Blogoversary or Blogiversary??? Whatever It Is, It’s Here!

Regardless of how it is said, today is mine!

On my third anniversary of my blog last year, we were trying to figure out the whole surrogacy thing.  We were so lost.

Ever since then, we went through more roller coaster rides.  But all of that doesn’t matter anymore.  We cherish where we are at today.

Today, I am struggling with how to deal with our gestational carrier’s emotions and discomfort.  Today, I am waiting for our 24 weeks ultrasound A.K.A. viability.  Today, I am having a difficult time settling on where to do our baby registry.

Whatever I am going through right now is heck of a lot better than what could have been or where we were at my blogoversary/blogiversary last year, two years ago, three years ago, or when the blog started.

We have babies coming. They are baking.  They are thriving.  Although I don’t get to carry them.  Although I don’t have genetic connections with them.  They are mine.  I am their mom.  There is nothing better than being in this position (until they are safely in my arms).

For that, I am grateful.

And I am also thankful for all the support, whether quietly through reading or actively via commenting.

Sincerely, from the bottom of my heart:  Thank you.

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.

MicroblogMondays: We Have the Best Gestational Carrier

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I have many things to be thankful for.  Having the best gestational carrier is definitely one of them.

In order to have a transfer on October 31, we needed to get the gestational carrier agreement completed and signed by last Wednesday.  Annie, our gestational carrier, was great.  She received the draft on Monday at noon and read it completely by 3pm.  She had a few questions that she had to run by her attorney.  Her attorney didn’t get back to her until Tuesday morning.  Annie let me know that she and they attorney spoke on the phone and there were a few concerns/questions that our attorneys had to discuss and make changes for.  Annie asked if I wanted to know what those concerns were.  So we spoke about it.

So this is the tricky thing.  Annie lives in a surrogacy friendly state.  However, she is only about 40 minutes from a big town in the neighboring state that is not surrogacy friendly.  In fact, commercial surrogacy is illegal in that neighboring state.  In the contract, there is an item about restricting her from traveling to the next state once she reaches 24 week gestation.  The problem is, Annie’s parents live 8 hours away in that neighboring state and her sister lives in the big town in the neighboring state 40 minutes away from Annie.  Annie goes to see her parents once every couple of years and she just went in the summer.  Her sister sometimes throws birthday parties for her kids and Annie would like to be able to attend.  Annie does not plan on being at the next state big town for more than a couple of hours each time, and she does not plan on traveling to her parents’ place in the near future.  However, she was worried about the what-ifs.  If there is a family emergency such as her parents being very sick, her presence in the surrogacy unfriendly state would be considered a breach of the contract.  She felt that 24-week restriction was a bit too early.  I was glad that she was willing to share with me.  At first I was willing to adjust the restriction to 35 weeks.  However, Bob didn’t feel very comfortable with that since 35 weeks is so close to delivery.  So we agreed on 32 weeks and that she could only go for a family emergency that requires her presence after 32 weeks and with OB permission.  And we agreed that if she was to somehow deliver while visiting her parents, she’d try her very best to deliver in the next next state, as her parents live 45 minutes away from a surrogacy friendly next state.  I checked that there is a hospital there with a level 4 NICU.

I didn’t wait for the other attorney to contact my attorney.  I took matter in my own hands and presented the case to my attorney and cc’d Annie, agency owner, and Bob.  My attorney responded within ten minutes.  This is what she wrote:

Note there is significant risk if she were to deliver unexpectedly in [surrogacy unfriendly neighboring state] since surrogacy is illegal there. If she were to deliver in [surrogacy friendly next next state] , it would be fine.  It is a simplified legal process and we could establish parentage fairly easily.  If you are comfortable with the potential risk, we can modify the language from 24 to 32 weeks and provide for travel after 32 weeks only in an emergency and with OB approval. However, if Annie doesn’t plan to travel to [surrogacy unfriendly neighboring state] during pregnancy anyway, then I would keep the 24 week restriction but add the exception so that anytime after 24 weeks she can only travel if there is a family emergency that requires her presence and OB approval. There is just a lot of risk with [surrogacy unfriendly neighboring state].  So while I understand the exception language, I would apply the exception for any travel past the 24 week mark.”

I asked her to clarify the legal consequences for delivering in [surrogacy unfriendly neighboring state], she said:

I’m not licensed to practice there so I don’t know all of the ins and outs of what might occur, but what I can tell you is that [surrogacy unfriendly neighboring state] prohibits any kind of paid surrogacy. Any surrogacy agreement for compensation is void and wouldn’t be enforced.  Meaning, you’d have to go through an adoption process.  Also, the parties to an agreement could face criminal charges as a violation of the statute is a gross misdemeanor.”

Oh definitely not what we would want to deal with.

So here comes the part where I think and feel that we have the best gestational carrier.  I texted Annie and told her that there was a lot to digest, and please take her time and let us all pray about it.  It would be okay if we didn’t get the contract done on Wednesday.  It wasn’t even a few minutes before she wrote me back with this:

“Kenneth and I are comfortable with the language of 24 weeks and traveling if family emergency with OB permission.  A little sacrifice for your big reward!”

