MicroblogMondays: Disclosure

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We have told a handful of people in real life about our pregnancy.  I told my dad right after the second beta, but didn’t tell my mom right away.  My mom’s mom is currently very sick in the hospital in Asia so my mom’s sisters flew back there from the states.  Because my aunts were around, I didn’t want my mom to share this news with them prematurely.  That was the reason why I didn’t want to tell her yet.  My dad is very good with keeping secrets so I never worried that he would tell my mom.  After our first ultrasound with the confirmation of two babies growing, my mom contacted me regarding adjusting the date of her return to the states.  She was originally going to come back in February, but due to my grandma’s situation, she had postponed her return to May.  I felt the need to tell her about the babies because I would need my own mother to be around when the babies arrive.  I don’t think I need her to take care of the babies, but I would need her to take care of me and my husband so that our house would be at least in a decent state in the first few months of the babies’ lives.  So I decided to tell her at about 8 weeks.  She was very happy about it and promised me that she’d never tell her sisters until I give her permission.  I will have to trust her about that this time.

What about Bob’s parents?  After our ultrasound at 8 weeks 5 days, Bob and I felt comfortable sharing with his parents.  It wouldn’t be hard to share about us expecting two babies but the fact that the pregnancy is via the gift of surrogacy was going to be a bit of a challenge for him.  He was brave and took on the task without hesitation.  He did it on the day we reached 9 weeks. I was a coward and just stayed in the kitchen area while he and his parents chatted on Sky.pe in our bedroom.  My father-in-law was cute.  When he found out, he raised both of his arms in victory and celebrated with a big smile on his face.  My mother-in-law?  I think it probably took her some time to get used to the idea.

When Bob made the announcement, she was pleased that we were finally expecting.  But she became perplexed and confused about the surrogacy part.  She originally thought that the babies would be half caucasian but Bob explained to her several times that these were our embryos, and the carrier is just carrying for us.  She then was sad that she couldn’t announce to the whole world that her daughter-in-law was expecting.  She was sad that she couldn’t send me Indian sweets that she would’ve sent me if I was pregnant.  She mentioned to Bob that Isabelle must have been at least a little bit sad that she couldn’t carry a baby herself.  So it was nice that she thought at least a bit about my feelings.  She said that she probably wouldn’t say anything to anyone until after the babies are born because I wasn’t carrying.  She then said that she still wants the money we send her every year.  She was probably afraid that the cost of taking care of newborns was going to eat away part of the money that we give her.  She then said that she’d name our babies and to make sure that they marry Hindu Brahmin Iyengar, their caste and subcaste in the Indian caste system.  I laughed when Bob told me this comment.  Even her son didn’t marry an Indian, let alone the same caste and subcaste.  The chances of her grandchildren doing that are slim to none. But it tells you how much our marriage has thrown her world upside down and now she has renewed hope in these children.  Anyways, she was a little apprehensive about this news when she heard it.

When I first heard about her reaction, I was a little bit disappointed that she wasn’t more excited about our pregnancy because it seemed as though my mother-in-law cared more about the “world’s” opinion of it.  It was almost like there was a certain level of shame or stigma attached to us needing to use a surrogate, like I am less than what I am because I couldn’t even carry my own child.  But I thought more about it, and realized that this was so out of the left field for her that she probably really needed time to digest the news.

Bob chatted with his parents again yesterday.  This time it was so much better.  I was still a coward and didn’t show my face.  But Bob reported that both of his parents are now overjoyed that they will finally have grandchildren to join the family.  It seems like my mother-in-law has processed the news.  She is now very happy that we have two babies coming.   As predicted, she took the credit for our twins as she had prayed to her gods last week at a temple for us to have boy/girl twins.  They have been dying to tell people about us expecting but they’ll wait until a month or two from now when we sail into the second trimester.  My mother-in-law praised Annie for being so generous, loving, and kind to carry our babies for us, and she also praised me for making a sacrifice for the sake of the health of the babies.

