Monday, July 25, 2016

Mother of Twins

Just 5 days after we got that first positive pregnancy test, I called a new doctor to set up my first appointment. My current gynecologist no longer delivers babies, so I had to find someone new. I didn't know how I could ask those around me for recommendations since I hadn't told anyone else about our news other than my immediate family. We hadn't even told Howard's family yet because we were waiting for my father-in-law's birthday dinner so everyone would be together. In my search online, I decided to look at a former doctor who left my current doctor's office to start her own practice. I discovered that she closed her practice fairly recently, but she recommended a doctor that even delivered her own babies. Well, an obstetrician who delivers other doctors' babies? Sounds good to me!

The funny thing is that when I found her Facebook page, I saw that a few of my friends actually liked her page. What made it even better is that I saw a review from my colleague's wife who raved about her. She was actually the one I wanted to ask since she had 3 babies already, and there you go! Thanks to the internet, I was able to find her without even asking! Thankfully, I was able to get an appointment with them after telling them it was somewhat through a personal recommendation. 

That first appointment was scheduled for Monday, March 21. Although we were excited to be having a baby, it still didn't feel real just yet. Sure, we did tell some more family members and my closest colleagues at that point, but I didn't feel any different. There was a part of me that was kind of like, "Well, I still have to get through my daily work days and plan lessons and pretend that everything's the same." I think I just needed that confirmation from the doctor herself, as if there was any possibility that the 5 positive pregnancy tests I had sitting on the toilet tank were incorrect.

I didn't know what to expect during that first appointment. I'm the type of person who prefers to be prepared as much as possible, so before any medical procedure, I look up anything I can online just so I'm not surprised. However, since there were so many different things that could happen during a first appointment depending on doctors, I wasn't sure. I just knew that I'd probably have to get used to peeing in a cup, haha, which is something I have always hated to do. In fact, I'd prefer to get blood drawn than pee in a cup, but now that I do it at every appointment, I've gotten rather used to it, thankfully! 

With no definite expectations other than that, I was a little nervous. Howard and I sat in the waiting room for quite a bit of time. When we were called in, the nurse asked if we were there because I was pregnant, and I said yes. She replied, "Yeah, the husbands don't usually come to the pap smears!" After the routine questions were asked and my blood pressure and weight were recorded, the doctor came in to ask a few questions of her own and run through her own tests. I was then led into another room for an internal ultrasound. It's funny how the things that you have always dreaded in the past are just things you have to do and can handle when it means it's for your baby! 

The room was set up so that instead of my having to turn to look at the technician's screen, I could just look up at the one mounted on the wall in front of me as I was lying down. When the image popped up, I noticed something unusual, but at the same time, I didn't really think too much of it since it was my first time really looking at an ultrasound carefully. But the technician then said something we both were NOT expecting at all. She said, "As you can see, it's twins ..."

WHAT?! TWINS?! She said she saw it right away, but she wanted to make sure she could see a heartbeat on both babies before she said anything. Howard and I looked at each other with wide eyes. We were shocked. We have joked for years that if we ever had twins, we would name the babies Luke and Leia if it was a boy and girl. Many people have heard the story of how I promised him that those would be their names since he loves Star Wars so much (even though it was kind of a joke, I think, haha). We had also only recently discovered that twins do actually run in his family. I think it was just something that he had forgotten since his extended family lives around the world.

In that brief moment, I had a million thoughts run through my head. I thought about how it would be so much more difficult on us to handle two babies at the same time at the same age and how it would cost twice as much to feed, clothe, and diaper our little ones! 

But as quickly as those worries sped through, they came to a complete halt. The technician actually couldn't find the heartbeat for the second baby. We heard the beautiful sound of Baby A's heart, but there was nothing for Baby B. And suddenly, the fears I had just a minute ago turned into bewilderment. What? How was there no heartbeat? As the news sank in, I began to cry.

