This blog post was written by Rachel, our gestational carrier
I woke up at 5 am this morning…well actually at 12:30 am then again at 5 to pump for Scottie…I fully intended on going back to sleep. Yeah that didn’t happen…I am a homeschooling mama of 3 and we have co-op today, so a lot has to get done before we head there.
However, I wanted to FINALLY write this blog post as it has been sitting on my heart for awhile now. Today, Scottie is 8 weeks old…8!?! Time has flown and I cannot believe has been that long since I gave birth to her and handed her over to Erin and Matt (her parents). Even though it has been 8 weeks, it feels like yesterday! This whole past year has flown by…last year at this time I was preparing my body with meds to see how my uterine lining responded to an IVF cycle. I would be starting Lupron shots and then once we were closer to the transfer date, a HCG trigger shot and PIO shots. All to prepare my body to transfer two embryos in early January of this year…a day that changed me & my life forever. On January 12th, 2018 Dr. Catenacci at AFCC in Gurnee, IL transferred two embryos into my uterus. Both embryos were created from Erin’s eggs and Matt’s sperm. Scottie has no biological relationship to me whatsoever. The four of us (Erin, Matt, my husband, Daniel, and me) prayed before Dr. Catenacci transferred the embryos (Scottie and an embryo we found out was a boy later on). I remember laying on the table while Dr. Catenacci was transferred the embryos and saying to Erin, are you ready, mama!? She said yes…then saying to Matt, are you ready, papa!? Only to have my husband answer, yeah…laughter ensued and Dr. Catenacci had to ask me to stop laughing so she could implant the embryos in my uterus…obviously those embryos were not genetically related to my husband at all…he just wasn’t thinking when I asked that question. This was the first of many days in this journey that will stick in my mind for the rest of my life.
This last year has been surreal, especially with all the media coverage this surrogacy journey has received. The media coverage has been a little hard for me to wrap my brain around. When I offered to be Erin’s surrogate years ago…I didn’t do it for fame, recognition, or praise. I remember Erin asking me if she could share who was carrying for her…I prayed about it before I said yes. I hesitated sharing it was me that was carrying because I didn’t want this to be at all about me – I offered to be Erin’s surrogate because for four years I had seen my best friend and her husband struggle to conceive, then struggle with multiple rounds of IVF…all ending in heartbreak and miscarriages…six to be exact, all while I had gotten pregnant and carried two healthy babies (a boy and a girl) to term.
I saw the tears, the anger, the despair, and the heartbreak…each and every time…I felt it too…but I felt one other emotion as well, GUILT. I felt guilty being able to conceive “naturally” while my best friend had to endure shots and pain…and ending up with empty arms each time. It wasn’t fair…God knew it! He saw my huge heart, my tears, and heard my pleas and prayers in the shower for them, for their babies in heaven…and for their future babies. I believe that’s what he spoke to me and told me to offer myself as Erin’s surrogate. The moment He said it…it was as if a light bulb had turn on! Yes, that’s what else I could do to help…more than all the prayers…I could offer my body to help bring about their miracle here on Earth.
I knew when I offered Erin to be her surrogate, she wasn’t really to give up…on her body, on her dream of carrying her own child. So I said to her, I am willing to carry for you when you are ready if it comes to that…then I kept praying for her to be able to carry her child on her own. Unfortunately that prayer was not answered…I knew it was going to be hard for Erin to give up on her body and use mine to bring Scottie into this world. I say Scottie because Erin and Matt knew that no matter if they had a boy or girl…or even when he or she was born they would be naming their first child, Scottie, after Erin’s late father, Scott, who passed away in March of 2015.
