Back in October last year I wrote about my cousin Jeannie who struggled with diminished ovarian reserve and finally got pregnant via egg donation. She was due mid-June. Throughout her pregnancy I had kept in close contact with her, and had been so happy for her that her pregnancy was uneventful. Although her pregnancy was healthy, she was anxious about it. I can’t blame her because I had the same thoughts. Everyday when she got up in the morning she’d wait for the baby to move before she could relax a little bit. I think many of us have been so traumatized by infertility that stillbirth is a big fear. It is no different to my cousin. And I had the same fear when I was waiting for my kids’ birth. Jeannie’s due date came and went, and baby did not show any signs of coming out. Jeannie is a small business owner and started her maternity leave two weeks prior to her due date. I told her to enjoy this down time a bit before the craziness of a newborn began. She said that she was so uncomfortable that it was hard to enjoy her time. She just felt like she was wasting her maternity leave. Anyhow, a week after her due date was when her doctor started induction because baby was just not coming on his own. Induction started on a Monday late afternoon, and she was only 1cm dilated 24 hours later. Throughout this time, she was still very anxious about losing the baby at the last moment, because, you know, we as infertiles just have those crazy/not so crazy thoughts. Being induced for 48 hours didn’t bring her closer to her baby so a C-section was done. My cousin finally became a mother! I am so happy for her but at the same time have been feeling bad for her for all that she has had to endure with this birth. It has been quite rough for her physically and emotionally. She is entirely swollen and is puffy everywhere. She could not bend her legs. The crazy hormones make her cry all the time. Basically she is a mess. But she will eventually come out of it and did I mention that she has a baby now??? And he is so precious and perfect, and is so healthy and doing so well. It’s hard for me to believe that after all these years of wanting a baby and trying for a baby, she is finally at this point. She is holding her baby. I can’t wait to see how motherhood unfolds for her. During her pregnancy, Jeannie mentioned to me how she was envious of me having my mom here with me and so wished that her mom would still be alive and have the joy of being a grandmother. I feel for her and it makes me cherish my mom even more.
My kids are now 21 months old. I started reading to them pretty much since they were born. Bunny in particular has developed a love for books. We currently have about 45 library books in our house, with 44 of them being children’s books. Bunny reads some of the books over and over again herself and also asks me to read them to her. Okra also likes to read and does flip the books on his own, but his level of interest is not nearly as intense as Bunny’s. In the morning when we change Okra’s diaper first, Bunny is satisfied with waiting for her turn as long as we hand her a book. She memorizes words from some of these library books and fills in the blank whenever she remembers. Since the summer began, we have joined our library’s Summer Learning Challenge. We are to log every 20 minutes of reading or listening by coloring one of the 36 wheels on a piece of paper. When we are done with that, plus trying 6 activities that are new to us, then each kid gets a new book and a raffle ticket to have a chance to win $1000 scholarship. Some days we get to color 3 wheels. That is an hour of reading. Bunny can sit there and read to herself for 30 minutes sometimes. Here is a picture of them hiding in the corner reading before church yesterday:
Isn’t this adorable? I just love that the kids are so into reading. I hope that their love for books will never end.
Last year my annual check up was the day after my in-laws left. My blood pressure was exceedingly high on that day. I chalked it up to eating extra salty Indian homemade food and being nervous in front of my doctor. I went back to see my doctor for a check up exactly one year after last year’s. The initial reading of my blood pressure was a little high but not too high. When my doctor remeasured my blood pressure, the number shot up. It didn’t help for him to tell me to relax. I was thinking, whenever someone tells me to relax, I get even more nervous. The interesting thing was, a couple of days prior to that, my mom asked me to take my blood pressure on her home machine and it came out totally normal. So I still don’t know if my extra high reading was truly due to white coat syndrome. But one thing that I did confess to the doctor was that I hadn’t gone back to consistently exercising since my kids were born. I am always tired and would rather take a nap when the kids take a nap. My weight has been steadily climbing up. Now with the potential high blood pressure, I am determined to take care of my health better. After considering my day and my fatigue level during the day, the best time that I could come up with for exercising is early in the morning. I am NOT a morning person by any definition, but I did attend fitness bootcamp for 5 years straight in the past for a 6:15am class, so it is doable. Getting