MicroblogMondays: Challenges of Surrogacy – Anxiety Attack

 

(Warning: Another very long post)

After months of honeymoon, we have entered into a difficult phase of this pregnancy with our gestational surrogate.

Everything had been going well up until our 20 weeks ultrasound.  My trip was good.  Physically Annie felt great.  The babies were well.  The OB (not our regular one) who was seeing her for the first time said, “You are pretty darn healthy.” And it was exactly it.  She is very healthy.  She commented that the only thing that she was afraid of was the hemorrhoids coming back as she suffered so much from them at the end of her last pregnancy.  She was out of commission for seven weeks and could not even take care of her newborn.  She was traumatized by the anxiety of having hemorrhoids.  She said as long as they stay away, she’d be fine.  I remember standing in her kitchen hanging out with her and asking her if this pregnancy felt any different from her last three.  She shook her head and said she felt good.  I was feeling blessed that this pregnancy, other than the headaches that she had for a period of time, was going well.

Everything came crashing down two days later on a Saturday.  She messaged me several times asking for prayers as she was emotionally weak and super anxious because she could feel an internal hemorrhoid forming.  In the mean time, I continued to plan for things that we discussed about, such as asking for an ultrasound scan for the 24 weeks visit as well as to plan for a maternity shoot to coincide with the 28 weeks ultrasound.  Let me back up a little bit. The OB we saw the last visit wasn’t the regular OB.  I don’t know what he was smoking, but he told us that an ultrasound wasn’t needed at either 24 or 28 weeks as long as Annie feels good.  I distinctively remember our OB mentioning 24 and 28 weeks ultrasounds especially because this is a twin pregnancy. But I wasn’t going to argue with this substitute OB.  I messaged our regular OB and the response was to schedule the ultrasound.  I then wrote Annie telling her that we’d schedule an ultrasound the day we had scheduled for the 24 weeks appointment.  I also mentioned about the possibility of doing a maternity photo shoot plus the 28 week ultrasound.   The response from her shocked me.  She asked why I needed an ultrasound at 24 weeks, and said she wouldn’t do one because it would be on a day she would have her children with her, and that’d stress her out too much.

When I read that message, I was shocked that she said No to me, as well as feeling turned off by her.  The Annie that I knew had always been agreeable to what is the best for the babies.  And we have been doing ultrasound scans at every single visit.  I know that she does not like to leave her kids with babysitters and often prefers to schedule appointments on the days her husband has off.  But her monthly allowance is exactly what this is for: to pay for babysitting when necessary.  And this is necessary.  We need to check the growth of the babies to make sure that they are fine.  I sensed that it wasn’t a good day to speak with her.  She must have had a very very difficult day on that day.  So I told her that I would talk to her later about it, but I was so turned off that I didn’t even want to fly over at 28 weeks for the ultrasound or to pay for the maternity photo shoot.

Later that afternoon, Annie sent me the saddest bump photo ever.  I haven’t posted it on the page yet, and probably won’t because I don’t want to be reminded of how sad she was.  I know that you guys don’t get to see her face anyways, but in this one, she looked away from the camera with a very disturbed, sad look on her face.  I messaged her back saying, “You are really struggling there, aren’t you?”  She responded, “Yes.”  I really needed to understand what exactly she was going through, so I connected with the person closest to her: her husband.

I just have to say, I adore Kenneth.  He is even-keeled and very clear on how he expresses himself.  We spoke on the phone for about 15 minutes for me to understand what exactly Annie was going through, why she seemed to be a changed person suddenly, and what we could do to help her.  Kenneth said that this is basically Annie’s biggest fear in life, even bigger than the possibility of him losing his job.  She was hospitalized twice in the past with the pain of hemorrhoids, and like I said, couldn’t even take care of her newborn for weeks when she suffered from it last.  The fact that she started having them so early in the pregnancy rather than when they usually show up in the 3rd trimester means that she is anticipating the pain and suffering for many weeks to come.  This is something that just comes at any time, and there is no prevention if one is forming.  The pain is sometimes so excruciating that she can’t even bend down to pick up a toy without it hurting like crazy.  It diminishes her quality of life and prevents her from doing her job as a mom, a teacher (she homeschools her kiddos), and a wife.  Hence her anxiety of the pains and suffering that may come is extremely high.  Annie is proactive about it and had gone to the specialist but there is nothing much he could do because of the pregnancy.  So he banded the ones that she had on that day but couldn’t treat the ones that may or may not be coming.  Kenneth was very nice about it.  He acknowledged how hard it must have had been for me because I had been feeling so helpless living so many miles away.  He said that there is nothing anyone can do but to pray that the hemorrhoids stay away and do not come back.  He told me that Winnie, our surrogacy agent, had the same issues during her last couple of pregnancies and would be a good person to talk to.

