MicroblogMondays: Four Months

The babies are four months old today.  They are so much more interactive with us and with each other these days.  They hold hands frequently when we place them next to each other.  Lately this is seen quite often:

Chinese kung fu, anyone?

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MicroblogMondays: First Road Trip

First road trip, with the babies, that is.

With holiday week-long shut down at Bob’s work, he tagged on a week of his six-week parental leave after the holidays.  Because he had the whole two weeks off, I had the bright idea of taking a road trip with the babies. They would be 3.5 months by then, so I felt that we should be able to go away with the babies.  Honestly the idea of taking a road trip with the babies scared me.  How would one even begin to plan a trip like that with all the logistical issues that may arise.  My friends with twins as well as parents from the local parents of multiples club encouraged me that it would be totally doable, and plenty of people have done that in the past with their three-month olds.  I opted for an Airb.nb rental rather than a hotel room because of the pricing as well as the access to a kitchen and second bedroom.  With bottle feeding and diaper changing, the ability to access a sink and water plus a living room with couches to feed the babies was essential.  After much consideration, a town up north about 1.5 hours away was our choice since the drive wouldn’t be too long, but it was far enough for us to feel like a road trip.  The rental listed all the necessary amenities as well as a pack n play for the babies’ bed time.  The rental fees were reasonable.  Armed with tips and encouragement from fellow twins parents, we booked the rental and were praying for the best.

Instead of using suitcases like usual travels, I filled up three clear storage boxes with baby stuff: clothes, burp clothes, towels, sleep sacks, sound machine, formula, bottles, drying rack, changing pad, diaper cream, etc etc etc.  The thing was, I couldn’t pack a lot of essential things until the morning of the trip.

We managed to get on the road later than planned and checked into the rental after the time that I wanted.  The babies were screaming for food.

The rental was fine.  It was crammed with a lot of stuff.  Too much for me.  And when we sat in the living room for feeding, my nose started itching.  It kept on itching for the next three days, which meant that the living room was very dusty.  The pack n play was set up in the second bedroom. Although we brought a spare, we opted to put both babies in the same rental one just for the convenience of it.  Plus the second bedroom was small, so one pack n play was more than enough to take up room.  The babies barely fit into the same pack n play but we figured that would have to do for those three nights.  The rest of the rental was fine except for a few strands of hair on the shower stall and the bathroom walls.  I guess housekeeping didn’t do that good of a job.

That night was New Year’s night.  I hadn’t thought about the difficulty of finding a place for dinner, but the restaurants that we drove by were all dark.  We finally drove to a mall that had a couple of restaurants open.  By the time we parked the car and walked over, one restaurant was already closed.  That left us with the pub next door.  Good thing they took us in with our massive double stroller.  The food came out fast and we all had a good time.  But it was way past the babies’ feeding time and bed time.  I had a feeling that Okra would have a hard time in the middle of the night.  Lo and behold, he woke up at 4am crying.  We usually let him cry for a little bit at home because he sleeps in his own crib.  Although it is in close proximity to Bunny’s crib, we are comfortable letting him cry trusting that she won’t wake up.  On the trip since they shared the same pack n play, I was trying to avoid waking up baby girl.  I immediately picked up Okra and took him to our bedroom.  I think that was a huge mistake.  The more he was comforted, the harder he cried.  This lasted about an hour, and we decided to feed him and Bunny at 5am.  Needless to say, the next day both Bob and I were exhausted.  And the next morning there was a large quantity of ants hanging out in the bathroom by the bathroom mat.  Very gross.

Exhaustion didn’t stop us from going out.  Where we stayed was very close to restaurants, coffee shops, and shops.  We had visited this town quite a few times before we had these babies.  We pushed the babies in a stroller and walked to brunch.  We visited the visitors center, coffee shop, a yarn shop, and an antique/thrift shop. The babies couldn’t go into the yarn shop due to the steps in the front of the shop.  Talk about all the things that I never noticed prior to having to push a stroller.  So I met Bob at the thrift shop later.  When I was waiting for Bob to look at trains, I was pushing the twins around and spotted this Precious Moments figurine.  You can see it in this photo:

Don’t you think that I had to get it?  And I did.

