This birth story is one I will hold dear to me forever. Krystal and I met in 2018 when she had her daughter. I felt connected to her right away because she reminded me of my best friend (that comes full circle, just wait!). Once I got to know her I loved her even more. Over the years we’ve chatted about everything from tattoos to potty training and when she came to me in 2022 and told me she had signed on with a surrogacy agency, I was so excited. When she asked if I would be willing to be their Doulatog- oh my gosh YEP. I was beyond excited.
Krystal was matched with intended parents (IPs) Matt & Kyle through New York Surrogacy Center. She’s working on writing out their story from the beginning, and I’ll be sure to share her link when she does. We met prenatally a few times and they took advantage of the Surrogacy Bundle at Beautiful Birth Choices, which includes classes and consults that allowed us to connect more often throughout the pregnancy. By the time Krystal was in labor we had a plan in place for every scenario.
Contractions started sporadically during the day, and I dropped off a peanut ball and we did the Three Balances from Spinning Babies. Krystal let her IPs and I know that things were happening, she was home with her mom, Nancy, husband, Jon, and their daughter. Throughout the night she kept me updated and I arrived back at their house around 5:30am to find her sitting on the ball in the living room, calmly breathing through contractions. The lights were dim, and her mom was providing support.
Shortly after I arrived Krystal’s 4 year old daughter woke up and came out to be my doula assistant. She took her role very seriously and it was so sweet to watch.
Matt & Kyle were driving in from Buffalo, so when Krystal got in the shower and I noticed her contractions getting to be about 3 minutes apart, we let them know it was probably time to make their way down. It was such a beautiful scene to watch these two families, really one big family, support each other. Krystal's mom was the ultimate doula partner and her hands on support really allowed me to step back and capture these images. Matt & Kyle have a really wonderful relationship with Krystal's daughter, and we just all kind of fell into a rhythm as we got ready to face the day.
Doula note: In this image, Krystal is doing a standing psoas release. Because early labor had been going on for almost 24 hours, we were working hard to loosen and open up as much as we could.
Krystal’s husband Jon got their daughter ready for school and once they had left you could see a shift in her. Like “ok, that’s taken care of…let’s do this”. Nancy fed us bagels, Krystal got some doggy love, and off to the Hospital we went. This was one of the craziest days from the Canadian wildfire smoke and I will always remember driving to the hospital with Krystal’s mom under the orange sky. There were several reasons for going to the hospital that morning. Firstly, Krystal had been in a terrible car accident the year prior and was left with some DVTs in her leg. In case this labor progressed to a cesarean, she was trying to time her blood thinner medication with labor just right so that she could have an epidural placed if necessary. She was also group B strep positive, and the dads opted to do the IV antibiotic protocol throughout labor. One thing I appreciated about the surrogacy experience, especially theirs, was that every party was open and willing to hear pros and cons for every option for gestational carrier and baby, and to talk out what the best plan was going forward.
When we arrived at Strong Memorial Hospital, Nancy & I went into triage with Krystal while Matt & Kyle waited in the waiting room to see how it was going. Krystal was working hard, and she did not want to know how dilated she was. One thing we talked about prenatally was her openness to cervical checks for the sake of decision making, but she didn't want numbers in her head. The midwife checked and whispered to me that she was about 1.5cm, 80% effaced, and -1 station. Krystal's midwife Hannah and I did the Three Balances from Spinning babies with her, Matt & Kyle got us all some coffee and breakfast, and pretty soon I could see a little shift in Krystal's behavior. She began to go inward during contractions, conversational between but more reserved. As she bounced on the ball she noticed some bloody show which is always a good sign!
Sometimes labor goes this way, where the birthing person's behavior doesn't necessarily match up with the numbers given...a perfect reason for her to not even know what they were. In Labor & Delivery you'll often hear someone saying that the cervix needs to "catch up" with the contractions, and often you'll see a pretty big shift in those numbers in a short amount of time once that happens. Sure enough, a little over an hour later she was 3cm and completely effaced. Baby was still hanging out in the -1 station, so we prepped to moved to the labor room and work on bringing him down. This is where Matt & Kyle rejoined us. Prenatally we had discussed that they would be in the room throughout the labor, as this is what both they and Krystal preferred. The dads also wanted continuous fetal monitoring so that they could keep a close eye on how baby was doing, so we opted for the Novii bluetooth monitor to give Krystal as much freedom of movement as possible.
