About 4.5 weeks ago, I wrote about my friend whose gestational carrier was 3 cm dilated while carryings twins for her. It was 23.5 weeks or so. Her GC had been placed on bed rest at the hospital since then. The goal was to get to 24 weeks, 28 weeks, 32 weeks, and then 36 weeks. My friend had had some difficulties communicating with her GC in terms of her attitude in general and cooperation with the bed rest rules. I won’t go into details about it but it had been stressful for my friend who lives 8 hours away. Everyday she was dealing with the legal aspect, the GC’s front, and worrying about the babies being born so early, as well as the insurance and the extra cost of having a GC on bed rest. Well, yesterday morning she sent me a text saying that her GC went into labor a little while ago. Yesterday was 28 weeks. She and her husband weren’t told details. They booked the first flight out and needless to say missed their twins’ birth. When they were at the airport, they were told that their babies were born and taken to the NICU but weren’t told their conditions. When she got to the hospital, since her prebirth order was still pending as 28 weeks was still early, she had to get permission to see the babies. She finally saw the babies. They were initially on feeding and breathing tubes. Since then, the babies have been moved to CPAP in the afternoon and they seem to be breathing on their own most of the time. Her GC said No to providing breast milk to them even though the doctors said that it is critical for her babies. Basically, everything is a mess. Her husband has been on the phone with the social worker and attorney to expedite the birth order. They are now 8 hours away from home and will be there for some time. She already feels inadequate and feels like a failure to have to use a gestational carrier to have a baby. I can only imagine how she feels now. If she could carry her babies herself, she would be extra careful with keeping the babies inside for as long as possible. She wouldn’t say no to pumping breast milk for her own babies. She wouldn’t have to be so far away from home and have no control over many things. Looking at her situation, I am so thankful for having a very positive birth experience with our babies. We got to fly on a plane as planned, spend time with Annie as planned, watch the babies’ birth as planned, and fly home with them as planned. No extra care was needed. What I had was a miracle and it makes me cherish having my kids so much. Sometimes their behaviors make me frustrated, but I look at their health and growth, I have nothing but gratitude for Annie’s selfless acts. Please keep my friend’s emotions and physical strength, her GC’s recovery, and her babies’ growth in your thoughts and prayers as they navigate the next many weeks of time in the NICU.
A person posted a question on a parenting group I am a part of on Fac.ebook. It said, “If you could/do get to do pregnancy again what would you do differently?”
Scrolling down, I saw someone’s response, and immediately felt almost revolted by it. She wrote, “Hire a surrogate!” Many people liked or even clicked on the laughing emoji on that response. My negative reaction probably came from my assumption of the the commenter being flippant and insensitive to those who truly need help with carrying a pregnancy. I was offended by how easily people think surrogacy would be. If I had a chance to experience pregnancy, I would.
While brushing my teeth that morning, I was thinking about that response, and it really bugged me. Afterwards, I decided to respond to that. I reworded and revised my response several times, but ultimately chose to say this: “For those who were/are infertile and need/needed to have a gestational carrier to build their families (like myself), it is often a long, expensive, and painful process. I hope others don’t take it lightly.”
I went on my day. Then that commenter responded: “I do not, and did not mean to be glib. But were I, at (very nearly) 40 addressing having another child, I would very seriously be considering surrogacy because we all understand the rigors of bringing a human into the world and even if I could (unknown), I’m not for putting my body through that again.”
I don’t know what she went through with her pregnancy, but it sounded traumatic. I am glad I responded to get clarity on her initial short answer. If I had not, then I would have carried this grudge secretly against this stranger just because I assumed that she was thoughtless in her answer. I am also glad that I took this chance to speak up about this topic. It doesn’t hurt to educate the public and share our points of view from the perspective of parents who have children via gestational surrogacy, even if it’s just one person at a time.
