Monday, January 7, 2013

Gone, Babies, Gone....

 This blog post written by Tiffany Burke, Surrogate Mother

It's a funny thing, the surrogacy.  It seemed like it took so long but now that it is over, it went by in the blink of an eye. In fact, it was so fast and feels so long ago that it almost feels pretend.  Did it really happen? Did I really carry twins for my brother?   Did I really give birth to them?   Sometimes it takes me a moment to remember it all happened, I think because I don't have two new little humans in my home to remind me.

So let's get to it!  A lot of you have sent in reader questions about how I am doing after the birth, and I have done my best to answer them here.

How are you doing emotionally now that the twins are gone?  How are you doing after giving the babies up?

One of the reasons I was inspired to blog and to film this whole journey was my curiosity about what happened to the surrogate after the birth. I was certain she said good bye to her surro baby/babies, went home, and lay in her bed and cried for 6 weeks while she healed and missed the babies.  Really.  I thought that. In fact, I was a little nervous it may happen to me! I know myself pretty well and I am confident in knowing how I will react in most situations.  But I am human, and there is no guarantee to knowing how I’ll really feel until it actually happens to me.  You can talk the talk, right?  So, in a way, signing up for this was a bit of a gamble with my feelings.  I was betting the lot that I would be just fine, but there was a possibility I would end up crying and brokenhearted. 

The exact opposite happened.  Honestly, I am doing amazing!   Truly! I feel so good - the best I have felt in a long time.  I could not wait to leave the hospital and be home with my boys, and to start experiencing life again without being so sick.  I have never, ever, in my life, been that sick for that long.  It gave me a new perspective.

I felt like as I left the hospital, they handed me a new body.  It was a little beat up, and a little weak from the blood loss, but I will take it!  I was no longer sick all day! I felt like I had a new take on life, a new chance at life with my children, and with my husband.  I was also on cloud nine because I had just accomplished something I never thought I would - giving birth to two children, who were not mine, and giving them to their parents who had been waiting so patiently to be with them. We had done it - all of us, not just me.   My "team" was my husband, my brother and Natalie, and all those supporting us along the way.  It really DID take a village.  

Also, I don't let my mind go to a sad place.   Carrying babies and giving them away is not a sad thing.   It could be if I made it that way, but for me, it is a beautiful thing and it makes me so happy to know they are in this world and being loved and snuggled by their mom and dad right now.  

I think it certainly helps that my husband and I do not want any more newborn babies, and of course, that I knew the entire time that those babies were not mine.   I always felt a different love for them, a different connection, than I did my own boys. At times I would feel guilty that I was not as connected to them, or feel like something was wrong with me for not feeling the same love I did during my own boys’ pregnancies.  

Still, right now, I feel torn.  I am happy I don't love them as much and that I don't miss them, but part of me feels guilty, as though I SHOULD be missing them, aching for them etc.   I assure myself this is healthy and good and I am happy I am not too emotional over this.  I have not seen the babies since they were 11 days old.   Each time I was going to visit or try to do their newborn photos, I would get sick and could not be around them.   Then we went on our road trip vacation to be with family for the holidays. Hopefully we will get to see them soon, we are planning a dinner soon at James and Natalie's and my boys will get to meet their cousins for the first time! 

                                                                   The last time I saw the twins in the NICU, can't wait to see them again!

Things that surprised me about after the surrogacy:

I saw a picture of someone (not Natalie) holding one of the twins and I was so jealous!  That was a new feeling.  Seeing Natalie and James with their babies makes me happy, but this new feeling was not cool.  It lasted a full minute and I moved on, but I thought that was an interesting and unexpected feeling!

Another surprising thing is that it feels very strange going in public now and being a "normal" person - meaning, not pregnant.  When I was pregnant, everywhere I went it was obvious I was pregnant and people would talk about it and we would share stories and connect.  Now, I am checking out at the grocery store and I have no babies, and I just want to blurt out "I'm fat ‘cause I just gave birth to twins..."  Then I realize how awkward that would be for all involved!  Going back to being a normal person without babies is good, but strange at times too.

The last thing that surprised me is a sensitive subject for me which I don't speak about often.  As some of you may have read, I unexpectedly lost my 20 year old brother in February (post here: ).  Then, about 6 weeks later, I was pregnant with the twins and I was sick very early on.  I don't think I had a proper time to grieve and I am having a hard time with it now, much harder than I hoped or imagined possible.  I am going to a support group and I may decide to open up more in another post.  For now, though, this is all I can really share emotionally because...well... I don't really know what else to say except that it is very painful and I try to stay moving the best I can and be positive for my kids.  I loved my brother so very much, he was one of the most beautiful souls I have ever had the privilege of knowing. I just really hate that he is no longer on the earth with us and I am adjusting to that the best I can.

What are you doing with your breast milk? Did you encapsulate your placentas?  