From the very beginning of this surrogacy journey I knew I wanted to make sure I shared as much about this pregnancy with Erin because it was her daughter and I knew how bad she wanted to be carrying Scottie. The first trimester was awful to be honest…I threw up almost every day, sometimes multiple times a day. I had to switch from prenatal vitamins to Flintstones vitamins because I could not stomach them. I even threw up water and struggled to stay hydrated. I lost weight and Erin bought everything we could think of to help me get through the all day sickness and nausea. I had to give myself PIO (progesterone in oil) injections every day until 13 weeks 4 days as long as an embryo or both embryos took…my butt and hips were sore & bruised. I do not tell you this to make you feel bad for me or get any sympathy…nor am I complaining about it…because in reality I would do it all over again knowing full well how awful it would be. I share to be honest that the beginning part of this surrogacy journey was not at all glamorous as the end of it.
At 6 weeks 3 days we found out that one embryo (Scottie) of the two took…we saw her heartbeat flicker on the ultrasound screen in the small examining room at the satellite clinic of AFCC in Crystal Lake, IL. Erin couldn’t look at the screen until her nurse touched her shoulder to let her know all was OK. I just remember quietly praising and thanking God in my head for that small flicker on the screen – it meant it was just the first one many answered prayers. Once the PIO shots ended and the second trimester started everything changed – I felt fantastic and it almost meant we were out of the woods statistically for the greatest chance of miscarrying. Please know I never once thought I would miscarry…I went into this fully believing and trusting God that He would not have me offer to be Erin’s surrogate only to have it end in another heartache and empty arms. I just know getting to the second trimester because I have witnessed so much pregnancy loss is a relief for so many women.
We already knew Scottie was a girl as the lovely people at the Sneak Peek Test had offered to send a phlebotomist to my house to take blood. The test is a DNA blood test to see if there are any Y chromosomes in the mother’s (or in my case surrogate mother’s) blood. Obviously there was no Y chromosome and we knew that Erin & Matt were going to have a daughter…my best friend was going to have a daughter…I was carrying my best friend’s daughter…PURE JOY ❤ even better was youngest was to turn 3 (on October 3rd), close to when Scottie was due to be born (September 30th).
The second trimester was smooth sailing and before we knew it. I was in the third trimester and the baby shower was just around the corner…July 22nd to be exact. Another day in my life I will never forget – we were celebrating Erin, Matt, and Scottie. Erin asked me to say prayer before we ate – I was so nervous, but at church that morning before the shower…my pastor shared a scripture that I knew I had to use in my prayer. As tears streamed down my face…I prayed and shared Romans 15:13…May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit ❤ This verse symbolizes the faith it takes to trust God when you are struggling with infertility. On July 22nd I thanked God for answering Erin & Matt’s prayer and to be honest every person in that room’s prayer for Scottie…then I prayed for all the other women still struggling with infertility…that they would have faith and place their trust in God in turn receiving His joy and peace. Struggling for 2 years to conceive my middle child (my only son)…I understand how hard it is to do this.
On August 22nd, in a Fond du Lac County courtroom in front of Judge Sally Danner we had parentage court. To be honest before this journey I never thought about the legal process of surrogacy. I just thought oh women get pregnant with other people’s babies and then just hand them over when they have them…Boy was I wrong. In the State of Wisconsin (which is surrogacy friendly) when a married woman is pregnant the unborn baby is assumed to be the husband’s baby. So we had to go to court to deny our parentage rights and have Erin & Matt named Scottie’s legal parents – even though she was genetically their baby. I will never forget trying to fight back the tears as I answered questions on the stand. And the laughter when my husband answered his questions on the stand wrong…just one of the many things I married him for (his ability to make me laugh without even trying to). To be honest I wasn’t sure even after we (Erin, Matt, Daniel, and I) took the stand that Judge Danner was going to name them Scottie’s parents that day…I guess we were the first parentage case she had seen that happened before the baby was born. I prayed to God that Erin & Matt hadn’t drove 2 hours and we all hadn’t gathered their that day only to walk away disappointed we would have to wait. God answered another prayer and Erin & Matt were named Scottie’s legal parents that day <3.
