Lying in the darkness, Baby Candon rhythmically jolts my gravid belly. Hiccups again! I roll onto my left side, then back and forth, side to side, for the seemingly hundredth time that night. The silent small hours of the night are her preferred time to stretch, roll and learn the movements of her tiny body. I close my eyes and rest my hands upon the knobbly bits pushing towards the outside world. I wonder what she is thinking and what she will look like. Will she have Adam’s eyelashes? Amy’s perfect skin? The dark hours of the night slowly creep by.
With only a few weeks left in this pregnancy, the realization of Baby Candon’s imminent entrance to the other side is becoming more and more of a frank reality. As I wind down my work schedule, I can’t believe that this journey is almost coming to an end.
It seems that not too long ago, we were so abstractly discussing this little life. I remember how excruciating it was waiting for those two weeks between the embryo transfer and the first pregnancy test. After the exhilaration of realizing that this was truly happening, I recall thinking how slowly time was passing. How was I going to possibly survive the entire duration of these 40 weeks if each milestone seemed to be forever away?
I kept thinking, just make it to 12 weeks, when the possibility of losing the pregnancy would stop haunting me. Just pass the 16 week mark, when the genetic testing would be resulted and would (please, please) reassure Amy and Adam that all was well. Just get to 25 weeks when, as a physician, I knew that the chance of her surviving outside the womb would be possible. Reach that the third trimester, when we would be at last be in the final stretch. Just make it past 35 weeks, when I would breathe a sigh of relief knowing that if she decided to be born early, she would be able to make her entrance here in Sioux Lookout rather than at a large, tertiary hospital far away from our home. And finally, just cross the finish-line, where she would make her beautiful entrance into the world.
Now at 35 weeks, I am so thankful that everything has gone smoothly so far. Baby Candon is growing like crazy and was already measuring 5lbs at 32 weeks! She is well on target to far surpass Henry and Alice who were 6lbs and 7lbs upon their arrivals.
Aside from the constant heartburn, my second trimester has flown by without much difficulty. I basically have been living my life as I normally would have with Baby Candon along for the ride. She has heard many stories from patients, been present for numerous deliveries, been in the OR multiple times and has been dragged along for many long ER shifts. Outside of work, I continued my HIT/weight-lifting workouts as usual up until about 30 weeks. Until then, I was getting a few funny looks from other gym-goers as I modified my burpees and push ups trying to make room for my expanding belly. When the jumping and lifting became too difficult, I resorted to prenatal yoga which eventually became me just laying down on my mat to have a rest 🙂
Overall, throughout this journey, the response from family, friends, colleagues and even patients has been overwhelmingly positive. Many people have been utterly surprised and have often remarked that they had heard or seen stories about surrogacy on TV, but had never encountered someone who was actually being a surrogate! This, most of the time, prompted further questions. Did I feel a connection to this baby? (Of course!) Wasn’t I going to be devastated to give the baby to the parents after delivery? (Definitely not!) Did it feel weird to be pregnant with someone else’s baby? (Not really!?) All valid questions, but I also assured them that I certainly didn’t have all the answers and like them, I had never encountered anyone either professionally or personally who had acted as a gestational surrogate. It was uncharted territory for all of us.
The other consistent concern from inquisitive minds was about our own kids, Henry and Alice. Weren’t they going to be confused or upset when I didn’t bring a baby sister home for them from the hospital? This, fortunately has been such a beautiful aspect of this pregnancy. Our children have been completely easy-going and utterly accepting of the situation. To ensure they were never confused, we began talking to Henry and Alice as soon as my belly began to emerge about who was growing inside. They knew who Adam and Amy were from previous visits and we continued the connection by FaceTiming with them so that they would connect Amy and Adam’s face to the story that were were telling them. Amy also sent us an adorable storybook about surrogacy that we read repeatedly at bedtime.
Henry would occasionally comment on my growing bump (‘Mom, you’re a mountain!’ or ‘Mom, I can’t see the book, your belly is in the way!) and Alice would sometimes surprise me with a hug for the baby, but for the most part, they were largely indifferent. What was the big deal? In their eyes, this was all in the realm of normal.