It makes me happy that despite the initial reaction, my mother-in-law came around very quickly and is able to fully embrace this news.  It’s such a joy to be able to share good news with our families after all these years and for all of our parents to be so happy for us.  I just can’t wait until the day they can all meet their grand babies.  I hope my in-laws won’t insist on naming our babies.  As much as I want them to be part of the babies’ lives, I would want Bob and me to be the ones giving them names since I don’t get the biological connection or the chance to carry them.  I hope my in-laws will understand that.

Today’s Scan at 8 Weeks 5 Days

I went on an emotional roller coaster ride this whole morning.

Annie went in for an ultrasound today.  My RE Dr. E also ordered a cervical length check just to be sure.  Since I didn’t fly in, we had to rely on Fac.ebook video conferencing for me to be present at the ultrasound.  Right at 10am, Annie called me and I could immediately see one of the babies on an abdominal ultrasound.  He/She looked so much bigger than the last time I saw him/her.  However, the video was cutting in and out because of the poor reception at the office.  Later I found out that the heart rates are both at 176.  The vaginal ultrasound showed that Baby A was measuring at 8 weeks 4 days and Baby B was at 8 weeks 5 days.  I was overjoyed to see them on the screen and to learn about their measurement being on time.  Annie asked about the cervical length, which was measuring at 3.4cm.  That wasn’t the kind of number that I expected since I knew that anything over 4cm is good.  That threw me into panic mode as I couldn’t get an answer from a professional right away.

Annie had to wait for her OB to return from a delivery before she could see him.  In the mean time, I wrote Dr. E about the cervical length and asked if it would be a cause for concern.  She said that she would do a repeat cervical check as she wasn’t sure why her cervix would be 3.4 cm.  She asked to have Annie return in a week and it could just be the person measuring.  This comment made me so nervous so I asked if this would be a concern and it’s usually the same technician that measures these things.  Dr. E responded saying that she wasn’t concerned but if the technician is going to be same, have Annie go see a high-risk OB for the measurement and consider a cerclage if it is still the same.

Can you imagine my mind?  I couldn’t enjoy the good news of the babies anymore because all my mind was thinking about was short cervix and preterm labor and danger to our babies.  It was a very difficult for me to focus on the good news.

Luckily I got to talk to the OB.  First of all, he was very respectful and patient with my questions.  He said that the babies are measuring well with great heartbeats, so that’s great news.  In terms of cervical length, he said that 3.4 is really not a concern.  Plus it is so early in the pregnancy that it is sometimes hard to see where the uterus ends and where the cervix begins.  They usually don’t measure the cervix until much later, and if there is a concern, they don’t do cerclage until 14 weeks.  So he doesn’t think that a scan in a week is necessary since it’s so early on.  We can remeasure the length in two weeks at our next scan and see what happens.  He said that Annie has had three full-term births without any problems.  He is not concerned about it.  In terms of other things, he said that they won’t push a twin pregnancy beyond 38 weeks.  So Annie will get close monitoring once she hits 32 weeks.  As of right now, everything is measuring well and I should not be worried.

I wrote Dr. E back about Dr. OB’s opinion.  She agrees with him about checking in two weeks.  I am happy that she agrees with him.  And she thinks that it’s actually not hard to measure the cervical length at all but she really thinks that the ultrasound technician might have under-measured it.   The thing is, these technicians at an OB office usually don’t measure cervical length at such an early stage.  She might not have known how to properly measure it.

My trusted OB practice professional Jane told me that she wouldn’t worry about it because it is a hard skill in general and the check is not usually done until later.  She said that she wouldn’t even bat an eye if she saw the measurement of 3.4 in a report.

When I was waiting to talk with the OB and for Dr. E’s emails, I put my head down and prayed.  I prayed for my trust in the Lord since there is really nothing I can do but to trust.  I have to trust that if this is God’s will, then I’ll see these babies healthy and alive.  But it just shows you how weak our mind is.  Even one thing that could be wrong could throw the whole joy out of the window.  I need to focus on the great news of the babies.  And it also shows that knowing too much and too early may not be a good thing. So I hope that I could keep my peace and calm for the next two weeks.  Getting pregnant is so hard, and waiting for the birth is also very hard.   There is always something to worry about.  But today we celebrate these two lives that are growing well inside of Annie.

