3

Compassion – where for art thou?

Long time no blog. What have we been up to? Well….life, really. The last six months have gone super fast – yes it’s been six months since Hugo was born. Happy six months beautiful boy ❤ Since then I have gone back to work, the kids have gone back to school and we have moved house! We drove down to Canberra for a week, I’ve also gone on a quick trip to Cairns to visit one of my besties whom had a baby and I’ve lost 15kgs! I think Christmas was in there somewhere too.

I was super keen to get back to work. Work gives me a sense of purpose and calm as it’s something I’m passionate about. I feel this profession is a part of my whole psyche, therefore I felt returning to work would bring me some ease and for the most part it did. I am happy I now have my routine back and I am working with my colleagues and the public again – what I didn’t expect was the way I interact with people to change. I have always considered myself a highly compassionate person. Hello!!! Multiple surrogate offender here, you can’t get more compassionate than that! I have always been quick to empathise with people who have experienced hardship and usually build an easy rapport with all the women I met through work. But I now find my level for compassion has drastically dropped. This is something that has unnerved me somewhat because I often felt compassion was one of my strengths.

After going through this harrowing life event of loving and losing Hugo, I have survived the largest grief event of my life thus far. Listening to people complain about their annoying partners, financial stressors or how bad I am at making toast really ticks me off when it previously would have been a minor blip on my radar. As Professor Farnsworth famously said in season 8, episode 9 “I’ve come down with a searing case of WHO GIVES A CRAP?”  I guess the small mercy here is that I have identified that this is happening right now and I can consciously aim to change it. Every now and then at work now I will have a couple I instantly connect with and I can feel my old self start to immerge and then I feel great. Other days I still struggle and I feel like I’m letting families down because the old me could have possibly given them a better experience. I don’t want to become a bitter person, therefore my aim for this year is to be more conscious of those around me and get back to the more carefree person I once was.

Now don’t get me wrong….I’m not going to do this to the detriment of my own health. I feel if I did this every day I would be walking the fine line that leads into complete burnout. The same thread of thinking that has gotten me to the point of knowing I need to work on my compassion has also made me aware that I need to dedicate more time and brain space to myself and my own family. It is because of this that I have handed over the reins of the surrogacy communities I volunteered for over the last 8 years. It was no small feat to get to this decision. I have been driven to help the community as much as possible over the years by providing my time, empathy and knowledge surrounding surrogacy to anyone that needed it. The community was also the core of our support network when we found out Hugo would not be long for this world, therefore I ummed and ahhhhed for quite some time before making the decision to take a step back. This step back could be temporary or it could be permanent; I’m going to just see what comes, but for now this feels like the right thing to do and I feel a weight has been lifted from my shoulders.

Life has been pretty good to us so far this year. My family is once again a happy little unit and we are loving our new house. Best of all is that Marian and David are coming to visit this weekend! It has been far too long! We’re going to eat some yummy food, drink some yummy wine and eat some super yummy cake, because that’s what we do. Oh and couch time…..we always have couch time…usually snuggled closely…..or spooning…..while watching Chris Hemsworth. Most of that is true 😝

Now for some gratuitous photos

Lily had an existential moment when she saw the neighbours have chickens!

Lily had an existential crisis when she saw the neighbours have chickens!

Life changing moment!

Life changing moment! She sat like this for 10mins

Sweating away in Cairns with my good friend Elle

Sweating away in Cairns with my good friend Elle. Good times

More sweating...this time at Baron Falls. I renamed it Baron Trickle

More sweating…this time at Baron Falls. I renamed it Baron Trickle

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Awesome book sent to me from a beautiful Surro Sister

Family trip!

Family trip!

Oscar approves of the new house

Oscar approves of the new house

If anyone has any spare compassion lying around, please send

 

5

Birth and beyond

Leading up to Hugo’s birth was an interesting time. Looking back on it now the time seems to have moved so quickly. We got the diagnosis just shy of 35 weeks gestation. Marian and David arrived in Brisbane a week later to prepare for what was to come. We had many plans for this time prior to Hugo’s diagnosis and despite our heavy hearts we still managed to enjoy ourselves most of the time. We had numerous appointments with specialists, doctors, neonatologist and midwives. When we found out what was to come our care had been changed from mainstream antenatal care to specialist care through the Mater Maternal Fetal Medicine Unit. The midwife that was overseeing our care was extraordinary. At every appointment she went above and beyond to ensure we knew what was going on and to plan our care so everyone was happy. I was hoping for a VBAC this time around but the factors were stacked against me. Hugo’s head was off the charts in terms of size (something we later learned was atrributed to his condition) and the amount of amniotic fluid present meant induction of labour was out of the question so I consented to the caesarean. I’m positive planning the birth of Hugo gave our wonderful midwife countless migraines, but she never complained.

When we had our appointment with the surrogacy liaison midwife way back in the beginning of our pregnancy we were told that if we were to have a planned caesarean then both Marian and David and a photographer could be present in the room, in fact this is stipulated in the written hospital policy. Suddenly we were being told then I could only have one person in the room and absolutely no photographer. This was extremely distressing to us as it wasn’t explain why they had changed their minds and we still didn’t know at this stage if Hugo would survive past birth. I didn’t want Marian or David to possibly miss the only moment their child was alive simply because the powers that be changed their minds. Luckily all it took was a quick email to the patient rep to get everything sorted and on the day, despite a little bit of fuss kicked up by the anesthesiologist we had Marian, David, Simon and our beautiful photographer Emma all present during the caesarean. The day of Hugo’s birth came quickly. The night before we all got together for dinner at our place and when Marian and David left I had a moment of abject fear about what was to come the next day. Would the baby live past birth? How long for? What if they’re all wrong and the baby is completely fine? Simon was very good at calming me and reminding me to take things a moment at a time. I slept remarkably well that night and we all turned up to the hospital the next morning with more excitement than fear.

The caesarean was incredibly uncomfortable to begin with. Due to the amount of amniotic fluid I was carrying, lying on my back was not comfortable in the slightest. When they started to drain the fluid it felt like a weight was being lifted off my chest and I immediately started feeling more comfortable. Turns out Hugo was born with a whopping 7.5ltrs of amniotic fluid. That combined with Hugo’s weight and the placenta, I lost around 12kgs in that moment! The only indication that Hugo had been born was Marian’s squeal that rang out across the operating theatre. Because Hugo was born in poor condition he was quickly whisked away before I got to actually see him. I had to ask Marian if it was a boy or girl! LOL. After he was born Marian and David were taken to the waiting room while the neonatal team worked on Hugo and the doctors finished my caesarean. The room Hugo was taken to was just outside the theatre so I could hear that they were working on him for quiet a long time. Just before I was finished in theatre, the lovely midwife who delivered Hugo came to tell me that he needed full resuscitation. I knew then that there was no way the doctors had his diagnosis wrong, a healthy baby doesn’t require full CPR and multiple doses of adrenaline to get it’s little body working.

I spent some time in recovery but eventually was taken to the nursery where I was able to meet the little guy and see Marian and David again. Before I even saw Hugo while I was being wheeled into NICU I saw Marian’s face. She was absolutely beaming! It had seemed almost forever since I had seen so much joy on her face and I was so happy that in that moment, all Marian felt was happiness and love. Hugo was ventilated and asleep. When I held his hand and started speaking to him he opened his eyes and blinked. I couldn’t get over how much he looked like both Marian and David and how much hair he had! When I took his hand I noticed his fingers were contractured which had been caused by his lack of movement. I spent a little time with Hugo and his parents before I went back to my room to get some rest. I was feeling emotionally strong – so happy Hugo was born and Marian and David were finally parents. I managed to get a good sleep that evening and woke dying to have a shower. I let Marian and David spend the morning alone with Hugo. They were constantly texting and visited the night before and that morning, I could feel the love they had for their son in every word they said and the looks on their faces.

