Though my Journey to carry June, and to give Brooke and Joe a daughter ended six months ago, our Journey together is far from over.
No I’m not talking about another baby (although that IS going to happen). No, I’m talking about this time in between new babies, and the relationship we have developed.
This past weekend Brooke and June came to Austin, it’s the first time they’ve been to Texas since June was born. Brooke E-mailed me a couple weeks ago and told me when they would be here and asked if we would like to visit. I was overjoyed! Of course we would love to see them! After replying telling her I would ask for time off of work, I sat back. I ended up being stuck in my own head. What if she was just being nice? What if she was worried that if she came to Texas and didn’t say anything to me I would be upset? What if she didn’t ACTUALLY want to see me?
She’s never given me any indication that any of these things are true. But we have a rare, and abnormal relationship. How many people have someone in their life that gave birth to their child, and isn’t their significant other or blood family? It’s different, and there are no hard or fast rules on how this relationship should be. We are in uncharted lands, wandering around, just figuring it out as we go.
I expressed my concerns to my best friend, who is in her own strange lands. A birth mother who has an open relationship with her daughter and the family raising her. She said that she often felt the same way, that my feelings were normal but that didn’t mean they were right. Her daughters parents loved her and enjoy the time they have together.
So was I being crazy? Does Brooke like to see and spend time with me? Or am I an attachment that’s hard to shake off?
Curtis, the boys and I drove to Austin (Emma got in big trouble in school and stayed with her grandmother for the weekend). I was nervous and excited to see Brooke and June, and also Brookes family. I walked up to the door and of course was met with big hugs from all. Junes grandmother had her when I walked in, and she handed her right off to me. There were many moments during the day when Brooke would have June in her arms and say “Oh look Aunt Chelsea wants to hold you!” and would hand her to me with no warning or without me asking. It was so nice. We talked about my new Doula business and I mentioned needing head shots done for my site. Alex (Brookes sister) pulled out her camera and took pictures of me, and my boys, and June. It was lovely. I met many of her friends who stopped in throughout the day. I was introduced many different ways:
“This is Junes Surrogate.” “This is the woman who gave birth to June.: “This is Chelsea, she birthed June.” It made me giggle how nonchalant she was about it.
We stayed up late eating, drinking wine, talking and playing card games. We talked about babies and how wonderful of a sleeper June Bug is. We talked about her moving to Texas someday and of Curtis’ future in films. We talked about Joe and we talked about my business. Her and her sister gave me the advice that I’ve been hearing a lot lately.
We finally went back to our hotel around 11 and we all slept like rocks. The next morning we got up and met Brooke and her brother for breakfast. Curtis held June (which he hadn’t really done, poor baby was afraid of his voice), and we enjoyed the little Austin Café. I was so sad to say goodbye, but I realized we already had our next TWO visits planned!
Maybe I don’t all the answers on how our relationship should be. Maybe there isn’t “a way”. No matter what, I love seeing June and all of her family. I love them in all the ways you would love your own, even if they are different than you. I love to watch our relationships continue to grow and I look forward to all of the time we have together in the future.
I knew that I was giving someone else a family, I never knew I would get one in return.
“Home is not where you are from, it is where you belong. Some of us travel the whole world to find it. Others, find it in a person.” -Beau Taplin
As many of you know, I recently took a trip home. By home, I mean New York. The place where I was born and raised.
I want to start at the very beginning, as I find that is the best place to start;
Manhattan New York.
I saw June bug for the first time since the day after she was born, and it was more than I could have dreamt of. I arrived at Brooke and Joes home and was already in awe of the city. I lived in New York state for 16+ years and never once made it to the city. I always dreamt of this place. I don’t remember when I first learned about the city, but growing up, I talked about moving there, working there, running away from home and going there. It was all I’ve ever wanted. My feelings were so validated.
I had received my birth video from our birth photographer the day before I left and held out on watching it. I wanted to experience it with Brooke and June. It was worth the wait. Brooke and I sat with June in between us. We were laughing and pointing out funny things we were so glad that Eva had captured. I teared up a bit, I can’t speak for Brooke.
Seeing June was awesome, and I felt like she really recognized my voice. She is such a happy, loved baby. She laughed when I blew raspberries on her belly, she smiled almost every time I talked to her. It was amazing. Brooke took me around her neighborhood, we got coffee and ice cream and sat at a park to feed June.