I have been taking an online course aiming at helping women come up with the best business idea for their season of life. (Eventually I will start bringing in an income again but I will wait to write about it at the appropriate time.) One of the things that the instructor talks about is imposter syndrome, or a feeling of inadequacy or incompetence, or an utter failure or a fraud for a person’s own ability or accomplishment. Many people don’t feel that they can or will be able to start a small business to bring in money, or doubt that they are good enough for others to use their service or buy their products. I don’t actually feel like that with the business idea that I came up with because it is well within my professional field. But this word “imposter” came to my mind the other day. I have been attending a weekly bible study with my kids. I get my me time during discussion with my group of ladies and get fed spiritually with the truths that a teaching leader imparts to us. The kids get their precious time to learn about God, be loved on by their teachers, and play with their friends. Last week prior to the lecture, a video was played to us to show the importance of the children’s program to the existence of the adult bible study class. Afterwards, the lecturer asked all the mothers with little kids in the program to stand up so that the crowd could show their appreciation for their dedication in bringing the kids. I hesitated for a few seconds before I slowly rose from my seat. I felt a tiny bit uneasy and didn’t look back at the rest of the people in the sanctuary since I sat quite close to the stage. The lecture started after that and I went on with my day. However, during the quiet evening hours when I reflected back various moments of the day, I thought about the moment when I stood up as a mom to my kids and I started analyzing my emotions. Why did I hesitate and why did I feel uneasy when the leader asked the moms to stand up? Maybe sometimes I still feel like an imposter. Not all the time, but sometimes. I know that my kids are mine and I am their mother. I love them to the moon and back, and will do anything for them. BUT, the fact that I didn’t get to carry them or share my genes with them still haunts me. Not all the time, but it creeps up at moments like this. At times I do still feel insecure about it and wonder how the kids would feel about their unique history when they are teenagers or adults. I wonder if my love for them is enough for them to feel secure about their special situation being children born out of the tremendous love I and their dad have for them. Deep down, at rare moments, I do feel like a fraud, as if someday someone would come and take them away from me because I am not their real mother. This is all silly talk when I am sane and busy with a beautiful life full of chaos of raising twins, but at times this silly talk is not too silly and consumes me and makes my heart ache for the journey that I had to take in order to become my babies’ mama. Fortunately, I feel secure as their mother 99% of the time, but when that rare moment comes at an unexpected time, I am almost surprised at having these feelings. I guess these emotions will probably never completely go away.
The kids’s comprehension has grown exponentially in the last month or so, especially Okra. He was the one who did not understand as much as Bunny in the past. Now he has caught up and even surpassed her in some areas. It has been a lot of fun and a joy to see that they make connections and associations with concepts and ideas. They do things like following two-step directions (e.g. Go pick up the carrot and give it to mommy) or turning a book right side up when I tell them that it’s upside down. About a month ago Okra showed interest in the pictures of our maternity shoot that are hanging on the nursery wall. He pointed at the photos and I’d tell him that Annie Yee Yee (Auntie Annie in Cantonese) and mommy are in them. From then on, whenever I ask where Annie Yee Yee is, he points at the photos. I figure since the kids know body parts such as tummy, I started telling them about who Annie Yee Yee is. I say, “See Annie Yee Yee’s big tummy? You guys were inside of her when she was carrying you both for mommy. There is Okra, and there is Bunny.” I said that a few times when they were standing in the cribs after listening to their nap time and bed time stories. I didn’t expect them to understand or remember what I said for a while. To my surprise, these kids actually know what’s going on. A couple of days ago, after I changed Bunny’s diaper, I asked her where Annie Yee Yee was. She pointed at the photos. I asked her who was inside of Annie Yee Yee’s tummy. She patted on her own chest and smiled! Wow I was impressed. I thought it was a one off, so I tried it later again, this time with Okra. After their nap time story before putting them down, I asked both of them who was inside of Annie Yee Yee’s tummy, and both of them patted on their own chest. I don’t think Okra was copying Bunny. I feel that they both knew what I was talking about. At a few days shy of 16 months, that was not bad at all! I told Annie about it. It was so heartwarming for her to know that the kids are learning about her. This is our first step of telling the kids about their conception story. By about 18 months, I’ll gauge their comprehension skills and start talking about their egg donor. Hopefully by the time they fully understand the world around them, their conception story of egg donation and surrogacy will be a part of them as natural as breathing in air.
