What It's Like When Someone Else Has Your Baby During A Pandemic

We Had To Watch Our Twins’ Birth Via FaceTime

Kenawi1
Courtesy of Sue Kenawi

When we transferred our two embryos last November, my husband Omar and I started dreaming of what their birthday would be like. Due to fertility issues and having to save money to get to that point, we waited nearly five years for this moment. It was big. It was a miracle — both embryos took, our surrogate was pregnant with twins, and we were off.

We are first time parents and wanted and expected that dream birth experience. Us both in the room with our surrogate. Her ready to pop and us waiting in bliss for the arrival of our sweet babes. Our surrogate would have the bag of goodies we packed for her and we’d have our bag too. When they were born, we’d each cut a cord and be finally together as a family while our surrogate recovered with her support person. Having been to all of the appointments and spent time feeling and talking to her bump, we knew our foursome would be as close as ever.

But … NOPE. None, not a single one of those things happened. Because … COVID.

COVID is the worst and it has obviously changed the lives of so many people around the world. Being pregnant during a pandemic brings about so many fears. And having a surrogate meant we had to rely on her more than ever.

Meeting her for coffee and baby bump time was now out of the question. We did what we could and sent her voice memos that she could play to the bump. But to say we felt disconnected is an understatement.

Since the middle of our 2nd trimester, we hadn’t been able to attend a doctors appointment with our surrogate and because she was pregnant with twins, she was considered “high risk” and there were appointments galore. My husband and I resorted to FaceTiming her from the lobby of the building the appointment was in. That way at least we could feel closer and could be there for our surrogate before and after if she needed anything. But even that was worrisome. What if we got our surrogate sick in the time that we met with her?

And then we got the news we were dreading: neither of us could be in the delivery room. Only our surrogate and her support person could be there. We were devastated. This can’t be right. Surely the hospital would make an exception for us. It’s a special case. We were having children via a surrogate and there were two of them.

Courtesy of Sue Kenawi

It wasn’t the time to go full “Karen” on this hospital so we treaded lightly, but we knew we had to at least ask. We visited the hospital and spoke to the head of the OB unit. She again confirmed that neither of us could be in the room and on top of that, once the babies were born, only one of us could be in the room with the babies until discharge — with no switching out.

That meant that if the babies had any time in NICU, very common with twins, one of us might not get to meet them for a long time potentially. It also meant one of us new parents spending days in the hospital alone with two new babies and the other parent having to rely on video calls for bonding. This was grueling to think about. How could we have waited so long for this moment and then have to experience new parenthood over FaceTime? We did everything we could. We politely asked for exceptions and even asked our OB to put in a good word for us. But even she couldn’t help.

Thank God for our surrogate. She graciously chimed in and allowed me to be her support person. We protested. We wanted her to be comfortable and have whoever she wanted in the room. But she insisted and honestly we were ecstatic that she did. (P.S: How great are these surrogates, y’all? They are not given nearly enough credit in this world. They are truly heroes.)

That was a win. My husband was still out though. Nothing we could do about that. We were devastated — we understood that COVID is a real threat but it didn’t make this news any less heartbreaking us.

We heard that a hospital nearby was making exceptions for twin parents and we used that information to try one more time. Politely, of course, we spoke with the CEO of our hospital and once she understood the “special” nature of the case, she offered us a big win. My husband still couldn’t be in the delivery room, but because there were two babies, we would be able to each be in the hospital room after birth. We’d take it! It was the best we could hope for or ask for.

We kept thinking maybe things would change before delivery day. Maybe some COVID-buster would come through and we’d be able to have the day we dreamed of, but ultimately, COVID just kept getting worse.

When the day finally came we were met with more issues. The bags we had meticulously packed for our surrogate were turned away at the door. Only one was allowed. So we adjusted.

Courtesy of Sue Kenawi

And then, an amazing thing happened. Our babies were born and we didn’t care about any of that previous stuff.

We had a socially distanced c-section. My husband was in the lobby of the hospital and FaceTimed me. And while I’m sure it would have been incredible for things to have gone down the way we hoped and planned, the moment we saw our babies, we forgot about all of it. Nothing else mattered. We had waited so long for this and all we wanted to do was love and protect them.

Courtesy of Sue Kenawi

Once we got to our room, not only could we not have visitors, we couldn’t leave. For. Any. Reason. We were basically inmates in the cutest prison around. We stayed there for three days before the let us out and we could be reunited with our family (and real food).

Most people who get to a point where they’re using a gestational surrogate, have gone through a lot to get to this point. IVF, losses, and searches for the right person all take a toll. You’re used to challenges and you keep going. You prevail. You have faith it will work. Coronavirus is a B, but have faith.

Courtesy of Sue Kenawi

Our advice: hang in there. Nothing will be how you imagined it. But it will all be so worth it.