I have joined a local Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS) group this year. For those who are not familiar with it, it is a group with biweekly meetings for mothers of infant, toddlers, and preschoolers, and those who are expecting. It meets from September to May, and you are assigned a table of 8 to 10 people. There is a theme every year and you sit at that table with the same people throughout the year to discuss topics related to motherhood surrounding the chosen theme. In the beginning of the meeting a scrumptious breakfast spread is provided. And did I mention that there is childcare? The kids get to learn something new with their friends in a safe environment and I get adult time for 2 hours. Before my friend invited me to join, I was hesitant because I feared that given how I became a mother, which I am quite sure is very different from how the majority of women there became a mom, I might not fit into the group. But I was yearning for some face-to-face connection with others who may understand my struggles on a daily basis, I put on my brave face and walked into the hall expecting to be overwhelmed. The end result was a pleasant surprise. I loved my first time there. Even though I didn’t know the mothers at the table, we openly shared our joy and struggles of motherhood. After that meeting, I signed up and happily paid my dues for the whole year (which covers food and childcare). I have been very open about my journey of motherhood and how the twins became my children. The ladies in my group have been very supportive and genuine in getting to know me and my story. I love going. And then COVID-19 happened. We don’t get to meet up anymore. Like the rest of the world, we have resorted to a virtual meeting on Zoom. Our table leader is a lovely lady with two little girls. She looked extremely tired that evening. After 45 minutes of the meeting, I asked her if she was doing okay because she just sounded low energy. Then she said, for those who didn’t know, she is expecting and has been extremely tired. This totally caught me by surprise because I didn’t expect her to be expecting? Then I came to think about it, she is the fourth person in this group who has gotten pregnant in the past year. Three ladies have given birth already. Two of them to their 3rd child and one to her second child. The pregnancy rate is so high given we only have 8 people in the group. It shouldn’t be surprising though, right? This is a group for mothers of infants, toddlers, and preschoolers. Of course the participants are at a childbearing age. Having two kids doesn’t stop them from having another child. Infertility rate is one in eight. I am the one in the group of eight. The rest gets pregnant easily. The good news for me is, I am genuinely happy for them and I am not sad at all for myself. I am done done done and don’t want another child. Period. I was holding one of the ladies’ newborn the other day. The baby smell was intoxicating. It is one of the things I love most about babies. However, it doesn’t make me want to have another baby. No wonder I am no longer jealous about pregnant ladies, pregnancies, or newborn babies. The baby boom is merely an observation. But this observation also shows that I am still infertile. If I were fertile, this baby boom probably wouldn’t even be on my radar.
My kids are now 21 months old. I started reading to them pretty much since they were born. Bunny in particular has developed a love for books. We currently have about 45 library books in our house, with 44 of them being children’s books. Bunny reads some of the books over and over again herself and also asks me to read them to her. Okra also likes to read and does flip the books on his own, but his level of interest is not nearly as intense as Bunny’s. In the morning when we change Okra’s diaper first, Bunny is satisfied with waiting for her turn as long as we hand her a book. She memorizes words from some of these library books and fills in the blank whenever she remembers. Since the summer began, we have joined our library’s Summer Learning Challenge. We are to log every 20 minutes of reading or listening by coloring one of the 36 wheels on a piece of paper. When we are done with that, plus trying 6 activities that are new to us, then each kid gets a new book and a raffle ticket to have a chance to win $1000 scholarship. Some days we get to color 3 wheels. That is an hour of reading. Bunny can sit there and read to herself for 30 minutes sometimes. Here is a picture of them hiding in the corner reading before church yesterday:
Isn’t this adorable? I just love that the kids are so into reading. I hope that their love for books will never end.
This past weekend I attended my nephew’s high school graduation. Coincidentally, the day before the graduation, I was re-reading my old blog posts and came across the one that I wrote about his 8th grade graduation in June 2015. I was going through a very difficult period of time with having to have a surgery inside my uterine cavity and having to find a donor in addition to some family drama. Watching the mother of a graduate reading a card from her son and tearing up from his words was such a trigger for me. I was tearing up a bit wondering about my future: if I would ever get to attend my kid’s graduation. This past Saturday, sitting in the theater witnessing another milestone of my nephew’s life, life surely felt very different from four years ago at his previous graduation. I no longer have to wonder if I’d ever have a chance to attend my kids’ graduation. I mean, we don’t know about the future, but since my children are here on this earth, the chances of me being able to be at their graduation are exponentially higher than when I was still hoping to make a baby. Instead of a sense of loss, unfairness, envy, jealousy, fear that I experienced four years ago, I was a happy mother checking on my phone’s baby monitor app periodically to see if my daughter was still napping in her crib and messaging my husband to see if our boy was still sleeping in his pack n play. I am forever grateful that at this graduation my pursuit of a child was no longer an uncertainty. Being able to celebrate my kids at their middle school, high school, and even college graduation is not a far-fetched dream anymore.