Bob was off for the whole week last week. We were supposed to enjoy a trip to Sacramento for three nights with the babies to visit the train museum there prior to Thanksgiving. The especially bad air quality in Sacramento prompted us to cancel the trip. Instead of going, we mostly stayed home so that the babies wouldn’t have to breathe in the unhealthy air unnecessarily as they can’t wear a mask to protect themselves. Since we had two adults (Bob and my mom) at home, I didn’t have to look for extra childcare so I decided to finish the one final thing that would complete the legal process for me as a parent for the twins: adding my name to their social security accounts. Braving the smoky air outside with my mask on, I arrived 15 minutes before the local Social Security office open. The line wasn’t bad. I’d say there were about 15 people in front of me. I finally made it in and got my number at the machine. With a book in my hand, I expected to sit there for quite some time. My number got called after about 20 minutes to go to a window for check in. That means that they’d ask what your business was for on that day at the office and would call you back later to process that particular business. I was fortunate enough to get called to the window of the lady who helped us last time with the babies’ social security number applications. I briefly explained what I was there for and she remembered me. So I was asked to sit and wait. I calmly went back to the seats and opened my book. To my surprise, I got called by my name within the next 15 minutes. It had appeared that this lady decided to help me finish my business instead of letting me wait for my turn like every other person in the room. How nice of her! I had prepared in my folder the babies’ original birth certificates (without my name), babies’ updated birth certificates (with my name), petition for termination of our gestational carrier’s parental rights, and the certified copies of the step parent adoptions. The lady was typing and mumbling to herself stuff. I patiently waited. All of a sudden, she asked me if I had brought any identification to verify the babies’ identity in addition to the birth certificates, such as hospital records, immunization records, or passports. I didn’t. I actually thought about bringing the passports but decided against it. I really thought that the updated birth certificates would suffice. At that moment, I really thought that I had to return yet again to finish this process. Then I told her that I had the certificates of the adoptions. She looked in her system to check if that would do. Luckily, it was on the list of acceptable documents. Phew. And fortunately I read the documents thoroughly the night before so I knew what was what. I showed her where it said I was granted the step parent adoption and where it showed the case number that matched the paperwork. After almost 40 minutes of this, I was able to step out of the office knowing that I am legally the babies’ mother in every single sense. I can’t begin to tell you how good it feels to be legal in every way. I knew that no one could take that away from me before, but to know that I am officially on their social security record brings it to another level. It is final. And it feels good.
A reader emailed me last week asking me a question that I thought would be good to address in my blog. I am not at the liberty to share the details of her journey, but for various serious health reasons, she needs to use a gestational carrier after needing to use donor eggs. After grieving the loss of her genetic links, she is now experiencing the loss of not having a chance to carry her baby. Since I have walked this same path, she is curious as to how I feel now that I have had my babies for the last eleven months.
How do I feel now that I am a mother to my babies whom I didn’t carry or contribute to their genes? I love both of them with all my heart. I feel tremendously privileged and honored that God chose us to be their parents. Sometimes I look at them and still cannot believe that I am their mother. They are precious, beautiful, fun, and perfect. I cannot imagine life without them and I cannot imagine having children other than them. Does it still hurt that their genes came from a donor? Absolutely. Do I still grieve the loss of not carrying them? Yes. However, these thoughts don’t come to my mind too often. Life currently is full, hectic, chaotic, and fun-filled. On a day to day basis, the fact that I didn’t carry them doesn’t come into my mind too often. They know me and me only as their mom and it will remain that way. I think more about having had to use a gestational carrier when the moms in my moms of multiples group talk about breastfeeding or changes in their bodies after giving birth. However, these topics don’t make me feel overly sad or emotional. I just can’t and don’t participate in these topics because of the lack of first-hand experience or knowledge. Not being able to carry the babies doesn’t diminish my love for them. On the other hand, I do think about our donor from time to time especially when I look at my daughter’s face. She looks more like the donor than my son does. My baby boy looks exactly like his daddy and does not remind me of our donor. However, Bunny has the donor’s features, and looking at her sometimes is like looking at the donor. Her beauty sometimes makes me think about how she’d look so different if she shared my genes. This is highlighted when people comment on how she looks nothing like me and my husband’s genes are very strong. These comments sometimes make me uneasy but I have accepted that this comes with the package. My baby girl looking like the donor does not make me love her any less. I marvel at the unique looks and personality traits of her and her brother, and I just feel so blessed to be their mom. A friend of mine who may have to consider the donor egg route tells me repeatedly that she is fearful of not being able to love her future children made with donor eggs. I tell her that truthfully there is no time to think about these things. When I have a moment, all I want to do is to get enough rest so I have enough energy to chase after these babies. Like I said earlier, I do still feel a sense of loss from time to time. It probably will never go away, but my life is so full now these feelings are far and few between. Does that erase the previous five years’ pains and heartaches? No it doesn’t. The experience and journey stay with you forever. Once infertile, forever infertile. But this history doesn’t define me. It is a part of my life, but so is my life as a stay-at-home mom to my precious children. Fighting so hard to have these babies does make me appreciate them more even when dealing with their crying and screaming in the middle of the night or their tantrums.
