MicroblogMondays: Feeling Silenced

My guy best friend is currently in town from out of state. Whenever he’s around, we always get together.  This time he came one week before his wife did so he could visit his parents with his 7-year-old daughter.  When we were making plans for dinner, my friend alerted me that I’d have to be prepared to explain to his little girl why I had babies coming without having a big belly.  Apparently he hadn’t told her our news yet.  I said I’d be ready to explain. And then he told me that he hadn’t had the talk with little girl about human reproduction yet.  When she asked questions about how babies came about, he told her to ask her teachers.  I guess he was uncomfortable talking about it and really didn’t want to do it at this point.  I told him that 7-year-old is not too early to learn about where babies come from.  He said he’d think about how to talk to her.

Fast forward a week later.  In the afternoon right before our dinner date, my friend called to finalize the details.  Then he asked, “Is it okay if we don’t talk about the babies tonight?”  Honestly I was taken aback by this request.  He went on to explain that he still hadn’t told his daughter about our situation, and he still didn’t know how to explain human sexuality to her.  So he thought that it would be better for us to simply not to talk about our pregnancy or anything that had to do with our preparation.

I don’t know.  I was sitting there with my phone in my hand feeling a little disappointed and sad.  I know that he wasn’t ashamed of our situation.  I know that he does want to celebrate our babies with us.  I know that it was solely his problem of having a hard time with this talk with his daughter.  It is simply his choice of parenting and it is a decision that has nothing to do with me.  But why did I feel that I was less than those who could achieve a pregnancy and proudly present their bumps?  Why did I still experience sadness and disappointment that my best friend could not rise above this situation and use this opportunity to educate his young child about unique ways of building a family?  If I were pregnant with a big bump, this wouldn’t have been an issue for him because then he wouldn’t have to explain how our embryos got transferred into the surrogate.  I know that I am not less than others who physically carry and give birth to their children, but my heart still ached that I could not just proudly talk about our excitement and our future.

Dinner was weird.  Bob and I sat there and talked about everything but our babies and surrogate.  Our life recently has been so engrossed by the preparation for the upcoming birth of our babies that I felt choked by this enforced avoidance of the topic.  It felt so unnatural and tiring to have to consciously watch our words.  When I handed my friend a thank you card for his gift, his little girl asked what it was.  Bob was so smart that he quickly changed the topic to distract the little girl.  And my friend finally asked how we were doing with everything, but it was done in our native language so his daughter couldn’t understand it.

It just made me sad that our joy and pride had become so hush-hush that night.

When we said our good-byes in front of the restaurant, I asked my friend how he was going to explain the sudden appearance of two babies in our life.  He said he’d wait to see if school would teach about human sexuality and go from there.  I know that his choice does not mean that he isn’t happy for us, but it just left a bad taste in my mouth for a few days because we could not openly celebrate this newest chapter of our lives with one of my best friends.

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Chinese Parents’ Reactions

We are 27 weeks today.  Woohoo!

In order to best prepare for my maternity leave, I have started to tell the parents of the kiddos that I work with about the gestational surrogacy and the twins’ scheduled arrival in September.  Majority of the kids on my caseload are Chinese, so majority of the parents with whom I share the news are Chinese.   The dads are more practical.  Most of them didn’t say congratulations and just took whatever I said as facts.  They were more concerned about the schedules in my absence and whether their kiddos can be seen by me again when I return from maternity leave.  One of the dads has boy/girl twins.  With a nervous smile on his face (I don’t know why), he just said, “You will be super busy”.  I just have to take his word for it because he is the one with the experience of twins (and one with disability).  Most Chinese moms were more typical.  They were a little surprised at first, and they usually congratulated me, especially after I confirmed that we are indeed expecting a boy and a girl.  They all said, “You are so lucky!”  I get bugged at times by this reaction.  To me, a person who has been longing for a baby, I would feel blessed if God gives me a boy, a girl, two boys, or two girls.  I just want a baby.  It really doesn’t matter to me if it’s a boy or a girl.  But I can understand why many people feel that this is a lucky thing because I will have an “instant” family in one shot.