 

MicroblogMondays: So Loved

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The pregnancy has been going well as Annie has had symptoms on and off, although it has not been without scares.  I had been kind of holding my breath in case of any spotting, and had been feeling fortunate that Annie had not experienced any.  So I panicked a little bit when she messaged me about a spotting episode a few days ago.  She felt her abdominal area tightening with constant tension, and she spotted with pinkish/brownish discharge.  She contacted Dr. E, my RE, who said that it was probably no worries as it might have been stretching of the uterus.  As a precaution, she asked Annie to be on an extra dose of progesterone.  I emailed Dr. E just to make sure that it was really okay, to which she said that it was from twins, and is very common.  Later today Annie will attend our 8 weeks 5 days ultrasound and I will be video conferencing with her at the appointment.  We hope to see some growing and thriving babies.  It is at times scary to think about anything bad happening to these babies but I have been telling Bob that we have to put our complete trust in the Lord that He is protecting the babies and Annie.

*****

Today, I actually want to write about how loved I have felt from my friends.  I have received quite a few gifts in the past two weeks and most of them were surprises.  The first one was from my dear friend Jane.  She sent us a package a couple of days after our first ultrasound.  In it was a card congratulating us as parents-to-be, and completed with one t-shirt for Annie, two onesies for the twins, and two t-shirts for both me and Bob.  The t-shirt for Annie says “Their Bun, My Oven” with a picture of an oven and a bun below it.  Below the picture it says “Proud Surrogate”.  The onesies say “Worth The Wait”.

 The two t-shirts for us both have the shape of Annie’s state the the words that say “Expecting…. In [Annie’s State]!” (I am not posting Annie’s state because I want to keep it private to protect her identity.)  In the package there were also blue and pink lollipops that say “Team Blue” and “Team Pink”.  This gift was so thoughtful and came so soon after the ultrasound scan that it brought me to tears.  More importantly, it shows the positivity that my friend has in this pregnancy and it touches my heart.

Fast forward a week. I was sick at home and the door bell rang.  It was our mail lady who delivered a tiny package to my door.  I was curious to see what I got since I wasn’t expecting a package.  Inside was a necklace with a pendant that is the shape of Annie’s state and a heart that was stamped on the position where Annie’s town is in that state.  It was from my other very thoughtful friend Maddie who wrote this: “I thought you might like this since your heart will be in [Annie’s state] for the next 8 months”.  This gift is so meaningful and sweet that it made me cry.  I don’t know what I have done to deserve such love but I am just so grateful to have these friends who shower me with their love and share my joy of having these babies growing inside Annie.

One day I was just wondering aloud to Bob if anyone would go with us to attend the birth and bring the babies home.  It would be far away for someone to ride with us or to fly over there.  Literally the next day, my friend Jo asked if she could come to photo-document the birth and to help out with the twins.  I was so touched by her offer!  Only a true friend would make this grand gesture without us even asking!  She also gave us a bunch of gifts such as new outfits and onesies and a few boxes of boy/girl baby clothes, items, books, toys, and maternity clothes for Annie.  These were quality items of her kids that she had set aside for us.  I am just so touched to have friends that are like family, and Jo (and her husband) is definitely one of them.

*****

The babies are only a few weeks in gestation but they are already so loved by their aunties.  I hope that they will show us some very strong heartbeats on the ultrasound today, and in eight months they will experience the love from these aunties face-to-face.

MicroblogMondays: Complex Emotions

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Ever since we started this surrogacy journey, I have experienced a whole gamut of emotions.

Of course there are the positive emotions, such as hopefulness, excitement, and gratitude that a person such as my gestational carrier has such compassion for us that she is willing to go through pregnancy for another person.  This is sometimes too profound of a concept for me to fathom and to grasp.