So this is part of the story were God made everything perfect…what most people so not know is that I am a numbers person and I was so sure Scottie was going to come on September 22nd because the baby shower was on July 22nd, parentage court was on August 22nd…so it just made sense to me that she would come on that day. Also I had gone into labor with my last 2 pregnancies on a Friday night and delivered on a Saturday morning. Let’s just say it went like the saying goes…I planned and God laughed. On September 9th at 37 weeks exactly I went into labor and we all (except my husband) headed to the hospital only to have to head home because I did not progress…gotta love false labor…NOT!! Please know I was actually in labor…having contractions that were time-able…I just did not continue to dilate. This is the difference between false labor and Braxton hicks. At 38 weeks exactly I went to the Packers/Vikings game with my dad, Peter. The company he owns with his brother has season tickets and my dad always picks the Gold package games…if you ask him he did not want to take me that day in case I went into labor…however I insisted…I mean it is the Packers and the Vikings also I figured if I went into labor I am sure there were plenty of cops and medics around that all would be fine 😉 The best part of the game was when we found out the guy sitting next to us was a RE (Reproductive Endocrinologist) from Fargo, ND…I was in such awe of God…the stranger sitting next to us puts embryos (like Scottie) in women for a living! I called Erin right after the game to tell her ❤ Another thing that most people do not know is that in all 3 of my pregnancies I have gone into labor and delivered after having dinner with my dad…always between 38 and 39 weeks! So it was a running joke during Scottie’s pregnancy that I would go out to dinner with my dad on September 18th so Scottie would be born on September 19th (late Grandpa’s Scott’s birthday) and on Friday, September 21st because obviously Erin wanted her born on her dad’s (Scottie’s grandpa’s) birthday and I thought for sure Scottie was going to be born on September 22nd. Because God wouldn’t make it that perfect that Scottie would be born on her namesake’s birthday…God laughed…AND He made it perfect. Duh, Rachel!! On Tuesday, September 18th, my dad, Daniel, and I went to my favorite restaurant, The Sweet & Salty Pig…unbeknownst to me I consumed Scottie’s Last Supper in utero…Shrimp Prosciutto Gnocchi…it was DELICIOUS! I even joked in an Instagram post it could be Scottie’s last meal…I just didn’t really believe it…I was so sure she was coming on Saturday.
When I got home, I went straight to the bathroom and proceeded to clean my bowels…I texted Erin saying I think I may be in early labor and told her I would keep her updated on if anything proceeded. I went to bed and woke up with contractions in the middle of the night. I got up and out of bed to see if I could time the contractions…they weren’t painful, but I knew they were consistent…I texted our best friend, Laura, while she was at work and she helped me time them…They were only 11 minutes apart so I decided to go to try and go back to sleep. Earlier that night I had texted Mary Nieland, birth photographer from Fox Valley Birth & Baby, because my previous labors had been short…I usually deliver within 4 hours of arriving at the hospital. I wanted to make sure Mary captured everything in case Erin & Matt did not get there in time. This was my only fear during the pregnancy – that Erin and Matt would miss the delivery because of how fast Scottie may come once I was in labor. Wrong again, Rachel!! Once I got to Aurora Hospital in Oshkosh (about 25 minutes from my house) the nurse checked me at 4 am and then again at 5 am to see if I was progressing – I was and the midwife on call decided to admit me. So in my head Scottie was going enter the world at 8 am…that’s the way it had gone every other time. Let me tell you genetics definitely plays a role in labor and delivery – because 8 am came and passed and NO SCOTTIE!! By 10am I was 6/7 cm and not in active labor…I was walking the halls of the 3rd floor, laughing and joking with people I saw because it isn’t every day someone sees a very pregnant woman in a bathrobe and flip flops laboring in front of them 😛 I was completely frustrated and my nurse told me we could break my water if I wanted to help speed up labor…having walked about 10,000 steps and pumping colostrum to try and help me progress into active labor to no avail…I was all for getting the show