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Isaac's creation

One year ago today, this little angel came into our world, sent directly from heaven, without a doubt.  Isaac is our fourth child, but the first that I gave birth to.  He was the result of a successful fertility treatment called In Vitro Fertilization (IVF), our first and only attempt.  The fact that I was 48 years old when I got pregnant, is a miracle in and of itself.  I had long since given up the idea of ever being able to experience pregnancy and childbirth after having been diagnosed with unexplained infertility, until a rare contact from a dear friend had renewed my desire.  This is the story of how Isaac came to be, and the loving environment that welcomed him.  Take note of the numerous small miracles along the way, leading up to our pursuing this dream.

There was a three-week window of opportunity when our family had come to our Austin home for the holidays, while we were living in Taiwan for one year.  My long, lost friend sent us a beautiful Christmas card, perhaps the first holiday greeting I'd ever received from her, with a lovely family portrait, wherein she had jotted a message apologizing for not being in touch with me after I had tried to reach her, because she had been in the hospital. I wondered, why would she have been in the hospital? Did she actually give birth to those two new babies in the picture?  I was so curious because, like me, she and her husband had adopted their other kids.  I felt urged to call her and clarify what I had been wondering and she confirmed my speculations, she had indeed given birth to twins from a successful round of IVF.  I was so elated for her and expressed my happiness, and told her I didn't even know it was possible at our age.  (She's a half a year older than I am.) 

We laughed and talked, caught up on each other's lives, and couldn't believe how long it had been since we had been in touch.  She suggested that I look into IVF, and I simply dismissed the notion and told her that my oldest daughter had just started college and everyone would think it's crazy, myself included.  Strangely, I couldn't stop thinking about it. That was in January of 2011, and once again, those natural maternal instincts that I had tamed, had resurfaced with a vengeance, and that night after talking to her, I searched the internet and found a Taiwanese blog that was actually in English, for a clinic in Hsinchu, where we lived, that was fairly close to our house.  (As of today, that blog hasn't been updated since then.  It's as if it was put there just for my benefit.)  I called from Texas to Taiwan, and made an appointment to see the doctor the day after I flew back to our home-away-from-home in Hsinchu.

We only had one car, so I dropped Kelly off at work, then went to my initial appointment, having navigated my way through the well-populated and densely packed businesses, with practically all of the signs in Chinese.  Like most of the places I went, I was the only non-Asian person there, and stood out like a sore thumb.  It's awkward enough to go to an OB/GYN when you can blend in, but when it seems like everyone is aware of your presence because you look different from the rest, it adds to the discomfort.  The reception staff greeted me in limited English, then I paid cash for the visit, had some tests,  then met with Dr. Lai and a wonderful gentleman named Ian who ended up being my interpreter for the remainder of my contact with the clinic, and was incredibly helpful and accommodating. All of the staff put in long hours and were professional and efficient.  There were a few things that were much different from a doctor's office in the U.S., but all I really cared about was the end result, having a baby.

After one cycle and some fertility drugs, Dr. Lai had concluded that my ovarian reserve was diminishing and the quality wasn't the best, considering my advanced maternal age.  He convinced us that the best option would be to use an egg donor.  There were a lot of big questions we had to consider, and both of us prayed a great deal over what to do.  One major concern was how would our kids, Lindsey and Christopher, feel if I were to get pregnant and have a baby.  As I had predicted, they were thrilled with the idea.  I also wondered what my friends and family would think, and asked some of them.  We got mixed reviews, and realized that ultimately, the decision should be between the two of us and our Heavenly Father.  We both felt strongly that we should proceed with it, and so we did.

It hadn't occurred to me at first, but then after asking Dr. Lai, he told me that all of the egg donors would be Taiwanese.  Personally, that didn't bother me at all, but how would I handle the response from others with having a mixed race baby, or one that didn't look like a combination of the two of us?   What would a half American from Kelly's genes and half Taiwanese baby from an anonymous young Asian woman look like?  I wanted her to be tall, intelligent and cute, but how can you put that on paper?  We would have to wait for a match and our cycles would have to be synched up within five days of each other.  There was also a lot of red tape to endure. We had to go through a lot of paperwork to continue, and it was really a pain, getting our marriage license authenticated for Taiwanese standards, and more.

