A couple of weekends ago my maid of honor and I had a lovely time exploring a new restaurant in town for brunch to celebrate her 40th birthday. It was a super nice and sunny day. I picked her up from her new condo and drove to the vicinity of the restaurant. That neighborhood is notorious for the scarcity of parking spots so I snatched the first one that was about 10 minutes walking distance from the restaurant. Along the way we actually saw quite a few open spots but it was okay because we were just walking and catching up. From the time I picked her up to the time we parted, we had about three hours to chat. It was just so wonderful. This whole time, despite the distance that I did feel with her in the last couple of years after my babies were born, reminded me of the reason she is one of my best friends. We just have such great time together. It warmed my heart that the first thing she asked about was my children. She listened attentively and asked questions. Of course we talked about many other things. I asked her about her feelings turning 40. She told me that she feels quite good being at this age, but of course feels a little sad about not reaching milestones that she thought she would have reached at this point in her life, such as having a spouse and children. It is hard sometimes for her to watch others at her age move forward in one direction while she is going another direction. She told me an example. She has had a group of friends from college who also moved to this area at the same time with her, so they have been friends for about 20 years. One of the guys recently had a birthday party celebrating his 40th as well. She went to that birthday to support her friend, but it was hard for her to be there. She was the only person there without a spouse or kids. Everybody’s topics of conversation inevitably surrounded kids. It was particularly hard for her when all the kids went up there to sing Happy Birthday. She said, remember how you avoided all the baby showers? This is similar to that. But she was brave and still went because of her friend. I was trying to put myself in her shoes. I am not so sure if I’d be brave enough to attend. I am grateful that she shared her thoughts and feelings with me. It gives me a glimpse into the possible reasons of why there was a distance between us ever since my kids were born. Sometimes it is just hard to see the ones who are closest to you move forward in life, to have what you don’t have, even the ones who struggled to have babies. Spending time with her allows me to be more compassionate about her emotions as they remind me of my own feelings when I was in the throes of infertility. A little empathy goes a long way.
Almost a year ago, I wrote about being sad that my maid of honor seemed to have pulled herself away from my life ever since the twins were born. I felt that the distance was due to her having a difficult time dealing with being single and childless when my family had finally started and completed. Although I was sad, I decided to give her space. When she moved from her shared apartment into her own apartment, I went to support her on moving day. We hung out one time in March and another time end of June. Both times we had a good time. But as one of my best friends who used to celebrate my birthday on a yearly basis prior to the twins’ arrival, she did not even contact me on my birthday this year. It wasn’t so much that I was missing out on a good meal with her, but I felt a even bigger sense of loss that things did change between us. I bumped into her at church several times and each time was a little bit more than awkward somehow. I have sent her texts periodically to ask her how she is doing and to tell her that I am thinking about her. Finally back in early October when I saw her at church, I suggested hanging out for dinner one day in the coming few weeks. She agreed to it and texted a few suggestion for restaurants. I picked one and we met up one night a couple of weeks ago at a decent/early enough time because Bob was putting the twins to bed. I am so glad that I don’t take things personally and continue to reach out to her. As we sat down for dinner, it just felt like the old times. It reminded me why we were best friends in the first place. We shared a common interest for good food. Our conversation flowed with genuineness. My friend just has had a very difficult year and has been very lost in terms of her career, relationship status, ministry direction, and even her place of residence. She has been treated unfairly at her work that has left no extra time for her to even have room to breathe. She hasn’t had time to exercise or cook regularly. She hasn’t gone on a date for quite some time, and as she is approaching 40 next year, she has felt extra lost in terms of going into a relationship and starting a family. She has looked into moving to another city or even state but nothing seems like a obvious choice for her to take a plunge. She has even lost her desires to communicate with God. As I sat there listening to my friend, I could totally see why there has been a distance. In this difficult season, she just doesn’t have room spiritually, mentally, physically, or emotionally to care for other people. I know that she’ll rise above it eventually and things will look up in the future for her. She has always been strong. Although circumstances have changed between us, I feel that the core friendship hasn’t. We even made plans to go to New Orleans for a girls trip in October 2019. I am now confident that our friendship will remain strong in the years to come. The key is not to take things personally and be compassionate for the other person’s circumstances. I will continue to reach out to her and to care for her. I hope that she’ll have some clear directions in her life soon.
I have noticed something after the babies were born: some friendships aren’t the same anymore.
The most obvious shift is with my maid of honor (let’s call her MOH). She is one of my very best friends. Throughout this whole journey with infertility, she had been THE prayer warrior for us. She was the one to whom I would send a text if there was any urgent prayer request. Even though we were both busy, we often tried to find time to hang out once a month. Bob often jokes that he doesn’t have to plan anything too nice or romantic for me for my birthday because this friend of mine would for sure take me to a fancy restaurant every time I turn a year older. This year for my birthday she took me to this Japanese restaurant for a very nice Omakase meal. We were joking that this would be our very last fancy meal together before the babies arrived. It wasn’t quite the last meal since we also got together one more time in August for her birthday. I took her out for ramen and a movie and we had a great time. That was the last time we hung out before the babies.
