8 years.

To my dearest Ed,

It’s been eight years since you departed this life. This is the first year that, in the weeks leading up to your death anniversary, I did not feel a great anticipation of seeing you again. Every year up until this year, I’ve always gotten a sense that I would “see” you again, whether that was through my dreams or through some sign you’d send down to earth, letting me know that you were still out there watching over me. This year, I did not feel anything. Maybe it’s my subconscious’s way of expressing that I’ve finally and fully accepted that you truly are gone. Granted, I’ve never been in denial that you were gone. It’s more that I always got the feeling that your spirit was still nearby, especially while I’d be at home in San Francisco.

A lot has happened in the last year. My relationship with our parents is further strained. This country is even more torn apart than it already was. People are somehow still dying from COVID-19 because they don’t believe in science and refuse to get vaccinated. I went through IVF and finally got pregnant (lucky you, you will never be acquainted with the total hell and roller coaster that process is).

I’m still pregnant; every day I wake up, and every night I go to sleep at night, marveling at the fact that I got pregnant and am continuing to be pregnant. I can’t believe how lucky I am. Each night, I give thanks for what I have and what my body is carrying and nourishing. When I found out I was originally pregnant with twins, I got so excited. One of my first thoughts was of you and what your reaction would have been like. I imagined your face breaking out into a huge grin, marveling over the idea that you’d be an uncle to identical twin girls, in shock at the idea that this was actually real. I teared up thinking about the fact that you will never get to react. You always liked babies, and you especially liked little girls. I just thought it was another sign that it was meant to be. And when one of those twins’ hearts stopped beating, I was just shattered. I wondered if embryo baby angels go to heaven, and if they do go to heaven, do they get to meet people like you, who actually lived a real life on earth and have since departed? Do you know where the embryo baby angels go?

I always knew you’d be a great uncle, the kind of uncle who would always want to spend time with nieces and nephews, the one who would spoil them rotten with all the gifts they wanted, even if it was against my own wishes. It really breaks my heart that you will never meet this baby, this little human I am growing. You will never get to hold her, feed her, kiss her, spoil her. I will never know what it’s like to have my child meet her mama’s brother and have a relationship with him. The world robbed you of so much, and by default, it’s robbed me and my future child of so much, as well.

As this pregnancy has progressed, I’ve reflected a lot on our shared childhood and involuntarily had a lot of flashbacks of awful situations that happened between us and our parents. As we all know, no parent is perfect, but I am especially and painfully cognizant of the effect that they had on you. I want to take the good that they did and emulate it, but I especially want to take the bad that they did and learn to never repeat the same mistakes of the past. I don’t want to continue the cycle of dysfunction and tyranny. I want your little niece to feel supported and unconditionally loved. I think at the core, that’s what every parent wants; whether that is actually the result is a completely different story.

I hope you will look down on me and help give me the strength I need to be the best mama I can be. I will make sure to tell your little niece all about the great uncle she will never meet. You will still be a part of her life, even if you aren’t here on earth with us. Every day, I wonder if you are watching over us, giving us your blessings to continue with this pregnancy and ensure the baby is happy and healthy. I hope you are with whatever abilities you have; I need all the help and good vibes I can get — seriously.

I miss you. Every day, I think about you and miss you. I wish you could still be with us in a happier and healthier state than you were last in when you were here. The world still goes on, though, even when great individuals like you leave us. But I will never forget you. How could I possibly forget you? It still makes my heart ache thinking about all the sibling bonds that are out there, and how we no longer have one here in this world to actively continue. But I still feel you — just in a different way. I love you, Ed. I hope to see you again in my dreams soon since it’s been quite some time. So, when are you going to come again?

Love,

Yvonne

Moving Day once again after 4 years

“This will be the easiest move of your life,” Chris said, as we started filling up large plastic storage bins and endless reusable cloth bags with our belongings.

