And Then There Were Three……….

I’ll preface this post by saying that we will now be saying “Carroll-Wakem…table for three”

Most of you know that last Saturday, Mama M and I drove up to Seoul in order to stay at a hotel close to the hospital since we anticipated Shim arriving at some point in the very near future.  Little did we know that we would be waiting for eight more days before getting to meet our child.

On Thursday afternoon, after trying to follow every tip in the book to induce labor, we went to the hospital to be induced.  Again, little did we know that we would be waiting four additional days to meet our child.

After a long and drawn out labor lasting 61 hours, our child, the miracle we’d been trying to obtain since 2015, finally arrived.  World, meet Shim, born at 5:34AM on Sunday, March 11th. Weighing in at a hefty 9lbs 12ounces and standing at 21.5″ tall, we are surprised that Shim didn’t hop down and walk right out the door, considering we had birthed a 41-week mini-toddler.

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This kiddo’s arrival has been long awaited for by not only us, but our Army family here in Korea, our families back in the United States, and all of our friends around the globe.

Shim, now known as our son,
Simon Kevin Warren

9 months later….

24991440_876541482274_2052247889102768815_nI will preface this by saying that I am still pregnant. 🙂

I haven’t written in awhile and I feel like I left some of you hanging…especially those of you that aren’t friends with us on Facebook.  Mama M and I have had quite the roller coaster of a pregnancy that I feel the need to catch you up on.  The last update I provided said that we were finally pregnant!

Now sit back, grab a drink (if it’s wine, have some for me!), and enjoy this recap of the past 3 trimesters!

First Trimester: We found out we were pregnant about three weeks prior to our planned move to South Korea.  At the time, our lease was ending and there was a short, 8-day gap before our flight departed for Seoul.  Our friends, the G family, offered to let us and our 2 dogs stay for the week in their guest room.  Little did we know that this offer would turn into the BEST decision that we had made in a long time.

When I notified the military that I was pregnant, they changed the day that we needed to report to Korea to the second week of September — essentially the end of the first trimester.  We had to make a decision at this point about where to live — do we continue to impose on our very welcoming hosts, or do we find a place with a short term, furnished lease.  Remember, by this time, all of our household goods (minus the suitcases that were coming on the plane with us) had either been put in storage, or were on a ship making the trans-pacific journey to the land of the Morning Calm.  After sounding like a broken record for a few days with our friends….”Are you sure it is okay that we stay?”……..”No, really, are you sure we aren’t imposing?”, Mama M and I decided to continue to stay with our friends, their four kids and their 2 dogs for the entire summer.  It was like one BIG happy family — Mama M, Mama D, our two dogs, our friends, T and J, their two dogs, their four kids, and our little one in utero (Shim — a term created to mean she and him since we weren’t planning on finding out the gender).  What could have easily been a recipe for unhappy disaster turned into the best summer of our lives.  Not only did we get to stay in the United States during a trimester riddled with “all-day” sickness, a diagnosis of hypoglycemia, and just general fatigue — but Mama M and I became part of the extended G family — and intend on maintaining that family relationship for the rest of our lives.

Second Trimester: In September, it was time to pack up our bags (and by bags I mean 8 – 50 lb bags, 2 large dog crates (for our 2 smalls dogs) and our 2 carry on bags…total of 12 bags) and fly to our next duty station in South Korea.

Flying to Korea

We might have over packed…..

Upon arriving, and spending 5 days in limbo waiting to find out if we were going to be staying at Yongsan (Seoul) or Camp Humphreys we finally found out that we were going to be stationed at Camp Humphreys, a larger base located about 90 minutes south of Seoul, in a city called Pyeongtaek.  We again packed up our 12 bags and headed down to Camp Humphreys.  We quickly found a house, got settled into a routine at work, and slowly started planning how Shim was going to fit into this life of ours that we were creating on the other side of the world.  A nursery started coming together,  we were set up with a wonderful OB team at the U.S. military hospital in Seoul, and we started exploring this beautiful country that we had the privilege of living in for the next two years.

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Visiting one of the oldest and largest temples near Suwon.

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Spending the day at the Yellow Sea, which is very similar to Monterrey, CA.

During this trimester, I continued to have pretty much every pregnancy symptom in the book.

Continued nausea?       Check.
Rib Pain?                         Check.
Back Pain?                      Check.
Trouble Sleeping?         Check.
Snoring?                          Check.
Heartburn?                     Quadruple Check
Hemorrhoids?               WTF Check!