The next day after lunch I went back down to the nursery to meet Hugo again and see Marian hold him for the first time. This was a defining moment for me during Hugo’s short life. Since the beginning of the journey I anticipated when Marian would hold her tiny baby for the first time immediately after birth. Smell his baby smell, feel his soft baby skin and hear the gorgeous baby noises he makes. This fantasy had been altered but it was still a life changing experience for me. As soon as Marian felt Hugo’s skin on her own the look on her face said it all. In that moment she was pure love and joy, I have never seen anyone radiate it more than her in that moment. For me I couldn’t stop the tears. That was the moment that I learned that my heart could be completely broken and yet so full of love at the same time. I was so heart broken because this was one of the only ‘first’ moments Marian would have with Hugo. Most mothers get their first hold or their baby…their first smile……their first words. For Marian, I knew her firsts with Hugo were limited and my heart broke that this had been taken from her. My heart was also bursting with love because you can’t look at a new mother in that moment and not physically feel the love she has for her much wanted baby radiating around the room. There were people everywhere in the room at the time – nurses, other parents and doctors, but it may has well only been the four of us; David, Marian, Hugo and myself, because this was our moment. I knew then that every tear I had cried, all the pain I had endured and every bit of heartbreak I had felt leading up to Hugo’s birth and what I knew I would feel after he passed away was completely worth it. I would do it all again in a heartbeat just to have that moment again. For those of you who haven’t seen the beautiful video our amazing photographer put together of Hugo’s first two days, including Marian’s first cuddle you can see it here.

From then on I was scared for what was to come. The next day the neonatal team called a family meeting with Marian, David and myself. I was already feeling emotionally fragile and I so wanted to keep it together and be strong in that time but I fell in a heap. They briefly discussed Hugo’s condition; most definitely something genetic, they believed it was some form of syndrome. It was clear to the team looking after Hugo that his time was limited and we needed to discuss what forms of resuscitation we were comfortable with. I didn’t know what to expect during this appointment, but it definitely wasn’t the signing of a do not resuscitate plan. I couldn’t fathom that we were all sitting around discussing this beautiful little boy in terms of how long we would extend his life. It went against every single fibre of me as a parent and I wanted to scream and rail against the wrongness of the situation. You do everything to nurture and protect your children, it seemed like a horrible surreal dream to be discussing what we did and did not agree on in terms of saving Hugo’s life. I knew why we were having the discussion; above all else, none of us wanted Hugo to suffer, but it still felt wrong. During the meeting I was awed at how strong Marian and David were, I envied them in that moment. I wanted to be like that, to be able to hold it together despite my internal struggles and calmly discuss Hugo’s treatment and not feel like a raving lunatic, but I couldn’t force myself to hold it together, so I sobbed while Marian held me for as long as it was needed for me to pull myself back together. I wanted to be strong for them and for Hugo because I didn’t want any of them to worry about me, but in the end the grace they both conducted themselves with during Hugo’s days is what propped me up and pulled me through. I went home that evening after visiting Hugo again. I wasn’t sure if I would ever see Hugo again when I left the hospital, but I knew that I needed to be at home and let David and Marian cherish ever moment with Hugo without me constantly hanging around. This was their time and I was more than happy to let them have it.

The next morning I woke around 4am. Usually the first thing I do when I wake is look at my phone, but for some reason that morning I didn’t. I got out of bed and did a few things around the house and some work on the computer. When I got back into bed at 6am I looked at my phone and noticed three missed calls from the nursery at 4am and a text from Marian to let me know that Hugo was unwell and they had been called into hospital because he appeared to be deteriorating. I was actually grateful that I had missed the phone call. I decided to stay home unless Marian and David wanted me to come in. I didn’t feel the need to be there in that time. He ended up stablising, but I knew without even asking Marian that they had decided it was almost time to say goodbye to the gorgeous little man. His body was clearly struggling and I knew they didn’t want to see him continue to struggle, especially as there was no way for him to show us if he was in pain. He couldn’t cry or move, so we had to guess how he was feeling by watching his vital signs.

Friday came and I knew this was the day. Marian and David had decided to withdraw Hugo’s life support. They asked if I would like to go in and have a cuddle with him and although I didn’t know if I felt strong enough, I knew I would regret it if I didn’t. Holding Hugo was amazing, he had the strongest heartbeat and feeling it against me made up for all the times he didn’t move while I was pregnant. I touched his hair, his face and I held his hands to breathe in every part of him and memorise how he felt in my arms, how he smelled and how full of life he was even through his limitations. I held him as long as I could until I was too sore to continue sitting there. Then Simon and I said our goodbyes and went home. I knew I wasn’t strong enough to be there when his ventilation was removed and I said a little thanks to the universe that Marian and David’s strength would see Hugo rest peacefully.

hands

The next few days are a bit of a blur. Telling the girls was extremely difficult though they have been incredible during this time and have talked to us when they’re feeling down. Since then there has been lots of tears and a fair amount of alcohol. I read something someone had written about losing his wife that pretty much sums up how I feel; losing someone you love is sort of like never being able to see the colour blue again. You can go on with your life and even be happy again, but the world looks permanently different and you can never forget what it used to look like. This is exactly how I feel; I seem to travel along with a low level of sadness – the world isn’t as vibrant as it once was. 90% of the time I am perfectly happy and look back on my time with Hugo and the time since and I am at peace with it all, but the other 10% of the time I fall in a heap and don’t want to do anything, talk to anyone or leave the house.

Marian and David stayed for a month after Hugo’s birth and it was nice to live in our little bubble of grief during that time. We had each other to talk to and we supported each other through those first few weeks but when they went home it felt like I’d taken two step back in my progress. I was suddenly alone during my days and I found some social situations awkward. At school one day, one of Addison’s friends mums saw me and I could see what she was thinking written on her face as clear as day…..’oh shit – what do I say to her? Do I talk about the baby or pretend it didn’t happen?’ instead she said an awkward hello and turned to make conversation with someone else. That woman unintentionally made me feel like pariah and made me want to hide away all the more. I get it – people don’t know what to say or how to act around you when you’re going through something like this. I have learned so much from this process and now know what to, and what not to do and say when people are grieving. Platitudes do not help in any way shape or form….don’t people…just don’t! The best condolences I’ve had are the many hugs gifted and the patient people who have let me share Hugo’s story. I absolutely love talking about him on those days when I’m strong. I want to share his story with the world; the story of a little boy who never truly knew the impact he made on the world. The story of a little boy who came into this world through the love and support of a community and was celebrated each day he was alive. The unexpected gifts he has given me as a result of his short life; a greater appreciation for all the amazing people in my life, a new form of strength that I never would have gained any other way, and a deeper level of the meaning of love for him and his amazing parents, not to mention my own husband and family. This is Hugo’s story and his legacy and yes it was filled with sorrow, but it was also filled with wonder and amazement and that’s something I want to share.

I know my experiences since Marian has gone home are very different to her own but I suppose this is where it would naturally split since we left our bubble. Marian had always planned on taking a baby home to Adelaide and at that point I would go about my life again with work and family. This is where my grief is complicated, because I am both directly and indirectly involved and sometimes this leaves me feeling a little lost. I am fully aware that Marian had planned this time as a time to be settling into a life as a new mum, working around a sleep, feed cycle and I know going home made her acutely aware how different her reality turned out, but I will let Marian share her feelings on this when and if she is ever ready. At the moment I am focusing on getting healthy again and spending quality time with my family before going back to work in January and most days at the moment are good days. I still wish that I was at the part where I’m ok with everything that happened – that moment when just enough time has passed and you can go about your day as if the worst hasn’t just occurred, but I’m not there yet…..I’m not there yet, but I’m right where I should be and for now that’s ok.

did-my-best

 

 

 

 

6

For Hugo

The way time moves when something is happening is interesting. It seems to move so quickly and yet stand still at the same time. I find it hard to believe that Marian and David have been in Brisbane now for over a month. In that time so much has happened and it’s certainly been full of an array of emotions.

