Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Surprise Surrogate Reveal!

One of the most amazing parts of writing this blog is the joy of hearing from all of our readers.  We still get weekly and daily letters from people from all over who are struggling with infertility and other surrogates who are starting their journeys. 

Today, I received a beautiful email from a mother and a video attached that made me cry all the tears. 

Holly wrote in to tell us, sadly, last year, November 2013, she lost boy/girl twins at 21 weeks.  My heart broke as read her email. I cannot even imagine.  Then she went on to tell me something beautiful.  A friend of theirs had offered to be their gestational carry, and be the surrogate for them. 

Holly says:
"We kept our surrogacy a secret and surprised our family at 24 weeks, right after holding a memorial for my twins/spreading ashes.  My family thought we were taking a family picture (taken by a "stanger") but it was really our surrogate's husband filming!!" 

Pictured: Holly's family's reaction:

I love videos that surprise people with beautiful emotional things. I must say, I have never seen a video like this, and I don't know if it because surrogacy is so close to my heart, or because I know the loss this family went through, but I cried so hard I could not longer see the screen. Get tissues out, this is beautiful:

Amazing Video Here: 

We would love to hear from you, what did you think of the video? Post your comments below and let us know how it inspired you. 

"Giving of any kind...taking an action...begins the process of change, and moves us to remember that we are part of a much greater universe."  MBALI CREAZZO

With love,
Tiffany Burke

Monday, July 22, 2013

Surrogacy Together

Last week I was asked to photograph an event in Seattle for a surrogacy campaign put on by Surrogacy Together. A dear FBF (Facebook Friend) of mine was touring around the world doing a photo campaign to bring more awareness to surrogacy. Anyone who had any connection to surrogacy, was invited to participate. People were invited to write on the white board, what surrogacy meant to them. As a surrogate, I was thrilled to attend and of course, work the event as a photographer. Double bonus!  

I was able to meet my FBF, Jon, and his wife, Christy. I also met their daughter, Austin, who was born through gestational surrogacy. Meeting Austin was a first for me, as my nephews are the only two people I have ever met who were born through surrogacy. She stole my heart.

Jon and Christy's current campaign has been giving surrogacy a voice that it has not had before. Together, they are asking all those involved with surrogacy to speak up and tell their story.  Jon writes a compelling blog here about why he fought to have his daughter and why he is fighting for her still, and why all of us, together, can make a difference. Truly this is a must read.

Being an advocate for surrogacy myself, I found it easy to connect to this campaign. At first, surrogacy for me, was about doing an act of love for my brother and sister in law.  An opportunity to give, because I could. A chance to bring life into this world and love. As I became more involved with the surrogacy community, my ideas and knowledge of surrogacy evolved rapidly and still are to this day. Although I still believe it is an act of love, I believe what happens AFTER surrogacy is just as important as what happens before and during.  Without these voices that came before us, none of us, involved with surrogacy, would be standing here today.  Surrogacy is not 100% accepted in society, and in fact is still illegal in other countries and even some states here in the U.S.  Without our voices to continue to stand up for surrogacy, other people won't have the same opportunities. Acceptance for surrogacy is key here, and the more voices, the merrier.  

When it came my turn to write on the board, what surrogacy meant to me, I was stumped! I had so much to say (per usual). How do you put in a sentence or two what something so life changing means to you? I decided on two photos.  One that showed how much I changed from it, and one that showed the unsung truth. I feel I get a lot of praise for what I did. Praise is lovely, but that is not why I did it and I am not the one who deserves it the most. So many of us came together to make this happen. On my end, it was my little pod that made it possible for me; my husband, and my two sons.  

Some of these photos may appear in the first Magazine dedicated to Surrogacy that is coming out on August 24th. I am being interviewed for the magazine, so keep your eyes peeled. I will let you know when it's published.

Also, I have only met one other surrogate in real life ( read the story here ) and so meeting other surrogates was really special for me. I belong to an amazing group of surrogates online, we are surro sisters and they are like family to me.   Meeting other surrogates last week was actually magical to me! It was like seeing a unicorn. I know that sounds silly, but I am just so overwhelmed by women who do surrogacy.  Even though I went through it, I don't always feel like I was a surrogate. It went by so fast now that I look back. I am not sure if this even makes sense, but there is something so special about these women, that you just want to sit and soak up their energy.  It was really nice being with them and I want to sit and gab with them forever! Which of course, is no surprise there. Here are a couple favorites from the day:

Jon's campaign is still going. Follow updates on their Facebook Page. Surrogacy Together is also hosting their Inaugural Salute to Surrogacy Celebration August 24th, 2013 in San Diego, California from 6-10pm. More details on the event page here

Oh, and here is what my oldest son wanted to say about surrogacy. Our littlest does not totally understand yet, but he is enthusiastic anyway!

