Tuesday, April 15, 2014

upon the waters

Last summer was a hot one. It's hard to imagine it while waiting out this everlasting winter, but the end of July and most of August were scorching. So every morning, before the heat set in, I threw on my running shoes, strapped Harriet into the jogging stroller with her breakfast, and we took Murphy for a good run. I'm not a runner. I ran because Harriet only has so much patience for the stroller and because it's a better workout for the dog. I listened to music for inspiration, playing it from my iPhone without headphones on so that Harriet could hear it too. A little Katy Perry, some Miley Cyrus...upbeat stuff to help me keep my pace. But oddly enough, there was one song that kept me running more than any other - a slower song, nearly impossible to dance to, not the typical workout playlist staple. It's called Oceans and it has gained lots of popularity in churches and on the radio in this last year. As I ran, I contemplated the words...

You call me out upon the waters,
the great unknown,
where feet may fail.

The song refers to that miraculous story in the Bible where Jesus is walking on the water in the midst of a storm. His friends are in the boat, terrified for their lives. He welcomes Peter to step out of their vessel and onto the waves - the ultimate test of trust. Peter does it - not without fear or second guesses, but he lifts himself over the boat's rail and places his feet on the water's churning surface, his faith in his Savior keeping him above the treacherous waves. As I ran and listened to the lyrics, I pictured myself in Peter's sandals and wondered whether I would have trusted enough to do the same.

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders.
Let me walk upon the waters,
wherever you may call me.
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger 
in the presence of my Savior.

The singer repeats these words over and over again, and as my feet pounded the solid, dry paths, I visualized a "trust without borders" and I wanted that. I imagined where Jesus might call me, how He might stretch my faith. And slowly, carefully, like Peter stepping out of that boat, I began to make the words of that stanza my mantra. I began to beg that of Jesus - that He would make my faith borderless, infinite.

This was terrifying.

I know that I serve a God who is completely and utterly good. A God who loves me endlessly. But I also know that sometimes He makes choices that my finite mind never would have made, choices that cause me pain because I can't even begin to comprehend them with my limited scope. I knew that He would answer my request to grow my faith but I didn't know how. I was fearful of what my "great unknown" would look like. I imagined awful things - an illness, an accident, a loss - you know, those unspeakable events that wound us nearly beyond repair but are, in the end, supposed to make us better, stronger people.

But then...I was pregnant again, against all odds. And there were two babies, against all odds. I remember in those first days and weeks, people asking me how I was feeling about the news. Of course, the most powerful emotions were elation and blessing, but there was also a part of me that felt sobered by this new development. I felt, in some ways, like I was going into battle - a private, miniature battle against gravity and time and anxiety. And as I've walked through this pregnancy day by day, I have realized that this is it - this pregnancy (and assumedly motherhood afterwards) - is God's answer to my request for trust without borders.

Really? While He has others wait endlessly and suffer unimaginably, He grows my faith through joy and blessing? Not that I have been completely unfamiliar with struggle and not that there isn't more of it in my future. Of course there is. But for now, He seems to have chosen to gently stretch the borders of my trust with a priceless gift rather than ripping them away like I foolishly expected Him to. To say that I am humbled by this...no words can express how much.

This journey over the past thirty-seven and a half weeks has not been easy. That's for sure. The discomforts get worse by the week - swollen feet, arthritic joints, trigger finger, nausea, back pain, pulled muscles, difficulty breathing, extra weight (a full sixty pounds), limited mobility, restless legs, and insomnia...oh, the insomnia! At my final OB appointment today, I burst into tears while telling the doctor that I got two and a half hours of sleep last night and three and a half hours the night before. Even with Benadryl and a homeopathic sleep remedy on board, I can sleep for maybe an hour at a time. It's making me feel crazy...and rather anxious because I was so hoping to go into the birth feeling well and well-rested. It's not going to happen that way. And I feel silly saying it, but it's true - these little discomforts have stretched my faith more than I would ever have thought.