up early for fitness bootcamp took a lot of willpower, so I know that it will be a challenge to get myself up. But again, I am determined to get myself in better health. I know that mental and physical preparation would be important for my success. The day after my doctor’s visit, I lay out my workout clothes on my dresser. I also downloaded a walking app to track my progress. My biggest strategy for maintaining my progress is to listen to a fascinating podcast that is a series. I chose Serial because each episode is a continuation of the last. Plus, who doesn’t love a murder mystery? I went to bed a bit earlier that night to ensure enough sleep for the night. The alarm went off at 6am the next morning. I got up, washed my face, changed into my workout clothes, and headed out the door. My goal was half an hour and to return by 7am to make breakfast for the kids. I put on my headphones, turned on Serial, started my walking app, and started my first workout in many many months. I walked uphill, downhill, and turned the corner briskly. The show was gripping and kept me going. The app reminds you of your pace every mile, which is motivating to me. I chose routes that go uphill for a long stretch. When I got home, surprisingly and amazingly, the route that I took was 2.01 miles. I would call that exactly two miles. My average pace was 16:10 min/mi, which took 32 minutes 38 seconds. I felt so good after the walk! I did that again the next day in the drizzle and was a bit faster. Average pace was 15:40 min/ml, and the total time was 31:29 min. Yesterday was my 3rd walk. This time, I was wearing the Airpods that Bob bought me, so it was a bit more convenient for me not to have cords attached to my phone. But I was tired. I lingered in bed for an extra 8 minutes and decided to get myself out there. It wasn’t easy, but I did it. I could feel that my body and my steps were heavy. The murder mystery really kept me going. The longer I was out there, the smoother my walk was. By the time I was done, my pace was 16:11 min/mi, which was similar to day one. I am so glad that my initial effort to take good care of my health was off to a good start. I just hope that as the days get shorter and sunrise gets later, I am still going to be motivated to get myself out there for a good workout. I really need to maintain my health for my own sake and for the sake of my family. If anyone has any recommendation on an excellent podcast that will have me hooked for my future walks, please send them my way! I would love to keep my workout interesting for a long time to come.
This past weekend I attended my nephew’s high school graduation. Coincidentally, the day before the graduation, I was re-reading my old blog posts and came across the one that I wrote about his 8th grade graduation in June 2015. I was going through a very difficult period of time with having to have a surgery inside my uterine cavity and having to find a donor in addition to some family drama. Watching the mother of a graduate reading a card from her son and tearing up from his words was such a trigger for me. I was tearing up a bit wondering about my future: if I would ever get to attend my kid’s graduation. This past Saturday, sitting in the theater witnessing another milestone of my nephew’s life, life surely felt very different from four years ago at his previous graduation. I no longer have to wonder if I’d ever have a chance to attend my kids’ graduation. I mean, we don’t know about the future, but since my children are here on this earth, the chances of me being able to be at their graduation are exponentially higher than when I was still hoping to make a baby. Instead of a sense of loss, unfairness, envy, jealousy, fear that I experienced four years ago, I was a happy mother checking on my phone’s baby monitor app periodically to see if my daughter was still napping in her crib and messaging my husband to see if our boy was still sleeping in his pack n play. I am forever grateful that at this graduation my pursuit of a child was no longer an uncertainty. Being able to celebrate my kids at their middle school, high school, and even college graduation is not a far-fetched dream anymore.
I continue to read my old blog posts.
Now that Bob and I have our boy/girl twins, it has been quite surreal to read the posts I had written about the possibility of pursuing egg donation. Even when we were banking day two embryos with my own eggs, we were already mentally, emotionally, and financially preparing for future potential donor egg cycles. There were quite a few posts back then about my thoughts and feelings regarding egg donation. This particular post stands out to me. My friend who struggled to get pregnant had just given birth to a baby boy. I signed up to deliver a meal to her. When I arrived, I was overwhelmed by the sight of everything new mom and newborn. This was what I wrote:
“I commented on the abundance of his dark hair. Anna exclaimed at her surprise of his dark hair because both she and her husband were born bald and later on grew blonde hair. I couldn’t help but wonder if I would feel the loss of the privilege of making such a comment in the future if my children are conceived with donor gametes. Maybe by then I’ll just feel so lucky to have a baby that it doesn’t matter anymore.”