We’re moving “very very far,” or, well, just a floor up in the same building into a larger 2-bedroom, 2 bathroom apartment. It will be the very first time since I was growing up that I’ll live in a place that has more than one bathroom, which is kind of crazy to me. Our apartment will have southwest exposure, which means we’ll not only have views of the Hudson River, but also views of downtown Manhattan. We hired movers just to move furniture, and we moved the rest of our belongings on our own. We didn’t have to package and tape anything, nor did we need to buy any one-time-use moving boxes, which was nice (and good for the environment). With the large storage bins, the luggage cart, and of course an elevator, plus easy access to two stairwells, although it took a lot of trips up and down, we were eventually able to move every single non-furniture item ourselves. Granted, I willl say that I emptied out the entire kitchen and the vast majority of the closets since Chris claimed he had to wait for the Verizon guy to show up (and because it was a stormy afternoon-evening, there seemed to have been a huge delay), so a considerable chunk of this “move” was me going up and down the stairs and elevators about a gazillion times to finally get most of our non-furniture belongings moved over. After about 14 hours of constantly going up and down between the two floors, emptying out storage bins and our endless supply of stuffed reusable bags, I was totally pooped. I can already feel my calves getting sore from all the excessive exercise. I should win an award for the most physical activity related to moving for a pregnant woman ever.

But now, we are in our new home, the third home we’ve shared, and the second home we’ve shared just with each other. I’m looking forward to new memories being made in this new, spacious apartment, along with the hopeful healthy arrival of our new family member.

Fetal movements throughout the day

I can’t believe I’ve made it this far: I’m now in my 19th week of pregnancy. It’s so crazy to me that I nervously went through my embryo transfer at the end of March and have somehow made it out alive and pregnant now that we’re already halfway through July.

I was able to detect fetal movements a few weeks ago, but they were so subtle and strange, like a combination of internal tickling and indigestion, that I didn’t really think much of it. Then, on our flight to Oklahoma, I actually felt what resembled an actual kick that really startled me. Sometimes, it feels like a lot of bubbles inside. And since then, there are specific periods throughout the day when I am fairly certain that it’s actual fetal movement. It tends to happen right after my morning workouts, anytime after I eat or drink a lot of anything, and then, funnily enough, right around bedtime, usually between 9:30-11pm. At night before bed, it is especially distracting: it feels like a combination of rolling and rumbling in my lower abdomen, right up to where my belly button is. I’ve even started sleeping with a pillow between my legs and pulled up to my stomach to provide some support for my gradually growing belly.

Every time I feel the movement, I get really excited. It’s like I’m detecting my baby’s patterns, and we’re almost bonding with each other. I’m not sure the baby feels that way, but I do. Every day, with each movement, I’m getting closer and closer to meeting my miracle baby.

COVID restrictions ending in New York

This evening, we went to our roof to catch tiny glimpses of the fireworks display further downtown. The New York governor had announced earlier that he was lifting most of the state’s coronavirus precautions after New York reached a 70 percent vaccination threshold. From our roof, we could see bits of the colorful fireworks going up into the air to celebrate the end of COVID-19 restrictions. Back in March 2020, when the COVID restrictions began, who would have ever thought that they would have lasted this long? Granted, I was pretty pessimistic given the orange jerk that was unfortunately in the White House at the time, and I had a feeling COVID would continue full speed ahead killing people around this country through the end of the year. But finally, over 15 months after the restrictions had begun, we’re finally ending them in New York state just over 15 months later.

We survived, I thought to myself, looking at the tiny bits of fireworks from our roof very far away from the center of the display. But unfortunately, 600,000 of our fellow Americans did not. Globally, there have been over 3.82 million people who have died from COVID-19, and who is to say the number of people who died not directly from COVID, but indirectly because they were turned away for supposedly less severe sicknesses at the time. This is definitely going to be a time in our lives we’ll never forget. In the back of my mind, though, I wonder when the next global pandemic will happen, as scientists are anticipating that this is not necessarily going to be a one-off in our lifetime and may become a more regular occurrence.