started. So at 11am I asked my midwife to break my water – she asked me to give her one more hour, I gave in, however nothing changed in that hour, so at noon they broke my water…around 12:45 pm I started transitioning into active labor…contractions got painful and then around 1 pm became more consistent. After a few intense contractions while in the tub, I was checked around 1:15 pm and I was still at 7 cm…I was shocked and upset. I got back in the tub and proceeded to transition from 7 to 10 cm in the next 35 minutes. When I felt the urge to push they got me out of the tub and into the delivery bed. I was facing the wall laboring with my back to everything on my knees…I pushed 3 times and Scottie Elizabeth Mae came into this world at 1:52 pm…the next few minutes were a whirlwind. I could hear Erin sobbing and the commotion in the room, however I could not see anything because the umbilical cord was short and we were doing 90 seconds of delayed cord clamping. After that they turned me around and cleaned me up while Erin held Scottie…before Scottie was born Erin & Matt had decided that they would take Scottie to their room next door for skin to skin. I was completely ok with this…Scottie is Erin and Matt’s daughter – they get to make all the decisions for her, not me. Erin showed me Scottie for the first time before they left the room and I cried…she was here and God had made the day perfect…she entered the world on her Grandpa Scott’s birthday!! While Erin and Matt did skin to skin, Erin’s mom, Karen (Nana K) and her sister, Sarah (Tia Sarita & Scottie’s other godmother) hung out in my room. I vividly remember Karen (Mama Courtney as I call her) how my heart was doing…I told her I felt like blessed…because the from the moment Scottie was born I felt intense feelings of love and gratitude…It was as if God was in the room. I told her I felt like the lucky one because God used me to bring Scottie into this world. I had helped my best friend achieve her dream of being a mother to a baby here on Earth ❤
Before you think I am some perfect person or that I am super human, let me tell you I am just a normal person & I struggle just like anyone else. I am impatient as you can see from above…I have a temper, just ask my kids and husband…one that requires me to apologize and ask to be forgiven on a regular basis. Yes I am a Christian and I follow Christ…I believe in being selfless and loving each and every person here on Earth just like Christ did…however I am human. And in the last 8 weeks I have struggled with feelings of jealously and selfishness. Erin and Matt live 2 hours away from me and when Erin comes to Fond du Lac, everyone wants to see Scottie. I struggle with the amount of time I have gotten to see her and hold her. At moments I do not want to share her with anyone else besides Erin, but I will never be the type of person to take her from someone else who is holding her and am usually the person to offer her to someone else so I can share the love of holding one of God’s precious miracles. Because of these struggles, I have to pray, remember truth, and focus on gratitude. I know Scottie is not my baby, she will never be mine (not that I have ever had that thought). I surrender my selfishness to God and ask Him to give me peace and to cherish each moment I have with Scottie…I am so very grateful Erin & Matt accepted my offer to be their surrogate – even more grateful that they asked me to be on of Scottie’s godmothers. I am so grateful for each and everyone who prayed for Scottie and helped make this miracle come true. I believe this story is not about me at all…that it has always been about God and glorifying Him ❤️ So before you praise me or call me an angel on Earth…please know that I just see myself as an obedient servant of the Most High God who was willing to do what God asked me to do. And a good friend who wanted to help her best friend have a baby here on Earth. I hope and pray that by sharing my side of this surrogacy journey it will encourage other people to step out and help others who are struggling with infertility. Because in the end, you will be blessed more than you could every imagine – your life will be changed forever…you will feel like the lucky one…because above all…it’s about LOVE…this was a journey of love. God knew exactly what He was doing when I met Erin 10 years ago and we became best friends ❤ Love you PIC, Matt and of course, my goddaughter, Scottie…I thank God each and every day for y’all!! ❤ And I would do everything all over again for y’all ❤