WOW! That is the only word I can think of to start. I’ve written and rewritten this post so many times. I debated sentences flowing through my head, written down notes and written whole drafts. But the only word I can think of is wow.
On December 28, 2015 I was invited to photograph my first birth. At 3:07 p.m. little Miss Ande arrived. While her arrival into the world is the start of her life, her story really begins several years ago. You see, her mom, Sara, was diagnosed with breast cancer three years ago. At the time, Ande already had 9 month old twin sisters. While cancer was not a new concept for Ande’s family (grandma and great-grandma had had breast cancer and were positive for the BRCA 1 gene) it did change the way Ande was brought into this world.
Sara and her husband, Gary, had fertility issues while trying to get pregnant with the twins, so they had frozen embryos. After a mastectomy, chemo and eventually a hysterectomy it became obvious that they only way for them to give their daughters a biological sibling was via a surrogate. Sara expressed this need in a blog that she used to share about her journey. Michelle, a friend from high school, read this blog entry and contacted Sara.
Of the two frozen embryos, only one survived and Michelle became the surrogate for Sara and Gary’s last chance at a biological child.
As we all arrived at the hospital at 6 a.m., I met Sara and Gary for the first time. Everyone was excited for the day to finally have arrived, but you could tell that even with a scheduled induction, everyone knew Miss Ande would arrive when she was ready.
Sara felt Ande move in Michelle’s belly as nurses hooked up fetal monitors and got an IV started. Everyone settled in to wait. As the morning wore on, guesses of when Ande would arrive and how big she would be were written down. Michelle and Sara talked about high school, their children and their current story.
The hurry up and wait game is a hard one to play.
Slowly each person’s guess of time of arrival passed on by. Around lunch, no one wanted to leave to go eat because while slow, progress was being made. This moment Sara and Gary had waited for could not be missed.
As the next hour trudged by, the nurses visits were more frequent. Another hour slowly crept by. The pain and pressure of the contractions were more visible in the way Michelle’s body tensed and she focused on keeping a steady breathing rhythm.
Nurses began to transform the room, from their peaceful waiting area, to a delivery room. A bed and heat lamp were set up for the baby. Everyone got up from their chairs and couch in anticipation.
As the contractions grew stronger, Michelle, reached for her husband’s hand. And then it was time to push. As Ande was born tears of joy flowed. The gift, the love, of one woman gave birth to a daughter for Sara and Gary.
After dad cut the cord, mom got to hold her baby skin against skin.
It was one of the most beautiful experiences I have ever witnessed. The strength, determination and power it takes to conceive another human being is undeniable. For another woman to do that for you, is a true testament of love. Love for others and love for life.
Thank you to Gary, Sara, Michelle and Sean for allowing me to be there to capture the conclusion to your story and the beginning of Ande’s. Much love and appreciation to each of you!