The kids’s comprehension has grown exponentially in the last month or so, especially Okra. He was the one who did not understand as much as Bunny in the past. Now he has caught up and even surpassed her in some areas. It has been a lot of fun and a joy to see that they make connections and associations with concepts and ideas. They do things like following two-step directions (e.g. Go pick up the carrot and give it to mommy) or turning a book right side up when I tell them that it’s upside down. About a month ago Okra showed interest in the pictures of our maternity shoot that are hanging on the nursery wall. He pointed at the photos and I’d tell him that Annie Yee Yee (Auntie Annie in Cantonese) and mommy are in them. From then on, whenever I ask where Annie Yee Yee is, he points at the photos. I figure since the kids know body parts such as tummy, I started telling them about who Annie Yee Yee is. I say, “See Annie Yee Yee’s big tummy? You guys were inside of her when she was carrying you both for mommy. There is Okra, and there is Bunny.” I said that a few times when they were standing in the cribs after listening to their nap time and bed time stories. I didn’t expect them to understand or remember what I said for a while. To my surprise, these kids actually know what’s going on. A couple of days ago, after I changed Bunny’s diaper, I asked her where Annie Yee Yee was. She pointed at the photos. I asked her who was inside of Annie Yee Yee’s tummy. She patted on her own chest and smiled! Wow I was impressed. I thought it was a one off, so I tried it later again, this time with Okra. After their nap time story before putting them down, I asked both of them who was inside of Annie Yee Yee’s tummy, and both of them patted on their own chest. I don’t think Okra was copying Bunny. I feel that they both knew what I was talking about. At a few days shy of 16 months, that was not bad at all! I told Annie about it. It was so heartwarming for her to know that the kids are learning about her. This is our first step of telling the kids about their conception story. By about 18 months, I’ll gauge their comprehension skills and start talking about their egg donor. Hopefully by the time they fully understand the world around them, their conception story of egg donation and surrogacy will be a part of them as natural as breathing in air.
This past Christmas Bob and I started a discussion on how to handle the topic of Santa Claus with the kids. I used to laugh at the pictures of babies crying sitting on mall Santa’s laps until I have my own kids. I am not comfortable with the thought of placing my kids on the lap of a stranger. Unlike parents who grew up in the states and are used to taking their kids to the mall to meet Santa, we did not engage in that activity. One friend suggested that we can ask the kids in the future if they want their picture taken with Santa in the mall. More than a Kodak moment with a man with fake beard on, we wonder how to talk about Santa when the babies start to understand these things. Both Bob and I did not grow up in the United States, which means we did not grow up with the wonder of getting gifts from Santa and later discovering the truth. Growing up poor, I had always known that Christmas meant having a good meal on Christmas day (the one and only fancy meal in the year) and nothing else. Bob was from a Hindu household that did not celebrate Christmas. As Christ followers, we want our kids to focus on the meaning behind Christmas, which is the birth of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. We wonder if we should engage in this fantasy of Santa Claus as parents who did not have first hand childhood experience of writing to Santa, leaving cookies and milk for Santa, and finding presents from Santa. More importantly, we wonder if focusing on Santa would take away from our focus on Jesus. I asked our pastor, our gestational carrier, and the kids’ godmother how they handle this topic. They all chose not to do Santa. Some chose to tell the kids about Saint Nicholas and why people celebrate him. Our pastor did say that he didn’t think it’s a bad thing to do, but just wants us to make sure that the kids understand Santa is not the most important. After discussing with Bob, we are leaning towards not doing Santa. Our kids are still young. We did have a Christmas tree and hung their special ornaments for this year: Okra’s is a fire truck (his favorite) and Bunny’s is a girl holding a book that said “I love reading”. The babies wore their Christmas pajamas and opened their presents on Christmas morning. We went to Christmas eve service and spent quality time with family. Other than that it was another low key Christmas with a few good presents and a whole lot of love going around. The babies didn’t quite get the art of ripping the wrapping papers and getting new toys. But we had a great time with them nonetheless. I am quite sure they will get much more excited next year.
