MicroblogMondays: Approaching Our First Ultrasound

Microblog_Mondays

We are currently in Annie’s town waiting for our first prenatal ultrasound.  As you know, we opted out of doing a third beta.  Waiting for another beta was simply something that I didn’t want to do.  So we took a leap of faith, purchased plane tickets, and hope to be able to see some flickering heartbeats on the screen for the first time.

How have I been feeling?  I feel hopeful that we will finally see a heartbeat (or two heartbeats) for the first time in our journey to make a baby.  Annie has been feeling mostly okay. She hasn’t felt nauseated but was feeling yucky last week.  She said that food didn’t sound good at all, and she could not cook raw meat.  Having food aversion is similar with her last two pregnancies.  The difference is that her symptoms only lasted a few days the last pregnancy but it has been persistent during this pregnancy.  Although I felt sorry for her feeling yucky, I was happy that she was feeling pregnancy symptoms.  It is reassuring to know that maybe things are on track and her body has been changing rapidly.  She continues to feel very tired, which is also a good symptom to have.

Despite having a lot of hope, sometimes I still feel anxious as I have the fear that we might not see anything on the ultrasound.  My daily prayer is for Annie’s health and safety, the baby/babies’ healthy growth, safety and protection for Annie’s family, and also for Bob’s and my complete trust in the Lord for what He has planned for us.  I believe that God has been protecting me from having negative thoughts.  Although I still at times have this fear and image in my head of not seeing a heartbeat, I more often have joy in my heart that we may well be on our way to becoming parents.  Not being the one carrying my own baby/babies only occupies a fraction of my mind.  The rest of my mind is very much appreciative of Annie’s selfless choice of helping us build our family.

I am letting myself to have a little more faith that the pregnancy is progressing as it should be.  These are the things I’ve done:

  • lying in bed discussing baby names with Bob at bed time
  • searching online, reading, and watching videos about pregnancy at 6 weeks and beyond
  • telling my dad about the good news
  • upping my 401K contribution per paycheck so it will reach the annual limit by end of July in preparation of maternity leave sometime in August or September
  • sharing our news with my HR person at work so that I could get educated on maternity leave by our HR person
  • marking on my work calendar 12 weeks and 20 weeks so I know when we may have to fly out
  • finding myself thinking about the second bedroom in the house, how we will move the bookcases out of the room, and finally doing window treatment in the whole house after our remodel four years ago
  • thinking about the possibility of doing a maternity photo shoot with Annie and how to go about doing one
  • thinking about the need to purchase a new car to go pick up the baby/babies later this year
  • thinking about the reality of actually having a baby shower

As you can see, I’m making progress in believing that this may well be happening.

Our trip to Annie’s town was as smooth as one could hope. The flight departed on time and arrived early. The whole place was covered in snow.


But it wasn’t that cold. Kenneth came to pick us up as Annie wasn’t feeling too well. It was so wonderful seeing them again. And it is so amazing that we are staying with Annie and her husband so we could save on hotel. Annie’s two younger kids were waiting out front for us in the snow. We went to pick up eggs from the chicken coop in their backyard.

Annie and Kenneth are truly lovely people.  They made Bob a turkey/Thanksgiving dinner because Bob usually gets a prime rib Thanksgiving meal with my family and would miss having turkey. Annie couldn’t contain her excitement last week when she said she had a surprise for us. Bob was so touched and had a wonderful time having his turkey dinner for the first time  in the past year.

The highlight of the night was the homemade piñata that Annie made for us. After the boys busted it open in the garage, we found what Annie had hid inside. She knit two pairs of booties and a headband for our babies. 


We have the most thoughtful gestational carrier. I feel so blessed. 

So friends, this is it. We will find out the state of our pregnancy later this afternoon. I hope to have good news to share.

MicroblogMondays: Sinking In

Microblog_Mondays

We find ourselves in this uncharted territory: we are expecting, for the first time, with very strong beta numbers.  We had dreamed of being in this position but never reached it.  Until now.  It is just so surreal.

I remember my dear friend A.’s words: Things don’t change until they change.  She said this to me in December when we ended the fifth year of our quest without a baby or pregnancy and this journey seemed to be never ending.  A few weeks later, everything changed.

I woke up the day after second beta feeling tremendously grateful for this pregnancy, for the life or lives that the Lord is sustaining inside Annie’s womb, and for Annie herself who has been nothing but a blessing to us.

Annie is so good.  She did her first prenatal workout the other day.  I have 100% confidence in her that she will do her best to take care of herself and this pregnancy.

I am allowing myself to dream a little dream, that maybe this is really the time that we get to bring a baby home.  On Friday, my heart was full and my stride was a bit bouncier and lighter.

I had some email exchanges with Dr. E on Friday and Saturday.  I told her that I was still soaking in my joy and disbelief.  I asked her for the record of the beta results, and which scans other than the 6.5 week appointment we should attend.

Dr. E’s response: “I love it!!  ‘Soaking in your joy’.  Life is good!  The next big scan will be at around 20 weeks to look at the anatomy of the babies.  That’s a great one to attend too.”

Babies?!?  I know that our betas were high.  But I ain’t too sure about “babies”.  And what about the NT scan at 12 to 13 weeks?

Her response: “You already did PGS.  You can skip the NT.  You can go if you want.  It’s just like the first scan.  Not much different.  Buuuut there are babies in there :)”

She seems to think that there are twins inside.  I am emotionally not quite there yet.  I am still at that stage where I am wavering between having confidence that we’ll see a heartbeat or two and the fear of a huge disappointment and devastation at the appointment.

The next day, I emailed Dr. E again to ask if 6 weeks 5 days would be a good time for an ultrasound, and if there are any other supplements she might recommend for Annie if she is indeed carrying twins.

