A dear friend of mine finally became a mother a week ago. She had made her embryos with egg donation a few years back and had a really difficult time finding a gestational carrier to carry for her. After a very long journey, she finally got to hold her daughter in her arms. My other friend is now in her second trimester also with DE after struggling to conceive with her own eggs for the last eight years. I have met a ton of people in the last nine years because of my own fertility journey. Many of them became good friends. But now that I look around, I don’t have any friends that are struggling with having a baby. An era of my life where many of my friends were met through my fertility journey is definitely coming to an end. Nowadays most of the new friends that I meet are from mom groups. I mean, I am still getting requests from friends to connect with their friends who are still on this journey, but these kinds of requests are becoming fewer and fewer. I am sure eventually I won’t know anyone who struggles with infertility as I continue aging. I know it is a natural progression of how life is. My stage of life is mostly about parenthood, and my life and friends reflect it. But it certainly feels a little weird that I don’t get to talk about treatments or feelings surrounding trying for a baby anymore especially after it had been a big part of my life for so long.
I know all parents say this. It is true though. I blink, and my kids have turned four.
This year I wanted to make it up to the kids for not having a party last year. The theme for first year was Elmo because the kids didn’t know better. Second year it was Thomas the Tank Engine. Last year it was Thomas again for Okra and Excavator for Bunny. This year guess what Okra wanted? Trains again. And interestingly, Bunny wanted trains too. Well that did make it easier for me as I didn’t have to incorporate two different themes like last year.
The kids had school on their actual birthday. We went in their room to sing them Happy Birthday song when they woke up. The kids were so excited! Bunny said, “I am so excited! I can’t wait to see the birthday decorations in the living room!” Oops… I didn’t decorate the living room this year because we were going to have a birthday party that weekend. I wasn’t going to do decorations two times in a week. When Bunny realized that was the case, her face dropped and she almost broke into tears. The disappointment was so real, and I can understand that. Last year we had a big photo backdrop on the living room wall with balloons of their names and huge gigantic number 3 and other balloons and tons of presents. This year there weren’t even presents yet because I didn’t want them to delay going to school. Poor kids…
That afternoon we brought sugar-free popsicles to school to celebrate with the kids’ friends at school. They got to wear a birthday hat (which Okra promptly refused) and get a birthday balloon and hear the kids and teachers sing them a birthday song. It was nice to chat with their teachers and get to see the faces of the kids that Okra and Bunny mention about all the time. That evening we invited my brother’s family over for the kids’ favorite dinner (ramen for Bunny and unagi donburi for Okra) and had a very yummy birthday cake. We stuck two number 4 candles on the cake. Bob joked that he is all set for his 44th birthday next year with candles.
On Saturday that same week, we had a birthday party at a nearby park. I had booked that picnic area two months prior hoping that the air quality would be good for their party. I was so relieved on Saturday morning to see that the weather and air were good. We wanted to keep the party small so we had invited two other sets of twins for a total of 6 kids. These are kids that we have regular playdates with. There were more adults because my brother’s family was there as well. Everyone was masked. The kids had such a blast! We rented a bounce house for the party and the kids had the interest and energy to jump almost the whole entire time! We catered from the kids’ favorite taqueria and had cupcakes. It was so much fun. The kids didn’t want to leave. Bunny was so sad when the jumper company came to pack up the bounce house. The rest of the day she repeatedly told me that she missed her jumper. She still says that even to this day, a whole week and some more after her party. Haha.
I am so thankful that we feel safe enough to give them a party. I hope that next year we can invite more people. That means that the pandemic will be more under control.
Every year is challenging, but it is also so rewarding to see the kids learn, grow, and develop into their own individual person. I can’t wait to see what this year brings.
That is how many minutes of exercise I did last week.