After walking around for a couple hours we went back to the apartment and got dressed to go meet Joe for dinner some where called “Dirty French”. It was so good to see Joe, and strange in my world to see him all dressed up (he came straight from work). The menu was in all French and I am embarrassed to say, that I only understood one word, thanks to ‘The Little Mermaid’. But J&B are experts, so I let them order for me. It’s refreshing to not be picky at all and trust someone else to order food for you. Check that off of my “experiences everyone should have” list. By the way, the food was Delicious!
After dinner Brooke handed me a little bag (it was two days before my birthday). Inside was a BEAUTIFUL Alex & Ani tree of life bracelet. I’ve worn it pretty much everyday since then.
We walked back to the apartment to put Joe and June to bed (it was about 9:30, remember that) and Brooke and I went out to hit the town! Our first stop was a bar called Mace. It was all fresh drink with real herbs and fruit and it was totally our scene. We joked that in order to be a bartender there you had to have tattoos and a man bun. Then we hit a couple other bars that were.. “younger”. I think we both felt a little out of place. Bright lights, loud music, crowded, just not our scene anymore. But we had a drink at each one and talked and talked and talked. It’s funny how far our relationship has come over the past 18 months. I remember a lot of conversations with long lulls where we didn’t know what to talk about or how to respond to each other. When we were still trying to figure each other out. We talked about our lives and our husbands. Our children and the future. We talked about our journey to June bug and our future journey to have a little boy. When we walked back to the apartment, we sat outside for a good half hour because just weren’t ready to stop talking.
I slept in June bugs room and volunteered to wake up with her in the morning. I had to be up at 6am anyway to catch my flight to Syracuse. Most of the time when I stay at someone else’s house it’s weird. You’re not used to their surroundings, their noises, their bed. But I slept sound and felt so comfortable. June bug didn’t wake up until 5am!!! Such a great baby. I changed her and fed her and snuggled with her for an hour while I waited for Brooke to wake up. It was so nice to have that time with her.
When Brooke woke up it was time to say goodbye. Our visit was short but oh so sweet. I knew that I would miss my second “family” but I will see them again soon I’m sure. (p.s. check off ‘take an uber’ from my list too!)
My next stop was Syracuse to see my mother and be with her for her wedding. I don’t want to write too much about this visit as it was a long time coming, and it was also two weeks long, but I do want to talk about “home”.
For many, many years I lived in a city named “Fulton”. It’s not where my mother lives, or where I spent a lot of time during my visit, but I did go there a few times as it’s where my sister, sister in law and many friends live. It was strange going there. I haven’t been there in over two years. The last time I was there, it wasn’t good memories being made. I went and saw Will, went to my spot by the river, visited a few friends, and just drove around looking at how the city has changed, and it’s changed a lot. So many things that were once there are gone, the city looked dirty and I saw a few people who looked homeless walking around.
As I sat and thought about the city that I once called home, a city that I sometimes long for, a realization came over me. This is not home.
I have found my home, my forever place. The place that I want to raise my kids, where I have a career that I love. A place that I’m comfortable and miss when I’m gone. Fort Worth. I never in my wildest dreams thought that I would some day come to love Texas as much as I do. So I enjoyed my visit to New York in so many ways. I loved seeing my friends and family and I so loved being able to spend time with my mother. It’s been a long time coming, but at the end, I was more than ready to come home. To my real home….. But maybe, someday… NYC…
“Your story isn’t calm. The road has been chaotic at times, filled with detours and rain and loss so sudden and soon. Sometimes the bliss was so elevated your heart could hardly hold it. Sometime it was maddening to have, and then to lose. You learn soon enough that it hardly ever goes as planned — gentle, easy, and smooth. But that my friend, is what makes you fascinating. You have something to tell. Something you’ve walked through. Something wild. Something courageous. Something true. You’re made of stories within stories within even more stories. Those quiet depths of you.” -Victoria Erickson
June went home three weeks ago today. I have kept in touch with them, we talk every few days and I see pictures of their beautiful family regularly. It makes my heart sing each time I see a smile on their faces holding that baby. I am forever changed by our journey.
I want to talk about a lot of postpartum stuff today. From some tips for all newly postpartum women, to the new emotional journey I’m on now that my part in Junes story is over. I’ll start with the light hearted stuff.
Whether you are a new mom or a surrogate or you’ve gone through a loss, the immediate postpartum period can be overwhelming. You are processing the birth (vaginal or cesarean), bleeding, healing and hormones. Not to mention learning about your new body and navigating your family and friends.