While I have had many aches and pains, there have been no complications. Not one. Not even a close call or a test that warranted repeating. Nothing. These babies have surprised me and the doctors by staying put in my very short torso for a full thirty-seven weeks without even a hint of dilation, not a single contraction. I am so, so grateful. I am clearly not a medical professional, but I really wonder if part of the reason that they have stayed so solidly put is their breech positioning. While I have had a bruising type of pain in my pelvis for about a month (feels like a did a hundred-mile race on a road bike yesterday), I have absolutely no pelvic pressure. These babies' heads are right up under my bra line and their butts are high too, so although I've bemoaned their breech status and the fact that I have to have a c-section, perhaps this should be more a matter of gratitude than complaint. Perhaps if these babies were vertex, those little heads (which a growth ultrasound recently put in the 89th and 98th percentiles) would have pushed themselves out much, much earlier. Again, a reason to trust that His plan is far greater than mine.

Every once in a while, I feel sad about the idea of a c-section. I feel sorry for the babies. I feel worried about the recovery. And I feel...oh how spoiled this is going to sound...even cheated. It sort of feels like running the majority of a marathon, only to hand the baton to someone else at the twenty-six mile mark and watch them cross the finish line for me. Is there part of me that's a little glad to be done at 26 miles? A bit tired and relieved that someone else is tackling the final fifth of a mile? Of course. But deep down, I want to do it. All of it. Even the messy, excruciating parts. Maybe even especially those parts. I have done it before and I know I could do it again. Even with twins. Even in an operating room with lots of people watching. So yes, sometimes it bothers me to be finishing this way.

But lately, I have become much more content with the idea of a c-section. I think this is partly due to the fact that I have tried and tried to flip these babies. I saw a chiropractor several times. I visited an acupuncturist who did moxibustion. (I tried very hard to believe in both of these practices, but when the acupuncturist in the Hawaiian shirt commented that holding the moxa stick felt like holding a crystal wand due to the energy pouring out of it, I nearly laughed out loud. All I knew was that it smelled really, really, really bad. I bought four of the sticks anyways, fully intending to use them at home...but then my dog chewed them up, so that was the end of that.) I laid upside-down on a board that we rested against the couch and nearly died of a coughing fit when the babies came crashing into my diaphragm. I put icepacks where their heads are, hoping that they'd turn to escape the cold. Nothing worked. And although some of these things were a bit miserable, I'm glad I did them so that I can at least say I tried. Baby B is bigger than Baby A anyways (sizes roughly estimated at the growth ultrasound to be 6 pounds, 5 ounces and 6 pounds, 14 ounces), so even if they flipped head-down, the doctors still wouldn't want to deliver vaginally. They like the first baby to be bigger and pave the way.

And as with anything, even the less attractive option has a positive side. A friend recently told me that when she had her c-section, she felt so grateful that she could come out of it feeling fresh and ready to mother her baby rather than dog-tired and in desperate need of a long hibernation. I can absolutely identify with that, especially given my recent lack of sleep. So again, perhaps this c-section is a gift - another gesture straight from Jesus, beckoning me to trust His plan and join Him amidst the waves.

Another area that brings me anxiety is my daughter. She is going to be a fabulous big sister. I know that for a fact. But every time I think of expanding our family, of stretching my love to include other children whom I have not yet met, I want to cry. Often, I do cry thinking about leaving her behind as we head to the hospital. We are desperately grateful to have both families nearby and I know that she will be fully loved and entertained during the four days that I am in the hospital, but the thought of nuzzling and nursing and loving on these babies while Harriet is across town breaks my heart. She is more resilient than I give her credit for and she will be just fine sharing her mama, but I am already grieving that time with just her and I. Most mornings, I go into her room and hold her and bury my face in her neck and tell her that she is my best girl in the whole wide world. And she adamantly disagrees, saying, "No Mama, you are my best girl in the whole wide world." Can we still say that if there's a little sister? I am so grateful to my wise, wonderful doctor who, without me having to even bring up this issue, randomly warned me that it would be very normal to feel a little bothered by the possible lack of love I feel for the twins at first in comparison to the adoration I have for Harriet. Normalizing is always helpful. And even more than that, I know that this is another area where I am being asked to trade my fear in for faith and to trust even my daughter to His capable hands. Because He loves her immeasurably more than I do...it's hard to even fathom that but wonderful to believe it.

