The TV wasn’t on in my hospital room, but Jack and his parents were staying across the hall and they had it on. Every channel was broadcasting non-stop about the storm. It was two days before Thanksgiving and the traffic was starting to pick up because of the holiday. The predicted onslaught of rain, sleet and ice, not to mention the media frenzy, was making everyone even more nervous about travelling, so the traffic was heavy, even early in the day.
Chris and Courtney, Jack’s parents, wanted to get home with their newest son. They’d been away from their 18-month old toddler for three days now and were eager to start their new life as the parents of two boys.
Jack Bradley had been born two days prior, on his due date. That was no surprise, since several of the babies I’d had were born on their due dates. He was healthy and strong, eating and sleeping, and probably just as eager as his parents were to get home to his brother.
Chris and Courtney were just waiting for the pediatrician on call to come by for one last exam and release Jack from the hospital. They were anxious to get on the road, and I couldn’t blame them.
Meanwhile, my mom had driven in from Buffalo and was busy shuttling my kids around that day. Between their school classes and activities, I was really hoping that Caton and Aster could make it to the hospital to meet Jack.
And they were hoping to meet him too, even if one of them (ahem, can you guess which?) would never admit it.
“What do your kids think?” is one of the questions I get the most about my surrogacies, and I don’t think I really have a sufficient answer, because it’s pretty simple.
“It’s all they know,” I respond, because it’s the truth.
During my first surrogacy Winnie was five, Caton was three and Aster was two. Winnie came along to most of my appointments back then and knew the ropes. The other two were too young to absorb much of it. So truly, they’ve grown up with me being a surrogate mother, everything it entails, and they’ve always just taken it in stride as just something I do.
But this time, this most recent surrogacy of mine, was a little different. Caton had grown into quite a chef over the years and often helped me make dinner. As the pregnancy progressed and I grew more and more tired, he took over most of the cooking. There were times when I’d planned to cook myself but come 7pm, I couldn’t make it off the couch so he’d make us all dinner, without complaint.
This baby had no idea how lucky he was, having someone cook healthy and delicious meals for us. He grew healthy and strong on the good graces of my son.
And Aster, just by her sweet and caring nature, was interested in the pregnancy, in my relationship with Courtney and Chris, and in who Jack would turn out to be. She’d spent 9 months with him sight unseen, and now needed to put a face with his name. And honestly, for her I think it was important to see Courtney and Chris and Jack as a family – to get that mental picture of them with their baby, rather than the baby who’d shared our couch and our bed and our dinner table.
The rain was pounding down and the temperature was forecast to drop, turning wet roads into icy roads. Everyone was eager to leave, and with Chris and Courtney having an at-best two hour drive with a days-old newborn ahead of them, they were definitely the most eager.
I called Doug to see if he could help get the kids to the hospital, which wasn’t far away in miles but in driving logistics, not the easiest place to get to. I was worried my mom wouldn’t be able to navigate enough to get them there.
He had a meeting that afternoon so couldn’t really help, but he did have enough time to run home, pick up Aster, and drop her off at the hospital, so at least she could spend a few minutes seeing and holding Jack, and talking with Chris and Courtney.
Even though I wasn’t yet discharged, I was showered and dressed and ready to leave myself. I met Aster downstairs in the hospital lobby and brought her upstairs with me; thankfully, the pediatrician had not yet come by to discharge Jack. Apparently he was running late.
I spent the next hour and a half in a hazy dream state, watching my own youngest child drink in the intoxicating newness of the baby I'd just birthed.
She held him.
She fed him.
She soothed him.
She changed his diaper, and she rocked him.
And after the doctor came by and declared us all fit to leave, she ever-so-carefully dressed him to go home.
It was a sight I never expected to see – not that I’d been hoping to see it, I hadn’t really given it much thought until that point. But it’s one that’s stayed with me as one of the highlights of my surrogacy experiences.
Chris and Courtney were always very generous toward me – they loved to spoil me with wonderful gifts and thoughtful cards – but in my mind and in my heart, there was nothing more generous than them giving us that special time between their son and my youngest daughter.
Nothing greater than allowing her to take on this important role of getting their baby ready to go home with them.
Nothing more thoughtful than giving us this lovely transition of Jack moving from our family, our care - for nine months - into theirs, forever.
Just as Jack was dressed, my phone rang. It was my mom and she was with Caton in the lobby. They’d made it to the hospital after all.
We all went downstairs together and I proudly introduced Caton to Chris and Courtney as “the person responsible for me growing your healthy baby – I could never have done it without him” and they let him know how much they appreciated all he’d done.
And I introduced baby Jack to Caton and my mom, before exchanging hugs and kisses, saying our teary goodbyes, and heading for home.
Dusk was settling in, the traffic was thick and the rain was cold and heavy, but my heart was very light, and very warm. I think it may have even glowed.
I was never so glad to be in the car in the cold rain - but with the ones who’d made this surrogacy such a warm, wonderful, satisfying success. For me. For Jack. For Chris and Courtney.
For all of us.
Happy first birthday Jack Bradley – we all love you!