Surrogacy

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!

Emiliana Hall

S: 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! It’s taken a while to write this next part of the blog because the days are going so fast even in lockdown but here goes.

E: The first day waking up at home was really strange- I felt like I shouldn’t move but I could, I guess the last dose of morphine was still keeping me going! When I properly woke up I felt an overwhelming sense of relief that Leo was waking up with S&J in their home. My job was done and I was back home safely! The last hurdle would now be my recovery.

I had to take pain relief every 4-6 hours and give myself a daily injection to prevent blood clots for 10 days. The injections had to go in my tummy or thigh, stung a little bit and caused a bit of bruising.

S: Our first night at home was surreal. I’m not sure I slept much as kept checking he was still next to me and still breathing! I just couldn’t believe we had a baby in the house. The next day we went and picked Lola up. Initially she ignored him and wanted our attention then gradually she started sniffing around him and now she goes straight over when he starts crying.

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E: To protect midwives and health visitors, there were no post birth home appointments. This did worry me a little as I’d never had a c section before so I didn’t know what was normal to experience post birth. But luckily, nothing came up that warranted needing to speak to someone. I had a phone call with our lovely midwife Geraldine on the first day I was home and explained I felt sore but that was normal.

S: The next few days involved a lot of FaceTiming! Our friends and family were obviously desperate to meet him after such a long wait but we were in the epicentre of lockdown so FaceTime and doorstop visits at a distance were all we could have. Because I hadn’t given birth, I didn’t have the physical side of having a baby to deal with but I definitely had the mental and emotional side and found myself in tears looking at him every day trying to believe he was real and here.  I’d play him the playlist from the day he was born and be in tears. I think I was in shock for a while that he was at home with us and our responsibility now.

E: The following  few days went smoothly for me, but it was James who had pulled the short straw in all of this! He had just started a new job 4 weeks earlier and had been loving it. Government guidelines to self isolate if anyone had symptoms meant he had to stop working on 23rd March as Theo had a dry cough. Little did we know it was going to go on for months! So James went from loving his new job to being full time childcare with nowhere to go except the daily walks. I really felt guilty but knew I had to fully rest in the first weeks as otherwise it would take me longer to recover. I think the first 3 weeks of recovery were the hardest for us as a family in the whole surrogacy process- not because I was struggling with the birth but because I couldn’t physically help with the kids who wanted to see their friends and go on outings, and I felt a bit resentful that I was feeling guilty in the time I wanted to just soak up the relief of Leo being born- but no one could have predicted the virus so we just had to crack on with it!

The original plan was for the children to be at nursery and James at work during my recovery. I planned to have solid rest watch box sets and dip in and out of work bits as and when I fancied it. With COVID-19 turning up, that all went out of the window! Everyone was at home and after over a week of self isolating already, we were already getting cabin fever. It wasn’t quite the peaceful recovery period I had been looking forward to! But a small problem to have in the grand scheme of what was going on in the world.

My milk did come in around day 3 and it was really uncomfortable but I was advised to just leave it be and put up with the discomfort for a few days rather than try to do anything about it. That part was much sorer than the scar at this point especially when the kids tried to hug me! It passed after a few days which was a relief.

S: Day 5 checks usually consist of the midwives coming to your house, however the new rules were that we had to attend the local hospital for this and that it would just be me, Em and Leo and Jack would wait outside. We picked Em up and this was when Mollie and Theo got to see Leo through the car window for the first time and see that the baby was no longer in mummy’s tummy! At the appointment Leo was weighed by our lovely midwife Geraldine and he had lost 3% of his birth weight which was within the guidelines so they were happy. Em was checked over and all was good with her scar. The hospital felt eerie with nobody in it!

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E: It was so strange that Jack wasn’t able to be there, I took some photos for him of the appointment so he could see Leo being weighed with Soph! It was so nice to see Geraldine again though, she is always so professional but I know she was so happy and relieved to see us all on the other side too. Geraldine was impressed that I got onto the bed easily for her to check me over. I really hadn’t done a thing apart from walk to the toilet and around my bedroom for mobility in those early days so I really do think that helped my recovery. Apart from going to the hospital, I continued to do that for a further 2 weeks.

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S: We were absolutely overwhelmed by the love and support we had from everyone in those first couple of weeks. Beautiful gifts and cards arrived daily from so many people. It really did mean so much to us the thought that had gone in to making us and Leo feel so special. The cards are already in his memory box and I’ve only just stopped crying when I read the words that have been written to us.

