Last week my former fertility doctor Dr. E connected me with a current patient of hers who could use some support on her journey as an intended mother. After I shared my blog with this intended mother, I was curious to see what I had written in the last almost six years on my blog. I have been reading my earliest blog posts since June 2013. Wow I wrote so much and the posts were so detailed. I am now very grateful that I started a blog so I have a documentation of this journey. Things have changed so much since then. I used to think that my first IVF cycle was such a roller coaster. Compared to our subsequent journey of all the twists and turns before we got to our babies, that first cycle’s drama was nothing. But of course we didn’t know, and it was devastating for us at the time to think that we were losing our first ever embryo only for it to become a blastocyst on day six. Bob and I truly endured many trials in the last few years of our marriage. It is interesting to see that I used to think that we couldn’t afford a cycle of IVF with a certain clinic because of the price tag. Again, I wouldn’t in a million years think that we would spend even more on additional cycles with my own eggs, several DE cycles, and even a whole journey with a gestational carrier. If you told me back then that we would spend this amount of money on our fertility treatments, I’d have said you’ve gotta be kidding me. Another thing that I notice is that the blogging community back then was so vibrant. At every turn of my journey, there was a tribe of bloggers and commenters cheering me on, validating my feelings, rooting for my embryos, and crying/mourning my losses. It was heartwarming and amusing to see the first comments on my blog from many of my current blogger-turned-real-life-friends, such as A., Maddie, Jane Allen, Aramis, Jennifer T., Bri from Dreaming of Diapers, ramdomsqueaks, and Torthuil, to name a few. Seeing how our friendships started was so fun. I have met most of them in real life, and a couple of them even attended my baby shower. At the same time, I feel sad that some have turned their blogs into private blogs, and many bloggers no longer blog. I clicked on the comments from many bloggers and found that their last blog posts stay in the past in 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, or 2018. You don’t know what has happened to them, why they suddenly stopped blogging, and if you will ever hear from them again. I understand that ever since FB groups and IG have evolved, blogging is not the same anymore. I miss that community so much though. It helped me through thick and thin. Reading my blog posts has made me so nostalgic. I wonder if I’d ever share my blog with the kids. That’s something to ponder. Regardless of that, it is my hope that this blog continues to be helpful to those who stumble upon because they feel lonely or lost on their fertility journey. I hope that they feel encouraged and less alone when they read these blog posts.
A person posted a question on a parenting group I am a part of on Fac.ebook. It said, “If you could/do get to do pregnancy again what would you do differently?”
Scrolling down, I saw someone’s response, and immediately felt almost revolted by it. She wrote, “Hire a surrogate!” Many people liked or even clicked on the laughing emoji on that response. My negative reaction probably came from my assumption of the the commenter being flippant and insensitive to those who truly need help with carrying a pregnancy. I was offended by how easily people think surrogacy would be. If I had a chance to experience pregnancy, I would.
While brushing my teeth that morning, I was thinking about that response, and it really bugged me. Afterwards, I decided to respond to that. I reworded and revised my response several times, but ultimately chose to say this: “For those who were/are infertile and need/needed to have a gestational carrier to build their families (like myself), it is often a long, expensive, and painful process. I hope others don’t take it lightly.”
I went on my day. Then that commenter responded: “I do not, and did not mean to be glib. But were I, at (very nearly) 40 addressing having another child, I would very seriously be considering surrogacy because we all understand the rigors of bringing a human into the world and even if I could (unknown), I’m not for putting my body through that again.”
I don’t know what she went through with her pregnancy, but it sounded traumatic. I am glad I responded to get clarity on her initial short answer. If I had not, then I would have carried this grudge secretly against this stranger just because I assumed that she was thoughtless in her answer. I am also glad that I took this chance to speak up about this topic. It doesn’t hurt to educate the public and share our points of view from the perspective of parents who have children via gestational surrogacy, even if it’s just one person at a time.