Monday, June 24, 2013

A Stop And Read

The pictures you will see on today's blog are some very moving photos.  Feel free to skip the story and scroll straight to it, but I don't recommend it. :)  It's such a beautiful story and really makes these photos even more inspiring.  But I might be biased!  

 A few months back, I received an email from a mother, Jenn, who was expecting her own child via surrogacy. She needed a photographer to document some of the upcoming milestones, baby shower, maternity, birth, newborn.  I remember turning to my husband with an excitement I had never felt before! As many wonderful emails and stories that have come my way over the last two years since starting this journey, I have never met, in person, another surrogate or intended parent.  My heart was about to burst. One funny side note, Jenn contacted me because she loved my photos, she had no idea that I was also a surrogate. Before I could respond to her email, she had written again telling me she just realized I was a surrogate and that she was a follower of my story already!  It was destiny!  

When I first met Jenn (IM/Intended Mother) and Lauren (surrogate), I was smitten. I did not want to leave either of their sides. I over stayed my welcome, I am sure, and just sat by them.  As the birth drew closer, I began to get more and more excited. I love photographing births, but this one would be extra special.  Jenn was going to help deliver her own son, as Lauren pushed him out.  Teamwork from the beginning all the way until the birth.  

                              Lauren (Surrogate, pictured left) and Jenn, (IM, pictured right) the day I met them.

A little back story on how Jenn and Mark got to where they are today: Jenn and Mark have two sons already. Collin who is 8 years old, and Jack who is 4.   When Jenn got pregnant with Collin it was a surprise. She and Mark were in the process of starting an adoption when she found out she was pregnant. They had chosen adoption because Jenn had had unstable type 1 diabetes for 22 years. During the pregnancy her kidneys started to fail and so Collin wasn't growing. 

The doctors tried to get Jenn to terminate the pregnancy but Jenn knew Collin was a fighter and she continued on. He was born at 26 weeks weighing 1 pound 4 ounces. The doctors thought maybe Jenn's kidneys would come back after Collin was born but they didn't, so 5 weeks after Collin's first birthday she had a kidney and pancreas transplant. After the transplant Jenn went on the website and this is where she met Lauren. Jenn and Mark knew they wanted more children but didn't want to go through another life and death situation for mother and baby.

Lauren and Jenn talked off and on for a few months until Jenn's doctors told her it would be ok for her to get pregnant again since she now had new healthy organs. But in week 11 of the pregnancy Jenn's organs started to reject and again they were faced with a life and death for their baby. Again Jenn fought for her baby and won having Jack at 32 weeks. He was 4 pounds 6 ounces and she thought he was fat! As over the moon she was with her little family Jenn just knew it wasn't complete.

She continued to talk with Lauren and other surrogates on and pray about this big decision and eventually discovered that not only did Lauren live in Washington state, but she literally lived right around the corner from Jenn! It was an answer to prayer! They arranged to meet and not only did Jenn's heart connect with Lauren's, the boys bonded to Lauren's two kids. For the next 3 years Jenn and Lauren continued to talk about surrogacy but weren't sure it was going to happen with everything else going on in their lives. Lauren had another child of her own and Mark and Jenn moved, but their friendship grew and their love for one another and their families grew. 

Finally last May, Mark and Jenn knew they were ready and Jenn took a pregnancy basket over to Lauren to tell her they were finally ready. Though the pregnancy wasn't always an easy one, as Lauren had to be on bed rest for a number of weeks in the beginning due to a bleed and she went all the way to exactly 40 weeks when they thought she'd deliver earlier, Jenn felt like they went through the pregnancy together. Lauren might have been doing this FOR Jenn and Mark, but it felt like she walked side by side with her through every step of the way. It was a beautiful emotional time.

Although Jenn and Mark had considered adoption in the beginning and were huge advocates for adoption as they have a cousin that is adopted, after having their own children and getting to see one another in those children's faces and actions and personalities it seemed like surrogacy was the best option for them and their family.  Baby Will was due June 14th, 2013. 

