MicroblogMondays: End of Naps?

My kids have been in their bedroom for about an hour.  I am sitting in the dining room doing my own things.  After about 30 minutes of silence, Bunny calls Okra’s name.  He does not respond.  She then begins to sing a song loudly.  He starts talking to her. She responds.  And then she continues to sing a song.  He talks some more.  And now there is a full blown conversation going on.

I have been guarding their nap time carefully.  These hours are necessary to break up the day and for me to recuperate from the chaos of the morning.  This time also serves as my exercise time, or time to make a phone call, or time to read a few pages of my own books (not a pictured children’s book).  I have such fear that these kiddos will give up their nap time and this is the end of my sanity.  I know that compared to some other parents with three year olds, we are blessed in a sense that my kids still nap majority of the time.  But as the number of times they don’t nap is increasing, I get increasingly nervous.  I can’t imagine not having down time, but I also have to acknowledge that my kids are not babies, they are growing, and I can’t stop them from becoming bigger kids, not that I want to.  Maybe I get to be the lucky one whose kids nap until 4 or 5 years old?  Only time will tell.

MicroblogMondays: Meh

I have been feeling kind of meh lately.  I think the monotony of the pandemic has started to get to me.  Every single day feels the same.  During pre-COVID time, there would always be something to look forward to, such as social activities on the weekend, trips that we have planned, or meeting up with my girlfriends.  We have not done any of this in the last many months.  I don’t know if the situation is going to change for us in the near future since we are still trying to be very careful with our activities. My mom did get her first dose of the vaccine so at least that provides her some protection.  Bob and I casually talked about going somewhere nearby renting a place to ourselves just for a change of scenery.  We may or may not do that.  One change we did make was to start taking the kids to playgrounds.  I hadn’t been doing that because the playgrounds weren’t open for a long time.  Plus I was still a bit leery of unmasked kids and adults, and my kids putting their dirty hands in their mouths.  Last week we passed by one playground and saw that it was empty.  I decided to let the kids go play.  I am so happy that I made that choice.  You should have seen the fun that the kids had.  They were giggling, running, climbing, sliding, and genuinely having a lot of fun.  When a boy climbed onto the play structure, my kids knew to stop their movements and allow a lot of space for the boy.  Unfortunately, the boy wasn’t giving my kids space and was coming closely behind them.  It is just sad that in these pandemic times my kids have to learn to make room for others, and that they have to worry about other kids being too close to them.  I hate that kids can’t play with one another like they used to be able to.  Anyhow, after the one day of fun, I took them to various playgrounds four more times this past week.  The outdoor physical activities really paid off.  I think the kids rested better because of them.  Since going to the playground has been mostly successful, I am happy that we at least get to give the kids some physical activities and I get to be outdoors with them.  Maybe we will really make a trip somewhere nearby for a few days just to break up the monotony a little bit.  That may help me with my mental and emotional health.

MicroblogMondays: Inner Critic

My therapist told me that everybody has an inner critic.  This inner critic tells us things that we may not want to hear, like “You are an inadequate mother” or “You should have done better”.  You may want your inner critic to be gone but he/she is here to stay.  My therapist asked me to create an image for this inner critic, give her a name, and even think about what she may look like.  She wants me to befriend my inner critic because that will help with working on my anxiety.  She also asked me to thank my inner critic in my gratitude meditation exercises so that I can move towards living peacefully with her.  I have named my inner critic “Ursula”.  A long time ago when I was still trying to make some embryos to transfer into myself, I had recurring ovarian cysts.  My dear friend Jane Allen named one of my cysts “Ursula”.  When my therapist asked for a name, the name “Ursula” immediately popped in my head.  Her assignment for me this week was to create an image for Ursula.  Since I like drawing (but haven’t even done any since the babies were born), I decided to draw her.  This is the final product:

Doesn’t she look like a mean school teacher?

It was fun for me to draw her.  Now I have an image to look at, I wonder how that is going to help me on my journey to live with inner peace and harmony.