Winnie, bless her heart, picked up the phone right away. She explained to me how debilitating this condition could be and how much Annie had been proactively treating it: drinking lots and lots of water and taking fibers. But it is what it is.  We need to give her a lot of grace, time, and space.  She told Annie to take it one day at a time, celebrating the good days and give herself grace on the bad days.  I am so thankful that Winnie is there to support Annie.  And for her to give me the perspective that pregnancies are very hard, and I can’t expect zero drama during this pregnancy.  Again, we celebrate when things are good, and hang in there with each other when things aren’t.  She did confirm with me that 24 and 28 weeks ultrasounds are standard so I could just send Annie a friendly email asking her to reschedule it at a time when her husband can watch the kids.

This is one of the moments when I think that having an agency as a third party in a surrogacy situation is so important.

But at the same time, I have been feeling down about it.  That was exactly the moment that I just wished that I’d be like a normal person with a normal uterus so I could just dictate my own body and my own life rather than relying on another person’s help completely.  It is a very vulnerable feeling.  I am not going to lie.  It has been extremely difficult for me.

Things went way downhill the next day.  I didn’t sleep well the night before.  I drafted a very nice email to Annie asking her to schedule an ultrasound on a day her husband is available because it is very important to me and Bob.  I didn’t send it until noon time.  Shortly after, Annie wrote me back telling me that she called but the doctor’s office didn’t even have us down on the original date.  And she would go see our OB on the following Monday (today) to discuss about her anxiety, so she could reschedule then.  Not even five minutes after I got her email, she wrote me a FB message with one word: “Pray”.  I didn’t understand as I had been praying for her.  She wrote another word “Now”.  Then she typed up a message that I didn’t understand, which had her husband’s name and the word “hospital” in it.  It alarmed me so much that I called her.

On the phone, Annie was sobbing and a bit incoherent.  She said she was feeling good all morning, making phone calls to doctor’s.  Suddenly, she felt like she couldn’t breathe.  The more she wanted to breathe, the more she panicked.  She said she wasn’t thinking about anything.  It just came.  I was calm but at the same time freaking out.  I didn’t know what was going on.  So I spoke to her as calmly as possible and told her to call an ambulance.  Her 6-year-old had run over to grab her neighbor who rushed over and took over the phone.  I instructed her to call the emergency medical services in town.  She hung up and did that, and called me back to let me know that the EMS would be there any minute.  I told her to give me an update when there was one.

I hung up and called Bob to let him know what went down.  I also wrote a few texts to people who would pray for us.  In these moments of uncertainty, I still had to do my job as a therapist and took my kiddo in for his session.  During the next 1.5 hours, I got a few updates.  The first one was Annie’s 19-year-old who rushed home from work to be with his mom.  He said that Annie by then had calmed down and he was going to drive her to town 35 minutes away to the hospital to our OB.  A little later, Annie’s husband called and told me what happened.  He rushed home in time to be with her before her trip to the hospital.  She didn’t end up going to the hospital.  Kenneth knew exactly what was going on with her.  She basically had an anxiety attack and her body was reacting to the accumulated stress and anxiety the previous few days by shutting down.  When she had that attack, her body was going into a panic mode, and because of the feeling of shortness of breath, her hands and feet were tinkling.  He called it a seizure which scared me half to death.  Later, he said that it wasn’t a real seizure but something called carpop.edal spasm.  He said that she had it once two years ago.  She was prescribed with a low dose of Ati.van back then.  He then complained a little saying that if he had given her a small dose of that when her anxiety started coming back, this whole incident could have been avoided.  But everyone (and I don’t know who he was referring to) was afraid that the meds was going to affect the babies so he didn’t give it to her.  Kenneth said that he had spoken to Dr. OB on the phone who was okay with her staying home that evening as long as she was calm and was breathing fine.  The EMS confirmed that her vitals were all back to normal.  She was scheduled to see our OB the next day to figure out the short term plan (for the duration of this pregnancy) and long term care (after the pregnancy) of this issue.  Kenneth had taken the next few days off to be with her.