The babies were really well behaved when we were out and about, but going out with them was tiring.  We stayed in for the rest of the afternoon and even ordered food to be delivered to us.  We just simply did not have enough energy to pack them up for another outing on the same day.  After the 7pm feed, it was time for bed for the babies.  Bunny is usually okay with going down, but Okra had an extremely difficult time.  Rocking him didn’t work.  We eventually had to swing him in his car seat in order for him to go down.  It took over an hour to put him down.  That night, after their 10pm feed, Okra woke up at 1:40 crying.  This time I immediately took away Bunny from the pack n play and let Bob deal with Okra.  It took 40 minutes this time for Bob to calm him down while I slept with Bunny next to me in the next bedroom.  The funny thing was, Bob put Okra down diagonally on the queen bed.  When he returned to the room after getting a drink of water, he tried to put Okra back straight but the baby would have nothing to do with it.  He started screaming again, and Bob had to put him back to the original position which just left 6 inches of room for Bob to sleep.  Poor daddy did not sleep well at all that night.

With two nights of minimal sleep, we were again exhausted the next day.  But we were very excited because we made a decision to go to a Peruvian restaurant that we visited before and loved.  Let me just tell you that the food was to die for!  We had 3 kinds of ceviche, pork stew with a side of beef heart, steak, and yuca fries.

Everything was so delicious and I savored every single bite.  Once again, the babies were so good, and we all had a wonderful time.  It was the highlight of our trip and that was the only thing that we did that day.  We went back to the rental and let the babies have a chill afternoon so they could nap better than being out and about.  The third night, Okra (along with Bunny) slept well until after 5:30am.  It seemed like our baby boy finally got used to the new environment.

There was one little incident that left a little negative note in our get away.  I texted the host of our rental to ask for a late check out at noon time so we could feed the babies. He responded with “no” because the housekeeper was going to show up at 11am for a cleaning.  Of course I honored that and tried our best to get out of the house at 11am.  Bob started loading the van at 10:55am and I was putting the babies in the carseats. At 11am, we were upstairs in the second bedroom trying to put away the pack n play.  We finally did, and I did a final walk through.  We were in the van at 11:06am.  I know exactly what time it was because we were trying to figure out if we should go to town or go home and feed the babies at home.  We decided to go home.  However, once we got on the freeway, we realized that the two Boppy pillows (that the babies use for every single feeding) were left on the couch.  We drove back to the rental to retrieve the pillows.  Later that day, to my surprise, I received a request from the host through Airb.nb for $75.  It was for the penalty for rescheduling the housekeeper.  After going back and forth with the host, I finally understood what happened.  The housekeeper came by after 11am and saw that our van was in the driveway.  Instead of checking with us, she told the host that we were still inside the property.  The host asked her to return later to clean, but she requested $75 rescheduling fees.  Of course now we had to pay that $75.  What made me upset was that the host never checked with us to see if we were on our way out.  Through his messages, I gathered that he believed that we ignored his text and decided to feed the babies in the house past the checkout time.  He wrote a review about me saying that we checked out an hour late, when in fact we vacated the property by 11:06am.  I was very upset that he made assumptions about us that we were feeding the babies there, but it was just not true.  He was basically calling me a liar which I loathe because I am an honest person.  I believe that when the housekeeper saw our van was when we returned to retrieve the pillows.  I had never rented a place or a hotel room where there was no grace period for checkout.  We paid the $75 but I maintained that the penalty was unreasonable and unfair.  It was not about the money but about the principle.  The only things that we did wrong were 1) leaving 6 minutes late and 2) forgetting some very important things at the rental.  I was mad for a couple of days as it left a bad taste in my mouth for our first road trip with our babies.  But I decided that it wasn’t worth my time and energy, so I let it go.

All in all it was a great trip despite that little unfortunate incident.  We now know that we can survive and still have fun with the babies.  Everything was very low key.  We would have gone out more and would eat out instead of ordering takeout if we didn’t have the babies.  But I didn’t feel like we were missing out.  We were building memories as a family and that’s important.  This trip also allowed us to once again realize how blessed we are to have so much help at home.  Without my mom and the night nanny, Bob and I were truly on our own.  The time we had by ourselves with the babies was very trying and testy, but we survived.  (LOL)  We had to figure everything out ourselves, and I couldn’t just call out to my mom for the things that I needed done.  Plus we were not in the familiar environment of our home so we had to figure out a new set of routines for those few days.  It was challenging, but it was definitely the right decision to go away.  Having kids shouldn’t and won’t stop us from having fun and living life.  I am just so glad that we went and can’t wait to go away again when the babies are older.