The doctor came into the room at that time, and the technician explained to her what had happened. They gave me tissues and explained that it was probably Vanishing Twin Syndrome. Because ultrasounds are done so early nowadays, it's possible to see that there are twins before a miscarriage occurs and one is absorbed by the other twin. In the past, it wouldn't have been as easily detected because by the time they could see the baby in an external ultrasound, the other twin would have disappeared already. She said that instead of having me return in a month for my next appointment, she wanted to check me out again in two weeks to make sure that everything was okay. If I had any bleeding/spotting or any other miscarriage symptoms, I was to call the office.

Howard and I spoke to her a little more and got more information about pregnancy in general. We left the office rather quietly, but when we got to the car, the tears just started flowing again. I know that medically speaking, these things happen, but I was afraid that it was something I did or didn't do that caused it to happen. I'm sure plenty of other women have had the same thoughts I had, but I just felt guilty because I was the one carrying both babies. I also felt guilt about the immediate thoughts I had in the office regarding how I was scared about having to handle two babies at once. 

I went home, and we both called our parents and then texted our siblings to let them know. It was a very confusing time emotionally. I did a lot of reading online in an attempt to have a better understanding of it. Some articles definitely made me cry many times. For example, there was one woman in an article who mentioned it felt like going to a birthday party and a funeral at the same time. We were sad about Baby B, but we were also happy about Baby A. But at the same time, we felt guilty for being happy about Baby A. My emotions would flip flop on an hourly basis. Was I even "allowed" to be sad? Some women are only pregnant with one baby and have a miscarriage. At least we still had one with us, right? There are some women who have infertility issues and can't even get pregnant and stay pregnant with one baby. I should be thankful, right? We also knew that Baby B was already in heaven having the best time. I didn't know what I should or could feel.

We didn't share this information with many people at the time or since then. Other than our immediate family, I only told two of my colleagues at work the next day because I knew I needed their prayer and support. After some time, we also told our small group, but that was much later on when it was easier to talk about it. I just couldn't handle my own emotions and then deal with what other people might say too. My mentor teacher told me that even though we still had one baby, I had every right to be sad about the other baby and that we should give ourselves time to mourn that loss. I mean, even though I was still pregnant, I did lose a baby. One person I told attempted to comfort me by saying that at least we didn't hear both heartbeats during one appointment and then not hear them the next. Sure, I agree that would've been more devastating, but this was still taking an emotional toll nonetheless. When we told our small group, our leader said that sometimes when he has to comfort others due to his pastoral role within ministry, the only thing that can be said is, "That sucks." I couldn't agree more.

During those two weeks of waiting for the next appointment, I was incredibly sick from morning sickness, but it was made worse by the worries. There was a slight chance that the second heartbeat just wasn't audible because the baby was too small. I didn't know what to think. I admit I didn't even know how to pray. The doctor had explained that having multiples increases the risks in pregnancy and that I would have to stop working by a certain week and take it easy to prevent preterm labor. I knew it would've been a strain on my body if that was the case, but I couldn't help but ask God why there had to be another baby in the first place if it wasn't going to survive. It sounds silly, but I even wondered if Baby A knew that something was wrong and missed Baby B.

At the next doctor's visit, we could physically see that the second sac was shrinking. For those of you who saw Howard's Facebook post on our 4th anniversary in May, you already saw this picture. You can see that the second baby didn't grow the way the first baby did. I also had some bleeding in the uterus. As sad as it was, I actually started feeling a little better physically thereafter. Weeks 6-9 of my pregnancy were the worst in terms of morning sickness and stress, but once we had more of a final answer about our twins, we could move on to being happy that Baby A was healthy and growing right on schedule with a heartbeat at 185 beats per minute. We could look forward to being parents!