I am not going to lie.  I was concerned about the babies.  So I asked if she had felt anything.  She doesn’t usually feel them much, but that evening she texted me saying that she felt movement.  She didn’t know if it was just moving or kicking but she did feel movements.  If I were the one carrying, I would probably have made my way to the hospital just to make sure that the babies were fine.  But I am not the one carrying, so I had to resort to trusting her for taking care of my babies.  But it was super difficult for me as the intended mother to completely trust this process and to completely trust God.

At the appointment time the next day, I was sitting there at lunch on pins and needles.  I mean, again, deep down, I wasn’t that concerned about the babies as I felt and continue to feel that they will be fine at the end.  But I am just not good with the uncertainty and new challenges and for things all of a sudden to go downhill.  With my new App.le Watch, I could see that my heart rate was over 100 the whole time waiting for an update.  Finally, Annie wrote me a message simply just saying that the babies were good and the appointment times for the 24 and 28 weeks ultrasound scans.  I asked to speak with her on the phone if she felt up for it.  A few minutes later, her husband called to give me an update.  He said that the babies looked good with great heart beats on the ultrasound.  They looked fine.  Annie’s vitals were good.  Our OB had put her on a low dose of Zo.loft so to take the edge off of her anxiety and heightened emotions.  I asked how Annie was doing.  He said, “Horrible.”  So he would drive her home and have her rest for the rest of the day.

I was feeling relieved but at the same time a bit worried.  I remember Dr. E said that the biggest indicator of preterm labor is stress.  And our surrogate is currently under a lot of stress.  I know that she can’t control how she thinks and what she feels, so I want to be as compassionate and empathetic as possible and to give her a lot of time and space.  So how does one balance that while still getting information from her about the pregnancy.  I don’t want to bother her too much and bombard her with asking her about how she is doing and how she is feeling.  At the same time, I’d want to know, because her emotions may or may not directly affect our babies.  I simply don’t know how to navigate this new and uncharted territory.  I just feel that Satan is using the one thing that she’s fearful of to get to her weakness and attack us.  On Saturday I decided to just write her a message telling her that we were thinking of her.  I didn’t expect an answer from her.  This sudden change in the direction of this pregnancy has thrown my mind into chaos, and it takes a lot of effort to live my life normally and to carry on a loving and trusting relationship with Annie.  I just can’t wait for the next milestone (24 weeks) and the next next milestone (28 weeks) to arrive.  I have to remember to:

  1. trust God
  2. trust Annie
  3. take it one day at a time
  4. pray for peace and strength
  5. breathe

Having a baby (or two) via surrogacy is a very difficult thing.  But I know that the reward will be worth it.  I just hope that Annie will be able to enjoy the rest of this pregnancy, and our joy will not be marred by any of these setbacks.  The challenge is to learn how to best support her without feeling negative or threatened by this situation.  When the babies finally come, Bob and I will be able to finally breathe more easily.

MicroblogMondays: Announcement

After our normal and uneventful anatomy scan on Thursday, Bob and I felt safe to announce our pregnancy the next day.  I had thought out the wording quite a while ago.  I wanted it to be simple but also to the point.  The first decision was that ultrasound or bump photographs were never going to be part of the plan as I myself would not have wanted the trigger either.  I am not going to lie.  I was a little nervous Friday morning.  Once the cat is out of the bag, there is no turning back.  But with the normal development of the babies and healthy surrogate, we have more confidence that the twins are going to join us in September.  So bright and early Friday morning, I posted the following:

“After years of waiting, prayers, and heartaches, Bob and I are so blessed to announce that we are expecting twins via the wonderful and selfless gift of surrogacy.  Baby A [Last Name] and Baby B [Last Name] are due to be born in September. I do not get to carry them, but my heart is full.  Bob and I are very excited and cannot wait to meet them face-to-face.”

