This Mother’s Day was about celebrating with friends/family who finally became mothers after a long journey of infertility and standing by those who are still struggling. In particular, I celebrated with my friend who finally got to have her premie twins at home with her after they spent 3 months in the NICU. I wrote about her here and here. (Recap: Twins were born via gestational surrogacy at 28 weeks and my friend and her husband were many hours away from the hospital. They had to fly in right away but had to miss their kids’ birth). The NICU time was a crazy roller coaster with difficulty feeding and a host of health concerns for baby girl. My friend and her husband stayed at Ronald McDonald House and the kitchen was closed there because of COVID-19, so she bought a microwave to heat up canned soup for meals. Imagine living away from home caring for premie twins with health concerns. Now the NICU days are all behind them as they are safely home as of three weeks ago. New life with twins is definitely difficult. They didn’t have time to prepare for the twins’ birth. They had no baby shower and hadn’t had the time to clean out the tiny one bedroom apartment in the city to accommodate two new lives. But they are resilient people and make do with what they have. One year ago was when I first met her via my own reproductive endocrinologist. This friend had just lost her first baby when her GC’s betas started dropping. She lost so much of her hope and couldn’t fathom her situation turning around. When we first met and had a phone conversation for two hours, I told her what my dear friend A. always told me, “Things don’t change until they change”. She would not have imagined in her wildest dream one year ago that she’d be a mother of two babies who repeatedly puke all over her. It has been hard taking care of twins without any help amid a pandemic. But she is taking it in stride. I am just so joyful for her that she gets to celebrate her first Mother’s day snuggling her own babies. A friend of mine I met on a food tour in Hawaii has also been struggling with making a baby. Despite her being in the trenches, she always writes me a Happy Mother’s Day message. She had made some embryos prior to the pandemic shut down and I really wish that she can start transfer again as soon as possible. I also reached out to my friend who has been trying for years, and to my cousin who had three miscarriages last year and will start a Clomid cycle soon. I know how hard this day could be for people who want to be a mom, and I hope that my reaching out to them has brought some love and warmth to them on this difficult day.
My life after the shelter in place has taken effect has not been too bad. I am used to being with the kids 24/7 so we just have to get used to not going to our usual places. Bob continues to work from home. It actually has been nice having him home. The kids see a whole lot more of him since he doesn’t have to commute and comes up to see them at lunch and after nap time. When he is done with work at 6pm, the whole family goes out for a stroll around the block once for some fresh air. My anxiety level was up and down and then up again in the last week, but mostly I am grateful for a paycheck, a roof over our heads, and our health. Grocery shopping yesterday did raise my anxiety level as I was imagining coronavirus floating in the air and on surfaces that I touched. I did use gloves and went through the motion of changing clothes, wiping down surfaces, washing the shopping bags, and washing my hands thoroughly after I returned from the supermarket. I think a lot about all the people who are profoundly affected by the shelter in place order: people who lose their jobs or their income, people who are sick and are dying or died, and frontline workers who don’t have enough protective gear. I have also been thinking a lot about people who are in the process of pursuing fertility treatment. My friend just did her last transfer in Southern California the day before the governor told the whole state to stay home. She was a lucky one in that regard. Imagine those people who were in the process of growing follicles. Or those that are waiting for their embryos to be made with donor eggs. Or those that have already been paying the monthly fee for their gestational carrier but have not done a transfer. Or those whose gestational carriers are currently pregnant for them in another state and it’d be unsafe for anyone to travel. Everything comes to a screeching halt. I can only imagine how devastating it must feel to face this tremendous challenge. My friend who just transferred all of a sudden felt very sad and depressed one day wondering when she’d get to transfer again if this cycle didn’t work. I have no answer for her. I know that we will be allowed to do the usual things again. It’s a matter of time. But for a lot of people who want a baby, it already feels like time is slipping away even when COVID-19 didn’t exist. I can only imagine how this adds to the already heightened anxiety for people who are facing infertility. This stop in treatment will last a whole lot longer if people do not do their part by staying home to flatten the curve. I just hope and pray that everyone takes it seriously and not to think that they are invincible. Then there is hope that everyone can resume treatment in a relatively short amount of time.