So those are my final thoughts on this twin pregnancy. Just a few more days and we'll step out of our boat and into a wholly fresh and even frightening lake storm - parenting these tiny twins and their big sister. But the best news? Our Jesus is already there, walking those waters and gently calling us to join Him - right there in the midst of the toss and spray. And as intimidating as it may look, nowhere could be safer than where He calls us.

I'll leave you with a few pictures of me and my belly (measuring 52 weeks today) - some of the last ones before we meet these precious babies face-to-face.

Saturday, April 5, 2014


Andrew and I had been married for about two years. All of our married friends seemed to have dogs and were always telling us that we should get one. So I did what I do best...researching, more researching, and overthinking. We decided we wanted a boxer, so I spent hours upon hours scouring the internet for the perfect breeder, the perfect puppy. I got us on four waiting lists and agonized about which litter to go with. (Sidenote: we will rescue our next dog...not sure what we were thinking at the time.)

Then one day while searching online yet again, I found a family with a litter of eight-week-old boxer pups. I called her and she said we could come pick one up. Unlike the others, she didn't need references or a downpayment or a formal contract. She didn't expect me to wait six months for a dog. I called Andrew and we rushed to her house.

When we got there, the pups were hanging out in the front yard. Most of them were dozing on the steps or stumbling around aimlessly...except for one. That little rascal was gnawing on his mama's lip, pouncing on her head, batting at her tail. He was barking the toughest bark he could muster and was racing around in dizzying circles. Yep, that was our dog. 

The family called him Hook and when the dad told his two daughters that we were taking him, they cried and cried, "Not Hook!" I wondered if I should see this as a sign and back out, but Andrew was already in love, so we scooped him up, took him home and changed his name from Hook to Murphy. He was adorable and snuggly and clumsy in that perfect puppy way. We picked up the essential supplies and did our best to puppy-proof the house.

That's when everything fell apart. 

The next year...maybe two years...were rough. That crazy dog refused to be caged. We tried one of those big metal crates but he broke free...twice. Just collapsed the entire thing and somehow got out alive. So we tried barricading him in the kitchen with a baby gate while we were gone. (Now let me clarify, I'm talking about times when we were gone for maybe an hour or two. When we went to work or were away from home for any length of time, we brought him to my parents' house. He was spoiled from the get go.) The baby gate proved no match for him. He just climbed over it. So we got another baby gate and put it on top of the first one, creating a five-foot barrier. He scaled that one too...like a tree frog. 

That's when we gave up. 

Every time we left home, we just shut the bedroom and bathroom doors and prayed that everything else would be safe from this little devious creature. 

That's when he destroyed everything. 

He wrecked two couches. Several pillows. Probably ten pairs of shoes (including my wedding shoes). He crushed a few pomegranates on our carpet. And a few avocados. And a potted plant. He chewed a hole in our wall. He ate countless loaves of bread and countless bags of tortillas. He chewed up the cases to over half of our DVDs. He ate books, books and more books, including my Bible. He turned our Christmas tree into a Charlie Brown-esque mess. I could go on and on...endlessly.

Also, dogs are gross. As in, beyond disgusting. In his first week with us, he killed a baby mouse, a snake and about ten frogs. And okay, those of you who are runners - I get the fact that sometimes when you go for out for a run, especially a long one, your bowels can catch you off guard. And I realize that sometimes you have to take care of business in the bushes. But if you do that, my dog will find it. And he will eat it. Every time. 