These are just my feelings, but I hope this post is helpful for those who are considering donor eggs and/or using a gestational carrier to fulfill your dream to become a mother. Feel free to write me for any questions at binkymoongee at gmail dot com.
No, I am not getting a hysterectomy. This post is about our gestational carrier.
Annie and I don’t talk much. I send her pictures of the kiddos every now and then especially for something funny or memorable, such as Bunny looking serious on a swing or the babies playing together peacefully in the play pen. The other day, I sent her a series of pictures of Bunny climbing on our window like a Spiderman. (This crazy baby girl held onto the window frame with her hands, propelled her feet up the glass, and pulled her whole body up on the window. I was right behind her holding onto her body to make sure she didn’t fall down. The whole action of climbing up was all hers.) We were joking a bit on FB messenger about the babies and I said with an active child like Bunny, I’d need a lot of prayers.
Annie said that she’d definitely pray for us. And then she said, she would ask prayers from us.
This is what she told me. She said that she is going to have a partial hysterectomy end of August or beginning of September. Remember she had tremendous pain in her pelvic area after the birth of the twins. The pains subsided a bit after a surgery and physical therapy. However, she continued to have pains especially during PMS and her cycle which is only 1 to 2 days with intense bleeding. Her doctor believes that she may have endometriosis (!?!?) and something else that she couldn’t recall. She said when he touched that area she almost fell off the table. The doctor suggested a hysterectomy a long time ago, but Annie refused at that time thinking that it would get better with time. It’s only getting worse. She told her husband that she’d wait if we (meaning me and Bob) wanted a sibling. She said she feels scared and nervous, and is mourning not being able to carry again. However, given her pain, she feels that it is the right choice for her. Hopefully not having a cycle would mean that her pain will be gone forever.
I was shocked by this news. I didn’t know that her pain would require such drastic measure. I know how much she wants to help others by carrying for them. It pains me to learn that she can no longer do that. My heart has been heavy ever since I learned of this news. After all, she grew our babies for us and her uterus was the safe home for the twins for 9 months. It made it possible for us to become parents. In some strange way, I am also mourning its loss. I know it is not my uterus that is going to be removed, but I feel that some part of me is also going to disappear. It is difficult to describe this feeling I have knowing that our gestational carrier who carried our babies for us would lose the organ that held our babies. Regardless of how I feel, I love her and want the best for her. I hope and pray that this surgery will be worth it for her in the end.
WordPress told me that I started my blog five years ago on June 2nd. Including this post, I have published 468 times. I would say I never thought that this blog would last so long and I would write so many posts. How fitting it is that to celebrate this 5th anniversary, I finally received the babies’ updated birth certificates in the mail last Thursday. This whole process of getting my name on the birth certificates took forever. We finally got the orders from the judge in California for the step-parent adoption. The orders got forwarded to our attorney in Annie’s state. Our attorney and her paralegal took their time in getting back to us. And finally we signed some paperwork for vital records to add my name to the birth certificates. When I opened the envelope and unfolded the two birth certificates, I was feeling a bit emotional. Although I know and feel like the babies’ mom, legally I was their guardian. I had no right to apply for a passport for them so I couldn’t travel out of the country with them even if I wanted to. Seeing my name on these birth certificates on this anniversary week of my blog is a very sweet thing. It reminds me of God’s goodness and faithfulness for watching over us all these years. When I started this blog, I didn’t know what was going to happen. God had this plan for us. I couldn’t have foreseen all the twists and turns it took us to get to this point. Here I am. I am so grateful for having these little ones in our family and to see my name and Bob’s name on their birth certificates finally.