After Bob’s 12-day work trip to Europe where I was here taking care of the babies with my parents, I “earned” myself a night to go away with a friend . I so looked forward to this trip and it finally happened this past weekend. The conclusion is, self-care is important and going away from the everyday life for a little is truly glorious. I am so grateful to have a chance to have a tiny getaway. I did miss the babies though. That morning I hugged both of them a little extra tighter before they went down for their nap.
With a personal connection with an employee of a big hotel chain, we booked a room in Sonoma county for a bit over $100 with the friends and family discount. I didn’t even think about what I wanted to do as I just wanted to have a day or two where I didn’t have to worry about someone’s breakfast/lunch or poopy diapers. As the time got closer, I searched for things to do and found a couple of wineries that offer food and wine pairing. The most popular one was sold out way ahead of time. Luckily, another one with great reviews and a less expensive price tag had openings on their reservation. Let me just say that it was one of the most relaxing and fulfilling dining experiences in my life. The winery’s atmosphere was tranquil. The service was attentive. The wines were delicious. The food was just exquisite.
This lunch lasted 2 hours 15 minutes. My friend and I chatted about anything and everything. It was one of the most leisurely lunch I had ever had.
That afternoon, I booked a massage with a traveling therapist that Bob and I used two years ago in the wine country and loved. She came to my hotel room and gave me my first massage since the babies were born. My whole body was tight and had knots, and she worked all the kinks out. She applied the right pressure for me throughout the whole 90 minutes and it was just heavenly. The rest of the trip was low key and relaxing. Food was great, sleep was undisturbed, and morning coffee at a coffee shop with a friend was just so luxurious without having to rush back to take care of the kiddos.
The time away was just right. I came home feeling refreshed. The best thing? When I opened the nursery door to greet the babies after their nap, the happiness that was shown on their faces when they saw me was priceless. The little getaway did my soul plenty of good. I felt that I truly got a break and I am ready to go back to my everyday life again.
Until the next trip.
Sometimes Bob and I discuss about our donor; topics such as when to start telling the babies their birth stories, whether Bunny or Okra reminds us of the donor, or how the donor feels about children conceived with her eggs. I am thinking about starting to tell the babies in a couple of months just a very abbreviation version of their donor conception and gestational surrogacy. Sometimes Bunny and Okra sit with me in the rocking chair in their nursery and I would point to the maternity photographs on the wall and tell them about the time Auntie Annie was carrying the both of them inside of her tummy. They seem to start to comprehend my words and would point to the pictures when I ask them where Auntie Annie is. I have yet to start saying something about our donor, and will need to consider how to make the point across in simple terms for toddlers. As for our donor’s feelings about children conceived with her eggs including our children, we would have no way of finding out unless we reach out to request for a meeting with her like we had originally planned for, until the cocaine incident. I had lost my desires to meet with her after her breach of contract and trust. I had always wanted to complete the babies’ conception story by telling them about our meeting with their donor, so we will see if we change our minds in the future. Yesterday I did get some insight from my dear friend who actually donated her eggs to another couple in her 20s. She was in town for the holidays so we met up for coffee. I asked her for her perspective. She said since she donated such a long time ago, the children that were conceived with her eggs rarely crossed her mind until she saw our struggles and our decision to use donor eggs. Because of how it had enabled us to start and build our beautiful family, she felt a tremendous sense of privilege to be able to be a part of a story that completed a family for a couple in need, and felt that she had done the right thing. I know that this is just one donor’s perspective, but it was nice to hear about it. Maybe someday we do get to ask our donor herself about her perspective.