I got the call ON baby Will's due date and rushed down trying not to speed (I drove six miles per hour over the speed limit, shhhh).  I arrived right as Lauren was getting her epidural in.  She has given birth three times before and has never had one.  Needless to say, she was enjoying the rest of the birth on a whole new level!   The room was full of people, Jenn and her husband, Mark.  Lauren (of course) and her husband Erik and their 8 year old daughter Jo Jo. Two nurses, myself and the spectacular earth angel midwife, Gretchen.  To me, it did not feel crowded at all, it felt like family, every one of them.   

When it came time to push, Gretchen and Jenn assumed the position. Gretchen lovingly guided Lauren as she began to push baby Will down.  Mark and I stayed hidden in the back corner, recording video and photographing and pretty sure holding our breath (at least I was!).  I could tell the baby was almost out because Jenn's face  morphed into this beautiful expression of love that I could never describe yet only able to recognize as love I have felt for my own children the first time I saw them.  Her face genuinely describes that feeling.   The photo of her helping deliver her son, gets me ever.single.time.

I still cannot believe I was able to witness such a beautiful miracle.  To me, a truly once in a lifetime chance to see and photograph a birth like this. I am so in with love my job, and the people that have continued to bless it with their presence and the stories and memories they share with me. 

                    Jenn (intended mother) holds her son, Will, a few days old. With her friend and surrogate, Lauren, that      
                                                                     carried Will for Jenn and her husband Mark.

The past two years have opened my heart to so many beautiful things in this world.  Surrogacy has not just changed me because I was a surrogate, but because of the community it brought me into and the ways it has opened my eyes and my heart (remember, I used to be anti IVF and Surrogacy!).  I invite everyone to look deeply into all the ways we build families these days and to rejoice in the love that is used to make these families.  Because the rest doesn't matter.  Just the love.  Just the love. 

  As always, I love reading your thoughts.  What did you feel when you saw these photos? How has surrogacy changed and affected you?  I would love to hear from you and thank you for stopping by.  

With love,

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Confessions of My Perfect Life

I wanted to do an adorable Valentine's Day post with these really cute photos of my boys, maybe some heart shaped balloons or some twinkle lights.  Maybe they had adorable matching shirts that said "Chick Magnents" with little chickies on them? The Pinterest photo ideas were endless!  Then I could blog about love, and say some really inspirational things about how love is so important on Valentine's Day and every day. And maybe even go off on a random tangent on how I have never liked Valentine's Day because you should not wait for a holiday to show someone you love them, but having kids made me love it again because all holidays are magical to them and bla bla bla and the post would be perfect and maybe even make someone tear up cause of the love talk ...  and then... and then.... it just never happened.   Homework happened, shopping for twin day at school happened, over splashing in the bathtub happened, syrup snuck into the bed and all over the pillows, sheets, comforter, toddler hair and walls happened, bills happened, too much time spent on the phone fighting the automative service robot ladies happened.  This week I missed my train, I burnt a new dinner idea (found on Pinterest, dang you you little rolled grilled cheese sandwiches you!), have not unpacked from my trip (hubby tripped over suitcase in middle of night when going to comfort little one who escaped from the bedroom running around the house crying), let my office explode with work and not tidy it up, and I didn't brush my teeth before bed last night GASP! The list does go on!

I'm an imperfect mom, imperfect daughter, imperfect wife, imperfect sister, imperfect friend, imperfect business owner, and even an imperfect blogger!   But I am leading a perfect life. Sometimes a feel a lot of pressure to appear perfect looking.  I feel my house always has to be in order, my looks, my kids, my life.  I feel with social media the way it is, we all have to be on display a certain way.  I feel like I want to impress total strangers so they think I am a good mom, a clean, organized put together person.  But why?  Why do some of us feel that way?  Where did that feeling come from?  Why do we need to impress so much. So today, I let go of that pressure like a fart in the wind and celebrate and confess who I am really am.  I encourage you to do the same.  Here are some confessions of my "perfect" life, don't be too jealous:

My dishes are perfectly not cleaned today.
My laundry is perfectly not folded today (and  slothily falling behind the washer and dryer and yes I made up that word).
My hair is perfectly a hot mess today.
My boys are perfectly fighting and annoying each other today.
My bills are perfectly overwhelming today.  
My heat in the house is perfectly set to  50 degrees, my fingers are perfectly frozen as I type this.
My car is perfectly not working or starting and leaking and most likely an animal is living in the door.
My tummy perfectly jiggles when I brush my teeth.