MicroblogMondays: Good News All Around

A friend of mine who made her embryos with donor eggs back in January 2018 had had one obstacle after another trying to find a gestational carrier that would work with her.  She had to switch a few agencies in a few states and several gestational carriers who failed the screening.  After three whole years having those embryos, she finally found a gestational carrier who passed her medical screening.  Fortunately, the gestational carrier lives in our state so she was allowed to transfer in my friend’s clinic (vs. those from other states who would not be approved by many clinics due to the pandemic).  The beta is scheduled for today, but her GC already did a home pregnancy test which was positive!  I am so excited for her and am very hopeful that she will be able to hold her baby in October.

*****

My cousin who has an 18 month old that she conceived with donor eggs is currently 14 weeks pregnant with her second.  I am so so glad that she doesn’t have my kind of crappy uterus.  Even though her eggs didn’t help her become a mom, her uterus is winning at being a great home for her babies.

*****

Remember I went on a sort of babymoon in Honolulu a couple of months before the babies were born?  I was going to go on a food tour after I published that post.  I did go on a food tour and met this couple who sat behind me on the bus.  We hung out all day long, and hit it off really well.  We bumped into one another that evening buying ice cream.  We discovered that we were going to fly out on the exact same flight.  So on the day of departure, the wife came over to sit next to me at the gate once she spotted me. We started chatting. she asked me where my next adventure was going to be.  I told her honestly that this would probably be my last trip for a while because my babies were going to be born via gestational surrogacy.  Once that piece of information was shared, it was like a flood gate had opened and she shared about her journey of trying for a baby.  It turned out that she and her husband had been trying for a baby for a few years, went to the same clinic that I went to (with Dr. No Nonsense), had a miscarriage and few other disappointments, and were taking a break and trying to recuperate from all the losses.  We exchanged contact information and promised to speak with one another again when we got home.  A chance meeting in Hawaii brought the two of us together as friends.  We met up a few times for lunch.  I eventually introduced her to Dr. E, my reproductive endocrinologist that helped bring our babies home.  She and her husband had been with Dr. E for the last three years.  They even got together with me and Bob prior to the pandemic to speak about the possibility of working with a gestational carrier.  They were going to try once more time with transferring into her, and she did this past year after clinics were allowed to do IVF again.  Guess what?  She is 31 weeks pregnant and everything is going well.  I am so happy for her and I am so honored to be part of her story.  On that day when I picked that particular food tour to book and later chose that particular seat on the tour bus to sit, I never would have imagined these seemingly inconsequential choices would make an impact in someone’s reproductive endeavor.  God is amazing.

 

MicroblogMondays: Hope for the Future

On January 20th, the kids and we all had breakfast while watching the inauguration.  We explained to the kids that we have a new president and vice president.  And this is the first female vice president of our country.  After hearing that, my daughter Bunny asked, “What about me?”  My husband answered her, “This is exactly what the vice president said, that you can be anything you want to be.”  There was a twinkle in this three year old’s eye as she pondered what that meant.

I teared up as I watched my little daughter pay such close attention to this historic moment on the screen.  Four years ago, days before the previous inauguration, we were about to transfer the two embryos that would become our twins.  On that transfer day, I couldn’t have possibly imagined this precious moment with my precious girl on January 20, 2021 given how uncertain the future felt four years ago in regards to parenthood as well as the state of our nation.  Our future at this moment is also uncertain with the pandemic and the state of this world, but as the glass ceiling shatters, this is certainly a big step into the right direction.  There is hope for a better future for my children.

MicroblogMondays: Deepest Fears

I cried during my therapy session last Friday.  It was a soul-cleansing cry that was so unexpected but at the same time so good for me.