With this picture:

Another less formal, even simpler announcement was sent to everyone at work (about 35 people): “I would like to share some wonderful news with you.  My husband and I are excited to let you all know that a surrogate is carrying twins for us, and they are due to be born in September.  I thought I would share the joy with you all, my work family. “

The response has been overwhelming.

My Fac.ebook post exploded.  Everyone has been so happy for us.  The love that everyone shows us has been overwhelming.  Some of them commented and said that the announcement made them tear up, which was super heartwarming.  After I posted, my oldest cousin in Asia made a screenshot of my announcement and posted on our family group on Whatsapp so every single one of my relatives in Asia knows as well.  She saves me the trouble of telling everyone myself.

At work people came by to say congratulations and gave me hugs.  People’s reaction was that Wow you’ll have your babies very soon, because September is right around the corner.   We have known about it since January so we have had a lot of time to process it.   To them, it’s such a brand new thing that they feel that I don’t have a lot of time. It’s all perspective, yeah?

There was one particular coworker with whom I considered sharing the news prior to the announcement but there wasn’t a good time to do it.  So when she saw me in the morning, she asked me “What’s up?”  From the look of her face, I knew that she hadn’t read the FB announcement or the work email.  So I said, “Ahh, you haven’t read my announcement.”  She looked very alarmed and was probably thinking that I was going to quit this job or something.  When I told her, she burst into tears and gave me a bear hug.  She just couldn’t stop crying.  It was two minutes prior to my next client so I told her to stop, otherwise I’d cry too!  I totally shocked her and caught her off guard as I know she didn’t expect something like this in a million years.   An hour later, I went to apologize for shocking her.  My boss happened to be in her office.  I’d imagine my boss to be the person that was the happiest on that day because she didn’t have to keep a secret any longer!  She had learned about the pregnancy at 12 weeks and had been so good at keeping it to herself for the next 8 weeks.  She in fact also burst into tears herself and was so happy for us.  Anyways, so my coworker whom I shocked kept on asking questions while crying a second time for us.  She told me how much we deserved to be parents.  I said I couldn’t wait until I see what the babies look like.  Then this coworker started asking if it was my egg.  I don’t think she meant any harm or anything. When people hear the word “surrogacy”, they are little bit confused of what it all means.  I thought about writing gestational surrogacy on my FB announcement but decided against it because I wanted to make it even simpler.  Plus, I don’t owe anyone any explanations.  So somehow, with my boss and my coworker there, I decided to tell the truth.  For other people, I’d usually say something like, our surrogate is just carrying for us, and it is our embryo.  But with the way she asked the question, I had to answer that it wasn’t my eggs but our donor’s.  It was a quick decision, but one that I don’t regret.  My honesty didn’t faze them.  But I told them two times to keep it to themselves and explained that I would tell the twins early on about it but I want me and Bob to the ones disclosing this to them, not anyone else.  They swore that they wouldn’t tell and that it was a personal thing.  Later on, I told Bob, and he supported my decision to tell them.  He was happy that I was able to be honest about it.

That evening happened to be a huge event for my work’s anniversary.  I didn’t plan the announcement so that I could tell many people, but the timing just worked out.  So at the event, I saw many former coworkers and I was able to share with them one by one.  It was just so touching to receive such warm and joyful responses from everybody.  There is a certain vulnerability in sharing with the world as it points to our struggles in the last few years.  But the reward is also big.

The most surprising revelation was my best friend from my 20s.  We used to hang out all the time, meaning every single weekend, for years.  Her then boyfriend was best friend with my then boyfriend.  After we were no longer dating our boyfriends, she and my ex-boyfriend started dating, and that put a strain in our relationship.  After they got married, we grew apart.  I knew that she didn’t have children until I saw her pictures with a little girl this year.  She wrote me some private messages after she saw my announcement, telling me that she was very happy for us, and that it was the greatest news in her 2017.  We exchanged a few messages.  She said that she understood how I felt as she went through infertility for 13 years, having miscarriages and having suffered from many treatments that didn’t work.  I didn’t ask if she finally gave birth to her baby or if she adopted.  I said that I was sorry for what she had gone through, because it is truly a lonely journey if not for the support of people around us.  She told me that she wasn’t as lucky to have support from peers, but God is full of grace as He carried her through all those years.  I just feel for many of the people that I know who are very private and not as open about their journey, and they often suffer silently.  I am so happy for her that she is parenting a precious little girl, but I can’t imagine 13 years of going through this alone (and with her husband).