I sent MOH a text with the babies’ pictures on the day of birth. No response. Being so busy with newborns at the hospital, I didn’t think much of it. She didn’t write me any emails or texts in the next whole month. I found it very odd that she hadn’t reached out to find out how we were doing or to meet the babies. For the meal train that was set up for us, she signed up for meal delivery in mid-November. Again, no personal texts, calls, or emails. And this was somebody who would hang out with me at least once a month. On the day the babies turned one month old, I finally sent her a text asking how she was doing since I hadn’t seen her or heard from her in a long time. She wrote me back saying that she was looking for us at church but didn’t see us. We exchanged a couple of texts. She then said that she’d be coming to us in a few weeks since she was on our dinner schedule.
At that point, this whole interaction left me with an icky feeling. This is one of my best friends. Somebody who had been with me through thick and thin for over 15 years. She stood next to me at the altar on our wedding day and later delivered a toast during the wedding reception so touching that made me cry. All these years during the worst times of our infertility trials, her prayers and support lifted me up. Even during the nine months of the surrogacy, she was there praying for us, Annie, and the babies.
I don’t like how distant it has felt with her.
The only explanation I have for this is that maybe she has had a difficult time processing the reality of me having babies. My friend is a successful professional who is beautiful inside and out. However, she hasn’t had a lot of luck with dating despite being open and proactive in meeting people both in real life and online. She desires to be married and have a family but it hasn’t happened. However, I never felt that it was a problem for her to witness my dating relationship and eventually my married life. We still hung out like usual and I tried to support her as much as I could. So maybe this time it really struck her that my life is truly really far from her single, professional life. Maybe like friends who struggle with infertility, she also struggles with her singleness and the delay in her pursuit of a marriage and family? Maybe she is having a hard time being there because it is a painful reminder of what she desires?
I really don’t know what happened. But I miss our friendship.
Mid-November my MOH delivered a super yummy dinner to us. That was two whole months after the babies were born. She looked as pleasant as one could be. She helped us hold the babies. She kissed them on their foreheads and was tender and loving. However, I don’t think I was being overly sensitive about this, but I could feel a tiny bit of distance from her. It was a vibe that was difficult to describe or explain. We chatted about her life. She asked about the birth but interrupted me mid-story to ask about something else. After another ten minutes, she had to go. Again, something was different and I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. And that was the one and only time she saw and hung out with our babies.
MOH and I crossed path at church yesterday in the beginning of the service. She was on duty as a greeter chatting with someone when I passed by her. She smiled and asked if I had already gotten a bulletin, then turned her head to continue to chat. I didn’t see her after church. Once again, we missed an opportunity to connect with each other and for her to see our babies.
I asked myself if I would ever tell her about my observation or to ask her about it. I think I will wait a bit to see if she would seek opportunity to come see us. I reached out with a text yesterday but haven’t heard from her. Maybe she is really processing her feelings about this, but it makes me feel a little bit sad that there is an unexpected change in our friendship. My thoughts and feelings during my infertility journey have taught me to be patient with those around me who might be going through their own difficult times. I think about how I was when one of my best friends was pregnant with her second baby. I saw her during her pregnancy once and hardly hung out with her after the birth. I was hurting, so maybe my MOH is hurting too? I will give her some time and space and hopefully our interaction will be more frequent and back to normal. It does make feel sad though. Infertility sucks, and resolution after infertility is not without its challenges. I do realize that I can’t force things to happen. Hopefully time and patience will pay off.
My guy best friend is currently in town from out of state. Whenever he’s around, we always get together. This time he came one week before his wife did so he could visit his parents with his 7-year-old daughter. When we were making plans for dinner, my friend alerted me that I’d have to be prepared to explain to his little girl why I had babies coming without having a big belly. Apparently he hadn’t told her our news yet. I said I’d be ready to explain. And then he told me that he hadn’t had the talk with little girl about human reproduction yet. When she asked questions about how babies came about, he told her to ask her teachers. I guess he was uncomfortable talking about it and really didn’t want to do it at this point. I told him that 7-year-old is not too early to learn about where babies come from. He said he’d think about how to talk to her.
Fast forward a week later. In the afternoon right before our dinner date, my friend called to finalize the details. Then he asked, “Is it okay if we don’t talk about the babies tonight?” Honestly I was taken aback by this request. He went on to explain that he still hadn’t told his daughter about our situation, and he still didn’t know how to explain human sexuality to her. So he thought that it would be better for us to simply not to talk about our pregnancy or anything that had to do with our preparation.