I wrote about my other female cousin who lost three pregnancies in the last year. She consulted with a reproductive immunologist who recommends doing a hysterosalpingogram and hysteroscopy to rule things out. If those two tests and her partner’s sperm test check out, she recommends my cousin to try naturally with Clom.id for baby number one and IVF to bank embryos for number 2. I shared her information with Dr. E, my own reproductive endocrinologist, to get an idea of what she thinks the most sensible next step should be. My cousin is now 41. Dr. E thinks that the most logical thing to do is IVF with PGS. She said that chance of a healthy pregnancy with IUI at 41 is 5%. Chance with IVF at this age will be around 15%. She said that if my cousin waits and does IVF when trying naturally doesn’t work, the window of having a healthy pregnancy may have closed. Dr. E tells every woman over 40 to realize that she may not have a healthy egg left and that’s normal and to be expected. She said that having a miscarriage (getting pregnant naturally like my cousins does) doesn’t mean you have a higher chance of a healthy pregnancy. I told my cousin all of this. She said she’d wait until the tests are done. My cousin got her HSG done. Her tubes were open. Her hysteroscopy showed some inflammation and spots that may or may not be endometriosis. Her uterus has a slight septum so the next step is to do a surgery to remove the septum. It may or may not prevent her from having a miscarriage but it is to make sure that the uterus would not be the reason for a miscarriage if she had one. I reiterated Dr. E’s recommendation to my cousin. Maybe IVF is a bit out of reach for her right now financially? She is going to try Clo.mid like she had planned. Since she got pregnant all three times she “tried” (and the first time she didn’t even try), she is quite confident that she will get pregnant again very soon. She feels like once her uterus is fixed, she should be able to get pregnant and hopes to remain pregnant. She will continue trying naturally until her next miscarriage. If she miscarries again, she will pursue IVF in Europe instead of here for the fraction of the cost. From talking to her, I can feel her innocence that comes from not having been on this journey for too long. She thinks that she will get pregnant quite easily. The only thing she needs to do is to keep the pregnancy. I don’t think she worries about the egg quality. It sounds like she thinks that she will make some good embryos for transfer if she has to do IVF. I know from experience that even if you make many follicles and eggs, at age 41, the chances of making good embryos (even PGS normal ones) that would stick are quite low. And I have seen so many people having embryos that don’t make it to day 5 or 6. I just marvel at how differently she and I look at the situation. That’s not surprising right? She’s pretty new to trying to conceive and I have already come out of the other side having supported many and knowing all the heartaches that could result from failed cycles and more miscarriages. She could be a poor responder to meds. She could make a bunch of embryos that don’t survive til day 5 or 6. She could get implantation but go through the beta roller coaster. Going to Europe for IVF may mean she’d have to go back repeatedly for more cycles. Many things could happen. I hope that she never has to learn the harsh reality of infertility. I wish that her innocence can live on, which means that she’d be able to bring home a baby relatively easily. I really hope so. I don’t wish my journey or her sister’s journey upon her.
About 4.5 weeks ago, I wrote about my friend whose gestational carrier was 3 cm dilated while carryings twins for her. It was 23.5 weeks or so. Her GC had been placed on bed rest at the hospital since then. The goal was to get to 24 weeks, 28 weeks, 32 weeks, and then 36 weeks. My friend had had some difficulties communicating with her GC in terms of her attitude in general and cooperation with the bed rest rules. I won’t go into details about it but it had been stressful for my friend who lives 8 hours away. Everyday she was dealing with the legal aspect, the GC’s front, and worrying about the babies being born so early, as well as the insurance and the extra cost of having a GC on bed rest. Well, yesterday morning she sent me a text saying that her GC went into labor a little while ago. Yesterday was 28 weeks. She and her husband weren’t told details. They booked the first flight out and needless to say missed their twins’ birth. When they were at the airport, they were told that their babies were born and taken to the NICU but weren’t told their conditions. When she got to the hospital, since her prebirth order was still pending as 28 weeks was still early, she had to get permission to see the babies. She finally saw the babies. They were initially on feeding and breathing tubes. Since then, the babies have been moved to CPAP in the afternoon and they seem to be breathing on their own most of the time. Her GC said No to providing breast milk to them even though the doctors said that it is critical for her babies. Basically, everything is a mess. Her husband has been on the phone with the social worker and attorney to expedite the birth order. They are now 8 hours away from home and will be there for some time. She already feels inadequate and feels like a failure to have to use a gestational carrier to have a baby. I can only imagine how she feels now. If she could carry her babies herself, she would be extra careful with keeping the babies inside for as long as possible. She wouldn’t say no to pumping breast milk for her own babies. She wouldn’t have to be so far away from home and have no control over many things. Looking at her situation, I am so thankful for having a very positive birth experience with our babies. We got to fly on a plane as planned, spend time with Annie as planned, watch the babies’ birth as planned, and fly home with them as planned. No extra care was needed. What I had was a miracle and it makes me cherish having my kids so much. Sometimes their behaviors make me frustrated, but I look at their health and growth, I have nothing but gratitude for Annie’s selfless acts. Please keep my friend’s emotions and physical strength, her GC’s recovery, and her babies’ growth in your thoughts and prayers as they navigate the next many weeks of time in the NICU.
Even though I am no longer trying for a baby, this past weekend was filled with emotional ups and downs in relation to (in)fertility. It started out with my friend who has been trying for a baby for several years. She has banked multiple embryos with her own eggs and has been trying to transfer them to make a baby. Her journey has been quite a roller coaster. She had a miscarriage after her first transfer, which caused her to decide to go back to banking more embryos. After that she finally decided to transfer again. A couple of transfers later ended up in another miscarriage. After that, her lining had been acting up with fluid buildup and what not, which delayed her subsequent transfer. After months of trying to build a decent lining, she had a recent transfer and found out that it was negative on Friday. Saturday was her birthday. She turned 45. She is feeling so sad and depressed. It has been hard to watch her go through such a difficult time. She feels like there is no hope and she can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. I really feel for her. She still has to transfer all of her embryos and if none of that works, she’d start to think about the possibility of using donor eggs. It has been such a long journey for her with all these ups and downs that I feel like I have exhausted all the things I can say to her. I know she appreciates me being present for her, but it feels like there is not much I can say or do.