MicroblogMondays: Choked Up

This Christmas was obviously different from the many Christmases in the past now that our twins are here with us.  We had a low key Christmas still.  One manmade but fully decorated Christmas tree, four stockings, and one present from us for the babies (and other presents from friends and family).  Regardless of how low key it was, I felt tremendously blessed that the babies have helped make this season extra special.  Christmas day was not unlike other days.  Other than opening presents in the morning, we had the same routines as usual.  Well, except for one moment when I was particularly reminded of the blessings that our life has become.  While feeding Bunny, there was a sweet moment that I noticed.  She was quietly eating while holding my fingers.  I was choking up a little while enjoying this tender moment with my daughter knowing that it took such a long time and tremendous effort to get to this point.  Once again, I am reminded to not take these little precious moments in life for granted.

MicroblogMondays: Full Circle

Merry Christmas to you all!  It has been an extra sweet and precious holiday season as our babies are safe and sound at home with us.  The four stockings on the mantel and all the presents with labels of the babies’ names under the Christmas tree make it all real that this year’s Christmas tree is very different from the previous five year’s.

A couple of days ago, we made a trip across the bay to visit our beloved Dr. E who helped made this little family of four possible.  This trip reminds me of a post that I wrote more than three years ago.  One day I came home early from work and saw Dr. E on TV.  At that time, we were working with our second RE Dr. No Nonsense after we parted our way from Dr. E.  That was the end of our 3rd year pursuing our dream of having a baby and we didn’t seem to be any closer to fulfilling it.  I wrote in that post: “I so wish that she would be the person who breaks the news to us with fantastic first and second beta results.  I wish so much that she would be the one who would have the joy of finding the heartbeat for our first baby.  It doesn’t seem like things will turn out this way.  I sat there staring at her.  Pondering about the what-ifs.”  God works in very mysterious ways.  I didn’t know it at that point, but it turned out that Dr. E WAS the one who broke the news to us about our fantastic first and second beta results.  She wasn’t quite the one who found the heartbeat of our baby as we had to do our first ultrasound at Annie, our surrogate’s local clinic, but that was close enough.  It didn’t seem like things would turn out the way I wished but God had that plan all along.

With two boxes of pastries in our hands, we pushed our “chariot” (the huge double stroller) into Dr. E’s clinic.  It was quite something to show up at our RE’s office and not leave crying with empty arms.  After all these years of holding onto the hope that one day our baby would meet the doctor that helped him/her come to this world, it had become a reality, not only with one baby but two.  According to her intern, Dr. E was still in her office speaking to a patient about something “depressing”.  I know how that is.  I had done it many times with her.  To be sensible, we retreated to the office space across the hall so her patients wouldn’t have to see cute babies in the office.

Dr. E eventually made her way across the hall to meet us.  Her face lit up like a Christmas tree when she saw the babies.  She knew what they looked like as I consistently send photos to her.  She had said this a few times in the past, that the most beautiful babies come to those who patiently wait the longest, and we prove her point again x2.  She scooped up the babies and held them both for the rest of the visit.  She kept on saying that we have the most beautiful twins.  I agree with her, but I am obviously biased.  Haha.  The babies were so good and stayed in her arms without fussing the entire time.  The twins eventually got hungry so we had to part ways to go to our beloved Pane.ra Bread to feed them.  That was Bob’s and my stomping ground every single time after a monitoring ultrasound, egg retrieval, or transfer.  How sweet it was to be able to go there with our babies who attracted a lot of attention from strangers.

We have come full circle.  I don’t have to ponder the what-ifs anymore.  And for that I am forever grateful.

MicroblogMondays: Three Months

Our twins are three months old.

