MicroblogMondays: 16 Weeks Ultrasound and Headaches

Just a warning that this is definitely NOT a micro post (and it’s actually super long)…

Annie does not experience any pregnancy symptoms except for these headaches.  They started about a month ago and sometimes get really bad.  Tylenol does not work for her so once she was in the 2nd trimester, our OB allowed her to use Ibu.profen when the headaches get bad.  Annie doesn’t want to take that all the time so she just endures the headaches.  She looked into the side effects of Love.nox and Syn.throid.  Both of them said headaches.  She was scheduled to stop Love.nox by 14 weeks anyways but I told her to continue until the meds runs out.  Once I learned about the headaches and the side effects, I told her to stop the injections.  But since Syn.throid is helpful with controlling the thyroid thus preventing preterm labor, she would need to be on.  Her dosage is so small that our OB doubts that the headaches have anything to do with that.  Annie did not have headaches during her first three pregnancies, but she does get headaches during her monthly cycle.  So I would imagine the increased blood flow during the second trimester in her body and the pregnancy hormones carrying twins both trigger these headaches.  She said they are constantly on the background and a few times they got really bad.  She uses essential oils.  Last week she had a massage and a chiropractic adjustment of her neck two times.  She does feel better after the adjustments.  This week she’ll have more adjustments and an acupuncture session.  Many asked if she is hydrated and she guarantees me that she is.

Here comes the part that scared me.  Because she was originally prescribed Syn.throid by Dr. E, my reproductive endocrinologist, we kept Dr. E in the loop regarding the headaches to see if Annie could stop the thyroid meds.  Dr. E is an alarmist by nature.  After learning that Annie has had these headaches for a long time, she really wanted Annie to be seen by a neurologist because to her, untreated headaches could be dangerous and headaches could be due to other neurological conditions and not just pregnancy hormones.  Annie wasn’t worried and still isn’t worried about these headaches being neurological based.  But Dr. E wrote me and asked me to convince Annie to go see a neurologist.  That was two days before we flew in for the scan.  I was sitting there at work with  my mind going really far away, having irrational fears about pre-term labor, Annie’s life being in danger, and the babies’ health on the line.  Simply because my doctor was suggesting my gestational carrier to see a neurologist.  Annie did try to call the neurologist office in town and was told that she would never be seen for just headaches unless she gets a referral.

Dr. E also forwarded a meta-analysis study about the effect of vaginal progesterone suppositories to prevent pre-term labor in women with a history of one.  She felt that it would be beneficial to Annie since she is carrying twins and might have the risk of per-term labor.  I said I would run it by our OB.

I was not super worried per se, but I really didn’t/still don’t like this feeling of doom and gloom.  Annie again is not worried because she has no other symptoms.  Her blood pressure is good.  She does not have any localized weakness or pain on any other part of her body.  She only has these freaking headaches that are super annoying.  I am just so thankful that she is my gestational carrier because her calmness is contagious.  She has learned to give it all up to God and I really have to learn to do that as well.  She is not ignoring these headaches.  She actively tries to find a solution to resolve them.  But she is just not worried that any of this was caused by problems in her brain.  She will go see a neurologist if he/she would see her, but she isn’t stressed about it.  I figured we’d see the OB anyways on Friday, so waiting a day or two to talk to him wasn’t going to make the situation worse.  So I prayed repeatedly for my peace and trust in the Lord and just waited.  But there is always something that can cause worries, isn’t there?

It was such a blessing for Bob and me to attend the ultrasound on Friday with Annie when we reached 16 weeks 2 days.  I was a bit nervous before going in because you just don’t know what you’d see on an ultrasound.  I had confident that both babies were still there but a part of me was anxious.  I didn’t really have much time to think about things because once Annie arrived, the ultrasound technician was ready for us.  It was so wonderful to see Annie and her/our bump in person.  Hugging her felt so interesting because inside her bump was our babies.  Annie hopped on the table and off we went with the abdominal ultrasound.  Annie said that she did feel some movements the other day and was quite sure that it was the babies.  This time I didn’t feel sad but felt that it was such an amazing thing for her to feel the babies.

I reminded the tech that Dr. OB said that he would do all the preliminary anatomy stuff during this scan because Bob was able to be present for this one.  The tech was super friendly and said she’d get whatever she could get.  Immediately we saw Baby A waving his/her arm on the screen.  It was quite exciting to see that he/she was so much bigger at this point.    The tech first measured Annie’s cervix, which she said was adequate.  Baby A was moving around.  The tech changed into different views and measured a bunch of different things.  She looked at the heart, which was beating at 151 beats per minute.  We could see the four chambers, the baby’s kidneys, head, brain, arms, legs, stomach, diaphragm, etc. etc. etc.  Everything seemed to be going well.