In the meantime, a whole new element of surprise was added to the mix.  The end of February, we were introduced to a little 7-year-old Taiwanese girl who essentially needed a new family.  Her situation was complicated and none of it made sense to us.  Could this child be the answer to our prayers? Should we continue with the IVF?  I had no idea what to do, so again, we prayed and asked for guidance.  Kelly and I felt like we should keep pursuing both the adoption and the IVF, not really knowing if one or both would pan out.  We were open to what ever God had in mind for us.

We got the "go ahead" in May from Hannah's birth father that he was willing to relinquish her for adoption (her birth mother was deceased), and in the most miraculous way, we went full speed ahead to get all the legal work taken care of before we moved back home in August.  We hired a social worker from the United States to fly over to meet us and do a home study, we applied for her U.S. citizenship, and so forth, and met with Taiwanese courts and social workers as well.  Hannah was living with us by then, and the adoption was finalized in Zhubei City, Hsinchu County, Taiwan, on July 11, 2011 (7-11).

In June, we had been matched with a donor, and I had been taking ridiculous amounts of drugs to trick my body into thinking it was pregnant, to prepare for the transfer. Anonymous Egg Donor #1 had been taking medications to prepare for egg retrieval, and the lab part of the process began.  After a few days, it all came to a hault when it appeared that none of the eggs were fertilizing the way they should.  I was so discouraged and frustrated, and was an utter hormonal mess from all the medications.  I was almost ready to give up, and Kelly was the reason I kept going.  He was so hopeful, and I could see that it meant so much to him if I were to be able to carry his child.  We had already paid for the first donor, and we would have to pay for another donor, even though we never actually made it to the transfer.  I felt like we had wasted our money, which was a bargain compared to what it would have been in America.

In normal IVF, many sperm are placed together with an egg, in hopes that one of the sperm will enter and fertilize the egg. The fertilization never occurred, but there was another method that had not been attempted, called ICSI (pronounced ick-see). With ICSI, the embryologist takes a single sperm and injects it directly into an egg. With my raging hormones and sadness, I complained to the clinic that I was discouraged that they had not done this method at first, so they felt compassion, and agreed to do another cycle for us, using ICSI without an additional fee, other than paying for the second donor.  We were moving back to the U.S. in August, and time was running out.  I had essentially one cycle left before we had to relocate, and they miraculously found another egg donor to match my cycle.  I continued to take seven different drugs and the Anonymous Egg Donor #2's egg retrieval was successful.  The thought had crossed my mind to spy around the clinic to look for someone who could be the donor so I could have an idea of what she might look like, but realized how unlikely it would be that I would know who was whom.  Regardless of physical traits, I was so grateful for her, and Kelly and I prayed for this unknown young woman to be healthy as well.  The ICSI procedure was done and we crossed our fingers and prayed that some of the eggs would fertilize.

Our prayers were answered and there were four good quality blastocysts after five days, and we chose to transfer two of them (into me).  I had always hoped for twins, and felt like I could handle two babies.  We thought about transferring three, just in case one or two didn't work, but if they all did make it, triplets would freak me and everyone else out.  So we stuck with the decision to go with two embryos, and crossed our fingers and hoped for the best.  Obviously, we did not end up with twins, to my initial dismay.  One of the two images above is the very beginning stages of the human being known as Isaac.

I was nervous and kind of dreading the actual procedure.  The IVF transfer was on July 13, two days after our adoption of Hannah was finalized. Kelly had to stay in the waiting area during the transfer.  It was a bit painful, but not terrible.  The worst part was perhaps the catheter.  The overall experience was more embarrassing than anything, to have all these people looking at me and working to make this pregnancy possible.  Everyone was speaking Chinese.  A very nice, compassionate nurse, who held my hand and talked to me in English, kept me informed. In a very controlled, professional environment, Dr. Lai skillfully made the transfer of these two tiny multi-cellular beings, and with a needle, injected them with precision into my body exactly where they needed to be. It went by fairly quickly and Kelly was back by my side, where I was instructed to lie down on the slightly elevated bed for about two more hours.  I really hoped that this would work, but was so accustomed to failure with pregnancy, that I guarded my enthusiasm with caution, kind of like a defense mechanism.