Boy that was when I started to tear up.  This is a woman who has Bob and my best interest at heart.  She is willing to sacrifice her freedom of going to see her family because of us.  She understands how important it is for us to stay put in her state and not to venture into the next state where legal consequences are dire.  I asked her if she was okay even if she couldn’t go to her sister’s kids’ birthday parties.  She was okay with it.  I texted her back saying, “Did I tell you already that you and Kenneth are lovely people?  You are both so lovely and I am tearing up.”  She wrote back, “That’s why we’re doing this together.  You and Bob are awesome and we can’t wait for you to hold your baby together!”

Our legal team is awesome.  We received the final copy of the agreement with all the changes.  We all signed on Wednesday.  Dr. E received the letter of legal clearance Wednesday evening at 8:30pm.  Because of that, Annie could take her last birth control pill on Wednesday and go to her ultrasound appointment on Thursday.  She reported that everything went well with the ultrasound.  We got the Okay from Dr. E’s office and Annie will start her estrogen pills today!  I couldn’t believe how quickly everyone got the agreement done. Because of that, we are on our way to our transfer on October 31, 2016.

God has carried us through many trials and triumphs during this journey.  It was definitely NOT our doing to have come across such a perfect surrogate for us.  I trust her 100% on doing her best to take care of our baby.   We have already booked the plane tickets for her and her husband to come for the transfer.  With all of these things done, I feel so relieved to leave for my trip to visit my grandmother in Asia this coming Friday without much to worry about.  This is such an exciting time and hopefully everything will continue to fall into place for the rest of our journey.

Great News!!!

I love it when good news comes at an unexpected time.

I was supposed to go see Dr. E tomorrow for our PGS results.  She emailed me this afternoon as soon as she got the news!

The subject line said “Normals!!” so I knew that we have some normal embryos.  However, she didn’t specify how many normal embryos we have.  She wasn’t sending me the report because gender of the embryos was listed there, and I don’t want to know the gender at all.  She said in the email that right now would be a good time to connect since we had the report then.  She asked if I would like to meet in person or talk on the phone.

Of course I wanted to talk on the phone.  But the most important piece of information that was missing was the number of normal embryos.

Her response: 4

We have four normal embryos!!!!!!

Praise the Lord for answering our prayers!  I have been praying for the perfect number of normal embryos that God has already planned for us.  And here is our perfect number!

I am so relieved and incredibly grateful.  I think our chances of having a baby are great!

Yesterday I went to see my therapist and told her about my fear of not having any normal embryos.  It helped to speak with her as she gave me strategies to get away from my negative thoughts.

Later this evening Dr. E and I spoke on the phone.  We were both so happy to have these embryos.

I came to find out that embryos 1, 2, 4, and 5 are normal.  They are Max, Noelle, Penny, and Quentin.  I don’t have their grades at the time of freeze.  Number 1 and 2 were the day five embryos that were 3AB and 3BB.  Number 4 and 5 were the day 6 embryos that were 5AB and 5BB.

We will know the mitoscore in the next few days.  This score tells about the implantation potential of each embryo.  Dr. E will make recommendations of which embryo and the number of embryos to transfer.  Grade A and B are good.  Dr. E checked and said that our donor’s first cycle with her had 6 normal embryos and all 6 had a mitoscore that was graded A.  The second cycle with Dr. E, 4 out of 6 were A and 2 out of 6 were B.  According to her, the mitoscore is all dependent on the egg quality and not sperm.  So given the previous results, she said that it’s very likely that we’ll have good mitoscore for our embryos.

She said that just looking at the embryos now, she would probably recommend transferring the 3AB.  She asked her assistant to send me the embryology report at freeze time so I will know what the final grades of the embryos were before freeze.  She doesn’t remember exactly but she said that she didn’t remember seeing a downgrade on the embryos.

I asked Dr. E if the sperm played a part in the number of normal blastocysts that we have.  She said that it’s not clear.  The donor did have two perfect cycles but our number is not out of the ordinary.  Maybe this is the new normal for this particular donor.

This is such great news!  I can breathe more easily.  And I don’t have to drive an hour to see Dr. E tomorrow. 🙂

If this is in God’s will, we should be able to have a baby in our arms next summer!

Friends That Cheer Us Up

Every time we hit a bump on our fertility road, there would always be a friend or a group of friends that would do something to cheer us up.  Today Bob and I received this surprise gift in the mail:

It was from our dear friend Aramis and her husband M.  In the notes, they said, “Just a little something to pick you up.  Hope you enjoy!”

Oh yes.  Definitely!  We feel so loved and are grateful for friends.  Thanks friend for being so thoughtful.  We will thoroughly enjoy this gift.  More importantly, the gift of friendship and support makes this journey a little bit more tolerable.

Gratitude

As Bob and I are approaching the beginning of our first IVF cycle, I feel the need to write down all my feelings and things that I experience.  Hence this blog.  I am trying to focus on and count all the blessings that the Lord has put in our lives.  This is my list today:

  • a great RE who responds to my emails within an hour
  • a great network of online and real life friends who are there to talk to me when I need it
  • a supportive husband who tries his best to soothe his crazy wife
  • enough insurance coverage for our first IVF cycle
  • a decent fertility drug coverage
  • six resting follicles at my baseline appointment last Thursday (rather than zero or two)
  • ability to share with my secret Facebook group friends instantly when I am in emotional crisis so Bob won’t freak out at my craziness
  • a cool RE who cares
  • the Lord who is in absolute control of my life

With these thoughts, hopefully this journey will be bearable and even joyous at times as we are one step closer to meeting our future binky moongee.