I had a lot of anxiety leading up to Jaden's birth, not just about how how the delivery would go, but about how things would go after the delivery. Much of it was logistical. We didn't know up until the day of whether or not Jason and I would have a room following the delivery.
In typical delivery situations, the baby rooms with the mother. In typical delivery situations, the mother is the one delivering the baby. So, since our situation was anything but typical, we weren't sure what that meant for Jason and I. We were hopeful that the PBO we had in place would help.
At around 20 weeks gestation,with the help of our attorney Jason and I petitioned the court for a PBO or a Pre-Birth Order. A PBO is a court order signed by a judge establishing parentage of an expected child when the woman giving birth to the child is not genetically related to the child. The law assumes that a woman who gives birth to a child is the genetic mother of the child; if she is married her husband is presumed to be the father of the child. Invariably, the presumption about the husband being the father of the child has in some cases been wrong (when there's another baby daddy), but until recently, it was never wrong about the mother. Enter modern science. With the advent of surrogacy, some states (including Georgia) began the practice of utilizing Pre-Birth Orders to address this issue. The fee for obtaining a PBO in Atlanta varies anywhere from $2600 to $5000. While the surrogate can waive her right to an attorney for the contract phase of surrogacy, it is mandatory that she has an attorney for the PBO in order to ensure that she is not being coerced into signing the petition. The Intended Parents are responsible for the surros attorney's fees as well, usually amounting to around $750. What happens if you don't live in a surro-friendly state that grants PBO's? You obtain a post-birth order, or in some cases, adopt your baby. This makes the hospital situation trickier. If the PBO is granted (thankfully it typically is), the hospital is ordered to put the names of the genetic parents (Jason and I) on the birth certificate. Additionally, the court order states that Jason and I are to make all medical decisions for the child once he is born.
In theory, having a PBO in hand should have made the hospital situation pretty seemless. With Jason and I being recognized as biological parents, we would both be given hospital security bands which allows us all access to our baby. We also hoped that we would be given a hospital room following his delivery. When Ellen was around 30 weeks pregnant, I called the hospital to see if this was possible. I was initially told it would depend on the hospital census, but later told that we wouldn't be able to get a room regardless of the census since hospital rooms are only given to patients. We asked if we could stay in Ellen's room with her, since she is technically the patient. They told us only one person was permitted to stay the night in Ellen's room. The Charge Nurse that headed up the Mother and Baby floor did say that there is a special "Family Room" that she has designated for families of patients who need to stay the night and told us we were welcome to stay there. She said it isn't technically a hospital room but should be sufficient. We were still hopeful the PBO would help get us a room, but grateful that there was at least a back up option in place.
The three of us decided it would probably be best to go to the hospital to introduce ourselves and speak to the powers-that-be (in this case, we started with the charge nurses). We also wanted to check out the "Family Room" in case we did end up having to stay there. Unfortunately, the "Family Room" was less than ideal. The room was quite small and just had a chair and a bench in it. No bed. No bathroom. Not even really room for a bed. After seeing the room and my clear disappointment, Ellen told us not to worry- we could just bunk up with her if we couldn't get our own hospital room. We asked the Charge Nurse about this and were once again told only one person was permitted to stay the night in Ellen's room. Hospital policy. We were also informed that once the baby is born he is given four security bands. Two of the bands would go on each of the baby's ankles, one would go to Ellen, and the final one would go to whichever one of us Ellen chose. We explained that Jason and I both should be given bands but they insisted since Ellen is giving birth to the baby, the baby goes with her. No way around it. Hospital policy. Okay, we said. Well then can we get additional bands so that Jason and I can both have a band? No dice. They only come in sets of four. The nurses we spoke to were quite nice, but it was clear that they were not familiar with surrogacy and weren't sure how to bend hospital policy to accommodate our situation.
With PBO in hand, we eventually asked to speak to the Director of Nursing. We explained that we know our situation is unique but surely there must be a way around hospital policy. She assured us that she is familiar with surrogacy but still insisted that Ellen gets the security band because she is the "birth mother". Birth mother? Um....this is not an adoption. The Director must have seen the look of discontent on my face in reaction to her choice of words so she corrected herself. "She's not the birth mother. She's the....vessel...giving birth". Vessel?? She told us that we need not worry though, because even if Jason didn't have an arm band, it would be communicated to the staff that he was the biological father and would be given all access to the baby. The hospital isn't that big, she told us. It would be fine.
This didn't sit well with us so when I got home I immediately contacted our attorney. We have an incredible relationship with our surrogate but there are some surrogacy journeys that don't go as well as ours. In fact, I have heard of cases where there is such a breakdown in the relationship that the surrogate and Intended Parents don't speak at all and only receive updates about the pregnancy from their attorney. If our situation was like that, we certainly wouldn't feel comfortable with our surrogate having armband access to our baby while one of us was denied this access. After several emails, phone calls and weeks of waiting, our attorney spoke with hospital counsel and got the security band situation straightened out. Jason and I would both be given armbands. Ellen would not receive a band.
As for the room? We were told that we still wouldn't be given a room but, if there was a room available, we would be given the opportunity to purchase a room for $450. This wasn't exorbitant, but was no steal either. We figured we would just make a game-day decision and see how we felt, and packed an airbed and a sleeping bag just in case.
Stay tuned for the next blog post to see what we ended up deciding...