Tara Schamel works in the Adoption STAR Ohio office, providing Administrative Support and Outreach. She and her sister, Cassie, recently went through an incredible journey, where they both gave birth through surrogacy to their sister’s (Tanya) and her husband’s (Dan) children. Tara has written several blog posts about this journey, and has included photos of the experience. Please stay tuned every Wednesday for each excerpt of this remarkable journey. Tara and her family recently shared their story on NBC’s “The Today Show” which you can watch at the bottom of the post.
Being pregnant at the same time as your sister allows for a built-in partner in crime for all of your cravings! Cassie and I would often text each other…”I want Mexican food, meet me in 10 minutes.” Sometimes it was pizza; other times it was sweet sugary goodness. Sometimes it was crazy stuff like fried pickle chips! Hey, a pregnant girl has to do what she has to do! At almost 31 weeks, my belly was very full, tight and stretched out. My regular gait had been replaced by a duck waddle and I couldn’t seem to go more than 30 minutes without needing a bathroom break. My husband suggested sending Tanya and Dan invoices for my trips to Costco to buy large quantities of toilet paper. When I dropped something on the floor, I would hesitate and question whether the dropped item was worth the hassle and discomfort of bending over to pick it up. When people asked me what I was having, instead of responding with “It’s a girl!” I would respond “It’ a niece!”, and I would walk away leaving them puzzled. I started to take advantage of some of the perks of being pregnant – like being too large to fit in a booth at my favorite restaurant and getting upgraded to a table! And the parking, the glorious close maternity parking that some stores offer!
Tanya and Dan were anxious to sneak a peek at their daughter, so we made arrangements for a 3D/4D ultrasound. Lucy was playing coy and it took us three sessions over the course of three weeks for her to switch from a placental “face plant” to facing outward for us to see that beautiful little face. The tech’s suggestion of having an ice cold slurpee finally got her moved in the right direction. I was surprised how chubby her little cheeks were. “Maybe she isn’t going to be the little peanut I think she is”, I thought to myself!
Next up: Attempting to take non-awkward maternity pictures for Lucy and Connor’s baby books….to say this would be a challenge was an understatement! Most couples don’t have four people in their maternity photo shoot. Tanya wrote in her online journal, “I will have to admit this was Tara’s idea and one that I was not crazy about at first. I just couldn’t get awkward photos out of my mind and thought there was no way this particular situation could produce anything but weird pictures! But leave it to Tara and the photographer to come up with some great non-traditional ideas to fit this non-traditional family. I love and cherish these photos.” Tanya and Dan’s friends and our sister Natasha threw them a beautiful baby shower and Cassie and I waddled around scarfing everyone’s food in matching maternity T-shirts that said “Baby Baker” on them.
When you are pregnant, you try to take care of yourself to the best of your abilities. This can be quite challenging, especially when the baby you are carrying is someone else’s. You feel guilty when you have too much caffeine, eat too much sugar, don’t eat enough vegetables, etc. Both Cassie and I fell during our pregnancies during the icy winter and were worried sick that we had hurt the babies. Fortunately, the doctors reassured us that they were okay. We continued on with our pregnancies and tried not to be so clumsy, what with all those boxes of Sour Patch Kids and Junior Mints crammed into our pockets and throwing off our balance! I also felt the same biological urges to “nest” even though I was fully aware that I wasn’t brining a baby home. This proved to be emotionally challenging at times and I continued to work on trying to disconnect as much as I could for my own well being.
And then it happened – baby Lucy arrived. I will share Tanya’s online journal account of her daughter’s birth story: “I still can’t believe that Lucy decided to surprise and delight us all by arriving 10 days early in the wee hours of Friday, April 13th. It was a normal Thursday evening when I received the phone call from Tara that she had gone into labor. I had just cleaned up from having Cassie and her daughter over for our weekly dinner date and was relaxing watching “The Office”, while Dan was down at the softball field playing a game.
When I saw Tara’s number show up on my cell phone at 9:15 pm, I knew something was going on. I had already talked to her that day and I don’t usually get calls from her that late. She told me that her water broke and I was like, “okay…so now what?” She said, “I guess we go to the hospital and have a baby!”. One of my first thoughts was of Dan- he doesn’t always keep his phone with him when he is playing. Fortunately, he answered on the first ring and did not believe me. He said he just had a “feeling” so was keeping his phone by him all night. His friend drove him back to our house while I scrambled to throw a few things in a bag.
