When my son was two months old, I signed up for a baby massage course. It was the final class of the term when the class instructor said in a very soft, anticipatory voice that it was time for all of the moms to share their birth stories. I listened as each mama told their story about water births and hypnobirthing.

Then, it was my turn to share.

Up until this point, I hadn’t seen my surrogacy story as any different from the other new moms. I was blissfully living in the new baby bubble of happiness. I doted over my son in the same way all of the other moms did. I also had just enough belly fat to make me look like maybe I had actually recently given birth to this beautiful boy.

How was anyone supposed to know that my beautiful baby boy was born via surrogate?

I did not have the experience of being pregnant with my baby. I didn’t, or so I thought, have a beautiful, warm and fuzzy birth story to share with this circle of women.

Related: My Journey through surrogacy

As I drove home from the class, I found myself questioning my motherhood. I suddenly found myself feeling like an outsider to this elite society of mommies that I desperately tried to be a part of.

Was I a “real” mother?

Would I ever fit into this mom club?

I allowed these questions to haunt me for a whole year. These doubts stole away time from the amazing post-baby bliss that I was supposed to be experiencing.

And then one day, the doubt lifted. I realized that my baby deserves a warm and fuzzy birth story. After all, this was the happiest day of our lives. I decided to own my story and be proud of it.

My surrogacy birth story

Our birth story started with an email on a Friday afternoon. Our surrogate had just been in for a check-up, and it was determined that she would be having a C-section in 48 hours—four weeks prematurely.

Our surrogate lived in Tbilisi, Georgia, and we lived in Dubai! The panic set in almost immediately. We needed to book the flights and hotel, gather all of the hundreds of legal documents needed for the daunting process of surrogacy, and pack for an undetermined length of stay in a foreign country. We barely had a second to stop and enjoy the excitement of knowing that we would get to meet our son in two days.

As we boarded the flight, we were nervous, to say the least. We had put blind faith in our surrogacy agency, and at the end of the day, we had no real proof that our baby was coming and that this was real. Embarrassingly enough, we hadn’t even had an actual phone conversation with the agency. All communication had been through email up until this point. Logical people would say that this was not a good idea. Oddly enough, my husband and I consider ourselves extremely logical people. But I can say that as an infertility survivor, all that logic goes flying out the window when you desperately want to have a baby but can’t.

We landed at the Tbilisi airport around 2:15 pm. I turned my cell phone off of airplane mode and immediately opened my text messages.

There it was, the message we had been waiting for. Our baby boy was here!

We were given the hospital’s address and were told to go there immediately to meet him. I realize this all sounds completely wild, but we went with it. We hailed a taxi and somehow managed to explain to the non-English speaking driver where we needed to go.

As we pulled up to the hospital, I felt as if I was dreaming. There were two possible polar opposite outcomes that would happen within the next minutes—one ending with extreme happiness and one ending with complete devastation.

Related: This is birth: The amazing story of a surrogate and the family she carried *4* children for

My husband was as solid as a rock, even though I knew that there was no humanly way possible for him to not be full of anxiety inside. We approached the information desk, gave them our names, and settled in for the longest 10-minute wait of our lives. A nurse then approached us, gave us scrubs to put on, and led us to an elevator. Side note: My husband has never looked as handsome as he did in those scrubs.

Was this really happening? Were we about to meet our baby?

Meeting our baby boy for the first time

The elevator door opened, and we were led to a waiting area in the middle of the maternity ward. The wait was short, maybe five minutes. And then, a smiling, friendly-faced nurse approached us and held a baby up. “This is your baby,” she said.

I can’t actually remember who held him first. All I remember was complete and utter shock that this was real. We spent the next 20 minutes of allowed visitation, staring at him and soaking in every inch of him.

I immediately felt like his mother in every sense of the word. I felt the deepest love that I could ever imagine. I also have never loved my husband more than I did this moment.

We spent the next five days going back and forth from our hotel to the hospital for the 20-minute visitation sessions. It was a cold and snowy day when we left the hospital to bring him back to our temporary home at the Marriott. Once inside the safety of our hotel room, I collapsed onto the bed. It was at this moment that I finally allowed myself to feel safe and to accept for the first time that this had happened and that I was actually his mother. I consider this the definitive moment that the fog lifted, and I actually allowed myself the feeling of joy instead of dread and anxiety.

Life would never be the same, and we would never be happier than in this moment as a family, in a foreign country, lying on a Marriott king size bed.

I regret the time that I allowed myself to doubt my worthiness as a mother. It took away moments that I can never get back. But if I have learned one thing, it would be to own with pride my unique birth story and to scream it at the top of my lungs to anyone who will listen.

A version of this story was published June 7, 2020. It has been updated.