Every single stage of the journey also invokes fear, worry, and anxiety, such as our donor’s egg retrieval, fertilization rate, number of embryos remaining, potential weather issues, thawing of the embryos, the transfer itself, waiting for beta, and waiting for ultrasound.

And then there is this deeper emotion of joy that is much greater than the temporary feeling of happiness.  This joy that comes from witnessing the miracle of life that is growing inside of our gestational carrier and from the hope and the promising future of our children being born into this world and meeting us face-to-face.

What surprised me was the sense of loss that I felt during our epic first ultrasound while experiencing this tremendous joy of seeing the two heartbeats that were flickering on the screen.  I didn’t know that those two complex emotions could exist in the same moment, but they did, because I experienced them.

Seeing those two heartbeats was one of the most exhilarating and monumental moments in my life.  The tears that were shed were definitely tears of joy.  However, seeing Annie’s name on the screen and the ultrasound photos brought me back to the reality of what my body will likely not ever be able to accomplish.  It was supposed to be my name and my date of birth printed on the photos.  If I could have my way, it was also supposed to be my eggs, my uterus, and my pregnancy five years ago.  While being super excited and joyful and amazed, I was at the same time tremendously sad.

But I believe that God’s plan for us is perfect in every way and His ways are higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9).  I believe that this is what needs to happen for us to have our babies.  And I fully embrace that.  But it does not mean that I will not continue to have a sense of loss that I have to grieve.  What I need to do is to continue to process my feelings with the help of my therapist.  And I did exactly that.

My visit to my therapist was highly emotionally charged.  It was just so exciting to be able to finally share good news with her after having to tell her heartbreaking news over and over again in the past two and a half years.  But at the same time, my biggest need was to process my grief and sadness with her.  I even cried when I was telling her that.  I knew that sadness and joy could exist simultaneously but it was reassuring for a professional to confirm it with me.  She told me that it is very common for intended mother to feel a sense of loss while expecting via a surrogate, especially when the surrogate starts to feel the baby or babies.  There is the loss of the sense of control because it is not my own body.  There is nothing wrong with these feelings.  It is just part of my reality.  I told her sometimes I don’t know how to feel.  And she said that it is okay to not know how to feel.  She said that as the pregnancy progresses, I may find myself feeling jealous, annoyed, or frustrated with Annie.  But at the same time, I would continue to feel grateful, joyful, and excited.  The key is to feel all that I need to feel and to tell myself that it is okay to do so.  She has heard enough from intended mothers about these feelings, but she kind of experienced it first hand when one of her best friends was expecting via surrogacy.  The second and third trimesters were kind of difficult for her friend.  And I am sure that it will be similar for me.  I don’t know if this sense of loss and the grief will ever completely go away but maybe it will diminish with the birth of the babies.

In terms of my fear that something bad may happen to the pregnancy, my therapist reminded me that I have lived in the unknown in the past few years.  Treat this the same way.  Embrace the unknown.  Whenever I find myself having these thoughts, ask myself if they are helpful.  If they are not, acknowledge them and then let go.  And if anything bad were to happen, I would be able to deal with it just like how I have been dealing with bad news in the past few years.

One interesting thing is that, ever since the news of us expecting twins, my attitude towards pregnant women has changed for the better.  It has been easier for me to chat with my pregnant coworker.  It has even been easier for me to accept pregnancy announcements.  It is quite eye-opening for myself to see the immediate change in my thoughts and feelings.  I know that the sting of infertility doesn’t totally go away, but it’s surprising for me to be able to feel more positive or at ease with other people’s pregnancy in such a short amount of time.

What I am trying to say is, our pregnancy is not always going to make us feel positive and excited.  There are also fear, worry, jealousy, sadness, and anxiety.  But having these feelings doesn’t mean that we are ungrateful about where we are now.  The reality is, we are human beings and have complicated emotions.  The key to maintain emotional health is to address these feelings rather than brushing them aside so that we are ready to welcome the babies in every way possible when the time comes.

The First Ultrasound – Recap

I almost had a heart attack at our first ultrasound with the twins (how crazy to even get to type “twins”…!!!).

