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.
The babies are 10 months now. Time just goes by so fast. Okra, my very sweet boy, used to be the champion formula drinker. After starting solids, his formula intake has tanked and he has also been experiencing constipation problems. We only feed him food that would help move things along but poor baby boy has visibly slimmed down and hasn’t gained any weight. He’s still heavy and still kind of chunky but it is not like before. On the other hand, Bunny who used to have problems with her formula all of a sudden took an interest in her bottles. For many days in a row her daily intake surpasses Okra’s. Despite being active all day long, her cheeks started to expand and her thighs are stronger and thicker. She feels much heavier to lift these days. I don’t carry the two of them at the same time anymore, but dad does. Here are the three of them:
Sometimes I’m just glad that I could stand back without having to hold anyone heavy. Hahahaha.
Instead of Bunny, my baby girl should’ve been nicknamed Monkey. She has proven herself to be the active one ever since she was a tiny baby. Now that she can crawl, stand, and cruise, it is even more evident how physically strong she is. Just a week ago, I found her half hanging on her brother’s highchair kneeling while being strapped in her own. These are the Ikea highchairs that have the waist belt only. Needless to say, I was half scared to death and was determined to put her in a highchair with a five point harness. Fortunately someone in my parents of multiples group posted these two very old but very functional highchairs up for grabs. They have five point harnesses and can also be folded and put away. The timing was just perfect and nobody had claimed them yet. Bunny now definitely has no way to escape from her new old highchair unless she knows how to push the middle button to unbuckle herself. So far, the only safe places to leave the twins are their cribs, the pack n play, and the baby jail (play yard) in the living room. However, two days ago Bunny showed us what she is capable of. When I was tending to her brother, she was standing in the corner of her crib. Suddenly, I found her hanging half of her upper body with her armpits over the top of the crib corner. Her legs and her feet were wrapping around the slats about half way up the crib. I was too stunned to even take a photo. We hurried her down but she did it at least one more time. Then yesterday, this happened :
Bunny figured out a way to climb up the pack n play half way as well. She is only 9 months old. I have seen friends with babies that are climbers. I just never thought that we’d have one in the house. And I would’ve never guessed that baby girl would be the one. I shudder to think about what lies ahead of me when she is even stronger. She is just so resourceful and her upper body strength and core strength are tremendous. One of the moms in my moms of twins group asked if Bob and I were climbers when we were babies. I was taken aback a little by this question. I haven’t told anyone in this group about donor eggs. And I don’t know if I will. But I totally felt like a fraud when she asked that question. Bob said, just answer the question directly and nothing else. Nope neither one of us was a climber, which is the truth. At these moments, I do think about our donor who was a soccer player and a coach. I believe Bunny inherited her physical agility. I’m proud of my little girl and her determination. You watch her eyes and you see that her brain is working on solving the problems. When she wants to reach something, she’ll do everything to figure it out. I too have that kind of determination but at these moments I can’t help but think that her tenacity (and physicality) was not contributed by my DNA. It does make me a little sad. But at the same time it is so exciting to see her learn and become more and more her own person. I feel so honored and privileged to be the mother of this amazing little girl. I can’t wait to see how she’ll turn out. And I definitely see gymnastics class in the future. I just hope that ER visits won’t be a part of our life.
Ever since I wanted a baby, my plan had always been to return to work part-time after a six-month maternity leave . Well, that was my plan with having one baby at a time. When we had our twins, the plan was still for me to end my maternity leave after six months, which would have been March. When my in-laws decided to come in April, my instinct was to be at home so I would have control over how the babies were cared for. Bob had no problem with me delaying my start day. My office is totally flexible and my boss just let me make my own decision. Since Bob still has two weeks of new parent leave that he won’t be able to take until late June/early July, I told everyone that I’d return to work some time in July so Bob and I could take the babies on a trip during his break. My boss came for a visit and asked me if I still felt good about going back to work. I said, Of course! But I was stressed about finding childcare.
I never looked into daycare early on, because, well, taking care of twins takes a lot of time and effort. I had some intense internal debate about nanny vs. daycare. With one baby, it would be a no brainer. Daycare would be the way to go because it’d cost way less than a nanny. But with twins, things change. The couple of daycares that I spoke to charge more per day for part time than for full time. That times two equals a hefty sum. Plus I’d have to do the whole getting two babies to get out the door and drop off and pick up thing, which adds to the stress of the day. The next choice is hiring a nanny. I knew that a nanny for two kids would be pricey. I had a hourly rate in my head that I’d offer thinking that it would be affordable for us. I signed up for one online service to search for a part time nanny. I received many applications but none of the applicants speaks Cantonese, which would be my first choice. A twin mom friend of mine referred me to an agency. The agency lady matched us with this Chinese nanny. I didn’t think it was going to materialize into anything. But once I spoke to the nanny and met her in person, I actually liked her a lot. She has been working for a family for eight years helping raise three children. She’ll be available when the youngest one goes to preschool in July. She doesn’t have experience with twins but she did take care of these kids simultaneously. The family she works for wrote her a wonderful reference letter. I came to find out (from a little Gool.ging with the information that she told me) that the father of the kids was my high school classmate. It is indeed a very small world. This nanny came to meet the babies and my mom, and to my surprise Miss I-Will-Cry-When-I-See-Strangers A.K.A. little Bunny warmed up to the nanny right away and played with her without any problems. It would be perfect, wouldn’t it?
I totally thought that everything was meant to be. However, the subsequent two days I did the math over and over again and it just didn’t seem right. The nanny would have to come for 10 hours a day from when I leave for work to when I step into the house. I get paid 7.5 hours a day at work. After paying my taxes and after paying her taxes, I would contribute absolutely no money to our household income. What is the point of me rushing to work and rushing back, trying to put dinner on the table, and rushing to bed time if I don’t bring in any extra money to the family? Just for my career and my own personal satisfaction? Leaving my babies with someone else and missing them and their milestones? It had never crossed my mind that I wouldn’t go back to work. For the first time ever, it occurred to me that maybe going back to work is not in my family’s best interest. I seriously considered this whole situation for a week then finally it became clearer and clearer that staying home with my babies will be the way to go.
I gave my boss my verbal notice. We both teared up at the end of the phone conversation. I have been there for almost 15 years. It gave me my job satisfaction and stability. However, my life has moved forward and this work place is no longer the place for me. I will miss the people and the work and my sit-to-stand desk, and I don’t look forward to clearing out all my therapy materials and toys. However, I am excited about being at home with my babies taking care of them the best way I know how. Who knows? When the babies go to preschool, maybe my career will take on a whole new direction? It is an opportunity for me to stretch myself once again when the time comes.