My life is not perfect, it will never be Pinterest perfect (although you know I am going to keep trying for Pinterest cute!) and I would not change a thing.   Okay, maybe get my hair done, and lose 20 lbs, no.. make that 40 lbs.  And invent calorie free wine. Oh and toilets that magically clean themselves, that would be lovely.  But other than THAT, I walk around with wings on my smiling heart, trying my very damn best not to take the really important and amazing things for granted.  It has not been easy, some really hard times have gone before me and will come again.  I must power through the best I can, and just keep swimming. Thank you for my perfectly imperfect life. To everyone who has contributed to it.  To my husband, my two sons, all my parents, my siblings, my in laws, my niece and my nephews, all of my family, my friends, my readers.  You have contributed to my awesome life.  I promise every breath I take during it, will be filled thank you beats from my heart.  

Speaking of hearts, here is a photo taken last night of my two hearts.   It was not the planned photo I imagined, I didn't get the cute outfits, the cute backdrop, the heart balloons.  But I ended up getting the heart from this photo, even better than what I originally wanted. I got my two boys, straight out of the bathtub in clean un matching jammies, being themselves and we didn't plan it.  Imperfectly perfect.  

What are some confessions of your "perfect" life? Comment below or on the Facebook page, I would love to hear from you!

P.S.   I want to be perfect so bad, and to fight that urge, I am NOT sending this blog to my editor today for corrections before posting.  She is reading this for the first time live, just like you guys and probably having a heart attack over all the mistakes!

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


Friday, December 7, 2012

The Birth of the Surrogate Twins

  • This Blog Post was written by Tiffany, Surrogate Mother

    Warning, readers beware: I don't have a filter when it comes to birth stories (or much else for that matter). I love birth, I love hearing birth stories, and nothing about birth grosses me out - I think all of it, even pooping on the table, is a beautiful process. Yup. I have tried to class this up knowing it could get back to my grandma, but no one's perfect and some potty talk has slipped out in order to keep the story authentic. You have been warned. If that does not bother you, grab your tea, sit down, and have a nice read about how I welcomed my two nephews into this world.
    They say there are two sides to every story. Well, with over two people being present during the birth of the surrogate twins, I have a feeling there will be more than two sides to this story. In the meantime, this is my side.
    Thursday November 8th 2012
    Time for my 34 week check up! Technically I was 33 weeks and 6 days, but it was time for a check up. I went in feeling fine, a few daily contractions (as it had been since about week 20) and the typical swelling that started very early in this pregnancy. My ankles looked like I had Shrek feet! My doctor had been keeping an eye on me for Preeclampsia, so I was not too concerned with my swelling, plus I have lovely blood pressure. The babies sounded great, everything seemed good except for... my blood pressure! This time, it was about 160/108. My doctor asked me what I was doing this weekend, I said "Working, photoshoots, I'm still working and will be... why... I'm working." I was set on working apparently. He said that I might need to go to labor and delivery for a work up since he was concerned with the blood pressure. Then he said if it dropped before the end of the appointment he would let me go to the lab for blood work and head home with the 24/hour urinalysis. Sounded fun! My blood pressure cooperated and the bottom number dropped to about 94 and he sent me to the lab. As I was leaving, I remember he said, "You just have to make it to tomorrow." That day would mark exactly 34 weeks, which meant I could deliver at our local hospital instead of being transferred or having the babies transferred since our hospital only goes to 34 weeks for the NICU.
    Friday November 9th 2012
    I don't want to wake up. I am still so sick! So I try to wake up, I putter around the house, I check client emails, and then I go throw up and frown about it and go back to bed. Oh, and I started to collect my pee like a hoarder. I started at 9 am and sat on the toilet and collected in the "pee hat" and then poured it into the big jug. Falling back asleep after being sick is hard, because you feel so sick that you almost can't sleep, although it's your only real escape! I finally fall asleep and because I am pregnant with twins, I'm up 2 hours later having to pee again. And, back to sleep I go.
    By 2pm, I was feeling like I should wake up and I feel like I have wasted yet another day, but I DID feel less nauseous around this time of day and I needed to go edit photos. I went to collect my pee in the hat again, and then stand up and dump it into the collection container and BAM, my water started breaking, all over the bathroom floor. Since my water broke with both my previous pregnancies, I knew exactly what it was. Panic set in for some reason and I just started yelling for my husband. He came running into the bathroom as fast as he could, he found me standing there, naked, with the pee jug in my hands and amniotic fluid dripping on the floor (and yes, he is still married to me). I told him my water broke and he says, "Oh shit!" then we both sort of stand there and don't know what to do. He went to get all the camera gear ready for filming, and I continued to leak water. Suddenly I had a thought. When my first son was born, my water broke at home and by the time I arrived to the hospital, they told me it was not amniotic fluid, but that I had just peed my pants. I said, "I pee my pants ALL the time, I know the difference!" I did not want this to happen again, so I decided to collect my amniotic fluid in the pee hat and then I stored it in a small Tupperware container (pictured below with my swollen face as well) and packed my pee jug and amniotic fluid for the ride. I called the doctor's office and they transferred me to the triage nurse and she said I needed to go straight to the hospital. I asked her if I could take a shower first (I would have liked to have semi pretty hair when I started birthing and maybe some freshly shaven legs). My request was denied. She reminded me I was 34 weeks with twins, and to head to the hospital! I knew she was right, so I put on some deodorant, sprayed some smelly stuff all over my body (Febreeze?) and called it good. Sorry in advance hospital staff.
    I called Natalie, and my heart was racing! I told her my water broke and she replied, "You're joking!" I said no, and in fact, it was still happening! She seemed as frazzled as me, unsure what the next step was. Obviously we both had to get our butts in gear and husbands in tow! James and Natalie live two hours away from us and it was a Friday afternoon around 2 pm. We hung up and I went to pack my hospital bag. Yup, I had not packed it (even though I made Natalie pack hers weeks ago!). I threw random items in there (none of which were useful later on, wrinkle cream, a spork, undies that did not fit, yeah, I was a packing champ) and worked on getting a babysitter for our boys, then Sean and I were on our way.
    We arrived at the hospital a little after 3 pm, and the hospital staff was ready for us! A quick history for those that don't know; my first son was born within 3 hours of arriving at the hospital and 20 minutes of pushing (just 4 hours after my water broke). My second son was born 6 hours after arriving at the hospital, and 45 minutes after my water fully broke, it took about 4 pushes. My births go fast and the staff did not want to take any chances. At this point, I was not having any big contractions, still just the every 20 minutes or so, nothing exciting. I began to feel very nervous. I had been so confident that I could have a vaginal delivery with the twins, epidural free, and as I walked through those hospital doors, I started to think I was a little crazy for signing up for all of this! I also began to feel a little sad that the journey was coming to an end. Even though I had been sick the entire pregnancy, and wanted my body back, I still enjoyed being pregnant with them and enjoyed being a surrogate. I was unsure how I would feel after all of it and that made me nervous and sad. I went inside to check in and I gave the nurse my amniotic fluid so they could test it (it was a first for them!) and that bought me an automatic trip to Labor and Delivery.  Since I was exactly 34 weeks to the day, they would allow me to birth at my local hospital - no transfer necessary! 