The list could go on and on, but essentially, this pregnancy was proving to be difficult for me.  I was diagnosed with hypoglycemia at around the 12-week mark after failing a 3-hour glucose test.  Most women fail this test by having glucose levels that are too high.  I, however, was a rare case of the opposite — my glucose level was at 31 at the 3-hour mark.  This level was considered critical and the staff at the OB’s office has no idea how I was still standing, let alone able to walk out of their office and drive myself home.  At our 20 week ultrasound, we were devastated and worried sick when we were told that Shim had developed calcium deposits on his/her heart.  We were sent to a local Korean hospital within two weeks to have a more in depth exam done and, thankfully, the spots had disappeared during that two week period.  Whew!

Third Trimester: The homestretch of this pregnancy has definitely felt like the longest.  We were lucky enough to start it off with a trip back to the United States, both for Mama D to work, and for both of us to take a few days off and visit with our families and friends. Baby Shim was definitely spoiled with multiple gatherings and showers to celebrate his or her upcoming arrival.

Colorado Family

Our Colorado Girls!

In Denver, Colorado, the place where all of the magic took place to create Shim was the first stop on our trip.  Our “Colorado Girls,” as Mama M calls them, hosted a wonderful brunch and baby shower to celebrate Shim.  The highlight was having everyone create homemade bibs for Shim to wear when s/he is a wee bit older.

After Denver, we were able to visit with Mama D’s family in Chicago.  Her cousin, Kate, opened up her home and her heart to all of us.  It was so nice to see everyone together in one place, celebrating the addition of another cousin to the family.  Shim is so very lucky to have quite the extended family living throughout the Chicagoland area!

Our final stop on our trip to the United States was to visit Mama M’s family in Southern California.  How blessed Shim will be to not only have wonderful grandmothers around, but also his/her great-grandmother, Quyen.  We can’t wait for Quyen, Mama M’s mother, and Mama D’s mother to make the trip out here to Korea sometime in the the next few months to meet our new addition!

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The last highlight of this homestretch was our trip to Pyeongchang to witness some of the 2018 Winter Olympics.  When we found out that we were being stationed here, we knew that we had to see at least one event —- even if I was 36 weeks pregnant!  We were lucky enough to obtain free tickets and transportation to the Final Women’s Luge event.  So, with Shim in tow, we went out the event, braved the bitter cold, and got to witness amazingly strong female athletes in action.  Definitely a once in a lifetime experience and one that I will never forget.  Plus, we can tell Shim that s/he was actually at the Olympic Games a month before being born!
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That, my friends, is the Cliff Notes version of the past nine months of our lives.  We are looking forward to having Shim join us in this world, creating memories and adventures together, and, in the next week or so (hopefully!) introducing all of you to the long awaited baby Shim!

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Shim at 32 weeks, partially blocked by his/her hand, but still, an adorable chunky monkey 

 

The Dream

Our society is not conducive to waiting.  Do you need to know the hours at the local pizza joint?  How about what time it is in Berlin?  The weather in Anchorage?  Who won the world series in 1994? (Ha!  No one!  It was cancelled for only the second time in the history of the league thanks to a players strike.).  All of the answers to these questions can be given to you in a matter of seconds thanks to the little wonder-machines that we keep in our pockets.  The world is literally at your fingertips.

The one thing that the internet can’t tell you, though, is if you are pregnant.  That, my dear, is something that humans still have control of.  Sure, we can find out fairly quickly after conception occurs thanks to home pregnancy tests, but definitely not in the amount of time that it takes to discover that 8 of the 10 highest peaks of the world can be found in Nepal.

On Wednesday morning, five days after our embryo transfer, Mariya woke up from a pretty vivid dream.  In it, she said that we had 16-year old twins — a boy and a girl — and that she was talking to them about something that they had done wrong.  Mariya has crazy dreams all the time that are very vivid.  In fact, former co-workers can attest to the fact that there was a period in time where I received phone calls each morning when I arrived to work (once Mariya had woken up), just to confirm that “yes, we are still married…..yes, I still love you…….yes, that was all a dream.”

Mariya’s dream on Tuesday night was vivid enough that she told me to get out of bed and go take an at-home pregnancy test that we had bought earlier in the week.  Our official blood test wasn’t scheduled for another four days, so the chances of getting a positive test this early were pretty slim.  But, I went into the bathroom — messy hair, morning breath, stiff from sleeping, in my pajamas — and peed.  I turned the test upside down to give it some time to work, and both of us continued to wake up and get ready for our day.  Our movers were scheduled to arrive shortly to start packing our items for our big move to Korea and so the day was going to be a busy one.

After a few minutes, we looked at each other, flipped the test, and saw:

Day 5 Test

………..”do you see what I see?”……….