Now that I am mom to my babies who were conceived with donor gametes, I don’t have to wonder anymore. I can tell you exactly how I feel. There is still a sense of loss of not being able to make such a comment about my own children’s hair, or skin color, or nose, or other physical parts of them. During the weekdays when I am by myself with the kids out and about, I get asked many times by strangers where my boy’s curly hair comes from. That whole head of curly hair definitely comes from my husband, which is usually how I answer it, but it does serve as a reminder that the kids and I are not biologically related. Is this sense of loss constant? Not at all. I’d say it is not a part of my everyday life. I love them so much and only want them and not other kids, so this sense of loss comes occasionally and goes away quickly. Most of the time the last statement of that blog post was true. I feel so so so lucky to have (these) bab(ies) that it doesn’t matter anymore. The fact that I can come back here in this space 4.5 years later to address a question I had prior to becoming mom of kids made with donor eggs? Now THAT is a privilege that I won’t/don’t take it lightly.
(By the way, yesterday, June 2nd, was my 6th blogoversary, and this is my 520th post. I sure hope to be able to keep this blog up for many years to come. Thanks for stopping by!)
Last week my former fertility doctor Dr. E connected me with a current patient of hers who could use some support on her journey as an intended mother. After I shared my blog with this intended mother, I was curious to see what I had written in the last almost six years on my blog. I have been reading my earliest blog posts since June 2013. Wow I wrote so much and the posts were so detailed. I am now very grateful that I started a blog so I have a documentation of this journey. Things have changed so much since then. I used to think that my first IVF cycle was such a roller coaster. Compared to our subsequent journey of all the twists and turns before we got to our babies, that first cycle’s drama was nothing. But of course we didn’t know, and it was devastating for us at the time to think that we were losing our first ever embryo only for it to become a blastocyst on day six. Bob and I truly endured many trials in the last few years of our marriage. It is interesting to see that I used to think that we couldn’t afford a cycle of IVF with a certain clinic because of the price tag. Again, I wouldn’t in a million years think that we would spend even more on additional cycles with my own eggs, several DE cycles, and even a whole journey with a gestational carrier. If you told me back then that we would spend this amount of money on our fertility treatments, I’d have said you’ve gotta be kidding me. Another thing that I notice is that the blogging community back then was so vibrant. At every turn of my journey, there was a tribe of bloggers and commenters cheering me on, validating my feelings, rooting for my embryos, and crying/mourning my losses. It was heartwarming and amusing to see the first comments on my blog from many of my current blogger-turned-real-life-friends, such as A., Maddie, Jane Allen, Aramis, Jennifer T., Bri from Dreaming of Diapers, ramdomsqueaks, and Torthuil, to name a few. Seeing how our friendships started was so fun. I have met most of them in real life, and a couple of them even attended my baby shower. At the same time, I feel sad that some have turned their blogs into private blogs, and many bloggers no longer blog. I clicked on the comments from many bloggers and found that their last blog posts stay in the past in 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, or 2018. You don’t know what has happened to them, why they suddenly stopped blogging, and if you will ever hear from them again. I understand that ever since FB groups and IG have evolved, blogging is not the same anymore. I miss that community so much though. It helped me through thick and thin. Reading my blog posts has made me so nostalgic. I wonder if I’d ever share my blog with the kids. That’s something to ponder. Regardless of that, it is my hope that this blog continues to be helpful to those who stumble upon because they feel lonely or lost on their fertility journey. I hope that they feel encouraged and less alone when they read these blog posts.
I was listening to a podcast the other day about DNA testing and how people are excited about connecting to their relatives through a DNA database. I paid particular attention at one point when egg and sperm donors were mentioned. With this technology, egg and sperm donors who wish to keep themselves anonymous will not be able to keep their identity under wraps. That means people like my children who have been conceived with the help of donor eggs have the means to find the people to whom they are genetically linked. They will be able to see who contributed to 50% of their DNA and those that share their DNA. I have never wanted to keep my children’s conception story a secret. I want them to have a complete picture of who they are and not to have to find out about the donor conception part of their life through a test or anyone other than me. I recently purchased a book called “You Were Meant To Be” and started to read it to the kids. Bunny is a book worm and frequently requests to read this book. She calls this book “Be”. She fills in the blank for certain words of the story. Okra likes the book too but he is more into trucks and trains. I explain to them that a piece of me didn’t work so I needed help from our donor. The book itself is simple enough to explain a very complex situation to toddlers who are not even two years old. This is my first step to make this part of their life a normal part so it will not be a surprise in the future. I do not want them to be like those who are tremendously hurt because they find out about their biological origin well into their teenage years or adulthood. If my kids want to find out who the donor is through a DNA database, I will have no problem with that. They have the right and the freedom to explore who they are. When we first pursued egg donation, our donor did say she was open to meeting with us. So maybe this will come true and the kids can have a even more complete picture of who they are. Then we will connect with our donor so they don’t even have to find her through a database. We will see how this all will unfold.