Birthing as a Surrogate at Atlanta Birth Center
It was a Tuesday. I was at home — alone — having sent my kids to the grandparents. Up until this point I hadn’t had much time by myself. I was starting to suspect this might have something to do with not going into labor. I kept thinking, “How am I supposed to go into labor when I have to take care of my kids!” I had just woken up from a nap. I decided to sit on the birth ball and try pumping to see if I could get something going. This was around 5pm. Almost as soon as I was done pumping I had a contraction. I decided to get up and start dancing to some K-pop. I had a few more contractions. I didn’t try timing them. I didn’t want to focus on the pattern so much as I wanted to focus on the intensity. Around 5:30pm I got into the bath. I continued having contractions. I then started notifying all important parties. I didn’t want to get everyone excited but I also didn’t want to wait too long to notify everyone either.
5:47pm: Messaged my doula Emily that I was having contractions.
5:48pm: Called husband and told him not to stay late at work.
5:49pm: Messaged the dads stating I was having contractions. The amount of GIFs I got in response was comical.
I stayed in the bath a little longer but got out around 6:15pm. My husband, Matt, got home around 6:50pm. I told him to go ahead and get into comfy clothes. I had a few texts back and forth with the dads and our doula, but once Matt got home I put him in charge of the phone. I paced the halls — standing and walking felt good. Matt asked if I had called the midwives. I had not. I didn’t want to call and it all turn out to be a false alarm. I finally agreed at 7:30pm to call the midwife. I had Matt talk to her. He spoke with Shannan and put her on speaker so she could listen to me while I was having a contraction. After a few moments listening to my grunting, she told Matt that since this was my third birth, I should start heading down to the Birth Center. I kept telling Matt I didn’t want to go because I didn’t want to be sent home if this wasn’t the real deal or if it was too early. I remember him saying that if we were sent home then we would come home and it wasn’t a big deal. I also told him I didn’t want the dads waiting on me. I didn’t want to see their excited faces, because again, what if it wasn’t true labor.
We took care of things around the house and loaded into the car. I was worried that the car ride would cause the contractions to stop. They did not. We arrived at the Birth Center at 8:20pm. Shannan greeted us at the door and took us to the triage room. She put me on the monitor for a few minutes so we could see how baby was doing. We quickly moved to the “Water Room.” This ended up being very fitting since I spent a lot of time in the shower, which I got in by 9:00pm. I was able to handle the contractions while pacing under the warm water. While I was in the shower, the dads arrived. I had them stop and get me a smoothie. They remained out in the waiting areas. While in the shower I started to feel pressure. I tried getting out of the shower around 10pm but quickly got back in. Being under the warm water, using the seat to lunge or rest on, was such a huge help. I was very vocal throughout my labor. It helped to focus me.
Contractions started to intensify and after talking with Shannan we decided to fill the birth tub. I got into the tub at 11:10pm. At 11:20pm we talked with Shannan about speeding things up with AROM (artificial rupture of membrane) but I decided to hold off until it was time to do a cervical check, which would be around midnight. I felt like things were slowing down in the tub and decided to get back into the shower at 11:50pm. I continued to feel pressure. I moved back into the tub at 12:20am. Shannan performed a cervical check while I was in the tub at 12:32am. I was 4cm dilated, 100% effaced, and baby was at 0 station. I felt so defeated at this point. I decided to move forward with AROM. I sent Shannan to talk with the dads about it first.
I got out of the tub at 12:45am and then got in the bed. Shannan and Heather were at the bedside and AROM was done at 12:55am. There was meconium present and Shannan stated I immediately went to 6cm. Laying down was excruciatingly painful. I couldn’t remain in the bed. I went back to the shower where I really began to struggle with the contractions. The pain was all in my lower belly. I cried, panicked, and wanted everything to be over. I kept trying to find ways out, like getting an epidural, but knew that wasn’t an option. I remember telling everyone, “I just need to be done. I need to be done.” I remember at one point getting real quiet and just rocking on the ball through the contractions. I was afraid to vocalize during the pain, as if it would make the pain worse. I told Emily, “I’ve been having them. I’ve just been real quiet during them.” Eventually the fear started to take over though. It felt like every nerve ending was on fire. I could feel the adrenaline coursing through me and it was terrible.
Around 2am we discussed pain management options, Shannan stated she would have to check me before I could get anything, but I was afraid to even move. I knew if I stood that the pain would get worse and I didn’t think I could handle it. With help I eventually got up and made it to the bed. Shannan performed a cervical check, I was 7cm. Again, lying down was terrible. I had to get up and move. I paced around the bed.
I can’t begin to describe pushing. It wasn’t something I did voluntarily at first. It was a guttural, instinctual experience. I finally stood next to the bed and by 2:43am was squatting and pushing more purposefully. I held onto Emily’s hand, she and Matt were stretched across the bed above me, and I felt the baby crowning with my other hand. Heather, the nurse, had the parents waiting on the other side of the door while I was pushing. I decided in the moment I didn’t want them watching me poop since that was all you could see from behind, and instead wanted them to come into the room once the baby was delivered. Baby girl was born at 2:47am. Shannan caught her and brought her out from behind me. The boys came in right away. I told them to “come meet their baby.”
Baby girl needed a little bit of respiratory support so Shannan decided to transfer her to Atlanta Medical Center for further monitoring. During this time I was bleeding heavily. I could feel large clots coming away. The nurse gave me a shot of Pitocin and I delivered the placenta at 3am and massaged my own fundus while sitting on the floor waiting for EMS to arrive.
I finally got in bed and got a second shot of Pitocin. The bleeding continued so Shannan gave me oral Cytotec and massaged my fundus, which was terrible. She had another laboring client coming in and called in the backup midwife, Vanessa. Once Vanessa arrived she started an IV line and I was given Pitocin that way. The bleeding started to slow down. Emily and Shannan helped clean me up. Emily got a heat pack for my belly which helped immensely. After helping me get settled Emily departed, which was around 4:20am. By 5am Matt and I were snuggled in bed.
I woke around 6am and decided to get up and pump. The boys returned from AMC and stopped to say thank you. After they left and I finished pumping, I returned to bed. I dozed again until around 7:45am. I sent out a few text messages to let people know how things went. I got up again to pump and after checking my vital signs the midwife assistant decided I needed another liter of fluids. Once that was done infusing she checked my vitals again, my heart rate was normal. She removed the IV and stated we could go home. I told her I wanted to take a shower first, so Matt and I hopped into the shower together and discussed how things went. After getting dressed she brought in my discharge papers and we were on our way by 10:50am. We left the birth center and went to Flying Biscuit for food. After that we went to AMC to visit baby with the parents and so I could get some colostrum in her mouth. Once that was done we said our goodbyes to the boys and headed home.
I think the staff handled everything amazingly. I felt respected the entire time. I felt like I had full autonomy over the birthing experience which can be really difficult to navigate as a surrogate. I don't have enough praise for the staff at ABC.