Dr. E said that Annie doesn’t need anything right now other than all the support she can get to have a stress-free pregnancy.

She also said, “She is such a relaxed person at baseline.  We are really very lucky.  Stress is  one thing that is consistently linked to preterm birth.  Six weeks and five days is perfect.  No words to describe how excited I am for you.”

I just love Dr. E.

An ultrasound has been scheduled for 2/6 at 6 weeks 5 days.  Plane tickets have been purchased for both Bob and me to attend the appointment.  A week ago we wouldn’t have dreamed of doing all of this.

There are definitely many emotions to sort through.

We are in general super happy and feeling super fortunate to get to this point.  We celebrated with a deep-dish pizza dinner.

As requested, Annie bought a FRER and POAS’d just for my satisfaction of seeing a dark second line.  It felt really surreal to receive a picture of that FRER.  It was not my pee but it is SOOO my pee stick.

I don’t know how to describe the feeling of seeing a BFP that supposedly belongs to us but at the same time it is so far remote from our life here.

The long awaited BFP.  I thought I would be jumping up and down in joy, but instead I felt a little jealous that the life/lives are not growing inside of me.

And then, there is a question of how much to check in with Annie about feelings or symptoms without being overbearing.  I don’t want to ask her every single day how she is feeling, if she is feeling symptoms or tiredness, etc.  Bob asks me everyday how Annie is feeling.  I think he is gauging how pregnant she is on how sick she feels.  He is probably feeling even more far removed from it all because he does not usually contact her directly like I do.  It is even harder for him to navigate this new stage of how to care for our gestational carrier without going overboard.  It is a fine line to walk.

As this news is sinking in this weekend, I suddenly feel a sense of loss.  As much as I look forward to finally closing this chapter of our TTC life and moving on to hopefully becoming parents, I also feel this intense loss of not being able to carry my own child(ren).  I know that it is a process to grieve and mourn this loss, and I shouldn’t expect myself to get over it at this moment.  As I think about what Annie will be going through in the next many months, I feel sad that I am not the one who will have these precious moments with my husband.  Bob will not be the one who comes home and puts his hands on my tummy waiting for his baby to kick.  I will not be the one who would notice my belly growing bigger and bigger.  As much as surrogacy is such a gift and an amazing thing, we still mourn the loss of these moments.

This sense of loss was so strong last night that I lay in bed in the dark with tears soaking my ears wet.  In darkness, Bob held my hand and said, “It may be a good time for you to go talk to S.”  S is my therapist.  I am very thankful for my husband who is perceptive of my needs.  Today, I emailed S and scheduled an appointment for the Wednesday after our ultrasound.  I hope to have good news for her and at the same time have her help me navigate the complicated emotions involved in this process.

But then, sadness only appeared for a little.  At church yesterday, I let myself daydream a little about it finally being my time to leave my baby or babies at the nursery.

This is my reality: constantly moving from being ecstatic to sad to grieving to happiness to hoping for the future.

This news is so fresh and it still feels very surreal.  I just feel so blessed to be writing this post.  I hope that I will be able to keep on delivering good news for the next many months.  And hopefully as the news continues to sink in and the time goes by, I will feel more and more joyful and less of a need to mourn my loss.

It’s Happening!!!

I just have to use exclamation marks for my blog post titles lately!!!

Second beta is 464!!!  Doubling time about 40 hours.  Progesterone is 43.

We literally waited all day long for the results.  I was more nervous than on Tuesday.  I guess this time there is more to lose because we had never gotten such high beta number.  Annie finished her blood draw at 9:30.  I initially calmly waited.  The more I waited, the more nervous I was.  My mind just went wild!  I imagined all sorts of case scenarios….

Five o’clock rolled around and there was no phone call.  I left work at 5:30 having my earbuds on just in case Dr. E would call.  Nothing.  When I arrived home, I wrote her an email.  I was so anxious that I couldn’t cook or do my yoga.  It was pure torture.

Dr. E wrote me back at 6:20.  She said she hadn’t heard anything but told me not to worry about a thing.  She would call the lab now.  And she said next time call her before 4pm so she could contact the lab earlier. She said there was no need to torture ourselves.  HA!  I really should’ve contacted her.  I was being too polite.

Ten minutes later, Dr. E emailed me and Annie at the same time with the results.  When I saw it, I was so relieved!  She wrote:

“Doesn’t get any better than this!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

She said I could choose to do another beta on Monday, or I could go straight to ultrasound.  I asked her what she recommends.  She said she’d go straight to ultrasound but she also understands how having a period of time with no reassurances can be anxiety provoking.

I thought about it, and I think most likely we’ll wait for the ultrasound.  Gotta have some faith in this process, yeah?

Thanks for all the love on Tuesday!  It has been very surreal and I am still processing my emotions.  But as of right now, we are expecting, Annie is truly pregnant, and it’s a great reason to celebrate!

Praise the Lord for sustaining this/these baby/babies!  May he/she/they continue to thrive so we will see a heartbeat(s) in 2.5 weeks.

I have real hope that we will finally meet our baby/babies in September!

Now We Wait

We officially have two excellent looking blastocysts on board.  We will find out about their fate next Tuesday.

Throughout this transfer, I could just see God’s presence in our midst.  The more I think about the timing of the flights and the transfer, the more I appreciate how God orchestrated the logistics way ahead of time.  Dr. E originally set the transfer to Tuesday, but Monday was more convenient for Annie.  A Tuesday transfer wouldn’t have happened because the weather would’ve been too dangerous for Annie to even drive to the airport.  As for the drive to the clinic, God protected us as the rain didn’t come until late afternoon.  It would’ve been bad on Tuesday as the sky was dumping buckets of water all day long.  I am very thankful for God’s provision.