I used to exercise at least 3 times a week before the kids were born. When they were newborns, I just did not have the time or energy to work out. I started going on walks again about a year ago. The partial tear on a tendon on my left ankle has made it impossible for me to go on my walk without pain. I stopped going on walks since February, and it didn’t do my body any good. The more I didn’t exercise, the more aches and pains I felt. I am sure my high blood pressure had gotten worse because of the lack of movements. Kids started preschool early August. I started doing these low impact cardio and resistant workouts on Youtube. Initially I did them 3 times a week, on days that the kids are at school. Once I have gotten in the groove, I also do them on non-school days. When the kids get up from their naps, I usually let them watch an episode of cartoon on Netfl.ix. I used to sit around or do housework during this half an hour of video time. Now I put on a workout video and huff and puff behind them in the kitchen while they watch their show at the dining table. The more I do it, the more I want to do it. Half an hour of workout is so doable. Bob’s blood pressure has been high lately and he wants to take better care of his health. He also started to do these workouts. Yesterday we did one together while the kids watched their show. It was a lot of fun doing it side by side. I highly recommend these workouts if anyone is interested. The trainers and highly motivational and inspirational. I love them. Last week was the first time I did one 30-minute workout per day. I sweat a ton and feel so accomplished when I complete a workout. It makes me feel so good not only physically but also mentally and emotionally. And I am so proud of the both of us for working towards better health and a better life. I am happy to report that my blood pressure has responded to my consistent exercise.
My friend who had 21 blastocysts from her second round of donor egg cycle is finally pregnant. Eighteen out of the 21 blastocysts are PGS normal. Eighteen! What does one do with 18 blastocysts? Her mother wanted her to transfer a male embryo mainly because she herself didn’t have a son. Her husband also wants a boy. My friend does not have much of a preference so she transferred a male embryo. She is now 8 weeks pregnant. Her 6 week scan showed a beautiful heart beat. I am so thrilled for her! I know that she is still early in her pregnancy but I am so hopeful that everything will go well, and that she will finally hold her baby after being on this journey for 8 years. She still has a lot to work on in terms of grieving the loss of genetic connection with her child. We have had numerous conversations about it. I had been trying to convince her to see a professional to work through her feelings. At least she is working with one right now. It has been quite a trigger for me to walk alongside her on this journey, which is kind of unexpected. I thought I have done grieving not sharing genes with my kids. I guess these deep seated feelings don’t totally go away. When she shares with me how she feels, I often tell her that I sometimes still feel something similar. I will be curious to see how I fare emotionally as I watch my friend go through her pregnancy while processing her feelings.
About a year ago, my former reproductive endocrinologist Dr. E introduced me and Bob to the parents of one of Bunny and Okra’s genetic half siblings. We haven’t met them in person but did exchange emails several times and become FB friends with one of the parents. I was very curious to see what the little sibling looked like and it has been fun to see photos of her. She is a few months older than our twins. She and Okra share more of a resemblance than she and Bunny. Dr. E mentioned that little half sibling’s parents are connected to our mutual donor on FB. Although our donation was supposed to be anonymous, we do know our donor’s name. We just haven’t asked to meet up with her in person. It is partly because of the pandemic but also of our egg donation history with the donor. I am tremendously grateful for our donor and do not hold any grudges against her. But it seems to be hard to ignore this piece of history when considering when to meet her. I wonder if we would ever talk about what happened. Fast forward to last week. I messaged Dr. E to ask about something for a friend of mine. She wrote back and said that she actually wanted to reach out to me. She invited the parents of Bunny and Okra’s half sibling as well as our mutual donor to dinner at her house the previous week. They all had a blast and discussed about doing this annually. Dr. E was wondering if Bob and I would like to be a part of that annual dinner. We continued chatting, and Dr. E asked if we wanted to connect to our donor on FB, she could make it happen. I took some time to think about it. And I thought about how it would be good for Bunny and Okra to know who their donor is, what she looks like, and for us to get information on her family medical history if need be. After a few days of consideration, I told Dr. E that we would love to become FB friends with our donor. Dr. E made it happen. She messaged our donor, and that same night, our donor friended me on FB. I wrote her a message with pictures of the kids. I haven’t heard back from her but it is a great first step to get to know person who so graciously helped us complete our family. I showed the kids our donor’s photos. How did they react? They were more interested in our donor’s grandpa. Haha. I will let you know if our donor ever messages me back, and maybe one day we will see her face to face.
After a long time in the making, the kids started preschool today.
