In the conclusion of Jennifer Brown’s surrogacy journey, Sophie Desrosiers recounts the dramatic labour, delivery and reveals how the Ottawa mom and her family are faring post-birth
‘It’s just an amazing feeling to see somebody holding their newborn baby’
When Jennifer Brown’s water broke on the night of Jan. 24, the 30-year-old knew she had to get to the hospital quickly. Doctors had told her she had excess amniotic fluid, putting her at risk for early labour and complications.
Hospital staff told her she would most likely be sent home to wait out the contractions, but the complications they had feared quickly turned into reality.
“When they did an internal exam and went near (the baby), his heart rate dropped instantly,” said Brown.
On its own, excess fluid is not uncommon, but for Brown, any complication caused her anxiety, knowing if something went wrong, another family would suffer the consequences.
Inspired by her friend Amanda, Brown had decided to become a surrogate after having her own two sons, and carried a baby boy for an Australian couple. The two families bonded online for months before Brown even became pregnant.
They met face-to-face for the first time in early January, when the intended parents travelled to Ottawa to prepare for the birth of their second surrogate child.
And that evening in the hospital, the intended mother and Brown’s husband, Mike Couturier, stood by helplessly and watched as doctors started giving her Pitocin to induce contractions.
The labour was a frightening experience, Brown said.
“When you’re in labour (with someone else’s child), all you care about is this baby coming out healthy,” she said.
The situation only worsened after the first round of Pitocin.
“As my contractions started increasing, the baby’s heart rate started dropping even more.”
Both couples were hoping for a vaginal birth so the baby could be handed to the intended mother immediately, a moment Brown desperately wanted to witness. She was given more Pitocin, but the baby’s heart rate continued to drop dramatically.
“I was about six centimetres when they decided they had to rush me into an emergency cesarean section,” said Brown, who had two very easy labours with her own sons.
“I’m not going to lie, I was terrified.”
Doctors worked quickly though, and on the morning of Jan. 25, Brown gave birth to a healthy seven-pound, threeounce baby boy for her intended parents.
“Unfortunately I didn’t get to see the intended mother hold their baby for the first time,” said Brown, who was taken into a recovery room after the cesarean section.
After spending an hour in recovery, Brown was taken to her room. She asked Couturier to invite the intended mother and baby, who were in their own separate room to visit.
“I got to meet him, and I got to see her happy,” she said. “It’s just an amazing feeling to see somebody holding their newborn baby.”
Brown said all she recalls feeling, after seeing the intended mother and baby together, was pure joy and relief.
“You were able to provide that? That’s all you’re thinking about.”
Brown said she didn’t struggle with separating from the child. She prepared herself for the moment from early on by not allowing herself to become attached during the pregnancy.
Another helpful factor, she said, was how much she trusted her intended parents.
“My intended parents are so much like Mike and I,” said Brown. She knew the baby was in good hands, and was happy to help them achieve the family they wanted.
And eight weeks after delivery, Brown was relieved to go back to her old life with her own boys, Logan and Hunter, and her husband. She said the surrogacy has strengthened their relationship.
“If anything, it just showed that we can get through anything together now,” she said. “I’ve got an incredibly patient husband.”
She said parting with the baby was easier than she had expected, and she isn’t alone in feeling this way.
Brown’s friend Amanda, also a surrogate, gave birth to the baby she was carrying just a month after Brown. The two have shared their feelings of detachment with each other.
“She thought she was just a cold person because she didn’t feel any connection to the baby at all. I was like, ‘no no, I felt the same way’,” Brown recalled, laughing.
Overall, she is happy she decided to become a surrogate, but one part of her journey was much more difficult than she had anticipated.
A month after Brown delivered their baby, the intended parents headed back to Australia with the newest addition to their family.
The two families have continued to stay in touch via Skype, and Brown hopes the friendship will continue to grow.
“It was harder to say goodbye to them than it was to say goodbye to their baby,” said Brown, a hint of sadness in her voice.”
Photos: Sophie Desrosiers