Hugo David Sandberg was born on 19th September 2016. He lived for four incredible days that were filled with love and joy and a sprinkling of sorrow. While we’re all working on Hugo’s story, his passing is still so raw therefore it will take us all some time to gather our thoughts to share them with you, but I promise we will share his amazing life when we’re ready.

Today we held a memorial for the special little guy. We said some words, planted some flowers, released some balloons with messages written on them for Hugo, ate some cake in true Kundaberg style and then whispered our wish for Hugo to some beautiful butterflies that we then released. I’ll never be able to say goodbye to Hugo, it’s more of a – we’ll meet again.

For Hugo

This story is written for a very special boy. While boys may prefer stories of fantastical beasts or dragons, unfortunately this is more of a love story, sorry Hugo.

Once upon a time there was a man and a woman who loved each other very much and wanted to have a baby to make them a family. Unfortunately the woman had an army inside her body that wasn’t always a friendly army and would sometimes go to war on her body. This army made carrying a baby risky as the army could hurt the growing baby in her tummy. The man and woman decide to look for a very special lady who would help carry a baby for them.

Little did the man and woman know that they would find a crazy little family some two thousand kilometres away. This crazy family consisted of three kooky girlies name Britt, Ciara and Addison and their Mummy and Daddy – Simon and Rachel.  They were typical Queenslanders who liked footy, fishing and camping. When the crazy family met the man and woman, I don’t think they could have ever guessed at what kind of journey they would be in for when the Mummy from the crazy family offered to be their surrogate.

You may have guessed by now that the man and the woman mentioned are your Mummy and Daddy. They loved you even before you were a mass of cells smaller than a seed and they had so many plans for their life together with you. Unfortunately sometimes our plans go sideways and don’t end up the way we imagined but along the way we learn what we can and try to gain understanding from the situations we find ourselves in.

My journey with your Mummy and Daddy started filled with excitement. My family and I had made some spectacular new friends. My friendship with your Mummy felt like no other friendship I had experienced before. We were more like sisters from another Mister than simply friends. My crazy kooky family felt similar about your Mummy and Daddy, from the start we seemed to have formed an easy bond and kinship that seemed so natural and we formed team Kundaberg and set about creating you.

Fast forward a few months that were filled with boring surrogacy preliminaries, cake, wine, plane trips, scary chairs, a little Pip and then more cake and wine; we learned that you had decided to make a temporary home inside my tummy. We called you our little Bear. From the moment you nestled comfortably inside of me I knew how much I loved you, even though you would be going to live with Mummy and Daddy when you were born I still gave you all my love so you could experience it from the moment your little heart started beating. When we saw proof that your little heart did indeed beat inside of me I knew your Mummy was in love by the excited squeal that came from her during our very first ultrasound. We had proof you were on your way and Mummy’s excited squeals continued over the months followed by your Daddy’s happy chuckles as you continued to grow and they prepared for you arrival.

When we learned how truly special you would be and how little time we would have with you, our love for you grew exponentially. We had to fit a lifetime of love into such a short amount of time. In the weeks leading up to your birth Mummy and Daddy came to live close by. We enjoyed many little boops of you when you would float around my tummy, we enjoyed watching your halo of hair float around your head during your ultrasounds and we continuously wondered what you would look like with excitement and tried to guess when you would arrive. We didn’t have to wait very long as you arrived two short weeks later. My only indication that you had been born was your Mummy’s excited squeal that rang out through the operating theatre, I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of that squeal. When I finally saw you and held your hand I looked at your beaming parents and saw only joy and pure love. While you know how the next few days went I don’t think you could truly understand the impact you had not only on my crazy little family, and Mummy, Daddy and Bunty but people from around the world including extended family from Sweden, family in Adelaide and the entire Australian surrogacy community who had followed your journey to us from the beginning.

What you’ve taught me Hugo is that family extends beyond blood. The family that we make in our lives exceed the bonds of any family we were born into. You, Mummy and Daddy are now part of the crazy little family I have created for myself and I’ll cherish you all forever. You have taught me that in times when I don’t feel strong, there are people around me that I can count on to lift me up and keep me going.  You have taught me that sometimes the smallest things take up the most room in my heart. You taught me how lucky I am to have amazing family and friends in my life. You have taught me to be grateful for all the things that bring me joy in life including the time I got to spend with you and I’m forever grateful for all the people that made our time with you so special. For all this I thank you.

My wish for you now is that wherever you are I want you to be happy. I wish that you only get to experience joy and love because you deserve nothing less. I hope you watch over Mummy and Daddy because they will sometimes be sad and I hope that one day we’ll meet again and I can take your hand in mine and we’ll float in space and drift in time.

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Kundaberg Family

Kundaberg Family

A butterfly we released for Hugo

A butterfly we released for Hugo

4

38 weeks and masters of distraction

Today we’re 38 weeks and playing the waiting game. We had a scan this week that showed Bear is a hairy chubba. A whole halo of hair around it’s head and an estimated current birth weight of 4.1kgs (9 pound 3 for those going by old scale). Bets are now on for how big Bear will be at birth. I think it will be my biggest bub yet with my second weighing in around 4.3kgs (albeit at 42 weeks!).

The last few weeks have been very up and down. We didn’t end up getting to live the exciting few weeks that we had planned for this time, but we still have had good times along with the sad. As we sit around waiting for the birth I’m filled with so many different emotions throughout the days. The excitement is still there – Marian and David are gonna be parents! There is also so much trepidation as none of us know what to expect. Operation distraction starts today. We have decided to fill our days leading up to the birth with as many activities of distraction as we can to get us through the days and help distract us from our most troubling thoughts. Today I have given my kids the last day off from school before school holidays so we can go and visit Brisbane’s Cat Cafe! We are going to go and strangle some cats with our love and I may even have to check Marian’s bags before leaving to ensure she doesn’t smuggle any home. I’m sure she has plans to become a crazy cat lady, but who can blame her! I am tempted too, but hubby swears two cats is already two cats too many. Pppffft. What does he know?

24

35 weeks: Crying and other useless acts

Two part post – Thursday 25th August 2016

In the last post I mentioned we were going to be having an amniodrainage. The drainage went well. A whopping 4.1 litres was drained from the swimming pool. Prior to the drainage we had a scan in which Bear didn’t move. I wasn’t concerned, I had felt movement while we were in the waiting room, however the consultant was called into the room and started talking to us about him being concerned that Bear may have congenital myotonic dystrophy in which case it would probably never breathe at birth due to lack of intercostal muscles. This threw us in a spin as he was going off a two minute scan where in all likelihood the baby was probably asleep. He went ahead with the drainage and by the end of the procedure we saw some movements and breathing motions which the consultant was happy with. We nicknamed that consultant Dr Death for putting the fear of God into us and after doing some research I found that congenital myotonic dystrophy is tested for in standard PGD testing and as Bear had PGD testing when it was a tiny embryo we knew that it wasn’t possible for it to have this condition.

After the procedure I did begin contracting but by early evening we were able to stop the labour using nifedipine. During the night I didn’t feel any movements so we had a CTG the next morning which did show Bear was moving. Yay! I’ve never really felt Bear move much. At first I put it down to having an anterior placenta. The placenta is sitting on the front of my uterus so it’s blocking most of the kicks I should have been feeling. Then when I was diagnosed with polyhydramnios this gave me another explanation for the lack of me feeling Bear move. I had always felt movements down low during the evenings but I had never felt any strong kicks. Again, I explained it away due to the placental location and the polyhydramnios. Since we had 4.1ltrs drained however, I figured that I should start feeling Bear move more. Many times during the day I could feel noticeable lumps in my belly where Bear would stick it’s knee out or stretch it’s feet to the top of my uterus, but again – no big movements. I finally put it down to Bear being a quiet baby and thought nothing more of it. We had a follow up scan booked for this Wednesday and I went along by myself this time. Marian and David had come up for the drainage but had gone home to prepare for their long drive up this weekend to stay for the remainder of the pregnancy. The scan seemed to go well but again the sonographer noticed that Bear didn’t move at all during the 20 minute scan. She said to me she had some concerns and she would go and get the consultant to come and have a look and see what he thought. Dr Death wasn’t at work on Tuesday for which I was grateful as I didn’t want another conversation that was all doom and gloom so another consultant I had seen earlier in the pregnancy came in and asked to scan me.