We got to town extra early, so we were at the doctor’s office about 30 minutes before the appointment time.  When I stepped into the office, my first impression was, Wow, this place is very nice.  The OB practice looks nicer than many practices that I’ve been to in the Bay Area.  The receptionist greeted us and gave Annie an iPad to sign in.  We don’t even use iPads here at any of the OB offices or IVF clinics that I’ve been to here.  That was a surprise.

I asked Annie if she felt nervous.  She was actually not nervous at all.  She was feeling excited and just wanted to get the scan done soon to see what we had inside.  But I was nervous.  I’d say 90% of me believed that we would be able to see a heartbeat, but there was 10% of me that was anxious and thought the worst.  You know how that goes.

We were there with Annie, Kenneth, and their two younger kids.  I sat way far from everybody.  Somehow I felt that I needed some space from everyone so I could stay calm.

When the nurse came out to get us, we all stood up.  That apparently threw her off as she didn’t know who all these people were.  She guaranteed that everybody would be able to go in for the scan, but for the first part of the appointment she only had two seats for our group.  Annie indicated that she wanted me to be with her.

We were led to a tiny area with two chairs.  The nurse was training someone else.  We sat down while she typed in her laptop with the information that we told her.  I don’t think she knew who I was.  Annie just answered whatever questions the nurse had for her.  Then the nurse said at one point to Annie, Your husband had a vasectomy….? alluding to the fact that it didn’t quite make sense for Annie to be currently pregnant while her husband’s sper.m supply had been cut off.  At that point, I knew that she was very confused about the situation.  We had to quickly clarify the situation, that Annie was my gestational carrier and I was the mother.  So once that was explained, we went on to deal with last menstrual period.  The nurse asked when it was.  Annie was like… Uh 6 months ago?  I don’t think the nurse knew much about IVF.  She said she had never had a patient who came in who did IVF, so there was no button on her screen to put in a date for a day 5 or day 3 transfer that would calculate the due date.  She didn’t know how to calculate the due date based on the day of transfer.  So she put in the transfer date of January 9, which gave the due date of October 6th.  She knew that it wasn’t right, but there was no way to change that.  She guaranteed me that the nurse practitioner would change it to the most appropriate date.  I told her the due date and she believed that it was right, but we still needed to wait until later for it to be changed.

Here comes the heart attack part.  I said to the nurse that if there was a heartbeat we should be able to see it today, right?  She said, oh not necessarily.  She said that you guys are so early (6 weeks 5 days) that the heartbeat doesn’t always show.  I was like, No no, my doctor back in California said that we should be able to see a heartbeat by 6 weeks 2 days.  She said that Oh not on the bedside ultrasound that we use.

I was panicking.  Uh no… we are NOT only just going to use a bedside ultrasound.  When we booked the appointment, Annie specifically asked for a vaginal ultrasound, and she confirmed it two times with the office about that.  The nice nurse got a little combative and said, Uh no that’s not what we usually do at the first ultrasound.  And I was like… but we confirmed that it WAS going to be a vaginal ultrasound.  She said that this is not your fault but someone at the office is going to hear about it because they shouldn’t have confirmed with you that it was going to be the more detailed ultrasound.  I wanted to cry.  I said, Don’t tell me that I took a day off with my husband and flew all the way over here from California for you to tell me that I will not be able to get a vaginal ultrasound to get a definitive answer on the heartbeat.  I waited for five whole years for this moment.  At that point, the nurse realized how serious the situation was.  She said that they were very flexible and she was going to make sure that we would get to see a heartbeat today before we left.  So basically, whoever made the appointment for Annie did not notify the nurse that this was an IVF case where a vaginal ultrasound was needed.  One wasn’t scheduled.  And in order to get one done, we’d have to be squeezed in between the ultrasound technician’s appointments.  The nurse smiled and told me not to worry.  She’d make sure that we got all the things that we needed done.

Phew.  For a moment, I thought that we would have to go home empty-ended without a definitive answer.  That would have been so devastating for me.