We all donned our superhero attires: Annie had Wonder Woman socks on.  I was wearing my Superman socks.  Bob was Batman, and Kenneth was Punisher.  After the pre-transfer acupuncture session, we arrived at the clinic at 12pm sharp.  Annie took a Val.ium a few minutes before that.  Our scheduled transfer time was 12:15, but we went way past that time and nobody was calling us in.  I was feeling quite calm that morning.  The thought of the embryos not thawing well did cross my mind, but I tried not to go there.  No phone call from Dr. E’s office was a great thing.  However, when the clock went past 12:30, I started to become a bit anxious.  The delay made me wonder what was going on, and my mind went wild.  Annie was super calm because of the drugs and she was giddy and a bit high. She didn’t feel it at the last transfer because we went straight from acupuncture session to transfer and then to the post-transfer session.  She was probably already lying on the table when the drugs finally kicked in.  My mind continued to go wild, and I had to excuse myself to go up to the front to get some water.  Just then, I could see in my peripheral vision that Dr. E walked into the clinic but didn’t see me.  It was 12:35.  She walked straight to the waiting area, saw Annie, Kenneth, and Bob and asked where I was.  Annie joked that I was freaking out.  I could hear Dr. E say, “Oh why is she freaking out?  Everything is great.”  I was right behind her so when I heard that, I immediately felt relieved.

What I realized was that the clinic wasn’t ready for our transfer yet, so Dr. E didn’t arrive until the right time.  A bit later, we were led to the transfer room.  This time it felt different because Bob was there.  We all squeezed in there.  Dr. E presented us with the pictures of the embryos.  Here they are:


The top one is Noelle and the bottom one is Quentin.  My first thought was that, Wow look at them!  They look so good!  Especially the bottom one that was a day 6 5BB blastocyst (Embryo #5).  It looked like it was hatching already!  Dr. E could not stop talking about how good #5 looked.  She said they looked gorgeous.

I didn’t feel particularly emotional this time like the last transfer.  I was just very happy and relieved that the embryos thawed well and looked amazing.  I would say that out of all the embryos that we had transferred, these two looked the best.

We had to wait a little longer for the procedure to start, which left the four of us alone in the room.  Annie suggested praying, and all four of us joined hands as the husband prayed for the procedure, the embryos, and for all four of us.  It was a very sweet and precious time of fellowship.  Amazingly, the professionals didn’t step in until our not-too-short prayers were all said.

Annie’s bladder’s fullness was just right.  Dr. E showed us the uterus, the lining, and where the embryos would go.  I pulled up my chair next to Annie.  The embryologist walked in to check our identification, and asked us to verify the number of embryos to transfer.  Dr. E inserted all the catheters that she needed.  The embryologist then disappeared behind the door.  Suddenly, Annie grabbed hold of my hand and appeared like she needed support.  I held my phone on the right side for the video and the pictures, and held her hand with my left hand.  She and I held hands for the rest of the procedure.  It somehow meant a lot to me to feel that we are in this together.  Our lives are intertwined and I really hope that this close relationship will last for the next nine months and many years beyond.

Once again, my name appeared on the big screen on top, and then it was Annie’s name.  The lens zoomed into the embryos.  Embryo #2 (day 5 3BB) was still a round ball with a little sign of starting to hatch.  Embryo #5 appeared even more advanced at that moment, as the embryo hatched out even more.  The embryologist captured the two embryos with a catheter.  Moments later, she returned to the room with our precious cargoes.  Dr. E focused on inserting the tube in the uterus.  She talked us through the process.  She slowly pulled the catheter out and handed it to the embryologist who moments later confirmed that the embryos had gone in.

The atmosphere changed instantly.  It felt like the whole room was relieved.   Annie stayed on the table as Dr. E lowered her down.  She asked us if we had any questions.  Since this was our 6th transfer, and Annie’s second, nobody had any questions.   Then the following happened.

Bob asked Dr. E, “If we hadn’t chosen a boy embryo and a girl embryo to transfer and leave the choice to you, would you have made the same choice?”  Dr. E said, “Oh yes!!!  The girls at the lab kept on telling me what a great choice we made this time looking at the great quality of the embryos, especially the [Insert Gender] embryo!  It looks so good!  We made a great choice.”  What she was referring to was Embryo #5, the hatching one.  Like I said, she had been giving this embryo such high praises throughout the transfer that I knew she was referring to this particular embryo and not Embryo #2.  I couldn’t believe my ears that she actually leaked out the gender of that particular embryo!  (I am not disclosing the gender here because I want to keep an element of surprise on this blog.)  My carefully plotted scheme of keeping something a surprise/secret has been taken away from me in an instance.  I looked at Dr. E in disbelief.  She realized what she had done and said, “Oh yeah you didn’t know!”  Then she pointed to my husband, “It was his fault!  He asked the question!”  Everybody in the room was laughing.  But it wasn’t too funny for me.  I can’t undo what I do know now.  I didn’t care too much about knowing what gender each of these embryos is.  If both take, then we have a boy and a girl.  If only one takes, we still won’t know which one until birth.  But knowing that Embryo #5 is a particular sex means that I now know the sex of the final remaining frozen embryo.  I never intended to find out about it and knowing it now has just ruined the biggest surprise in my life for me.  Well, what can you do right?  I can’t tell my brain not to remember.  So I guess I’ll just have to let go.

This transfer had been a precious time for me.  Unlike last time, Bob had a chance to hang out with Annie and Kenneth for an extended period of time.  The more we spend time with them, the more we love this couple.  They are cool, easygoing, selfless, funny, thoughtful, and much more.  It was pouring rain on Tuesday.  Knowing how much I hate driving in the rain, Annie sent me an email right before I left work on that day and said, “You’ll be driving home soon. Be careful.  No need to rush. I know you hate driving in the wind and rain. We are all good!”  They were cool with us sending them off to take the train to the airport instead of Bob giving them a ride because the two ways would take about the same time.  It was their first time ever taking public transportation (they are from a very small town).  They were so easygoing and adventurous about it.  It saved us a lot of time being stuck in traffic.  I just love them so much for who they are.