My therapist and I have been working on finding the cause(s) of my panic attacks or anxiety symptoms, such as heart palpitations and lightheadedness.  She suggested a book for me to read.  In that book there is a tool called a Daily Mood Log.  I have been using the daily mood log to document any upsetting events, my emotions surrounding them, and my negative thoughts about them.  After I write them all down, I am supposed to come up with neutral thoughts that are true 100% of the time to replace the negative thoughts.  (Instead of positive thoughts as stated in the log, my therapist suggested neutral thoughts because positive thoughts are not always 100% true.) So the last few weeks I have been finishing up two to three of these logs each week in order to understand more about my thoughts and feelings.  I noticed that the first couple of weeks most of the mood logs were about Okra’s tantrums.  Since his extreme tantrums have dwindled down, I find myself focusing more on the aches and pains I feel on my body and my negative thoughts and feelings surrounding that.  It is almost like because I don’t have to focus on Okra anymore, I have more room in my head to look for something else to worry about.  Last week all of my anxiety or worries had to do with any physical symptoms that I felt: throat irritation, phlegm, blocked nostril, gum irritation, skin irritation, muscle pains.  My mind would go really far and I would wonder if I had cancer or COVID.  Especially now that the COVID numbers have gone up in the last few weeks and with the new variant showing up in my area, I find myself having anxious thoughts even going grocery shopping.  After going grocery shopping last Tuesday, I panicked for a few second wondering if I caught COVID afterwards.  The following were the negative thoughts I wrote down: “I have COVID despite being careful”, “It is easy to catch COVID even if I wear a mask”, “I will get COVID no matter what I do, “I will get COVID even just grocery shopping”, and “I will die of COVID”.  I am also supposed to write down how much I believe each thought.  For these thoughts, I wrote down a range between 50% to 70% for each.

In the book that my therapist recommended, the chapter after the daily mood log is called “Uncovering Your Self-Defeating Beliefs”.  These are beliefs that are either about what you believe you need to be or do in order to be a worthwhile human, or about what you believe your relationship with others need to be like.  In the book, it explained that your self-defeating beliefs are always present, but negative thoughts only come when you are upset.  You use what the author calls “Downward Arrow Technique” to ask yourself that if a negative thought were true, “Why would it be upsetting to me? What would it mean to me?”  Once you come up with another negative thought, you ask the same questions.  You repeat this process until you eventually come up with your self-defeating beliefs.  When I first read that chapter, I just started doing my daily mood logs and felt overwhelmed by this process of “Downward Arrow Technique”.  My therapist told me to just get myself familiar with writing my daily mood logs first and not to worry about the next step.  Last Friday during my session, my therapist and I went over my negative thoughts regarding COVID.  After we talked about them, she asked me if I was ready to talk about finding my self-defeating beliefs.  I was like, well okay let’s try it.  She told me to pick a negative thought.  So I picked this one:

“I will catch COVID despite being careful”

She asked, “If that were true, why would it be upsetting to you?”

The following are the negative thoughts that I came up with after asking that question repeatedly with the “Downward Arrow Technique”:

“I will get very sick”

“I will die”

“My kids won’t get the care that will get from me because I am dead”

“My kids will grow up without me”

“My kids will be miserable growing up without their mom”

“My kids will be miserable, unhappy adults, and not be able to life a fulfilling life without me being around”

……

When I got to that point, I started tearing up.  I tried to hold back my tears but the more I wanted to, the more I felt like crying.  I ended up sobbing uncontrollably for a few minutes.  Why?  I asked myself.  I felt this deep pain inside of me when I dug deeper and deeper into my fears: me being dead and not be able to watch my kids grow up.  I was ugly crying while trying to catch my breath so I could talk.  I was crying and talking and crying and talking.  I told my therapist that mortality had been on my mind because I really want to live to see my kids be adults and want to be with them every step of the way.  It is not that I don’t trust my husband.  I do.  I am sure that the children would grow up to be happy, healthy adults even without my presence.  BUT, I so want to be here to witness it and be an integral part of their lives.  The thought of not being around for that really pains me.  I told my therapist that this probably has everything to do with me bringing them into this world after all these years of infertility.  I feel a tremendous responsibility to be healthy and alive in order to take good care of the two human beings that I so desperately tried to bring into this world.  I tried so hard to have children early on but infertility happened and I was already 43 when they were born.  When they grow up, if I am still alive, I will be in my 60s.  I have this fear that I won’t live to see them get married and have kids.  It hurts my heart to even think about leaving them behind.  This is why every time I think about my health, I go into this deep fear of something really wrong with me.  I am afraid that my kids, who were conceived with the help of an egg donor, would grow up hating me for bringing them into this world without me being around to protect them.  I was so surprised by these tears.  I did not even know that I had these fears.  I wonder if I didn’t have any fertility challenges, if these kids were made with my own eggs, or if I had them in my 30s, I would still have these fears.

