Before I post the images and share my experience at the birth, I wanted to share Nikki’s story and how it led her to pursue surrogacy.
“I’ve always wanted kids. I never dreamed that I would deal with infertility, although in retrospect the possibility was obvious with several women in my family who also struggled. I refused to accept the idea that I was not meant to be a mother; I would fight and do whatever it took to make my dream of having a family a reality. I was diagnosed with Endometriosis and had to go through IVF to have my daughter. It was the most physically and emotionally difficult thing I had ever experienced. Even pregnancy and delivery were difficult – I developed pre-eclampsia at 37 weeks, had an emergency C-section, and developed HELLP Syndrome after delivery. In the end, it was all worth it. My beautiful daughter is now 3 years old and I can’t imagine life without her.
My husband, Jared, is an only child, and we both agreed that we wanted our daughter to have a sibling. As soon as we felt ready, we were back at the Reproductive Endocrinologist and doing another round of IVF with the embryos frozen from our first cycle. We were pregnant again, but–just like before–I developed pre-eclampsia. I was forced to deliver our beautiful baby boy at 26 weeks. My sweet, amazing baby fought as hard as he could, but we lost him at 3 weeks old.
We grieved for our son. I grieved the loss of my fertility and the ability to be pregnant. We still desperately wanted to give our daughter a living sibling to grow up with. When Jared and I discussed our options, we quickly concluded that we wanted to use our remaining embryos….with a surrogate.
I never could have dreamed up what happened after that. My girlfriend Meri–who had only just come into my life the year before–already knew about our struggle with infertility, my inability to be pregnant, and our tragic loss. When I mentioned to her that we were going to pursue surrogacy, she, without even the slightest hesitation, offered to carry our baby for us. Her exact words: “I will do that for you. Absolutely.” I was stunned by her generosity and I knew she was being genuine. She could–and would–happily do for me what I could not. She had easily carried and birthed her 2 healthy little boys, and is a wonderfully loving and giving person. It is her nature to do anything for the people she loves, and she entered my life at the exact time that I needed her most.
Our journey was overwhelmingly incredible in so many ways. I’m awestruck that my friend could be so selfless and giving; that science has progressed to a point that surrogacy is even an option, and that this option was accessible to us. I’m blown away by the support of our family, friends, and co-workers. If I couldn’t carry my baby, my best friend was the perfect next best thing.
I will never forget those days in the hospital that led to my son’s birth. It never felt weird, it just felt amazing. The moment that Mark was born was perfect and everything I had hoped it would be; Meri and I cried tears of happiness together and then I finally held my baby. “Aunt Meri” will always be a part of our family, her children like cousins to mine. When all is said and done, we have a beautiful baby, a unique path that we have walked, and the addition of the Wheeler family, whom we will forever call ours.”
When Nikki contacted me about photographing the birth of her son via a surrogate, I was so excited! Photographing a surrogate birth is definitely high on my “photography bucket list”. And Nikki, her husband Jared, and the surrogate Meri were such amazing people.
They went to the hospital late Thursday evening to start the induction process, and found that Meri was already 4cm dilated. They decided to start pitocin at 5am. Generally, I don’t head to the hospital until mom is 5cm, but considering this is Meri’s 3rd pregnancy and she was already 4cm the night before, I choose to arrive at 6am. It was a long labor. I mean, a VERY long labor. But Merri was a complete champ through it all — she labored all day and all night before delivering a very healthy baby at 5:30am Saturday morning. And I kid you not when I say I didn’t hear a single complaint, groan or grunt from her the entire time except maybe when she was pushing. It was incredible. And to watch Nikki cut the cord and hold her baby for the first time was amazing. Totally made being there for 26 hours worth it 🙂
I posted some of my favorite images and at the end of the blog post, there is a link to view the video.