It is tax return season, but we can’t file our taxes until we get one thing done, which is to get the babies’ social security numbers. Normal people would automatically apply for their newborns’ numbers before their discharge from the hospital. But we are not normal people. I still haven’t written the second part of our birth story yet, but right after the babies were born, we had to attend to a bunch of paperwork on top of learning how to take care of newborn twins. The nursing staff and the pediatricians were constantly in and out of the room. Annie’s family and friends were visiting. With the chaos, I am a bit cloudy on what exactly happened, but when we were asked if we would like to apply for the babies’ SSN, my first instinct was not yet. The reason being, the birth certificates would only have Bob’s name on them as the father, but the mother’s name would be blank because I used donor eggs. If we had filed for social security right after birth, the record at Social Security would also show that the mother’s name is blank. Every state is different in terms of the laws. For Annie’s home state, in order for my name to be on the birth certificate after using donor eggs, I have to file for “Step Parent Adoption” in California. It is only after that then Vital Statistics department at Annie’s state would add my name. In November, after the hazy first few weeks with twins, I finally emailed a few lawyers regarding this. No one called or wrote me back. That was when I realized that phone calls were probably going to be much faster in terms of getting a response. The local law firm sounded very experienced with this type of filing, but the paralegal was moaning and groaning a bit on the phone when she learned that the surrogacy was done in Annie’s state. The laws had changed recently. An intended mother who used donor eggs used to be able to send in the CA court order to the Vital Statistics department in Annie’s state in order to get an amended birth certificate with her name on it. It is no longer the case as Annie’s state’s court clerk does not honor the CA court clerk’s authority. An extra step would be needed for the CA court clerk to get a signature from a CA judge before the court orders would be recognized by Annie’ state. Bureaucracy is the name of the game. After moaning and groaning for two minutes about Annie’s state, the paralegal quoted me a rate that was very reasonable. It matched the ballpark figure I was told prior to the surrogacy process. The email that same day from the same paralegal said that she quoted the wrong rate as she didn’t take into account for filing for twins, but the law firm would still honor the original rate. Phew. We “saved” $1500. It took a few weeks for the paperwork to be done, and took another few days before Bob had the time to go to downtown San Francisco to sign the paperwork. Everything was sent to our county clerk on December 5th. The paperwork was received on December 8th. Our paralegal told us that our county has a streamlined process and it usually only takes 4 to 6 weeks. It happened around the holidays, so I was expecting things to be done by end of January to beginning of February. Well, things took a lot longer than they should. After some back and forth with the paralegal, she found out that it took a long time for the judge to sign, and then the county clerk was out of the office for training for a week. We still haven’t received the orders yet. We just want to file our taxes, but can’t claim the babies on our return until we have their social security numbers. We decided to just apply for their numbers before the amended birth certificates are sent to us. Bob took last Friday off and attended the babies’ 6-month check up. After that, he waited at our local social security office for 2.5 hours. He had to be the one doing it because his name is the only name shown on the birth certificates. I settled the babies down at home then went to join him with lunch. When it was finally time for our turn, the lady behind the counter was super nice, but was a bit apprehensive about what we were doing because probably not too many people would come to the office for an application for social security numbers for not just one but two 6-month-olds. Right off the bat, she said that it would be a lengthy process to verify their births. Luckily, after checking, she declared that Annie’s state is one of the states that has an online verification process for birth certificates. We still waited for about 35 minutes before she could finish with the whole application (everything takes twice as long with twins). So now we wait for two weeks before we receive their SSN in the mail and can finally file the tax returns. In the future, I can return to the social security office with the amended birth certificates so that my name can be added in the record as the babies’ mother officially. If I had known how much work and how long it would be to get the step parent adoption done, I would have just turned in their social security application at the hospital.
