MicroblogMondays: Pandemic Family Love

My kids haven’t seen my brother, my sister-in-law, and my niece and nephew ever since the shelter-in-place started.  In the beginning, I did suggest to my brother to come drop off stuff for us when the kids are awake but he feels that seeing the kids through the window is going to make the kids more upset than not.  So they come whenever the kids are down for the day already or napping.  My kids’ favorite person is my sister-in-law, who they call “Kau Mo”, which means their mother’s brother’s wife.  Pre-pandemic, they would see her and the rest of the family at least once a week if not more often.  My SIL sometimes meets up with us at the indoor gym to play with the kids.  We sometimes head over to her place to play with her toys.  The very last time the kids saw her was the Friday prior to shelter-in-place order.  She came to Golden Gate Park with us for a walk.  Kids and she were drawing pictures in the dirt, picking up leaves, playing hide-and-seek, and basically just having a grand time hanging out.  In the beginning of the stay-at-home order, the kids would FaceTime with my SIL once in a while.  A few weeks later, we had a Zoom meeting during Easter dinner with the rest of my SIL’s family.  The kids stayed on the call with Kau Mo for a bit longer.  Ever since then, Kau Mo has been on a Zoom call with the kids once a week, usually on a Saturday morning.  As an experienced teacher who is very creative, she knows how to capture the kids’ attention.  She prepares books, toys, drawings, drumming to keep the kids entertained for over an hour.  Sometimes the sessions last for an hour and 15 minutes.  During that time, I could usually do chores like folding laundry, preparing for lunch, etc.  Last weekend during the Zoom call, Bob was sitting there assisting the kids, and I dusted, vacuumed, and mopped our master bedroom, bathrooms, and the kids’ room.  Kau Mo is the best babysitter ever.  I always joke that she should make this into a business because the kids really have a lot of fun with new activities every week with her.  We are so blessed to have her as an auntie to the kids.  And my brother has been a great brother too.  He has come numerous times to drop off stuff for us.  One time I asked where he got his toilet paper.  Instead of letting me go shopping somewhere myself, he helped me order some toilet paper from Amazon Fresh (since we signed up but haven’t been allowed to shop yet).  He received the toilet paper the same day and delivered it to us (by walking 15 minutes from his house) that evening.  We didn’t even have to leave the house to get those toilet paper rolls.  Even though we haven’t been able to really spend time with them physically, we can see and feel the love from our family in so many ways.  We hope that the kids will be able to finally touch them and hug them some time soon.  When they ask to go to Kau Mo’s house one day, I hope that I can tell them yes instead of saying that it is “closed”.

MicroblogMondays: All the Good Things

Despite how difficult an international trip has been with twin toddlers, I remind myself of all the good things that I observe during the trip.  I am truly grateful for them.

  • Transportation has been convenient because my uncle has a mini-van that my dad has been borrowing, and my dad (and my brother when he was in town) is super willing to do pick ups and drop offs.
  • Transportation in India was a breeze as well despite some crazy traffic because we had the means to hire a car and a driver.
  • Despite the time change, Bunny has been sleeping through the night in both my home town and in India since day one.
  • Okra has more difficulty with nap time and bed time, but he is consolable whenever we need to console him.
  • So far, all three flights were horrible and after them, my body really needed time to adjust to the lack of rest.  Fortunately, one night of sleep was enough to help with recuperating.
  • The kind of help that my parents have been providing for us has been nothing short of amazing.  Bob is currently away being at a work conference at the next town.  My parents have been helping out with all the childcare needs.  My dad buys and carries all the groceries home and my mom helps with all the daily chores including laundry, bath, and breakfast/lunch/dinner.  Without them, the trip would have been much harder.
  • How happy my grandma is when she is with the kids has been so nice for me to watch.  Because of her age, she is not too lucid at times.  However, whenever she sees the kids, her face lights up and she is all smiles.  For this reason alone, the trip is worth it.
  • The kids spending time with relatives from both sides of the family has been truly memorable.  They took to them well and were willing to play and interact with them.  And, seeing how much my husband’s family loves the kids and how much my family loves the kids is the highlight of this extended time we have spent away from home.

