Three years ago I went to a retreat for my bible study the day after we confirmed that we had lost our first pregnancy. God was so good to me that the experience there helped me grieve and start healing for the loss. This retreat occurs every three years. Fast forward to right now. Bob and I just attended the same retreat together in Southern California. This time it felt so different. First of all I had my husband with me and it is such a blessing that we serve in the same bible study organization. Second is that, we are in a vastly different position this time in terms of our fertility journey. Three years ago we just failed our first ever transfer with a chemical pregnancy. Our hearts were broken and we needed healing. This time, we went with the news of expecting twins. We don’t have the heaviness of waiting for something to happen. Things are happening. What a blessing it is to be here. Bob was treated like a rock star when many of my friends from my bible study group came by one after another to meet him. It was so precious for them to congratulate him on the babies. In my blog post about the last retreat three years ago I met a woman on the plane who experienced infertility and eventually adopted a little girl from China. I shared with this random stranger (but not so random as it was a divine appointment) about our struggles and she promised to pray for us. God has such a sense of humor (and it’s a small world). My husband has been the bible teacher for this same little girl in the past year and has developed a close relationship with this family. I bumped into this mother again at the retreat this time. She told me that she had been consistently praying for us which was super sweet because she has kept her promise. I thought that her husband would have shared with her our news of expecting twins (since my husband and her husband now serve in the same bible study) but he hadn’t. So she was so surprised and happy to know that we are finally expecting not one baby but two! Again, God is so compassionate and full of love. He allowed me to personally share this news with this lady. It feels like things have come in a full circle. I just feel redeemed that we are in such a sweet position to be able to experience the joy of this monumental change in our lives and finally have good news to share on this twisted journey. All I can say is that God is good and my heart is filled with gratitude for His provision.
I didn’t think I was going to attend my grandma’s funeral. My thought was, if I didn’t get to spend time with her before she died, what is the use of going right now as I don’t even get to spend time with her. The day after grandma died, my dad sent me a text with the dates: the wake will be on 3/23 and the funeral is the next morning. He called me that evening and wondered if I had thought of going for just a few days. I was honest about it. It hadn’t even crossed my mind to go all the way to Asia mainly because of my schedule for the next week or so. But I promised him that I’d think about it. He told me that there was no pressure, which I believed him. My dad never pressures us into doing anything.
So this is what I was originally scheduled to do: driving with Bob to a bible study conference in Southern California on 3/17 Friday and returning on 3/19 Sunday. I bought plane tickets to go to Annie’s hometown 3/20 Monday morning so I could attend the 12 weeks 5 days ultrasound that afternoon. The plan was for me to return home on 3/21 evening. If I stuck with my plan and still go to my grandma’s funeral, I’d basically have to fly out to Asia on 3/21 evening in order to make it to the wake. Imagine traveling from Friday to Sunday to one place, Monday to Tuesday to another place, and immediately flying all the way to Asia. I know nothing is impossible, but with my age and stamina, I don’t think it will be the wisest thing for me to do. I am not that young anymore.
So my choice came down to: seeing the babies? Or honoring grandma?
I did struggle with the decision. It’s not about the money. Fortunately we have been flying Sout.hwest, and this airline allows for cancellation of reservations and the funds can be used towards another travel within a year. I can cancel the flight to Annie’s hometown and won’t lose our money. The airfare to Asia is surprisingly inexpensive. I get five days of bereavement leave at work so it doesn’t make a huge dent in my vacation time that I am saving up for prenatal appointments. I do miss seeing my babies, especially after the last ultrasound when I felt that I just wanted to be there to witness everything, to be part of my babies’ lives as much as possible during this time. But I know that the babies aren’t going to go anywhere, and Bob and I are going to attend the 16 weeks ultrasound. It is really not going to be a huge deal skipping the 12 weeks ultrasound.
Another thing is, I feel that I will not have a whole lot of time to go to Asia the next few months and especially after the babies arrive. I know of people who travel with their newborns to see relatives in Asia, but I don’t know how feasible it will be with two babies. My paternal grandmother is approaching 98. It may be a good time for me to go see her again before my life gets crazy in the next few months. Nobody knows how long she will be here on earth, right? And when I go and see her in person, I can share our good news about the twins with her face-to-face. This may help me cope with the loss of my other grandma who never learned about her great grandkids.
Bob was 100% supportive for whatever decision I was going to make. So after praying and sleeping on it for a few days, I decided to forego the prenatal appointment and to make a trip to Asia for just eight days. It is going to be a short trip but enough for me to spend some quality time with my family and supporting my mom who has been tremendously sad losing her mother. Thank God for technology, I will still be able to see the babies like usual on my tiny phone screen when Annie goes to the 12 weeks 5 days ultrasound. To me, this is the best plan so that my grandma’s life will be honored. I feel at peace with this decision. Although I didn’t get to see my grandma before she died, I believe this trip will help bring closure.
My grandma passed away yesterday.
This was my mom’s mom. My brother was the first grandchild in the family and this grandma took care of him the first few years of his life while my mom was at work. The two of them had a close bond that none of us subsequent grandchildren had. I grew up with my paternal grandmother instead. My maternal grandmother had a stroke not too long ago and was becoming very sick. I never developed the closeness with her like my brother did, but knowing that the end of her life was near, I desperately wanted to let her know that her great grand-babies would be coming later this year.