They were a little reluctant to go. Last week they went to school for a half an hour play date. My usually chatty and social kids at the playground were reserved and resistant. It took them a little while to even touch the toys. I was a little bit concerned about them refusing to walk into school, especially Okra. To my surprise, Bunny walked in right away. Okra at first was reluctant, but entered the school after he saw that sister already took out a box of train toys. This was the first time I met their teacher as she was out sick on the day of the play date. She has a great energy with a voice that is kind but has authority. I like her and am glad that she is their teacher. When I was driving away from the school, I started missing them a lot. This is the first time they are away from the both of us or family members for more than a couple of hours. It felt so weird driving away without them in their car seats in the back. Bob had taken the day off so the two of us dropped them off at school. We went on a date day and had brunch leisurely. We enjoyed the adult time that we got to spend together, eating a meal without stopping to serve or attend to anyone. We got a phone call at 1:45pm, which was half way through nap time. I was told that Okra was crying to a point that his crying was disturbing other kids’ sleep, so I was asked to go pick him up. The teachers and I discussed strategies at the door. Okra usually chews a cloth at home during sleep. I deliberately didn’t give him one because of how disgusting it gets after his use (all wet with his saliva) and didn’t want the teacher to have to handle it if she didn’t have to. But I think without the cloth, something that he has been using since 6 months, it would be hard for him to fall asleep. So the solution for now is to bring three fresh ones on Monday. I will pack a couple of ziploc bags labeled “Clean” and “Used”. After Okra uses one, the teacher can help him place it in the “Used” bag. These will come home to us with the beddings on Friday so we can wash them all. The teacher did say that they did really well for all the activities. They listened and participated during circle time. They played well outdoors except for when Okra was playing in the sand box and kept complaining about sand getting in his shoes. So the teacher told him to play elsewhere. They each ate a big bowl of vegetable fried rice provided by school, which was surprising to me because the kids do not eat fried rice at home. They also ate some of the lunch that I prepared for them. Despite having to come home early, I think it was a great start. I was a little hesitant sending them to preschool at this time given how bad the Delta Variant is out there right now. The preschool is very good at enforcing masks for everyone, and they are very careful with who could enter the building. With the teachers following the Department of Public Health’s guidelines, I am hopeful that the kids will remain healthy. This is why we are still sending them to preschool. I hope that as time goes on, the kids will get used to going, and they will be running to the door in the future without any convincing from us.
I turned 47 a couple of days ago.
After staying home for my birthday last year, this year all I wanted was to have my birthday meals at a restaurant. Since the kids are not vaccinated yet, I only take them to restaurants that offer outdoor dining. I chatted with my best friend (who lives overseas) in the morning. My husband went to greet the kids first. When I opened the door to the kids’ room after my phone call, I was greeted with a happy birthday song by both of them. It was so heartwarming to hear especially when they sang it spontaneously. We went to my favorite breakfast spot. The kids had chocolate pancakes. I had chicken fried steak, Swedish pancakes, and a nice hot chocolate with a lot of whipped cream on top. Dining out with hot food on a plate definitely beats the plastic or paper to-go containers we get at home. It hit a spot.
Unfortunately right after our meal, the kids started to lose it and had a couple of meltdowns. One of them was on the way back to the car. Both kids sat on the sidewalk crying at one point. The other meltdown was at home during nap time. The extra sugar really didn’t help.
This year the only thing I really wanted for my birthday dinner was uni (sea urchin) and amaebi (sweet shrimp). We found a sushi restaurant that has outdoor dining and decent reviews. It didn’t disappoint! I had something called “Treasure Box” with nine different little dishes. Bob had a deluxe chirashi bowl and he generously gave me his amaebi. The food was yummy, service was attentive, weather was nice, and the kids had a lot of fun. Most importantly, we got to eat sushi at a restaurant instead of out of a to-go container. It was a very satisfying birthday meal.
After dinner, my brother’s family came over for cake. Last year they had to stand outside with a cake to sing me a birthday song. The fact that we could all be under one roof to sing a happy birthday song and enjoy a birthday cake is such a blessing. That was all I wanted. And I feel so blessed that I got to do it this year.
