The Middle

Recently, we were asked if we planned on having this many babies at once.  My  husband began to tell him “we did IVF…” and before he could get another word in, the man interrupted and said “oh, see?  you did try for all these kids”.

Statements like that irritate me.  The mere question about fertility treatments somehow get under my skin.  I know most of the time people are so curious and shocked at seeing so many babies all at once that they don’t know what to say.  I think its natural for people to assume we went through some sort of fertility treatment, and I get it.  But asking “did you take fertility drugs” is a bit personal.  I mean, why should it matter whether or not we had fertility treatments?  Does the fact that we did IVF somehow discredit my children?  Do you even know what that means?  Probably not.

The process is very scientific from a medical perspective, but can be very trying on the woman (both mentally and physically).  I recall times when I had to give myself about 8 shots in one day.  You’re constantly being monitored by your doctors and its all about timing. It was 8 months from my initial consultation to the day I found out I was pregnant.  Getting pregnant this way was not fun.

People don’t out-of-the-blue just come out and say “I think I want twins, I’m gonna do IVF”.  Most people that go through fertility treatments just want to be parents.  There’s no guarantee you’ll get pregnant and there’s definitely no guarantee you’ll have twins.  The reason multiples are more common with IVF is because more than one embryo  (typically two) is implanted at once with the hopes that one will “take”.  Most of the time, only one of the embryos survive resulting in one baby (which is what happened when I got pregnant with Makaio).  Sometimes, both embryos survive, and that’s when you see fraternal twins; each of them from their own embryo.  More rare is when there’s identical twins.  When multiples are identical, that means the embryo split naturally.  In my case, the two embryos survived.  One was a female and the other a male.  The male split, then those two split again.  The chances of that occurring is extremely rare and nothing we would’ve anticipated or could’ve even planned.  So, no sir…we did not “try” for all these babies.  It was a blessing and a miracle from God.

Please don’t discredit those who’ve gone through some sort of fertility treatment.  We shouldn’t be defined by how we got pregnant.  Its really no one’s business.  For many people, its their last chance at having a family.  The result(s) of these treatments is not the beginning nor the end of their journey…its the middle.  There’s always a story behind the decision, and there’ll be more stories to be told in the future.

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An Unforgettable Day

This Father’s Day has been a day we’ll remember forever.  Not only did my children spend the day with their father and my father; they were dedicated to our Heavenly Father.  Pastor Jon Burgess of New Hope Oahu brought our family on stage during the 11 a.m. service. He invited all the other pastors on stage and asked the entire church to pray for our family. Looking out into the audience and seeing everyone reaching out to us was an unforgettable moment. The entire church was praying for us. The Pastor led them in prayer for me, my husband, our six children and all those who’ll help raise them.

I also had an opportunity to share our testimony which will be shared at all 5 services during the first weekend of July. God has blessed us with these children and was with me during every step throughout this journey; especially during the darkest, scariest moments. I am amazed at all He has done for us and can’t wait to see what’s in our future. #blessed

First tooth!

Kupono is the first to have teeth!  Not only one, but both bottom teeth have broken through.  We didn’t even know he was teething!  I mean, we know it’s time for teeth to be coming in, and there’s definitely drool, but no fussiness or fever.  Here’s hoping the rest of the teething is the same.

He did what?

Since Father’s Day is coming up and his birthday just passed, I wanted to introduce you to the seventh wonder of my world; my husband Ray.

We were together 10 years before we actually got married. Those 10 years were not always easy for us.  We had our struggles.  I knew from the beginning that he was no longer able to have children.  He already had 5 children and he and his (then) wife decided to move forward with a vasectomy when his last son was born about 9 years before we met.  Our relationship had its ups and downs, but ultimately, we decided to make it work.  I accepted that being with him meant I’d never had children.  It was a struggle for him as much as it was for me.  He’d go through phases of guilt because he knew how much I longed to have children of my own.  I loved this man and although being with him meant I’d never have children, I didn’t want to live my life without him.  We tried to make the best of it.