And then there was that one time when I was pregnant with Harriet and walking him on a frozen lake...sounds dumb, I know, but I was staying very close to the shore where I knew the water would only reach mid-thigh if I fell through...well, that was until he found the head of a northern pike and pranced around me with it for twenty whole minutes, refusing to let go of his prize until I chased him into the middle of the lake and distracted him with some other gross object. He's done the same things with random deer legs and other unrecognizable animal parts. He just loves that kind of stuff.

Having a puppy is not easy. Some people will tell you that it's like having a kid, and I think there's some truth to that. They turn your world upside-down. They swallow all of your free time. They completely defeat the purpose of cleaning. The week after we got Murph, I fell into a post-puppy depression. I'm not kidding. I was so incredibly bummed out and regretful about getting this dog. I honestly remember hoping that he would become ill or get hit by a car or that someone on the street would ask if they could have him. I fantasized about our life before Murphy and would have given anything to get it back. It was a seriously hard time for me. 

But then, when he was almost one, he really did get sick - pancreatitis. He nearly died. If you have a dog, you know that stuff like this only happens on weekends when you have no choice but to take your dog to the emergency vet...where they charge about three times the regular price and treat you like crap...at least that was my experience. Andrew was asleep after working the night shift and I couldn't get ahold of him, so I literally dropped thousands (as in several) of dollars to save this animal's life. Whenever I tell this story, the person hearing it says that they would have put him down. But you can't know what you would do until you're standing there in that echoing, cement room with your dying dog who could have a full life ahead of him if you'd just hand over your American Express. We had lost Ethan a few months before and my grandma a few months before that...we couldn't handle another loss, so I swiped my card and didn't look back. Well, I tried not to. 

Murphy is needy. He has really great life, but if you spent an afternoon with him, you'd never know it. He constantly sighs, whines, cries and makes all sorts of mournful sounds. He doesn't tolerate rain, leather couches, or wind. If there's a heated seat in your car, that's the seat he needs. And he insists on being on top of us as often as possible. If we lie down on the floor, he will sit on us, most often right on our heads. He plants himself on my lap any chance he gets. Or he'll just get as close as possible and stare me down with his nose mere millimeters from mine. This canine barnacle issue is much, much worse when I'm pregnant. It feels as though he never leaves my side. He just follows me from room to room and adheres himself to me whenever possible. He loves to rest his chin on my belly, and of course, I kinda love this. Andrew thinks Murphy is worried about me and is trying to protect me and the babies. I have to wonder if he's just trying to squeeze every last bit of attention out of me before the babies are born. But either way, he's there...right there...all the time. After Harriet was born, this continued. He had to be there, right in the middle of whatever we were doing with her.

But here's the thing - Harriet loves him. They're true siblings in the sense that she doesn't always feel love for him though. Sometimes she wants him to leave her alone, get out of her way, that sort of thing. But most of the time, she calls him "my gog" and says "I love my Murph." When we ask who is in her family, he often gets top billing. 

And he's teaching her lots of great stuff. Like how to be gentle, how to be patient, how to forgive. Because sometimes he's still a bit mischievous...he ate half of her birthday cake and a wall off of her gingerbread house a few months ago. But she took it in stride because it's not the first time. Won't be the last. 

And it works the other way around too. Murphy has sacrificed so much for our kids...the born and yet-to-be-born. When we were thinking about getting a dog, we promised ourselves that we wouldn't do it unless we could be good dog owners. And for the most part, we've done that. Until Harriet was born, he got at least one, usually two or three walks per day, even in ugly weather. Now that Harriet's here, that's sometimes harder, but he still gets to come with us almost any time we're outside. Harriet knows that if the weather is nice enough, the first thing we do in the morning is take Murph for a run. And she also knows that when he needs something - food, water, a potty break - we stop what we're doing and make it happen. I'm glad that she's learned how important it is to be respectful and caring towards animals, to put her needs and wants aside for a moment in order to do something for somebody else.