Let’s talk about Bunny first.  Her Chinese name means “calm” and “easygoing”, which interestingly matches her to a T.  She is usually very pleasant.  Early in the morning, she wakes up and doesn’t make a fuss.  When I go into the nursery to check on her, she often looks at me with her big eyes and smiles.  She is very chatty in the morning, smiling and laughing all the time.  Usually the only reasons for her fussiness would be hunger or sleepiness.  She also hates to get out of the bath and cries like a crazy person every single time she is put on the changing pad after bath time.  This little girl has a serious case of FOMO, or fear of missing out.  She hates nap time because she doesn’t get to hang out with people.  When we are out or at parties (as this is the holiday season), she often doesn’t eat or nap much because she wants to see the world.

Our little Okra is a bit moodier, which he probably takes after his dad.  It kind of matches the meaning of one of his middle names, which means “full of life’.  He is very sweet as he smiles and laughs often.  He is also very chatty, especially in the morning.  However, he whines and cries at the drop of a hat.  In the morning, rather than being like his sister who doesn’t make a peep when she wakes up, he yells loudly to let others know that he is awake and needs attention right now.  Reasons for his fussiness throughout the day are plenty.  It could be him wanting to be held, or hating the way we hold him.  He could be hungry or not wanting to eat.  He hilariously “complains” about things.  Instead of crying, he would make these “neh neh neh neh” sounds that sounds a lot like complaints.  His sister would be next to him all calm with a look of “what’s the big deal?” while he continues to whine and complain.  These moments shows the big contrast in their personality.

Both babies are very pretty.  Everybody who sees Bunny for the first time often comments on how dainty her features are.  She has these almond-shaped eyes, nice tall nose, and very refined lips.  Her chin is pointy.  Since she’s gained some weight, her cheeks are chubby.  She still has her baby hair.  Every single morning, we look at her face and marvel at her beauty.  She looks a lot like Bob but she also reminds me of the donor.  Okra, on the other hand, is all Bob with Chinese features.  He was a little skinny dude at birth without any meat on his cheeks.  These days he has a round face with the most kissable cheeks on earth.  His eyes are very round, especially when he looks curious or in the dark. We call him “Owl” as his eyes dilate in the dark.  He was bald for a period of time after he lost his newborn hair.  He quickly grew his hair back and his hair is the softest.  It’s velvety to the touch.  I love to stroke it when I try to put him to sleep.   When you put Bob, Okra, and Bunny together, you can see that they are all related as they all look alike.  Friends, relatives, and acquaintances would comment on how strong Bob’s genes are.  How does that make me feel?  I am very glad that Bob’s genes are strong, but sometimes it does sting that these babies look nothing like me.  Despite that, I can’t imagine having any other babies and don’t want any other babies.  So it really doesn’t matter that the babies won’t ever look like me.

Both babies are very healthy, except for congestion and reflux.  For congestion, we put saline drops in their noses and use Nose Frida to clear their noses.  Bunny is funny.  She is very pleasant when we clear her nose.  She smiles and sometimes even laughs.  Okra hates the Nose Frida.  He cries very loudly and waves his arms to avoid it.  Regardless, his nose has to be cleared a few times a day.  Their reflux is a bit more under control than before.  They still spit up quite a bit but they are a lot easier to burp than when the acid reflux was first diagnosed.   Okra gains weight at a great speed.  He was born at 6 pounds.  At 3 months, he is already 12.5 lbs, which is more than double his birth weight.  Bunny is 11.5 lbs, which is also pretty good as her birth weight was 6 lbs 9 oz.  The height is unknown as their next check up is 4 months and it’s hard to measure their length at home.  Okra is obviously a lot heavier than Bunny.  Often times my mom or my brother would pass him back to me after holding him for a while because of his chunkiness.  His arms, tummy, thighs, and feet are all chunky.  Both kids have outgrown their 0-3 month clothes.  Bunny usually wears 3-month outfits.  Okra, on the other hand, seems to be bigger.  He fits into his 3-month and 3-6 month.  Some of his outfits are even 6-month ones.  I couldn’t believe it when they actually fit them.

We joke that Okra is an Indian man trapped in a 3-month old body.  After we give him a bath, he of course smells very good.  But because he cries a lot and hence sweats a lot, his hair smells after just a day.  On the other hand, Bunny’s hair smells great from one bath to the next.