And then there were these two Chinese moms.  Chinese Mom Number One’s reaction was the most peculiar.  This is how it went down:

Me: [My blurb about having a surrogate carrying twins for us]

Mom: Have you given birth before?

Me: No.  These are going to be my first children.

Mom: Beware of breast cancer.

Me: ……

Who in the world would respond to another person sharing baby news by warning that person of the risks of breast cancer??!?

She went on and on about her sister who had never given birth and got breast cancer.  She truly believes that her sister’s sickness was due to never having given birth.  I mean, I had heard that before, and it could be true(??), but this is not a normal reaction to another person announcing baby news.  What about a simple congratulations?  And how can someone be “careful” about getting breast cancer?  Regardless of me telling her about my annual checkup and mammogram, this mom still insisted that my chances are higher as her sister also did annual check up and still got it.  And if I said that I don’t have family history, she responded by saying you don’t have to have family history to get breast cancer.  At that point, I gave up.

Chinese Mom Number Two was a bit more normal.  After I told her the news, she congratulated me.  However, as we discussed the schedule, she blurted out, “How nice for you that you don’t have to carry the babies!”  Wow.  Just wow.  I was speechless for a few seconds.  Who in the right mind would say such a thing?  How could she not think even for one second the reason why we needed to pursue surrogacy for a baby?  Who would go to this extreme measure to have a baby just so that she doesn’t have to carry the babies?  She didn’t consider for one second that I would feel that it’s my loss not to be able to carry my own children.  It just blows my mind.  I simply answered, “If I could carry, I would, but since I can’t, this is the path we have taken” and left it at that.

The parents’ reactions have been my entertainment/drama for the past few days.  I haven’t told all the parents yet, so we will see what else I will be told.  But I guess I won’t be surprised by what anyone says anymore.  Who can top these two Chinese moms, right?

MicroblogMonday: Back to Just the Two of Us

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My in-laws have come and left.  These 7 1/2 weeks have gone by quickly.

Bob took a day off the day before my in-law left so that we could all spend time together out of the house.  His parents were originally reluctant to go out as my father-in-law just wanted to finish packing and my mother-in-law just wanted to finish cooking all the food in the fridge.  Somehow my in-laws refused to go anywhere touristy this time.  They did all of that seven years ago.  This time they just wanted to visit places like Tar.get, Ik.ea, and dollar stores.  I literally had to force them out of the house with us.  And I am glad I did.  My MIL is very into flowers, trees, and plants.  So we took them to the Botanical Garden at Golden Gate Park.  It was delightful to see her eyes light up as we walked by all these fragrant flowers.  Just happened that there was also a walking tour at the time we arrived, so we followed a docent, learned a few things about plants, and smelled/tasted some flowers and plants during that one-hour tour.  Afterwards, my in-laws enjoyed a cup of mocha t Starb.ucks.  It was an extremely pleasant way to conclude their trip.

Bob originally joked that he would need a vacation from his parents’ visit.  We even looked into staying at a bed and breakfast and going to the train museum in the Sacramento area.  However, we decided that getting the house back in order was more important and would make my life easier when I have to pick up cooking again this week.  We saw our in-laws off at the airport, went grocery shopping, and purchased three huge utility plastic boxes at Tar.get.  I was already very tired when we got home, but house cleaning was calling my name.  After not having full control of my own kitchen for almost two months, the urge to put everything back in order was very strong.  When my in-laws first arrived with their four suitcases, we had to move stuff around and out of the cabinets in order to accommodate their spices, containers, and utensils.  For the whole afternoon on Saturday, I washed all the stainless steel utensils and containers and placed them all in the huge utility boxes we got.  I wiped every single inch of the kitchen counter including places that I usually don’t touch.  Thankfully, my MIL cleaned the stove right before she left, so I didn’t have to attend to that.  I cleaned the drawers in the fridge before the groceries went in.  I planned all the meals and already marinated a pork tenderloin for dinner for tonight.  I rearranged the pantry and put away the flour, the dal, and the rice that my MIL used frequently for cooking.  The kitchen floor was wiped clean.  Finally, Bob wiped down the whole range hood as grease from Indian cooking was covering it for the last two months.

The kitchen has not been so spotless in a very long time.