I’ve been so proud of Em with her recovery from major surgery, especially knowing how difficult it’s been not being able to help James with childcare during lockdown. I was very conscious to check on her every few days in those initial weeks and was grateful to everyone who sent her cards and gifts to say thank you. It really touched me.

E: I had so many messages, phone calls, cards and gifts, people were mostly saying ‘thank you’ and ‘well done’- not the usual post birth messages! It was really lovely though and I soaked up all of the love.

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S: After a couple of weeks my first priority was to send the parental order forms off to the family court in London to start the ball rolling on that part of the process. Due to the new restrictions we were unable to register Leo’s birth until the offices reopened but I was advised that I could still apply to the courts and sort that part at a later date.

We also had our health visitor come around in her protective gear and weigh him at 2 and 4 weeks. From about 3 weeks he had started to struggle with wind and I had a feeling he might have a bit of reflux which we continue to work through. His weight however went up to 9lb 6 at his 4 week check so we were happy with that.

E: Week 3 was when I started to feel a bit more physically able to go for a proper walk outside. Until then I’d been walking around the house and garden but didn’t want to push it. It felt so nice to be outside and the weather was incredible! The kids were especially excited to have me out on their daily walk as they pointed all of their new special spots out to me. I seemed to escape the hormonal sways that so many women get postnatally. I don’t know why I manage to avoid them… but I hadn’t gotten them with M&T either so it was a relief if I’m honest! As this postnatal period could have been very different indeed!

I also started to work a bit more again around the 4 week mark as I enjoy it so much and missed it! With everything going online, it was so easy for me to get back to it.

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S: A month after Leo was born we were contacted by the journalist who had previously written an article about our story and she wanted to do another one now that Leo was born. It’s always been important to me to be open which is why I started my Instagram page years ago and why we decided to write this surrogacy blog with the goal of giving people hope. Our story ended up online and in the Daily Express and Bella magazine and we were so happy with all the kinds words about it and I’ve put copies again in Leo’s memory box.

E: Seeing our story in print was a proud moment as it did bring it home what a unique and miraculous situation this has been. If it brings hope or just a smile to anyone out there then I’m happy that it’s available for people to read.

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S: Leo is 6 weeks old today and it feels like he’s been with us forever. Everyday is a new adventure and he is changing all the time. We still have lots of FaceTimes (twice a day from my mum since he was born!!) and door stop visits. We’ve had our daily walks with Lola (thankful for the amount of sunny days these past few weeks!), his first bath at 3 weeks, his first smiles at 5 weeks, have started a baby massage course on zoom and had a VE Day distanced street party. Jack and I are still trying to get used to some sleepless nights as we work out his reflux/colic situation and  it’s been nice to hear Em getting back now into mum mode with M and T.

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E: I really struggle to believe that Leo came into the world 6 weeks ago, probably because life is a bit of a weird time warp at the moment! I don’t know that many people realise just how physical the recovery from a c section is, it’s like having another almost 2 months of pregnancy because you can’t do very much at all. When Leo was born the physical process of surrogacy wasn’t finished for me. I knew I still had a way to go to heal and now 6 weeks on I can say I’m pretty much there. I’m booked in for a course of physio checks starting in a couple of weeks time to make sure I make a sensible transition back to running and exercise.

Bringing Little Leo into the world has changed my life in so many ways and can’t wait for Mollie, Theo and James to meet him properly. I of course can’t wait for my auntie cuddles with him too- and his mummy and daddy! There’s so much to celebrate and be grateful for in the crazy world we now find ourselves in & it’s been a big relief that the last 6 weeks have been a smooth recovery period for me.

S: The Covid 19 lockdown has been difficult for the entire world and there are so many things that have made me sad about it especially our friends and family not seeing Leo in his early newborn stage but we will be making up for it at some point with hugs galore and a big celebration to welcome him into the world because now he is our world. I am however so grateful that Jack has had this bonding time with him. He would have been back to work after a couple of weeks but instead has so far had 6 weeks at home with us and we’ve been a tag team with Leo and I will forever be thankful for this time and know I’ve been somewhat spoilt to have it. So here’s to what the next 6 weeks has in store for us all but currently I feel like the luckiest girl in the world everyday.

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