Cautiously, I walked out the door of the clinic, and Kelly went to get the car to minimize my steps.  I was so fearful that the embryos/blastocysts might fall out of me.  I was paranoid.  From our parking garage to our elevator, it seemed like a longer walk than usual.  I remember seeing a wheel chair in the parking garage that belonged to one our neighbors that I wanted to hijack momentarily.  Once inside, I hardly left my bedroom for the next few days.  I didn't want to do anything to jeopardize this.  Poor Hannah didn't have a clue why her new mom was so sick and did nothing but lie around in bed.  The older kids knew what was going on, and they were helpful and supportive.  If I could speak Chinese, I might have tried to explain it to Hannah, but decided it would be best for her emotionally if I withheld the information for the time. Technically, I was considered pregnant, as everyone is when an IVF transfer occurs.  I learned the acronym of "PUPO" from an online support group that I had joined, which means that I was pregnant until proven otherwise.  I wouldn't know if I was still pregnant until fifteen days later, on July 28.

Here's what I wrote on that momentous day, in an old entry from the online support forum, where I humbly and gratefully shared the news.

TEST RESULTS IN: I just got home from the clinic and took a urine test and blood test and found out that it worked! I'm in shock! Forty-eight years old, just a few weeks from our 25th wedding anniversary, and I'm expecting a baby or babies. I can hardly believe it. When the staff was telling me to go into the doctor's office, everyone was smiling, so I kind of had a feeling it would be good news. The doctor told me I am pregnant and I was blown away. I'm so thankful for the egg donor. I wasn't even expecting the news until tonight, so I was by myself while my husband was at work. I called him while I was waiting for further instructions and more medications to be prescribed, and he was of course, thrilled too.

They told me to just take it easy and not allow myself to get too tired. My friend who had twins last year at age 48 after two adoptions, that inspired me to get back into the infertility ring, said she just basically laid in bed for a week or two, hardly getting up at all. She just got up to go to the restroom and sometimes to take a shower. I have been avoiding sleeping on my tummy (my favorite position) and so far, all the tips have been helpful, it would appear.


We will move back to the USA on August 15, and I'm supposed to set up an appointment for the fetal heartbeat sonogram for August 18. I broke the news to my four siblings via email, two of whom are happy for us, and two whom are against it, citing their concerns for my age and health (which is just fine). I'm feeling on top of the world, and yet, still a bit guarded with my emotions and skeptical. I feel blessed for the advancement of science and being a woman of faith, cannot help but to thank my loving Father in Heaven for this tender mercy.


Tonight after the blood tests are in, I should have a better idea of whether or not one or both of the embryos that were transferred may be progressing. Thank you to everyone for your support!

This is such a horrible picture of me with my face all red from crying, and thinking I would just drop by the office, give my sample, then leave.  Oh well.  It's the only picture I have of Dr. Lai (on left) and Ian (on right), and besides, this was one of the best days of my life, so I'm putting it on here anyway.

Before leaving Taiwan, our family went on a vacation to the southern tip of the country, and to an amusement park, and various places, and I was extremely cautious and careful and avoided doing many activities and held onto hope that I might actually be incubating a baby or babies.  We moved back home to Austin, and a few days later, I went to my first of many OB/GYN and high risk pregnancy doctor visits.  I was so bummed during the ultrasound when they could only find one baby.  In retrospect, I am grateful because one baby has been plenty.  I ended up having a horrendous pregnancy and my body will never be the same, even though it was completely worth it.
My siblings who had been concerned about my health and well being were vindicated.  I developed gestational diabetes (which is no longer a concern) and had to test my blood sugar level twice a day, I took medicine for just about everything.  Those weeks and months seemed to drag on in slow motion, and I felt like I was pregnant forever.  My due date was March 31, and I had been been going to Dr. Kimberly DeStefano, a maternal fetal medicine sub-specialist, in addition to my obstetrician, Dr. Ariel Holley, so I had a doctor visit each week, alternating from one to the other.  I had been scheduled to be induced on March 22, but Dr. Holley didn't think I was quite ready, so wanted to wait another week.  Thinking I would be having the baby sooner, Dr. DeStefano had released me as a patient two weeks prior, and wished me the best.  Since I had been going there so often, it seemed like a long time to not be checked, and I kept worrying about my baby not being safe.  I was prompted to call to make another appointment with the specialist and got right in.  It turned out to be a potentially life saving check-up.  Previously, I had an ultrasound every time I went, and this time, the baby hadn't gained any weight since the last appointment two weeks earlier.  Dr. De Stefano assured me the baby was still fine, but that something was going on, and told me that I needed to have the baby that day, and to go directly to the hospital or to my doctor.  She called Austin Regional Clinic in Cedar Park where I had been going, and told them I was on my way.