And it does feel good to have my kitchen back.  Yes, the house is feeling a bit too quiet and I miss having meals, tea, and coffee magically provided daily.  But I also cherish just being by ourselves and really truly having down time when I come home.  This past week I sat here at the kitchen counter and typed up notes while my mother-in-law showed me how to make a few dishes.  I am confident that I’d be able to replicate some of them successfully.  I learned how to make madras coffee and made it successfully yesterday.  It took quite some time to make the decoction of the coffee. It makes me appreciate my mother-in-law even more as I think about how she labored in the kitchen for two months for us providing coffee, tea, lunch, and dinner.  Right before she entered into the security area at the airport, she told me that next year she’d return for our baby.  I told her that I’d try my best to bring to this world a baby.  She placed her hand on my head, said a word of blessings, and told me that she’d pray to her gods.  I know that her gods are different from my God, but I am still touched the way she shows her love to me.

I truly hope that next year they will have to ponder about coming to visit because of a new addition to our family.

MicroblogMondays: My In-laws’ Visit, Week Seven

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I realized that I haven’t really talked much about my in-laws ever since the first week of their arrival.  I think my mind is more preoccupied with our fertility things.  So how have things been going?

It has been almost seven weeks since my in-laws arrived.  Poor people.  Where we live is simply too cold for them.  Every morning I go downstairs to greet my MIL in the kitchen, she says to me, “It’s too cold here, no?”   They are used to 80 to 90 degree weather.  Our area is known for being foggy and cold in June, July, and August.  We had warned them ahead of time when they expressed interest in visiting us in June.  We told them that a more desirable time weather-wise would be September, October, November.  My mother-in-law confessed that she thought that we were trying to discourage them from coming to visit by fabricating the coldness of the summer here.  She said now that she has known me better and knows my character, she knows that I am telling the truth.  Of course we are telling the truth.  Why would we lie, right?  We sometimes turn the heat on for them during the day, which is something that we had never done even with summer weather in the 50s here.  But for the sake of our in-laws’ well-being, as ridiculous as it sounds to turn on the heat in July, they are much happier when the house is in the 70s.

The first couple of weeks of South Indian diet did a number on my digestive system.  I mean, the food continues to be excellently delicious, but the abundance of Indian spices and carbs has been difficult to process.  I can usually handle Indian food when I eat it, but consuming it as a main diet is a totally different story.  The first week of it left me hungry at 3pm at work mainly because of the reduced amount of protein and the increased amount of carbs.  Eventually the solution was extra protein from the frozen meatball that my coworker helped me buy because I couldn’t “smuggle” meat product into our house without being noticed.  Protein shakes also turned out to be a life saver.  Now that I have been eating this diet for weeks, my body is accustomed to the diet so I am no longer hungry with shaky hands wanting to find all the food I can consume at 3 in the afternoon.  Friday is my meat-eating day.  My MIL knows not to prepare lunch for me to take to work.  On that day, I order whatever meat dish I fancy: Chinese takeout, Vietnamese lunch with friends, or sausage omelette.  However, I still have to frequent the bathroom for number two (sorry TMI) due to the spices.  My waistline and the number on the scale have both gone up thanks to the extra carbs in my MIL’s cooking.  I know that once our diet goes back to protein and veggies, we will not be as bloated and our digestion should go back to normal, but it is a bit disconcerting to feel your usual clothes getting tighter.

Don’t get me wrong.  I L.O.V.E. my mother-in-law’s cooking.  Not only me, but my coworkers also fell in love with her food.  Everyday I let a few coworkers take a bite of my lunch and enjoy them oohing and ahhing over how perfect the seasoning is and how tasty these dishes are.  My MIL also enjoys hearing me tell her my coworkers’ reactions.  She is such a talented cook and knows exactly how to prepare things to perfection.  My brother’s family came for dinner a couple of times and was so grateful for the wonderful feasts.  My MIL cooked my favorite dish of hers; something that my brother had never tasted before.  He loved it so much that he had four servings of it and also got to take all the leftovers home.  He almost had tears of joy in his eyes.  My MIL loves loves loves my brother because he appreciates her food.  It was a wonderful sight for me to see my in-laws getting along so well with my family considering how much they used to adamantly oppose our marriage.  It was something that I never thought would happen.  Got to have faith in what time and patience can do to mend relationships.