Mother’s day at church was good and interesting.  I was a greeter at service as usual on Mother’s day, since we always greet on second Sunday of the month.  Last year it was tough and we didn’t go to church as we just returned from Hawaii after we were told that I needed a surrogate.   It was just too much and I couldn’t handle going to church witnessing baby dedication.  This year I was feeling good.  Not overly joyful that I’d soon have my children in my arms, but also not sad at all that I am not the one carrying them.  Since many people learned about our twins on FB, many came up to me to hug me and say how happy they were for us and to congratulate us.  Baby dedication was okay too.  I didn’t feel jealous or negative about it.  Some of my friends also privately messaged me or wrote me on FB wishing me Happy Mother’s Day.  It was just a little strange to hear people tell me Happy Mother’s Day as it is a brand new experience.

Now that we have made an announcement, I can talk about our babies more freely at work and at church.  I am just so grateful that we have reached this milestone.

MicroblogMondays: Half Way Point

Today, we are at 19 weeks 5 days of our pregnancy.  Since our OB won’t let Annie go past 38 weeks (C-section scheduled for 38 weeks 2 days), we are over our half way point.

A question I get asked a lot: “Have you bought anything yet?” meaning to prepare for the babies’ arrival.  The answer is, No.

I will be flying over to attend the anatomy scan on Thursday.  Bob has a new job which doesn’t allow him to be off any time during the month of May.  Fortunately he got to witness the mini-anatomy scan at the last ultrasound, so hopefully he isn’t going to miss a whole lot.

I don’t know why, but I have a difficult time letting myself buy anything before the 20-week scan.  In fact, planning anything related to the babies has been hard for me.  Maybe a part of me still doesn’t believe that the babies are coming.  Maybe that part of me thinks that if I prepare for anything, I’d be more devastated if things don’t work out in the end.  But whether or not I am in denial, the babies are growing and in less than 19 weeks, we’ll get to see them face-to-face.

It freaks me out at times that maybe I don’t have time to get ready for them.  Four months will pass very quickly and I will be responsible for these lives.  What if I am not ready by then?  My to-do list in my head was growing longer and longer so I eventually typed it up on my Google tasks.  I want to do window treatment for the whole house especially for the babies’ room.  We need to move all the junk out of our second bedroom so we can set up the nursery.  We need to start looking into a new car.  My sister-in-law asked me about the baby shower so I have to give her a date.  With the baby shower date comes the need to start a baby registry.  And how does one begin to have a baby registry for twins?  And what about classes to learn about how to take care of babies especially twins?  In person classes or online classes?  We also have to decide on how to bring the babies home.  Road trip that will take a few days assuming that we’ll have to stop every two hours?  Or a two-hour plane ride with newborns?  I need to book a photographer soon if I want to do a maternity photo shoot.  And what about birth photography?  Do we do both or just one?  When do we do the maternity shoot and how to do it?  Do we fly home and do newborn photos back home or do we do it there?  We’ll make an announcement on Fac.ebook and I will also announce at work.  Is it going to be scary to let everyone around us know?  Where do I find a person to cover for me for my maternity leave?  Someone who speaks my native language so he/she can see all of my clients?  And how do I tell the parents of my existing clients about surrogacy and maternity leave?  Do we have to find a pediatrician soon?

So many things.  My head spins.

I know not to get ahead of myself, but sometimes my mind just goes and it doesn’t stop.  So I need to focus on one to two things at a time.  So window treatment and photographer it is.  But even with just two things, I feel overwhelmed contacting people while working a full-time job.

The one positive spin of not carrying the babies is that I have all the energy in the world to get ready for them since I don’t have to fight back pain, pelvic pressure, or frequent bathroom visits.   It is still overwhelming but I know I can get all the things done.  I guess I need lots of deep breaths and yoga to get everything done the next few months.  If pregnant women can do it, I can too.