We kept looking at each other, looking at the test, and looking back at each other — in awe that there was a smidgen of a second line.

“OMG…….babe, IT WORKED,” I screamed, before hugging her tight and bursting into tears.  I was a blubbering mess for a good ten minutes, repeating over and over again “it worked………oh my God, it worked……..”

At the time, the only people that were around to share the news with, were our movers that arrived an hour later.  Despite having only met us that morning, they shared in our joy — as evidenced by a little heart that we found on a box they had packed later that night 🙂

Moving Box

We wanted to shout the news from the rooftops!  OMG, we are having a BABY!  At the time, the only folks that we told were our siblings and a few close friends that have been sharing this journey with us.  As the week progressed, our daily tests got stronger and stronger:

Day Seven

Finally, Sunday rolled around — the day of our “official” test.  By this point, I would have been shocked if the result was negative.  I had taken multiple tests at home and, unless I had the bad luck of purchasing four faulty pregnancy tests at CVS, I was convinced that we’d be getting a good call later in the day from our doctor’s office.

We went about our afternoon, packing up things for our flight to Korea, and waiting……….

Finally, around lunchtime, our nurse called. A good result at this point was and HCG level over 50.  Ours came back at 186!  We were officially pregnant!!!  We hopped on Facebook, told our extended group of friends/family and then went right back to packing.

(Yes, anticlimactic, but it needed to be done!)

So there we have it!  WE are going to be moms!  Heck, we are going to be awesome moms, if I must say so myself.  After decades of practice with nieces, nephews, cousins, and friends, we are ready for this!

Thanks, again, for following along.  Our journey is far from over, and we plan on continuing to write in this journal so that you can be with us every step of the way.  The next big things on our calendar are more labs tomorrow (to make sure that my pregnancy hormones are continuing to increase), and our first ultrasound somewhere around July 12th.  It is at that point that we will know what happened to both of our embryos.  We know for sure that at least one decided to burrow in for the long haul.  Who knows if the second one did, too!  Stay tuned — I’m sure that this pregnancy journey will be exciting — especially as we travel to the other side of the world!

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******Some folks might be hesitant to share positive news early on in their pregnancy, for fear of a miscarriage or loss.  In my eyes, that is the exact reason why you would want to share the news. God forbid something goes wrong, I would want my friends and family knowing what I was experiencing.  If nothing else, this journey has taught me that infertility, miscarriage, and heartache are more common than any of us think.  I can’t tell you how many private messages I’ve received over the past few months from friends sharing with me just how widespread infertility is.  One thing is for certain, you are never alone on this journey.  Look to your left and look to your right.  I’m nearly positive that one of your sister-friends is going through the same thing as you.********

Choosing half of your child’s DNA

While we continue to count down the days until we officially know if we are pregnant or not, let’s talk about an issue that a few of you have been curious about……

“Swipe right, he’s cute!”……….
“Ugh, left – too much heart disease!”……….
“Right, Right!!!!!!”

Tinder possibilities, you might ask?  No, but that is exactly how I felt while trying to pick our perfect sperm donor.

There are many different types of sperm donors out there.  Some are known donors — friends — that are willing to assist.  We had plenty of generous offers from close friends, but, as nice and convenient as that would have been, Mama M and I decided against it.  That left us with using a sperm bank.  One of the largest banks in the United States is California Cryobank.

So, while sipping wine one Friday night a few months ago, Mama M and I searched…….and searched…….and searched.  He had to be perfect — heck, he was contributing to half of our children’s DNA!  I will say that an advantage to using a sperm donor (versus the spouse found in a heterosexual marriage) is that you can seriously weed out characteristics that you don’t like:

“Did you have to wear braces or are your teeth naturally straight?”
“Did Uncle Lenny die of a heart attack at age 40?”
“Do you have a serious lack of math skills?”

Items that you would normally accept from your spouse can now disappear as you pick your ideal match!

So, how did we do it?  What parameters did we use?

When it came time to finding a donor to match up with Mama M’s eggs, we tried to find someone that reminded us of me.

  • 5’11” or taller
  • brown or blonde hair
  • green or blue eyes
  • 50% Irish and 50% Eastern European
  • Book smart / nerdy
  • No need to have a history of being a star athlete (our kids will get enough of that from Mama M!)
  • Grandparents that lived into their 90’s
  • A donor that was open to replying to contact from any future offspring.
  • CMV Negative (This one was actually the most important.  Cytomegalovirus is a virus that most adults have been exposed to at some point or another in their life.  Most often, it feels like the common cold.  Once you have it, you have antibodies for it that can pass through bodily fluids.  After testing, it was discovered that I don’t have the antibodies for it.  If our sperm donor was CMV+, I could develop CMV during pregnancy.  I’d feel fine, maybe congested.  Our baby, though, could have severe birth defects….)