I got to my car and called Kelly to inform him, and somehow through the tears, he understood my alarming message.  I wasn't quite ready for this, my house wasn't clean, I didn't have all the baby's items organized to take to the hospital, or any arrangements made for Hannah and Christopher.  (Lindsey was away at college at BYU-Idaho.)  I met with Dr. Anthony Monteiro since Dr. Holley wasn't in.   He asked me if I wanted to check right in to the hospital or to wait until 4:30 or so, and I chose the latter.   I called two friends, Danielle and Sherrie, to help us out with the kids, and both were awesome to drop everything and assist.  I quickly scrambled around and grabbed some items from home and Kelly took me to the hospital.  I was scared that something might go wrong, and worried for the baby, yet was eager to have my pregnancy, and hopefully puking, nausea and such come to an end, and especially to meet our precious son.

The cervix softening medicine was administered that evening, and I was supposed to be induced the next morning.  However, heart monitors indicated the baby was in distress after we had just begun.  I was worried.  They said that if the baby could barely tolerate these beginning stages, there would be no way he could make it through the more intense delivery, and a C-section was inevitable.  I asked them when it would be, and they said, "Right now," or as soon as the doctor is ready.  Then a calmness came over me that everything would be fine, and I tried to be the best patient possible.  When the anesthesiologist treated me, it didn't seem like it took as well as it should have, and I could feel a lot of movements and was in quite a bit of pain while Dr. Monteiro did the surgery.  I thought women weren't supposed to feel anything during a C-section.  Wrong!  I could feel tugging and pulling and it felt like they were ripping my insides apart, working hard and fast to get the baby out of me. It was a lot more violent of a process than I would have ever imagined and it hurt a lot.  I remember asking if they were almost finished after the baby had been born and they were putting me back together.  It couldn't be over fast enough, and I was relieved when they were finally done. 

Isaac David was born on Monday, March 19, 2012, at 10:29 pm, with the umbilical cord wrapped around him a couple of times, and might not have survived, according to Dr. De Stefano, had I not made that extra appointment and had that pivotal, infamous ultrasound.  She felt like the maternal instincts were kicking in, but I know God had intervened once more. By the time he was born, I had turned 49 four months earlier. Who has babies at that age?  Just like Abraham and Sarah in the Old Testament, who were extremely old by the time they had their baby Isaac, it makes me laugh just to think about it.  It is truly miraculous--what a blessing Isaac has been, an angel.

I can hardly believe how awesome life has been since Isaac (and Hannah) joined us. I also tell Hannah what an angel she is, and that she is a special gift from Heavenly Father.  Our one year living abroad wasn't just a fluke.  It was part of a wonderful plan, much bigger than I had ever imagined.  Here are several darling pictures of my little angel boy after he was born, including his birth announcement.  He was jaundiced and we had to keep him under the heat lamps for a day or two.  It was torture for us.  He hated not being swaddled and we would much rather be holding him. 
Designed by Cori Henderson, who was also the photographer, I loved the way these turned out.
These are some of my cherished friends who came to see us at the hospital with flowers and cuddles to spare.
Three other friends visited me in the hospital, but I didn't think to take their pictures.  Jennie, who brought me some flowers and a chocolate shake at my request, and Danielle, who brought some Gigi's cupcakes, and Judy, my wonderful Relief Society President.  I had help with carpooling and sleep overs from my neighbors Laurie and Paulina, and also my friend, Megan.