Although vaccinations are increasing, I’m still disappointed by all the people who still haven’t been vaccinated, as well as the anti-vaxxers who continue to spread fake news about the COVID vaccines. This country still seems so dismal. We cause all our own problems yet cannot seem to learn from it. This is what happens when you don’t study history properly.

Last vag pills, fingers crossed

I couldn’t believe it. When the clinic called me last Wednesday afternoon with my final instructions upon “graduating,” they let me know that yesterday would be my very last day of Endometrin, the progesterone supplements I needed to take during the period preparing for my frozen embryo transfer through the 10th week of pregnancy. Endometrin are pills, but they are not the pills you are probably envisioning; they are not taken by mouth, but rather by vagina. You use an applicator and insert them into your vagina three times a day, once in the morning as soon as you wake up, once in the middle of the afternoon, and once before bed. And they are anything BUT clean: I’ve had to wear a panty liner every single day during this period, and when I have not… well, I’ve had quite a mess to clean up. And don’t even get me started on the “trail” that the pill leaves; it literally leaks all over the place, from the bed to the floor to the chairs I sit on. I’ve randomly found traces of vag pill all over the hallway floors!

But to be honest, I would take vaginal pills/Endometrin every single day and then some over taking progesterone in oil (PIO) shots, which are thick, painful, and administered on your butt with a longer-than-long needle. I am so grateful I have remained ignorant to the horror of that experience, which is what I honestly feared the most during the IVF process, but was made aware early on that the clinic would not be prescribing this for my protocol (or most of their other patients, for that matter).

It was almost bittersweet in some way, inserting my last vag pill yesterday evening before bed. It’s like this period of my IVF process is done, and fingers crossed, things will continue to go smoothly moving forward. Life is progressing; life inside of me is progressing. My pregnancy is progressing. I just need to keep my faith in this process going.

First OB appointment

Given the fertility journey I have been on, every appointment I’ve had after learning I’ve been pregnant has been beyond nerve wracking. I have to try my best to fight off anxiety while going to all of these appointments, whether they’ve just been for blood draws to check my HCG level, or scans to check on the growth of the embryo and its heartbeat. I’ve also had to start seeing an endocrinologist to ensure my thyroid levels are within healthy range, and each visit there, they also take my weight and blood pressure. I’ve always had normal blood pressure, but at this first OB visit, which is strange to even call it that since prior to getting pregnant, I would usually just refer to my OB-GYN as my “gynecologist,” when the nurse took my blood pressure, I noticed that it was a little elevated. Great, I thought. I’m getting off to an awesome start with this visit.

Then, I undressed from the waist down as instructed and waited for my doctor of the last nine years to come in. And I felt nervous. What if the embryo isn’t growing? Or what if its heart beat can no longer be detected? These worries keep plaguing me each visit, and they’ve only gotten worse since Twin A’s heartbeat stopped.

I knew she was coming when I heard the clicking of her heels. She loves heels.

She opened the door with a huge grin on her face (yes, I could even see it with her mask on): “YVONNE!” She shouted in a sing-songy tone. “You’re PREGNANT!!!! CONGRATULATIONS!”

I smiled. “Yep. I”m excited… and absolutely terrified,” I responded, laughing. “Every visit, I’m scared I’m going to find out something bad.”

She reassured me that at this stage of pregnancy, now that we’re at week 10, the miscarriage risk was extremely low. “Now, you should really just focus on your health and the future,” she insisted.

I hope she’s right, I thought. I mean, based on the statistics, what she is says is true, but I cannot help but have some lingering doubt in the back of my mind. I cannot get too comfortable.

She proceeded to perform my very first transabdominal ultrasound; I couldn’t believe it. “We don’t have to do it vaginally?” I asked to be sure. She said that at this stage, we should be able to see clearly enough over the stomach (thank God; I’m so over having foreign objects stuck in my vagina all the time). So she pressed the wand over my stomach and we started looking at the outline of what is now, as of this week, transitioning from an embryo into a fetus. We saw the outside of the baby’s head, butt, hands, and feet. And she also measured the heart beat: 179 beats per minute, which is on track for this stage. And the little peanut is measuring at exactly 10 weeks. Thank goodness. A major sigh of relief came out.