Everything is so complicated with surrogacy…
Bob brings up “the other boy” all the time. He means the embryo that we have in the freezer. During these early days of life with twins, it is really hard for me to imagine taking care of another newborn any time soon. Plus, given how difficult a surrogacy journey is, I have a hard time imagining another round of it in the near future. Don’t get me wrong. As far as gestational carriers go, I believe our experience with Annie was/is the most uneventful and pleasant. Regardless, it was/is still challenging to manage a third party carrying your bab(ies) for you. So this topic will be put on the back burner until the twins grow older.
Speaking of Annie, she’s been struggling physically after the birth of the twins. I usually contact her by text every few days asking her how she’s doing as well as to send her the babies’ photos. She responds with Oohs and Ahhs as she loves them and thinks that they are perfect (which they are, I might say). She said that people assume that it was difficult for her to hand the twins over to us after the birth. She often tells people that this aspect of the surrogacy was actually the easiest to deal with, as she can’t think of anything better than carrying babies for their loving family and not having to take care of newborns. To see them grow and be happy and healthy is the biggest joy for her. The most difficult aspect is the physical healing after the birth. Her uterus healed wonderfully. However, hemorrhoids were still bothering her a great deal. She had gone to the specialist to band the ones from the pregnancy. After the procedure, she continued to feel the pain at her pelvic area which to her specialist it wasn’t typical. She was referred to a pelvis specialist who eventually diagnosed her with pelvic floor myalgia. The initial course of treatment is taking Val.ium vaginally and 12 weeks of physical therapy. Emotionally she’s been struggling with how difficult the physical healing is after twin birth. She has been feeling a bit depressed. She also came down with a cold that hasn’t healed in two weeks. She was in so much pain (despite the meds and the physical therapy) on Thanksgiving day that she could not enjoy her favorite holiday to the fullest.
A little while after we texted about her new diagnosis, she told me that she’d give me a call to catch up. I waited for her phone call but never heard from her. I didn’t want to bother her so I didn’t follow up, but I did wonder if she had anything specific she wanted to say. About a week later, I received an email from our surrogacy attorney with an attachment of a letter from Annie’s pelvis specialist stating that her new diagnosis was due to her twin pregnancy. In other words, we as the parents of the twins are responsible for the cost of treatment for this illness.
Here was my initial reaction: I was a little hurt and mad, but at the same time glad. The hurt and the mad feelings most likely came from how Annie handled the situation. Given our close relationship, I thought that she would have informed us first before taking this matter to our attorney formally. I also felt a little emotional that we had to be responsible for the cost of her treatment even 2.5 months after the birth. On the contract, it stated that our financial responsibility for any postpartum complications would end 8 weeks after the birth. Don’t get me wrong. We know that this is our responsibility as she suffers from this problem for the sake of our family and we will pay for it. But it WAS a trigger for me for the fact that it once again reminded me that I wasn’t the one who carried these babies, that we have to shell out more money even weeks beyond the birth. The cost of not being able to carry is just never ending. At the same time, I am very glad that 1) Annie finally found the reason for her pain and there is a solution, and 2) having our agency as well as the attorney to be our guide rather than working with a surrogate independently ensures that the appropriate action is taken for various issues.
Like I said, my emotions are complicated. Surrogacy is just complicated despite how civilized and loving everyone has been with one another.
Annie loves these babies though. She enjoys seeing their photos. She has a little display at home that she had shown on social media that shows how much she loves our babies. It is a wood branch with five baby birds on it and a mama bird below it. Needless to say, she is the mama bird and her 3 kids plus our twins are her baby birds. I was so touched when I saw this photo. I am forever indebted to her for sacrificing herself for our family’s sake. I sincerely hope and pray that the course of treatment is the answer to her physical ailments so she can completely heal and move past this chapter of surrogacy to resume her normal day-to-day life.
As for our “other boy” via surrogacy again, it is a serious topic that warrants serious discussions with my husband.