(By the way, my previous post was my 400th post.  It took almost four years to write this many posts but I’m very glad I continue to blog.  I wonder what will happen after the twins are born.  I hope I will still have the time and the drive to blog.)

MicroblogMondays: Our Last Wedding Anniversary Just the Two of Us

We had a very low-key 6th wedding anniversary this past weekend.  Compared to our trip to Hawaii last year, this year we decided to keep it simple.  No fancy trip.  Just the two of us hanging out.  On Saturday we were super productive in terms of chores and got ready super early for dinner.  Since we hadn’t had a good Japanese meal in a while, that was the dinner of our choice.  The restaurant that we wanted to try is very popular and doesn’t take reservations.  It’s located in a neighborhood that is notorious for the lack of street parking.  It was our mission to arrive early to wait before the restaurant opened at 5pm.  This was definitely our lucky weekend.  We landed a prime free street parking spot not far from the restaurant.  We were the second in line for a table.  The food was super delicious:

The fish was so fresh and the panko crusted oysters were crunchy on the outside and juicy on the inside.

I loved the parking spot so much that we walked around the neighborhood just to occupy it for longer.  After some frozen yogurt, latte, impulse purchase of a cool hat, and Bob petting a neighborhood dog at a funky shirt store/cafe, we headed home with great satisfaction.

On our real anniversary yesterday, the weather resembled that on our wedding day six years ago: sunny, breezy, in the 70s.  It was such a glorious day for a celebration.  My morning was relaxing and peaceful: reading in bed with a cup of homemade Indian filtered coffee while Bob chatted with his parents on Skyp.e.  Our pastor’s teaching at church was great and to the point.  The afternoon was restful and rejuvenating.  Plus some intimate time without any concerns regarding making a baby is always welcome on an anniversary.  A walk around the beach and pizza dinner at night with champagne concluded our anniversary weekend perfectly.

We do realize that this is our last wedding anniversary celebration before the babies come.  Last year things were very uncertain in regards to our fertility journey around this time.  What a difference a year makes.  I really cherish what we have right now, but I look forward to and cannot wait to experience what is to come on our next wedding anniversary.  Maybe on that day our biggest concern would be to find a good babysitter?

MicroblogMondays: Ups and Downs of an Early Pregnancy

Remember my friend of whom I was jealous because she got pregnant with her own eggs?  Well, she has been going on an emotional roller coaster ride.

Her second beta doubled nicely.  Her 5-week ultrasound showed a beautiful early pregnancy in her uterus with a gestational sac and a yolk sac.  So this is the kicker.  A famous doctor who treats her autoimmune issues ordered beta for her every other day until the heartbeat ultrasound.  Any normal people would just wait for the 6-week ultrasound after the two early doubling beta and the great 5-week ultrasound.  (And most times they just go straight to the 6-week one and skip the 5-week one.)  But no.  My friend’s autoimmune doctor wanted one every other day.  The beta on the day of her 5-week ultrasound (on a Friday) was around 4200.  Beta three days later (on a Monday) was only around 5000.  The doubling time was 300 hours.  It should be 72 to 96 hours at that level.  My friend panicked.  I mean, I would too.  But did it really mean anything at that point?  Her doctor ordered another beta the next day which turned out to be around 5800.  Doctor was happy with the results but my friend was still panicking.  Her doctor told her to repeat her beta again the next day, two days before the 6 week 2 day ultrasound.  I was adamantly against it.  What is the point of going again and again?  At this point, the best indicator would have been the scan, and not some elusive beta level that doesn’t tell you much.  Why go to the lab and spend 30 to 45 minutes and then torture herself waiting for the results?  It just didn’t make sense to me.

My friend absolutely drove me nuts though.  She and her partner decided together that the beta on Wednesday would not help her situation.  But that whole day she messaged me and wondered if she should have gotten the beta done.  She went back and forth with her decision, regretting not going one minute, and then agreeing that it was wise to wait for the scan.  Her thought was, if it was going to be bad news, she’d want to know.  And if it was good news, then she could feel better going to the scan.  But what if the news was inconclusive?  Where would that leave her?  But I know that she needed the support, so I reassured her repeatedly that it was the right decision for her not to do the beta.  But I have been so mad at her autoimmune doctor.  Does she even care about her patients’ emotional well being?  Does it really help to know the beta level so frequently after confirming an in utero pregnancy?  Because there is really nothing one could do but to wait.