I found some new (to me) products that helped me greatly during my first days at home after giving birth.
Depends Diapers – Yes I know “But those are for old people!” WRONG! I always thought they were huge and just like baby diapers, uncomfortable and nothing I wanted any part in. But they are just like underwear with built in padding. Exceptionally comfortable. No mess. No ruined underwear. No pads that move around and get stuck to you. These were the best thing I have ever discovered and seriously, highly suggest buying some before you give birth. You can thank me later.
Earth Mama, Angel Baby – This line of organic products are made for pregnant, nursing and postpartum women. As I didn’t have a baby to breastfeed and wanted to my milk to dry up, Brooke bought me their “no more milk tea”. It tasted wonderful and got the job done! They also have teas to help increase milk supply. I was also gifted their Peri spray. It’s to help heal your lady parts from discomfort, especially if you experience any tearing during birth. They offer many more products for all sorts of things!
Acetaminophen – NOT RECOMMENDED IF YOU ARE BREAST FEEDING. I’m not big on taking any kind of medication especially pain killers of any kind. But my cramps were intense those first few days and I desperately wanted some relief. It did the job for me and because I wasn’t breastfeeding it was great and aided in my want to dry up my milk.
As the days have gone by I’ve started feeling a little more like myself every day. For me personally, I got lucky (genetics?) when it came to my postpartum body. I’m already back to my pre-pregnancy weight and fitting in all my normal clothes. I’m very thankful that I didn’t have to deal with those emotions during a surrogate journey. I (personally) feel it’s a little easier to deal with new stretch marks, fat, skin etc. when you’re snuggling your own baby. The emotions/hormones may have been a bit to deal with had I not bounced right back.
My close family and friends have continued to not only be understanding, but great support for me through the past three weeks. I’ve had a couple of hard days for various reasons and they have helped me in every way possible to work through them.
Emotionally how am I? Well, I’ll explain it to you the best I can. When you are pregnant with your own child you do your best to bond with them in the womb. You read to them and sing to them. You day dream about what they will look like and what their life will be like. Who will your child be? What kind of parent will you be?
When you are a surrogate you detach yourself. Instead you imagine your intended parents. You hurt for the losses they have felt. You imagine the look on their faces when they hold their baby for the first time. You spend time getting to know them, their story, their hearts. You become attached to them.
During my journey 99% of the communication was with Brooke. And those last weeks when I went over due, we literally spent every day together. We talked more than we ever had. We dreamed together of the baby growing inside me. I felt loved and important. I was doing something important.
How am I emotionally? I’m okay, but I would be lying if I said I never felt sadness or loss. But to much of your surprise, it is Brooke whom I miss. I find many times grabbing my phone to share news with her and trying to hold back. It’s not that she doesn’t want to talk or doesn’t answer when I do call, but she has a whole new life to navigate. I remember being a new mom, trying to figure everything out and falling in love more and more with my own daughter. They need their space and time to find their routine.
The other unexpected emotion that I am feeling is a little deeper (and mostly hormones). It comes and it goes depending on what’s going on around me, but it’s real. Uselessness.
After being a part of something so big and so important and it coming to an end. It doesn’t help that I can’t go back to work yet, Curtis is gone at work all day, my older two children and at school and my youngest being a very independent child. I’m trying to once again find my place in the world, my meaning. Who am I now? Where do I belong now? I know that I am not useless. I know that my husband needs me. I know my children need me. I know my friends need me. I know that even though my journey is over, I am still important. But in those lonely moments, that’s how I feel, and they are no less valid for me in that moment.
But a lot has happened in the past three weeks. Like, a lot. The first thing I can only give limited details on until we officially announce, but I was recently offered a catering job somewhere very near and dear to my heart. It lets me spend more time with people I care very much about, somewhere I feel at home and do something that I love to do. The second thing, is I got a phone call from the Marriott (where I’ve worked the past two years) and given a pay raise, out of the blue! I now make two dollars more than I did when I first started working there and that is really something! I’ve also done my best to stay involved in the community, in MY community with my people. I had a wonderful learning experience yesterday (that I also can’t officially talk about yet, but there will be a video soon). This was a medical learning opportunity that I never thought I would be a part of. It was truly amazing.
And then today my cup over flowed. A friend very close to my heart asked me why I had yet to get my Doula certification. The truth is, is that getting your certification isn’t cheap and I’ve never had the extra money (and the time at the same time) to go get it… This beautiful heart then offered to pay for my certification. Just wow. To know that someone has so much faith in me, to believe in me so much to offer something like that is beyond anything I ever thought possible. I of course tried to turn her down, but she insisted. I’ve been fighting tears all afternoon.