I don’t know. I was sitting there with my phone in my hand feeling a little disappointed and sad. I know that he wasn’t ashamed of our situation. I know that he does want to celebrate our babies with us. I know that it was solely his problem of having a hard time with this talk with his daughter. It is simply his choice of parenting and it is a decision that has nothing to do with me. But why did I feel that I was less than those who could achieve a pregnancy and proudly present their bumps? Why did I still experience sadness and disappointment that my best friend could not rise above this situation and use this opportunity to educate his young child about unique ways of building a family? If I were pregnant with a big bump, this wouldn’t have been an issue for him because then he wouldn’t have to explain how our embryos got transferred into the surrogate. I know that I am not less than others who physically carry and give birth to their children, but my heart still ached that I could not just proudly talk about our excitement and our future.
Dinner was weird. Bob and I sat there and talked about everything but our babies and surrogate. Our life recently has been so engrossed by the preparation for the upcoming birth of our babies that I felt choked by this enforced avoidance of the topic. It felt so unnatural and tiring to have to consciously watch our words. When I handed my friend a thank you card for his gift, his little girl asked what it was. Bob was so smart that he quickly changed the topic to distract the little girl. And my friend finally asked how we were doing with everything, but it was done in our native language so his daughter couldn’t understand it.
It just made me sad that our joy and pride had become so hush-hush that night.
When we said our good-byes in front of the restaurant, I asked my friend how he was going to explain the sudden appearance of two babies in our life. He said he’d wait to see if school would teach about human sexuality and go from there. I know that his choice does not mean that he isn’t happy for us, but it just left a bad taste in my mouth for a few days because we could not openly celebrate this newest chapter of our lives with one of my best friends.
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.
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.
When we received the PGS results, I deliberately asked Dr. E not to disclose the information on the sex of the embryos. I would rather wait to be surprised at birth.
This is so unlike me. Given my personality as somebody who would like to be in control of many things, my desires all my life had been to find out at our 20-week ultrasound if we were going to have a boy or a girl. This long and difficult fertility journey has changed my mind. I just want to keep one surprise in this process. The sex of our baby will have to be it.
Bob really wanted to know. I told him to ask Dr. E himself but made him promise not to share with me. I think the task of keeping information from me is just too monumental for him. He decided not to even go near that subject.
Now that the implanted embryo has failed to grow in our gestational carrier Annie, I suddenly had this strong urge to find out if it was meant to be a boy or a girl.
As the title suggests, Dr. E revealed that it was a female embryo.
I honestly do not have a preference for either sex, but growing up, I did always envision having a baby girl.
But now that this daughter is no longer with us, it just feels like there is a huge hole in my heart that cannot be filled.
Out of the last four transfers and my own two chemical pregnancies, we never had a chance to confirm if we had lost a boy or a girl. This is the first time that we could definitely say that we had a daughter.
Knowing the sex of this embryo may help bring closure. It may not. But I am very glad that we found out.
When I shared about this, one of my dearest friends gave me a song. She translated this song from Hebrew to English for me. The following are the lyrics:
On [the subject of] the honey, and on the thorns,
On the bitter and the sweet,
On our daughter, my baby, guard her, My Lord, for good.
On the fire that burns, on the water pure and clear,
On the man returning home after a long journey.
On all these things,
Guard me please, my Lord for my good.
For the honey and the thorns,
For the bitter with the sweet.
This is the video:
I was already touched when I read the lyrics. I teared up when I read the words “Our daughter, my baby, guard her, My Lord, for good”.
But I didn’t know that more was to come.
The next morning, I woke up and found a video that this friend sent to me. It was a video of her that she recorded that morning for me. In the video, she told me that she had a gift for me, that it was bitter gift, but it was a gift for her during a very dark time in her life. She sang this song for two weeks after her nephew passed away, as it brought her comfort. She personally sang this Hebrew song to me and recorded it in this video. Her beautiful singing and her love for me brought me to tears. This is the most thoughtful gift I have ever received in my life.
The very same day, this same friend wrote about our loss in her blog post. The last sentence she wrote: “Goodnight my sweet little girl. I’m sorry that we didn’t have a chance to meet.”
My dear friend managed to move me to tears three times in two days.
Bob and I decided to no longer call this lost embryo Max. We wanted to give her a proper name. After much thinking and searching, we decided to name her Mira, which means “ocean” or “sea”. Given our love for the ocean and how being in its presence brings us comfort and healing every time we lost a pregnancy or an embryo, it is fitting for us to commemorate our embryo with a name with a meaning near and dear to us.
One of the songs during worship on Sunday was “Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)” by Hillsong United. The lyrics really spoke to me:
You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep
My faith will stand
And I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine
Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand
Will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You’ve never failed and You won’t start now
So I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine
Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior
It reminds me that even when we are knee-deep in the ocean waves (our pain/suffering/impossible circumstances), the Lord will sustain us in our faith and His sovereign hand will be our guide. It is not a coincidence that after we gave our daughter this name that means ocean, the same theme came up in a song that touches me.
Mira, our daughter. We will miss you forever. May our faith be sustained and we keep our eyes above the ocean waves. May we persevere so that we will see your sibling(s) face-to-face one day.