MicroblogMondays: Babymoon Number One?

We are in the middle of our babymoon, or what I call “an excuse to go play”.  Or should I say “Babymoon Number One”?  I will explain later.

We wanted to go away before the babies come.   When we planned it a little while ago, May seemed like a good month to go because we would be well into our second trimester and things should be going pretty well.  (That was before the whole anxiety attack saga went down.)  The destination of choice is an area a bit over an hour from home.  Our niece is a freshman at a local college there so I really strived to visit before her quarter ends.  I feel so lucky that we found this quaint bed and breakfast in a very quaint town.  Restaurants and shops are within walking distance to the inn.  The room rates are reasonable.  The town is a short drive to everywhere we would want to go.  And how blessed we are that the world an hour away is totally different from the hustle and bustle of city life.

The trip started with a massage that both Bob and I desperately needed.  My left shoulder had been hurting and Bob had been complaining about his upper back (and also been asking for a massage from me daily).  That turned out to be the best way to set the right tone for the rest of the weekend.  I was hoping and praying that my period would stay away until after the massage.  I knew that my last period started on May 1st, so it was highly likely that Aunt Flow would visit around the first day of our trip.  To my very pleasant surprise, AF was nowhere to be found and I got to have the most amazing massage ever.  I know massages.  I am picky.  So for me to say that it was amazing I really am not joking.   After I informed the massage therapist my preference of firm pressure, she got to work.  I knew to breathe through whatever she was doing so we were in unison.  Have you ever had a massage where you don’t have to tell the therapist what to do and he/she does exactly what you would like?  My massage was exactly that.  She was so intuitive that I felt like we were in sync with each other.  Every stroke felt so good and intentional.  To say that I was in paradise was an understatement.  I am already plotting to return someday hopefully even after the babies arrive.  And guess what?  My body knew exactly what I wanted.  My flow started about 15 minutes after my massage concluded.  It was weird and wonderful at the same time that my body knew to hold off on the flow.

We checked in to the lovely bed and breakfast.  It is a tiny four-room inn and I have no complaints about it.  The innkeepers are warm and welcoming.  The wife of the team kept on calling my husband Cutie Patootie which was hilarious and fun.  We picked up our niece and saw her dorm for the first time before she leaves for the year and returns to another dorm next year.  She had picked out a Mongolian/Russian restaurant in town and we enjoyed a very delicious meal with lamb riblets, dumplings, and this amazing carrot salad.  I am not usually a carrot fan but it was so good that I requested an extra order of this dish.  We caught up with our niece about her school life, about her summer plans, and our babies.  It just amazes me that my niece has grown into this mature young adult and we are just starting our own family with the babies that are still baking.  It just boggles my mind sometimes how the life paths of siblings (me and my brother in this case) could be so different.

We slept 9 1/2 hours.  Many people joke about how much sleep we won’t get and tell us to sleep as much as we can. We know that you cannot store sleep but we still cherish the chance to sleep as many hours as we want right now.  Breakfast was home cooked and delicious:

After breakfast, we headed to a local state park for the highlight of our trip: meeting up with Rain, McRuger, Cadet, and Pumpkin.

I had been following Rain at Weathering Storms ever since before I became Isabelle on Binky Moongee.  I started reading even before they were matched with Cadet and his birth mother.  I feel like I know her and her family because I do.  I remember the details of that adoption and subsequently with Pumpkin’s adoption.  Seeing the boys grow up with such a wonderful couple  just warms my heart.  Knowing that we live in the same geographical area always made me want to get together with her.  I knew that she recently moved to the area where my niece goes to school.  Once I knew that we were going to spend a couple of days there, I immediately contacted her to see if she’d be available.  And I had been so looking forward to this weekend ever since we made plans with her.