I was telling myself that after Halloween, I’d start looking into preschools. I didn’t have any idea what kind of preschools I’d like my kids to attend, but I knew that I had to go visit a few to see my preferences. One with Cantonese immersion and close to home would be ideal. But given that our house is not exactly in the city, it’d be very difficult to find a Cantonese preschool within a 10-minute drive. So I focus on the schools around us. The first one I visited was a little co-op preschool that was in a crowded neighborhood. My first impression was it was hard to find parking. That would definitely add to the time it’d take for drop off. I really liked the school. It was play-based with various stations for different activities. The atmosphere was relaxing. The kids looked very happy. The preschool ends at 1:30 and offers extended care for working parents. One morning a week, a parent or family member is assigned tasks to help out at the school. For someone like me with twins, it would mean two mornings a week for me. And if we don’t want to do that, we can pay one participating family tuition and one nonparticipating family tuition. I thought about it, and thought that if I only had one child, it’d be a wonderful opportunity to experience what he/she learns at school. But with twins that I intend to put in preschool three days a week, it would take away 2/3 of my time that I would like to use for starting my career again. Of course there is a waitlist, but apparently next year 16 kids are going to be promoted to kindergarten, so there should be room for everyone on the waitlist. The second preschool I visited is part of a Catholic school. It is a block away from my brother’s house, which is a 5-minute drive. Drop off should be easy with a huge parking lot. The director was warm and knowledgeable. This is a more traditional preschool but still play-based. The place is organized and clean with various different areas for activities. The kids were playing outside when I arrived. They all looked like they were having so much fun. When I was waiting for the director to give me an application, I sat and watched one of the teachers do circle time. She was so lively and the kids were super engaged. I remember our pastor’s wife told me why she loves this school: the teachers genuinely love her kids. I can totally see that. Of course this school has a waitlist as well, and seems to be harder to get into. But I’d love to send the babies there. The tricky part is that their birthday is in mid-September, and there are two of them, so even if there is room for them in August when school starts, they will have to wait until September to attend when they turn two. I ideally want to send them to preschool at 2.5, but it doesn’t work that way for many schools. I looked at the application more closely at home. The first thing that stood out to me was family information: Child lives with Both Natural Parents, Mother Only, Father Only, Parents have joint custody, Parent/Step Parent, Guardian. What do we circle? I mean technically I am not my twins’ “natural” parent. And we did need to get step-parent adoption in order for me to be legally their mother. But do we circle Parent/Step-parent? What if they ask us about the “natural” mother? What a headache. I didn’t anticipate such a dilemma for filling out a preschool application. It goes to tell you that decisions we have made in the past because of infertility affect us way beyond the years we were in the trenches. I haven’t decided what to circle yet. If we do circle “Natural Parents”, will that be lying? If we circle Parent/Step-Parent, will we have to further explain the complicated nature of our babies’ birth? I will have to give this one some serious thoughts.
I am more into documentaries these days than feature films. So when my friend urged me to watch “Private Life” on Netf.lix, I was a little hesitant. One day last week I finally started watching it, but within the first six minutes I already complained to Bob multiple times about medical inaccuracies. My friend kept on telling me to ignore these and focus on the movie itself, I obliged and eventually finished the movie. I actually liked it. If you are going to watch the movie and don’t want a spoiler, come back to this post after you are done. This can wait.
What I like the most about the movie is its realistic portrayal of the emotions of this 40-something couple who started trying to have a baby later in life. Of course there were exaggerations for the sake of storytelling such as the accelerated timelines of TESE, donor eggs, etc. I ignored all of that, and found myself nodding constantly when the characters expressed their feelings as well as when seeing the disapproval and insensitivity of those around them. At a few points, I felt a little weepy as I saw parallels between my life (prior to my twins) and this couple’s lives. The couple was pursuing adoption simultaneously with fertility treatments. They were describing to an adoption social worker about a failed adoption which involved a birth mother who was matched with them but disappeared. It wasn’t clear if she was actually pregnant or was just pretending to be, but something that the social worker said stuck with me: “The emotional scams are really, really tough.” I found myself nodding nonstop. It reminded me of our experiences of our second donor disappearing after meeting with us, and about our current donor who was tested positive for cocaine during our cycle. It was already such an emotional roller coaster for us, and to have others kick us when we were down was almost unbearable. Watching this part made me relive that time of our journey. After the couple failed their first IVF, their RE pragmatically suggested egg donation as an option for financial reasons. The couple’s fight outside the clinic brought out a very common concern of female partner of losing their genetic material vs. the male partner’s ability to conserve his genetic link to their child. I wish the movie did go more in depth about the struggles and emotional turmoil a woman may experience before she says yes to pursuing egg