Surrogacy

Leo’s Birth Story

Before you start reading this, we know that so many of you have been following this journey and cheering us on every step of the way. We all thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your positivity, love...

Emiliana Hall

Before you start reading this, we know that so many of you have been following this journey and cheering us on every step of the way. We all thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your positivity, love and support- we really felt it all!

The eve before the big day

S: Our initial plan was to all have dinner together the night before the section but obviously Covid- 19 had other ideas so we ordered takeaways separately and had a virtual chat! We all seemed fairly calm. Talking about how we’d been waiting for this day since our first discussions 2.5 years ago and never knowing if it would actually come.

E: It was really nice to all catch up as a 4 before the big day- it still didn’t feel real that baby Smith would be going back to them the next day though! I wrote a card to Leo that evening that I’d give to S&J to open once they got home with him. It felt so good writing it finally, but also so surreal and emotional too!

The big day has arrived! 

E: My alarm went off and the thought of ‘we’re meeting baby Smith today’ was pretty overwhelming. I took a last bump pic and sent it to our WhatsApp group saying ‘who’s ready to meet their baby today?!’. You can’t eat for 12 hours before a c section so I had a shower, filmed a little video for Instagram and then woke the kids and James up to say our goodbyes for a couple of days!

The last bump pic!

The last bump pic!

S: I think I woke up about 4.30 and couldn’t get back to sleep. Seriously was today the day we’d been waiting for our whole lives when we would actually meet our baby. My brain couldn’t cope with the concept at all. We got ready and drove the 10 minutes to Em’s. The sunrise was incredible and I stopped to take a photo as I wanted to remember every second of the day.

E: S&J pulled up outside and saying goodbye to the kids was is the hardest part of it all. I felt sorry for James who didn’t really know when I’d be back, and self isolating alone with the kids. I knew our friends would check in on him but still, the emotions were running high and I felt really emotional about leaving them all at home during this weird time!

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S: We pulled up to Em’s house and she came out with the kids and James waving at the door. She honestly looked so relaxed and when I asked her how she was feeling she said ‘so excited!’. That put me at ease a bit knowing she was feeling ok.

Hospital time

S: We knew that we were a very lucky exception to the very new hospital guidelines that had come into place the week before due to Covid-19. We were quickly whisked away to a private room when we arrived at the hospital and were told not to leave the room. We didn’t know how long we’d be staying so we had packed a fair amount!

E: Knowing how quickly things are changing in the maternity care system right now, we all felt so very relieved to have a private room where we could stay together. I’m not sure how well I would have coped being by myself if I’m completely honest. I would have been ok, but it was so important to me (and them of course!) that S&J were there to meet and care for their baby as soon as he was born as they hadn’t spent the last 9 months with him. The hospital made that possible with a bit of forward planning which we were all so grateful for.

S: We unpacked our things and the midwives came in and out doing pre checks on Em, giving us our scrubs and also checking mine and Jacks temperatures which thankfully were all good! I gave our midwife the babies nappy and hat for when he arrived. The consultant came in to discuss the procedure again and they told us we were second on the section list so we would be heading down around 10.15/30.

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E: Of course we were all clock watching but the time went pretty fast to start with! It was actually quite nice having a bit of breathing space in the room and unpacking our bits and pieces which we might not have had if we were in first!

S: To kill some time and relax our nerves, Em and I started making a couple of TikToks (the new video craze!). 10.30 passed and nobody came in – the nerves were really setting in for me at that point and Jack became fairly quiet.

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It’s Time! 

S: Pretty much bang on 11am they came in for us. Aaaahhhhh I’m not ready! Yes I am, I am totally ready to meet him! We were all given masks and hair nets and walked to the theatre.

E: Having not had much experience of surgery or hospital procedures in the past, this was all really new to me. The multiple times I got asked my name, if I knew what surgery I was having and if I was allergic to anything- a very different experience to the lead up to my childrens births! But I was so interested in learning about it all so I felt like I was in a mixed state of ‘oooh that’s interesting’ and ‘Baby Smith is going to be here within the hour’ eek!!

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S: There were about 8-10 people in the theatre all wearing protective clothing. I was able to take a little speaker into theatre with a playlist I had made so we put that on. The surgeons then started the procedure on Em for her spinal block and I was able to hold her hand throughout this. She remained calm and focused and did so well. They then lay her down and Jack and I were asked to come and sit on stools near her head which meant I could be near her throughout the birth.

That part of the section took about 20/25 minutes until they were then ready to proceed. My leg wouldn’t stop shaking at this point, uncontrollably!