I am spoiled, and I am well aware of it.  This season with my MIL taking care of all the cooking means that I can devote my time in working through all the things that are related to our treatment and such.  Coming home from work, I get to do whatever I want to and dinner will be served.  I am truly grateful for that.

Weekly we have our routines down.  We drive my in-laws 40 minutes to a big Indian grocery store to purchase food for the week.  It is quite a long drive and a tiring ride.  After that we would go to a shopping place of their choice.  They have a particular love for Ik.ea, dollar stores, and Ta.rget.  So we frequent those places.  Sometimes it is just so tiring to go shopping with them that everyone comes home tired and needs a nap.  During that time, I wipe the kitchen floor.  Ever since my MIL took over my kitchen, I have been sweeping and mopping the kitchen floor whenever I have the time.  Her way of cooking leaves a lot of little crumbs and food scraps on the floor, as well as the condensation of the steam dripping from pot lids.  The highly traveled area of the kitchen floor has lost its luster and I will have to wait until my in-laws’ departure to figure out a way to gain it back.

How are Bob and his parents doing?  I would say, better.  Bob and his mother still fight some, but they also have good times together.  I can tell that they are very similar people and that makes them clash because they react to things similarly.  Every evening after dinner he goes to his parents’ room and chats with them about the day.  It’s heartwarming to hear them chat and laugh together.  One surprising thing is that Bob has been telling his parents, especially his mom, slowly about our fertility problems.  My in-laws don’t talk to me about this, but they have been expressing grief in our lack of children.  Bob’s mother often says to him that we should have a four year old and a two year old by now.  She expressed regrets that we didn’t meet in our 20s when making a baby would have been easier.  After our urologist visit, Bob actually opened up to his mother about his male factor issues.  She was unhappy that he didn’t go to the doctor a few years earlier, but he explained to her that all of our tests for him turned out to be good so no one knew this new problem.  He didn’t tell her exactly what we have done treatment-wise but did tell her that we have done a lot.  He explained to her that most of the children in the photos on our fridge were successfully conceived and born thanks to science (most of them are IVF babies).  This is paving a path for us in the future when we explain to them about having a baby via surrogacy.  So this is a breakthrough as I never thought it was possible for us to speak to them about our fertility struggles.

As much as I like my mother-in-law, she sometimes says the craziest things.  After Bob shared with her vaguely about us going through treatment, she said that regardless of how much money we have to spend on treatment, we still have to send them the money they ask for annually.  I know that she and Bob’s dad are very different from my parents because money is tighter for them.  But still….. We don’t plan on reducing the amount of money that we give them but for her to immediately protect her self-interest instead of showing concerns for us is a bit disheartening for me.   Another thing that my MIL said to Bob was that we should go adopt because that’s how people get pregnant afterwards.  I know that this is something a lot of people say but it still bugs me.  Finally, this last thing that she says really gets to me.  She said that she would come visit our child(ren) in the future, but only if the child is “ours”.  For “ours”, she meant that she would not make a special trip to come visit our children if they were adopted.  She and my father-in-law would only come if part of the child(ren)’s genetic makeup comes from Bob.  I know that they’d come around if we ever adopt a child, but this closed-mindedness really makes me sad and mad that any children not made the conventional way are going to be discriminated against even before they are made or born.  It’s hard to change a person and their opinion on things.  So, as much as Bob wants to be transparent with them, I still think that some things are better off not shared, such as our need for an egg donor. 

This coming week I have a whole week off due to an office renovation.  My MIL will teach me how to make a few of my favorite dishes.  I pray that we’ll create some good memories before my in-laws’ departure on Saturday.  It will be so weird to get the whole house back to ourselves after having my mom, dad, and my in-laws here for the past few months. But I’m also ready to just be whatever I want to be and do whatever I want to do in my own house. One surprising thing is that I think I’ll miss my in-laws. This is something that I never thought I’d say. This is an answer to ours prayers. Seeing how well I get along with my in-laws proves that nothing is impossible with God. 