Because of how sick my grandma was, my brother flew to Asia to spend time with her. That was the day after our 8 weeks 5 days scan. I had given him the task of sharing our pregnancy news with grandma if her recovery from her stroke allowed her to understand his message. My brother and I spoke on the phone after he arrived and visited with her. She was simply not lucid enough to have a meaningful conversation at that point with him. I told him to tell her if he found a good time. After we hung up, I broke into tears.
Since then, my heart would skip a beat whenever the phone rang or a text message came. I was afraid that it would be bad news about my grandma. Saturday night while I was having a good time at a friend’s birthday party, I was totally unaware of my grandma being at the end of her life. My mom’s text in the middle of the night revealed that grandma breathed her last breath on earth and had passed. I woke up in the middle of the night and saw the message. The initial calmness was followed by incredible sorrow in my heart. Tears kept coming down while I lay in the dark. It felt like a part of me had left with the death of my grandmother. When she was pregnant with my mom, the egg that made me was already formed inside my mom as a fetus in my grandma’s womb. How amazing life is that I originated from her. And now she has left permanently from this earth, my heart is broken. I cried uncontrollably at various times yesterday thinking about her and how her life ended.
Grandma and I don’t have anymore time on this earth together. Last October when I visited was the last time I saw her. My brother encouraged me saying that instead of being sad about not being able to see her again, I should feel comforted that we did spend time together not too long ago. But to me, it’s too late now as our babies will never meet their great grandmother. She had no knowledge of them while she was still on earth. Infertility has robbed us of many things. If we had been able to get pregnant earlier, then my grandma would have had a chance to meet our child(ren) or to have the joy of knowing their existence. This lost opportunity highlights how unfair this journey could be. Many things on this earth are beyond our control, especially life (creating a baby) and death (loved one’s passing). I know I will eventually be okay, but today I mourn the loss of my grandmother and the impossibility of my children being in the embrace of their maternal great grandmother.
Triggers come at any time, and not always when we expect it.
I hadn’t teared up about our situation in quite some time. Not when I saw all the babies and kids at my work’s preschool class’ Christmas performance. Not when my once-again-pregnant coworker loudly declared to everyone in the hall that she isn’t going to find out the sex of her second baby. Not even when we were told last week that the company that tests the epigenetic information of Bob’s sper.m would need an extra two weeks on top of the three week that they had promised to give us the results of the sperm test, which meant that we might once again have to decide if we wanted to postpone the January yet again. And also not when the scenes of pregnancy and birth showed up while we were watching the TV show Parentho.od.
I expected to shed a tear or two, but I didn’t.
This is why triggers are so crazy. They just come unannounced and when you are not prepared.
Bob has had his green card for a few years and has been eligible to apply for citizenship for a couple of years already. He had been putting off working on his application for a long time until yesterday afternoon. One of the questions on the application was about how many children he has. This was an extremely easy question to answer and required no effort on his part because he simply has zero living children. He got to skip all the information that he could have had to fill out because there was nowhere on the form that allowed you to tell about those ones that didn’t make it alive to this world.
As I sat across from him and listened to him joke about how easy it was to fill out this part, I started to feel the weight of this question. A marriage of 5.5 years. Nothing to show for. Not even one living child. And it was not for the lack of trying. We have practically done almost every single type of treatment maybe except for donated embryos. At that point, sadness came over me. My eyes were warm with the tears that were about to shed. It came as a surprise. It was just some application asking some common questions. I wasn’t even the one who had to answer the question. But it just amplified the helplessness of the situation. Children come so easy for many who have had to answer this question, but not to us. All those other situations I mentioned about didn’t make me cry, but this one did. There is no rhyme or reason.
That’s the thing about this journey. No rhyme or reason. You just have to take the challenges as they come. And it’s okay to shed a few tears.
After sharing with my sister-in-law’s brother at Thanksgiving dinner, we are on a streak to open up about our journey.
A week ago, Bob and I attended the holiday party of his men’s bible study group. We didn’t go last year because at the time I couldn’t handle babies and pregnancy news. This year we are still not expecting and don’t have a baby, but somehow I didn’t resist going to the party even knowing that in attendance there would be our friends who are expecting their second baby any day now. The wife is a friend of mine who was in my bible study group a few years ago. She was at the time expecting her first baby after being successful at her second frozen embryo transfer. At the time, I prayed weekly for her first baby until he was born. Later on Bob became a member of her husband’s bible study group, and our two husbands became friends. All four of us and the baby would hang out frequently. The last time we all got together, Bob and I knew that they were going to do a transfer for number two. Time has flown and the baby is due any time now. Bob asked me ahead of time if I was going to be okay seeing them. I would be lying if I said I didn’t hesitate. But I examined my heart for two seconds and thought that we could handle it. And we did. Despite seeing her bump, hanging out with her and her toddler was a lot of fun. I am glad we decided to go.