Writing this entry definitely brought up a lot of the emotions that I thought were long gone. I guess there's no way to truly make the sadness about our other baby go away forever. Even though I will be giving birth to one baby in November, I am and always will be the mother of twins, and we both look forward to meeting our other baby in heaven!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Sharing the Big News: My Family

When we found out that we were pregnant on Wednesday, March 2, we were still a little skeptical. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I took another test the next day in the morning for a confirmation. We didn't tell anyone right away because we wanted to let the news sink in and enjoy it when it was just the two of us. It definitely is different once people know. It felt odd keeping such a secret though because that Friday was my school's annual Pajama Movie Night, and I had to order a well-done burger when a few of my colleagues and I went out to eat before the event. Everything I did made me wonder if I would do or say something that would give it away.

I always thought I'd tell my mom immediately, but it happened to be that my dad's birthday celebration was that Saturday. He always tries to tell me things, and I'll reply, "Mommy already told me." If there's anything new going on with me, he typically hears it through my mom because we talk so often and about everything. I thought it would be extra special to make the announcement specifically to my dad so that he would also see just how important he is to me.

Just to be on the safe side because Howard and I were still doubtful, I took another test on Saturday morning. This was just two days after the last test, and that line could not be any darker! There was no waiting for it to appear; it automatically appeared! It was amazing to see how clear it was; there was absolutely no denying it at that point! I also kept thinking about how great it was that my colleague told me to get the Dollar Tree tests. I mean, I took so many just to confirm!

Okay, now that we had that confirmation, I had to figure out how to reveal the news. I just knew it would be the perfect opportunity because my entire immediate family doesn't get together that often, and I really didn't want to just text it. This was a rare occasion with the best timing! I decided to make a card because I've done that once in a while in the past so it wouldn't be too out of the blue. My dad isn't really someone who likes getting gifts; he'll worry that we spent too much money on him! Anyway, I didn't have the time to make anything fancy with my Cricut or Silhouette, so I used the internet to get a simple black and white picture of a slice of cake and copied and pasted it so that there would be 9 slices on the front since the addition of our baby would make us a party of 9!

When we go to the house, I knew we would have to wait a bit. I wanted to make sure my brother, sister-in-law, and niece were there too. I kept waiting for the best moment because I did want Howard to film their reaction or take pictures if possible. When we went upstairs to the living room, I was thinking it would be the right time because we were all taking pictures of Ava, but my mom wasn't sitting anywhere near my dad. I wanted to make sure that they were together so that she could read it too when he opened the card. Okay, I'd have to wait a little longer.

Later that night, we were in the kitchen for dinner. We had ordered in so it was fairly relaxed, but I thought it was hilarious that my mom had brought up a Seagrams Escape Fuzzy Navel, which is what we used to get in Florida and is the only drink that I ever have that's considered alcoholic. I had to pass on it as I claimed I wanted Martinelli's instead and that I'd have the Seagrams later. I ate a little but not too much because I was feeling a little nervous! 

Finally when we were getting ready to have some dessert, I gave my dad the card. He took it, thanked me, and then put it aside. I told him to open it, and while he was doing that, my mom realized she had miscounted plates, but I didn't want her to miss out on reading it too! I had to tell her to look. My younger brother was on the other side of my dad, so he leaned over to take a look too. 

As I said before, the front of the card just had 9 slices of cake on it with the beginning of the happy birthday song, but instead of finishing the lyrics, I wrote, "Happy birthday dear ..." with the continuation on the inside of the card. On the inside, I wrote "Goong-goong!" because that means maternal grandfather in Cantonese. Even though my parents are already grandparents, they have different titles in Chinese because my brother had a baby. My parents can only be Goong-goong and Por-por because of me because I'm their only daughter. Anyway, I inserted a picture of the pregnancy test and then wrote the following: "We're going to have to split the cake into 9 pieces! Love, Howard and Rae (plus one)."