The babies are 15 months already. I guess they are not technically babies anymore? But to me they will probably be babies for a long long time. Lately, what they eat has become the bane of my existence. Before the twins’ birth, I didn’t even know that feeding toddlers would be a big issue. Well, I have discovered that it is something that many parents struggle with. I guess it’s because what they consume is tied to their health, and I feel a tremendous responsibility to make sure that they eat well. The twins flip-flop on how well they eat. Pre-one-year, Okra ate everything we offered him whereas Bunny would spit out most of the new foods we let her try. After they turned a year, Bunny eats many of the things we put in front of her with good quantity and Okra would turn his head and not eat. But there are things that he would eat and she would refuse, such as eggs. How can she not like eggs? I love eggs so that makes me sad. Sometimes Okra pushes away the whole plate and cries and whines. Meal time stresses me out. I count myself lucky if they are willing to eat the same food during a certain meal. I feel helpless when they don’t eat, and worry about them not consuming enough proteins, or vegetables, or dairy. I find my effort to ask them to try or eat something futile because of course they don’t and won’t listen to me. I started reading up on feeding toddlers, joining groups on Fac.ebook and following various people on Ins.tagram, a social media that I used to dislike. At first I was just trying to find ideas to feed the kids. Then I came across something called “Division of Responsibility”. Basically, I as a parent am responsible for choosing what to provide for them and the when and where. The kids are the ones responsible for choosing what and how much to consume. This is vastly different from what I thought feeding kids was all about, and very different from how my mom raised us. You can look it up and read up on it yourself. It just speaks to me when I struggle to make sure my kids eat enough of something. It takes away the stress of coercing or forcing my children to eat. I always make sure that there is at least one type of food that they’d eat in their plates, and always make sure that their meals consist of some vegetables or fruits, some sort of grains or bread, and some sort of protein. But if they choose not to touch a certain thing, or if they choose not to eat too much of it, I have learned to refrain from telling them to try just one bite or to eat. It is not the easiest thing to implement and it does break my heart to see that they didn’t eat much of anything for a given meal, but I have to look at the bigger picture and assume that the babies are not too hungry for their food for a given meal and will eventually balance out what and how much they’d eat. I am still new at this but I start to find meal time a bit more enjoyable as I sit back and watch the babies decide on what to do with their own food. There are sometimes pleasant surprise, such as the other day Bunny picked up some scrambled eggs, stuck it in her mouth, and did not spit it out. I’d call that a win. I will keep on offering and do my part. As the babies learn to be eaters, I continue to learn to the best mom I can be.
A week ago, my twins attended a holiday get together with their twin friends. Some of the toddlers there were sick. The next day, Bunny started having a runny nose from which she recovered the day after. Unfortunately, Okra started having this deep, barking cough that sounded very scary. The advice nurse on the phone said it sounded croupy but recommended home remedy rather than going in to see a doctor. We have done steam in the bathroom, honey, warm water, outside cool air, and humidifier. I believe that he is getting better, but boy, his neediness has been to the extreme. I remember reading about man flu, that men are extreme whiny and vulnerable while having a cold. Okra is a typical male then. There were quite a few days that he would only stop crying or whining when I held him. Even my mom couldn’t console him. There were two days in particular that the only way to soothe him was to wear him. I love wearing him, and glad that I can still do so, but it just made it a lot harder to take care of my other child. Luckily Bunny has been very independent and cooperative most of the time. She sometimes did come to tug on my shirt when I was wearing her brother, but she didn’t whine for me to also carry her. Having sick kids to care for makes me appreciate my mother even more. She is a naturally helpful person without me having to ask for things to be done. It would have been a lot tougher for me to do anything productive without my mom’s help. My kids are used to taking their naps in their cribs, but since Okra has been so clingy, there were a couple of times he refused to sleep in his crib. My mom had to do the nap routine with Bunny while I hid with Okra in my room. One afternoon he woke up from his nap next to me and started wailing. Nothing could console him. He was arching his back and crying so loudly that I was afraid something seriously was wrong with him. At that point, I felt so vulnerable and seriously scared that I started tearing up. My mom, bless her heart, came over and took Okra away from me. She told me to be strong and not to cry, and went on to feed Okra some snacks. She took him out for a walk for some fresh air, and he came back happy. So basically he was hungry and whiny. Nothing majorly was wrong with him. My mom was commenting on how it is still better to have someone from the older generation (meaning herself) to impart some wisdom in the childrearing department. I wholeheartedly agree with her. I told Bob this whole experience and said it must have been a first-time mom thing. He is so funny. He said, “The only way I think you can prove your hypothesis is by having that other boy. That will make your second time mom.” This man tries to talk me into having the other boy every chance he gets. I think having two kids at the same time and having sick kids just strengthens my resolve to not have the other boy. Anyways, it pains me to see that Okra who has already been picky with his food lately has lost a lot of weight since he has gotten sick because of loss of appetite. I am hopeful that he will be on the mend soon, and hopefully his appetite will be back. I shudder to think about checking his weight at his 15 month check up in a week.