Okra’s neck is super strong.  He prefers to stand up than sitting down, and often stands for a long time on my thighs when I hold his hands.  He loves tummy time and can stay there for quite some time.  Bunny hates tummy time and cries after just a few minutes.  Her neck is also strong but she doesn’t stand up like her brother.  She has very good grasp with her fingers and holds on to toy rings for a long time.  She holds onto her binky and sometimes takes it away from her mouth with her hand.

We give them about 5 oz of formula at each meal.  They both used to eat slowly, with Okra taking about 45 minutes and Bunny taking about 30 minutes.  Lately we switched them to level 2 nipple, which has cut down on their meal time by half.  Bunny is very sure of herself.  When she’s full, you can’t squeeze even one more drop in her.  She turns her head, sticks out her tongue, spits out any formula in her mouth, and pushes the bottle away with her hand.  She sometimes finishes only 2 oz, 3 oz, or 4 oz.  In that case, she would often be super hungry very early for the next meal and would cry like crazy.  Okra is interesting.  He loves to eat but gets distracted very easily, especially when the TV is on.  He turns his head and won’t have another sip.  Because of this, we lose out on Ellen or Family Feud, and Bob misses his football games.  TV is off so Mr. Nosy can focus on his meal.  He sometimes stops eating after 3 oz and needs to be coaxed into eating more.  If he doesn’t finish, he would start complaining within half an hour and you’d have to feed him again.  He also has a preference for me.  When other people feed him, he often leaves the last oz unfinished, and would eat it all when I take over the feeding.  He also calms down easily when I hold him and beams with huge smiles when he sees my face.  He is clearly mommy’s boy.  Bunny likes everybody and doesn’t seem to have a preference for me.

After their 7pm feed, both babies go down for the night.  We dream-feed them at 10ish at night and don’t feed them until about 5am.  At 2 months, Bunny trained herself to sleep from 10 something to about 4:30 to 5am.  Okra needed more help.  He would wake up at 2:30 or 3am.  We would let him cry for a little bit then go in to give him the binky.  After a bit of training for a couple of days, he can now sleep until almost 5am almost every single day.  This gives me respite on the days without the night nanny so I can have a few more hours of uninterrupted sleep.

I slowly venture out more often with them.  We have made it to the local library two times for story time for babies.  We go to the mall with my Dear Colleague when she visits once a week.  We go to church most Sundays. I read and sing to them whenever we have time.  They are both into books but Bunny seems to be the one who loves to read.  She looks at books with serious intent and often finishes the whole book with me.  Okra likes it too but he has a harder time focusing at times and turns his head back and forth to look at other things. My mom is very cute.  She reads the same books that I read, but she tells them in Chinese.  She also plays Chinese nursery rhymes to the babies on Youtube on her phone and sings along with them.  It warms my heart to see their interaction as the babies clearly love their grandma.  I am so happy that my mom gets to take care of these grandbabies as she never had a chance to do so with my brother’s kids.

Babies grow up too fast.  This is why I take a lot of pictures and videos of them.  To this day, I still sometimes can’t believe that they are here and they are all mine.  Life is full of interesting and heart-warming moments with these babies.

Here are the pictures of the chalk board I posted on social media their updates:

MicroblogMondays: Surrogate Update

Bob brings up “the other boy” all the time.  He means the embryo that we have in the freezer.  During these early days of life with twins, it is really hard for me to imagine taking care of another newborn any time soon.  Plus, given how difficult a surrogacy journey is, I have a hard time imagining another round of it in the near future.  Don’t get me wrong.  As far as gestational carriers go, I believe our experience with Annie was/is the most uneventful and pleasant.  Regardless, it was/is still challenging to manage a third party carrying your bab(ies) for you.  So this topic will be put on the back burner until the twins grow older.