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.
The kids’s comprehension has grown exponentially in the last month or so, especially Okra. He was the one who did not understand as much as Bunny in the past. Now he has caught up and even surpassed her in some areas. It has been a lot of fun and a joy to see that they make connections and associations with concepts and ideas. They do things like following two-step directions (e.g. Go pick up the carrot and give it to mommy) or turning a book right side up when I tell them that it’s upside down. About a month ago Okra showed interest in the pictures of our maternity shoot that are hanging on the nursery wall. He pointed at the photos and I’d tell him that Annie Yee Yee (Auntie Annie in Cantonese) and mommy are in them. From then on, whenever I ask where Annie Yee Yee is, he points at the photos. I figure since the kids know body parts such as tummy, I started telling them about who Annie Yee Yee is. I say, “See Annie Yee Yee’s big tummy? You guys were inside of her when she was carrying you both for mommy. There is Okra, and there is Bunny.” I said that a few times when they were standing in the cribs after listening to their nap time and bed time stories. I didn’t expect them to understand or remember what I said for a while. To my surprise, these kids actually know what’s going on. A couple of days ago, after I changed Bunny’s diaper, I asked her where Annie Yee Yee was. She pointed at the photos. I asked her who was inside of Annie Yee Yee’s tummy. She patted on her own chest and smiled! Wow I was impressed. I thought it was a one off, so I tried it later again, this time with Okra. After their nap time story before putting them down, I asked both of them who was inside of Annie Yee Yee’s tummy, and both of them patted on their own chest. I don’t think Okra was copying Bunny. I feel that they both knew what I was talking about. At a few days shy of 16 months, that was not bad at all! I told Annie about it. It was so heartwarming for her to know that the kids are learning about her. This is our first step of telling the kids about their conception story. By about 18 months, I’ll gauge their comprehension skills and start talking about their egg donor. Hopefully by the time they fully understand the world around them, their conception story of egg donation and surrogacy will be a part of them as natural as breathing in air.
Almost a year ago, I wrote about being sad that my maid of honor seemed to have pulled herself away from my life ever since the twins were born. I felt that the distance was due to her having a difficult time dealing with being single and childless when my family had finally started and completed. Although I was sad, I decided to give her space. When she moved from her shared apartment into her own apartment, I went to support her on moving day. We hung out one time in March and another time end of June. Both times we had a good time. But as one of my best friends who used to celebrate my birthday on a yearly basis prior to the twins’ arrival, she did not even contact me on my birthday this year. It wasn’t so much that I was missing out on a good meal with her, but I felt a even bigger sense of loss that things did change between us. I bumped into her at church several times and each time was a little bit more than awkward somehow. I have sent her texts periodically to ask her how she is doing and to tell her that I am thinking about her. Finally back in early October when I saw her at church, I suggested hanging out for dinner one day in the coming few weeks. She agreed to it and texted a few suggestion for restaurants. I picked one and we met up one night a couple of weeks ago at a decent/early enough time because Bob was putting the twins to bed. I am so glad that I don’t take things personally and continue to reach out to her. As we sat down for dinner, it just felt like the old times. It reminded me why we were best friends in the first place. We shared a common interest for good food. Our conversation flowed with genuineness. My friend just has had a very difficult year and has been very lost in terms of her career, relationship status, ministry direction, and even her place of residence. She has been treated unfairly at her work that has left no extra time for her to even have room to breathe. She hasn’t had time to exercise or cook regularly. She hasn’t gone on a date for quite some time, and as she is approaching 40 next year, she has felt extra lost in terms of going into a relationship and starting a family. She has looked into moving to another city or even state but nothing seems like a obvious choice for her to take a plunge. She has even lost her desires to communicate with God. As I sat there listening to my friend, I could totally see why there has been a distance. In this difficult season, she just doesn’t have room spiritually, mentally, physically, or emotionally to care for other people. I know that she’ll rise above it eventually and things will look up in the future for her. She has always been strong. Although circumstances have changed between us, I feel that the core friendship hasn’t. We even made plans to go to New Orleans for a girls trip in October 2019. I am now confident that our friendship will remain strong in the years to come. The key is not to take things personally and be compassionate for the other person’s circumstances. I will continue to reach out to her and to care for her. I hope that she’ll have some clear directions in her life soon.
