A Joyous Gestational Carrier Birth in St. Paul, Minnesota | A Preview of Nina's Birth + A Birth Announcement Film by Meredith Westin

April 13th, 2019 | 9:57 am

As the leading birth photographer in Minneapolis and St. Paul, I am honored to bear witness to incredible transformations on a weekly basis. I document raw beauty, pure strength, and authentic love. This birth was no exception.

When Helena reached out to me way back in August about having the birth of her sweet Nina photographed, I was thrilled. As April approached, she decided to add videography on to her package and I was so excited to be able to capture even more of her birth story. Helena's baby would be born via a gestational carrier (GC), a wonderful woman who was as excited about having the birth documented as we were. As their guess date approached, little Nina showed a bit of her personality by teasing her GC and her parents with start and stop contractions for over a week. Finally, in the early hours of April 13th, the contractions became too much to deal with at home and we all met up at United Hospital in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Nina's GC has a history of fast labors. When I arrived at the hospital at 4 am, I half-expected to meet sweet Nina within minutes -- and not just because of her GC’s history but also because a few recent babies had been in such a rush to join us that I only got to spend a short while with their mamas before capturing their moment of birth. This time around, things went a bit slower. An epidural... a bit of pitocin... and then they decided to break the GC's bag of waters (called AROM or artificial rupture of membranes). That kicked things into high gear and baby was born just a half an hour later, after only two pushes.

I just adore the sweet looks on her parent's faces as they witnessed her birth. And the moment shared between the amazing gestational carrier and Nina's incredible mama... so touching! I hope you enjoy looking at this sneak peek into Nina's birth as much as I enjoyed capturing it.

If you're looking for a birth photographer or videographer in the Twin Cities, don't hesitate to reach out. xo


Interested in learning more about Meredith’s birth photography services in Minneapolis?

Visit her services page.

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

May 20th, 2018 | 3: 36 am + 3:44 am

To learn more about Yelena, the babies' surrogate, visit her amazing website.

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!

A Surrogacy Birth Story: Milo by Meredith Westin

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."