! His head is out! Dad - come up here and snap a picture if you want to!" Then suddenly, gloriously, we hear a gusty, angry, healthy cry. He's not even all the way out yet and he's already crying. I could hear both the laughter and the tears in Terry's voice as he rose to see his son -- his first child -- for the first time.
She couldn't take her wide, grateful eyes off of me and I could tell that she was torn. "Go," I urged. "It's okay. He's here! This is what you've been waiting for. Go meet your son." The intensity of her eyes tightened into a deeper, bluer thank you, and she finally released my hand then turned to be with her husband and new baby.
From my vantage point I couldn't see anything but I heard everything. As he finished the surgery, Dr. Edwards told me what a wonderful thing I'd done. As expected, I started to feel itchy and nauseous, so the anesthesiologist administered the phenergan and benadryl. The meds immediately alleviated the side effects and cranked the dial on the FuzzyBrain Meter a few notches higher. I heard someone call out, "He's HUGE! He's 8 lbs, 10 oz!" I noticed that my nurse was teary-eyed. Everyone seemed to be talking about something. Then suddenly, they were there, and it was as if the rest of the world faded away and there was only us. He was beautiful. They were beautiful.
He was Sam, not Tony. And he was perfect.
A few minutes later, Steph and Terry went with Sam to the nursery. Relishing my high, I promptly annouced to the whole world and to no one in particular that I was taking a nap and to please wake me when they were finished putting me back together.
I eventually made it back to my pre-op/post-op room where Frank was waiting for me. I blathered about the delivery then shooed him away to go to his yearly neurology check-up, which coincidentally had been scheduled for that afternoon. He made it back just before I was transferred to my recovery room less than an hour later.
Through the rest of the day, there was a steady stream of visitors. Members of my family and of Stephanie and Terry's extended families came to see me. One of the most special visits was from "The Grandmothers." Stephanie's mom (who'd also come to every, single, solitary RE and OB appointment), Terry's mom (who'd come to several ultrasounds through the pregnancy), and Terry's grandmother (who lives in New York; I'd met her earlier in the pregnancy when she was visiting) all came together to see me. They collectively gifted me with a beautiful card with a message from each of them and a huge Bath and Body Works collection of Japanese Cherry Blosssom products. That scent now always reminds me of Sam and is a "lucky" scent. Phone calls from family and friends poured in. I was buzzed from the drugs like a mofo, so I have more of a general memory more than a specific, clear set of post-delivery memories. I just know that I felt overjoyed, and I could feel everyone's joy around me.
I couldn't even be dampered by the behavior of the Special Care 4th floor nurses, who seemed to have missed the message that Sam was not your average Special Care baby. I can't blame them so much; they were just doing their jobs and wouldn't take Stephanie's word about the exceptions that should have been allowed. They wouldn't let Stephanie bring Sam down to see me no matter how much she argued. Finally, Steph whipped out every ounce of Southern sass that her skinny body could muster: Don't you THINK for a second that I'll let you keep me here. She CARRIED MY CHILD and whether you like it or not, I'm taking Sam down to see her. Now either I wheel his bassinet down there myself, or you can come with me if that makes you feel better. But I'm going, and you won't stop me. Finally Nurse Ratchet escorted Stephanie and Sam down to visit. Later, Stephanie would tell me that on the way down, the nurse suggested to her not to let me hold Sam for too long because I might want to keep him. Whatthehellever.
Even Nurse MegaBitch's hovering and suspicious eye couldn't detract from the joy I felt seeing Sam, Stephanie, and Terry again. It was after 9 pm and some of the cobwebs had cleared away. I was more lucid and Sam was calm. He already looked different than the baby I'd seen just that morning.
I think that that was when it finally felt real to me. In my mind, I could see the similar picture that the five of us had taken that morning, with Sam still on the inside instead of out. I exhaled. In that moment, I truly exhaled.
The next day I went upstairs to visit. Steph and Terry were exhausted, but happy. The Grandmothers, who had taken over the waiting area of the Special Care nursery, were amazed that I was up and walking.
Downstairs in my room, most of the in-and-out visits slowed to a trickle, which allowed me some time to rest. My surrobuddy Catherine came in to visit. I'd been to visit her at both of her post-surrogacy delivery recoveries, and she was overjoyed that she finally got the chance to return the favor. One surrofriend -- Stephanie -- had absolutely sinful chocolate-covered strawberries delivered to the hospital and another -- Rebekah -- sent flowers. I had a breastpump brought in, as I was donating my breastmilk to my friend and fellow Surrogate Mothers Online moderator, Lisa. She was finally q mom via egg donation. She had delivered her beautiful little sprite Jenna just five days before.
He is growing so fast and his personality seems to be growing even faster.
The first time seeing him again after delivery - June 2007:
Another visit, January 2008:
Sam's first birthday and two of my favorite pictures:
He's two years old today. He's bright and funny and thriving. Now when Stephanie calls, she's not the only one who does the talking. "Where Kym? Kym at school? Kym at work? Hi! Hi, Kym!" Unbelievable.
And Stephanie - she's there every step of the way. She's in the wings of this blog, lurking in the background and calling to pick me up when I am down. "Don't you forget," she says...rather, fusses, in that twangy Southern lilt, "don't you forgot what you did for us and that we're always grateful. I know that it's rough right now and I know how differently it could have gone for us. I'm always thinking of you and the couples you're working with and wishing for and praying for them. Don't you forget that. I'm always here wanting my history with you to repeat itself with someone else."
Happy 2nd birthday, Sam, my Meatball.
I hope and pray to have what I had with you once again.