This is a story of surrogacy. A story of unconditional love, true sacrifice and selflessness. This is a birth story unlike many you'll come across and I am so truly humbled and honored to have been a part of it. This is William, Cameron, McKenzie and Mari's story and to say they've been on a journey is an understatement.
Have you ever had to really try to get pregnant? If not, consider yourself truly blessed. But if so, you know how infertility weighs on the heart. If you've ever needed Clomid, IVF or IUI, you know. If you've ever faced the fact that you may never get to have a baby of your own, you know. If you've ever gotten a phone call that stops you in your tracks and makes your heart absolutely sink, you know. If your heart has ever ached with love for a baby you can't have, you know. It's hard, arduous and taxing both physically and emotionally.
William and Cameron know. Surrogacy was their only option, but that doesn't mean their journey to baby was by any means easy. In fact, once they met McKenzie the three of them embarked on a 2+ year walk through all of the highs and lows you can imagine. Then it came. The day they had been waiting and hoping for. The day when McKenzie would give birth for a couple that couldn't. The day the world would gain two new dads, ready and eager to raise a good person. The day their baby would arrive and change the lives of so many people.
The day of McKenzie's scheduled c-section I walked into her hospital room and met a couple of soon-to-be dads who were full of that nervous excitement that you only get when you know your life is about to change. They were going to meet their baby in a matter of mere minutes! The energy in the room was magnetic! The three of them absolutely radiated love and excitement. Even the doctors and nurses coming and going were all smiles- a few happy tears here and there, too. There were a few minutes of placing last minute bets on boy or girl, selfies and feeling baby kick one last time before everyone gave final hugs and we all got into scrubs.
The nurses took McKenzie to the OR and said they'd be out to get us in a few minutes, which is when I got to talk with Bill and Cameron a little more. I got to hear some of their journey to get to here. I heard about the tests and procedures and failed embryos. I heard about their baby shower in Colorado where their families met for the first time in 8 years and how McKenzie flew out to be with them for it. I heard them say how everything had been worth it to get to this moment. And I heard them say how grateful they were for McKenzie. How they still couldn't believe she was willing to do this for them. How she had been a ray of hope in an otherwise dim, sometimes scary situation. How they couldn't believe it was actually happening. Something about being in scrubs outside an OR steadies you and at the same time brings the reality of what's about to happen crashing down on you to knock you off your feet. Remembering every twist and turn they had taken to get here and all the times when they didn't think a baby would be in the cards for them: it was hard to believe that this was in fact reality. There were tears of happiness, joy and deep, deep heartfelt gratitude.
We walked into the freezing OR and Cameron and Bill sat next to McKenzie's head. The nurses were awesome. They told me where I could stand and how I could move around the OR to get good shots without being in the way. The OB and anesthesiologist were so welcoming and were nothing but excited for Bill and Cameron and McKenzie to have the photos I was there to take.
Before I go any further, to all you c-section mommas out there, HOLY COW. A c-section is by no means an 'easy way out' when it comes to birth. I've always know that, but seeing a c-section drove that point home. I applaud that you were able to lay awake in an OR while you underwent a major abdominal surgery. I guess I always figured a c-section was a cut here, cut there, baby out, stitches. NOPE. I had no idea what was actually involved! It certainly wasn't pleasant for McKenzie! It took a little extra time, muscle and a vacuum, but finally, at 7:56am, the anesthesiologist dropped the blue curtain so Bill and Cameron could see first hand if their little was a Mr. or Mrs.
They were absolutely giddy when they laid eyes on their little girl for the first time! Immediately Cameron broke into tears and leaned his head next to McKenzie and said 'Thank you, thank you, thank you' over and over and over again. The nurse got the little Ms. cleaned up a bit and took her to her new parents. Cameron and Bill walked the baby over to McKenzie and said 'this is Mari Catherine'. The three of them held hands, laughed, cried, and stared at Mari together for what seemed like only a moment. Funny how staring at a newborn can do that to you. You fall into their innocence and before you know it you've stared the day away. I don't know how I was able to get images in focus because my eyes were full of big ol happy crocodile tears. At some point we were ushered out of the OR and eventually to a room where Cameron, William and Mari had their first moments as a family.
Ya know, I still can't get my head around it- how completely selfless and altruistic McKenzie was. And not just McKenzie- her husband, too! At one point Cameron said jokingly 'thanks for giving us your wife's body for the last 9 months' to which he smiled and laughed and said 'it was hers to give'. How true. To carry with her the ability to grow healthy babies and willingly sacrifice so much of herself to help someone else experience the joys of parenthood. Still when I think about it I get tongue-tied and don't think I am able to appropriately communicate how much respect and admiration I have for her. I'd like to think I'd be able to provide surrogacy for someone, but really, I don't know if I'm strong enough. What I can do is take photos so they remember the day forever. And I can share their story here to perhaps encourage one of you to find a way to do for others. Not everyone is meant to be a surrogate (or a photographer for that matter), but I do believe we are all meant to help our fellow humans in some way. More than anything, I think this story has taught me to be selfless. To reach deep and find the ways I can help others. I mean, if McKenzie can do something so immensely self-sacrificing, I have to be able to do something, too.
William, Cameron, McKenzie and Mari- thank you for asking me to be a part of such a special journey. Love and blessings to you all <3