donation, as the wife almost immediately dove into the world of donor profiles online after her initial struggles. But you know, some people get over that part quickly and some don’t, so it could still happen in real life. Regardless, I was almost teary-eyed when the wife scrolled through the donor profiles on her computer screen and read the details aloud to her husbands. That was us when we were trying to decide on a donor. We looked at countless profiles and tried to pinpoint what traits were important to us for passing on to our child. I remember how difficult it was to decide how to choose. I can’t say I totally understood the couple’s choice of donor, as I don’t know if I’d choose a family member myself if I had the choice, but nevertheless I was really rooting for them to finally have a baby. No such luck with that transfer as the fertilization rate was low and the niece was trying to be helpful and increased the drug dosage on her own. I could just see the numbness of the husband and the wife going through the motion of everyday life. That night, the couple had a conversation in bed. The husband expressed that he was actually relieved that it was over, that he didn’t have it in him to do this anymore, and that he didn’t even know if he wanted a kid anymore. He knew that he should console his wife, but he just didn’t have the energy to do that himself. I feel that it was heartfelt and realistically depicted how one would feel after trying so many things for so long without success. It also shows that IVF or DEIVF is not foolproof. Often times both of these fail and leave people with an empty bank account and no baby. As sad as I was for them, there was a glimmer of hope at the end of the movie when the couple got a phone call regarding an adoption and sat in a diner to meet with an expectant birth mother. It showed how the husband who originally sat across from the wife crossed to the other side to sit next to her and hold her hand. They were in this position and waiting expectantly facing the door of the restaurant. That was the end, and I love it that we don’t get to know what happened next. We don’t know if the expectant birth mom was going to show up, but it was so encouraging to see that 1) there is a chance that they will become parents and 2) regardless of the outcome, this pair who has gone on this incredibly difficult path together will be okay, as they are in this together. That was me and Bob, that regardless of the outcome, we were in it together. That has always been such a comforting thing for me, and I hope that those who watch this movie and are walking the same path of infertility also find comfort in that.
Seven years ago today we got married.
It was such a glorious day. The weather was the best; sunny and breezy, which was such a blessing because the stormy weather the weekend before made it a little nerve wracking for me. We were surrounded by 98 of our closest friends and family. People still talk about how fun the wedding was to this day. It was so beautiful despite the fact that nobody from Bob’s family, including his parents, attended our wedding. Not only were they not in attendance, my father-in-law yelled at Bob on the phone the day before the wedding for going forward with it. The beautiful day was marred by his family’s disapproval of the marriage. In fact, his dad didn’t talk to him again until 10 months later when we went to visit my in-laws overseas. The family drama that came with the marriage paled in comparison to the struggles that we had when we decided to start a family. The funny thing was, at 37 years old, I was afraid of getting pregnant right away before we could spend some time to get to know each other as husband and wife. In fact, Bob spent his eve of our wedding at a drug store purchasing condoms and got locked out by his best man who locked the door and went to bed early.
How naive I was. If I had known the struggles we would encounter trying for a baby, I would have agreed to start trying right away. Little did I know that in the course of the next six years, we discovered problems such as over 50 tiny uterine fibroids that required surgical removal, high FSH, low AMH, the need for donor eggs, Bob’s DNA fragmentation and varicocele, and the need for a gestational carrier.
Fast forward to this day. After all the struggles with Bob’s parents and building a family, it is nothing short of a miracle that we have both my in-laws and our babies sleeping under the same roof. Even just a couple of years ago, I didn’t think that it was possible. We survived all the struggles in the last seven years and thrive as a couple. When things get tough in the future (I am sure they will at some point), our past challenges can and will serve as a guide and an encouragement for us to push forward. I love my husband and wish him a very happy anniversary, the first one we have with our babies safely in our arms. What a blessing it is to get to say that.
I had a burst of energy the other day so I decided to clean the drawers of our bathroom. It must have been a very long time since I emptied out the drawers. Buried deep inside of one of them were these:
I remember my emotions when I purchased these tests. Some were purchased during my first IVF cycle, and some other ones were for the joy of seeing two pink lines and the word “pregnant” after my first donor egg transfer. I remember being so hopeful and so certain that my own pee would produce the magic word on the Clear Blue digital test or the beautiful pink lines on the First Response test. The expiration dates came and went, and the me in my present day would never use any of these tests or any newly purchased ones on myself. Although I have crying babies outside to prove that one doesn’t need to be pregnant in order to build a family, my thoughts and feelings at that moment were still a tremendous sense of loss of the ability to grow a baby inside of me. I thought I had worked through my feelings about that. I guess grief hits you whenever, especially at unexpected moments. This is a reminder that I will never be pregnant or feel a life grow in my uterus. That feeling sucks.
