I got contacted by Hannah, requesting some more information on my doula services. She was planning to be a first time surrogate. She had never been a surrogate before and I hadn't doulaed for one either.
During our first chat I didn't say half the stuff I wanted to say, the conversation just flooded. I realised how lovely she was and I liked her already. By the end of the call I really wanted to support her, to walk with her on this amazing path. Finding out information about each other and finding out what support she wanted from me. I was excited to find out more and wait to hear if she was going to pick me!
She picked me! Yay…… I was able to tell Hannah all the things I should have said at the interview.( I call these meetings an interview as I'm not really sure what else they are. I encourage people to chat to lots of Doulas and get a feel for them, to me it's a personality match really.)
Hannah began her journey with the IP’s (intended parents). Once matched via the surrogacy agency, (brilliant beginnings) they can start the process of IVF.
----- Hannah in the IVF clinic
A few attempts came and went and the waiting was hard for the IPS and Hannah. Also for me, I wondered how best to support Hannah during this time.
Supporting these moments with some positive and reassuring messages was really all I could do. Being available to listen if needed. Hannah faced these hurdles with a can-do attitude , let's try again next month, she is such a positive and determined lady.
At last a transfer worked, but they put two eggs in this time to double the chance of the IPs embryo being successful .
It worked, they took, both of the eggs did ITS TWINS! A few excited messages flew around with the wonderful news and also checking how Hannah was feeling, after all she agreed to carry and birth one baby not 2. It changed a lot of her plans and thoughts around birth, changing to a hospital birth from a home water birth and having a lot of extra scans and appointments within the twin clinic. Hannah was put on the high risk pathway and led under obstetric care, however Hannah found her community midwife was much more helpful and supported her choices ( natural water birth in hospital ..... why not?). Hannah declined some of these extra appointments because they felt very repetitive of the already wonderful care of her community midwife. "There is only so many times you need to be asked if your taking vitamins".
Hannah and her partner have 2 children Albert is 6 and Annie is nearly 3, Hannah told her children that mummy will be carrying babies for a couple who couldn’t carry there own babies. The children were involved all the way and things were explained in an age appropriate way. Albert said this was a very kind thing to do, if someone asked about mummy’s bump he would say they are not our babies. Annie sympathised with Hannah's all day sickness, and spent some time imitating the frequent trips over the bowl. Hannah is hands on mum who thinks the world of her children they are her life. Hannah is fantastic mummy and adores motherhood.
We now had an EDD and could plan for the support, a/n contact was really needed as this was a hard time for Hannah growing two babies isnt easy work, but in true Hannah style she just smashed it!. One term she used was "growing and keeping some friends safe"; this really helped with the mental load of being a surrogate . She felt it was very different to growing her own babies as these little babies weren't hers. She felt she couldn't risk anything and felt the need to follow the obstetrics advice more than she would with her own, it was an added responsibility. "It felt like taking someone else’s children out for day the extra care and caution you would take".
Hannah at 32 weeks ---
Sickness, tiredness and burning acid chats all followed. We explored hypnobirthing and what this may look like for her as a surrogate. I got to work making a whole package just for this unique pregnancy journey. It was a joy to teach her all about hypnobirthing in such a unique way. I was the doula for Hannah not for the IP’s so I didn't really have much contact with them. I know Hannah says they are very happy for twins and excited to see them enter the world. A relationship is worked on between them as this is important for all involved.
I feel lucky to have made connections (with hannah's consent) with the surrogacy agency called 'brilliant beginnings' who provided support. This enabled me to make sure I was confident with everything I needed to do to fully support and advocate for Hannah. They were very lovely, helpful and knowledgeable. It is a little different being a doula for a surrogate being the full birth partner and finding out all the terms, situations and legal requirements for everyone involved.
Hannah has done an amazing job growing two humans, and its now at 35 weeks she is starting to feel the weight of two babies. As a mum of 2 Hannah is busy and doesn't take much time to rest. I have as her doula encouraged this and been an ear to listen when needed. Mostly we share our love for crazy print clothes and toadstools, and spend most of our time laughing.