My therapist is so good.  She waited for me to cry and to finish my thoughts while looking at me with so much compassion and empathy.  She then said to me, “You must have been carrying a lot of pains all these years.”  She suggested that I be kind to myself and practice self love by writing myself a letter about all the fears that I have. She also suggested I write the grownup version of the kids a letter, telling them things that I want them to know if they were to grow up without their mom. Before we parted, she kindly said, “Take good care of yourself this week.”

After we ended our session, I just sat there and was in awe of all that was uncovered.  Therapy is powerful.  This tool is powerful.  I didn’t know that infertility and the pain associated with it still haunt me.  Now that we have uncovered my fears, maybe this is the light at the end of the tunnel for reducing and eventually eliminating my anxiety symptoms?  I sure hope so, but I know there is a lot of work ahead of me in order to reach that place of wellness.

MicroblogMondays: Transfer Anniversary

Two days ago was the 4th anniversary of the transfer that resulted in our children.  Four years seems like a long time, and it sure feels like a long time ago.  My gestational carrier and I still have a cordial relationship.  I send her videos and pictures of the kids once in a while, and she receives a present every year from us for the kids’ birthday and Christmas.  We don’t communicate regularly, but I think very fondly of her.  One of my friends has been waiting to find a gestational carrier to carry a pregnancy for her with the donor egg embryos that she made back in January 2018.  She is not married and somehow it has been difficult to find a gestational carrier.  After many shoes that dropped and needing to switch several agencies, she is finally going to have one of her embryos transferred into her new gestational carrier middle of this month.  I can’t help but wonder about what may happen if we were to transfer our embryos into a gestational carrier during this global pandemic just like my friend. On top of all the complications and worries about having someone out of town carrying our child, we’d also have to worry about the gestational carrier following a COVID-safe protocol that we would have set out.  I am not so sure if our gestational carrier would have been the best person for the job.  Let us just say that her views regarding the pandemic are vastly different from ours including the need to wear a mask out and about and the part about not mixing people in different households.  I can only imagine how difficult those months of pregnancy would be and what they would do to my sanity or anxiety level.  But you know, if that’s the case, and you want a baby, you just have to do what you have to do, but life would be exponentially more difficult navigating the life of having another person carry a pregnancy for you.  And we may not choose my gestational carrier for this important role.  I feel for my friend, and I can only hope that her gestational carrier is reliable and trustworthy.  I am hopeful that a year from now she gets to celebrate the transfer anniversary of her baby.  And I am hopeful that by then the world will be a much better place.