Needless to say, these tests or their new versions no longer belong to my bathroom drawers.
I have noticed something after the babies were born: some friendships aren’t the same anymore.
The most obvious shift is with my maid of honor (let’s call her MOH). She is one of my very best friends. Throughout this whole journey with infertility, she had been THE prayer warrior for us. She was the one to whom I would send a text if there was any urgent prayer request. Even though we were both busy, we often tried to find time to hang out once a month. Bob often jokes that he doesn’t have to plan anything too nice or romantic for me for my birthday because this friend of mine would for sure take me to a fancy restaurant every time I turn a year older. This year for my birthday she took me to this Japanese restaurant for a very nice Omakase meal. We were joking that this would be our very last fancy meal together before the babies arrived. It wasn’t quite the last meal since we also got together one more time in August for her birthday. I took her out for ramen and a movie and we had a great time. That was the last time we hung out before the babies.
I sent MOH a text with the babies’ pictures on the day of birth. No response. Being so busy with newborns at the hospital, I didn’t think much of it. She didn’t write me any emails or texts in the next whole month. I found it very odd that she hadn’t reached out to find out how we were doing or to meet the babies. For the meal train that was set up for us, she signed up for meal delivery in mid-November. Again, no personal texts, calls, or emails. And this was somebody who would hang out with me at least once a month. On the day the babies turned one month old, I finally sent her a text asking how she was doing since I hadn’t seen her or heard from her in a long time. She wrote me back saying that she was looking for us at church but didn’t see us. We exchanged a couple of texts. She then said that she’d be coming to us in a few weeks since she was on our dinner schedule.
At that point, this whole interaction left me with an icky feeling. This is one of my best friends. Somebody who had been with me through thick and thin for over 15 years. She stood next to me at the altar on our wedding day and later delivered a toast during the wedding reception so touching that made me cry. All these years during the worst times of our infertility trials, her prayers and support lifted me up. Even during the nine months of the surrogacy, she was there praying for us, Annie, and the babies.
I don’t like how distant it has felt with her.
The only explanation I have for this is that maybe she has had a difficult time processing the reality of me having babies. My friend is a successful professional who is beautiful inside and out. However, she hasn’t had a lot of luck with dating despite being open and proactive in meeting people both in real life and online. She desires to be married and have a family but it hasn’t happened. However, I never felt that it was a problem for her to witness my dating relationship and eventually my married life. We still hung out like usual and I tried to support her as much as I could. So maybe this time it really struck her that my life is truly really far from her single, professional life. Maybe like friends who struggle with infertility, she also struggles with her singleness and the delay in her pursuit of a marriage and family? Maybe she is having a hard time being there because it is a painful reminder of what she desires?
I really don’t know what happened. But I miss our friendship.
Mid-November my MOH delivered a super yummy dinner to us. That was two whole months after the babies were born. She looked as pleasant as one could be. She helped us hold the babies. She kissed them on their foreheads and was tender and loving. However, I don’t think I was being overly sensitive about this, but I could feel a tiny bit of distance from her. It was a vibe that was difficult to describe or explain. We chatted about her life. She asked about the birth but interrupted me mid-story to ask about something else. After another ten minutes, she had to go. Again, something was different and I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. And that was the one and only time she saw and hung out with our babies.
MOH and I crossed path at church yesterday in the beginning of the service. She was on duty as a greeter chatting with someone when I passed by her. She smiled and asked if I had already gotten a bulletin, then turned her head to continue to chat. I didn’t see her after church. Once again, we missed an opportunity to connect with each other and for her to see our babies.
I asked myself if I would ever tell her about my observation or to ask her about it. I think I will wait a bit to see if she would seek opportunity to come see us. I reached out with a text yesterday but haven’t heard from her. Maybe she is really processing her feelings about this, but it makes me feel a little bit sad that there is an unexpected change in our friendship. My thoughts and feelings during my infertility journey have taught me to be patient with those around me who might be going through their own difficult times. I think about how I was when one of my best friends was pregnant with her second baby. I saw her during her pregnancy once and hardly hung out with her after the birth. I was hurting, so maybe my MOH is hurting too? I will give her some time and space and hopefully our interaction will be more frequent and back to normal. It does make feel sad though. Infertility sucks, and resolution after infertility is not without its challenges. I do realize that I can’t force things to happen. Hopefully time and patience will pay off.