I have got to tell you that meeting up with a fellow blogger who knows you has got to be one of the most marvelous experiences in the world.  I have been blessed with meeting quite a few bloggers and this experience never ceases to amaze me.  There was basically no awkward period to get through because you know them and they know you.  I didn’t have to update Rain about the things that were happening now because hey guess what?  She read the latest blog post already.  It was simply hanging out, “catching up” (although we really just met in person for the first time), and marveling at our fortune of seeing and touching the real person behind the screen.  Pumpkin and Cadet are just so adorable.  They look exactly like their photos.  I just love Rain and her husband.  I wish that we lived closer to one another so we could have a walk in the park every single weekend.  I am so happy for Rain that she is living the life that is so good for her family and her health.  It looks like small town life really suits her.  I feel so blessed to have met this wonderful soul in person.

Sunday afternoon was as lazy and relaxing as could be.  Bob took a nice long nap in the room.  I sat in the back porch of the bed and breakfast and wrote this blog post while listening to the breeze gently blowing the leaves and the subtle sound of the nearby creek.

I even managed to read a few chapters of my novel uninterrupted as I had the open area of the inn all by myself.  This is my definition of a perfect vacation.  Some active time and some down time.

Things on the food front were great on this trip as well.  In additional to the dinner with my niece and the breakfasts, we had a leisurely lunch (over 1.5 hours) and a relaxing and slow dinner (over 2 hours).  Bob had a beer flight at an alehouse for lunch.

The German meal for dinner was within walking distance to our inn.  My pork shank was such a delight: flavorful and tender inside, crispy on the outside.  I did Chinese people proud by cleaning all the meat off the bone.  The mushroom sauce on Bob’s dish was delicious.  I thought we didn’t have room for dessert, but I was totally wrong.  We had crepes with chocolate and hazelnut sauce.

We are going home today.  As far as a long weekend goes, this has been one perfect one.  So why am I calling this Babymoon Number One?  A few weeks ago, Bob asked me if he could go to a work conference in Hawaii in July.  Initially I was a little hesitant about it because we would be about 30 to 31 weeks into our pregnancy.  But then I thought about it, and thought what the heck.  Let’s just enjoy life and plan for it.  Bob went ahead and bought his plane ticket.  And then this thought crept into our heads.  What if I tagged along and went with him?  Hotel will already be paid for.  I would just need to purchase a plane ticket.  After a lot of contemplation (such as using up vacation time, the babies’ possible early arrival, and the cost), we decided that we should just take this opportunity for me to play before the babies come.  So I did!  I bought a plane ticket along with travel insurance (just in case we need to cancel) for me to go for about 6 day to Honolulu!  Bob will be very busy with his work conference even on the weekend.  I will most likely be playing by myself one last time before our babies take up our lives.  So should I even be calling that Babymoon Number Two if we are going to have fun separately?  I’d say so!  It will be our one last chance before we enjoy having two extra little people enriching our lives.  I know I will thoroughly enjoy and appreciate the downtime before craziness starts.

MicroblogMondays: Some Thoughts after the Train Ride

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We made it!  The train departed and carried us safely to our destination with only a 4-hour delay.

The journey was such a new and special experience.  Sleeping in a rocking motion, taking a shower while trying to balance ourselves, dining and making fast friends with strangers, and learning to enjoy the slowness of time all proved to be such memorable experiences.

Bob and I got along well without any big fights.   I also learned a thing or two about myself.  Our luxurious bedroom (vs. riding coach or in the tiny rooms called roomette) allowed us to have a two seater plus an extra seat, a big window, a private toilet with shower, and a sink.  Although the room was much more spacious than other rooms, the space was still limited.  I found myself having a hyper sense of control of my surroundings and needed order of the environment at all time.  Everything had a “regular” place (which is funny because the train ride was only 2.5 days) and things would have to be returned to their spots.  In such a tiny space, anything out of order would make it too chaotic for me.  This extreme control of environment doesn’t happen as much at home because the space we are allowed to move around is exponentially bigger.