I wrote about my friend back in May. She is my one friend who has been trying for a baby for eight years and is still trying. She finally decided to pursue egg donation. The eggs from the proven donor that she chose only yielded one blastocyst. That blastocyst turned out to be unusable. She was back to square one. After a lot of consideration, she found another proven donor and started a new cycle in late June. This is a totally different outcome from the last cycle. This donor is a super producer as her egg retrieval yielded over 30 eggs of which 20 of them became day 5 blastocysts. Twenty! They were all biopsied and sent for testing. One more day 6 blastocyst joined the group the next day. My friend will know how many of them are PGS normal very soon. She is now preparing for a transfer this month. Yesterday’s fireworks were so loud I was afraid that they would wake my kids up. I messaged my friend and joked with her saying, “Hopefully next year today you will be cursing these fireworks”. She laughed asking, “Because they will wake up the baby?” Exactly. At the time I message her, she and her husband were driving home from a 4th of July celebration. I said to her, “Next year you won’t be going anywhere.” I am hopeful that this will come true for her.
Want to document what I have been struggling with lately.
One word: sleep. The kids’ sleep affects my sleep.
Since they switched to toddler beds, their nap has been different. Okra still falls asleep but he doesn’t sleep for three hours anymore. Bunny is the one who creates a lot of trouble for me. She doesn’t need the nap most of the days. (Or maybe she needs it but she just fights it.) When she is asked to lie down for quiet time, she often hangs her legs out of the bed. She’d start singing loudly or dance around the room. I am constantly on the monitor watching her and going over there to tell her to lie down. It is tiring. If Okra is not asleep already, Bunny gets him all riled up and nobody naps. When Okra doesn’t nap, he gets very cranky in the afternoon. If Okra is asleep, he is deep asleep and usually Bunny’s singing doesn’t bother him or wake him up. Occasionally her noises wake him up and he starts crying and throwing a tantrum because of not getting enough rest. I want to avoid that as much as possible. A few days ago, I offered her something that may be the solution to our problem. I started letting Bunny listen to story podcasts, audio books, or songs on my iPad. The headphones we bought them for the trip to Hong Kong and India come in handy. When she uses them, she is more tied down to the bed so she won’t get up and dance around too often. This activity seems to keep her in bed and quiet for at least an hour. That is enough for Okra to quiet down and fall asleep. She occasionally calls out to me to help her adjust something. Other than that, it largely keeps her occupied quietly and allows me some time to lie down and rest, and allows Okra to nap for at least 1.5 hours. Because I am still watching her, I lie down and rest but don’t usually fall asleep. She calls me over to help her with choosing a different song or book so I don’t quite get the rest that I need. It’s better than not having some rest though.
If both kids nap, they don’t fall asleep until 9ish to 10pm. They would call me in their room over and over again asking for everything under the sun. These days Bunny doesn’t nap, it is easier to get them down at a reasonable hour (around 8:15pm) and Bunny would fall asleep right away. Okra, since he has napped for over an hour, doesn’t fall asleep as easily. Some days he lies there and blinks until he is tired. Some other days he keeps on calling me until I tell him that his sister would leave and go sleep with us if he continues making noise. He would comply and eventually fall asleep at around 8:45 to 9pm. A couple of weeks ago, both kids would wake up in the middle of the night calling for me. Some nights it was just one time. Other nights it was three to four times. They would call for me to cover them with their blankets, for a drink of water, or just for the heck of it. After 4 times, I would get very frustrated and just want to go back to sleep. They did it for about a week and needless to say, those few days I felt like a zombie. No personal time in the morning because I hadn’t slept well the night before so I couldn’t get up early. No personal time in the afternoon when one of them wouldn’t nap. In the evening after they went down I was so tired that I couldn’t do anything. It was like we had gone back to the newborn stage of waking up multiple times a night. After a week of that, I found myself being frustrated a lot more easily and yelling at them much more frequently. It was not a good situation. Things have improved after that one week of very little sleep. I leave a leakproof water bottle at each of their bedside so they can access it in the middle of the night. Some nights they sleep through, some other nights they call me in once or twice. At least it hasn’t been every single night so it’s been okay. But boy, without adequate sleep, life is so much harder. Hopefully now that they are used to the toddler beds, they will continue to adjust their sleep so I can hopefully go back to sleeping 8 hours a night.