He asked me again about movements and I told him Bear had always been quiet. He asked if anyone had mentioned myotonic dystrophy to us before and I said yes, but Bear had PGD testing which ruled it out. He then inquired whether the PGD testing included Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA). I honestly didn’t know. He pointed out a few worrying things he was seeing on the scan that gave him some real concerns. Lack of movement was one, also lack of breathing motions which babies tend to do a lot of at this gestation. Then he showed me how Bear had a thickened layer of subcutaneous fat on it’s legs with next to no differentiation of muscle mass. In short it appears that there is next to no muscle at all on Bear’s legs. He said this paired with the polyhydramnios makes him almost certain that Bear does in fact have a form of muscular dystrophy and in terms of outcomes, it’s very bleak. As Dr Death told us, Bear will likely never breathe on it’s own. He went on to explain that even if it’s not SMA and PGD testing has ruled it out, the signs of some form of muscular dystophy are there and can’t be ignored. Further there are so many forms of muscular dystrophy that they can’t test for them all in PGD testing and it’s likely that Bear has a very rare form that isn’t included in standard testing. He apologised that this hadn’t been picked up already but mentioned that it’s often not diagnosed in pregnancy but because we’ve had repeated scans, the pattern has emerged that shows all is not well with Bear. His next words were like a lance through my chest “I have been wrong before and I hope in this case I am, but if I’m being realistic, the signs are there and I can’t ignore them”.

At that point I really didn’t want to fall apart, but I couldn’t help it. I didn’t want to be that woman you hear sobbing behind a closed curtain that leaves you wondering what bad news has just been delivered but that was me. I wanted to hold out until I was alone or until Simon was with me in private so I could just let go but you find yourself restraining yourself because you’re in a hospital with thousands of people waiting around. In the room next to me I heard a sonographer telling a little girl that she was going to have a baby sister and the excited conversations the parents were having with her and meanwhile I had just been told that Bear probably would not even live a minute, an hour or a day. And at that point the burden was all mine, I was the only one in our team that knew. How was I supposed to tell Marian and David? There was no way I could physically call them but it seems such horrible news to put in a text. The next half an hour was taken up by more appointments being made and waiting for the ultrasound report while quietly shedding a few tears and trying to hold it together. I texted Simon first and he left work to meet me at home. Then I bit the bullet and group texted Marian and David that life as they knew it would be irrecoverably changed from that moment on. Marian’s first reply was that she was sorry that I had to find out on my own. That’s a testament to the type of selfless person Marian is, always concerned about others before herself. I knew no matter what happened we would get through it together.

I managed to make it to the car park before I completely lost it in what I can only explain was utter grief mixed with a panic attack. I felt like I couldn’t get enough air as I sobbed to the unfairness of it all. Up until now, apart from the polyhydramnios we have had the perfect journey. We ticked all the right boxes, we did all the right things and still we have this outcome. Marian and David decided on PGD testing when they found out they would have to do surrogacy because they wanted to make sure only the healthiest embryo was transferred so we were never faced with this type of outcome, and yet despite careful planning here we are. It’s no one’s fault, there are no feelings of guilt on my part and I hope there aren’t any on Marian and David’s part either, it’s just one of those ‘unfortunate things’. One of those unfortunate things that turn your life upside down and leave you feeling like a shell of the person you once were. By the time Simon got home I realised what a wasted effort crying is and wonder why we even do it? It hurts your head, your heart, your eyes and lets face it, the fluid you loose from it could be better used elsewhere in the body. Despite knowing it’s a useless act I can’t seem to stop doing it for any decent length of time despite my best efforts to distract myself. And then there are all the thoughts you just can’t switch off. What the hell do we do now? We know this information but there’s nothing we can do about it. Now instead of preparing for an amazing life event, we’re preparing for the possibility that everything we had hoped and dreamed of will never happen. All the clothes hanging in Bear’s closet will go unused, it’s cot unslept in and worst of all Marian and David won’t have that proud parenting moment of introducing their new bundle of joy to their family and friends. It sounds so juvenile to say, but it’s just not fair. At this point I would like to extend a big fuck you to the universe for putting us in this position.

I know there are various stages to grief but I just want to be at acceptance already. I want to feel like I did this morning when I woke at 3am and in that split second between sleep and consciousness I felt nothing until the events of the day before come flooding back into my mind and left me crying so much I woke up Simon. Whatever happens in the next few months I know we will be well supported and Bear will be showered in more love than anyone has ever felt no matter how short it’s life is. And Marian and David are going to be the best parents ever.

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Saturday 27th August 2016

It’s hard to believe that we have known the news for only a few short days. It feels like time has stood still and years have passed at the same time. I finally got some good solid sleep last night and feel a little stronger for it today. I know some days will be easier than others and some days will seem utterly devastating so I’m just taking each day as it comes. Usually at this part of pregnancy I’m wishing away the days until the birth so I can have my body back. This time I can hear a clock ticking ever so loudly and every second that passes is one second less time we have with Bear. I think it’s cruel that I’ve had Bear to myself all this time and Marian and David will only have a few short precious moments. After doing some research I have found a few personal stories where babies with SMA have lived from anywhere from a few minutes to a few months. No time in the world will ever be enough but as an amazing friend and colleague has said to me, Bear will decide how much time we have with him or her and we will just have to accept that.

Another beautiful surrogate friend of mine has told me that crying is not pointless. Crying is the way your eyes speak, when your mouth cannot explain how broken your heart is. Nothing can sum up how I feel when I cry more than that sentence. I have given up trying to be strong and keep my sadness at bay. I decided it’s ok not to be strong, it’s ok to completely fall apart and scream and swear – though I’ve stopped short of breaking things. Swearing gives me a surprising amount of satisfaction. Fuckity fuck fuck fuck it. Fuck this situation, fuck this shitty feeling and fuck the universe for doing this to Bear.

I have found distractions are also helping. Getting out of the house keeps me busy for a few hours everyday. There are still times I’m out where I break though like yesterday when I went to the shops and I saw everyone around me going about their day without a care in the world and all I could think was tick tock, Bear’s time is running out. I saw a few women with newborn babies and I thought – they have no idea how lucky they are. At that point I nearly turned around and walked back to the car, but I told myself I couldn’t avoid these situations forever, so kept going.

Marian got in touch with Repromed to find out what they actually tested for with the PGD testing done on Bear. PGD testing is touted as a way to make sure only the best genetic embryo is transferred into the uterus by ‘allow(ing) us to look at all chromosomes present in the embryo, meaning we can make a more informed decision about which embryo to transfer’. In reality all it does is make sure the correct number of chromosomes are present and doesn’t actually check those chromosomes for abnormalities like we thought it did. I feel like we’ve been deceived into a false sense of security. Yes PGD testing can check for SMA but only if they know to look for it because there are simply too many genetic abnormalities to check for them all. So I extend another big fuck you to standardised PGD testing.