I had plans to donate my milk, since Natalie took medication to induce her breast milk and was able to nurse the twins. After the severe preeclampsia, I had to go on blood pressure medication. Although safe in breast feeding, the lactation consultant said milk banks would not take my milk, and I could pump and dump until going off the medication, then donate after that.  The doctors did not know how long I would be on it; it could have been a few weeks, or a few months.  12 weeks of pumping and dumping sounded terrible to me!   I was very unsure of what to do, so I went home and pumped and dumped for a few days and realized... it FELT horrible too.   I was waking up in the night and doing all of this, only to dump it out?  

Ultimately I decided I had put my body through enough, I just wanted to go back to functioning as I normally would.  I was fearful I would not lose my weight as fast or it would make me sad not to have the endorphins from pumping, or that I was not doing enough - what if there was a baby out there that needed my milk in 12 weeks?  It took a few days to decrease and a few weeks to stop lactating all together.  Hahaha, I'm publicly talking about lactating.  Oh I am SO immature sometimes!  In the end, I was very happy with my choice, I still wish I was donating for a baby, but I am happy to have my body back.  Also, I did not encapsulate my placentas but sort of wish I had.  It would have been fun to try!

How are your boys adjusting to having their mom "back"? And how are they coping with not having the "normal" end result of a pregnancy (a new sibling)?  Do they understand the situation?  

Our boys are so excited to have their mom back.  And I am so excited to be a mom again!  I can clean and play and cook.... okay fine, I don't cook.   But I am going to start!  I did make a delicious vegan thanksgiving meal and that was the start of something great, so what if it was almost 2 months ago?  :)  

Both boys have been great with understanding.  Our oldest is 7 years old and he has been so compassionate about the whole process.  Our youngest is 3 and he had babies in his tummy while I was pregnant, and when I came home he said, "Babies gone, gone babies. Where are babies?"   I told him they were at the doctor (still in the NICU) and they were with their mom and dad.  He still talks about his babies, and sometimes his babies are in his belly and sometimes they are at the doctor.   Mostly the babies are in his belly when he does something naughty, like find the advent calendar and eat the entire thing before day 8.   Then he blames the babies in his belly, "Babies eat chocolate mom. Babies sick now."  Hahaha  Overall, I know this experience took a toll on them, and I write more in depth about it in journals (Maybe I’ll publish a Kindle book?) but I know it was hard every time they wanted to play with me and I was too sick to do so.   So this is an exciting turn of events, having my energy back and being able to be with them fully.

                                                                     Shortly after the birth, just happy to be home with my boys!

Have you and your husband thought about adding another to your family? I know you have said this is your last pregnancy, but has the experience made you want another child?   

We always wanted to adopt through foster care after this and never had plans to be pregnant again.  We use birth control and are very careful, and before this I always thought, it would not be so bad if I were to get pregnant by accident.  Now, I would cry for a long, long time if I were to get pregnant by accident.  I know that sounds terrible, but you know, I tell it like it is!  It would, of course, be a blessing later but honestly, that pregnancy was so hard on me that I cannot imagine ever doing it again.   So we have ZERO plans of getting pregnant ever again.  In fact, we discussed having my tubes tied if I were to have a C-section, that's how much I don't want to be pregnant again :)    As for adopting, we are postponing it for a while so we can really focus on our kids and marriage and go from there.

Would you do surrogacy again or would you carry for a stranger?  

This is a hard question because I was so very sick and it took me away from my family. I will say this, if I had not gotten sick, I would do it again and I would carry for a stranger in a heartbeat.   There are so many deserving people out there, anxiously waiting to be parents.  I loved carrying the babies, the birth, the end result.  But clearly, this was the sickest I have ever been and I could not make that sacrifice again and put my body, my children, and my husband through it again.  Although I do fantasize about doing it again for strangers and that I would not be sick.  Fantasies can be good sometimes right?  I also fantasize about winning the lotto.  :)

Being a surrogate was one of the coolest things I have ever done in my life.  I am forever changed by it and I would love if I could do it for anyone else that needed me.   It breaks my heart a little that I cannot, but I am happy I was able to experience it once and the world it brought me into.

In closing:

When people ask, "How are you feeling after giving the babies up?"  I say this: I am feeling amazing and I don't feel like I gave them up, I feel like I gave them back. They were never mine.  For a short while I was blessed to give them a home and help nourish and love them until it was their time to be born. That was what I signed up for, what I wanted, and what I was happy with.  At times, I miss feeling them do their dance in my womb, but I also miss my own boys doing that.  Being pregnant is such a beautiful miracle.  It is bitter sweet that it was my last time. I am sad that the journey for me is over, but excited because theirs is just beginning.  I am just so joyful that there are two little humans in this world now, being loved and nurtured and growing so perfectly. I am so proud of them.   

                                                      Photo of James, Levi, Parker and Natalie taken by the amazing Jennifer Tai                

As always, thank you for reading.   On the blog next time, I will be writing about things I wish I had known before signing up for surrogacy.   This would not have changed my decision to do it, knowing what I know now, but would have prepared me more :)

If there are any questions I have left out, please feel free to post in the comments and I will do my best to answer them!     The twins are growing wonderful and James, Natalie and Hunter are so very happy.  We are all very blessed. 

“In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: it goes on.”
― Robert Frost