Although for 90% of the time, helping Adam and Amy start their family has been such an exciting, positive experience for our family, growing Baby Candon hasn’t been without a few small challenges. To that end, I wouldn’t be being honest to myself if I wasn’t real in my reflections of this journey. This blog has never been about sugar-coating my life and I have always wanted to have this space for contemplation and a realistic portrayal of my life.
After reaching that third trimester, the last number of weeks have tested my physical and mental strength in ways that I hadn’t anticipated. Pregnancy is no joke, but it was definitely easier when I had been 5 years younger and had been childless or only had one toddler to content with. Now with a VERY active four, and almost three year-old, a full-time, demanding job, I have to be honest and say that I have definitely struggled to keep up.
Suddenly, over the past weeks, I have felt physically weak when trying to lift the kids, do household chores and the day-to-day activities with two kids. Putting my skates on to take Henry out to our backyard rink nearly did me in the other week! As a result, my back has been protesting day and night. Combined with wicked, nausea-inducing heartburn, Baby Candon’s night-time dance parties, overnight calls from the hospital, and Henry’s 6am wake-ups, sleep has been been pretty much futile.
I have to be honest – there have been moments in these past weeks where I felt like I wasn’t going to be able to make it to the end. In those moments, I have felt overwhelmed with my whale-like body, with the unexplained tears that have come way too quickly, spilling from the lack of sleep and the hormonal state of pregnancy, and mostly from my inability to keep focused on what was most important – Amy and Adam and the creation of their beautiful family. In those moments, I have felt alone, feeling guilty about having these negative sentiments – not wanting to complain knowing that Amy would literally give anything, ANYTHING to switch places with me. I knew that in a heartbeat, Amy would gladly take a lifetime of insomnia, heartburn and all the discomforts of pregnancy to carry her little girl herself.
But, in those moments, Blake has rubbed my back, wiped my tears, listened empathetically to my complaints and most importantly, has gently reminded me why we were doing this for Amy and Adam. “Remember Celia how happy you will be making Amy and Adam. Think of all the people you are helping”, he would say over and over.
Keep perspective, I would then repeat over in my mind, grounding myself to the fact that these temporary and minor discomforts and challenges were so minuscule in the grand scheme of not only my own life, but for the rest of Amy and Adam’s lives too.
The true boost of motivation that I needed to see me through these final weeks came recently over New Years. After a demanding seven days and seven nights of continuous obstetrics call over Christmas, Blake, the kids and I traveled to Southern Ontario to visit family and friends in Blake’s hometown of Kingston. In our annual tradition, we spent a lovely New Year’s Eve at Amy and Adam’s home. Standing in their beautiful nursery, seeing how excited Amy and Adam were and imagining their little girl sleeping in her perfect crib was incredibly powerful for me. It struck me profoundly that only one year to the day, the idea of carrying Adam and Amy’s baby had entered our minds and then here we were, with Baby Candon wiggling around in my belly while I stood in her soon-to-be nursery.
Days later, we were fortunate enough to attend Amy and Adam’s baby shower. It was a lovely celebration attended by eighty-some friends and family. As someone who has never enjoyed being in the spotlight, I had tried to be as inconspicuous as I could which wasn’t that successful given my very pregnant belly. As a result, many of Amy and Adam’s friends and family members made a point of introducing themselves to Blake and I and to thank us. I remember feeling so shy and awkward at the attention, but was extremely touched at the gratitude that everyone expressed. It was amazing to see how much this little life was loved by so many already!
Now back at home with only a few short weeks to go, I am truly getting so excited for this little one’s arrival. I am hoping her delivery will be something along the lines of how Alice describes it:
Me (pointing to my belly): Who’s in here?
Alice: Adam and Amy’s baby!
Me: What’s going to happen soon?
Alice: She’ll grow and grow until she goes ‘POP’, then she’ll say ‘Wahhhhhhh!’ (this is her favourite part of the story, and always tells it with a giant smile on her face).
Me: Then what will happen?
Alice: Baby will go to Adam and Amy’s house and then… the moon with happiness (aka they will be over the moon with happiness)!
I can only hope things will go as smoothly 🙂
We can’t wait to meet you Baby Candon!