Another thing I learned about myself is my love for drawing.  Remember I said in my last post I brought a sketch book to document the journey and an adult coloring book?  I did not touch the coloring book at all because I found drawing my own pictures and coloring them is so much more fun than beautifying other people’s work.  I hadn’t drawn anything in the last many years, but I have always had a passion for drawing and painting.  Thanks to this train journey, I was allowed a lot of time to just focus on this passion.  I took my time and just drew whatever I wanted.  A creative time that does not involve running my fingers on a keyboard.

Here is one that I did:

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I saw an unexpected pregnancy announcement on Facebook during the train trip.  I don’t know about you, but I have a few people that I can “count on” keeping me company or being infertile with me while I wait for my turn.  It could be kind of like a mean thing to have, but I can’t help but keep track of these people. This person was one of them.  I actually mentioned about this former coworker in a previous post that a currently pregnant coworker had a difficult time figuring out how to share her own pregnancy news with.  I knew that this former coworker, who got married eight years ago, had been trying to adopt.  I don’t know her fertility issues, but I knew that she wanted a baby.  So when I saw the pictures of her baby bump online, I was super surprised, but I was actually happy for her.  I clicked “like” and then closed the page.  Later on I started seeing her taking pictures of her pets on her baby bump, I knew that I had to unfollow her for a while.  Even though I am not jealous, I still have to protect myself from triggers.  The sense of being left behind is also stronger than ever.

In Chicago, we stayed with one of my high school best friends, his wife, and his daughter.  This is my third time being in Chicago.  The first time was right after my friend had gotten married and moved there.  I went to visit when they had barely been there for two months.  The second time was when I went to help take care of his newborn daughter for his wife while he was on a business trip for week.  Being my best friend, he knows what has been going on in our fertility journey.  He knows all about the previous cycles and our pursuit of egg donation.  However, being a guy, he had never told his wife about our struggles.  His wife and I get along really well, but afterall, I am his friend.  Whenever I see her in California, there never seems to be a good time to bring up these things.  So I made a decision to find a time to tell her.  It was difficult to find the right moment though because the little five-year-old was always around and always so curious about our topics of conversation.  I just didn’t know how to explain to a little girl about the struggles that a couple could have for trying for a baby.  One day a chance came.  Kimberly from No Good Eggs was traveling to Chicago for a weekend and we were making plans to meet up.  I told my friend’s wife about this online friend that I would finally meet in person.  Naturally, she inquired about how we met online.  I thought it was a great segue to introduce to her this main theme that has been dominant in my life in the last 3.5 years.  Bless her heart, she wasn’t fazed by any of this.  She just naturally didn’t know much about the assisted reproductive technology world.  I brought her up to speed in the next three days about what we went through.  We didn’t have a lot of time for any in-depth conversation because little missy was around most of the time.  But in passing, she showed enough interest in asking me questions about the IVF process.  And I disclosed to her about choosing a donor and our mentality and emotions behind moving towards egg donation.  The conversation was fruitful and I was surprised by my openness and ease with talking about this topic with a real life friend.  When we were parting at the airport, she gave me a long tight hug and told me to keep them updated.  It was great to be able to talk about this freely.

Turning 41 and doing it Chicago style was wonderful.  It has always been Bob and me alone to celebrate my birthday.  Having my friends and their daughter there with us was so precious.  Friendship is wonderful.  And although I still don’t have a baby, I decided to celebrate my age the best way I could.  I really had a memorable day.

Oh and Kimberly and I did meet up!  That was such a highlight of our trip.  Fortunately we weren’t leaving town until late afternoon, so Kimberly and I made plans to meet for breakfast.  It was worth the effort to get up super early for the twins.  I had seen plenty of their pictures but it was something else to see them outside of a picture online and become alive in front of my eyes.  Meeting up with a fellow blogger has always been a wonderful experience.  She knows what is going on in your life.  You don’t have to say much to catch up.  You don’t have to explain anything.  She knows what you are going through.  It is just so refreshing.  And those kids… my goodness, they are so so cute!  What a treat for us to be able to spend time with them.