    I had been seeing the same doctor for my whole pregnancy, and had been very spoiled. I hand picked him from tons of great recommendations for his expertise in twins and loved seeing him during the pregnancy, he is an incredible doctor. Well, guess who was in a class in Seattle that day? So, in walks a doctor I have never met before, she introduces herself as Dr. Russo and I am already very suspicious of her. I was afraid she wouldn't let me try an epidural free birth, I was afraid she would make me get on it right away, or decide that a C-section would be the way to go. Of course, I would have done any of those things if they were safest for the babies and myself, but I really just wanted to try at having another natural child birth and I really believed my body could do it. I have had some experiences in the past where a doctor's first instinct is to put you on the drugs and move things along, and not knowing this doctor, I feared the worst for some reason. Thankfully, I could not have been more wrong. She told me that she knew I wanted to try this without an epidural and that she fully supported it! We talked about my hope of trying, and how I also would let her guide me and tell me if I needed to stop being stubborn and start accepting the fact that it might not happen. I immediately loved her.
    With twins, it is normal hospital procedure to give birth in the operating room, in case you do need an emergency C-section for some reason. For example; if you vaginally deliver Baby A (who typically is born first and named baby A because he/she implants closest to the cervix) and then Baby B is not head down, you might need an emergency C section. In the mean time, you labor in the labor and delivery room and then when it is time to give birth, off you go to the OR. When we arrived, the ultrasound showed both babies were head down, which was great news because it meant that meant I would get to try for the vaginal birth! At some point after checking in, it became apparent I had preeclampsia. I think they dipped a stick into my pee that I brought in and then checked for protein. I was VERY swollen and my blood pressure kept rising. I was put on magnesium and told it might be pretty miserable sickness wise. After being as sick as long as I was, I doubted this magnesium rumor would have any affect on me! In actuality, I could not tell if my nausea was from the morning sickness (can it have a new name please?!) or the magnesium, but it was not too bad and very manageable. The magnesium would prevent me from having seizures and other things I can't remember and am too lazy to Google. My contractions were starting to pick up slightly, becoming a little stronger and more consistent, but still nothing where I thought it was time, and I was only 3 cm dilated.
    I remember asking several times where James and Natalie were, I was very afraid they were going to miss the birth. While we waited for them, I met the anesthesiologist. I have never met one before and I sassed him and let him know I wouldn't be needing his services. He was a good sport about my joking and he was very informative about the risks of my choice (if for some reason Baby A came out and Baby B got stuck, they would have to knock me out to perform an emergency C-section, or if the Dr. could retrieve the baby, she would do so by going up my vagina, up my cervix and into my womb without the epidural and I would wish I had one). I understood everything and he also told me that if I needed him, he would be by my side the entire time we are in the OR. As much as I sass about the drugs, this made me feel calm.
    During all of this, my sweet husband was taking care of me, filming, staying in touch with people on the phone, and being amazing. I kept looking at him in wonder from time to time and was so astounded by how calm he was and how much he was juggling.
    James and Natalie arrived at 4:30 pm, I could not explain the relief I felt to see them and that they made it. Just typing this sentence and reliving the memory gets me almost teary eyed at the thought of them making it on time. My contractions were not too bad so we were able to enjoy a few moments together in the labor room. During all of this, the nurses were working hard to get the babies' heart rates on the fetal monitor. Baby B really was not cooperating. Both babies were moving too much and after several attempts by different nurses and too much time going by, Dr. Russo recommended we monitor the heart rates from inside. What?! That did not sound like a fun time to me. She explained the take a small catheter type thing and insert it up my lady parts and attach it to the babies' heads. It is a tiny clip on their heads, it does not hurt them or me, and we can safely get a reading. She suggested it so we can keep monitoring their heart rates to make sure the babies were not going into distress (internal fetal monitoring). This sounded like it was what was best for them, so I let James and Natalie decide what they wanted to do, since it's their babies and all! They decided yes and I feared the pain of something more going up there, however, it was not bad at all! I think it brought us all relief too, being able to genuinely monitor them after that.
    As my memory goes from here (correct me if I am wrong readers who were there, I know there are some of you!), my contractions started to pick up for the next 2 hours. From 4:30-6:30 I could tell they were getting stronger, harder and I felt as though I was getting close to delivering. I was checked around 6:30 pm and I was about 5 cm dilated. Wait... what? How could that be!? That did not seem like much at all and I really felt like I was getting close. So I spent some more time contracting and around 6:45 I wanted to go to the O.R. This was hard for me to ask for. I felt confident that the babies were coming soon, but only being 5cm dilated, there was a part of me that felt I could possibly be wrong and would waste everyone's time and hold up the O.R. if someone else needed it. I also was concerned my doctor would not believe me when I said I felt like I was getting close, and that I would deliver the babies in the wrong place. She came in after hearing my request of wanting to go and guess what? She believed me and was all on board for heading to the O.R! It felt incredible to be validated for my intuition and that she trusted me enough to move us.
    James, Natalie and Sean all got in their little blue suits and head pieces. They looked adorable. I was wheeled down the hall and at this point, time started to go by much faster as I was shaking during each contraction and they were no longer peaceful. Meaning: I was being loud during them! We arrived in the O.R. at 6:50 and I immediately felt out of place. I have never been in an O.R. and it was a little eerie to me. I remember getting on the new (tiny/made for Kate Moss) bed and looking up at the big lights and I began thinking of all the women who came in here to deliver their babies. I was not thinking of people in surgery, or anything like that. I thought of women who were scared to be cut open, who maybe planned a different birth. I thought of the women excited to come here and meet their babies, I just thought so much of all the women and babies who were here and then a contraction hit and I thought no more.