A couple years after getting married, we met with a urologist to see what it would take to have his vasectomy reversed. Long story short, since it was over 15 years since his procedure, the doctor didn’t think the reversal would’ve been successful.  When we left the doctor’s office, all I could do was cry.  I thought there was no hope.  Months later, I decided to meet with a fertility doctor to see if there were any options for us, and there was.  The doctors explained In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) and how it works.

My part was hormone injections to produce more follicles (which produced more eggs). There were some obstacles along the way, but after seven months of doctor’s appointments, surgery, and multiple injections, my body was finally ready and we scheduled the egg retrieval surgery.  The same day my eggs were retrieved, the doctors had to retrieve his sperm.  Traditionally with IVF, the male would just go in a room and “produce” his specimen in a cup, but Ray couldn’t do that because of the vasectomy.  A urologist had to retrieve the sperm in a different manner…with a needle.

As you can imagine, Ray was not looking forward to this procedure. We didn’t even know if it would be successful.  There was a slight possibility the doctor wouldn’t have been able to get any sperm at all.  I, for seven months went through a lot to get to this point, and things were still up in the air.  I was at home on bed rest after my procedure while Ray went to the hospital to get his done.  All I could do was wait.  He was probably gone for only a couple of hours but it seemed like an eternity.  Did it work?  Did I go through all of this for nothing?

Finally, he called me. He was waiting for some pain killers.  What I’m about to say may make you cringe (especially if you’re a man!).  He told me that the doctor couldn’t retrieve any sperm with the needle (my heart sank) so he tried a different method…one that involved a scalpel!  Yes, I said a scalpel! (I’m trying to keep this PG so you’ll have to use your imagination).  The doctor told Ray to hold his hands up, and said “whatever you do, don’t touch me”.  He sliced it open and squeezed.  All of this with no anesthesia.  The worse part according to Ray was when the doctor had to squeezed it.  This happened a few times before they said “they got it”.

They prescribed Ray some pain killers and sent him on his way. All I remember is lying on the couch when he came home.  When I saw him I was more in love with him than ever.  He was so nervous about the needle, and ended up going through much worse.  I don’t know that he would’ve done it had he known what was about to happen.  

As he was changing out of his pants, I noticed his underwear was on backwards.  I asked him why, and his response was “I just wanted to get the F@!K out of there!”  I couldn’t stop laughing!  I was in pain myself, and all I could do was laugh and tell him how much I loved him.  Nearly 4 years and 6 kids later, I would say it was well worth it! When we talk about it, Ray still cringes.  

He’s still going above and beyond for me and our family.  I returned to work full time in the end of March, and guess who takes care of babies?  Ray retired from Roofing to be a stay at home Dad.  Makaio (the oldest) continued to go to daycare after the babies was born, but Ray stays home and takes care of the 5 babies while I’m at work.  He does it all on his own, and is awesome!  We don’t have much outside help with the babies.  He admits that it gets hard at times, but loves spending time with them.

Our lives have changed so much over the years, but I would’ve never imagined this is where we’d be today. While I’m still dealing with my own demons about returning to work (guilt, time management, guilt & guilt), Ray holds down the fort at home.  The kids are happy and healthy, he’s proud of himself, and I’m in awe.  I can’t believe how blessed I am to have all that I have.  I hope he knows how much I love appreciate him.  He does so much for us and never complains.  Well, he complains a lot, but not ever about taking care of the babies.  We’re still figuring things out as we go along.  It’s just us but I wouldn’t want to do it with anyone else.  #ilovemyhubby

Click here to watch a short video of Ray

Meet Kaolu

The last of the the pack, Kaolu was born at 5:06pm weighing 2lbs 10.3oz and 14.17 inches. He is my happy,smiley baby boy.  I knew he’d be this way while still pregnant. During an ultrasound he flashed the “I love you” sign and another time it looked as if he was reaching out to Keahi for a hug.  He was also the first to flash me a smile.  