When I hugged Annie good-bye at the train station, I didn’t feel the emotions like last time.  I remember last time I felt like a part of me went with her.  This time I felt much more guarded and distant.  I don’t know.  Maybe being at this process for so long and failing the last transfer has made it difficult for me to feel the excitement of the possibility.  I am hopeful, but at the same time I also know that anything can happen.  Even the best looking embryos don’t always make it.  But, I really want both of our embryos to implant now that I have them both transferred.  I have never thought that I would want to be the mom of twins.  However, I do not want to lose even one embryo.  So  I hope and pray that both of them decide to burrow deeply, take hold, and continue to divide and multiply.

We will know in six days.  Now we wait.

MicroblogMondays: An End and a Beginning

Microblog_Mondays

Our trip up north was much needed for a change of pace and  to get away from the mundaneness of our typical life.  During those five days, we enjoyed hiking, massages, driving along the coast, wine tasting, and eating.  We also did a whole lot of nothing.  Although we were only 90 minutes away from home, it was a whole other world out there.  The breathtaking sceneries, the yummy wines, the slowness of life, the hospitality of the innkeepers, and the scrumptious homemade breakfasts made those few days nothing short of magical.

Four breakfast dishes are shown here for four mornings, with wonderful company of other B&B guests including this hilarious Filipino older lady who told story after story of her adventures coming from her country to the United States.

I had been craving oysters so my wonderful husband drove me to a place known for their seafood and we had a delicious lunch with a dozen oysters, crab sandwich, and clam chowder.

One of the highlights was a hike in the redwood forest a mere 10 minutes away from our bed and breakfast.  The increased heart rate while climbing uphill, the fresh air, and the tall redwood trees are a reminder of how much we should enjoy and appreciate nature and exercise in our lives.

Needless to say, the ocean is always breathtaking and a great reminder of God’s handiwork.

 I didn’t quite want to think about the upcoming cycle during this trip, as I just wanted to get away from it all.  However, we could not escape the reality of it as we are still pretty much in the middle of our cycle.  We still haven’t heard from Dr. E or the company that was supposed to share the epigenetic sper.m test results with us.  Bob actually doesn’t want to find out about the results since they would not change our desires to transfer two embryos.  So daily it crossed my mind to email Dr. E about it but I still haven’t.  Annie has been taking estrogen to prepare for her lining.  One evening during our trip, she sent me a frantic email about running out of the insulin syringes for the Lup.ron that she’s been injecting.  I guess the 14 syringes that came with the Lup.ron kit and the extra 10 syringes provided by the pharmacy were only enough for 24 days, and she needed to be on it for a total of 28 days.  I forwarded her email to Dr. E asking for help, but I didn’t sleep too well that night wanting to resolve the issue the next day.  I am glad to report that it got resolved quite easily but it was nevertheless an interruption of my otherwise tranquil mind that was relatively free of the thoughts of reality.

Since we returned on New Year’s eve, our trip marked a perfect end of 2016, a year that was full of ups and downs like the previous four years since we started trying for a baby.  I am glad we had a moment to take a breather and just be by ourselves without the hustle and bustle of life.

Just like Christmastime, I opted for doing nothing special for New Year’s eve.  We had a very early, no frill dinner, and had a glass or two of the yummy champagne that we bought on our trip.

We went to bed like usual and didn’t even wait for midnight to ring in the new year.  It was just another evening and another day.

Tomorrow is the day Annie will have her lining check to confirm the transfer.  If all goes well, in a week, she will be lying on the same table and I will be staring at the same screen in the transfer room just like the end of October.  Bob told me yesterday that despite all the setbacks, his desires for a child are as strong as ever.  I feel the same way too, and I feel blessed that we are on the same page.  May our resolve to bring home a baby align with God’s perfect plan for us in this upcoming cycle.  May this be the beginning of something super magical.

MicroblogMondays: Self Care

Microblog_Mondays

Last Friday marked the day after we confirmed that our 5th transfer has failed.  The feeling is so familiar yet different.  We are used to failure.  It is a sad thing to say, but we are.  We know how to handle ourselves when it comes to failed transfers.  We know that we will be sad and devastated for a bit and we will be over it.  And we will move forward again.  But then, this time is also so different.  We have given this transfer the best embryo with the best grade and score and the best uterus that we could provide ever.  It was supposed to be a foolproof formula.

But it wasn’t.

I can’t begin to express my gratitude for having Jesus in my heart.  Without Jesus, I don’t know where my hope would lie.  But like one of my readers said, it is okay to be sad.  And I was sad.  At one point, I had fear and doubt in my head and my heart.  December is the end of the 5th year of our journey.  It was highly possible and probable that by the end of the year, we would be expecting a miracle in 2017.  Except that it didn’t happen.  And I was wondering if this is God’s message to me that a child is not in our future.  But I decided to once again not jump to conclusion as God is the only one who knows His plan.  This is the time for me and Bob to exercise our trust and faith in Him, knowing that regardless of the outcome of our quest, He is going to provide for us.

With that understanding, I tried what I could to take care of myself.

Fortunately, Friday was Veteran’s day.  It was a day off for me.  I opened my eyes with peace in my heart.  I am always thankful for the peace and strength that God gives me, as it is not a given and is not something that I take for granted.  In my pajamas, I made south Indian filtered coffee, sat there, and wrote my last blog post without even brushing my teeth or washing my face.  I just needed that quiet, alone space to feel and to let everything sink in.  Order in my life always makes me feel better.  After a couple of hours of chores cleaning the floor, changing the bedsheets, and tidying up any mess, I felt more control about the situation again.  That evening, Bob and I spent time with some of our best friends.  Their kids are our favorite kids.  Just enjoying the time with them brought about tremendous healing.

