An Extended Hospital Stay as a Surrogate + How You Can Support Someone in the Hospital

if you would’ve told me at the beginning of 2020 when my husband and I signed up for our second round of surrogacy that I would finish out the last month of pregnancy in Connecticut with my son at my parents in Oklahoma while my husband stayed in Texas, I would’ve been very confused!

Let me start from the beginning. My husband and I had our son, Mark, in August 2016. He was born at 40 weeks 1 day and was 7 pounds 15 ounces. In 2018 we decided that, while we did not want to expand our family, we did want to help another family start a family by being a surrogate. We had our first surrogacy baby in September 2019. He was born at 37 weeks 5 days and was 8 pounds 11 ounces.

Both of my past pregnancies were near perfect. Great blood pressures. No morning sickness. Practically no symptoms. Yes, you could say I’m the woman that some women hate since my pregnancy was amazing. Cue the end of my second trimester/beginning of my third trimester when my blood pressure started rising.

The weird thing to me…I felt fine. Perfectly fine. I had no symptoms of preeclampsia outside of the high blood pressure. It got to the point where I was taking my blood pressure twice a day. Then Wednesday,  March 3, in the evening I had two blood pressure readings over 160/110. After calling the on-call doctor, they confirmed I needed to head to labor and delivery.

It was 10:30 at night. Our son was asleep. My husband and I were quickly trying to figure out next steps. The mom, who lives in Connecticut, but has lots of ties to Texas called one of her friends who is a surgeon at the hospital at which I previously gave birth. This stranger was headed to my house to pick me up. Meanwhile, my dad, who lives 3.5 hours away, said that he would meet my husband halfway…like right now, and my parents would take our son for the weekend. This would free up my husband to be able to work and be at the hospital with me.

At this point we don’t know what’s going to happen. I was only 28 weeks pregnant. We still had a ways to go.

The next two days happened very quickly, and for a reason.

The mom was able to fly to Texas the next day. After a couple more high blood pressure readings (not over the 160/110 curve, but close), my doctor and the high-risk doctor were at the point of keeping me on hospital bedrest until baby girl (Dallas) was born. But how was that going to work?

Hospital rules dictate that only one visitor was allowed to visit. How was my husband going to handle long hour days while taking our son to school and picking him up? With that, who was going to visit me at the hospital? What is the mom going to do if Dallas is born early and requires a NICU stay? She is a surgeon in Connecticut. Yes, she would do whatever to make it work, but seriously, how will this work?

We had so many unknowns.

But then we collectively came up with a solution, albeit, an unorthodox one.

If my doctor and the high risk doctor were OK with it…what if I did my bedrest in Connecticut? If I was going to be at a hospital on bedrest in Texas, why not finish it out in Connecticut? That way at least if Dallas is born early, her NICU stay is in her home state.

At this point when this possible idea was born, my parents, who are like second parents to my son, had already enrolled him at pre-K at the elementary school that’s on the base where my dad works. So that eliminated the worry of how my husband was going to handle our son, his workload, and taking care of me.

So we just said, let’s do this. Let’s have me fly to Connecticut and do my bedrest there.

My bedrest at the mom’s house lasted for all of two days until I had several high blood pressure readings. I checked into the hospital on March 9. It was a very big emotional roller coaster over the course of the next month that would follow. I missed my son more than anything. As he had some ups and downs adjusting to a bigger school, life with my parents, and not being around my husband and me, I felt those ups and downs in my bones. Lots of tears were shed.

My husband came and visited me two weeks into my stay. The hospital made several exceptions, one of which was allowing him to sleep at the hospital with me. That made my heart very happy. We did nothing but talk and play cards.

At the hospital saying goodbye.

Then he had to leave, and I was a bawling mess for the next 24 hours cause I missed him so much. But at the end of the day, we knew that what we were doing and how we were doing it was the best for all parties involved. We had to look at the bigger picture here. And, my husband, who is the best person I know, kept reminding me that this was going to be a blip in time. After this was all said and done, we would look back at this and just see the big picture: a beautiful baby girl born to a very deserving momma.

We made it to April 3 when I had several high blood pressure readings above the 160/110 threshold. This happened at around 11pm, after my husband and I were into a couple hours worth of gin rummy playing. And my husband was beating me bad!

The next few days suuuuuucked for me. Big time. I was immediately put on magnesium sulfate, which is meant to prevent seizures when experiencing preeclampsia. I was also given my second round of steroids, which helps the baby’s lungs.

If you’ve ever been on magnesium sulfate, you know that one thing you absolutely cannot do is eat. That is because it softens the muscle tissues and could cause issues swallowing, digestion becomes a problem, and I could get sick. So from Saturday, April 3 at around 11 pm, until a full 24 hours after the baby was born, Wednesday, April 7 at around 9:30am, I was unable to eat anything. I was on a clear liquid diet. The first day was miserable. But then I got used to it.

April 4, realizing this was it. We were having a baby in two days.

Once I received the two steroids shots, 24 hours apart, we were clear to schedule the C-section. So while everything happened so quickly the Saturday night that I had those high blood pressure readings, we were able to adjust and realize that Dallas was coming and “plan” accordingly.

My husband happened to be in town visiting for the weekend, so he was able to call out of work the rest of the week and stay with me, and take me back home. That in and of itself was a huge blessing.

We were able to make it through another round of steroids for the baby, which was a blessing knowing she was going to be born nearly eight weeks premature.

I am happy to report that I am back home, recovering, and prepared for the summer with our four year old. I plan on making up for lost time where I was in another state than him building a human being for another family.

While I had so much time on bedrest, I had plenty of time to think about many things. Life. Love. Hopes. Dreams. Sounds cheesy….but you try being on bedrest for nearly seven weeks alone in the middle of a pandemic! If you know of anyone, not just someone pregnant, who is in the hospital and is not allowed visitors because of the times we live in, I want to offer you some advice.

Cards

Send plenty of cards. The more unique the better. This was a saving grace thanks to so many friends and family members. I even got a few Amazon packages delivered to the hospital!

Food

This one can be a bit tricky. One nurse at the hospital in Connecticut told me I could get DoorDash delivered, but the day I did it, the driver said he was not allowed in. So I had to bribe a nurse to go downstairs for me. Alternatives are Edible Arrangements or services that physically mail food, like a possible bakery.

Cards for your family

This one was huge. My Instagram following showed up for my family. Some friends that I’ve only ever met via social media, sent cards to my son. This was huge, and made me cry more than I would like to admit. But it meant the world. Not only was I on bedrest, but my son’s life had been upended, and this gave a glimmer of sunshine.

Food delivery for family

Do you see a trend here? One for me in the hospital, one for the family at home. This could be in the form of gift cards to Door Dash or Grub Hub, or if you’re like my husband and drink Starbucks every day going to work, it could be in the form of a Starbucks gift card.

Calls, texts or social media messages

Seriously. This was high up there on my list. Why? Because when you sit around half the day and sleep the other half, you get bored. Very easily. Receiving texts and calls and messages helped to break up my otherwise monotonous days. Just don’t judge the recipient if they take days to respond. It happens.

Kara was born in Florida, lived in Washington State and California as a Navy brat, and then settled in Jacksonville, Florida. That was until work moved her to Texas. Her (then) boyfriend followed her out, and there they got engaged, married, and welcomed their son, Mark, in 2016. Then Kara was a surrogate and welcomed her surro-baby in September 2019. Her favorite hobbies including finding adventures (aka free things to do) on weekends with her family around town, spending time at her parents in Oklahoma, fitness and working towards paying off their debt. You can read more about her family, fitness and financial freedom journey on her website - Taking KARA Myself.