We have a few more days left here.  I am very glad we decided to make this trip.  I think the true test is when we go home to face the time change and jet lag there.  I will report back how that goes.

Kids waiting at the gate for grandpa’s ride

MicroblogMondays: What to Say?

One day my sister-in-law came to join me and the kids at the play gym.  At the end while I was putting the kids in the stroller and giving them some snacks, my sister-in-law suddenly said, “I need to apologize for something that I said; I made a mistake on your behalf.”  At that moment, I half-guessed what she meant, and it wasn’t far off from my hunch.  She and my brother had dinner with a mutual friend, and the topic of our twins came up.  This mutual friend asked, “How come the twins looked nothing like Isabelle?”  My sister-in-law wasn’t thinking much and blurted out that it was somebody else’s eggs, or something to that effect.  Our mutual friend thought that it was our gestational carrier’s eggs, but my SIL clarified that it was someone else’s.  Once my SIL said it out loud, she knew that she had made a mistake from seeing the horror on my brother’s face.  She made our mutual friend swear that she won’t tell others, but she didn’t feel good that I didn’t know that this mutual friend knew.  She explained that she was caught off guard at that moment.  When this topic comes up, she usually would say that Bob’s genes are very strong and the kids just look a lot like him.  But this time she just told it without thinking about it.  Afterwards, my brother was more mad at the friend than my sister-in-law because he felt that she shouldn’t have asked, as the question puts people on the spot.  My SIL was horrified that she had told someone without consulting with me first and she was sincerely sorry about it.  I told her that it is okay because this is not some dark secret.  But I have been working on telling the kids about their genetic origins and before they have the cognitive ability, language, and maturity to tell people about it, I do not want those other than our chosen friends and family to know.

How did/do I feel about it?  It has been a few days and I am still processing my feelings.  I am not mad at my SIL at all.  It IS a difficult question to answer and I felt that I should have prepared my loved ones better by giving them an answer to give people who ask.  I am a bit mad at our mutual friend.  What gives her the right to question why my kids don’t look like me?  I mean, plenty of people do not look like their parents.  If their parents did not use a gestational carrier to carry and give birth to them, I doubt that their friends and family would ask why they don’t look like their parents.  The fact that our family building path involved a gestational carrier makes people feel that they can question the origin of my kids’ genetics.  Just because I didn’t get to carry my babies, the chances of encountering difficult to answer questions are so much higher.  At the same time, I did use donor eggs to create my family.  And again, this is not some dark secret, so I feel that I *should* be okay with these questions because I should own up to my decision proudly.  I don’t know.  Like I said, I am still processing my feelings.  One thing I am sure is that my SIL probably won’t blurt out donor eggs easily in the future. And, I should think about how to prepare my family better in the future because I am sure this question is going to come up again.

MicroblogMondays: Great Beta Levels

It’s been interesting to support my cousin alongside her on her fertility journey.  Although she has been trying for more than a couple of years, she hardly ever reads any blogs or joins any online groups.  In those 5.5 year of trying to become parents, I was on many online forums, joined many FB groups, and was a regular reader of many many blogs.  Because of that, I feel that I have a lot more knowledge regarding things like the IVF process.  Many of the questions that she has asked me are ones to which she’d know the answers if she had been following infertility blogs.  I am happy to answer them.  It is just interesting to see the differences in our approaches dealing with our fertility issues.  And now that she is pregnant, it feels even more obvious that she doesn’t know much.  Every time she gets her beta results, she’d ask me if they numbers are good.  I have to reassure her that the numbers have been beyond good.  Here is the lowdown:

Initial beta on 7dp5dt: 80

Second beta on 10dp5dt: 577

Third beta on 16dp5dt: 5582

Those are crazy numbers, aren’t they?  When I saw that her second beta was over 500, I couldn’t help but wonder if the embryo had split.  This value was even higher than Annie’s second beta of 464 on 10dp5dt, and Annie was carrying twins for us.  Dr. E, my RE, said that there is a 1% chance that the embryo would split, so it could still be one very strong embryo.  One day my cousin was scaring me though.  She messaged me to ask if she should do an injection of progesterone in oil that evening.  It was already 11pm her time.  She was supposed to insert one progesterone suppository in the morning and two in the evening.  She only had one left in the evening.  A shipment was supposed to arrive that day but didn’t get delivered on time, so she ran out of the suppositories.  She still had PIO at home from previous cycles so she asked if she should inject some.  I asked Dr. E who answered me right away (you got to love her for her fast response).  Dr. E said that missing one dose of progesterone could cost her pregnancy, and urged her to inject the PIO right away.  My cousin did.  Then she told me that she wasn’t too worried about not receiving the shipment since she still had PIO at home.  It was just that the suppositories were not covered by insurance and would cost $1100, so she asked around and someone was willing to order some for her and ship them to her.  Of course the shipment was messed up.  And now knowing that skipping a dose could cost her pregnancy, saving that $1100 doesn’t sound like it’s worth it at all.  I just told her to always have progesterone around until her placenta takes over.

It does look like her pregnancy is going well.  I can’t wait to see how many babies they see on her first ultrasound!

MicroblogMondays: My Cousin

My favorite aunt, my mom’s younger sister, died of cancer at 52.  Her older daughter is a couple of years younger than I am.  I’ll call her Jeannie.  I always think of her as very young, but of course it is no longer the case since I am already in my 40s.  She lives on the east coast so I don’t get to see her much, but I love her dearly as I loved and will always continue to love her mother dearly.  Jeannie disclosed to me a while ago (when we were expecting twins via gestational surrogacy) that she had not been successful in getting pregnant with her partner for quite some time.  Her fertility issues are similar to mine (minus the uterine problems): diminished ovarian reserve.  She had tried a few cycles of IVF using her savings.  Since she and her partner are both small business owners, it has been hard for her to come up with more money for more cycles after spending her savings.  It has been extra hard knowing that each cycle she may or may not make an embryo (you know, that’s the nature of diminished ovarian reserve).  She knows the details of our journey and knows that the twins were conceived via donor eggs, so she knows that it is within the realm of possibility.  With limited funds, she had to figure out with her partner how to proceed with treatment: continuing with her own eggs, donor eggs, or donated embryos? Or adoption?  Everything cost money and she wanted to be pregnant and have a baby like.. yesterday.  So how does one move forward when money is short?  Being disappointed over and over again with her own eggs (just like me), she was more and more open to third party reproduction.  Her friend’s friend offered her a frozen embryo for donation but she later found out that it wasn’t good enough for a transfer.  Dr. E (my RE)’s patient had a set of Caucasian/Asian mixed embryos available but for various reasons that didn’t work out either.  Watching her walk this path and walking alongside her every step of the way brings back so many memories of our journey.  There are so many similarities, and it does pain me to see her on the same path as well.  At the same time, because I have walked this path, I am so glad that I can be here for her whenever she needs me.  I know the emotions behind it and I have practical suggestions and recommendations for her.  I analyzed the pros and cons of fresh vs. frozen donor eggs for her.  She eventually decided to go with a set of 6 eggs from a local program because the cost is lower.  Bob and I offered to gift her a sum to cover a part of the cost but she graciously declined.  She chose a first time Chinese donor who hadn’t started the cycle yet so there was a chance for Jeannie to get those 6 eggs fresh.  To me, having fresh eggs to fertilize is better than thawing frozen eggs.  It’s amazing that with her young donor, 4 out of 6 eggs fertilized normally, and three became blastocysts.  Out of the three blastocysts, two were normal.  I can’t help but be very happy and relieved for my cousin.  We had 18 (out of 23) mature eggs, 17 fertilized, and we had 6 blastocyst at the end.  Four were normal.  So compared to our stats, my cousin’s donor eggs did fabulously.  Jeannie just had a transfer of a 512 (5AB) embryo a bit over a week ago.  Her beta was last Friday, which was 7 days past 5 day transfer.  I don’t know about you.  I find it a bit odd that beta was so early for her.  But no worries, as she got positive results for the first time in her life!  Her hCG was 80, which was a fantastic number for an early beta.  When I heard the news, I was so excited for her and at the same time emotional. I’m just so relieved that the first hurdle is over. Her second beta will be today some time.  I can’t wait to see how it progresses and I can’t wait to see my cousin become a mother finally.  I hope that this pregnancy will be smooth sailing from this point on.