MicroblogMondays: Father’s Day

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This is the fifth Father’s Day since my husband and I started trying for a baby.  And it is the fifth Father’s Day that he is still waiting for a baby that he can call his child.  We skipped Mother’s Day this year as it was too much for me to be there after the news of needing a surrogate.  The day before Father’s Day, Bob told me that he wanted to skip church so that he wouldn’t have to sit there and listen to the Father’s Day acknowledgement during service.  Instead, he went with his dad to Ocean Beach.  They enjoyed the sunshine and spent some quality time together.  It was a very special and precious bonding time as the last time they spent Father’s Day together was seven years ago when his parents came to visit.  That was when we first started dating. It took them five years after we got married to come to terms with our marriage and agree to a visit to the States.  Bob was super happy that he got to spend his Father’s Day with his own dad this year.  It made not having a child hurt a bit less.  We have been working on hiring a surrogate and hoping for a transfer in the next few months.  If everything goes smoothly, my husband may be able to celebrate his Father’s Day next year with his own baby in his arms.  Maybe then his father can visit again and make it a celebration for three generations.  That would be such a wonderful moment.  Wouldn’t it be nice if we could make it happen?

MicroblogMondays: Baby Clothes

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My mom has been back to the States from overseas since March.  She is an expert in sewing, knitting, and crocheting.  I would usually hang out at the kitchen counter sitting with my laptop doing various things when I am home.  I often hear my mom’s footsteps coming up the stairs from her bedroom and her mumbling about showing something to me.  Every single time it is a new sweater that she has been knitting for someone else’s babies.  The wives of my younger male cousins overseas who are expecting.  Her friend’s niece.  Anyone, but me.  In the last two months, she has repeatedly shown me these adorable baby sweaters at various stages of production.  Some pink, some rainbow colors, some blue, some green.  All adorable.  Sometimes only the back side has been done.  Sometimes missing just the sleeves.  Sometimes the whole finished product.  How do I feel?  I don’t always feel good when she shows me baby sweaters.  But then, I remember there was one time in the past, probably a year ago, when I told her that I didn’t want to see what baby sweater she was knitting.  My mom is a wonderful and caring person, but she does not understand my feelings of not wanting to put myself in that situation, to be vulnerable and sad when I see her thoughtful, precious gifts to everyone else’s babies but mine.  I tried to explain to her that seeing these sweaters made me sad, but from her reaction, I don’t think she understood.  After that one time, I decided that she would probably never understand my feelings.  I decided to let it go.  If she wants to show me baby sweaters that she’s been knitting for other people’s babies, then I’d let her.  This is exactly what I have been doing.  So these past two months, I have been smiling at her and telling her that the sweaters are adorable.  It does hurt that my mom doesn’t get my feelings, but since she is my mom and it’s not a given that she’d understand my feelings, I decided to let that go too.  It is just hard for my mom, someone who never had any problems conceiving, to comprehend the pain and the sense of loss of not being able to see grandma’s handiwork on my own baby.

This sense of loss is not only felt whenever my mother shows me baby sweaters.  I actually feel it daily when I walk through my garage to go back to my house.  After I park my car, I would walk by boxes of stuff we have stored in the garage.  I would look up and see these diaper boxes.  Inside the boxes aren’t diapers.  There are actually pieces of children’s clothes that one of my best friends gave me even before we started trying for a baby.  About seven years ago, she gave birth to her second and last child.  She separated the clothes of her older son and her baby girl into genders and ages.  She washed them and packed them in boxes that were clearly labeled with “boy”, “girl”, and the age.  These boxes have been sitting in the garage gathering dust for the last six years.  A year after we started trying, another friend of ours was going to give birth to her second child.  She contacted me and asked if she could take the box of newborn clothes for now.  She promised to wash and return the baby clothes to us when it is our turn.  Three and a half years later, our turn still has not come.  I never heard back from that friend.  We have lost touched since she gave birth to her third child.  I never saw that box of newborn clothes anymore.  But the rest of the clothes, up to boy age 5, are still sitting in my garage waiting for someone to make good use of them.