Soon to be Goong-goong!
We took this at the end of the night. I actually wanted Howard to get a quick shot of the card, but when I picked it up, my dad wanted to be in the picture too, which I thought was adorable.
The reaction was priceless. My dad laughed, but I don't think he realized what it meant or what the picture was until he saw the "plus one" portion. My mom and younger brother both looked up at the SAME EXACT TIME and said "Really?" at the SAME EXACT TIME! And then they both did a little celebratory dance IN THE SAME EXACT WAY. Here's just a snippet of the video:

It made me laugh so much, and even now as I watch the video, I'm reminded of what a great moment it was. I'm really glad that it worked out that my entire family was there. We were saying to my baby niece that she was going to be an older cousin! Now when we get together for dinners and celebrations, we're going to need an even larger table as our family continues to grow!

Friday, July 1, 2016

God's Impeccable Timing

After months and months of trying to get pregnant, there was a part of me in the back of my head that was convinced that maybe we would be one of those couples dealing with infertility. There were articles I read that stated that 6 months to a year was the typical amount of time it took, but at the same time, I knew of people that got pregnant rather quickly or without even trying. I told myself that it would happen at the right time, but I kept thinking that with the health problems I've had since college, I'd come across some issues preventing it from ever occurring. 

At the same time, Howard and I had also been searching for a new place to live. Initially, we started apartment hunting and found an apartment we LOVED in a great location with a ton of space and a reputable landlord only to realize that there were no hookups for a washer/dryer and it wasn't possible to add them up because it was above a dental practice. Another apartment was actually a newly renovated townhouse, and the two of us seemed to really get along with the family and daughter that were renting it. We told them of our interest, and it came down to two parties, but the owner ended up not choosing us and apologized because of how much he knew we loved it. 

We then switched to looking at houses after our parents advised us that it made more sense to pay a mortgage than pay rent, but the houses we liked sold quickly. I didn't think we'd be able to handle a down payment on a house, so we then began poring over the online listings for townhouses. There was one we absolutely adored and even put an offer on it, but the owners insisted that they wanted $5000 less than full price. It wasn't worth it in our opinion, and even our realtor said that their counter offer was ridiculous. 

As you can see, there were many internal struggles and even faith struggles throughout this time because I felt that we were ready to move on to the next stage of our lives. We both cried many times when the pregnancy tests came back negative despite symptoms suggesting otherwise and also when housing situations fell through. 

Of course, now that I have hindsight, I see just how BEAUTIFUL all that time was. Howard and I not only grew stronger as a couple, we really grew stronger in our individual faith in Him. When I was upset, he wasn't. When he was upset, I wasn't. We learned how to support each other and remind each other of God's perfect timing. And suddenly, things seemed clearer to us. We were ready to give up the pen and stop fighting the Creator and Author of our lives. And doesn't it just make sense that things then fell into place? 

On Monday, February 22 of this year, I was on the schedule to share a devotional with the staff at my school during the morning meeting. This is what I wrote and read to my colleagues: 

If you know anything about me or if you've ever sat in on one of my classes, you know just how much I love everything Disney. My husband and I love it so much that we even chose to go to Disney World for our honeymoon. One of my all-time favorite movies is actually the recent 2010 animated film Tangled, which is the story of Rapunzel. I find myself singing or humming the songs without even realizing it. One in particular is called "When Will My Life Begin?" The beginning goes as follows: 