Using those qualifications, we were able to narrow the field of over 400 donors down to 4.  At this point, Mama M gave me the freedom to choose whatever one “spoke” to me.  I delved deeper into the information available — and boy, was there a ton.  Childhood photos, likes/dislikes, academic testing scores, health/occupation information for siblings, uncles/aunts, grandparents, parents, cousins, etc.

The last guy on my list was it.  He was it.  He made me laugh — deep, belly laughs — as I read sections of his profile.  Under “Express Yourself” — a section normally dedicated to a story/poem written by the donor, this guy wrote that he wasn’t necessarily artistic, but that he would use the space to list out additional traits:

– I have no sense of direction
– I am kindhearted
– I have never been more than 10 pounds overweight
– I believe that I am of (at least) above average intelligence.
– I love parentheses (they’re great)

He then went on to talk about his love of writing, public speaking, and working with machines.  Oh, and how his grandfather was a college art professor — and wrote a book that was regarded as the “Sculpture’s bible” in its day.

This, amongst many other tiny details, got me hooked.  I loved this guy — a guy that I had never met, but that was going to become an incredibly large part of the rest of my life.  In addition to being a great physical writer, he was literally going to write the next chapter in the book of my life.

So, cheers to you, Donor #XXXXX.  You have given me hope and excitement at a time when I thought that losing my genetic identity in my offspring would be devastating.  No matter what circumstances motivated you to donate (financial? kindness? etc?), I thank you.

……………….

Now, can Sunday get here so that we can get the official word on whether or not I’m pregnant?  I don’t feel any different at this point which makes me pause just a little bit.  But, maybe that is just our little peanut giving me a break before the onslaught of morning sickness!

Batter Up!

After the subpar performance of my ovaries during retrieval in April, Mama M and I followed the recommendation of our doctor and decided to switch over to trying to use Mama M’s eggs instead of mine.  This decision was not an easy one for me to make — but one that was really the next logical step in our journey to become parents.

The next few posts have been written by Mama M in light of the last two months of our journey….

Where to begin….?”

Double the moms, double the fun?  Double the choices, double the fun?  It’s the bottom of the 9th, bases are loaded, 2 outs and Mama M is up to bat!

I love my wife and there isn’t anything that I wouldn’t do for her and for us. These are not just hollow words….anymore.  As you all know we have been trying to get pregnant for the last 2 years. It feels weird saying “we have been trying to get pregnant” because I wasn’t much of an “active” participant, if you know what I mean.

During the multiple IUI and IVF treatments that we went through, I was right by mama D’s side — I attended the multiple medical appointments, gave her shots, searched through sperm donor profiles, sat at each ultrasound uncomfortably holding her things, counted down the days until we received results from each IUI/IVF, and held her each time we got the heartbreaking news that things did not work out.  Our hearts broke together each time we got the news — but it was mostly her heart breaking because it was her body that wasn’t giving us the results that we wanted.  Let me tell you, there is nothing more difficult than seeing your best friend/partner/love of your life get her heart broken over and over again — especially knowing that there is nothing that you can do to make it better or to fix it.

Or is there……?

Throughout this entire process, I have felt very helpless and useless — like I have been sitting in the “passenger’s seat” while my wife has been in the “driver’s seat.”  I went along to every appointment, drove the entire 9-hour trek each way to Denver (Mama D is great, but cannot stay awake in the car to save her life!), and I have sat there as she has been poked and prodded.  I felt like there wasn’t much else I could do to help, aside from providing moral support.

In mid-April, when the doctor called to tell us that we only had one embryo after our most recent retrieval, we looked at each other and I swear that I felt both of our hearts break again.  The doctor continued to explain that, after 3 rounds of IVF, with a total of 22 eggs retrieved, and only 2 that made it to the blastocyst stage, he felt that Mama D’s eggs had a very low maturation rate and that our best option would be to use my eggs……MY EGGS?!!??!??!  I remembered those words that I spoke earlier in the year — ” I would do anything for you and for us.”  My stomach dropped.  Those were no longer going to be hollow words, those were going to be the truth.  In a matter of minutes, my life as a passenger had ended and I was now going to be in the driver’s seat.

I had no idea about the road that was ahead of me.

*This week, we are going to do a post per day to catch you up on our story. Feel free to check back tomorrow (and throughout the week) to see Mama M’s take on being the driver, reacting to medications and procedures, and, ultimately, how her retrieval turned out.*