MicroblogMondays: Delight

One of the tools my therapist and I discussed about is to track my son Okra’s tantrums and my anxiety symptoms to see if there is a correlation between the two.  I have these blank calendars I printed from the internet to meal plan. I took one and started writing down Okra’s moods and tantrums on a given day and how I was feeling on that particular day.  I started middle of the month in December.  That coincided with Okra stopping his appetite medication.  He had a video follow up visit with his GI specialist on that day.  He had been on this appetite medication since September to help increase his appetite and hence gain weight.  His weight went from being on the 13th percentile to 41st percentile, so the medication did help tremendously.  However, I noticed that he had some wild tantrums that seemingly came out of nowhere.  The intensity and duration of them had increased since winter started.  There was an epic tantrum that lasted one hour 45 minutes that really worried me, that something could be wrong with my precious little boy.  I had read that this appetite medication can affect some kids’ moods.  I brought it up with Okra’s GI specialist and she agreed that it was about time for Okra to recycle the meds, which means for him to be off of it for 5 to 7 days and restart it for the medication to have its maximum effectiveness again.  At the same time we could watch Okra’s moods and see if being off of it makes a difference.  At that time, Okra was having these huge tantrums that were recurring every few days.  He was easily triggered by some very minor things and everything became a struggle.  Even when I fulfilled his wishes and gave him what he wanted, he would immediate flip flop and say he didn’t want it.  He would go yes/no yes/no many times for many different things while crying uncontrollably.  I was desperate for these tantrums to go away.  I am also quite sure that these extreme tantrums did not help with my anxiety symptoms.  Okra stopped his medication on December 16th.  He had one extreme tantrum on December 19th.  He then became calm with some typical toddler whininess for the next few days.  We restarted his appetite medicine on December 23rd.  I gave him one dose at 7:45am.  He woke up happy and ate his breakfast happily.  At 9:35, he suddenly flipped and got upset for no reason and threw a huge tantrum seemingly out of nowhere.  It was like a switch was flipped.  I immediately thought of the appetite medication so in the chaos of a tantrum, I wrote the GI doctor a quick note.  Fortunately she usually writes back quickly.  She told me to stop the appetite medication and see how he does in the next few weeks.  I am so thankful for a doctor who responds promptly.  That morning Okra ate a huge snack despite having a huge breakfast earlier that day.  I wonder if the medication had made him super hunger and if he couldn’t read his own hunger cue and got really upset/angry because of that.  After we stopped the medication, Okra was calm except for some instances of whininess and small tantrums for nine whole days.  Even when he had a tantrum, he showed the ability to recover very quickly.  I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with my son on those very calm days.  It was such a delight to hang out with him and we were able to do so many fun things together and have great bonding moments.  He did have one day of extreme tantrum on January 2nd.  When I was waiting for the tantrums to be over, I was reminding myself of what he is capable of and I knew that this would pass.  And it did.  He was back to being his normal happy self yesterday.  It was such a delight to see.  Okra may not be eating as much as when he was on meds, but I’d rather him be a happy child than suffering from side effects of the medication.  I know his last extreme tantrum did not have anything to do with the medication because he wasn’t on it.  I sometimes still worry about something being wrong with him.  Our pediatrician did give us a referral to a developmental pediatrician in case I wanted to get a consultation.  I am suppose to fill out these questionnaires before scheduling an appointment.  Something is stopping me from filing out these forms.  I guess I am waiting to see how things unfold before I subject him to any sort of testing.    Anyways, back to my therapy homework.  Marking on the calendar really helps me to see if there is a pattern of Okra’s tantrums and how I am doing emotionally and physically.  I am happy to report that out of those nine calm days, I was symptom-free for six of them.  Even when Okra had the big tantrums on Saturday, I wasn’t affected and haven’t felt any lightheadedness, heart palpitation, or general uneasiness.  It is such a welcome change.  

MicroblogMondays: Christmas Dinner

Just like Thanksgiving, we stayed home celebrating Christmas all by ourselves instead of spending time with extended family.  In the years past, I’d usually have to labor in the kitchen making roasted root vegetables which involved purchasing the vegetables ahead of time, and on the day of, peeling, cutting, and roasting all of them for a dinner for almost 20 people.  This would be true for both Thanksgiving and Christmas day.  This year, we made it simple for me.  We ordered from a catering company and the food was delivered to our door.  It came with reheating instructions that were easy to follow.  And the food itself was phenomenal.  We had a salad, rice pilaf with dried fruit, roasted root vegetables with herbs, roasted rack of lamb with red wine sauce, french onion soup, dinner rolls, and assorted mini cheese cake.

We were really satisfied with dinner this year.  Everything was delicious.  The meal was supposed to be for 5 to 6 people.  With three adults and the kids not eating much, all the food lasted us several meals.  Even though this year it was kind of nice not having to go to someone else’s house as it made things simpler, I still prefer to have the choice to celebrate Christmas with loved ones outside of our household.  There is hope that next Christmas we will be back to having this option again.

MicroblogMondays: People Are Funny

On one of my morning walks with the kids, we passed by a small excavator on the street.  The kids were very excited to see one and ran over to see what was up.  They stood there waiting for the excavator to move but was disappointed that the construction wasn’t going to start yet.  The worker was leaning on the front of the excavator looking at us.  I told him, from a distance, that the kids were exciting to see his vehicle.  He told us that the project would start that afternoon, which would be right in the middle of the kids’ nap time.  That was too bad.  As the kids continued to stand and stare at the excavator, the worker said, “You are babysitting?” I chuckled at such a comment and told him, “No, they are mine” to which he said, “They are mixed right?”  I used to get these kinds of comments a lot in the pre-COVID era when I took the kids to playgrounds in the city. The nannies there somehow often assumed that I was the kids’ nanny probably because they don’t see resemblance between me and the kids.  I didn’t expect that with with masks on all of us that someone would see enough of their faces and my face to make such a remark.  People are just so funny.  I am not bothered by it.  I am just amused by people’s assumption.