A reader emailed me last week asking me a question that I thought would be good to address in my blog. I am not at the liberty to share the details of her journey, but for various serious health reasons, she needs to use a gestational carrier after needing to use donor eggs. After grieving the loss of her genetic links, she is now experiencing the loss of not having a chance to carry her baby. Since I have walked this same path, she is curious as to how I feel now that I have had my babies for the last eleven months.
How do I feel now that I am a mother to my babies whom I didn’t carry or contribute to their genes? I love both of them with all my heart. I feel tremendously privileged and honored that God chose us to be their parents. Sometimes I look at them and still cannot believe that I am their mother. They are precious, beautiful, fun, and perfect. I cannot imagine life without them and I cannot imagine having children other than them. Does it still hurt that their genes came from a donor? Absolutely. Do I still grieve the loss of not carrying them? Yes. However, these thoughts don’t come to my mind too often. Life currently is full, hectic, chaotic, and fun-filled. On a day to day basis, the fact that I didn’t carry them doesn’t come into my mind too often. They know me and me only as their mom and it will remain that way. I think more about having had to use a gestational carrier when the moms in my moms of multiples group talk about breastfeeding or changes in their bodies after giving birth. However, these topics don’t make me feel overly sad or emotional. I just can’t and don’t participate in these topics because of the lack of first-hand experience or knowledge. Not being able to carry the babies doesn’t diminish my love for them. On the other hand, I do think about our donor from time to time especially when I look at my daughter’s face. She looks more like the donor than my son does. My baby boy looks exactly like his daddy and does not remind me of our donor. However, Bunny has the donor’s features, and looking at her sometimes is like looking at the donor. Her beauty sometimes makes me think about how she’d look so different if she shared my genes. This is highlighted when people comment on how she looks nothing like me and my husband’s genes are very strong. These comments sometimes make me uneasy but I have accepted that this comes with the package. My baby girl looking like the donor does not make me love her any less. I marvel at the unique looks and personality traits of her and her brother, and I just feel so blessed to be their mom. A friend of mine who may have to consider the donor egg route tells me repeatedly that she is fearful of not being able to love her future children made with donor eggs. I tell her that truthfully there is no time to think about these things. When I have a moment, all I want to do is to get enough rest so I have enough energy to chase after these babies. Like I said earlier, I do still feel a sense of loss from time to time. It probably will never go away, but my life is so full now these feelings are far and few between. Does that erase the previous five years’ pains and heartaches? No it doesn’t. The experience and journey stay with you forever. Once infertile, forever infertile. But this history doesn’t define me. It is a part of my life, but so is my life as a stay-at-home mom to my precious children. Fighting so hard to have these babies does make me appreciate them more even when dealing with their crying and screaming in the middle of the night or their tantrums.
These are just my feelings, but I hope this post is helpful for those who are considering donor eggs and/or using a gestational carrier to fulfill your dream to become a mother. Feel free to write me for any questions at binkymoongee at gmail dot com.
I was a bit misty eyed when the idea of this blog post first popped into my head.
We started trying for a baby prior to the birth of this blog. Bob was the one who suggested “binky moongee” as part of the blog’s name. As I wrote in “What is a binky moongee?“, Bob’s dream had always been for his baby to press his/her face (“moongee” in Tamil, Bob’s mother tongue) on the glass of the window waiting for him to come home from work. This dream was not fulfilled for quite many years. Until now.
Every single day when Bob’s car pulls into the driveway or the spot in front of our house, I put Bunny and Okra right in front of the window. They would press their noses on the glass while excitedly pounding their hands on the window. They would spot Bob and start smiling and then laughing. Bob would then come stand in front of them outside of the window calling their names and putting his big hands on the window where the babies’ small hands are. It is such a joyful moment that concludes a very long work day for him.
The only thing is we can’t call these babies “binky moongee” because they had stopped using their binkies months ago. Despite that, it is still so heartwarming to witness my dear husband’s dream being fulfilled on a daily basis after our long struggles. We know that this blessing is not a given. This realization makes it even more precious to see the kids’ reunion with their dad every single day. We don’t have to hope and dream for a binky moongee anymore. We are blessed with two.
