A Sister’s Surrogate Story (Part 4)

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.

This is the final installment of Tara’s blog series. To read the first post of Tara’s blog series, please click here. To read the second installment, please click here. For the third post, please click here.

I felt such overwhelming joy in the operating room as baby Lucy was placed in my sister’s arms.  I cherished the special time we all had in the hospital marveling at this beautiful new life.  Tanya would lie in my hospital bed with me as we snuggled with her daughter.  The days after being released from the hospital were a little strange for me.  Although I was so anxious to be back home with my husband and children, I was still in a fair amount of pain from the C-Section and the extra surgery to repair the muscle.  I felt emotional and hormonal and would cry at sappy commercials.  I also missed Lucy, Tanya & Dan and often wondered what Lucy was up to (even though logically I knew sleeping, eating and pooping).  I felt a little empty, not like in an “I lost something ” type of way but just kind of “blah”. I looked forward to and lingered on every text or picture Tanya sent me about Lucy those first two weeks .  I knew what I was feeling was “normal” but I was anxious for my hormones to stabilize so I could move forward.  Thankfully they did just that. Cassie’s belly was getting larger as baby Connor grew and I was enjoying my belly getting smaller.  Tanya and Dan enjoyed their few months with Lucy as an only child and even managed to squeeze in some Cincinnati Reds baseball games and a mini vacation.

There were times my heart hurt for Tanya.  We were often out together running errands or grabbing lunch while I was on my maternity leave.  Walking slowly and shuffling my feet, it was obvious from my swollen belly that I just had some sort of surgery. Since Lucy was being carried around by her slim and trim mom, strangers would comment on how incredible Tanya looked for just having had a baby. Hence, Tanya would feel compelled to share the story of her surrogate sisters many, many times to people when out in public.  While a great story, she mentioned to me that the constant story repetition made her feel “less like a mom”, and that made me sad.  We decided she just needed to smile and say “Thanks!” when strangers told her how good she looked for just having a baby. We also began to share more on Facebook in hopes word would spread throughout our town and when people saw us, they’d just know and wouldn’t need to inquire.

Unlike Lucy, baby Connor decided to hang out in his Aunt Cassie’s belly until his scheduled C-section date. The night before, all the sisters went out to dinner to celebrate Connor’s impending birthday!

In Tanya’s journal she wrote “Monday morning we were up at 4:30 am to get Lucy over to my Dad’s house and to the hospital by 5:45. The C-section was scheduled for 8:00, but got pushed back about an hour so it was a long morning of watching the minutes tick by. Poor Cassie’s spinal wouldn’t take so she also had to have an epidural done. Then they were finally ready for us in the OR! Much like Tara’s surgery, I was sitting right next to Cassie chatting with her when we heard that beautiful cry. Baby Connor Paul was here! Born at 9:22 am and weighing in at 8.8 lbs and 21 inches.

We waited patiently for the nurses to clean him off so we could get our hands on him. He had so much hair and I caught a glimpse of 2 teeth! Yes, that’s right- 2 teeth! Connor is just such an overachiever, born with his bottom 2 teeth.

After Cassie’s C-section we were released to the recovery room for a few hours before we were moved to our temporary home for the next few days. I felt such an overwhelming sense of relief that Cassie, Tara, Connor, and Lucy were all safe and healthy. It was surreal being back in that hospital just 11 weeks after Lucy’s birth and bringing home another healthy baby.

Dan went home during the evenings with Lucy and I stayed at the hospital with Cassie. We probably had more fun than you are supposed to have in a hospital. Despite the location, I really enjoyed just being with my sister for 4 days. I am so proud of her. And then…it was time to come home and start our new life as a family of 4. It was a pretty emotional time when we left the hospital after Lucy’s birth, so I was expecting us all to have many of those same feelings. But the babies provided a hilarious distraction with Lucy throwing up formula out of her nose and Connor peeing all over me and himself for the first time, while pooping on the bassinet, that there was no time for tears. Cassie hopped in the wheelchair and said, “Well, my job here is done. I’m outta here. See you guys”. And left. I could hear her laughing while being pushed down the hallway as Dan and I tried to figure out how to work our double stroller and clean everybody up. It was the perfect ending.

I woke up and went to bed every day for the last year and a half thinking about these babies. Then it was constant worry about my sisters, their health, and the health of the babies. This time in our lives was defined by so many extreme highs, and so many extreme lows. I have learned so many things about myself, about my sisters, about my husband, and about what life, love, and family are really all about. I am happy to be closing this chapter of my life and looking forward to all that is to come. I know I will never close the chapter of surrogacy though. For reasons we will never know, this is the unique way we were intended to start a family. Every day I look at Lucy and Connor and know how lucky we are to have so many people in our lives who would sacrifice so much for us.”

Cassie and I talked and saw each other often as she recovered from her surgery and contended with those lovely post -partum hormone swings.  We loved watching this newly formed family of four – Tanya, Woody, baby Lucy and baby Connor.  We were proud Aunties for sure!  Lucy is now six months old, Connor 4 months.  Tanya and Dan have had many sleepless nights and couldn’t be happier about it!  They also sold their house and moved about 2 miles from where Cassie and I live.  Cassie and I have been working on losing the baby weight, and our home lives have returned to normal. As special Aunts, we are already eyeing miniature drum sets and loud, talking stuffed animals as gifts for the babies, like any good Aunt should!  Two healthy babies, two sisters as gestational carriers for their own sister and two very happy parents! A dream come true and an incredible blessing.  So while it may take a village to raise a child, sometimes, whether through surrogacy or adoption, it might first take a village to bring that child into your life.

Wednesday for the fourth part in Tara’s journey.

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