So what now? Who am I? Where do I go? I’m still not 100% sure what my future holds, but I do know one thing. The future looks so bright. The red threads connected to my life continue to show themselves in places I never expected. The hard work that I’ve put into my life, the love that I’ve given, the pieces of my soul that I have shared for all to see, it all matters. What you put out into the world you get back. This I truly believe. Dreams really do come true.
“Sometimes when making something so precious, beautiful, and unique’ it takes an extra helping heart”
As a surrogate you wait months (sometimes years) for one moment. The moment when you hand a baby to their parents. You imagine and dream of that moment, that one moment when a parent who was told “no” for so long, finally hears “yes”. The moment they see their baby. The moment they fall in love.
Brooke has known most of her life that she wouldn’t be able to carry a child. But about 6 years ago her and Joe decided it was time to find a way to make their dreams of a family come true. She talked to Doctors who told her she may be able to carry, and then said no, she couldn’t. They faced many set backs. When they finally turned to surrogacy, they found a surrogate, who ended up not being able to carry for one reason or another. So they found another surrogate, same situation. Finally they found me.
At 6:55am I was in the tub, feeling the waves, riding the waves, knowing each one brought June just a little closer to shore. I reached down and felt her head. Carla was behind me with a mirror and told Brooke to look. I heard her gasp. “Oh June”! I pushed and I heard her cry and gasp again. Each sound she made gave me more strength. I don’t even remember taking breaks between pushes. Just a nice deep breath.
At 7:06am I reached down and pulled June from the water. I put her on my chest and layed back.
It became a little chaotic. I could still hear Brooke saying Junes name. I started stimulating Junes back so we could hear that first cry. I felt weak so Carla helped. She let out that beautiful cry and I looked to Brooke who just looked,.. in love.
I looked at June and told her hello. She looked so perfect.
Brooke reached in and touched her daughter for the first time. I wanted to hand June to her, but I knew we needed to wait for the cord to stop pulsing. Brooke was so patient, knowing it meant a lot for her baby to get that blood.
Photo by: EvaDiana Photography Edit By: The Birthing Tree
She put her forehead on mine and thanked me. From there the emotion flowed, and there are no words, in any language that can describe the feeling I had.
I held her up for a minute so Brooke could get a good look at her, and so June could really see her mama.
After about 8 minutes on my chest there was still blood in the cord, but Carla said we needed to cut it.I looked into the pool and saw that I had started bleeding, heavily. Brooke cut the cord herself and I handed June to her mama.
The look on her face! It was magic! They moved Brooke and the baby to a corner with her mother and sister for skin to skin and bonding. I got up out of the tub and hung onto the side to deliver my placenta. Curtis on one side, Dana on the other and Carla behind me.
I delivered the placenta within a couple short minutes, as well as a lot of blood. Way more than you’re supposed to. They rushed me to the bed. I was exhausted, at this point I had only a short hour nap in over a 24 hour period, drank castor oil, had two membrane sweeps and gone through a 7 hour labor, and now I had lost a lot of blood.
I was given a pitocin shot in my shoulder and Carla was checking out my lady parts to see if there was any tearing (there wasn’t), and did a fundal massage (where they push around on your uterus to decrease bleeding).
After a minute I am able to get comfy on the bed and just relax. Dana brought me some snacks and orange juice and I chat with Stephanie (my best friend who showed up while I was in the bath the first time), Curtis and Dana. I watch Brooke and Alex and Cindi coo over the beautiful baby.
Curtis decided that everyone needed caffeine and I finally get to say the words “GET ME A REDBULL!!!!” It tasted better than I remembered.
At 8:15 Brooke moves over to the bed so that Carla can do the newborn exam. Brooke is an active part (add this to the list of things I love about birthing centers). First, they measured.
A perfect and exact 21 inches.
Then Brooke weighed her.
A perfect 8 Pounds exactly.
I was pretty happy, I had promised Brooke a big baby, and June cooked a little longer to make sure I wasn’t a liar.
13 3/4″ head, 140 Heart Rate, 14″ chest. 8/9 Apgar. She’s perfect. Carla swaddles her up good, and then I get to hold her. I can’t believe that this little person has been living in me! She is one of the most beautiful babies I have ever seen (other than my own of course).