E: The theatre wasn’t the one they would usually be in for planned c sections due to the virus. Things had been moved around and we were in the main surgical theatre. This meant things were a little different for the doctors but they were all very calm and it didn’t make me nervous, just even more in awe of them and how they adapt so well in these times of crisis. They were all in good spirits and very complimentary of the playlist which is always a good thing if you want your surgeons to be in a good place whilst performing surgery on you ha!

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S: The next thing we knew the consultant was saying ‘ If you want a particular song playing when your baby is born now is the time to put it on – you’ll be meeting him in 2-3 minutes’. That was when the tears from all 3 of us started and we couldn’t stop. I pressed play on ‘Somewhere over the rainbow’ by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole – the song Jack and I had chosen together a few months before.

E: The floodgates on the tears opened when they said he was going to be appearing imminently- how was this moment even here?! I was worried my shaky sobbing was going to interfere with the surgery but they didn’t say anything! I think everyone in the room was emotional now, it was the craziest atmosphere of anticipation!

S: Em said to me ‘He’s coming’ and they really had to push on her chest as he was quite high up. I couldn’t stop the tears streaming.

E: I wasn’t sure at that point why they were pressing on my chest but I could feel he was being moved down and the tugging by the surgeon so I had to trust that it was for good reason! I wasn’t feeling any pain or discomfort- just the tugging that everyone who has had a c section in the past told me about.

The moment he arrived

S: They lowered the drapes for us and asked us to stand up – and just like that there he was. It was him, our baby. That moment took my breath away completely. He was asleep but I could see his arms move so I knew he was ok. His beautiful little head and face I just couldn’t believe it. They held him over the drape so Em could see him and both Jack and I were in tears still. ‘Hi my baby boy’.

E: Seeing baby Smith for the first time was both incredible and surreal. I had got him here safely and he looked perfect. The relief was overwhelming at that point! He looked so calm and peaceful, I felt proud that we’d achieved his abdominal birth all together as a team. He was here!!

S: They cut the cord and he was whisked off for a quick clean and check. Jack and I were able to go over and see him being checked over but I honestly couldn’t see through the tears. He found his lungs in those minutes for sure! He was then quickly weighed coming out at 7lb 8oz, wrapped in a towel and handed to me under my scrubs for skin on skin. That moment I held my baby for the first time was like nothing I’d ever experienced in my life. I had been worried I wouldn’t feel instant love or that I would feel like he was Em’s baby and not mine, but I honestly just knew I was his mum from the second I saw him. The instinct kicked in immediately and I felt complete holding him.

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E: As the surgeon was stitching me back up, Elvis Presley ’Can’t Help Falling in Love’ was playing and it was the most peaceful (even with bubs finding his lungs!) moment. I couldn’t see them behind me but I knew they were finally in their happy place. I don’t know if I’ll have a prouder moment for someone other than James or my children again! I don’t think they’ve felt true happiness for a very very long time, but as that Elvis song played and the theatre was bustling with everyone doing their checks, the world totally stood still for them and those first moments with their baby. It was perfect.

S: After some skin to skin time I realised I couldn’t actually see him clearly because of the mask I was wearing so I passed him to Jack. It was so lovely seeing him hold his son for the first time. He had fair hair (not much of it!)  and dark blue eyes and some cute little lips. It was only then that Em said ‘So what’s his name then?’. Jack and I both knew we hadn’t changed our minds on the name we had loved the whole pregnancy – ‘Leo James’.

The surgeons finished stitching Em up and we had to stay in theatre longer than usual due to the virus precautions so we got to give him his first bottle in there. The surgeons were so very kind and I’m pretty sure had tears in their eyes aswell. We were then whisked to recovery as Em’s blood pressure was a little low (even though she felt ok) and we stayed in there another hour. I just kept staring at him not quite believing he was ours to keep.

E: Anyone who knows me knows I’m pretty laid back so the blood pressure thing wasn’t a worry. I knew from the outset it might be an issue so we just went with it! During the surgery I’d felt quite sick because of my low blood pressure so they topped up the anti-sickness meds which worked brilliantly. We all just chilled in the recovery bay telling the story to the nurse there- how nice was it to be telling her now Leo was actually here though!! I quickly FaceTimed James and my kids to say I was all ok, you can imagine how happy they were!

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His first couple of days earthside  

S: By the time we got back to the room we knew our families would be going nuts waiting for phone calls. We managed to FaceTime them and everyone was in tears again.

E: One of the perks of being a surrogate for your besties is you get to spend time with them and their newborn for a while after. A complete privilege! Any midwife coming in must have wondered what the whole situation was about- I was propped up in bed chatting to them and watching them navigate those newborn first hours, it was the best hospital bed entertainment ha!