And then we had a family get together with my mom’s side of the family. Remember my cousin who struggled to have a baby and pursued egg donation? She gave birth to her baby six months ago and made it back to her hometown with her significant other and her baby. I had walked with her from the beginning of her fertility journey until she had her baby in her arms so it was so sweet to see her holding her own child. Meeting her and her baby with the rest of the family members was definitely the highlight of my weekend. It was such joy to witness my cousin coming out of the other side of infertility. During dinner, her younger sister, my only other female cousin, shared with me that she had had three miscarriages in the past year. My heart immediately hurt so much for her and I started tearing up. One of the pregnancies ended after they even saw a heartbeat. She was on Loven.ox for that pregnancy. There wasn’t enough tissues left for testing so they didn’t know the cause of the miscarriage. She is now going to consult with a reproductive immunologist in her area to hopefully find out the cause of her problems. I just can’t believe that all the female cousins on my mom’s side of the family have suffered from infertility. I will be here to support her if she reaches out, just like how I support my friend I mentioned above. I hope and pray for a baby for the both of them in the near future. No more tears and no more miscarriages……
I made a new friend through my previous reproductive endocrinologist Dr. E back in May. The twists and turns of her fertility journey are as complicated if not more so than mine. She had just had her first positive pregnancy via a gestational carrier. Unfortunately, it resulted in a miscarriage. Needless to say, my friend was devastated. Bob and I went through something similar prior to our successful transfer of our twins. I understood how she felt. Because of this, I have become a support to her because she is such a private person and has not opened up to many people in her life. I told her something that my friend A. told me, “Things don’t change until they change”. It became true for her. The next transfer of two embryos resulted in a pregnancy with twins. Just like us. I have been so thrilled for her. At first it was hard for her to be joyful about it. Who can blame her? After a long twisted journey like hers, it is so hard to be happy about this anticipating that another shoe will drop. As the gestational carrier’s pregnancy progresses, my friend has become a little bit more relaxed each time I talk to her. We continue to have contact when I give her my opinion on things, encourage her, listen to her, and start helping with getting ready for the twins’ arrival after their 20-week scan. Last week, this friend called me while I was at the dentist so I couldn’t pick up the phone. My heart jumped out when I listened to her tearful voicemail message. At a bit over 23 weeks, her gestational carrier was 3cm dilated, and my friend was devastated. She just couldn’t bear the thought of having her babies so early and the risk of losing them. I won’t go into too many details about it, but my heart goes out to her. After such a long journey and finally waiting to have her babies, she is facing this tremendous challenge. I am glad to report that her gestational carrier is currently on bed rest and is stable. Sometimes I wonder why God put me and Bob on this path. And then I meet a new person who is also on a similar path and I walk with them on their journey. At that moment, I am thankful that God allows us to have come out on the other side and be an encouragement to those who are going through the same thing. This is what this is about: a community and a support system for those in the trenches so they feel heard and understood, and that they are not alone. I am so glad I could be that support for my friend.
I used to be a group leader for an evening class for an international bible study program. Now I attend a day class with my twins because of their children’s program for kids age 5 and under. A couple of weeks prior to our trip to Asia, in one of the class meetings, I noticed this lady and thought that she looked familiar to a point I felt that I might have spoken to her before. Last week when we returned to bible study after our trip, I dropped the kids off in their classroom and was warmly welcomed by the children’s teachers who called out my name. On my way out to my own classroom, someone else called my name. I looked up and it was the lady that looked familiar to me. She asked me if I remembered her. I told her that I noticed her a little while back and thought she looked very familiar. She reminded me that we sat next to each other on a plane ride to a retreat for this international bible study program a few years back. She remembered that I told her that if I had kids, I would name my son this particular name that now Okra has. She remembers because her son has the same name. All the memory came rushing back. It was 5.5 years ago. We had just had our very first transfer with our first blastocyst we named Clay and a morula we named Eli. I had my first pregnancy that turned out to be a chemical pregnancy. I was so heartbroken to a point that I felt kind of paralyzed, but felt that God was leading me to still attend this retreat. This lady and I sat next to each other and realized we were going to the same retreat. We hit it off and somehow I shared with her about my situation. And that was when I told her what I would name my son and her son happened to have the same name. That was so early on in our journey to parenthood I didn’t know (of course not) the crazy twists and turns in the next few years that would get us to the current time. I didn’t know it back then but it took a lot of time, energy, money, and serious/thoughtful consideration before we decided on using an egg donor and a gestational carrier. Looking back, God seriously watched over us every step of the way. I might have had doubts back then if I really would have a son who I could name [Okra’s name]. Meeting this lady again and remembering the details of our initial struggles reminds me of how faithful God is/has been even when I have little faith at times. Being able to share with this lady that God has indeed given us these precious kids and completed our family is nothing sort of a miracle. She witnessed the beginning of a story and now gets to read the ending. It is like coming a full circle. God is good.