That whole process took a total of 20, 25 minutes.  Next we were taken into an exam room to see the nurse practitioner.  This practice is very interesting.  You don’t see the OB at the first visit.  The expectant mom always sees the NP first.  The NP was super nice.  She reassured me that we would go next door once the ultrasound room was freed up.  In the mean time, she asked me about the transfer and the pregnancy.  The great thing about her was that she addressed me 100% of the time because I was the mom.  She talked to me about the care and she asked me questions.  She was respectful and showed the understanding that this is my pregnancy and not Annie’s.  Truthfully, I didn’t know too many questions to ask.  I know a lot about infertility but I know nothing about pregnancy.  So we discussed a bit about the care.  The NP suggested checking the uterus with the bedside ultrasound before we headed for the vaginal one later.

At that moment I was nervous.  I just didn’t know if we’d see something.  The NP left the room and pulled in a machine.  Annie lay down and the probe was put on her tummy.  Instantly we could see two dark circles.   The probe picked up the flickering movement of one of the circles right away.  It was the most amazing thing to see.  When I saw it, I couldn’t stop my tears from coming.  I was overwhelmed with joy that the heartbeat was so easy to find.  Annie grabbed my hand and kept saying, You are a mommy.  The NP tried to look at the other dark circle closely.  We could see something, but couldn’t quite see the flickering heart like the first one.  It was a relief to see one heartbeat but I was also very eager for the other one to have a heartbeat too.  I stopped crying and asked if I could bring Bob back.

Poor guy.  He had been sitting outside for over 45 minutes having not a clue about what was going on inside.  A nurse went to get him. When he showed up, the look on his face was so worried that I felt sorry to have kept him waiting for so long.  And poor him.  He couldn’t gauge from my facial expression if it was good news or bad news because I just finished crying.  When we showed him the first heartbeat, he was naturally concerned about the other one.

We were then told that the ultrasound room freed up and we were able to get the vaginal one done.  Annie’s husband and kids came in.  We could instantly see the two round circles again.  The tech typed in Baby A and Baby B.  It was just so surreal to see those words typed on the screen.  The tech measured Baby A first.  Like I said, it was 6 weeks 5 days with a heart rate of 128.  The true relief came when she zoomed into Baby B and measured its size and its heart rate.  7 weeks 1 day with a heart rate of 125.  When I saw that, I cried again.  I just couldn’t hold my tears (nor did I want to).  It was one of the most amazing 5 minutes in my life to see the lives that are now living inside Annie.

When we returned to the other room to see the NP, Annie, Bob and I had a group hug with the babies too.  Annie kept saying, You are going to be mommy and daddy!  The NP came in again to congratulate us.  We discussed the next appointment.  We’ll have another scan done at 8 weeks 5 days.  Dr. E basically wants a scan every 2 weeks to make sure that the cervix is long and closed.  The NP also mentioned that they’d still want to see if they could wait til 39 weeks for delivery even when it’s twins and it’s supposed to be a scheduled C-section (due to Annie’s hernia problems).  So as of now, I don’t have the definite due date.  But she said that we don’t need the NT part of the scan at 13 weeks because we did PGS testing.  I plan on attending the ultrasound appointment again at around 12 weeks 5 days or 12 weeks 6 days.

So this is it.  Despite the drama at the appointment, we are so relieved and happy with the outcome.  I know it’s still early, but we feel tremendously blessed to have a chance to have two babies at the same time.  It is still so surreal and hard to wrap my mind around it.  Praise God for the lives that He has been sustaining for us inside Annie.  Now we need the babies to stay put until we see them face-to-face in September.

Heartbeats

Just a quick update.  We saw two flickering heartbeats. Baby A is measuring at 6 weeks 5 days (right on time) with a heart rate of 128. Baby B is at 7 weeks 1 day with a heart rate of 125. We are expecting twins!!! I’m very relieved and happy. Another huge milestone. This is really surreal. I’ll write more about the visit when I have time. So far so good!!!

(You can see a picture of the ultrasound on the page labeled “Ultrasound Photos” on the left side.)