His name was a bit of a happy accident.  I knew I wanted to name one of my boys after my Uncle Ronald.  I would be honored to have a child like him.  He is hard-working, dependable and probably one of the sweetest men I’ve ever met.  His middle name is Japanese – Kaoru.  Switch the R to an L and we got Kaolu (the letter r does not exist in the Hawaiian alphabet).  It was so fitting because Kaolu means pleasant in Hawaiian.

I wrote about TTTS in my last post.  Kaolu was the other baby who was directly affected by this disorder…the recipient.  Because he was receiving extra nutrients, he was the biggest of the boys.

About 4 months into my pregnancy, the doctors performed a procedure called Amniocenteses.  650cc’s of fluid was drained using a long needle through my belly.  There were two doctors and a nurse there.  One doctor with the needle & the other doctor performing an ultrasound to see  how deep they needed to go and make sure the baby wasn’t affected. Luckily, that was the one and only procedure needed.

Both Kaolu and Keahi are happy, healthy baby boys.  They were partners in the womb and now share a crib.  Kaolu loves to laugh and is extremely ticklish.  He is a chub-a-lub. Although he appears to be the biggest because of his round face and chubby cheeks, Kupono out-weighs him by a pound.  

Kaolu will always hold a special place in my heart since he’s the baby of the family (even if it’s only by a minute). #ilovemykaolu

Click here to watch a short video of Kaolu

Meet Keahi

I’m already emotional just thinking about what a tremendous role this boy has played in our family. He was a hero before he was even born.  

Early on in my pregnancy, we were diagnosed with Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome (TTTS).  This is a disorder that occurs in identical twins (or higher multiples) that share a placenta and the blood vessels of the babies’ placenta are connected.  In our case, Keahi and Kaolu were the most affected.  Keahi was considered the “donor” as he received too little blood flow, and Kaolu was the “recipient”, receiving more than his share.

The pregnancy itself was already high risk because of the 5 babies, but this diagnosis was alarming. Doctors had to closely monitor the babies by doing weekly ultrasounds throughout the pregnancy.  They were mainly monitoring Keahi.  My pregnancy and the life of the other babies (especially the boys) were dependent on Keahi’s ability to survive with a decreased amount of blood flow.

I had at least 6 discussions with more than 3 different doctors to consider terminating who we referred to as “Baby D” (Keahi).  I WOULD NOT DO IT.  They needed me to understand what that meant.  If he didn’t survive, it would have drastically affected Kaolu.  A stroke, permanent brain damage, and even death were probable.   The other boys (because they shared the same placenta) were also at risk.  I needed him to fight for his life and the life of his brothers and sister.

I also had to think about what I’d do if his health started to fail. If his heart rate slowed, or if there were signs of distress, do I deliver my babies to save him and risk the lives of the other 4 babies for being born too soon?, or do I let him die to give the others a better chance at survival?  It was awful.  These were the scary conversations I’ve had with doctors.  There were so many “what ifs”.  I made no decisions…actually, I did my best to NOT think about it at all.  

I turned to my hope and faith that everything was going to be okay and prayed.  My prayer was that I’d make the best decisions for my family.  I did my best to remain calm and as stress-free as possible during the pregnancy.  My prayers were answered.

Keahi was born fourth at 1lb 10.3 ounces and 13.98 inches.  He was the smallest, but is the biggest hero I’ll ever know.  Because he didn’t receive the amount of nutrients he should have, he was a few steps behind the others in the NICU.  The last to get fed milk, the last to breathe on his own, the last to breast feed, the last to  get out of the incubator and the last to come home (along with his sister).

My how things have changed!  He was a fighter then, and always will be.  I named him Keahi…it means fire.  He lived up to his name and I couldn’t be more grateful.  Although he was the last to do many things early on, it looks like he’ll now lead the way.  He was the first to roll over, hold his head up, and is soon ready to crawl.  He’s the smallest of the boys, but bigger than his sister.

He is feisty and oh so sweet!  He’s a little lover boy; already giving hugs, he also allows me to kiss kiss kiss (all with a smile on his face).  He will never know how special he is to our family.  I’ll tell him this story one day, but the emotion I feel when I think of my hero is indescribable.  #ilovemykeahi

Click here to watch a short video of Keahi