My Surrogacy Story

After my son stopped breastfeeding in 2013 I decided to pursue becoming a surrogate. I had thought about it a lot since my first child’s birth. I enjoyed being pregnant, but after my son’s birth, my husband Mark and I knew we were done having our own children. This would be a way for me to do something I enjoy while helping another family, and I'd get compensated without having to put my kids in daycare. We bought a house in Colorado and planned to stay there for a while, so I felt this was the perfect time to start the process. In January 2014 I met with a surrogacy agency (this was before Colorado and Montana Surrogacy were around). I passed all of the agency's psychological tests that indicated I was a good candidate. Mark also had to take a few psych tests and we had to meet with a psychiatrist together to get her approval before moving forward. They looked into our finances to make sure we weren't doing this for financial reasons. After these tests, the next step was getting matched with a couple. I waited for 4 months for the agency to contact me to set up a meeting with a couple. I had told the agency that I wanted a couple who was open to natural birth out of a hospital & a couple that wanted my breastmilk after the birth. We met with the couple and the agency hadn't told them anything that I requested. They didn't even know getting milk was a possibility & they wanted me to birth in a hospital. I "fired" the agency and went out on my own.

The next week I met another couple. They were very open to natural birth at a birth center and were excited about getting milk. I started the physical tests at their fertility clinic. They poked and prodded me to make sure I was in exceptional health. This involved a painful hysteroscopy, STD testing, infectious disease & virus testing, pap smear, & drug testing.  Mark also had to have a few tests done during this process. Once we passed all of these we waited for a contract to be drawn up. We waited 5 months to hear from them about a contract and they also changed their story a few times. We started to get a bad feeling and said we needed to move on.

In October 2014 we met with two intended fathers. One of their sisters, a midwife in Denver, was searching for a gestational surrogate for them on the Facebook page, "Denver Birth Circle." I messaged her and soon after, Facetimed with them. We both liked each other so we planned to meet in person. The in-person meeting went well and we continued to move forward. They were organized so I was all about working with them. They were open to a birth center birth & receiving breastmilk.

I passed on all of my health records from the last few months of tests. We both got our own lawyers and had a contract drawn up. Their fertility clinic required a few more tests so we did those. They found elevated prolactin levels. which can indicate a pituitary gland tumor. I had an MRI (which I never want to do unmedicated again!) and they did find a benign tumor. I went on a medication to lower my prolactin levels. It worked, so I then started all of the IVF medications. Some symptoms I experienced on the medications were; headaches, mood swings, acne, hot flashes, weight gain, fatigue & lightheadedness. I underwent the embryo transfer in July and it worked the first time. I did have some heavy bleeding and intense cramping a couple of weeks after the embryo transfer and I thought I miscarried. The next morning I went to the fertility clinic for an ultrasound to see if everything was ok. They saw a heartbeat! They also saw the blood clot where the bleeding came from, they weren't concerned about the clot and didn't have an answer as to why I bled.

Then in July Mark got an offer in Bozeman, MT. He had found out in Spring that his employer wasn't going to have a budget to keep him after his contract would end in September. Mark started the job search and we thought he would find something in Denver, but then he heard about a position in Bozeman and applied. We always wanted to move back to Bozeman but didn't think it could happen so soon. He got the offer and we starting making plans. By August we were living in Bozeman.

My IPs were supportive of us moving. All of our plans changed but they stayed positive the whole time. Because the pre-birth order was done in Colorado & 2 dads have never been put on a birth certificate in Montana, I was going to have to travel back to Colorado at 32 weeks gestation to wait to give birth. I was really freaking out about leaving my family for so long and my midwife was concerned that the hair loss I was experiencing was from stress due to all this worry. My midwife suggested I stay in Montana until 36 weeks so I wouldn't be under so much stress.

This was a really hard pregnancy for me. I feel like I slept through most of it. I had nausea, headaches, heartburn, swelling, hair loss, acne, exhaustion...the list goes on. My pregnancies with my children were very easy with hardly any of the usual pregnancy symptoms and I gained the average amount of weight. This time I gained 48 pounds! Then at 34.5 weeks gestation....

Our family was playing cards after dinner. Mark's mom was visiting for 3 weeks and my sister had the next day off, so she had come to spend the night with us. At 7pm I felt a gush of water. I hoped I had just peed my pants! When I went to the bathroom it was somewhat bloody so I immediately called my midwife. She said to meet her at the hospital.  I felt like my body failed me and I was so worried I was going to birth a baby that was going to have to be hooked up to machines. I just had an appointment with my midwife the previous day and I didn't show any signs of going into labor early. With both of my kids, I could tell when I was getting close to going into labor, so I was shocked that I didn't have any signs.