When it came time to see the sex of the baby, I only wanted to know if we really had a boy and a girl inside, but I don’t want to find out which baby is which.  Bob really wanted to find out.  So when the tech looked, I hid in the bathroom adjacent to the ultrasound room.  Bob was going to stick himself right in front of the screen and find out.  I was adamant about him not finding out because it would mean one day he’d leak out the information and I wouldn’t have my surprise anymore.  He was really torn because he really wanted to know. Eventually he agreed not to and hid in the bathroom with me.  He was half mad because I was denying him the right to know, but he agreed with me later on that he would not be able to keep a secret from me.

Apparently the tech took a very good look and confirmed to herself what she saw.  Baby A was measuring 16 weeks 6 days and his/her leg was very long, measuring at 17 weeks 3 days.

The tech then switched over to Baby B, who also had a great heart rate of 156.  We could clearly see that he/she had a tall nose.  The profile was just very cute (probably only in my eyes as his/her mother).  This baby was measuring 16 weeks 4 days and the tech also confirmed his/her sex.  So we officially know that we are going to have one boy and one girl.  🙂

Both babies weigh about 6oz each and over 4 inches each.

The tech changed the view to 3D for Baby B.  He/she was holding his/her fists up on the cheeks.   We switched again and saw that the babies’ head were together.  Apparently one baby was head down and the other was breech.  So their heads were together but one was up and one was down.  You can click on the page “Ultrasound Photos” on the left to see the babies, the two heads of the babies looking like an infinity sign, and the 3D image of Baby B.

The technician measured the blood flow of the umbilical cords and the placentas and it seemed to be fine for both babies.

We finally got to meet Dr. OB.  I had only talked to him on the phone several times so it was nice to finally meet him in person.  He was a middle-aged man who sounded very passionate about his job. He talked a mile a minute and every single time we asked a question, he gave an example of one of his patients and what happened to her.  So this is basically what we discussed:

  • Dr. OB asked if Annie had any localized pains, slurred speech, or other things.  He felt her head, her forehead, and areas around her nose to check for sinus problems.  After that, he said that it is highly unlikely that her headaches are due to a brain tumor or a blood clot.  The neurologist received Dr. E’s referral and said that he’d need Dr. OB’s notes in order to see if a visit with him is warranted.  But Dr. OB said that the headaches are most likely due to the fluctuation in hormones and he has seen it many many times.  He will write the notes and forward to the neurologist clinic and see what the neurologist would say.
  • The babies are doing well.  They are measuring on time and there is nothing to worry about.  Baby B does have a little white dot on his/her heart shown on the scan, which is called “fetal echogenic intracardiac focus”.  The doctor said that it occurs in 5% of pregnancy and by itself it’s not harmful to the baby at all.  But when it happens with a load of other problems such as short femur, high risk for Down syndrome, or other things, then it may raise some concerns.  As for us, Dr. OB said that it will resolve itself and there is nothing to worry about.  I guess it is his job to inform us of this thing.
  • One baby is currently breech (feet down) and the other one head down.  Baby A is in the front of the uterus with an anterior placenta.  Baby B is in the back with a posterior placenta.  The placentas are in the right place and not covering the cervix in any way whatsoever.  This is a relief.
  • We’ll have the 20-week ultrasound and by then we’ll see more anatomical structures that will be bigger then.
  • Annie will be seen every four weeks until 32 weeks.  At 32 weeks, she’ll come in twice a week for monitoring and non-stress test.
  • She will do her blood sugar test for gestational diabetes in the next week or two.  It’s done early because she’s carrying twins.
  • Annie’s urine is good without protein.  Her blood pressure was 110/70 which was excellent.
  • We will aim at delivery at 38 weeks by Ceasarean section.  I forgot to ask when we determine if we would do a C-section early.
  • I asked how we would be able to tell if there’s preeclampsia. Dr. OB said that she’ll be monitored closely after 32 weeks so she’ll be in good hands.
  • Annie only gained three pounds in the last 4 weeks.  I forgot to ask if this is a good gain or if she needs to gain more weight.  I will write the doctor and ask.
  • Dr. OB said that the vaginal progesterone suppositories are not warranted in Annie’s case because studies show that for those who are at risk for preterm labor would still have a higher chance of having pre-term labor even with extra progesterone.  In our case, Annie never had that problem.  It is not warranted at this point.  Plus Annie joked that she pushed for over 50 hours for both of her last two births and her cervix was shut closed.  Dr. OB was joking that in this case since Annie had a steel of a cervix, we most likely won’t have to worry about this problem.
  • Finally, Dr. OB said that he’d order a vaginal ultrasound next time so we can measure the cervix more accurately.