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Bob got to hold little J.

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I will write more about the whole train ride next week some time after I recuperate from all the walking on our trip.  What I can say is that I really appreciate the trip because it helps me cherish even more my own home and the routine that I have established.  Without a vacation away from home, I would not be as appreciative of my own boring routine and a sense of order that is needed in my life.

Stay tuned next week for some of the highlights on the train and in Chicago!

Ups and Downs

Highlight of last weekend was meeting Jennifer T and hanging out with her and Bob over a bowl of bread pudding.  She was in town for business so we agreed to meet Sunday evening.  It was SO MUCH FUN to see her in person and just talk.  I have been following her journey for quite some time and have been so excited for her ever since her cousin got pregnant with her baby.  To my surprise, Bob wanted to come meet her too.  So the three of us walked over to the diner right next to the hotel and just had dessert and chatted for next hour and a half about anything and everything.  Such a lovely and fun lady!  I am so lucky that I got to meet with two bloggers in the last month.  I just love this community so much.

Remember I talked about the clinic accidentally charging me less than what the billing department intended?  I read and reread the email and was really not sure if the coordinator was actually asking me to pay retroactively.  You can judge for yourself:

“The first 2 mini-stim embryo freeze cycles you were charged the incorrect amount of $XXX by [billing coordinator] giving you an added savings of $563 each cycle.  The correct charge of $XXX was in the letter she just sent.  I had emailed you a fee outline with the $XXX amount on 7/22/14.  Template attached.  Please let me know if you have additional questions or need further assistance.”

So to be safe and not waiting until my scan day to get a surprise, I enlisted my friend M’s help to draft an email about it:

“Thank you for your clarification of the charges.  As you know, we are solely funding this effort ourselves, and we receive no money from insurance or any other tax benefits.  As such, the clerical error made by your billing staff represents a significant burden.  We are willing to accept the rate change for the upcoming cycles, but I ask that you reconsider charging us retroactively for an error that was not our making.  I understand that we were informed by email of the proper rate, but I feel strongly that it is the responsibility of the clinic to provide correct information at the time of payment, not rely on the memory of the client.  Thank you for your attention in this matter.”

To that, the patient coordinator wrote back and said:

“We are not charging you retroactively  for the difference in cost on the first 2 cycles.  It was not mentioned in my email to you.”

Well bad news is, I made a fool out of myself.  Good news is, instead of paying an additional $1689 for three cycles, we are responsible for the extra $563 for the current cycle.  Like what M said, owing $500 is much better than owing over $1600.

Those are the good moments of the week.  How about the scan?  Well….

I don’t know what to think of it and how to feel about it.  Today is cycle day 8.  Our first scan after five days of Cl.omid shows that we may have three tiny follicles growing.  I was prepared for just one follicle.  I was not prepared for no dominant or bigger follicle.  The lining was good though: at 9.4mm.  The NP couldn’t tell if it was trilaminar because it’s tough to do a clear ultrasound with a big fibroid.  Imagine my surprise when I lay that and did not easily see a dark spot on my right ovary.  And some tiny dots on my left ovary.  The NP pushed on my ovaries and got a better measurement on both sides.  It appeared that we had a 6mm and 4mm on the left, and a 8mm on the right.  However, because of some fluid buildup on the right side, the 8mm might even be smaller.  I was disappointed.  Usually at this point in the game, I’ll have at least one follicle over 11 or 12mm.  I really don’t know if these follicles will continue to grow on their own.  I just honestly want one follicle and one egg.  So the NP told me to get my blood drawn to test my Estradiol, which was the first blood draw ever at this clinic because it is just not part of the protocol.  I continue to be disappointed.  And then my mind goes wild again.  So… what if I have to cancel this cycle?  Do we still do another cycle in December and transfer?  One of my friends suggested that maybe because the half life for Cl.omid is long, that the buildup from the last two cycles messes up my hormones for this cycle.  So does it mean that I should take a break from Cl.omid for a month?  Should I still transfer in December without a retrieval?  Should I transfer this month even if we have to cancel the retrieval?  So many questions.  No answers.

