A Surrogate Pregnancy and Birth in Minnesota | The Birth Stories of Kai and Claire

May 20th, 2018 | 3: 36 am + 3:44 am

I’m a writer by trade. This means I usually pack a lot of information in as few inches of text as possible. Why? Short attention spans. But this post deserves inches galore in order to get a very specific point across: if you have the patience to get through these 1,200 words, you will have experienced just 1/1,000th of the patience and commitment needed to have a baby via surrogacy. Give me 5 minutes of your time and I’ll tell you about an amazing surrogacy journey years in the making.

Let me preface by saying that I can only speak to my part in this story. I was the baby oven. The couple’s journey was far longer with its own unique set of emotional, physical and financial challenges.

Becoming a surrogate was not an insta-decision. Ten years ago doctors said I may have trouble getting pregnant. I had polycystic ovarian syndrome and was morbidly obesity. Five years later and 150 pounds lighter, I got pregnant a month after we started trying. Having a child is unlike anything I’ve experienced (and I’ve experienced some amazing things), and it’s hard to really understand that until you’re holding your newborn child.

Fast-forward about four years. I saw a Facebook post about surrogacy and thought, “What if I could use my newfound health to help someone experience parenthood?” And from that moment, no one could talk me out of it.

Through a referral from a friend, I connected with a wonderful agency in Chicago that would help match me to a couple. When being matched, you definitely want to work with someone who feels “right” since you’re dedicating so much time to the process and putting your health at risk. I was looking for someone optimistic and easygoing. I picked Zach and Devin for these reasons and so many more.

When you choose a couple, many ‘what ifs’ follow: what if their clinic doesn’t accept me due to my medical history? What if the couple doesn’t want to work with me? What if we ultimately don’t click? What if the embryos don’t stick? It’s a leap of faith for all involved.

After our first Skype ‘date,’ I was extremely excited and hopeful they would choose me as their surrogate. Looking back now, I feel so lucky that Zach and Devin picked me. Once matched, I went through physical and psychological evaluations to make sure I was prepared for surrogacy. We got through the contractual paperwork fairly quickly (which is not always the case for other matches). Most importantly, we agreed on the primary issue: they will take the babies and I will not.

Once the paperwork was signed, I started giving myself shots to prepare for embryo transfer. I gave myself a shot every morning for one month – I am still surprised I had it in me to do that! Anyone who has ever gone through the in-vitro fertilization process understands all too well.

On September 26, 2017, the doctor in Chicago transferred two embryos – one boy and one girl. The eggs came from one donor (not me) and the sperm came from both fathers, meaning each father would have a biological child and the twins would technically be half-siblings because they have the same biological mother. The hardest part came next: the two-week wait to find out if I was pregnant. I did everything I could to provide these embryos with the most inviting uterus they have ever encountered. I peed on more pregnancy tests than I want to admit. With each pregnancy test, the positive line got darker and darker. We felt both hesitant and excited. It wasn’t until we saw two little gummy bears on the first ultrasound that it really sunk in that we were pregnant.

At first the weeks went by slowly. I was very sick until well into the second trimester. I couldn’t look at food without throwing up. I went through some pretty difficult things physically but I woke up every morning, stood in front of the mirror and told myself, “Just one more day.” When you are doing something for a greater purpose, you surprise yourself with how much you can handle. Zach and Devin were extremely supportive and loving toward me — a random stranger that decided to infiltrate their life during a very vulnerable time. I honestly could not have asked for more support from them and their family. They kept in constant contact throughout the pregnancy, drove five hours each way for many ultrasounds and included me in their baby shower.

Once we hit the third trimester, reality set in that two amazing humans were about to make their debut. Throughout the pregnancy, I made it clear that I wanted to have as natural of a birth as possible and Zach and Devin were supportive. I had my son at a birthing center and was unmedicated. Although twins pose many more challenges than a singleton, I still wanted to have a vaginal birth if the stars aligned. During my 35th week, the dads decided to travel to the Twin Cities and camp out so they could be present for the labor. The following week, a doctor recommended induction to make sure both babies could continue growing properly outside the womb. I knew that an induction could potentially mean using Pitocin and inevitably an epidural, so we decided to break my water first to see if we could get the labor started without meds.

After breaking my water, I went through about 10 hours of contractions until they slowed to a stop. Pitocin was our only choice to get things going and boy did it ever! My sister, doula, Zach and Devin helped me tremendously throughout the worst of it. Although I really wanted to have another unmedicated labor, the pain of the Pitocin-induced contractions was too much to bear. I got an epidural and let me just say, that option (when needed) is magical! Within a few hours, I was ready to give birth and was wheeled into the operating room (where twins are delivered due to the possibility of complications).

The dads and Meredith, our birth photographer, joined me. I am so incredibly happy that we decided to hire Meredith because these are moments we could not have captured on our own. The twins were born vaginally eight minutes apart in the early morning hours of May 20, 2018. Kai and Claire weighed 4lbs 8oz and 4lbs 10oz, respectively. Neither of them needed oxygen or a feeding tube – just a little time in the NICU to adjust to feedings and pass all necessary tests.