I think that’s about all the issues that we discussed on that day.  I have to tell you that I was tremendously relieved and happy to see the babies alive and well on the screen.  It is not a given that we have a good scan and I don’t take things for granted.  I didn’t know this until that evening but Annie was very nervous going in this scan.  She is usually the calm and confident one, but something shook her a little.  In her surrogacy group there are these two surrogates who got pregnant with twins at around the same time with her.  One discovered that she lost both babies at 16 weeks and the other one lost one of the two babies at 15 weeks.  Because of this, Annie said she only cared about the heartbeats during our ultrasound.  She just wanted to know that they are both still alive.  It is tremendously sad to learn about these other losses.  This knowledge makes me even more grateful for what we have.

The rest of the visit was great.  We attended a Seder Meal with Annie and Kenneth’s friends.  People there knew who we were and came to tell us that they had been praying for us.  We went to the only breakfast place in town the next morning and the server there was Annie’s close friend so she told us that she had been praying for us.  You’ve gotta love small towns.  They are so warm and friendly and they are so happy for us.  We hung out with Annie and her kids for a little before we left.  I passed on many maternity clothes from my friend to her.  I also got to take her bump photo with her (which you could see on the left side here that says “Gestational Carrier’s Bump Photos”).  It was such a precious time to share with her.

Can’t believe we are almost 17 weeks.  Praise the Lord for the growing and healthy babies.  I pray that Annie’s headaches will go away forever.  Hopefully we will see our babies in 21+ weeks!

MicroblogMondays: What’s In a Name?

I don’t know if people who have been trying for a baby for a long time are all like me.  I have had names for my future babies for quite some time.  I guess when there is plenty of time to wait, there is also a lot of time to consider names.  I have fallen in love with this one particular boy name a couple of years ago.  It’s a name that could be viewed as an English name or a Chinese name, and it also exists in many other languages.  It has a great meaning in my native tongue, which means “to enlighten”.  I just love it so much.   I didn’t have a middle name for the boy for the longest time.  My husband, who is quite a jokester, has not been very helpful in this endeavor.  He kept on coming up with funny sounding Indian names that couldn’t possibly become our boy’s name.  We finally found something that we liked after we got pregnant.  This middle name has a meaning that is symbolic of enlightenment found in difficult situations, which matches our boy first name perfectly.  As for a girl, I have liked this one middle name for a long time.  It is also in my native language that means “easygoing”, but it is not an English name so it doesn’t sound too good as a first name.  Hence it will become our baby girl’s middle name.  With a Chinese middle name, an Indian first name seems fitting for a girl.  I had liked this one Indian girl name for a long time, but it seems like every other Indian girl has that name.  I do not want a super popular name for my child.  So this name has been abandoned.  A couple of years ago I came across this other beautiful name that means “grace”, which is perfect for us.  We haven’t told any of our parents about the names yet, but my mother-in-law recently has declared that we can do all we want to name our babies, but she’ll call our children the names that she will give them.  These names that she will come up with will not be on any formal or government documents but she can use them if she wants to.  I have no qualms about them.  Now since I won’t disclose the babies’ real names on this blog now or ever, I will tell you all their nicknames that derive from these real names.  Like I said, my husband is a jokester.  He jokes around a lot.  Our boy’s first name unfortunately sounds like vegetables in one of Bob’s Indian languages.  I am quite adamant about using that name so even though it means something funny in his language, we are still going to use that name.  Now since the name means vegetables, we have nicknamed our baby boy “Okra”, which is Bob’s favorite vegetable.  Unfortunately, there is not a single emoji made for Okra, so our boy has appeared as an eggplant in Bob’s texts to me.  And then my jokester husband has been making fun of our girl’s first name and been rhyming it with something funny.  I initially was upset that he had been butchering our girl name and had considered not using that name.  But knowing Bob that he likes to joke and he’d butcher whatever name we’d come up with, I decided to just use that name and let that joke become the nickname for our girl.  I won’t explain why but we have nicknamed our girl “Bunny”, which derives from the joke for our girl’s name.  So there you have it.  Okra and Bunny.  Or as presented as an emoji of a Bunny and an emoji of an Eggplant in all of Bob’s texts to me.  I hope that Fac.ebook answers Bob’s inquiry/complaint about the nonexistence of the Okra emoji so we will be able to use one in the future for the boy.  Otherwise he’d have an identity crisis: Am I an Okra or an Eggplant???