This is what self care is all about.  Being aware of what makes you happy and doing it.

I just started watching the show “Parenthood” on Netf.lix.  In one of the episodes, the younger brother, a playboy, just discovered that he had a son with an old fling.  He went to seek the advice from his older brother who happened to be a family man with two children.  He asked his older brother about having children,

“What makes all of it worth it?”

His brother said, “What makes it worth it is the connection.  It’s a bond you feel.  They are yours, you know.  You are part of them.”

I so long for this connection, this bond that I will have with my future child.  Regardless of the genetic links or who is going to carry the baby, my child is going to be mine.  He/she is going to be part of me and I am going to be a part of him/her.

It is all going to be worth it.

Max Is Not Meant to Be

Tuesday was a very difficult day.

I don’t write about politics.  All I can say is that having a super low beta with a GC and DE was enough of a hard day.  The election was making it super nerve-wracking for me.

Both Bob and I had prior engagements on Tuesday night.  But both of us just wanted to be with each other so we canceled what we had for the night.  We went to this local Indian restaurant for dinner.  All I wanted was peace and quiet.  Unfortunately, four TV screens were on with the election coverage.  I tried to avoid looking at the screens, but a few glimpses of them just stressed me out even more.  When I got home, I decided to go to bed and leave my phone out of the bedroom.

I did not sleep well at all.  I kept waking up in the middle of the night.  You know you feel the weakest when you are in and out of sleep.  And I just wanted to stay in bed all day the next day.  My husband has been the pillar of my strength.  He encouraged me that if I could muster enough energy, work actually could serve as a great distraction.

We prayed that night and Wednesday morning for God’s will to be done.  We prayed for Annie.  And we prayed for God’s peace and strength to be with us.  God answered our prayers.

Once I was at work, I was feeling much better.  I was amazed that somehow God renewed my strength despite having a horrible Tuesday.  I emailed my therapist that morning with the news of the low beta and a request for a time slot on that day for therapy if there was one.  What a miracle that she happened to have a cancellation on that day.  The Lord was taking care of my needs.

In the session, I cried several times.  It was tremendously helpful to speak with a person who has seen many different scenarios of triumphs and failures in the infertility world.  I wondered out loud whether or not God is telling me that I shouldn’t have a child.  She reminded me that most people would know when they should stop.  And it is still amazing that my husband and I still have strong desires to bring home a child.  So that speaks volume as usually one person would want to stop while the other would want to continue on.  She also reminded me that we still have chances and options.  So we are far from the doom and gloom that I was feeling on that day.  When I felt a certain way, ask myself if that thought is helpful.  Take it one day at a time.  And let myself process the feelings.  I knew all of this, but it was helpful to hear it again.

One interesting thing that my therapist told me was that her three-year-old niece had a beta of 12 on 8dp5dt as an embryo.  She said that her niece is perfect in every way.  So it IS possible to have a positive outcome from a low beta.  But, I am a realistic person and I knew that our chances of that would be low.

Our prayers continued to be, no matter what the outcome, we wanted it to be aligned with God’s will.  It is difficult, but if we believe that God is sovereign and has a perfect plan, then we have to trust Him even though we don’t like the outcome.

I was at complete peace yesterday, the day of second beta results.  I still had a glimmer of hope that the beta might have risen.  I  left the event “heartbeat appointment” on my calendar for November 30 and I hadn’t contacted a potential client’s parent about an opening on November 29 thinking that maybe we still needed to go to Annie’s state.  I wasn’t feeling nervous or anxious.  This was what I was staring at all day long reminding myself of God’s character.  “Delay doesn’t mean denial” is what I have to remember.

And guess what?  I had to give a presentation in the afternoon.  This is the second time I had to give a presentation on second beta day.  And I thought that I would be safe from pregnant women this time because the topic was for parents with young children.  Somehow the recruitment was done with expectant moms as well and so I ended up with six or seven ladies with bumps.  God really carried me through because I was feeling no bitterness, jealousy, or uneasiness, even when the ladies chatted about pregnancy symptoms and the babies’ kicks right before the presentation started.  God protected me from falling apart.  In fact, it was a great presentation despite my special circumstances.  It also helped that I hadn’t received the beta results prior to the presentation so I could just focus on the parents or parents-to-be rather than on the outcome of Max.

I didn’t hear from Dr. E until after 5.  Annie’s blood draw was done at 10:30am.  I guess in Annie’s state “STAT” means six hours of wait.  So the beta came back at 11, which means that the embryo has barely grown if at all.  I am thankful for early beta so we don’t agonize over the next week waiting for it to come.  And I am also very grateful for it to be a clear cut “No” rather than it rising some but not much.  Annie was to stop all meds except for the prenatal and thyroid meds.

Dr. E and I immediately went into action mode.  There is a brand new test on the market that just came out two weeks ago.  It tests the epigenetic information of the sperm.  It wasn’t available when we were doing the DNA fragmentation test.  It may shed some light on some subtle genetic problems on the sperm that are not picked up on PGS as PGS only tests the chromosomal structure of the embryos.  So the theory is that, even PGS tested normal embryos may have these subtle genetic problems contributed by the sperm that could not be detected.  The test is pricey, but it may tell us more information about how any genetic problems may affect the embryos in whatever way.  We are still planning on a transfer two embryos in 5 weeks.  Dr. E is going to prepare Annie’s lining differently this time, adding Lu.pron in the mix.  Her staff is going to order the kit for the test for us and we should get the results within two to three weeks.