Hannah has met up with my buddy doula donna who also thinks that Hannah is an awesome human!
As I enter the on-call period, I know the birth plan is in place. I had the honour of helping shape this for Hannah and the IP’S making sure everyone one is aware of boundaries and expectations. Making a birth plan can give you the chance to explore choices and read about what's right for you. A big thing was that we didn't know the sex of the babies and the parents were going to find out, we all guessed correct even the order they were born, dad even guested very close to the time of birth.
Hannah wanted as little intervention as possible, she wanted the wishes of the parents to be followed.
I got my bag packed, birth plan, what's app group all ready to go, Hannah is super chilled, relaxed and laid back about everything, she is just a very lovely kind human. I'm excited to be able to support her on this very special journey, also to meet the new parents and babies.
And now well we all wait......... not for long though at 36 weeks:
During the week, Hannah experiences some good signs, her mucus plug comes away, some period type pain, She also feels done, ready to birth and very full.
During a routine scan they find twin 2s growth is dropping and they plan an IOL(induction of labour) next week.
This is not what Hannah wanted, during surrogacy the woman has full control over her body also during the birth whist Hannah also took into account the IPS wishes. Although she is not the mother of the babies they are still part of her until they are birthed and are given over to the intended parents.
Hannah's feeling uncomfy and a little fed up its Easter weekend her family have
gone to visit family in Scotland leaving her at home alone( rest and relaxation follows). On Saturday the full super moon works its magic and her waters are released (3 bath towels worth) at around 5pm. She calls me excited but unsure as no surges had started, she doesn't really want to go and sit in hospital for hours. Hannah calls maternity unit and they request she attends, due the gestation of 36 weeks she will be classed as pre term (although it is common for twins to born early)
Hannah arrived to Hospital, monitors to check on the babies----
They arrive around 6pm, monitor Hannah and she keeps me updated and her friend stays with her. The parents are on the way to the hospital they had planned to come up in the next day or so ready for the IOL.
I prepare my Easter treats for the kids in the morning, get the house tidy, eat and make sure I have everything ready for when the phone rings.
I live about 45 mins for Wigan hospital.
Hannah calls me and I go as she is feeling irritated with the obstetrician at the hospital. This is text around half 10 while I'm napping, Hannah is given a VE and not dilated at all, they made it clear nothing was going on. Steroids were offered for the twins as they were classed as pre term, this decision was explained including the risks, Hannah felt she couldn't make this decision as it was for the babies, they rang the IPS and they made the decisions not to take these.
Hannah was told she would need continue monitoring through out as she was putting the twins at risk if she didn't.
These instructions are what made Hannah feel out of control and she needed me to come and be with her. Hannah was experiencing surges mild during this time.
11pm the phone calls, and I see the message I jump up, get dressed, grab my brew and head off with the moon shining bright and the roads empty.
I get lost, can not find the maternity ward and the hospital is quite empty, I haven't been in this hospital before but I know that I need to go up some floors.
I finally find what I'm looking for in the room where Hannah and the IPS are waiting.
Hannah is on the bed on her back fully strapped up, canular in her arms, the things she didn't want. She feels very torn between her wants and the needs of these babies.
Hannah breathes and relaxes down with each surge, they are irregular and no other checks or information is really been given, the room is quite big and Hannah can move around if we can remove these monitors.
The parents are excited and full of energy, this is the first time I have met them and it's lovely to see them looking on in excitement and ore of what Hannah is doing for them.
I set to relaxing Hannah, not that she needed much support. She was breathing and going in her zone just beautifully. I checked on eating and drinking and started to get some more information from the midwives and Hannah.