MicroblogMondays: “Freedom”

After eight days of being home, my trip quickly came to an end.  Unexpectedly, my emotions were all over the place the last day I was in my home town.  I woke up thinking that this would be the last time I would roam around my birth place “freely” all by myself.  It would be the last time I could quickly get ready to go out the door, meet up with my dad for breakfast without a lot of effort, ride on public transportation without much thought, and go in and out of stores at a shopping mall independently without a lot of care or consideration.  And that was what happened.  I savored the “freedom” that I had on that particular day because my life is going to change drastically the next time I step foot in my place of origin.  I will no longer be only responsible for myself.  I will have two lives that are dependent on my provision and care.  I have been waiting for a very very long time for this responsibility and it made my last day there with my family different and memorable.  For this reason alone, my trip home was the correct choice for me in terms of my emotional state and timing.  Without my grandmother’s funeral, I would not have had a chance to experience this final “freedom” before I become a mother of live children.  It made me nostalgic of what I have been given so far in my life but at the same time my gratitude for this opportunity to become a mother grows exponentially.  It is hard to explain my feelings on that last day.  It is complicated.  It signified a sort of finale and a beginning.  I am just grateful that I have this day to remember and I am quite sure that when we return to my home town with the twins in the future, I will be even more appreciative of the reality of a new life and this lack of “freedom” that I have been craving for so long.

MicroblogMondays: Difficult to Tell

I have been home in Asia for a few days now.  My mom’s sister is also here from the States  to take care of things for my grandma’s funeral and has been staying with my parents as well.  I have spent a lot of time with her.  There has been several times I wanted to share with her about the twins but have found it really difficult to open my mouth.  I just don’t know how to tell her while sitting there watching TV.  Do I go, “By the way we have a surrogate carrying twins for us” right after commenting on a drama series?  Plus, telling my aunt means her telling her friends and my cousins.  I somehow hesitate opening this can of worms fearing that misinformation would be passed along.  I will tell her before I leave on Wednesday.  I also have many chances to see my other relatives such as my dad’s siblings and some of my cousins.  I still haven’t told anyone of them.  How do I begin to tell relatives about my babies when I am not the one being pregnant?  In theory it seems to be easy to tell because it is happy news, but in reality it has been very difficult.

I’m proud of my 97-year-old grandma. I told her the news. It took a little bit of explanation but she understood what I was telling her rather quickly. She looked very happy that we are finally going to have children although taking care of two will be a lot of work.  I showed her the photos of our embryos, the ultrasound photos at various stages, and Annie’s bump photos. She was amazed at the technology that is available nowadays. She’s also very on top of things.  She asked if others know. I told her not yet so she said she’d keep it to herself until later.  I feel such joy to have a chance to spend time with her and share with her about the twins in person. This is my silver lining of losing my other grandmother who never had a chance to learn about the babies.  Her passing gave me the opportunity to see my last remaining grandparent face to face. I suspect that after the twins are born, it’d be a while before we can travel overseas.

Last night, I tagged along my parents when they had dinner with their friends.  One of the friends asked me if I had kids.  I didn’t mind the question so I just said, “No yet.”  He then asked if I planned on having kids.  I was caught off guard by that question because most people don’t ask super private questions like that.  So I just smiled and said, “Yes I do”.  My parents both smiled politely without saying anything.  When I came home, I thought about the future: how my dad and my mom are going to tell their friends and our relatives about the twins. If I were the one pregnant, it’d have been easier for them to just say that I was pregnant.  If I were the one carrying the babies, it would have been a lot easier for me to answer those questions that my dad’s friend asked me.  I would not hesitate telling my aunt.  I would be joyfully telling my dad’s siblings and my cousins and showing my bump.  It is because our way of building a family is so unconventional and the people with whom we’d share the news are so traditional that telling others has been such a chore.  I am not at all ashamed of our need of using a surrogate to make a baby.  This is why it’s surprising that sharing such happy news has been so tough.

I hope that it’ll be easier to share the news as we get closer to the due date.

MicroblogMondays: Three Years Later

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.

MicroblogMondays: Closure

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.

MicroblogMondays: Too Late

Microblog_Mondays

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.