My poor friend was at her scan with her partner last Friday.  She was so nervous that she was crying lying on the table while waiting for the nurse practitioner (who was the one who did all of my scans at my former clinic).  Her heightened nervousness even prevented her from seeing the heartbeat on the ultrasound.  At 6 weeks 2 days, she was measuring 5 weeks 5 days with a heartbeat of 81.  The nurse practitioner wasn’t concerned about it at all and said that at this early point a few days of lag should be okay.  And since she was measuring at 5 weeks 5 days, the heart might have just started beating.  When my friend sent me a text, she didn’t sound very optimistic about it.  And when I saw the heart rate, I didn’t feel very optimistic for her.  But who are we to say that this is not going to turn out to be fine?

That was Friday morning.  We happened to have a citywide power outage in our area that morning.  I was allowed to go home early and have a long weekend by 11:15am.  So instead of going home, I decided to join my friend who was sitting at the clinic waiting room to wait for her work phone call after noon because she had no power at home.  I thought that I could join her for lunch afterwards and she could use some support.

My friend’s emotions were all over the place.  She of course did some google search and it was not looking good.  She consulted with an RE who has supported her in the past couple of years who said that the three-day lag of the pregnancy plus the low heart rate made him a little bit concerned.  Her clinic didn’t say much and just told her to get another ultrasound in a week, and her autoimmune doctor was happy with the results.  But my poor friend was a mess.

(Side note: I visited with my former nurse while I was at my former clinic. It was a bit emotional for me to go back there while expecting twins via surrogacy.  It was so sweet to see my nurse being so happy for us.  I didn’t try to visit with Dr. No Nonsense, my former RE, because he did after all abandon me about a year ago after promising to call me to discuss the next steps but never did.  My nurse admired all the photos I showed her and was just so thrilled.)

At lunch my friend cried twice.  She wanted this so much and just wanted to have good news all around.  But when do we ever get to have a smooth-sailing journey?  From Friday to today, my job has been to remind her NOT to goo.gle because it does her no good.  While there are going to be success stories online, there is bound to be stories that ended sadly.  Their stories are not her story.  Why scare herself?  So every few hours, I write her and make sure that she does not google.  She was feeling angry and asked me why she had to suffer.  These are questions that nobody can answer.  So I told her that it could turn around.  She declared to me, “I think it will go badly” referring to the next scan.  But I told her not to play God and not to give a verdict even before anything happens because it may not happen.  I told her what I read in a book, that we try to make ourselves feel better by declaring things that are negative, that are not true.  But in reality, we don’t know what tomorrow will hold and how things will turn out.  But we jump to conclusion because we want to prepare ourselves for the bad things that may happen.  The truth is, there is no preparing.  If her pregnancy ends in a loss, it would still hurt like hell.  But by declaring the untruth, she is denying herself in that moment the joy of being pregnant.  She is pregnant at this point.  And this is the fact.  The fact is no one knows what will happen but God. So we should not play God and should hold onto the facts.  It is okay to cry.  It is okay to feel sad.  But putting herself in the situation of researching online and declaring that things will end badly is not going to help her a bit.

I did ask Dr. E, my own RE, about my friend’s results.  This is what Dr. E said, “The hCG level stops doubling so you are totally right on monitoring especially when you see a pregnancy in the uterus.  It doesn’t provide any guidance.  I’m glad she had a heartbeat.  I’ve seen patients without heartbeat at that age and then the next day it’s there.  The heartbeat doesn’t help guide me because I like that it is present.  The one thing that bothers me is the CRL (note: crown to rump length).  With IVF you know exactly how far along a patient is…..the three day discrepancy is the only thing that has me worried.  But there is still a chance.”  Of course I am not sharing with my friend what Dr. E says.  It is not helpful to tell her any of this.  And no doctors can predict the outcome, so why share with my friend, right?  But I really hope and pray that my friend’s baby holds on tight so we will see a great scan next week.  But I think my friend will be nervous at every single scan for quite some time.  It is just the trauma that comes with trying for a long time and wanting something so badly.  Our innocence is lost forever.

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???