Bunny and Okra are 10 months old. They hear Cantonese majority of the day with me and my mom being their primary caregivers. I read and sing to them in English but tag on descriptions of the pictures in Cantonese. Cantonese nursery rhymes are also occasionally part of the repertoire. Recently they have shown signs of understanding our words. The first word that Bunny clearly showed understanding of was “giraffe” in Cantonese, which is a term consisting of three characters. One day I asked her in Cantonese “Where is the giraffe?” She turned around and looked at the location of the correct animal. I thought it was a fluke and asked again. Her correct rate came out to be about 75%. She DOES know. From then on it has been an exciting new world of discovering the babies’ new receptive language skills. Bunny understands when I asked where Baba (daddy in Cantonese) is or where the car is. She looks out the window for both (since the babies often stand by the window with their faces pressing on the glass watching Bob’s car pull in the driveway). She also recognizes the word “PoPo” for grandma. At first when I asked Okra the same things he had no reaction. About a week later he suddenly turned his head to look at the elephant and the giraffe on the wall when the question was asked. Looks like he’s catching up with his sister.
Both babies have been babbling a lot. The babbles are all the generic dada, mama, baba, wawa, and a bunch of vowels all mixed together. I do think that Bunny has her “words”, or strings of sounds to which she has assigned meanings. Whenever she is hungry, she says “Mehhhhh” in desperation. She says the same consonant and vowel combination when she sees us eat and wants some of our food. The other day she looked at Bob’s water cup and said “Waaaaa”. Both kids actually call out “Mamama” or just “Maaaaaaa” in desperation especially in the middle of the night when they wake up and only want me. I don’t know if I’d count those as a real “mama” as I don’t know if they were just yelling in desperation or truly did know the sounds meant me, their mom.
Until one day. I was swiffering while speaking on the phone. Bunny was standing in her baby jail holding onto the bars and staring at my actions intently. I continued talking while cleaning the floor. Suddenly, she looked me in my eyes, said “Mama”, and then gave me the biggest beaming smile ever. She called me “Mama”! Intentionally! For the first time! I was in shock and immediately told the person on the other line, my close friend and former coworker who is also a speech language pathologist, how amazing it was that Bunny all of a sudden called me while not being desperate for something.
This exciting new development makes my heart sing. The babies clearly know who their mother is and are attached to me. But to hear my own child call me “mama” for the first time for real is out of this world amazing. It doesn’t erase all the pains from the long infertility struggles but it does help me to focus on my blessings especially during those recent crazy, tiring, sleepless, teething nights when both babies cry for their mama.
I can’t wait for them to talk!
My birthday this year was about two weeks ago. It officially marked the first birthday in my life that was spent with my babies. The last few years my birthday wish was all for us to have a take home baby. Every single time a birthday candle was placed in front of me, my wish was the same. It is so amazing to me that this wish has come true. Bob was in the middle of the last two weeks of his bonding leave. When he asked me what I wanted to do for my birthday, the first thing that came to my mind was to show the babies my favorite animal: giraffe. After the babies’ first nap, we drove 10 minutes to the zoo. We bought membership since I foresee myself taking the very mobile babies to the zoo often so we have some place fun to go. We fed the babies right in front of the safari animals. Looking at the giraffes up close while feeding the babies was amazing:
We strolled around looking at monkeys, hippos, rhinos, penguins, tigers, lions, etc. until the babies fell asleep in the stroller. We walked all over so that they could nap well. Unfortunately, at the end of the trip, I discovered that the necklace given by my in-laws this year as my wedding present fell off from my neck. I backtracked our steps for 30 minutes but couldn’t locate the necklace. I left my contact info with the office but still haven’t heard back. I am so tremendously sad about losing that one thing that my in-laws gave me. This necklace had a S-hook clasp. It kind of fell off one time prior but fortunately I caught it. So the clasp itself wasn’t too secure. But still, I was the one who lost it and I feel so bad.
After the babies went to bed, we headed out for a late dinner. I am so appreciative of my mom for being there to watch the kids. A nice simple Japanese dinner was enough to make my heart sing:
This was the simple joy of having a quiet dinner with my husband on my birthday knowing that our babies were sleeping safely and soundly at home. It was a truly satisfying birthday.