    My contractions were getting closer and closer and a few were coming on top of each other. By 7:15 pm I insisted on being checked again. I knew I was close and this would help me through the rest of the pain knowing I was at an 8 or a 10. Nope. I was checked and I was maybe at a 6. WHAT!!!!! In the video, Dr. Russo checks me and tells me I am at a 6 and I say very calmly, "No... that's wrong." And very calmly back she says, "No... it's not. " I laughed at the video but at the time, I was devastated! I told her to go get Dr. Pitch and to give me the epidural. You know what's silly? At this point I was thinking to myself, "Great. I mouthed off for months about how I was going to give these babies a natural birth into the world with no epidural and of course I can't do it and I have to let down Natalie and James and THEN I have to face all my readers and tell them what a failure I am."
    First of all, I know I would never let down James and Natalie by asking for the epidural. Second of all, why would ANY of you think I was a failure for needing an epidural and why would it bother me if you did? I certainly don't think that about any of my friends who have had epidurals, so I have no idea why I thought this would be a thought directed towards me. Such a silly and fleeting thought because my next thought was this: "Oh my God. I am going to get the epidural and for the next 4 cm I am going to have a fun time! I won't be in this shaking pain, I will get to enjoy the birth and relax and pee into a catheter whenever I feel like it instead of all over the table. Score." Dr. Russo brought me back to reality by saying, "Now Tiffany, I just want to remind you that you told us if you call down for the medicine, it means the babies are coming and not to give it to you." I replied with, "Well, you're telling me I am only 6 cm so I am pretty sure I can't keep going, I want the meds." She was so supportive of whatever I wanted to do and she brought me Dr. Pitch.