I don’t want to go ahead of myself.  This could be an off cycle.  My follicles could be slow-growing for some reason.  Or like what Bob said, that this may be God’s way of telling us to wait.  I have been exercising a lot of patience in this process.  I feel a little impatient today.  Why is there a new hurdle every single time?

I had a meeting with someone who is interested in having me help with a project which involves developing workshops to educate Chinese parents on language stimulation strategies at home.  The meeting was right after my scan and I was still recovering from the disappointment of the results.  This lady that I met with asked me if I had children.  I just smiled and shook my head.  She jokingly told me not to get pregnant until after the workshops are done.  I know it was a joke but at that moment, I just wanted to punch her on her face.  Especially this morning.

The nurse’s phone call instructed me to return on Saturday for a scan.  No meds.  Just as is until then.  Half an hour later, she called again and said that the doctors actually wanted me to return on Sunday for a scan.  Looks like they are giving my ovaries a lot of time to see if the follicles will grow. That will be four days from now.  I don’t know if the follicles will continue to grow, or my body will decide that this cycle will be anovulatory.

My friend S said that I am doing very well.  I was telling her that there is really nothing much I can do except for pushing on.  She said, “You could have a nervous breakdown.  Threaten divorce, affair… there are all kinds of things you COULD do.”

I guess she’s right.  It never occurred to me that I should/could do the above.  I am grateful that we had two amazing cycles and five embryos frozen.  I will try to focus on the positive.

So seems like it’s the nature of these cycles to have ups and downs.  Today, my Maya massage therapist whispered to the “girls” (the follicles) for them to grow well.  My friend S gave the follicles some big names: Zeus, Goliath, and Godzilla.  Hopefully the follicles will listen to Auntie S so that we can have some “ups” to look forward to in a few days.

MicroblogMondays: Precious Friendship

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A blog friend and I have read plenty of each other’s blog posts but we had never met each other in person.  She happened to be in the Bay Area all the way from Asia this past week.  We sat at a cafe and chatted for almost 2 1/2 hours non-stop.  It felt like we had been friends forever.

This is someone whose fertility journey is eerily similar to mine.  This is someone who has the crappy diagnosis of diminished ovarian reserve, with high FSH, low AMH, and low AFC.  This is someone who has done a few IVF cycles and had only one precious transfer, which heartbreakingly also did not result in a take home baby.  This is someone who has researched egg donation with asian/Chinese donor like I have.  This is someone who has consulted with and considered some of the same clinics that I have.  The more I learned about her, the more I felt like I was looking in a mirror.  We had similar thoughts regarding parents, friends who are fertile, friends who are infertile but got pregnant quickly with their first/second IUI or first/second IVF, sharing about our struggles in the work place, repeated IVF failures, etc. etc. etc.

It was a breath of fresh air to be sharing with someone who knows what you’re going through and exactly how you are feeling.  No explanation of terminology was required.  No ART education needed to be had.  We knew what RBA, CCRM, SDFC, PFC all stood for.  We just talked and talked and talked and we knew that we understood each other.  It’s not an everyday occurrence to meet somebody who knows how it feels to have a crappy diagnosis of diminished ovarian reserve.  I am sorry that we’re in the same situation, but so glad to have found each other.

This is the lovely thing about blogging.  It can draw complete strangers together because of our common experiences.

What a precious friendship that has been formed between two people who live thousands of miles away but are living parallel lives.  Thank you so much for sharing a lot of laughter and a lovely morning with me, Weylin.  I thoroughly enjoyed our time together as well as meeting your husband.  I really hope to be able to come see you in Singapore one day.  Hopefully by then our babies will meet and have a playdate.