I snuggled her and kissed her and just loved on her. I noticed something kind of strange while snuggling up with her. My own kids, I remember smelling their heads and just getting a huge rush of oxytocin, just falling in love harder. I smelled June out of habit and you know something, she didn’t smell like my babies! Not that she smelled bad of course, but isn’t science and nature amazing?! Though she came from my womb, my hormones (and/or hers) knew that she wasn’t my baby. No bonding, in love feelings. Oh I adore her so much and I can’t wait to see her again, but truly no feelings of loss.
I gave her back to her mama so that I could take an herbal bath (a wonderful thing that helps with healing and is so relaxing! Plus it felt nice to wash up a little bit!). I had a nice soak and then was ready to get out and eat something. I stood up and took Curtis and Danas hands. Right away I knew that something was wrong. At first I thought maybe I just stood up too quickly. I felt dizzy and weak. I slowly felt my energy drain, tunnel vision, tunnel hearing. I reached both hands for Curtis. He told me to squeeze his arm, I did the best I could. I heard him talking to the midwives saying that my grip was loosening but I was still trying. I half stepped, half Curtis lifting me out of the tub and was laid on the ground. Someone was holding my legs straight in the air, and Curtis was by my side holding my hand, talking to me. I have really no memory of the conversation going on around me. I heard their voices but not the words. I opened my eyes and Carla is the first face I remember seeing. For some reason my first thought was “Oh no I don’t want to go to the hospital”. Slowly my tunnel vision and tunnel hearing faded. Dana brought me orange juice that I sipped on and seemed to help along with a honey stick.
Finally they got me sitting up and on a stool that they wheeled over to the bed. An IV was placed (I don’t even know where it came from! I love that birthing centers have everything for an emergency, HIDDEN somewhere. No scary medical equipment unless it’s needed). Lissa (another midwife) brought in pancakes and bacon and I sat and ate and drank more orange juice.
Everyone gathered on the bed to take group pictures (I don’t have those yet) and I held June again. Curtis went to go pick up our kids so that they could meet June Bug and Joe had finally landed and was on his way to the Birthing Center. Joe got there first and I got to experience that moment all over again when he got to meet his daughter for the first time.
Magic all over again. It was beautiful to see them together.
My kids arrived and got to meet my belly buddy who they have watched grow over the past 9 months. It was adorable. Emma was the most excited, the boys were just kinda like “yeah, she’s cute but whatever”.
We all hung out at the birthing center for another hour or two. Just kinda enjoying each other, planning what to do from there. Brooke invited me to go to the hotel with them, as tempting as it was to spend more time with them I decided that a nap was what I wanted most.
I left the Birthing Center and went home with my beautiful family. Stephanie came over after my short nap and her and Curtis took good care of me. Later on Brooke and her sister came over, saying they had a gift for me.
They brought me this HUGE basket! Full of wine, snacks, things to help my recovery (like a rice heating wrap, no more milk tea, and peri spray), and things from my favorite shop in Austin (The Herb Bar). A ton of lavender things (which Brooke and I both kind of flocked to this pregnancy), a gift card from Brookes mom to a local restaurant for Curtis and I, and more wine! It was beautiful and so thoughtful!
They went back to their hotel and Stephanie went home. Laney called me and said she would be coming home that night and asked if I wanted her to stop in. We decided it would be nice for her to stay here. She got in late and we stayed up for awhile, me telling her all about my eventful labor and birth. When we turned everything off and went to sleep I passed out, HARD! It had been so long since I had been able to sleep soundly. Laney woke up every couple hours to see if I needed anything, but I slept the whole night.
The next day was my beautiful daughters 9th birthday, and also the day that Brooke, Joe, June, Alex and Cindi were leaving to go back down to Austin. Laney left around 8:30 and Stephanie arrived shortly after that. Cleaning up my house and helping to take care of the kids for me. She was awesome.
The whole crew showed up just after noon to say good-bye. Each of the kids got to hold June for a minute and say good-bye. Stephanie got in some baby snuggles. We laughed and talked about the baby and their first night together. I snuggled her and fed her a bottle and said my good-byes. To be honest it was harder saying good-bye to Brooke than the baby. Though I wish I had been able to get in some more baby snuggles before they left (who doesn’t love baby snuggles!?).
So that’s it… for now. I have a trip planned to NY in June and will be spending a night in NYC with them. I’m excited to see them in their own element, go out with Brooke and Joe and get me some more baby snuggles! She’ll be two months old then! Crazy thought!