    Now, here's where it gets exciting! Around 7:20, Dr. Pitch, the anesthesiologist, came in to go over all the protocol for the epidural. I really did not care. I just wanted the drugs and wanted them stat. I have never had one before and just assumed it would be heaven sent. James and Natalie had to leave the room for this, so they stepped out. I finally turned onto my side and curled up in a ball (how familiar does this sound to many of you?). He said he was first going to administer some Fentanyl into my I.V. to help take the edge off. Once that entered my system, I felt as though I had had two glasses of wine. It actually felt rather nice, rather fast! Literally within moments, I felt a little "fun" inside. Right away he went to work on getting my back cleaned as I felt two glasses deep on a nice Cabernet I could feel him cleaning it and then within about two minutes of receiving my "wine in a line" drug, and Dr. Pitch was preparing the Epi (pictured below), I began to feel the need to push. In fact, my body decided to push whether I wanted to or not!

    At 7:27 pm I suddenly yell, "The babies are coming! UGHHHHHHHH I'M PUSHING!" and I start to grunt and want to be on my back right away. They helped me onto my back and Dr. Russo is at the receiving end of my claim that babies are on their way. Within about 30 seconds I hear her say very calmly but matter of factly, "Peds, someone call peds." I start to realize this is actually it. It's really happening! My body pushed and pushed for 26 seconds (I just watched it on the video and timed it, cause that's how I roll) and suddenly, there is a baby born! I remember the baby coming so fast and not being able to help but push, my body was working on it's own with this baby. I also remember feeling him being so very small as he came out (remember my last baby was 9 lbs 4 oz) and at first, I thought I delivered the placenta first (why I would think this, I don't know). Then you hear the most beautiful noise ever; a new born baby's cry. I realized then that I did give birth to a baby after all and the first sentence out of my mouth was "Where's Natalie?" I was so afraid they had missed the birth because they had to step out. I am not sure what happened, but I think a nurse went and grabbed them and they made it just in time to see their son, Parker, born. Looking back on the video, you see James and Natalie crying with joy and staring at this beautiful little human (picture below of their reactions... warning, get tissues). As Natalie sobs and looks to me saying, "He's so beautiful... he's so beautiful!" James is waving a little baby wave and saying, "Hi! ... Hi!" to his new son. He then cuts the cords and you can hear him cry with joy as they both stand together looking at their new baby. I am so happy to have this footage because the whole birth is a blur. Life is a blur, but birth really is and this was one of the most amazing moments of life ever, ever. Ever. In fact, I am crying as I write this part. Parker was born at 7:28 pm weighing 4 lbs and 13 oz.

    As Parker headed over to be checked out by the pediatric doctor and nurses, I lay there calmly, realizing... I have to do this one more time. I had heard it could be minutes or hours until the second twin is born. Not to mention, we didn't even know if Baby B was still head down or if he had flipped. Dr. Russo called for the ultrasound machine and checked on little Baby B. Sure enough, he was still head down. Major score! I was still feeling a little happy on my wine in a line drug right then and had had about 2 or 3 contractions but nothing too big. Dr. Russo went in to break Baby B's water (remember, the twins each have their own sac and placenta and it was presumed that Baby A's water broke at home, which ended up being true). After she broke his water she told me the next time I had a contraction I should push. This was a very new feeling to me since my first son, my second son, and baby Parker all came on their own with my body deciding when to push. So I felt very proud that I was able to do as told. After 22 seconds of pushing (yes I went back and timed this one too), out came Levi! Born at 7:40 pm and weighing 4 lbs 3 oz. He was all wrapped up in the cord from head to toe! He cried a beautiful healthy cry as well and was whisked off to be checked out.