MicroblogMondays: Without My Husband

Microblog_Mondays

This will be the longest Bob and I are apart from each other since we got married.  I wish he were here with me in Hong Kong.  The trip is not the same without him.

Why didn’t he come, you may ask?  This is kind of a last minute trip as an effort for me to spend some time with my aging grandmother and celebrate her 98th birthday before we embark on our journey of maybe/really/hopefully/finally making a baby.  I anticipate our life to be a little bit busy flying to Annie’s state periodically for appointments when we get pregnant.  Then I won’t have the freedom to just hop on a plane for a trip out of the country as easily as right now, when we are just waiting for Annie’s lining to be built and for the transfer to take place.  If Bob came with me, we would have had to also go to India to see his parents, and two weeks would not have been enough time to visit both places.  Since I just saw my in-laws for an extended period of time in the summer, my presence in India is not required.  However, if Bob had come, then his mom wouldn’t have let him just go to Hong Kong and not fly home to India.  Because of all these reasons, we decided that it was best for me to just do the trip alone.

The 14-hour-flight was actually pleasant.  I slept for 7.5 hours on the plane.  The two movies that I watched were both a trigger for me.  Finding Dory made me think about my unconventional way of creating my family, and Up always makes me cry.  I have watched that movie quite a few times so I started crying even before the flashback scenes got to where Ellie was told she couldn’t have a baby.  I didn’t care about what the guy next to me would think of me and cried an ugly cry.

Once I got off the plane and freshened up at home, my dad and I went to see my grandmother.  She has aged quite a lot.  Compared to how she looked and sounded 2.5 years ago, she is now a lot slower with her movements and her response time.  She has become more suspicious about people and things and her memory has deteriorated.  She doesn’t go out anymore unless my dad gives her a ride.  She walks very slowly and insists on using her umbrella as her support rather than a wheelchair or a walker.  My dad only drops her off at places where she does not need to walk up and down the stairs or even an escalator.  When I speak to her, I need to speak slowly and often repeat myself several times.  It pains me to see her this way as she had been so mobile and lucid for so many years.  And it also pains me to know that it will be a little while before she can meet my future child.  I just hope that she is still going to be around for that.

My BFF and I met up the first day I arrived.  It was great to see her as the last time we hung out was 2.5  years ago.  We have known each other for 30 years. I had to catch her up on all that has happened to us including the whole history about our donor disappearing, frozen DE cycles failing, the need to use a gestational carrier, the whole fresh DE retrieval with the twist of positive cocaine urine test and to the most recent development of waiting for a transfer.  Just like many other people, she asked if we had thought about adoption since it’s not my eggs or my uterus in this endeavor, as if adoption is automatically the best plan for those who can’t get pregnant naturally.  I gently explained to her our choice and the rationale behind that without being offended or emotional.  Education is the best way to respond.  And yes, even though it is not my eggs or my uterus, I still want to start my family this way.

I realized that it would have been so much more fun to have Bob around.  Coming here by myself, many people asked me what I wanted to do.  To me, this is just me coming home and having a chance to hang out with my friends and family. If Bob had come, we would be taking many different modes of transportation and going to many different places. Without him being here, I don’t have a lot of motivation to do much. I’ll be seeing my old friends of 30 years as well as my college friends. I originally didn’t want to see my old friends since they don’t know much about my fertility journey.  I didn’t want to get together with them and their kids. It would just remind me of how far they have gone with growing their families while I’m still trying to get started. I thought more about it and decided to have a girls’ night without kids.  That way we can still catch up and I will not be constantly reminded of what I don’t yet have.  I’ll also be going to my grandma’s birthday banquet and will see all my younger cousins and their new babies.  I just hope that no one will ask me when I will have mine.  And I hope even more that if someone does ask me, I will handle their questions with grace.

Thanks to technology, Bob and I get to talk to each other and see each other’s faces on video chat. It makes life a little easier without him around. Ten more days before I go back to my husband and fourteen more days before our transfer!