I have to say a big thank you to everyone who has been in touch over the last few days. You’ve each lent me a little bit of strength to get through the days. You all know who you are. To Simon who has been there in my messiest moments to simply listen to me blubber and dish out the best hugs ever, you’re my rock and I love you more than words. I apologise to anyone whom we haven’t told in person. It simply seems like too much to individually contact those closest to us as I relive the same thoughts and feelings over and over, so we have decided to use this blog as a way to share Bear’s news. Also a thank you to Marian and David’s friends and family who have helped them these last few days with love, flowers and cookies. I feel horrible that Marian and David will be so far away from you all during this difficult time and you may never met Bear, but they reassure me you will all be there through messages and the wonders of technology for which I’m grateful for. Lastly I have to thank Marian and David. When people get this type of news it’s so easy to retreat into yourselves and shut out the outside world. Instead they have included me in all their thoughts and feelings and kept up an incredible amount of communication which has also helped me immensely. We are totally gonna get through this together <3

 

4

Exciting news and Swimming Pool update

I have THE most exciting news!! Next week in my very own city, just 15mins from where I live, the new Thor movie is shooting!! How flippen exciting is that?? Chris Hemsworth is going to be walking around in my hood! This is somewhat serendipitous because Marian and I had planned a Chris-a-thon for our maternity leave. We plan on watching all the Chris movies – that is Chris Hemsworth and Chris Pratt, cause – you know…yum.

Hello! Look at them arms :)

Hello! Look at them arms :)

While the prospect of going to watch the filming is tempting, the thought of trudging my fat self into the city is less tempting. Monday I had another scan to check fluid levels around Bear. I had a feeling either Bear had a giant growth spurt or Mt Franklin was overflowing yet again, the scan confirmed the latter; once again the amniotic fluid levels are ridiculously excessive, even more than before we had the drainage. After the scan the consultant came to see me to discuss another drainage. I really wasn’t keen on doing one anytime soon. Next week Marian and David arrive to stay until after Bear is born, so I figured that if we could hold off til then it would be for the better. This would also put us another week closer to our due date and I was hoping this would mean it would definitely be the last time the pool needed to be drained. While the consultant understood where I was coming from, he believed there was no benefit in waiting any longer due to the risks of preterm rupture of membranes given the excessive amounts of fluid. We decided that I would make an appointment for the following week but he offered me the choice to call anytime during the week to organise a drainage if I changed my mind. He also organised an appointment with a neonatologist the following day to discuss the investigations they would do on Bear at birth to see if there is a reason for the polyhydramnios.

After going home that afternoon completely deflated and a bit teary and discussing it with Marian, David and hubby we decided that it was best not to wait another week. Hubby was the one who convinced me, he had noticed how much I’d been struggling over the last few days to do anything due to being so uncomfortable and heavy. He didn’t see the benefit in waiting another week or so just so Marian and David could be there and bless his heart he offered to come into hospital with me to support me through it all. After talking to Marian and David they decided there was no way they wouldn’t be here for it, so I made an appointment for this Friday for a drainage and tonight they will fly in to be there for me and Bear. More tears ensued. Given the procedure goes well, they will return home after and drive up the next week to stay.

The appointment with the neonatologist was informative. Basically there could be two causes for the polyhydramnios that they won’t be able to investigate until birth. One is that Bear could have a kidney condition that causes excess weeing which would lead to all the extra fluid since amniotic fluid is pretty much just baby wee. The other is esophageal atresia where the top of the esophagus doesn’t connect to the lower part which means Bear can’t swallow. Since we have seen fluid in Bear’s stomach on ultrasound it is unlikely that this is the cause, however we were told that in rare cases esophageal atresia can be present with fluid in the stomach. At birth Bear with have a tube passed down it’s throat to ensure it is connected and urine output will be monitored closely. Bear is also measuring quiet large due to it having an olympic sized swimming pool to move around in, so it’s blood sugar levels will also be monitored for the first 24hours. The neonatologist was quick to point out however that in most cases of polyhydramios there is no underlying cause, so we may never know why I have it. Maybe Bear is going to be an Olympic swimmer!

Due to my admission tomorrow for the drainage, alas I will not be dragging myself into the city next week to see Chris Hemsworth in the flesh. Instead I’ll be resting at home recovering from another giant needle being shoved into my belly 😛

1

Long time no blog! 33 weeks and pregnancy pics

Well hello there. It’s been a while since I’ve blogged. 10 weeks to be exact. Wow how the time goes! After the conference I got busy with work and the growing bump really did drain me. Some days at work the ligament pain I was getting from my rapidly increasing girth would take my breath away. Chronic pain tends to do things to you. You’re tired more, you want to do less, staying in bed or just chilling on the couch sounds like an amazing day and it gets to a point where you just don’t feel like sharing anymore, hence the lack of blogging. It really was no surprise then at 28 weeks when we had a routine scan that polyhydramnios was diagnosed. What is polyhydramnios? It’s a condition where there is too much amniotic fluid surrounding the baby. How is it caused? Usually it’s caused by fetal genetic conditions where the baby either doesn’t swallow or swallows very little, but sometimes as it is in my cause, there is no cause. I’ve had it in other pregnancies, but never to this extreme extent and usually towards the end of the pregnancy. After the diagnosis it was decided by the powers that be that we would have fortnightly scans and if I became symptomatic (started to struggle breathing due to my increased girth – yes I like that word so I will use it often. Girth) then I was to represent and they would make another plan for me. The scan showed that everything else with Bear and myself was peachy. Go Bear!

At 29 weeks we had a really exciting weekend where myself and the whole Kunde family flew to Adelaide to share Bear’s baby shower with Marian and her amazing friends and family. While we were there we did a pregnancy photo shoot which I can happily now share with you!

(pics are courtesy of Phong at Unscripted! https://www.facebook.com/unscripted.com.au/?fref=ts 🙂 )

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The Kundaberg Team

The Kundaberg Team

As the saying goes, babies are so cute you could eat them. We usually wait until they're born though Marian

As the saying goes, babies are so cute you could eat them. We usually wait until they’re born though Marian

Can't you feel the love?

Can’t you feel the love?

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We also got to see a bit of Adelaide’s beautiful but freezing cold beaches. We took advantage of the cold and took the kids ice skating. See amusing pics attached. While David was a pro having grown up in the land of snow and fairytails, Simon was a little more uncoordinated but he found his feet eventually and managed to ice skate while catching pokemon. Marian and I chilled out by the penguins while the guys and kiddies were skating.

Addy

Addy

Ciara loves iceskating

Ciara loves iceskating

Penguin!

Penguin!

A rare sight indeed. A shy Charmander found outside it's natural environment

A rare sight indeed. A shy Charmander found outside it’s natural environment

The baby shower itself was a beautiful day. A huge shout out to Mumma Marian and Aunty Lyn who planned and baked their hearts out to make the day so special. I got to experience the amount of love and support Marian has been given by her family and friends which was extra special since Marian never thought she would become a Mumma. I even got spoiled by a few of Marian’s friends who did the sneaky and gave me a few small bits and pieces which came in handy over the next few days! And of course Bear was totally spoiled! As it should have been 🙂

When We arrived home Sunday I was totally beat and Simon kept commenting on how much my belly had suddenly grown. I could definitely feel it as I was gradually having more and more trouble breathing. I had the next day off work so I decided to head to the pregnancy assessment unit and get checked out. On top of the breathing problems I wasn’t feeling Bear move very much (possibly because of all the fluid surrounding it) and I was becoming ridiculously uncomfortable. When I got there I had a CTG which showed lots of baby movements, even though I wasn’t feeling them. It was decided that the best course of action was to admit me as a patient, have a scan and investigate the shortness of breath. That afternoon I had a scan which did indeed show a sudden increase in amniotic fluid. One of the specialists came to see me after the scan and said he strongly suggested that I have an amnioreduction and stop working immediately. When I asked him how much fluid they would drain he said they could easily drain 3ltrs and Bear would still have plenty! The risks of an amnioreduction included a 5% chance I could go into preterm labour, so I decided it was best to speak to Marian and David before making a decision. An appointment was made tentatively for the next day to have the drainage. Marian and David agreed that it was best to go ahead with the procedure as our risks of preterm labour and preterm rupture of membranes was far higher if we didn’t have the procedure than if we did. Marian decided that she really wanted to be there for it so two hours later she boarded a plane to Brisbane and arrived later that night. At first I didn’t see the need for Marian to be there but by the end of my stay I was so glad she came. I didn’t think I would need support for the time in hospital or the procedure until she arrived and I realised how much I really needed someone with me, so I really need to take this time to say a huge thank you to Marian for going above and beyond to come to Brisbane at such short notice to hold my hand while a really really big needle was inserted into my belly! And likewise a thank you to David for being on standby to come in case I went into labour. In the end the drainage went well enough with nearly 800mls drained before I started contracting and the procedure was stopped. Despite not draining as much as planned I immediately felt better. I could breathe again and all the ligament pain I was having stopped which was incredible.