I have to say how thankful I am for my husband.  I love him more than anything.  Every single time we have a setback, he has been there for me.  I know that he has his own way of processing bad news and his emotions.  I know his pattern and I reminded myself on beta day that he would start to feel angry in a couple of days.  He did yesterday but he recovered really well.  Yesterday he said this to me, “I admire and love you so much.  You get punched by all of these things.  You pick yourself up and move on.”  I can say the same thing about him.  God is working and stretching our faith.  He  has put the two of us together for a very particular purpose.  And we have to remember to hold on to God and to each other in difficult times so that our marriage continues to be strong.

As we put away Max’s photo and mourn its loss, we have to remember that there is still hope and there are still options for us.  Despite this delay, we still have strong desires to be parents.  Like I was meditating yesterday, God is sovereign and in control of everything.  He has a plan for us.  I pray that this plan includes babies in our future.

Thank you for all the love, thoughts, and prayers from you.

Introducing Max the Embryo

The last week has been such a whirlwind.  I haven’t had the time to blog until now.

Annie and her husband Kenneth arrived on Sunday.  It was such a relief to see how comfortable she was at our house.  She remembered exactly where everything was in the kitchen and just made herself at home.  It was the best decision to have flown her here for her medical screening back in August because it now feels very natural for us to be together like old friends or family.

Transfer took place on Monday at 1:30pm.  After much consideration, Bob and I decided that it was best for him to go to work instead of attending the transfer with us.  He had been feeling a little uncomfortable to be present at a transfer where I wasn’t the one undressed and lying on the table.  He wanted to come for moral support, but in actuality, he would have to take a whole day off for a two-minute transfer.  All he would do would be to sit there for an hour pre-transfer and another hour post-transfer for the acupuncture sessions plus traveling one hour to and one hour from the clinic.  It would be best for him to save his time off and use it for flying over to attend prenatal appointments.  So we both agreed that I would take pictures and videos for him.

I woke up super early on transfer day partly because of jet lag but also because of everything coming together on transfer day.  It was quite surreal to know that after all the waiting (in the last nine months and the last five years), transfer was going to happen in a few hours.  It is hard for me to explain that feeling.  It just occurred to me that I was not prepared this time.  We hadn’t purchased any lucky socks or pineapple for Annie.  However, this time IS different.  It is a different circumstance so mixing things up a little and going without any lucky socks was a good way to approach it.

I chose a restaurant close to the clinic, but as I exited the freeway, Kenneth spotted In-N-Out Burger so we switched locations impromptu.  They had heard of the burger joint but had never been.  The three of us enjoyed a no-frills yummy burger lunch.

Annie had never done acupuncture but she was willing to try.  She is not afraid of needles so acupuncture didn’t sound scary to her when I suggested it.  Speaking of needles, she does not even need any icing or heat pad for her PIO shots.  She said she doesn’t usually even feel the needle most of the time.  When she was in session with the acupuncturist, Kenneth and I bonded over coffee at Starbucks.  We chatted about how he got into his line of work in law enforcement.  It was a great opportunity for me to get to know him.  Hearing about his experience changing career mid-life and the integrity and perseverance that he showed through the process, there are even more reasons to admire him in addition to supporting his wife in helping us bring home a baby.  He is such a down-to-earth and funny guy.  We got along very well.

After acupuncture, Annie took her 5mg of Val.ium and started drinking her water to fill her bladder.  We bumped into Dr. E on the way to the clinic.  Seeing Dr. E, it really made it all real.  After we checked in, we sat in the waiting room where Bob and I were almost two months ago for Bob’s sperm sample that resulted in our embryos.  A few minutes later, we were all led to the procedure room.  Kenneth and I sat in the chairs by the wall while Annie got undressed.  The nurse promised to come in soon to check on Annie’s bladder but didn’t return.  Dr. E came in with a photo of our embryo.  She commented on how beautifully the embryo had thawed.

Introducing Max the Embryo!

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Staring at the photo, tears started to well up in my eyes.  I hadn’t had much feeling about the process up until that point.  This is MY embryo despite not contributing in any physical part in making it.  My heart felt full.  This could really be the first picture of our future child.  Holding back my tears, I asked Dr. E about the grade of the embryo.  She said that it could easily be a 5AA or 5AB.  My first thought was that it looked like the embryo was starting to hatch.  It was an emotional moment for me.  I had been feeling a little detached from this process because our embryos didn’t come from my eggs or won’t grow in my womb. With Bob and my names listed on the embryo photo and when the embryologist asked ME to verify my name and date of birth first instead of Annie’s, it finally felt like the embryo belongs to me (and Bob) and I will be the one responsible for its well-being as a baby.  It was definitely a mental and emotional shift for me.  I said to Dr. E, “From our first retrieval in July 2013 to now, it has been three plus years in the making.”  It all came down to this moment.

Dr. E checked on Annie’s bladder as the nurse was still gone.  The fullness of the bladder was perfect.  The nurse finally came in and took over the abdominal ultrasound probe.  Dr. E pointed at where the uterus was and pushed the outer sheath of the catheter in.  It went in very easily.  Dr. E is always great at including me in this process.  She asked me to pull my chair up next to Annie’s head so I could see the screen clearly.  The embryologist came in to check on our IDs.  She disappeared back into the lab.  A few moments later, the big screen on the wall lit up and my name appeared on it.  Seeing my name again reminded me that this IS my embryo.  Annie told me later that she started tearing up when she saw my name on the screen.  Then her name appeared on the screen.  The screen zoomed in.  The little dot that looked like dust all of a sudden became huge.  It always amazes me to see the wonder of life starting as this little speck that is practically invisible with naked eye.  The embryo looked like it had changed from the photo already.  The embryologist loaded the embryo in the inner catheter and reappeared in the procedure room.  Dr. E pushed the catheter in extremely slowly.  The white lines on the ultrasound screen showed the direction of the inner catheter.  The doctor then pulled the catheter out even more slowly.  The embryologist went back to the lab to check on the catheter and gave us an all-clear.  Max was successfully transferred!