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S: That evening I gave Em a little necklace from Leo and a sketch I had designed for her (which my talented friend drew up for me). I wanted her to always look at these and remember the amazing gift she had given to us. We’ve also always spoken about going back to Ibiza (our happy place!) together with all the children as our celebratory trip hopefully next year. We’ll never be able to ever repay her but I know seeing us so happy with our baby is all she ever really wanted anyway.

E: I loved my gifts so much, they were so thoughtful and I’ll always look at them and remember what a complete miracle journey we went on all together! As Soph said, I didn’t do this for gifts or anything else, just to make their family complete and that job was thankfully done!

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S: Our first night was a whirlwind – I didn’t sleep mainly because we could hear people in labour and I just kept checking he was still there and breathing ok. I just didn’t care though, I wanted to be awake every minute so I could look at him.

E: A mixture of adrenaline, women giving birth and my anti-blood-clotting boots filling with air kept us all awake that night! But I didn’t care, I just hoped our kids were giving James an easy time at home!

S: The next day we stayed in our little hospital bubble taking it in turns for cuddles, feeds and nappy changing. Em was being looked after by the nurses sorting her pain relief and we didn’t think we’d get discharged that day due to lack of staff so we ordered a takeaway which got delivered to the hospital door.

E: Day 2 of being around the new parents was fun, I wasn’t feeling much pain as I was taking morphine, and I was able to get up to go to the loo ok. I have full respect for all mums who give birth but now I’ve experienced a c section, I really do understand when women say it’s the recovery part that’s the hardest. It’s really the feeling of having had major surgery and not feeling quite yourself, if you have to look after a newborn too it’s bound to be full on. I was of course able to take things very slowly and Jack was an excellent peppermint tea maker and snack fetcher!

Heading home

S: We all got tucked up into bed and turned the lights off just as a midwife came in at 10.30pm and said our papers were ready and  we needed to go home as they needed the room. It was all a little stressful as we hadn’t packed or got the car seat out of the car. I also felt I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to this little hospital bubble chapter.

E: I was half sad that we were leaving- it all felt so final! Soph said she wasn’t ready to let me go which was just so Soph- she’s always worried about how I’m feeling first throughout this process. It all got a bit emotional but how could it not after everything we had just been through! But I was also happy that I’d be waking up at home to my little family too.

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S: We left the hospital around 11.15pm and dropped Em home. I cried watching her walk in. I felt emotional leaving her but I knew this was the next chapter and we were heading home as a 3 to start the next part of our lives together and that is a feeling that is so surreal and made my heart melt. We had waited 6 years for this moment and it was everything I imagined getting him home.

E: When I got home I did feel really sad, not for reasons so many people have asked me about (ie. ‘giving Leo up’ he was never mine to ‘give up’, he was always S&J’s I was always just babysitting him!) I was sad because it was all over and I can honestly say it’s been the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. Having my own children was a bloody miracle, but doing it for someone else isn’t something I ever envisaged doing, ever!! I feel very proud I did it. I think the emotion was also a huge come down of adrenaline and relief that my ‘job’ was done too- it’s been a huge part of our family life for the last year and we’ve all had to make sacrifices, it’s not just been me who made this happen. Getting back to ‘normal’ (whatever normal is during a pandemic!) is going to be a relief. Especially as normal is now going to include sharing beautiful and happy family moments with the Smith family of 3 🖤

A few words from Jack…

It was a nervous car journey to the hospital the morning of the section followed by a few hours of waiting that felt longer than they actually were.

Right up until a few days before, there had always been doubts about whether I’d be allowed to be in the surgery and I’m very grateful that the hospital were supportive and that I was able to be there to witness our baby being born. I wouldn’t have wanted to miss it for the world. I didn’t want to see Em in pain and luckily she was fantastic and coped really well with the procedure. It really felt amazing to hear our baby cry for the first time as he entered the world and as we watched him be cleaned up, it felt surreal that he was ours.

After waiting in the recovery room for a while to check on Em’s blood pressure, we were taken back to our room to begin our life with Leo. It was a very strange feeling to finally have our little man, but words can’t describe the elation that we both felt (even after the first nappy change!). The rest of the day was spent trying to feed and figure out how to be parents but it seemed to start off ok!

After a bit of a stressful disembark from the hospital we got home around midnight the day after he was born. His first night was, as to be expected, a bit restless but he fed well and we loved just spending time with him and being awake with him. Since then he has been such a good boy and we are having such a great time looking after our special delivery. Em really has made our dreams of having a baby come true and I will forever be grateful.

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Up next

Part 20: 6 Weeks of Leo!

6 weeks of Leo! I’ve spent the past 6 years wishing it away, wishing for the pain and exhaustion to be over and now I’m desperate for time to go slow so he’s little forever!

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