Since then I have just been pottering along now coming up to 3 weeks since I went on leave. I’ve read 8 books, cleaned the house numerous times and generally felt guilty that I know it’s ridiculously busy at work and I can’t contribute. We had a scan on the 1st Aug which showed the fluid levels were remaining steady. I do feel like I’ve grown a fair bit in the week since though. We have another scan on Monday, so time will tell if it’s baby or fluid. Watch this space!

Girth

 

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4

Surrogacy Conference and 23 weeks

This weekend just gone was the fourth annual Families Through Surrogacy Conference. It’s a two day event where surrogates and intended parents come from all over the Australia to learn and gather and realise that we’re not alone. I have attended the event since the beginning back in 2012 and it’s so great to see the event has more than doubled since it first began. Further it’s so great to see the focus of the conference has shifted from a predominately overseas approach to a good mix of overseas and local surrogacy. My favourite part was catching up with Marian and David and all the amazing people whom I have met online over the years. I absolutely love this community.

The night before the conference we got to have dinner with another amazing surro team who are at the starting gates with the gun poised in the air to signal the start of their journey. Renee is my ‘surro sister from another mister’ and has been an amazing support to me over the last few years and I’ve watched her go from strength to strength as she travelled through her own first journey and then onto this one with the amazing Kelly. Kelly is my ‘could be baby mama’. I say that because in a horrible world if Marian and Renee didn’t exist, I would totally through my womb at Kelly! We had a fabulous dinner with much alcohol consumed (by everyone except Marian and myself) and we even managed to gobble down some monster doughnuts afterwards. Kelly and Renee surprised us with the most hilarious t-shirts made in a dubious asian size (see piccies below). Needless to say I can’t wait until they’re duffed and we can repay all their support. Renee even has a blog you can read here.

My peeps

My peeps

Mmmm doughnuts

Mmmm doughnuts

THE most awesome shirt in existence

THE most awesome shirt in existence

On the first day after the welcome address an American agency explained how surrogacy works over there. Basically the American markets is tried and tested and has been around for over 30 years. American surrogates become surrogates because they love being pregnant (I hate pregnancy), they want to share the joy of being a parent with other people (totally not my motivating factor), they are completely healthy and undergo extensive psychometric testing (I have multiple health issues and am a self confessed loon). This agency gets around 400 potential surrogates approach them every month and out of those potential, only around 40 will be accepted as surrogates. I have no doubt I would be one of the 360 that would be shown the door.

The next session was my favourite session for the weekend, it was a panel called Children and Surrogacy and has three children born through surrogacy on the panel – aged between 17 and 24 and my own daughter Brittany who represented the child of a surrogate mother. This panel was hosted by the wonderful Alice Kirkman who was the first person ever to be born through surrogacy in Australia. I have a lot of love for Alice who takes everything in her stride and puts her own unique spin on life. She is also a freelance journalist, so take the time to google her work. My favourite part of this session was when Alice asked the panel if any of them would be a surrogate or donate gametes, to which Britt replied “yeah – I mean you get to see the smiles on the faces of the people you help and you’re doing something amazing for other people (proud mummy moment! *sniff*)…..and my Mum, she’s had lots of kids; she’s not a slut of anything, but she’s had A LOT of kids”. Que laughing so hard I cried. To Britt’s defense I did tell her to be honest. Needless to say I am super proud of Britt for speaking about her thoughts on surrogacy in such a public forum.

It's true!

It’s true!

Brittany and Marian chilling before Britt's session

Brittany and Marian chilling before Britt’s session

I missed a few of the next sessions however I did manage to sit in on the session on legal issues and eligibility when engaging in surrogacy. It was a session that explored the various legal issues regarding to not only each state of Australia, but international differences as well. It was interesting to note that the Ukranian lawyer was obviously against altruistic surrogacy and couldn’t understand why anyone would even attempt it. Australian state laws can differ greatly so if anyone reading this is just starting to look into surrogacy, definitely do your homework on your own state legsilation! For intended parents looking to go overseas, to me Canada seems to be the most appealing legally.

After lunch the large room was made into two separate rooms and two sessions were run simultaneously for the rest of the day. Marian and Kelly as well as a fab surrogate Britt got to sit on a panel titled ‘matching with surrogates’ and made some very valid points for intended parents looking to match with a surrogate *waves pom poms*. After that a session on the trouble with twin pregnancies was run by Dr Warren DeAmbrosis. He basically pointed out the complexity of a surrogate carrying a twin pregnancy. Renee has carried twins for herself and made some very valid comments at the end of his presentation about how difficult her own twin pregnancy was when she was hospitalised for 6 weeks from 28 weeks gestation. As usual eloquent Renee pointed out that this sacrifice is a given when carrying your own children, but there is absolutely no need to put a surrogate through that process when it can be avoided. At this point I wanted to share my own experience of carrying a twin surrogate pregnancy but I found myself far too emotional to talk about it. When we decided to transfer two embryos for Michael and Jared it was after a lot of disappointment in failed cycles and poor embryo quality. Looking back now I remember how naive I was and thought a twin pregnancy might actually be cool. Of course I was proven wrong when at 18 weeks I could barely walk up my stairs without passing out and then went on to hemorrhage so badly at 27 weeks that the twins had to be born ASAP. The amount of stress the pregnancy put on my relationship with my children and husband Simon was far more than if I had been pregnant with one baby, and in hindsight I would never put myself in that situation again. Brittany also touched on this topic during her panel discussion when the topic of compensation came up. It was suspected that I had a placental abruption and my life, as well as the twins were in grave danger and Brittany felt that compensation could have helped balance the benefits versus risks variance. Personally even if I was compensated in future I would never sign up for a double embryo transfer again. If I wasn’t living in a major city where tertiary care was available, my children may no longer have a mother and Simon may have lost his wife that day. Luckily it all ended well and the twins will be turning 5 just before Bear is born.

Britt, Kelly and Marian keeping it real

Britt, Kelly and Marian keeping it real

Keeping it in the family Simon was then on a panel titled ‘Men in the Middle’. He was joined by David and a good friend of ours who has gone through years and years of IVF with his wife to have his daughter through American surrogacy. I think it’s really important to hear from the husbands as they are often silent sufferers when it comes to infertility and surrogacy. Husbands of surrogates are particularly forgotten about in this situation as so much focus is on the surrogate and intended parents. Simon doesn’t complain but I know me being pregnant isn’t easy on him or our realtionship and as he and David both pointed out, sometimes Marian and I get caught up in our own relationship that we are a little guilty of ignoring them. It’s something that I have been working on for the last few months – to try and include Simon more and not to ignore him for the love affair that I’m having with Marian through my phone. Simon was asked if he had any advice for the husband of surrogates that are just starting the process. He didn’t verbalise this but he did tell me he was going to say ‘you do lose your drinking buddy for a while. Instead of carrying her up the stairs cause she’s black our drunk, you’re carrying her up the stairs because she physically can’t walk up them anymore’. I think if he did say that I would have had to add to my already modified name tag ‘not a slut but had lots of kids…but is an alcoholic’. This was the last session I watched for the day because I was beat! What an exhausting day. A lot of the attendees all went out to dinner but I was far too tired, so went home to get some decent sleep.

