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Birth Stories: The surrogate birth of baby Benji

Updated: Sep 9, 2022

*Disclaimer - any birth advice given here is my own opinion and not medical.

a mother holding her surrogate baby for the first time
Charlotte holding Benji for the first time

Birth stories are always special and every woman remembers her birth or births.

If you ask her, you will always get a very detailed story.

But this mother is going to remember another woman’s birth.

I didn’t know what to expect meeting this amazing surrogate and the parents of the baby boy she was carrying for them.

When I met them I saw a beautiful and moving relationship, of love and real care between the three of them.

It was a three person pregnancy. When it came to the delivery, they were there with her, supporting her and encouraging her in every way they could. And although she had to be induced and although the baby wasn’t in the best position, she did so so well.

And that moment when a biological mother, who wanted to have a baby and had so many heartbreaks, is meeting her baby boy for the first time… that moment took my breath away.

I met Vicky, Charlotte and Robbie for a coffee, on a sunny afternoon, to discuss the photography of the birth of their son.

Vicky was Charlotte and Robbie’s surrogate. After many health issues which didn’t allow her to carry a healthy pregnancy, Charlotte and her partner Robbie decided to find a surrogate.

They described it like dating as a couple. Looking and chatting until you find a spark with someone. It was so clear they were meant to be together.

It was a first for me. I was intrigued and pleasantly surprised. Vicky is a midwife and a mother and she was carrying their baby with much love and empathy. I was amazed to see the relationship between the three of them. It was like they knew each other forever.

It was late in the pregnancy when we met. Charlotte and Robbie came up to Manchester from London to be here for the last few weeks before the birth.

Vicky wanted and prepared for a home birth but for medical reasons she had to be gently induced by getting a sweep. So instead I met them at a natural birthing suit in the hospital where Vicky worked. I think she felt at home there anyway… She was being cared for by two midwives, her friends. One of them even delivered her first baby.

When I arrived, Vicky was already in active labour, and there, holding her hands, giving her drinks and snacks, supporting her every step of the way, were Charlotte and Robbie.

Tragically, in 2017 Charlotte gave birth to her daughter after losing her at 25 weeks gestation. Robbie was with her the entire time. Robbie was therefore a lot more prepared for supporting Vicky. Charlotte was not sure what to do other than hand holding because she remembered that being so important when she gave birth.

They both did their best. It was so heartwarming to see. Especially knowing how much it all meant to them

Because Vicky was induced (and although she had a natural birth), there were a lot of checks and charting done by the midwife. It is always the birthing person's choice how many checks (and which ones) to have, but Vicky didn’t seem to mind it at all. Maybe because she is a midwife herself, it made her feel safe. Maybe it was the sense of responsibility of birthing this baby safely.

The birthing pool was full and warm and looked so inviting so Vicky went in, yet after a short while she felt she wanted to stay out of the water. “Same as her first birth”, her friend, the midwife, remembered.

She continued labouring out of the water. Sometimes laying on her side or back, sometimes holding on to someone. The birth was coming along slowly, but because Vicky was induced, the baby didn't turn around with his face in the right direction to go through the birth canal smoothly.

As a result the baby was a bit stuck in the birth canal and Vicky had to work extra hard to push him down.

It is important for me to note (in case any pregnant mamas are reading this) that during a natural physiological birth it is not necessary to push the baby out. Unlearn whatever you saw in Hollywood films. It is not true! If you are not lying on your back then gravity and contractions usually work together to deliver the baby smoothly and at the correct paice. Not active pushing needed.

Any interventions can affect the course of the physiological birth as in this case. Unfortunately it was medically necessary to induce Vicky, but the midwives found a way to help her birth naturally.

Back to Vicky - at this point, trying to avoid any further interventions, the midwife brought out a birthing stool. It was the first time I saw one in action. The change of position seemed to help and with great effort, and a lot of conscious careful pushing the baby was born.

First his head, then his body with the help of the midwife (turning him gently in the right direction) It was not easy. It was hard work for Vicky. But she did it! She was amazing.

Then the most beautiful thing happened. The midwife who guided the baby out immediately handed him to his mother. All the emotions, the wonder and the gash of love hormones that you usually see on the face of a person who just gave birth, came onto the face of the woman who had just been handed over her baby and held him for the very first time. It was just incredible to see. And none of it on Vicky’s face. After all, it wasn't her baby.

Vicky was relieved and the new parents were just overwhelmed with joy and emotion.

There were many hugs.

While Vicky held the baby who was still attached to his placenta, The happy parents hugged. It was such a moment of joy, and relief.

Then the baby was handed over to his dad and Vicky continued working on birthing his placenta.

After a while, when the cord stopped pulsating, Charlotte got to have skin to skin with her baby. It was just wondrous to see. She wasn’t sure what to do or how to hold him, but it didn’t really matter. She just radiated happiness.

After his mummy time, Vicky breastfed the baby. It was beautiful to see the love and giving.

They agreed in advance that Vicky would breastfeed for that first feed and then express for as long as she wanted after. They then had fun with meeting up and transferring frozen milk pouches between them for a long time after…

It was a long night. When I drove home that morning my heart was filled with joy to have witnessed all this love and caring.

I caught up with the family a few months later in London. It was so lovely to see them again and take their family portrait. Little Benji is a copy of his dad. A happy and very much loved baby. Sweet family that I had the absolute pleasure to get to know.

Needless to say, they are still in touch with Vicky who gets regular updates and visits!

Parents with their baby
Charlotte, Robbi & Benji

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