Speaking of Annie, she’s been struggling physically after the birth of the twins.  I usually contact her by text every few days asking her how she’s doing as well as to send her the babies’ photos.  She responds with Oohs and Ahhs as she loves them and thinks that they are perfect (which they are, I might say).  She said that people assume that it was difficult for her to hand the twins over to us after the birth.  She often tells people that this aspect of the surrogacy was actually the easiest to deal with, as she can’t think of anything better than carrying babies for their loving family and not having to take care of newborns.  To see them grow and be happy and healthy is the biggest joy for her.  The most difficult aspect is the physical healing after the birth.  Her uterus healed wonderfully.  However, hemorrhoids were still bothering her a great deal.  She had gone to the specialist to band the ones from the pregnancy.  After the procedure, she continued to feel the pain at her pelvic area which to her specialist it wasn’t typical.  She was referred to a pelvis specialist who eventually diagnosed her with pelvic floor myalgia.  The initial course of treatment is taking Val.ium vaginally and 12 weeks of physical therapy.  Emotionally she’s been struggling with how difficult the physical healing is after twin birth.  She has been feeling a bit depressed.  She also came down with a cold that hasn’t healed in two weeks.  She was in so much pain (despite the meds and the physical therapy) on Thanksgiving day that she could not enjoy her favorite holiday to the fullest.

A little while after we texted about her new diagnosis, she told me that she’d give me a call to catch up.  I waited for her phone call but never heard from her.  I didn’t want to bother her so I didn’t follow up, but I did wonder if she had anything specific she wanted to say.  About a week later, I received an email from our surrogacy attorney with an attachment of a letter from Annie’s pelvis specialist stating that her new diagnosis was due to her twin pregnancy.  In other words, we as the parents of the twins are responsible for the cost of treatment for this illness.

Here was my initial reaction: I was a little hurt and mad, but at the same time glad.  The hurt and the mad feelings most likely came from how Annie handled the situation.  Given our close relationship, I thought that she would have informed us first  before taking this matter to our attorney formally.  I also felt a little emotional that we had to be responsible for the cost of her treatment even 2.5 months after the birth.  On the contract, it stated that our financial responsibility for any postpartum complications would end 8 weeks after the birth.  Don’t get me wrong.  We know that this is our responsibility as she suffers from this problem for the sake of our family and we will pay for it.  But it WAS a trigger for me for the fact that it once again reminded me that I wasn’t the one who carried these babies, that we have to shell out more money even weeks beyond the birth.  The cost of not being able to carry is just never ending.  At the same time, I am very glad that 1) Annie finally found the reason for her pain and there is a solution, and 2) having our agency as well as the attorney to be our guide rather than working with a surrogate independently ensures that the appropriate action is taken for various issues.

Like I said, my emotions are complicated.  Surrogacy is just complicated despite how civilized and loving everyone has been with one another.

Annie loves these babies though.  She enjoys seeing their photos.  She has a little display at home that she had shown on social media that shows how much she loves our babies.  It is a wood branch with five baby birds on it and a mama bird below it.  Needless to say, she is the mama bird and her 3 kids plus our twins are her baby birds.  I was so touched when I saw this photo.  I am forever indebted to her for sacrificing herself for our family’s sake. I sincerely hope and pray that the course of treatment is the answer to her physical ailments so she can completely heal and move past this chapter of surrogacy to resume her normal day-to-day life.

As for our “other boy” via surrogacy again, it is a serious topic that warrants serious discussions with my husband.

MicroblogMondays: Never

I had a burst of energy the other day so I decided to clean the drawers of our bathroom.  It must have been a very long time since I emptied out the drawers.  Buried deep inside of one of them were these:

I remember my emotions when I purchased these tests.  Some were purchased during my first IVF cycle, and some other ones were for the joy of seeing two pink lines and the word “pregnant” after my first donor egg transfer.  I remember being so hopeful and so certain that my own pee would produce the magic word on the Clear Blue digital test or the beautiful pink lines on the First Response test.  The expiration dates came and went, and the me in my present day would never use any of these tests or any newly purchased ones on myself.  Although I have crying babies outside to prove that one doesn’t need to be pregnant in order to build a family, my thoughts and feelings at that moment were still a tremendous sense of loss of the ability to grow a baby inside of me.  I thought I had worked through my feelings about that.  I guess grief hits you whenever, especially at unexpected moments.  This is a reminder that I will never be pregnant or feel a life grow in my uterus.  That feeling sucks.

Needless to say, these tests or their new versions no longer belong to my bathroom drawers.