Day two seemed to fly by! A session I quiet enjoyed in the morning was ‘Assessing Embryo Quality’ as embryology fascinates me. Who knew that we all started out as two cells being mooshed together?!? This session was followed by surrogate screening processes which covered American, Canadian, Greek and Australian screening processes. The most surprising thing I got from this session was that in Amercia, IP’s aren’t required to undergo any counselling at all. This concerned me as often IP’s have to process the fact they can’t physically carry their own baby and grieve their own infertility before trusting someone else to carry their child. Whereas surrogates in the US undergo extensive psychometric testing to rule out them being psychopaths. The Greek representative seemed very vague about their screening processes and I got the idea that his responses were what he thought the audience wanted to hear. This session was followed by a panel of IP’s and their surrogacy journey’s. This went for over an hour and was absolutely fascinating to hear so many people’s different experiences in creating their families. I loved this panel and could have happily listened to them all talk for the rest of the day. Alas there were other sessions including one by counsellor Michael Condon discussing disputes in surrogacy arrangements – basically if a child is a commodity to you, get a dog. There was more to his presentation than that but that was my favourite line. After lunch I hosted a panel on what to consider when thinking of carrying with three beautiful surrogates on my panel. A massive thank you to Shannon, Amelia and Rhee for navigating my questions. Shameless plug – Shannon has a book about her experience coming out on July first 🙂 . I was then a panelist on the next session called ‘after birth emotions’ which consisted of Renee, myself and Rhee discussing those first few weeks post birth and how we all coped. In short – we didn’t go crazy…for long 😛 .

Most of the amazing surrogates that attended this year <3

Most of the amazing surrogates that attended this year <3

The last session was a bit of a surprise. It was a session just for surrogates run by a Canadian agency called ‘Sacred Surrogacy’ and was an intimate session where we were all encouraged to share our feelings about where we’re at and share our positive experiences as well as our fears. This is something that I’ve never really been into. While I am a believer in positive affirmations and promoting positive energy into the world, that extends only so far. I’m not one to sit in a circle and sing Kumbaya. Safe to say there was no signing but there was plenty of crying! I won’t share too much but I will share some of my own fears that have been quietly creeping up on me in recent weeks.

Our healing session

Our healing session

Three weeks ago I had an appointment with a physician who is monitoring my blood pressure throughout the pregnancy. He pointed out all the risks etc and mentioned that because this is a donor embryo I am at increased risk of pre-eclampsia. This of course was something I was already aware of because I’ve now had 6 children to four different fathers and every time you introduce new genetics i.e – sperm; you are at an increased risk of pre-eclampsia, and during the appointment I just nodded my head and said – yep I know the risks. Of course then I went home and it played on my mind and I realised that this is the first time the baby I’m carrying is not from my own egg and what if that is enough to tip me over into full blown pre-eclampsia? That night I dreamt that I was waking from a general anesthetic after an emergency caesarean section and the doctor told me the baby had died “I’m sorry but it was too late”. The dream was so real I was on the verge of tears all day. To top it off the doctor I saw during my appointment suggested I come off my medication because my BP has been good sitting at 120/70 and in the second trimester BP naturally drops and I was on such a low dose anyway it was negligible. I was dubious because I’ve stopped my BP meds in the past when it has stablised and I experienced rebound hypertension as a result. I was worried that would happen again. I put my trust in him though and stopped taking my medication. Three days later I did my BP and it was 168/98. Needless to say I went straight back on my meds and started monitoring my BP closely as I had a suspected placental abruption with the twins and I know pre-eclampsia and high BP can cause it to happen. My BP after that wouldn’t stablise and I continued to have high readings so after a week I doubled my medication and it finally came back down (no self medicating at home peeps…I consulted a Dr at work before doing so). Of course now the fear of pre-eclampsia is ever present in my mind, even though I’ve had high BP since I was 22 years old and it’s never affected any of my pregnancies.

Another thing that has been worrying me is the placenta is anterior and lying on the front of my uterus which means I feel next to no baby movements. This has been extremely hard for a midwife who promotes that an active baby is a happy baby! I’m just starting to feel a few movements at night when I get into bed and I only feel them on the upper right side of my belly. Damn it Bear – why did you have to implant there?!? So you can imagine this has added to my anxiety a little. I’m hoping that as the uterus grows the placenta will shift a little more to the left so I can feel more movements. For now I satisfy myself with the use of a home doppler to make sure there’s still a heart beat in there and the monthly scans we’re having for the rest of the pregnancy. So here are the fears that have been the root of my recent bout of anxiety – that I won’t carry a healthy baby to term and that I am faced with my own mortality and the risk that this pregnancy places on it and my family. The last thing I want is for my children to lose their mother and although I know the risk is minuscule, it really has been playing on my mind lately. Just last month I helped a couple welcome their second child into this world, however that child never took it’s first breath. It had died for no apparent reason at 22 weeks in a pregnancy that had been completely uncomplicated until then. When I look at my own obstetric history I wonder when will the penny drop and the powers that be say – you’ve had it too easy, it’s time for some hardship. Realistically I know this isn’t how the world works, but my increasing anxiety is trying to convince me it’s true. I’ve never experienced pregnancy related anxiety before so this has definitely thrown me for a six. Luckily I am supported by some amazing people who I share my fears with and will be gentle and loving with their responses. At the moment I feel like it’s just something I need to verbalise and get out there to help my own brain process what’s going on in there, when I feel like my brain needs troubleshooting I know who to turn to and they will be there for me no questions asked. I feel I need to thank these people for being a huge support for me and I know there is no way I can ever put into words how much they mean to me. To Marian and David who have been on the same page as me from the beginning and do all in their power to show their support. To Renee for being my surro sister from another mister and just getting how I feel and always seeming to know when I need the virtual hug. To Emma my middie friend listening to me complain about how fat I’m getting and knowing exactly what to say to cheer my up. To Britt my gorgeous daughter who is way too worldly for a 17 year old and is always willing to listen to me or just cheer us on and of course Simon who is my silent warrior standing beside me through everything. Just looking at him calms all the thoughts overcrowding my brain and makes me feel at peace. I could never have survived the last 14 years without him. And mention must be made to Lily who has sat with me through writing this blog but not always in a helpful way….pic attached

Lily picking the warmest spot in the house to help me blog

Lily picking the warmest spot in the house to help me blog

9

First trimester done and dusted :)

It’s been a while since we’ve done an update, the weeks seem to be flying by now. The first few weeks went so slowly. It might be part because I was feeling like poo with morning sickness and general pregnancy related tiredness, or it might be part because we knew that there was a little bear growing in there but the general public was oblivious. Now the cat is out of the bag time seems to be moving somewhat faster. Any my tummy is expanding, sorry to those at work that have to view me in my ever tightening uniform!

A lot has happened over the last few weeks. We have had our first hospital appointment which included a meeting with the hospital’s surrogacy liaison team, we had our nuchal translucency scan (yay for seeing Bear again!), I had a birthday and we’ve made our announcement facebook official! Cause you know no pregnancy is real until it’s been posted all over social media. Oh yeah….and it was Easter 🙂

Our first hospital appointment went well and we even heard Bear on doppler for a split second which was great for not quiet being 12 weeks at the time. Marian flew up for this appointment which was nice because our team was reunited once again and all was right in the world :). We even fit in a sneaky little visit to Brisbane’s Cat Cafe where we indulged our inner cat lady and gooed over all the cute little kitties (the kitties make me more clucky than babies do!). At the appointment I was deemed high risk due to essential hypertension and a previous preterm birth so I was given what seems like a gazillion appointments! Thanks to my genetics I may spend half this pregnancy sitting in the hospital waiting room. As long as Bear is healthy that is all that matters and it also means we will have another scan at 28 and 34 weeks to check blood flow through the placenta as hypertension can cause complications in this area. Another discussion we had was mode of birth. I had three normal deliveries with my own three, however my surrogate births with both cesarean sections which slightly increases my risk of uterine rupture if I were to have another vaginal birth and absolutely rules out an induction of labour. I convinced the doctor that my mind was not yet made up and it was something that I would prefer to discuss after 36 weeks. We were all happy with this decision. The meeting with the surrogacy liaison team also went very well with the hospital being very accommodating to surrogacy pregnancy and birth offering Marian and David an adjoining room to my own post birth, giving Marian as much breastfeeding support she needs through the lactation consultants and basically asking us to just tell them what we would like and they will try to accommodate us.