But this pregnancy...and this freezing, endless winter - has been rough on Murph. He has made lots of sacrifices in the name of letting me rest or letting Andrew work an extra shift in preparation for the babies' arrival. We're so grateful for my parents who often take him to the dog park for us or keep him overnight for a couple days in a row (even though he insists on sleeping in their bed and pees on their deck because he's too much of a diva to go in the snow). But a lot of the time, he's just chilling in the house with us, listening to us read a book or watching us eat our meals with the most pathetic, hungry look on his face. His patience amazes me and challenges me every day. I want that kind of patience. I want to be able to handle disappointment with such grace. 

This post was supposed to be titled "Why Kids Should Have Dogs." And I really believe that they should. But the more words I type on this screen, the more I realize that the true title of post should be "Why I Need Murph." Because I do. I need him every day...to remind me what true patience and selflessness looks like. To remind me the importance of slowing down and snuggling with the people you love. To show me how important it is to ask for exactly what you need rather than expecting others to read my mind. To show me true, unconditional love even when I look like crap, or just stepped on his toe, or haven't showered in a day and a half. To remind me that stuff - even expensive stuff that I was really hoping to hold onto for at least a few more years - is just stuff. And to show me what it's like to find deep, deep joy in the little things - running fast, soaking up the sun...eating poop.

He is a good dog...a great dog...the best dog. 

And in about ten minutes, I'll probably be trying to sell him on Craig's List.

Totally kidding.

Sort of.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

a little update

Yesterday marked 32 weeks! It's hard to believe that just six weeks from now, we will be making last minute preparations for the babies...if they don't come before then, of course. We had a growth ultrasound this past Monday and everything looked great. The babies are four pounds each, placing them in the 63rd percentile (for a singleton at this gestation). They did all of the little "tricks" the tech wanted them to do - practice breathing, big movement, little movement, etc.

The only bummer is that Baby A (the one who's lowest in my abdomen and will be born first if it's a vaginal birth) is breech. I've really been hoping to avoid a c-section but each day that goes by without that baby flipping makes it less and less likely that my wish for a vaginal birth will come true. Since my last post about birthing twins, I have been doing lots of research. Many of you have been excellent resources for me, and I've also found quite a few knowledgeable women on Facebook who have shared from their wisdom and experience. Thanks to all of you for your help! I'm trying not to feel like it was all wasted energy if I just end up having to have a c-section. Plus, there is still some time for the baby to turn. Come on baby!!

This pregnancy has been so much fun. The babies have been very active, and it's a thrill every single time they move. It's also been fun to plan for the twins - from names to the nursery - we've really been enjoying this adventure and are starting to get so excited for the real adventure to begin when we welcome these children into the world. Although I have to say that I feel so very unprepared...especially if they're boys. We have about five articles of clothing that they'll have to share between them. We have no bedding. We have maybe two bottles. We do have our carseats, a double stroller, and a twin nursing pillow (a gift from a college friend and twin mom). Point is - we have some shopping and setting up to do. Plus, I have three or four books that I want to read before they get here - books about nursing twins, getting twins to sleep, etc. It's highly unlikely that I'll actually finish these books, but I'm going to try.

As fun as all of this is, I have to be honest. These babies are taking quite a toll on me physically. I got plantar fasciitis in my foot a couple weeks ago. It was so painful to walk, but I'm learning that wearing tennis shoes around the house makes a world of difference. I recently developed carpal tunnel in my arm, so it's often painful and tingly. I have a mystery muscle problem in my upper abdomen. It feels like a pulled muscle but worse. I'm still dealing with restless leg syndrome at night, although not every night, so that's a big improvement. My head cold came back for the third time, so I'm coughing a lot, my voice comes and goes, and I can't breathe through my nose. Carrying around fifty extra pounds makes everything more difficult and exhausting.  And speaking of exhaustion, my longest chunk of sleep in the past two weeks was two and a half hours. Then there's back pain, that random sick-to-my-stomach feeling, and the overall swelling...not to mention the stuff...that I don't really want to mention. When I read through all of this, I have to laugh! Every week it's something new, but as the next discomfort arises, an existing one often goes away...or at least I get used to it. 