She had me do some routine prenatal tests, including both blood and urine samples, and gave me a referral for a formal 12-week scan that would provide better imaging for nuchal translucency and growth at the hospital in two weeks. I will see her again in five weeks.

I just need to get through these weeks and not worry about the growth and progression. I’m not used to not having weekly scans, and I just need to trust in the process. I need to trust in the process. I am going to get through this. My baby is going to get through this, too, and be healthy and happy. Please, please.

Zoom chat with our newly widowed friend

I was surprised to get a message from Maria, Raj’s wife, yesterday morning, asking if we’d be free to catch up over a video chat this week. Obviously, we’d been wanting to chat with her since we found out about Raj’s passing, but we figured she was overwhelmed with being a new mom and all the new responsibilities around that, not to mention grieving her husband, and so we just let her know we’d be free to chat whenever she was ready.

We ended up chatting with her this evening, and I just couldn’t help but get emotional. I don’t think it takes any difficult guessing to figure out that life has been really hard for her since he got sick and died so suddenly. And it’s only been made worse by the fact that no one, not the doctors or anyone at the hospital, have any idea what brought on these seizures out of nowhere… they know nothing until this day. One by one, his organs just started shutting down, and the end finally came. And he was hospitalized just days after bringing their baby home.

Maria expressed a lot of confusion and anger at the world that something like this could happen to Raj, and it was easy to understand. “Why Raj? Why him?” she said through tears. “He’s such a good person… Why did he have to get taken away, and like this?”

The world isn’t a fair place. It’s no wonder I get angry at life and the world so often; it’s when things like this happen. Maria has been so strong, partly because she has no choice given she’s responsible for an entirely new human being now. I just can’t believe how strong and fierce she’s been; it was so admirable to see.

It just felt so strange, though, to be on that Zoom chat with just her. It’s almost like I still don’t believe Raj is gone, like all this is some awful joke being played on us, and that out nowhere any second, he will pop into the Zoom frame and say hi to us. I can’t believe she’s actually a “widow” now. That is just too strange to me to think about. My heart just hurts.

A celebration of life for our friend

This afternoon in the suburb of Folsom, family and friends gathered at a beautiful winery to celebrate the life of our dear friend Raj. For those of us who are not local, a live stream of the event was provided on YouTube, so Chris and I tuned in to participate from home. As we can imagine would have been what Raj wanted, this was no somber affair; the food and wine overfloweth, and the family requested guests to not wear funeral attire and instead to wear business casual.

One after another, we heard friends and family members of Raj talk about memories they had with him. All of them were relatable, and none were surprising given the big heart that Raj had. Some were actually pretty funny (I had no idea he converted Maria’s parents into wine lovers. These are people who barely even knew what wine was before!). Even his manager and the head of his team came to share thoughts and memories of their colleague and friend, a side that we never got to see of Raj since we never worked professionally with him.

The tear jerker moment for me was seeing his dad speak. Given the timing, it was unlikely he got to see Raj this year before his son’s untimely death given he was stuck in Nepal, and it just broke my heart to see how strong he was being. Raj was so close to his parents; he frequently called his dad his best friend. And regardless of being in a totally different time zone, he called his dad every single day, even if it was just to talk for five minutes. He was an open book to his dad. I cannot even begin to imagine the pain and anguish his parents must have felt upon learning their eldest son had suddenly passed. It must have felt like death for themselves.

Clinic “graduation day”

This morning, Chris and I went to the clinic for what was supposed to be my last visit before “graduating.” When you are getting fertility treatments at a clinic, they consider “graduation day” to be the day when you have finished all your treatments and have been given the green light that your pregnancy is healthy and progressing, and so you are allowed to transition back to your OB-GYN. In the elevator going up, Chris asked, “Is this really going to be your last visit?”