Annie was hoping that she could visit touristy places like Fisherman’s Wharf, but Dr. E told her to stay put on both Monday and Tuesday and limit her activity to walking from the bathroom to the bed and from the bed to the couch.  I know many doctors don’t believe in bedrest but Dr. E does.  Dr. E asked if Annie would cheat, meaning if she would pee on a stick.  Annie and I spoke about it ahead of time and agreed that we would wait until beta time.  After all, I didn’t ever POAS prior to beta so I don’t want that added stress.  Dr. E thought that it was a great idea because POAS only messes with your mind.  Dr. E  will be the one who will report the beta to the both of us on the phone rather than the two of us to each other.  Next Tuesday Annie will go to her local Labc.orp for her blood draw and Dr. E will call me with the result.  It is only going to be 8 days past 5 day transfer.

Dr. E then asked me to step out so she could answer Annie’s questions about sex after the transfer.  It again makes it so real that someone else is going to carry my baby for me and I have no control over what that person does.  But I trust Annie 100% to do her best for us and for our baby, so I will just have to let go of the control.

During Annie’s second acupuncture visit, the acupuncturist was aghast at the iced cold drink that Annie was holding.  He called me into the office and asked me if I had gone over the fertility diet with Annie.  I told him that since this was her first time doing acupuncture, I didn’t want to overwhelm her with extra knowledge.  The acupuncturist was dead serious about her following certain guidelines for the next few weeks and even into the second trimester.  It includes no raw or iced food.  Annie loves ice and salad.  So I was worried that it was too much restrictions on her.  But it should be no surprise to me that Annie listened and started to comply with things suggested by the doctor.  She is such a great and easy-going person with our best interest at heart.  The doctor even suggested using moxa on her three times a day.  Her husband and Annie are both on board.  Kenneth has been helping her with both PIO and now moxa since the visit.  Pineapple core was also suggested.

We left home that day at 10am.  We didn’t get home until 4pm.  After I dropped Annie home, Kenneth went with me to pump air into the front two tires of my car as he saw that it was a bit low.  It took three gas stations before we found a machine that worked.  We then went and purchased a pineapple and non-GMO soy milk for Annie (as per the acupuncturist’s suggestion to cool her down instead of using iced water).  I put the pork tenderloin that I marinated the day before in the oven with some cabbage.  Then I had to go to lead a bible study group at 6pm.  I didn’t get home until 9 something that night.  The exhaustion from the jet lag, running around all day, and the excitement was so hard to shake.

I told Annie that she was PUPO.  Of course she didn’t know the term and got a kick out of it.  It makes me realize how many crazy acronyms there are for this TTC journey.

Annie and I already talked about the appointment for the 7-week ultrasound for the heartbeat and the arrangement for accommodation and transportation.  It will be on 11/30 and Kenneth has that day off (he has every other Wednesday off) so he can drive us around in the snow (we are cowards when it comes to driving in the snow).  I really hope that it all comes true.

Annie and her husband stayed put the whole day at my house while both Bob and I were at work.  It was my first day back at work since before the trip.  The fatigue was real.  I was so slow with everything on that day.  And it also felt very surreal that the transfer took place but I was not feeling a thing inside my body.  It is just so hard to put into words how it feels to have someone else carry your baby for you.

I took the morning off on Wednesday to hang out with Annie and her husband before dropping them off at the airport.  Right before Bob drove to work, the four of us held hands and prayed for the embryo and Annie, and thanked the Lord for bringing two families together for this one life.  It was such a precious moment for our hearts to all be united for this one purpose.  Annie, Kenneth, and I went to a favorite diner of ours for breakfast.  At the airport, Annie and I hugged for a long time.  I was feeling very emotional, but my eyes were hiding behind my sunglasses.  I was choking up a little and told her to take care and also take care of my baby for me.  When she walked into the terminal, it felt like a part of me left with her.  My baby flew away with her hours away.  It is all in all an amazing yet surreal experience to be blessed with a selfless person who is willing to carry a baby for you while still mourning the loss of not experiencing a pregnancy ever.  I didn’t know how I should feel.

My trusted friend behind Dreaming of Diapers sent me words of encouragement.  She told me that I should feel relieved, that I did it, all of that hard work for the past year.   It is now out of my hands.  I have given Baby embryo Max the very best chance at life and if he/she is going to be my child, then it will happen. She told me that she was proud of me for my determination.  Her words really encouraged me as I continue to soak in this situation.

My other friend who had twins via surrogacy said, “It’s just the beginning!  I know the waiting is the hardest part but try to give it to God.  He knows the desires of your heart and is working to make it happen.”

So here we are, three days after transfer.  Five more days to go before beta.  I pray multiple times a day for God to sustain this life inside Annie.  It is really out of my hands and is in God’s hand.  I pray for trust and peace as we wait for the next milestone.

I am taking it one day at a time but as the same time looking forward to next July when we have our baby in our arms.  Let’s pray that this is really the time to see our future child grow from this tiny speck of life called “Max”.

MicroblogMondays: Mid-Visit Report

Microblog_Mondays

A few more days before I go home.

One day I came down with a fever and had to stay in bed for two whole days.  I managed to throw up everything that I ate.

Once I felt better, Hong Kong was hit with two typhoons.  One of them was strong enough for the government to cancel work and school for everyone.  So I was again trapped at home.  The weather next day was better but I had heartburn and nausea.  Extreme discomfort made me feel for those with chronic illnesses and pain.  Feeling normal and healthy is so precious.