At the party, the men were asked to stand up and tell the changes they had in their life last year, and what they would like prayers for in the coming year. Our friend, the expectant dad, was put on the spot first. He thanked everyone for their prayers in the past and asked for prayers for his growing family and an easy birth. After he spoke, he looked at Bob who was standing next to him and motioned for Bob to speak next. Bob was across the room from me. I knew that he was wondering if he should mention about our infertility. He is interesting. He talks about it freely at work but he has shied away from bringing it up in his bible study group. He and I locked eyes, and I nodded in approval to let him know that it was okay to talk about it. So with my silent encouragement, he opened up to a group of his bible study friends and their wives and children about our struggles in the past year and how we would like to be prayed for. It was a great moment to open up. I was very proud of him for speaking openly and clearly about it.
Last Friday was my office’s holiday party. Last year we didn’t go because again, I couldn’t handle those new moms and one expectant mom who would be there. I just didn’t feel like celebrating. But this year, we are all about having fun. Bob was nice enough to come and be my designated driver so I could enjoy my drinks with my coworkers. It was on the second floor of a brewhouse that was super loud. Our other coworkers were all participating in the white elephant gift exchange. I was just enjoying my cocktail with Bob by my side when my CEO walked over to me. He said, “I know you guys are not trying but when or if you do, you will make some very gorgeous and tall kids.” Maybe it was my alcohol that was talking or feeling. Maybe I felt brave that night. Instead of brushing off his comment, I said, “Yeah we are trying and we have been doing it for almost five years.” I know I took him by surprise. He apologized profusely and said that he didn’t know. But you know what? I think there was nothing to be ashamed of. I think we are at a point where we would share with anyone who approaches us about the subject. It’s just that work people have learned not to ask about it. So no one really knows except for my two closest friends at work. So back to my CEO. I have known him for all these years I’ve worked at this place ever since before he became our CEO. He is a friend. And he himself went through infertility with his wife for a few years and had one miscarriage before they adopted their beautiful daughter. I knew that he would at least understand part of what we are going through. I even shared with him that we have tried “everything” and now are waiting to do another transfer with our gestational carrier after the last failed transfer. Again, he had such a genuine look on his face telling us how much he would like for us to become parents. The three of us had a great chat about his journey and how he would not trade his daughter for anything in the world. It was great to be genuine face-to-face with someone who had walked a similar journey.
I think this is going to be our approach from now on. We won’t take the initiative to share it with the world, but when the opportunity comes, we’ll open up to people who genuinely want to know. It is quite freeing to not feel the need to hide or to be cryptic about our journey even though we haven’t found our success yet. It takes courage, but being more and more open about our struggles will do our soul some good.
Bob and I usually go to my brother’s house for Thanksgiving dinner. Chinese people don’t like white meat, so each year we do prime rib rather than turkey. This year was no different. My brother has really perfected his skills of his prime rib making. No complaints there.
I usually see my sister-in-law’s side of the family on my niece’s and nephew’s birthdays and Thanksgiving night. She has two older siblings and one younger brother. They all knew that I had a surgery five years ago on my uterus but no one has ever explicitly asked me about baby making. I know that my SIL’s sister-in-law was curious about it but she never asked out right.
This year’s dinner was as lovely as usual. Cozy atmosphere. Delicious food. Great company.
When dinner was over, some people remained at the dining room table. Some were watching TV in the living room. I was sitting at the kitchen counter just looking at my phone. My sister-in-law’s oldest brother came by and asked me how I was doing. I have known him since I was a teenager so I am familiar with him, but I wouldn’t say that I’d usually share about my life with him. We chatted about my work, my parents, and my in-laws’ visit. Nothing too crazy.
Out of the blue, he asked, “So when are you guys going to have babies?”
Like I said, no one in my sister-in-law’s family knew about our fertility journey. I never shared. No one ever asked.
I was taken by surprise. But I was not feeling negative about it. Maybe it was his way of asking. I felt that he wasn’t being nosy. I sensed a genuine concern or care, unlike the interrogation by my uncle in Hong Kong. There is a difference there.
With only two seconds of hesitation, I told him that we had been trying for almost five years but had not been successful. He asked if we had tried treatment. I told him that we had done a whole lot of that.
I even shared that we are actually hiring a surrogate but failed our first transfer. We would attempt our second transfer in December. This time we will try two embryos.
I love his reaction. Whatever I told him didn’t faze him. He said sincerely, “I can’t wait to meet your babies.”
We weren’t talking super loudly, but the kitchen counter was within a few feet of the dining table so those relatives who were sitting there could have heard us if they tried. But, I shared with him anyways.
I think a couple of years ago I would not have said anything. Even last year I probably wouldn’t have shared. I would have been super annoyed or offended that someone dared to ask that question, that it was none of their business.
Maybe it was the way he asked. Maybe there is a change in me. I am different.
And I like that change in me.
I still don’t have a baby, and I don’t know when/if I will have that baby. I sure hope that Dr. E, my RE’s wishes would come true, as she wrote in an email, “Hoping and praying that next thanksgiving is totally different than this one!!!!”
But as of today, I am happy that I am opening up to friends and family that don’t know but would ask.
It is a process, isn’t it?
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!!!