This process has been nothing short of amazing. As a surrogate, you go through a lot of ups and downs physically and emotionally. Sometimes you’re not quite sure if you can handle one more day. But the day you see the intended parents holding their newborn children… that day makes every second of hardship worth it. Getting to see Zach and Devin hold Kai and Claire those first moments will forever be a highlight of my life. There is truly no experience like it.
— Yelena, Claire and Kai's surrogate

Welcome to the world, Kai and Claire! We're oh so glad that you're here.

Interested in learning more? Contact Meredith!

Birth After Loss in Hastings, Minnesota | The Birth Story of Ezra Jean

May 23rd, 2018 | 6:44 pm

Almost exactly 24 hours after they arrived at the hospital, she delivered their baby. It was the most hands-off and respectful hospital birth I’ve seen. Her providers were patient and they honored her preferences for intermittent monitoring and no interventions, and they “allowed” her to birth how and when she wanted. Her husband was a hero -- steady and sure and the absolute best birth partner, remaining oh so very present during the moments where she mourned the death of her mother or became overwhelmed by her labor.

Named in part after his grandmother, who passed away while he was in utero, Ezra is the spitting image of his big brother and is already loved by so many people, including me. Welcome to the world, buddy. I’m so glad you’re here.

INTERESTED IN HAVING YOUR BIRTH PHOTOGRAPHED? TALK TO MEREDITH TODAY.

A Sunny Afternoon Birth at the Minnesota Birth Center | The Birth Story of Ethan

May 15th, 2018 | 4:01 pm

Welcome to the world, little guy! 

SNEAK PEEK IMAGES LIKE THESE ARE INCLUDED IN MY BIRTH STORY SESSION: PHOTOS + FILMS PACKAGE ALONG WITH YOUR COMPLIMENTARY PRENATAL AND POSTPARTUM DOCUMENTARY MINI-SESSIONS, A MINUTE-LONG BIRTH ANNOUNCEMENT FILM, A FULL-LENGTH BIRTH STORY FILM, AND A FULL GALLERY OF IMAGES FROM YOUR BIRTH WITH A FULL PRINT RELEASE.

CONTACT ME TO LEARN MORE.

Real Postpartum: A Breastfeeding Session at Home in Minneapolis

This sweet birth client of mine reached out to see if we could do a session at home. When she told me that she doesn't want to forget this time in her babies' lives because it feels like they are growing so fast and that documenting her postpartum body and her breastfeeding relationship with her youngest was a priority, I knew we'd be able to capture some magical moments.

To book a session like this one, visit my Real Postpartum page. Mini-sessions are also available!

To learn more, visit my Real Postpartum page. If you're interested in Birth Story Sessions, click here.

Delivering at a Birth Center in St. Paul, Minnesota | The Birth Story of Oakley Reese

Oakley Reese | April 23rd, 2018 | 5:25 pm 

Allie and I met for the first time over coffee to discuss what she wanted photographed and filmed and just a handful of days later, I got to document Oakley's birth! What a gorgeous whirlwind!

Welcome to the world, Oakley! We're so glad you're here! 

Sneak Peek Images like these ARE INCLUDED IN MY BIRTH STORY SESSION: PHOTOS + FILMS PACKAGE ALONG WITH YOUR COMPLIMENTARY PRENATAL AND POSTPARTUM DOCUMENTARY MINI-SESSIONS, A minute-long BIRTH ANNOUNCEMENT FILM, A FULL-LENGTH BIRTH STORY FILM, AND A FULL GALLERY OF IMAGES FROM YOUR BIRTH WITH A FULL PRINT RELEASE.

CONTACT ME TO LEARN MORE.

A Lovely Waterbirth at Home in Minneapolis | The Birth Story of Louise Wynne

April 21st, 2018 | 2:03 am

I am always honored when a family chooses to bring me into their birth experience. When that family is part of the birth world or the photography world, it's even more flattering. When Amy reached out waaaay back in the fall, it felt like her birth would never arrive but of course it did. And when it did, it was incredible. Thank you for inviting me into your birth space, Amy. I'm so incredibly proud of you.

Welcome to the world, Louise! We're so glad you're here! 

SNEAK PEEK IMAGES LIKE THESE ARE INCLUDED IN MY BIRTH STORY SESSION: PHOTOS + FILMS PACKAGE ALONG WITH YOUR COMPLIMENTARY PRENATAL AND POSTPARTUM DOCUMENTARY MINI-SESSIONS, A MINUTE-LONG BIRTH ANNOUNCEMENT FILM, A FULL-LENGTH BIRTH STORY FILM, AND A FULL GALLERY OF IMAGES FROM YOUR BIRTH WITH A FULL PRINT RELEASE.