Mark & I rushed out the door to the hospital to make sure it was my water that broke before I called the baby's fathers. I didn't want them to fly here to find out I just peed my pants. After 10 minutes the test showed it was my bag of waters. I immediately called one of the fathers who happened to be in China for business. The godfather was in China with the father so he made the journey to Bozeman too! If I would have called him 2 hours later he wouldn't have gotten a flight out that night. The other father was in New York out to dinner with friends. He made arrangements to fly out the next morning. One set of grandparents were also making their way from Denver to Bozeman and would arrive first. 

While everyone was making their way to Bozeman I was having contractions off and on, more off than on. I was dilated 3 cm when I arrived at the hospital and hardly felt contractions. I had to have an IV with antibiotics administered every 4 hours because I didn't get the Group B Strep test that is done at 36 weeks. Mark and I watched a movie and tried to rest. Our adrenaline was really going so it took a while to settle down. I slept 20 minutes here and there overnight, maybe getting 1–2 hours of sleep. My sister came to the hospital to be with me while Mark slept. My midwife checked on me in the morning and said she wanted to get things going by augmenting if I wasn't contracting consistently by the time the first father arrived around noon. I did NOT want that. I understood that they were concerned because he was a preemie and they didn't want to take any risks with infection so I called the midwife sister in Denver to get a second opinion about it and she recommended doing nipple stimulation. I pulled out my pump and sure enough I had contractions a minute apart while I had the pump on. I asked my midwife to check me which is unlike me but this time I wanted to know. I was 6cm. She was shocked I was already at 6 because I hadn't really had many contractions during the night and had just tried the pump for a short time. My midwife was happy with that and said I could stop nipple stimulation and start again when the dad arrived since she knew it would work for me. I scarfed down a huge breakfast and lunch over the next few hours while I stared at the clock counting the hours until the dads would arrive. My body was definitely holding back because I had this picture in my head of them seeing their baby come out.

Finally, the first father walked in the door. I had a contraction as soon as I saw him. Things started to get moving once he was there. I did use the pump off and on throughout active labor when I got frustrated that my contractions were so far apart. I still kept looking at the clock waiting for the other father to arrive.  Over the next 4 hours I changed positions about a dozen times. I felt like I wanted to push but when I did I couldn't feel him move down. I was getting really discouraged and tired so I asked my midwife to check me. The baby's head was stuck on a cervical lip and I was starting to get exhausted so my midwife suggested that she move it during my next contraction. I pushed while she pressed on the lip and she got it out of the way. It was excruciating. I've never described labor as painful until this labor. After another "stall", the lip had to be moved once more. However, once that lip was out of the way I really felt I could bear down. Pushing felt like it took forever. The ring of fire when crowning was quite intense. I didn't have these intense feelings during my other births. Finally, he emerged and one of the fathers was right there to welcome him. The other father arrived within 3 minutes of his birth—he was in the elevator at the hospital when baby came out at 4:05pm! He had to fly PVG - SFO - LAX - BZN and he still arrived before I birthed the placenta.

While the fathers stared at their baby as he was examined, my midwife was taking care of me. She was encouraging me to deliver the placenta. It came out and I started hemorrhaging. Mark saw blood spraying out of me and he turned white. He had to sit on the floor for a while. I could feel myself getting light headed and I started to panic. They put the oxygen mask on me and hooked my IV up to pitocin & gave me cytotec. She got the bleeding to stop with these meds and strong (and painful!) uterine massage. It ended up being about 700ccs of blood loss which isn't horrible but still concerning.

I was shocked to hear that the baby was just over 6 pounds & healthy so he didn't need any assistance with breathing. When I went into labor at 34.5 weeks they thought he might have to be in the NICU for 2-6 weeks depending on how well he did. After they examined him, they said he didn't need to go to the NICU at all and he would only have to stay in the hospital about 7-10 days. He was already acting like a full term baby.He was able to go home after 5 days in the hospital!!  He was such a healthy little guy.

With the help of the father's lawyer, Ellen Trachman, we met with local lawyers to sign documents stating that what we signed in Colorado was true. The judge reviewed and approved it. The baby was the recipient of the first father-father birth certificate issued in the state of Montana! He made history! Mark & I went out to lunch with the baby & his dads to say goodbye. It was harder than I thought to see them go but mostly because I had developed a relationship with his dad's and now they were going home across the country. 

On one occasion, I jumped up in the middle of the night, half asleep and looked for the baby. I was worried that I forgot to feed him! Once I fully woke up I realized it was natural instinct that woke me and I hooked up my pump. I don't have the urge to care for a baby but my hormones are telling me that's what I'm supposed to be doing right now. I do have a special kind of love for him. You know how every parent thinks their baby is the perfect baby? Even though he isn't mine, I look at him and think he's absolutely perfect. I can't take credit for genetics but I'm very proud of myself for growing such a perfect baby.

Amber Campanelli ~ The Honest Surrogate