7 AM, the usual morning lineup:
Start on the chores and sweep 'til the floor's all clean,
Polish and wax, do laundry, and mop and shine up
Sweep again and by then it's like 7:15.
After listing some more activities that she partakes in while being locked in her tower, she sings, "Stuck in the same place I've always been" and "When will my life begin?"
Now in no way am I comparing my life with the plight of a young, long-haired girl confined to a secret location, but as I think back on my own inner monologue, I find myself asking myself something to that same effect - when will my life begin?
I'm sure I'm not alone when I say I spent my middle school and high school years waiting for the day I could finally have a guy call me his girlfriend. It was as if my life would surely have more meaning and purpose once someone else determined that I was worthy. I eagerly waited for high school graduation when I could stop worrying about the competition for being ranked first and second. Once I began college, I would be able to study what I wanted to study and leave behind the world of classes like economics and history (sorry, Jess). Then after receiving my Bachelor's degree, I was anticipating the moment when I would finally have my MRS degree. Knowing that I would undoubtedly have my spouse by my side for the rest of our lives gave me feelings of comfort and peace. And now that I have been happily married for almost 4 years, there are two things that I look forward to hopefully happening sooner rather than later. Much of what Howard and I have thought about is how things would be easier if we were as financially "set" as my brother or his sister.
Some of you already know that Howard and I have been looking to move. We initially thought we were going to rent a 2-bedroom apartment, which would be an unbelievably amazing upgrade considering we live in a studio right now. After many prayers and seeing God close many doors and giving us the clear "no's" that we ask for, we have been house hunting instead. I feel that once we find the right place and we can move, we'll have more closets to get organized, better kitchen appliances and space to prepare healthier meals, and more room to finally be able to repay our families and host dinners. And don't get me started on just how thrilled we will be when we finally have access to our own washer/dryer!
The other stage of my life that I am looking forward to is having a baby. I have always felt that being called a mom is such a prestigious title. I think fondly about the way my mom parented my older brother and me and feel that it is such a high calling. I thoroughly enjoy my nephew and nieces, but there's part of me that wonders when it will happen for my husband and me. 
During all these instances, it's as if I'm somehow always thinking that at the next phase, I will be set and my life will surely begin. Since the start of the school year, however, I have been learning how to be patient with all the things that I think will mean some sort of completion in my life. I have been reminded time and time again that God is the one whose plans will far surpass any plans I attempt to make. I have worried about many things, but I see over and over again that He orchestrates all these phases. For once, it is as if I am finally learning to fully submit the desires of my heart to the One who knows it all.
Yesterday in church, I was especially touched. There was a new song included in worship called "Death Was Arrested." Part of the lyrics are as follows:

Our savior displayed on a criminal's cross
Darkness rejoiced as though heaven had lost
But then Jesus arose with our freedom in hand
That's when death was arrested and my life began 

Oh your grace so free
Washes over me
You have made me new
Now life begins with you
It's your endless love
Pouring down on us
You have made us new
Now life begins with you
Those lyrics just seem to directly address Rapunzel's and sometimes my thoughts of "When will my life begin?" I admit that I sometimes lose sight of God's plan for my life when I try to take things into my own hands and plan and organize it the way we all plan our lessons and organize our classrooms. 
I hope that over the past 31 years, I have gained wisdom and not just head knowledge and looking to His Word is definitely the best way to get plugged into the true source of wisdom. Some of the many verses that have reminded me of God's wonder can be found in Psalm 139:1-6, 13-16.
1 You have searched me, Lord,
    and you know me.
2 You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.
3 You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways.
4 Before a word is on my tongue
    you, Lord, know it completely.
5 You hem me in behind and before,
    and you lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too lofty for me to attain.
13 For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.
When I am reminded of how great He is and how small I am and how much He knows and how little I know, it kind of puts me back in my place to realize that I can hope and plan all I want, but ultimately, He is the one who is in control since "all the days ordained for me were written" even "before one of them came to be."

Just a few hours after sharing that with everyone, Howard texted me to tell me that after adjusting our initial offer, the new offer we had made on a house the day before was accepted! And then as you all read in my previous post, it was just a little over a week when we saw those two lines indicating that we were going to be having a baby! It's funny looking back on everything that happened and seeing how God was in charge the entire time even though we kept trying to control our steps and do things according to our own timing. It was clear that He was wanting us to surrender and trust, and I can truthfully say that I'm glad He waited for us to get to that point. Because in the end, what do I know? Nothing. What does He know? Everything.