CONTACT ME TO LEARN MORE.

A Homebirth Turned Hospital Birth in the Twin Cities | The Birth Story of Ella

Ella Grace | March 29th, 2018 | 8:51 pm

When Becky and Dave hired me to be their photographer for the birth of their second daughter, they knew this labor experience would be unique but they didn't know just how unique and how different from their first labor it would be. From a 24 hour labor to a hospital birth and then a stay in the hospital, things were pretty much the opposite of their first birth experience. Despite that, it was all incredibly beautiful.

Welcome to the world, Ella! We're so glad you're here! 

A Loving Hospital Birth In St. Paul, Minnesota | The Birth Story of Rowan

Rowan David | March 3rd, 2018 | 12:18 am

View Rowan's minute-long BIRTH ANNOUNCEMENT FILM. Birth announcement films are included in my BIRTH STORY SESSION: PHOTOS + FILMS package along with your complimentary prenatal and postpartum documentary mini-sessions, a handful of sneak peek images like these delivered within 12 hours of baby's birth, a full-length birth story film, and a full gallery of images from your birth with a full print release.

CONTACT ME to learn more.

Film: The Birth Announcement of Rowan David

Welcome to the world, Rowan! We're so glad you're here.

Produced in partnership with Brooke Walsh.

A minute-long Birth Announcement film like this one is included in my Birth Story Session: Photos + Films package along with your complimentary prenatal and postpartum documentary mini-sessions, a handful of sneak peek images delivered within 12 hours of baby's birth, a full-length Birth Story film, and a full gallery of images from your birth with a full print release. Contact me to learn more.

A Long Labor at Regions | The Birth of Cade Remi

February 28th, 2018 | 6:47 am

Cade's sweet mama had this to say about her labor and delivery: After being 12 days overdue and spending 25 hours in labor, my experience was less than comfortable. Meredith didn't just capture the beautiful struggle that was my labor, she was also there as strong support. With her expertise, she knew exactly when to get the perfect shot and when to step out to allow me privacy and rest. When prompted, she was more than helpful with advice or reiterating instructions from the nurse when I wasn't in a state to understand. As time goes on and my memory fades, I'm thrilled to have this collection of birth photos to not only remind myself but to share with my son and family and friends.

Welcome to the world, little guy! We're so glad you're here! 

A HANDFUL OF SNEAK PEEK IMAGES LIKE THESE Are DELIVERED WITHIN 12 HOURS OF BABY'S BIRTH. 

CONTACT ME TO Book your birth story now! 

A Planned Hospital Birth in the Twin Cities | The Birth Story of Chloe Max

Chloe Max | December 19th, 2017 | 7:28 pm | 7 lbs 6 oz | 20 inches

When Lauren hired me to be their birth photographer waaaay back in June, I felt like the end of December couldn't get there fast enough. We had a lovely chat over coffee one bright summery Minnesota morning and I loved bonding over dogs, design, and family stories with her. Fast forward several months, and we found out that I'd be getting to photograph their birth sooner than expected. Her baby was measuring big and their doc wanted to induce her just to be safe. The date was picked for the induction, and I was on the edge of my seat all day just waiting for their call. After they'd been at the hospital for several hours, I texted Trevor and requested another update. He let me know that she'd be getting checked again around 5:30 pm. It was a weekday so I drove to the hospital just in case things got exciting because I didn't want to be stuck in Minneapolis rush hour traffic (a birth photographer's nightmare, ha!). I was sitting in the waiting area when I got the update: just 4cm after nearly 10 hours at the hospital. I left. I got groceries. Just as I was pulling into my driveway ready to make dinner, I got a call from Lauren letting me know that things were starting to feel different but that she wasn't sure if this was really it. I told her I was coming in anyway and that I'd rather read in the waiting room than risk missing anything. As I was walking from the parking lot to their room, I received the best message: "time to push"! I tore my cameras out of my bag, ran down the hallway, and entered the room just as Lauren's feet were being put into the stirrups. Whew! Just a few pushes later and they got to meet their new baby. One of my favorite moments below is the look on Lauren's face after she found out they'd had a girl. Documenting their son Kellan meet his new baby sister the next morning was another highlight. 

Welcome to the world, Chloe! We're so glad you're here! 

Interested in having your birth photographed? Talk to Meredith today.

A Surrogacy Birth Story: Milo

Milo | September 6th | 8:39 pm | 8 lbs 13 oz | 21 inches

This was an incredible birth to witness. Every birth I've attended has left me feeling lifted and exhilarated but this one was especially touching. A few words from Sarah, Milo's surrogate: "Aside from having my own kids, this is the most amazing thing I've ever done.  I heard about surrogacy when I was a teenager and ever since then I always hoped to be able to help another family someday (once my own family was complete).  I always wanted to be a mom and I would have been heartbroken if I wouldn't have been able to have kids.  I got my happily ever after and I am so honored to have been able to help this family get their happily ever after too."