I guess my point is, even though the sight of my mom’s baby sweaters that she makes for someone else, or the sight of the boxes of baby clothes that my friend gave me brings me sadness and pain at times, I am not going to avoid them just because I don’t have a child right now.  “Not yet” does not mean “never”.  I do believe that one day my mom will be knitting my baby the most adorable sweaters a grandma would make, and my friend’s baby clothes will see the light of day from those diaper boxes again.

I don’t now how and when my baby will come, but I believe that when he/she comes, my mother will go crazy with her baby clothes sewing and knitting.  I am very sure of that.  For now, I’ll hold onto that vision of me and my mom choosing yarn and fabric for my baby until it becomes a reality.

Bonus Afternoon

So, I had this afternoon off.

It wasn’t intended to be an afternoon off.  You see, I had originally taken Tuesday and Thursday afternoons off for the Endometrial Receptivity Array biopsies.  They got canceled because of the possible fibroid surgery.  Since I already canceled all my clients for those two afternoons, I scheduled an MRI scan of my uterus in preparation for the surgical consultation on April 20.  Bob and I talked about getting a second opinion with Dr. E.  I emailed her.  She said that I could schedule an ultrasound and consultation with her any time as long as I am not bleeding.  I called her office yesterday and found out that I could schedule both with her Tuesday afternoon.  I then rescheduled the MRI for another day in order to go see Dr. E today.  Well guess what?  I started spotting yesterday.  I am not supposed to be bleeding at this point.  This is the middle of my cycle.  I was on Lup.ron and estrogen patches for a few weeks.  I guess stopping both last Thursday without any progesterone support makes the hormonal levels of my body fluctuate.  My body reacts by giving me breakthrough bleeding.  The spotting yesterday turned into full flow this morning at 10:30am.  I called Dr. E’s clinic to ask if I should come to the appointment at 1:30pm.  The nurse sent Dr. E a message and promised to get back to me.  By noon time, I hadn’t heard from anyone from the clinic so I called.  The answering service transferred me to the clinic.  The same nurse finally got on the phone and told me that she just connected with Dr. E who advised against me going in because of my full flow.  We had to reschedule it for another day.

I was not bummed per se.  I just find it interesting that when you don’t want your period to come, it comes.  It just can’t hold off for another day.  These are just tiny things.  I have decided not to be bugged by these inconveniences.  The only reason I wanted it to be done today was because I had already canceled my clients.  To see Dr. E on another day means I would have to move or cancel another client.  But this is life.  Life is full of inconveniences.

Instead of staying at work for the rest of the afternoon, the first thing that came to my mind was to have some mother-daughter bonding time.  I immediately called my mom who gladly said yes to my lunch invitation.  I didn’t have a particular place in mind but I often opt for trying out new restaurants or having cuisines that Bob doesn’t care for when I am not eating with him.  My mom is totally adventurous and loved the idea.  I looked up a filipino restaurant.  There are plenty of them around where we live.  I found the one that looks the most interesting and had the highest rating.  Off we went.  Ten minutes later, we sat at this restaurant and studied the menu.  Not knowing what to expect, we both ordered dishes that we loved:

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In the afternoon, a nurse at my current clinic called me with this frantic tone of voice wondering where I was.  I am usually on time and it was really unlike me to be 30 minutes late and had still not shown. They basically didn’t know that the appointments were already canceled.  The nurse practitioner who did my lining check wrote the notes but did not cancel the appointments for me. And her notes didn’t get signed off somehow and they didn’t show up on the system that the nurses had access to.  I am surprised but not surprised that the clinic is too big, there are too many people working there, and they are not always as organized as the customers would like them to be.

I pondered what I should do for the rest of the afternoon.  I could have done many things but I decided to take a nap.  It was such a rare treat for a Tuesday afternoon that was supposed to be a work day.

I’m also glad to report that I am feeling much better.  My dear friend Maddie gave me a pep talk yesterday that alleviated many of my worries and fears.  And God did answer my prayers.  I woke up this morning feeling calm and at peace for the first time in four days.  I honestly don’t know what I’d do if I didn’t have supportive friends on this very difficult journey.

I thoroughly enjoyed my bonus afternoon and loved every single minute of hanging out with my mom, even eating food that I don’t normally eat.  Although today didn’t turn out to be what I thought it would be, sometimes you just have to go with the flow.