I gave him a tired look. “I HOPE SO!!!!” Because if this isn’t my last visit, it either means a) something is wrong with the growth of Emmie that would require closer monitoring, or b) she isn’t going to make it, and I’ll need to start from square 1 all over again. Please don’t be the case…

As I sat on the exam table waiting for the doctor to come in for my last scan, I suddenly felt nervous. Is everything going to be okay? Is my little remaining Twin B going to be growing appropriately with a good heart rate? Am I REALLY going to graduate today and have this be my last visit here?

The doctor and sonographer finally came in, and the doctor got started with the scan right away. As though reading my mind, as soon as he stuck the probe in me, he immediately said, “Wanted to confirm right away that yes, we do see a heart beat! And it’s looking on track!”

Thank God.

Hey, little Twin B, you can do it! You can do it! And she certainly is doing quite a bit with her heart beating at 186 beats per minute, which is within healthy, normal range of what she should be at given we’re now at the 9-week mark. He also confirmed that Twin B’s growth rate is on target for where it should be. “This is exactly what I was hoping to see today!” the doctor exclaimed, smiling, with relief.

He answered some of our questions and talked through transitioning back to my OB. I thanked him for everything before he wished us well and left the room. I also gave a parting gift and thank you card to my sonographer, who has been my rock at this clinic for as long as I’ve been going. It was definitely a bittersweet day. I’ve been treated very well at this clinic; they’ve taken very good care of me, especially when I read all the horror stories in other fertility support groups online, or hear my friend’s stories about her clinic. Transitioning over to my OB-GYN will be like I never got fertility treatments at all; it will seem and feel like a “normal” pregnancy.” But that also means less checking, less reassurance that things are progressing well. I just have to trust in the process. No more weekly scans. Now, it’ll be every four weeks until week 32 from what I’ve read, then weekly until delivery.

Unfortunately, Twin A is still there with no heart beat. You can even see her on the sonogram the doctor printed out for me. It’s a sad reminder of a little potential life that unfortunately did not work out, but it only makes me hope even harder for Twin B to survive and thrive.

I am just hoping, praying, hoping endlessly that nothing goes wrong and that my little Emmie the embryo continues to progress and become a little human I can hold in my arms. If I ever come back to this clinic, I want it to be as a guest, not as a patient.

Sharing pregnancy in the first trimester and why it’s not usually considered a good idea; and why that is harmful

It’s always been said that pregnant women should not share their pregnancies openly until they are out of their first trimester. The main reason for this is during the first trimester, that’s when there’s the most concern about whether your pregnancy could end in a miscarriage. And who wants to tell friends that they are pregnant, to then retract that statement just a couple weeks later? It’s devastating and tragic, and well, society doesn’t know how to respond to miscarriages in a tasteful way that doesn’t blame the woman who had the miscarriage. Miscarriage is the result of at least 30 percent of all pregnancies, and that’s only what is reported; the actual number is likely much higher. That’s very much fear inducing in itself.

But maybe we’re actually part of the problem in continuing this. Maybe by not sharing, we’re actually increasing the stigma around pregnancy loss. We’re making it “not normal” to share before you clear the 13th week mark of pregnancy. Maybe we should all be openly sharing when we are pregnant during our first trimester because that will increase awareness and communication around pregnancy, the highs AND the lows, and the very real fear and worry of miscarriage. Miscarriage doesn’t just affect people you don’t know; it actually has likely affected MOST people you know whether you are aware of it or not.

The only downside of this idea is that when you are the pregnant person hoping to share, to lead the way in being progressive and forward thinking, is that the burden will ultimately fall on you if your pregnancy does end in a loss. And that’s quite a heavy load to carry on top of the loss itself. It’s a complicated matter about a complicated topic. There’s really no winning in this. I just wish more people had more empathy when it came to pregnancy, pregnancy loss, and the real burdens that pregnant women, and women hoping to become pregnant, face. There is so much anxiety that is not openly acknowledged. It’s not really a fun and exciting time in the first thirteen weeks because you’re plagued by fear of the unknown.