Breast Scare and Grandma

One of my grandmothers is going to turn 97 or 98.  (Age and year of birth of that generation in the Chinese culture is often vague.)  I haven’t seen her since our trip to Asia in April 2014.  It is tough to live so far away from the majority of my family.  Grandma had been in very good health until this summer when she fainted and was hospitalized.  Physically she is fine.  However, her mind might have been a little chaotic.  As someone who used to have the best memory (remembering everyone’s birthday), she exhibited some symptoms of mental confusion and at one point didn’t even recognize my cousin who lives with her.  She no longer takes the shuttle from her home to the market for her breakfast, which was her routine for 20 years.  Her mind has improved since the summer, but it feels that a visit with her overseas is necessary at a time when she is still relatively lucid and healthy and we can still spend quality time together.  I do not want to go when it is too late.  Since we have been trying to sort out the whole donor egg cycle and surrogacy, there has not been a good time to go.  The timing seems good now that we are down to the wire in terms of preparation for our gestational carrier’s transfer.  The legal paperwork will hopefully be completed by the second week of October and we are hopeful to do the transfer the first week of November.   Grandma’s birthday this year is October 22 (it changes yearly according to the lunar calendar).  My brother is set to fly over for a visit around that time.  It would be good for me to go around the last two weeks of October just in time for a transfer in the first week of November.  I was doing my search of reasonable airfare and then…

I found a little lump on my right breast last weekend randomly while watching TV.

It felt small and it moved around a little, but it was definitely something new.  I freaked out a little but decided to make an appointment with my primary care doctor online.  I scored an appointment for Monday afternoon.  I am not going to lie, but my mind was going fast and I was worried.  You know how it is.  Our worries about the future cloud our judgment as our mind jumps to conclusion.  The worst case scenarios flashed in my head.  Fortunately, prayers for peace and the determination to stay away from Goog.le search had kept me sane.

My doctor reviewed my mammogram results prior to coming in the exam room.  My one and only mammogram two years ago was normal but did indicate that my breast tissues were dense and fibrous.  Upon palpation, my doctor couldn’t even find the little lump at first until I pointed it out to her.  She said it felt more fluid-filled, like a cyst.  Just to be sure, she also examined my left breast and found a bigger and denser lump on the top left part of it.  She said that since this one felt more solid, it’d be best for me to do a scan.  She put in an order for a mammogram and told me to go to radiology to make an appointment.

At radiology, I was told that I could be seen immediately.  However, the staff members asked me a question that was taped on the counter: Do you have new masses or lumps on your breast?  I answered yes.  Because of this yes, I was told I had to go to the “Breast Health Services” downstairs.  Over there, I was told that I had to be scheduled to see a doctor there first.  The first opening is this coming Monday late morning.  So that means that I have had to wait a whole week to see this doctor before I can get any scans.

During this week of waiting, I still freak out at times, thinking about the possibility of me being sick and us bringing a baby into this world and the baby not having a mom.  The mind can go to the worst place fast.  But I am mostly at peace with this and am just waiting for the appointment.  I pray that I surrender everything to God as He is the one who is in control.  It could be psychological, but ever since these two lumps were found, I could seriously feel my breasts throbbing with soreness at times.  Speaking with others helps.  Both of the coworkers that I spoke with have had the same happen to them.  Both were checked out and were fine.  It’s helpful to know that the results could be normal.  This has also freaked Bob out.  The first night was the hardest as he was worried and wondered why we had to deal with one thing after another.  He has since then calmed down and has also just been waiting patiently for the appointment next week.

Because of this new development, I have been hesitant with the trip to Asia.  What if these lumps are more serious than I would like?  What if treatment is needed?  What if what if what if.  I have delayed looking into plane tickets but then I am also mindful that I would like to be around for all the initial scans that Annie, our gestational carrier, would have if/when we get pregnant.  It will be even harder to schedule a time to go see my grandmother in the near future once a pregnancy is achieved if I want to be as present for the pregnancy as possible.  So I have decided to purchase my plane tickets this weekend regardless of the outcome of the exam on Monday.

It is sometimes difficult, but I am determined to focus on the good things: seeing my family, spending time with my grandma, and being full of anticipation for our upcoming transfer.  I pray that the exam on Monday yields good results so that my mind can rest and truly enjoy the good things that life has to offer.