I visited with one of my closest college friends.  That wasn’t the original plan.  Originally lunch was with a few other friends, but the plans were changed due to my sickness.  When I finally felt better, I opted to just see this one friend and her 4-year-old girl.  It was nice to catch her up on my journey of DE and surrogacy.  I doubt that I would have shared anything about it to the bigger group of friends.  Her little girl is sort of a marker of the length of my fertility journey.  My friend and I started trying for a baby at the same time.  That was a month after she got married.  She got pregnant right away and I didn’t.  Her daughter is already four and mine has not even implanted yet.  Seeing her, I wasn’t upset or anything.  It was just a thought that crossed my mind.  I know that it will forever be a thought that crosses my mind.  A part of my fertility history.  That my friend’s dream came true right away while I continue waiting for another five years.  Hopefully the wait is going to be over soon.

I don’t know why but many of my friends feel the need to tell me about their own friends’ fertility journey.  I guess because these people also had to use IVF to get to their babies.  This friend told me about her friend who tried for a couple of years, first in Hong Kong, then in New York, and finally now is in her second trimester after trying one more time in Hong Kong.  This friend of hers is a year older than me but she used her own eggs.  Sometimes I don’t know how to react to this kind of news especially when she’s successful carrying using her own eggs but I have to use donor eggs and another person’s uterus.

My grandma’s birthday banquet was last Saturday night.  I responded well to all my younger cousins’ babies as I played with them and interacted with them.  Most of my family was good and didn’t ask me about babies.  Except for one person.  My least favorite relative.  This is my grandfather’s nephew who grew up without his dad so he was raised by my grandpa.  He somehow disliked me a lot when I was a little kid and yelled at me a lot.  After I grew up, I had made peace with his existence and do talk to him when I see him at gatherings.  The moment he saw me, he asked me, “Why don’t you have a baby? You should have a baby by now.”  What the heck?  I didn’t know how to respond to him so I just mumbled something. But it had been a long time since I reacted strongly to someone’s inquiry about my childless state. I guess it’s because I knew that he didn’t mean well, unlike other inquiries. My childless oldest cousin who has had miscarriages and recently divorced overheard our conversation defended me and said to him, “You think it is that easy, huh?” She turned to me and said, “Just ignore him. ” Thank you cousin for being my voice when I couldn’t find one myself at that particular moment.

My best friend told me a story about her elementary school classmate that had me scratching my head. Let’s call her Jean. Jean is our age and tried for a long time to have a baby with her estranged husband.  This is the first red flag of the story. Why would she want a baby with a man she doesn’t like or love anymore?  She eventually got pregnant via IVF and gave birth about a month ago. This is what my best friend discovered through their conversation. Once the baby was born, Jean hired a helper and sent the baby and her husband to her mother-in-law’s house since Jean’s own house is under renovation currently. But, since she doesn’t like her MIL, she won’t let her MIL take care of the baby. Only the helper does all the feedings and diaper changes. What does Jean do?  She watches the baby and the helper’s every move via a webcam on her phone all day long ever since the birth.  She yells out commands to the helper via the webcam.  She has not gone to see, visit, touch, hold, kiss, or feed the baby since he was born.  She sits at home daily by herself and monitors another person’s work of taking care of her own baby. In Chinese culture, traditionally women are recommended to stay at home postpartum, but it’s an extreme that she doesn’t even go visit her own baby who had taken a lot of her effort to make.  So her husband and helper take the baby to all the checkups and she stays home by herself.  She doesn’t have friends and she’s not close to her family. So she is home everyday without any human interaction and just stares at the screen on her cell phone.  You can imagine next month when she takes the baby home she would have missed a lot of her baby’s development and bonding time with her. It boggles my mind.  To each their own.

Finally, I bought a couple of things for my future baby. Here they are:

You know me. I’m not afraid of jinxing things.  I can’t wait to put these cute onesies on my baby.

One more week until transfer!!!

MicroblogMondays: Cards

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This past week I received two cards unexpectedly.  I was touched tremendously by both of them.

I came home from work on Monday and was surprised by a card in the mail from my coworker.  She is one of the only two coworkers that know the details of my journey.  I told her briefly about our donor’s cocaine debacle last week, and she wrote the following in a card and dropped it in the mail:

“Isabelle and Bob,

I awakened on Friday with you two on my mind and felt the need to write – so… sharing my thoughts…

Living for the emergence of life… the fruition of an incredible journey that had its origins in two separate countries and cultures brought together in a third through a 21st century technology… the reaching out over space and time of two kindred spirits… bound together by a mutual love, joy, faith, bond… to a shared path, with many junctures, potential pitfalls, ruts, bumps, rocky steep climbs, protruding roots, boulders and stones to navigate through and across and on which many others would have stumbled.  Two walking hand in hand, side by side toward their shared, firm, mutual destination.  With great admiration for the inner strength, shared support, and unwavering belief in the end result.  What a blessing to have found each other.  What a blessing to those who have had a glimpse of or shared in your journey.

With constant support and love,

[Coworker’s name]”

Such beautiful words that sum up our journey in such a poetic way.  I was utterly touched.

And then on the weekend, I had the honor to meet my dear friend behind Dreaming of Diapers.  You know it when someone gets you.  And that was the feeling I got the whole two hours we were chatting over lunch.  When we said our good-byes, she handed me a card.  The cover of the card said, “Hope is the belief in things unseen”.  On the inside, she wrote that she was happy to be finally meeting me, and that she was excited for me and my 4 embabies.  She said she cannot wait to hear I am expecting soon, that she just knows it in her heart that this is my time.  What a thoughtful gesture and such great encouragement that my dear friend is hoping with me that these embryos will help fulfill my dream of being a mother with live children.

Being loved, thought of, and understood is such a great feeling.  Thank you friends.