I also realised Hannah had not had a wee for a few hours, she seemed to be getting good long surges and a pattern shaped in the last few sets, the last one really got hold of her and she went tense, unable to move with the straps. I suggested she may need a wee as she described the pressure. I also knew if we could get her off the bed this would help her. Hannah went for a wee and said she wouldn't like to be monitored again ever, the midwife took this as a joke, to which i said no she means it, they were packed away, no more monitors would be used.
Everything had also been reading well at this point babies were happy but Hannah wasn't. After a few mins on the loo Hannah called me, I knew what was happening this baby was coming on the loo, i went in and could see the change, helped Hannah get her pyjamas off and tried to get her up off the loo, to a standing squat ( I didn't want the baby in the loo), Midwife was called and the room filled, as a head appeared, with such a strong powerful motion Hannah birth twin 1 which was girl , as per the birth plan the babies were to go to the parents first, who were excitedly awaiting this little person to come out of the bathroom. With a powerful baring down, no pain relief and just someone to hold telling her she can do it, plus a midwife's shoulder who was now on the bathroom floor the first twin entered the world perfectly.
Hannah remained calm, composed and apologised about the mess on the bathroom floor. This woman never thinks of herself, she was worried about my back being in a funny position, the midwife who got on the floor to catch the baby, the parents and the babies. She felt ok and we asked if she may want to walk back into the room and try some all fours on the bed, twins can have quite a gap between them and she had 2 placentas yet to birth. The bathroom was bright and we had been asked to move everyone bags in there so was a little full.
It was fast and powerful and Hannah took it all in her stride, we focussed on the things we discussed. I knew what she needed from me and she used me to support her physically and emotionally at this time. Birth is raw, beautiful and just amazing, this one was a whole different experience for me as a doula, being a surrogate, added in so many more emotions and the high risk twin birth which was actually a very normal natural low risk birth. Twin 2, which was a boy arrived about 10 mins after twin 1, we expected a placenta but in one big down breath out came twin 2,
a few more big surges and the sight of the parents doing skin to skin with a baby each fuelled the natural birth of not 1 but both the placentas at the same time.
Hannah had small blood loss, no stitches or grazes and gave birth to 2 healthy babies all by herself. Hannah felt in control other than a small panic when twin 1 made her descent, Hannah felt she opening ready to birth, this when she called me into the bathroom.
Easter Sunday the twins were born (stock image)
This journey has just been the most amazing thing to be a small part of, full of love and pure magic.
As Hannah sat eating her toast ("which was the best toast she had ever had, just delicious") watching over this new family unit she whispered to me, “Kat I've made a family” and yes she has.
Stopping for a full moon birth selfie on the way to car, Hannah feeling amazing.
The moon still bright we got Hannah discharged, 6 hours is recommended but as with everything this is your choice and Hannah wanted to go see her own bed and her fur baby.
Hannah and Marley who was happy to see her home a few hours later.
I took her home. In ore of her and what she had just done, she explained she didn't feel sad to be leaving with out the babies she felt they were friends, the emotional part of surrogacy will be different for everyone.
Hannah was in labour for around 5 hours, she believed in her ability to give birth and said all the way she was just going to cough them out ( a running joke between us). She had so much faith in herself and owned her power, “I'm just good at having babies”.
Hannah is a superwoman , I will be remaining friends with her and maybe one day will be supporting her again as I don't think this will be her only surrogacy journey.
Twin 1 was a girl weighing 6lb1oz
And Twin 2 a boy weighing 4.10oz
The twins had a 4 day stay in hospital but are both healthy and returned home with the new parents, who are all doing very well. Congratulations to them all.
Hannah says that her children didn't want to see the babies, they were happy the babies had gone to their mummy and daddy, they have looked at pictures and seen just how cute they are. They are very happy to have there mummy back.
Hannah says she is so glad she had me with her, "I didn’t realise how much I would need someone like you with me who just understood and got me, Kat never questioned my decisions and always respected them."
Hannah "believes everyone should be able to have a family", that's her reason for giving this amazing gift and becoming a surrogate.
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For more information on my doula services and my buddy Donna