Harriet is getting pretty excited for her little siblings to arrive. The other day in the car, she said, "Mom, I need some babies so I can be a big sister!" She often hugs and kisses my belly and says, "I love my babies." Yesterday, she decided that the babies needed a little extra pizzazz. I'll leave you with some pictures of her artwork. 

Friday, January 24, 2014

birth times two

When I was pregnant with Harriet, I did lots of research on unmedicated child birth. I read books and took classes. We had a doula. Our doctor was trained in water birth, and we delivered at the hospital in our area with the lowest c-section rate. I was physically, mentally, and emotionally prepared to give birth with very little intervention, and I feel really lucky to say that Harriet's birth was pretty perfect. Not only did it go off without a hitch, but it proved to be a life-changing, thoroughly healing, top-of-the-mountain experience for me.

This time around, I am becoming more and more aware that my experience will be completely different. My husband now works at a different hospital, and if we deliver there, our birth is essentially free. If we were to deliver at the hospital where Harriet was born, we would pay thousands. So the choice is obvious. This new hospital has a brand-new, beautiful mother/baby center...a far cry from the maternity ward of the hospital where Harriet was born where we had to run our tub for twenty minutes to get warm water.

This new hospital does things much differently. Most physicians are a part of a large group, so you really have no idea who is going to deliver your baby, whereas the doctor we worked with during my pregnancy with Harriet did all of my appointments and was called out of his bed at 2:00 in the morning when we needed him.

During my first appointment with my new OB group, the doctor assured me that "this isn't going to be a granola birth." She went on to explain that no hospital in our city does waterbirths for twins. She explained that I will deliver in an operating room, even if the birth is unmedicated. She also explained that there will be lots of people and lots of monitoring. If I hit 38 weeks, I will be induced. Although I really hate the idea of induction (I'd rather let the babies choose their own birthday and I know that induction makes labor much more intense), I'm actually okay with this since the stillbirth rate in twins goes up after 38 weeks. Plus, at that point, they grow better outside the womb than in it.

As far as what type of birth I'll be having, the babies and the doctors will decide. I have a little bit of power in this, but not much. If Baby A (the one who will be born first) is bigger and head down, I get to try for a vaginal birth. Otherwise, it's an automatic c-section. As of right now (26 weeks), the babies are both transverse, but Baby A is bigger.

When Baby A is born, Baby B will likely flip around due to all of the free space that suddenly opens up. Apparently, if Baby B flips breach, some doctors will literally reach their arm in while exerting pressure on the outside of my abdomen to flip the baby to a head-down position. I've heard this is the most painful part of the birth. Other doctors prefer to deliver the second baby breach and will even flip Baby B from the head-down position (using the same method I just mentioned) in order to be able to grab its ankles and deliver it feet-first. Other doctors don't flip babies at all, so if Baby B ends up breach, I get a c-section.  All of this depends on which doctor happens to be on call and what the babies do.

I do get to choose whether or not to have an epidural, and this is the part that makes me the most nervous. Assuming I'm lucky enough to have Baby A in the head down position and bigger than Baby B, I will try for a vaginal birth. I would really, REALLY prefer to do it without an epidural. Here's why:

  • I've done it without an epidural before and I know I can do it again. The fact that it's twins doesn't scare me one bit, as far as the pain goes. I trust my body 100% and I know I can handle it. I've never birthed with an epidural so there's a lot of unknown there. 
  • I hate the idea of that needle in my spine. When I was pregnant with Harriet, that fear was probably the main thing that led me to pursue unmedicated birth in the first place. 
  • I don't want somebody telling me when to push. When I was giving birth to Harriet, I had all kinds of helpers and they were all wonderful. But it was my job to bring her into the world and I liked the fact that it was me, my body and Harriet making it happen. It was such an intimate thing, and the thought of some stranger yelling "okay, now push!" already makes me irritable. I want to feel it myself. 
  • I won't go into the complications that can sometimes arise from epidurals, but from what I've researched and what I've seen friends go through, I just don't want one. I want the easiest recovery possible since I'll be caring for two newborns and a two-year-old, so I want as little intervention as possible. 
BUT if I end up having to have a c-section and I don't have an epidural in place from the beginning, they will put me completely to sleep for the remainder of the birth. This is due to the fact that they often need to get the second baby out RIGHT NOW and don't have time to put in an epidural and allow it to take full effect before making the cut.