I had packed some things for baby Lucy, but Dan and I had not packed yet. The counters were full of food because I had gone grocery shopping to make and freeze several meals before Lucy came. 10 minutes later, Dan got home and we flew to the hospital. Tara had been admitted to the maternity ward and Cassie and Natasha quickly followed. It was so wonderful to have all my sisters there for every moment of Lucy’s big day. Tara had just eaten some cinnamon bread at 8:45 that night, so we had to wait several hours before they would administer the anesthesia.
The hours between 10:00 pm-1:00 am were very difficult. I hated watching Tara writhe in pain from contractions while I sat in the room helpless. The doctor gave her something to drink to move the food into her small intestine and our wonderful doctor arrived. It was time! Once they administered Tara’s meds, the doctor came to get Jeff (Tara’s husband), Dan, and I. There were 3 chairs set up next to Tara’s head- it was stadium seating! I sat right next to Tara and squeezed her hand and talked about reality TV shows and tried not to think about what was going on.
I had been very nervous leading up to this day that I would faint and miss the birth, but I was completely calm and knew I would be okay if I just didn’t think too hard about what was “really” going on. I could not see much above the blue curtain and I was focused on Tara until I heard that beautiful little cry at 1:33 am as the doctor pulled Lucy out and she gave a healthy cry, letting us all know that she was okay. Lucy was so alert and was just staring at us with her pretty blue eyes. She weighed in at 7 lbs 2 oz, 20 3/4 inches long. This surprised us all, as we had just taken bets on how big she would be. We had all guessed in the low 6 lb range.
As soon as Dan and I got to hold her for a minute, I brought her over to meet her very special and brave Aunt Tara. As you can imagine, it was pretty emotional when I brought Lucy over to meet Tara. Tara had tears in her eyes telling me how much joy it brought her to see me as a Mom. It was very overwhelming- the joy of meeting Lucy for the first time. The relief that she was healthy. Watching my sister undergo major surgery on my behalf. It was like nothing I have ever experienced. Dan and I left for the recovery room with Lucy, while Jeff stayed back with Tara.
As we walked into the hallway, Cassie and Tasha were standing right outside of the OR and rushed over to meet their latest niece. We settled into the recovery room to wait for Tara’s surgery to complete and I got to give Lucy her first bottle. Tara was in surgery for another hour and a half. She had a drainage tube and over 25 staples, but had a smile on her face and just wanted to hold that baby. Once Tara got out of surgery, we had to wait 2 hours until we could get moved down to our room at 5:00 am.
Lucy’s Grandma and Grandpa rushed up to meet her in the middle of the night. No one got any sleep that night! We were fortunate enough to get the huge room that is usually reserved for multiple births. Dan and I had a blow up air mattress and camped out next to Tara for the next 4 nights. The days in the hospital were a constant blur of family visiting, feeding and changing Lucy, and helping Tara. And then…it was time to go.
We packed all our things up and I put Lucy in her fancy coming home dress that her Grandma and I picked out. It was bittersweet leaving the hospital. Tara in the wheelchair and me carrying Lucy in her infant carrier. I cannot pretend to understand the emotions my sister was likely feeling as we were getting ready to part ways for the first time since Lucy’s birth. She took care of our little miracle from when she was just an 8 cell grade D fragmented embryo, and fed, cared, loved, and nourished her for 9 long months. Lucy accompanied her Aunt Tara for every second of the day since last August. I listened to her stories of cravings and felt Lucy kick around in her belly. I went to every doctor’s appointment and tried to be as much a part of her pregnancy as I could, from the outside looking in.
Surrogacy is a wild, emotional, life altering journey. Little Lucy’s journey touched Tara, our families, and countless friends lives. She forced me to look outside of my comfort zone. To embrace a very strange situation that often made me feel unbearably different from others. To have faith that there is something much bigger than myself, driving the decisions. Our path to Lucy has forever changed my life.”
Stay tuned next Wednesday for the fourth part in Tara’s journey.