Not long ago I had all these ideas and plans for a completed nursery and smooth transition into parenthood. Reality has set in since then. The DIY projects I optimistically began took ten times longer than they should have (and I’ve learned that perfectionists should just skip the crafting and use Etsy instead), and up until very recently, we had little more than nothing for the baby. I’ve come to accept that Sweet Pea will go without a dresser for at least the first few weeks of his life and that the fabric bunting I made doesn’t look the way it did in my head. But the real difficulties have been far more challenging to overcome.
Since the start of December my stress level has been out of control. Not only were we preparing for the biggest change of our entire lives, there was also a very real chance that we could actually miss the birth altogether. It’s something I’ve feared from the beginning of the surrogacy process. When you are forced to sacrifice so much, the few things you can experience become even more meaningful and significant. Through the long summer months I held onto the belief that we would get to witness the birth of our son and be there with him from the first moment he drew breath. I pictured it over and over again in my mind, knowing that if for some reason we didn’t make it I would regret it for the rest of my life.
Due to the fact that surrogacy is still very unusual, the hospital requested a birth plan to have on file ahead of delivery. Not only did it cover all the usual preferences but the name and address of our in-state lawyer and the legal arrangements also had to be included. In addition they wanted to know: Who was allowed in the room? Who would be taking care of the baby in the hospital? Who would be taking the baby home? It was easy enough to write out; we had been talking about all of this from the time we were matched with Elle, but we also had to come up with a contingency birth plan– one that didn’t include us at all. We decided to keep all of our plans the same: rather than being placed in the nursery alone, the baby would have skin-to-skin contact immediately… but Elle and her husband would do it instead of Kyle and me. Elle’s husband would also get to cut the cord. And, if we weren’t able to be contacted, Elle would do her best to make any necessary medical decisions for the baby. Just thinking about all of it was so painful that I burst into tears as soon as we hung up.
Eventually we decided to leave two days earlier than originally planned.
Elle went into labor early with both her boys so we had planned to be with her by 38 weeks on January 10th. It wasn’t possible to wait at home for The Call as she has never labored for more than 6 hours and we live about 14 hours away by car. I worried that we still wouldn’t get there soon enough, and starting from the time we made it home following Thanksgiving, I began to dread the sound of any text or phone call. At night my fear found its way into my dreams. I woke up morning after morning following another dream in which I missed out on those precious first bonding moments with my child. It was hard enough to give up feeling him kick inside my own body– something I would give my legs to experience– I just didn’t feel capable of losing anymore. In one dream I showed up to the hospital late only to be handed a little boy who was already a year old. I tried to tell the nurses that there must have been some mistake, but it turned out that this child I did not recognize at all was mine. I had missed so much of his life, time that I would never get back. My own son didn’t know me, and I wondered if I would ever feel like his mother. That dream stuck with me more than any other. I know it represents my own fears of what it will be like following the birth. I’ve missed out on almost a year of Sweet Pea’s life in these 9 months, and even though he has come to know Elle’s voice well, I am still a virtual stranger to him.
Packing for our upcoming road trip was an enormous challenge. We had no idea when Sweet Pea would arrive, but we hoped that he’d come soon enough that we could make it home in time for Kyle to start classes again on the 26th. We needed to bring enough with us to last for about 2-3 weeks since the drive alone would take a couple days. Packing up for little Sweet Pea was an even harder considering we would have to bring everything he may need for the first week or so of his life. Everything: clothing, diapers, wipes, towels, washcloths, bottles, formula, caps, mittens, socks, blankets, gear items, bath products, lotions, burp cloths, etc. etc. And all to use while on the go. Most airlines won’t allow you to fly until you are at least 10 days old– time we didn’t have– so we will be attempting the 14 hour drive home with a newborn and stopping three times for overnights along the way.
Needless to say, lately I have been envying expectant parents who are able to wait in the comfort of their own home, drive about 15 minutes or so to the hospital, and then another easy 15 minutes home with a baby in tow. We have been living out of a suitcase for a week now and have no idea how much longer that will last.
In the meantime, we are doing what we can to encourage Sweet Pea to make his debut. After hearing that basil and oregano can help induce labor, Kyle made Elle some chicken parm for dinner last night. For dessert, Elle and I baked some lemon drop cupcakes, which are also supposed to help things along because of the freshly squeezed lemon juice. So far… nothing. Though, I can definitely tell that he has dropped a little lower since we got here on Saturday.
Now that we are here, I have finally started to feel more excited. I have to keep reminding myself that we won’t have to leave without Sweet Pea this time, but it’s still hard to believe. My stomach drops at the thought of finally getting to see him, and I have been super emotional, tearing up at just about everything. The relief of getting within range to make the birth was enormous. We still have a huge, overwhelming trip back ahead of us but for now… we are on Sweet Pea’s time.