Our first ultrasound was a little over six weeks (6w1d, in precise medical lingo), which was soon enough to tell us that we’re having twins (hurray!) but a smidgeon too soon to hear a heartbeat. So the doctor scheduled a follow up ultrasound for the following week, which is where we are now. My husband and I both want to be there for the next ultrasound, but he can’t take the time from work. (It’s freaking weird how work won’t stop for anyone, isn’t it?) I have a great deal more flexibility in my job (it may have something to do with the fact that I’m – tacitly – expected to take calls and answer emails 24 hours a day), so I am definitely going to be there.
The heart beats an average of 3.4 billion beats during a human lifespan, but there’s still something more than a little amazing to me about hearing the early heartbeats of my children – even if they’ll have billions more. Being a gay man, I can’t help but think of the musical Rent. The song “Seasons of Love” from it meditates on how the 525,600 minutes in every year can be measured in sunsets, cups of coffee, miles, and strife. In the same way that half a million odd minutes suddenly seem precious, I know that I’ll treasure hearing some of the first heartbeats of my beloved children. So come on kids, turn on your heartlights! We’re going to take a ride across the moon. (Thanks, Jonathan Larson and Neil Diamond for expressing thoughts better than I ever could.)
To keep me preoccupied during this intervening week, my husband and I finalized our list of names for the children. This is not nearly as simple as you’d think, and not just because I can be a bit of a drama queen. (Let’s keep that between us, okay?) We picked two boys names and two girls names, to cover every potential outcome. The English (“American”) names were fairly easy to pick out, but the Asian names were a lot harder than you would think – and not just because I’m not fluent enough in Chinese or Korean culture to understand vernacular nuances.
Let me (briefly) tell you the story of my own Chinese/Korean name as an example, while also giving greater the context. In general, Chinese and Korean names have three syllables: the first syllable is the family name (surname) and the two remaining syllables are your given name. All the children of each generation (on their paternal side) have one syllable of their given name in common, so you can easily tell which generation someone belongs to. Finally, for Koreans, the first son of the eldest son commonly has “대” (or “大” in Chinese, both of which mean eldest or big) as one of the syllables in his name. I found all of this out across many business trips to Asia, because I thought that using my Asian name might help me form relationships faster. That was before I became more familiar with Asian syntax. I grew up believing my Asian name meant “golden eldest root” (like the root of a tree), but it turns out that my name could also mean “golden big radish” – or something else more tawdry and phallic. The bottom line is that my Asian name makes me sound like a porn star. So you can see why picking an inspiring yet anodyne Asian name can be challenging.
After all of this, you may wonder why I’m intent on giving our children Asian names at all. They’ll be Americans after all, right? My mom felt the same way, at least about one of the kids. Despite my best attempts to explain that I will be a parent to each of our children equally, my mother thinks that I should only give an Asian name to the one that’s biologically mine. She feels it wouldn’t be “fair” to make the child part of a heritage that s/he doesn’t genetically belong to – ignoring the rapidly evolving definition of families in today’s world. For example, my husband’s family name came from his step-great-grandfather, but that doesn’t change the strength of their family ties and traditions. In a world that’s becoming smaller and smaller (I’m alluding to song lyrics an awful lot in this post, aren’t I?), understanding and appreciating other cultures will be key to bridging gaps and healing misunderstandings. And that’s certainly something we need, especially after this astonishing presidential campaign season. So, if I do a decent job as a parent, my children will be in a great position to contribute to their world because of their dual Western and Eastern heritage.
In case you’re wondering (based on my mother’s attitude above), my parents are still less than comfortable with “the gay thing” (as they quaintly put it). To their credit, both of them have met my husband several times and have cordial relations with him. My mom actually gave him a quasi-compliment several months back, telling him that his new beard made him look “almost handsome.” (That said, she still doesn’t believe he knows how to cook rice because that’s something you apparently need to have Asian genes to do correctly.) My Korean father, however, still emphatically asserts that “there [are] no gay Koreans.” Paradoxically, my Chinese maternal grandmother insisted that “there [are] LOTS of gay Koreans – but no gay Chinese.” So obviously my parents’ relationship with my children will need to be heavily moderated.
Anyhow, onto the second ultrasound! I have to say that positioning is everything during the first few ultrasounds. First of all, because it’s so early in the process, the first few ultrasounds are done vaginally and not abdominally. So intended parents need to be pretty damn strategic in selecting where to stand in the room, because even making eye contact with your surrogate while she has the ultrasound probe (which looks like one hell of a vibrator) inside her could potentially be a little awkward. It can’t be especially comfortable for the surrogate either: I imagine it must be somewhat similar to what a prostate exam feels like for men – even gay men. The second thing that can be a little tricky about positioning comes into play when you’re having twins. Because apparently one baby can be a little harder to see with the ultrasound, making it look like s/he is hiding behind her or his sibling. So it’s harder to get measurements on the shier twin, and the ultrasound wand has to be shifted and poked in all sorts of directions in your surrogate’s vagina. And now we’re back to my first comments about the situation being potentially a little awkward. You really can’t get much more personal than this.
I’m so very proud to report that our surrogate and our babies are overachieving rock stars. (OK, so I’m a little biased.) At a little over seven weeks (7w2d in fancy, precise medical lingo), our babies have more than doubled in size and are both over a whopping centimeter long now! And their heart rates are 146 and 158 beats per minute, which I’m told puts them in really good medical shape. Keep going, kids – just another several billion heart beats to go! I love and am so proud of you both already. #sappydad