    Both babies had no problems breathing and were very strong for how little and early they were. Parker looked just like James and Levi looked just like Natalie and they both looked just like Hunter. Genetics is such an amazing thing to me. It was such a high delivering them and I could not have been happier at how fast it all went! The babies were then taken to the nursery for their work-ups and vitals with James and Natalie in tow. Sean stayed with me as I still had to deliver the two placentas. Unfortunately, after 30 minutes, the placentas were on strike and decided they did not want to evacuate. Dr. Russo had to go up with her hands, into my uterus, and retrieve them and check for debris. It took four times. Ask me how happy that was? Overall, yes, it was not a day in Disneyland, but the Fentynal did help and I'm happy to know I will never have that done to me again. After that thrilling time with my new-found best friend and doctor, it came to be that I was bleeding a little more than I should have been. Dr. Russo suspected it was cervical and after further investigation, she was correct. My cervix had torn and I guess tears in the cervix are very sensitive and can cause some good blood loss, which is what was happening to me. I remember getting some numbing shots in my lady parts so she could stitch up my slight lady part tears as well as cervical tears and the next thing I knew, after about a minute or two, they were done and I was being wheeled into recovery. My husband told me later that that "minute or two" was actually 45 minutes. Dr. Pitch gave me a nice cocktail via my IV and I went nighty nights. Every now and then I would wake up and ask if my placentas were out and go back to sleep, I have no recollection of this. Sean said I asked about 4 different times! When I heard that, I assumed my husband had left for those 45 minutes to get footage of the babies (he had to turn the camera off at this time.). He told me that in fact he stayed, they brought him a chair and he held my hand and petted my hair while I was asleep and they stitched up my bleed. Yup, tearing up again as I write this.

    I was wheeled into recovery around 10 pm or so, I think. I wanted to see the twins so my nurse helped me to the bathroom and then said she could wheel me to the NICU. Well, I was a little too sick. I had lost 1,000 cc's of blood (typical vaginal delivery should lose around 300 c's of blood) and was very weak from that and the pre eclapmpsia/magnesium. I almost passed out and had to go back into bed and was there until the twins were 3 days old and I finally was able to see them. They were beautiful. I just wanted to see them breathing and moving and it was a miracle.
    I was released three days after the birth and with the blood loss it I was obviously a little weaker than normal, but I felt amazing given the physical circumstances. Also, I did have a severe case of preeclapmsia, my numbers were crazy high and my blood pressure was not interested in calming down so I was sent home with blood pressure meds to help out. The twins had to stay until they were 3 weeks old and were then released to go home from Bellingham to Tacoma with James and Natalie. They were lucky that they had no respiratory issues, and just had to work on feeding and getting strong. It was beautiful to watch James and Natalie jump right into the role of mom and dad of their sons without missing a beat. They have done a wonderful job of loving their sons, all three of them, and making this family whole.
    The first the babies were home, I received this sweet message from Natalie: "My heart is beyond full right now!! I honestly have not been so happy in my whole life!!! Thank you thank you thank you!!!!" This is why I became a surrogate. This makes it all worth it.
    I have so many feelings to share on all of this and will blog about my recovery and the big question I keep getting "How are you dealing with not having the babies and are there any attachment issues?" I will cover all of that honestly and openly in my next blog post in a few days. But I will say this, I could not be happier with what has taken place. All the ups and downs and the new found love for so many of life's precious gifts. Surrogacy was harder than I imagined, but it was also more beautiful than I ever imagined. We have learned so much, come so far and now we are celebrating the lives of two new people in this world where the possibilities of who they might become are endless. Anything really is possible and with the love of family, you can overcome so much, even if it isn't always peaches and cream the whole way. We are blessed and I feel I was given a bigger gift than anyone, an amazing outlook on life, and the joy of watching happiness that two people may never have had otherwise.
    In the meantime, James and Natalie will be taking a step back from blogging and sharing their story as they focus on their new family and life at home with three boys. They are excited for some privacy and I will still be blogging about surrogacy for the time being and some small updates of the twins. We are all so grateful for all the support, comments and prayers that have come our way during this crazy journey that took forever to start and is over in the blink of an eye. Without our readers and your supportive words and personal stories, this would have been a very lonely journey. We are stronger and wiser because of what you have taught us while we openly shared our story. We are forever grateful.

    Also, all the images above are screen shots from our documentary. They are taken from the raw footage my husband filmed during the labor. We still have a lot more to film on the movie, doctors, other surrogates and even someone who was a surrogate baby!  Stay tuned for updates on the movie as we continue to film.
    "May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds."
    - Edward Abbey
    Tiffany Burke, Surrogate Mother