A couple of days ago the kids and I went to an event. Bob wasn’t with us because he had a work deadline. On the way back home when I was about to pull onto the freeway, I suddenly felt this indescribable sensation across my chest, some sort of discomfort, and an anticipation that I was going to pass out. In a split second, I decided to pull onto the street right next to the freeway entrance. I still had to go another half a block before I could pull over to the side safely. While I was doing that, I also called 911. All I was thinking was, what if I had a heart attack and the kids were in the car with me? What if I just passed out and crashed the car, and the kids would get seriously injured or die? I told the 911 operator that I had this chest discomfort, my heart was pounding rapidly, and was afraid that I was having a heart attack. With my small children in the car, I didn’t want to risk putting them in danger. At that point, I was shaken but was also feeling better, although my heart was still beating very fast. The 911 operator insisted on sending help my way instead of letting me hang up and drive home, especially with small children there. She just needed my exact location. I was a little disoriented with my position with all the “excitement”. I could see the cross street’s sign but didn’t know what street I was on. I saw two people standing on the sidewalk so I opened the window to ask them what street we were on. They just ignored me…… so I had to ask the operator to hold so I could go on my phone and look on Google Maps what street we were on. Since I parked right in front of a tire company and was blocking the driveway, I drove the car around the corner to the cross street. The operator kept me on the phone and asked me to feel my pulse on my neck and count each beat for her while waiting for the ambulance to come. My kids in the back kept asking me where their songs were (they were listening to Bob the Train songs on my phone) and when I told them that mommy was talking on the phone, they kept asking who I was talking to and what was going on. I could tell that they were both freaking out a little bit. I was trying to concentrate on counting the pulse while also trying to console the kids. The ambulance and the fire truck arrived at the same time. The paramedics invited me to go to the ambulance so they could check on me. The firefighters assured me that they would take good care of the kids. I turned my head to tell the kids that I’d just go for a few minutes. At first Bunny was sounding like she was going to freak out, but she was also distracted by the big firetruck parked behind our car. I walked over to the ambulance and lay on the gurney. The paramedics were very kind. They asked me a lot of questions, hooked me up with the EKG, and measured my vitals. They pricked my finger for blood glucose test. I told them my history of panic attacks, and believed that this was another one. It all felt so weird because I thought I was truly better. I mean, I am a lot better. The last panic attack I had was six months ago. And I hadn’t had any of the anxiety symptoms (e.g. lightheadedness, tinkly feelings) for about 4 months now. Anyways, everything checked out fine. The EKG was normal. Blood pressure and blood glucose levels were good. They of course often advise you to go to the hospital but in my case, they were also confident that I was fine to drive home if I felt fine. I was still a bit shaken in the ambulance and my body was shaking. The paramedics said that it was likely the rush of adrenaline. I was sitting there facing the back of the ambulance and could see that the kids were entertained by a group of firefighters. One of them went to get two toy firefighter helmets for the kid. I knew that the kids were well taken care of. I called my husband in the middle of getting examined since he was expecting me home. The paramedics assured me and reassured me that I did the right thing by calling 911. They said that if I again feel any discomfort driving home, pull over and not to hesitate to call 911 again. Finally I felt like I could confidently drive home, so I signed some paperwork and went back to my car. The kids were having a grand time (hahaha) with the firefighters. They were wearing their new helmets and chatting about transformers (they were playing with transformer toys in the car when this happened). I thanked all the emergency staff profusely and drove the kids home without any problem.
I have been trying to figure out the trigger of this scary episode of a panic attack. I think it could be a combination of lack of sleep, lack of rest during nap time, and many tantrums. The kids recently switched to toddler beds in preparation for preschool (so that Okra could be potty trained during nap time). Every night he has been waking up multiple times a night calling for me to tuck him back in. Bunny hasn’t napped much lately so I don’t get to rest during their nap time. The day before the panic attack, Bunny threw four big tantrums and Okra had one big tantrum. On top of that, there were countless whiny moments. I thought I was handling it well, and therapy has really helped, but it has been stressful to be with the kids given all the tantrums. What makes that episode the most scary was with the kids in the car, I thought I was going to wreck the car and harm them. That scary thought probably made my heart pound even more and made the situation worse. I think I had become complacent in the last few months because I hadn’t experienced an episode. I will start working on all the preventive measures such as meditation, breathing exercises, and journaling so that I ease my anxiety level a bit before it builds up to a point that another panic attack happens again.