A few days later we had our 12 week scan which was amazing! Marian and David both flew up for this which made it extra special. We saw a not so tiny anymore Bear on the screen now measuring 65mm! The scan was so clear and Bear was being very co-operative so we got to see just about all parts of it including it’s brain, bladder, fingers, toes and fat little belly. The sonographer also asked us if we would like to know the sex of Bear to which we all replied a resounding no. Personally I was always happy with Marian and David finding out the sex of their baby if they wanted to but I have always liked the surprise of finding out on the day of birth if it’s a boy or a girl. It makes all the hard work of pregnancy worth it. Working as a midwife in birthing we often get couples who know what they’re having, have chosen the baby’s name and often even know the day it will be born due to the amount of inductions we deal with. For me I feel it leaves little surprise at the end of a hard labour or the major surgery that is a cesarean section, therefore I had always decided I didn’t want to know the sex (or even the name Marian and David eventually decide on) until the day of delivery. While Marian initially wanted to know what they were having (and subsequently could have found out at any time due to the embryo being PGD tested), her and David have also decided to leave a little mystery to the pregnancy. And without further ado, their first family photo….

Aren't they the cutest soon to be parents ever!

Aren’t they the cutest soon to be parents ever!

After being told that Bear is completely healthy we decided it was time to tell our loved ones and of course social media. This is something I hadn’t really been looking forward to. While I was busting to share the news because it’s something that I find very exciting and I’m proud to be helping Marian and David create their little family, being the third time I have been a surrogate  I have found with each surrogacy, the more my motives get questioned. Being an exciting time I only want encouragement and words of support from those I love, however sometimes that’s not quiet what I get.

I often get asked:

“why would you want to do it again?”

“this will be the last time won’t it”

“surely you must be getting paid if you keep going again”

“surely your husband must be over you being pregnant”

You can imagine this can be frustrating when it’s something that should be celebrated. The first person I told was my mother who was more supportive than I thought she would be. God love mothers whose only concern is your health. Then I told my manager at work as I didn’t want her finding out through the grapevine. She was very supportive and extremely interested in surrogacy. We then told our children with Miss Twelve saying ‘YAY another sibling!’ since in the past I have used my own eggs, however I had to explain that this time the baby would have no genetic link to her. She was unperturbed by that and simply wanted to know when I would take her to the cat cafe (good thing it’s school holidays and my inner cat lady is always up for more visits to the cat cafe). It was then time to make it facebook official! Here’s is where the power of Marian’s Photoshop came into play

And now the world knows there’s a Bear in there! Most of the comments we have received have been overwhelmingly supportive which has been fantastic. Despite this there will always be people who want to offer unsolicited comments and advice to which I wish they would use the THINK acronym

Maybe we should show this to Donald Trump as well?

We’re now approaching 14 weeks and looking forward to what the rest of the pregnancy brings us 🙂

 

3

Morning sickness blows……chunks

We’re now officially past the 6 week mark. Honestly it feels like we should be 12 weeks already. Why does time move so slowly when you’re waiting for something?

How have we fared the last two weeks since we officially graduated from PUPO to pregnant? Maybe I should let Marian explain how she has been feeling, although I think the reality is still setting it. I was feeling great until about a week ago when the nausea started, just the odd wave here and there, but then Friday of last week it hit me. The stomach spasms, the watering mouth, the ‘please someone make it go away’ prayers and the only thing that helped was lying down in misery. Luckily I had acupuncture already booked for that day and my acupuncturist used a few methods to help counteract the nausea. He also put in a few specialised temporary needles that last about a week which have certainly helped ease the nausea and calmed my mojo but not quiet taken it away. Luckily it’s currently at tolerable standards.

Although the title suggests I have blown chunks I am not actually a vomitter despite wishing I could at times just so I could have a blissful moment afterwards of feeling normal. So instead I will just deal with the nausea as it comes, and those coping mechanisms include lying down feeling sorry for myself – usually with a good book to distract me, eating small meals, premium crackers mmmmm, salty and when times are tough I resort to pharmacological relief in the form of ondansetron wafers. Sweet sweet temporary relief.

Other pregnancy symptoms I have had include:

  • Waking to porn star sized and incredibly sore breasts. That was the first symptom hubby noticed 😛
  • Occasional spotting (GRRRRRR)
  • Going from happy mummy to demon possessed mummy in 0.2 seconds flat
  • Crying at ridiculously soppy TV advertisements. Just stop it already KFC
  • Being bone weary tired – like I haven’t slept in a week
  • Heartburn – oh lordy my chest is on fire!

I find it really interesting that although I’ve now had 6 babies (and counting) how easily I have forgotten what pregnancy is actually like. I swear that babies are cute for a reason….they do their goo goo and gaa gaa and they look at us with that twinkle in their eyes and their cheeky little grins and all of a sudden our memory of pregnancy (and labour) is wiped, or at least hazed over. Damn those diabolical babies.

Of course having said (and suffered) all of this, I am welcoming every bit of the blah-ness because it means Bear is hanging around and the pregnancy is progressing. It also helps to have the most supportive team members. Hubby even called in sick for me Friday when I was curled in the fetal position wishing the nausea away, now there’s a team member that deserves a raise! Which came in the form of his beverage of choice waiting for him when he got home. My eldest daughter continually asks how I’m feeling and gives me soothing head pats like I’m a cat just to show her support.

Marian and David have also been incredible. It’s hard for me to imagine what it must feel like to know someone is feeling sub-par because they’re carrying your child. I can certainly speculate how that would make me feel and I imagine there would be a fair whack of guilt in there somewhere. There was recently a discussion on one of the groups we are both members of that discussed what people in a surrogacy arrangement can do for each other to make the process more enjoyable or special for the other party. Of course there is a taboo surrounding surrogacy that involves the exchange of money or gifts – basically the surrogate is not allowed to gain financially from the arrangement, so obviously that is a no no, therefore the discussion surrounded non-monetary thoughts and support. For me the thing that makes all the difference is the expression of gratitude and support. A simple card with some heartfelt words on it, the odd text here and there of encouragement and excitement is all I need. Of course Marian being Marian she goes above and beyond and I have since learned she is in cahoots with my husband. I’m not sure how I feel about my husband being in cahoots with another woman, I imagine it’s how he feels when I have other men’s babies so I guess I can’t complain! 🙂

And so a very cheery parcel arrived on my doorstep early this morning. A ‘happy morning sickness and boob expanding’ parcel that included some of my favourite chocolate items, some small cat underwear (for comical effect as we have a cat that doesn’t know how to use a litter tray!) and some carpet odouriser for the same reason, some recycled trashy romance novels that I can only imagine were purchased from the finest St. Vinnies in Adelaide as they carry such titles as “His Untamed Innocent” and “The Executive’s Valentine Seduction”, and the most awesome rainbow coloured pill organiser so now I will never forget to take my multiple daily tablets. Of course all of this came with the most awesome card and it’s not just that I’ve received an awesome gift that makes it special; it’s the time and effort that went into the gift that makes all the difference.

IMG_2867 IMG_2866

How people show their love varies and one thing I have learned about Marian (and David by proxy) is that they are the most giving people I have ever met. It’s not very often that I meet someone who is as giving or more than I feel I am, which makes me feel even more like I have the most fabulous IP’s and friends ever. There will never be enough words to express the way I feel about them, so unfortunately as our readers you are going to have to listen to me gush endlessly over the course of my blogging, so don’t say I didn’t warn you!

As to whats the next big event for Team Kundaberg – we have our heart beat scan coming up next week, so watch this space!!!