As a doula, I always try to respect the nurse's space. I ask permission to rummage through cabinets, I clarify when they would prefer me to do something on my own or when they'd like us to page them, I keep notes so that they can chart more efficiently if they step out of the room at any point. There is nothing better than a collaborative atmosphere, and Wendy and I always just click. This birth was no different - the team was in sync the whole way through and I think that really allowed Krystal to let go of her thinking brain and slip into labor land. Nancy was also an essential part of Krystal being comfortable. I kept telling her she should become a doula, too!
As we moved along, Krystal was loving a good hip squeeze and wanting to see Jon. He picked up her favorite breakfast sandwich from Subway and came in as she was getting ready to get in the tub. She had been holding it together for so long, and when he arrived she just melted right into him.
One thing I've observed is that the partner of the gestational carrier often has a ton of mixed emotions about seeing the person they love in labor in general - but even more so when it's for another family. Jon was strong for Krystal and then once she got settled in the dark bathroom in her warm tub, it all came out. He was overwhelmed with seeing her uncomfortable, proud of her, excited for Matt and Kyle to become parents. Kyle and Jon had such a sweet moment together.
After about an hour in the tub, it was clear Krystal was progressing right along. She opted for one half dose of Nubain and some nitrous oxide to take the edge off of transition, and it worked really well for her. Nubain is a short acting narcotic that can be administered once, and is often a great option to bridge that space where labor shifts into a more intense phase. Because it passes to baby, we consulted with Matt and Kyle who agreed to whatever Krystal needed to get more comfortable. Wendy talked it through with Matt thoroughly and made sure that he and Kyle were involved as much as possible in the decision.
You'll notice Wendy in a very hands-on role in this labor. "Wendy Squeeze" as Krystal called it, was EXACTLY what she needed. I did my hip squeezes, Nancy did hers, but it was Wendy's that felt the best to her and so that's what we did. It's funny how the subtlest difference in pressure or movement makes the biggest difference in a laboring body. I was thrilled that Krystal found something that really felt good for her as we waited for the Nubain to kick in.
When the birthing person finally gets some relief after intense active laboring, the whole room just kind of exhales. Everyone's adrenaline comes down and a sort of tired peace engulfs the room. Nancy stayed attentive to her daughter as she and the dads slept. I think we all knew Ezra wasn't far away, and this little respite was exactly what everyone needed.
About an hour later, Krystal was checked by her midwife and was 8cm with a bulging bag of water, and baby was very low down. We talked through the pros and cons of artificial rupture of membranes, or having the midwife break her water. It was decided that this was probably going to speed along the process and get baby here so Krystal, Matt, and Kyle all consented. Not even 10 minutes later, her sound changed and we could tell she had begun to push. Matt held her hand while Nancy cradled her head and Kyle stood, arm around Matt's waist.
Krystal shifted to her hands and knees, and Matt and Kyle went to the end of the bed to watch their son be born. I love these images. The amazement, the joy, the love. They saw and felt ALL the things.
As Ezra began to emerge, his dads made their way back up to the head of the bed and got ready to meet him. This moment. It gives me chills as I write it now. This gift that Krystal provided for their family, this incredibly special trust they had placed in her. All of the appointments, planning, waiting...here it was. This moment.
Ezra was absolutely perfect. Matt was ready for skin to skin with his button down shirt, and once the cord was cut he went right to him. Kyle joined them and for the first time, they were together as a family.
Krystal exerienced some additional bleeding as a result of her medications, and since this was expected her midwives were ready with methergine, Pitocin, and misoprostol.
It had been decided prenatally that Ezra would latch feed in the hospital to help Krystal's milk supply become established, since she would be pumping for him for several weeks. Once discharged, the family returned home to Buffalo and Krystal visited frequently in the first months. Ezra is the most loved little boy, and Matt and Kyle continue to stay in contact with not only Krystal but me and Wendy as well. This was an unforgettable story to be a part of and I am forever grateful for the opportunity to witness and share it.