I was telling myself that after Halloween, I’d start looking into preschools. I didn’t have any idea what kind of preschools I’d like my kids to attend, but I knew that I had to go visit a few to see my preferences. One with Cantonese immersion and close to home would be ideal. But given that our house is not exactly in the city, it’d be very difficult to find a Cantonese preschool within a 10-minute drive. So I focus on the schools around us. The first one I visited was a little co-op preschool that was in a crowded neighborhood. My first impression was it was hard to find parking. That would definitely add to the time it’d take for drop off. I really liked the school. It was play-based with various stations for different activities. The atmosphere was relaxing. The kids looked very happy. The preschool ends at 1:30 and offers extended care for working parents. One morning a week, a parent or family member is assigned tasks to help out at the school. For someone like me with twins, it would mean two mornings a week for me. And if we don’t want to do that, we can pay one participating family tuition and one nonparticipating family tuition. I thought about it, and thought that if I only had one child, it’d be a wonderful opportunity to experience what he/she learns at school. But with twins that I intend to put in preschool three days a week, it would take away 2/3 of my time that I would like to use for starting my career again. Of course there is a waitlist, but apparently next year 16 kids are going to be promoted to kindergarten, so there should be room for everyone on the waitlist. The second preschool I visited is part of a Catholic school. It is a block away from my brother’s house, which is a 5-minute drive. Drop off should be easy with a huge parking lot. The director was warm and knowledgeable. This is a more traditional preschool but still play-based. The place is organized and clean with various different areas for activities. The kids were playing outside when I arrived. They all looked like they were having so much fun. When I was waiting for the director to give me an application, I sat and watched one of the teachers do circle time. She was so lively and the kids were super engaged. I remember our pastor’s wife told me why she loves this school: the teachers genuinely love her kids. I can totally see that. Of course this school has a waitlist as well, and seems to be harder to get into. But I’d love to send the babies there. The tricky part is that their birthday is in mid-September, and there are two of them, so even if there is room for them in August when school starts, they will have to wait until September to attend when they turn two. I ideally want to send them to preschool at 2.5, but it doesn’t work that way for many schools. I looked at the application more closely at home. The first thing that stood out to me was family information: Child lives with Both Natural Parents, Mother Only, Father Only, Parents have joint custody, Parent/Step Parent, Guardian. What do we circle? I mean technically I am not my twins’ “natural” parent. And we did need to get step-parent adoption in order for me to be legally their mother. But do we circle Parent/Step-parent? What if they ask us about the “natural” mother? What a headache. I didn’t anticipate such a dilemma for filling out a preschool application. It goes to tell you that decisions we have made in the past because of infertility affect us way beyond the years we were in the trenches. I haven’t decided what to circle yet. If we do circle “Natural Parents”, will that be lying? If we circle Parent/Step-Parent, will we have to further explain the complicated nature of our babies’ birth? I will have to give this one some serious thoughts.