I ended up with a killer headache, that could have been an after-affect of the anesthesia, that lasted for almost a week.  It was excruciating, and I was having a hard time with trying to breast feed, but was determined to figure it out.  I had wonderful advice and support from my friends Elizabeth and Kirsten, and my sister's sister-in-law, Maryanne, plus went to a lactation specialist.  It took a month, but I finally got it down and wasn't dying in the process and enjoyed nursing my baby up until he was ten months old.

My husband was incredibly supportive as I toughed through all the pain and recovery from surgery and he changed most of Isaac's diapers for the first few weeks of his life.  It was a beautiful moment to see how proud Kelly was to have a son whom he had helped to create.
We got to go home on Friday, March 23, and I was so happy to get out of the hospital and into my own bed.  We had to take Isaac to the doctor the next day to make sure his biliruben levels were fine and that the jaundice was under control, and he passed the exam. Here he is below for his first bath.  Except for the initial shock of this first moment, he has always loved bath time completely.

I was touched by the kindness of several friends who brought dinners to us including my visiting teacher, Christa, who whipped up this delicious and healthy feast.
Wonderful neighbors who delivered delicious dinners  to us were Gladys, Lisa, Kathy, and Monica, and some friends from church-- Megan, Judy, Michelle, and Cindy. A group of neighbors stopped by to drop off a huge amount of diapers to us one day as well, including Kelley, Kimberly, Zee, and Ellen, all of whom had generously given us baby gifts already. "Aunt Sherrie" kept my kids from starving and spoiled them by taking them out to restaurants and bringing me flowers and gifts. When Isaac was a week old, he was back to his birth weight of 5 pounds, 9 ounces.
The pediatrician we took him to at first was Dr. Monteiro's wife, Dr. Kellie Rice-Monteiro.  She was gentle with Isaac, thorough and very friendly, but the drive to Cedar Park didn't make sense to continue long-term, so I switched to Dr. Brooks Booker on Anderson Mill, and have been very pleased.

Thinking back on this time last year, I haven't even begun to mention the loving support and gifts, baby clothes, and more that we got from family and friends in the mail.  My mom bought Isaac his beautiful crib, and the list is never ending of whom to acknowledge.  Good friends from years past and present showered us with baby necessities.  I experienced an incredible outpouring of love and joy for the miracle baby known as Isaac. Everyone was happy for our family, and I'll always be so thankful to all for what they did for us. What a little bundle of love he is!

Happy birthday to my baby boy!  Your mommy, daddy, brother and sisters love you more than words can say, as do your grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins and countless friends of the family.  One year later, Isaac weighs 18 pounds, 4 ounces, and is just under the tenth percentile for weight, and is in the 2nd percentile for height, 25th percentile for his head circumference. (That should mean he is extra intelligent, right?) He is a healthy, happy baby who is adored deeply by many.

Impromptu photo taken last night at the mall, when Isaac was 364 days old!

Comments

Mel said…
I loved this blog post! I just can't fathom what a miracle all this has been. I feel honored to have had a baby around the same time as you (can't believe they are at the year already!). Thanks for sharing this...it was just miracle after miracle and I'm so proud of all you have done over the last two years. You really are amazing!
Cheri said…
Thank you for sharing this, Kelly. So touching. I am so happy for you and your family. I am crying now after seeing the picture of Kelly, with his eyes red from crying, holding his baby. You are an amazing woman, raising an amazing family.
Cassie said…
What a wonderful beautiful story! Thanks for sharing!
Kellie said…
I am so thankful you shared this. I feel like I was only able to watch this unfold from a distance since we moved so soon after you came home. This gave me a personal glimpse into all the prayers and miracles that went into adding these two special people into your family. I hardly know them, but it is hard to imagine your family without them. Life is full of such wonderful surprises. Who would have guessed these two when I was your visiting teacher three years ago? Amazing!!
Jennifer Diane said…
Very touching (and humbling) story, Kelly! I am so happy for you and your beautiful family.

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