I really want to avoid this scenario. I'm not sure how many minutes (hours?) old the babies would be by the time I woke up and got my bearings enough to hold them and nurse them. It makes me so sad to think about missing all of that time...which makes me think I should do the epidural...but then I remember that simply having an epidural makes a c-section more likely and I change my mind right back. 

I have no idea what to do. I know that I will get plenty of comments about how the most important thing is that both of our babies are delivered safely, no matter how it happens. I am 100% with you on that. That definitely is the most important thing and the day of their birth will be fully celebrated no matter how they get here. But I do want to be my own advocate in this. I want to do my research, wisely consider my options and make the choice that's best for them and for me. I also know that there's an anxious part of me that wants as much control over this process as I can get and fears that if something goes awry, everything will fall apart. For example, I'm so scared that a c-section or even just an epidural will completely derail breastfeeding. I'm worried about having one baby vaginally and the other via c-section and how that will affect bonding. I worry about all sorts of things like that.

So if you have experience with any of this stuff, I would love to hear your thoughts. Thanks (so much) in advance.


Here's a quick update on the babies:

I'm so grateful to say that they are doing marvelously. Our growth ultrasound this week showed that they are 2 pounds (74th percentile) and 1 pound, 14 ounces (60th percentile). My cervix is right where the doctors want it to be. The fluid levels are great. We couldn't have asked for a better report.

But my OB appointment later in the week was a little sobering...and confusing. The doctor chided me for my "excessive weight gain." I have gained forty pounds thus far, and apparently I was supposed to gain 40 pounds TOTAL. No one told me this before Wednesday. In fact, I have been very purposeful about packing on the pounds. Most of the twin moms I know gained about 60-70 pounds during their pregnancies, so that's what I've been shooting for. And Dr. Barbara Luke, the author of When You're Expecting Twins, Triplets or Quads: Proven Guidelines for a Healthy Pregnancy, makes a very compelling, research-based case for gaining far more than 40 pounds during a twin pregnancy. I'm not exactly sure who to listen to or what to do about the weight issue at this point. I'm just trying to be mindful about the types of foods I'm eating and I'm watching my portions. But yeah, hearing the words "excessive weight gain" four times at your OB appointment is kind of a bummer.

Friday, January 10, 2014

how it's going

I've been asked quite a bit lately to give an update on the twins, so here it is!

Short version: Everything is going great and I am gigantic.

Longer version:

We had a growth ultrasound a few weeks ago and the babies look wonderful. No concerns whatsoever. They were both head-up, so I'm hoping that changes in the next month if it hasn't already.  They were measuring in the 55th and 52nd percentiles and had heart rates in the 150's. They're really active babies, which is so much fun. I'm slowly but surely getting an idea of their personalities. My theory is that the baby on my left side will be more of an instigator and the baby on my right will be a little more laid back. We're waiting til they're born to find out genders, just like we did with Harriet. That moment when Andrew told me she was a girl was probably...no, easily...the best moment of my life. I wouldn't trade that for anything...although it's tempting when cute crib bedding is on sale.

I'll be twenty-four weeks tomorrow and I'm really starting to feel it. I've gained just under forty pounds so far, and I'm expecting to gain another twenty or maybe even thirty. The weight gain has really slowed lately due to the fact that I can't remember the last time I was hungry. I'm learning that hunger feels like heartburn, and I'm just trying to eat every few hours whether I feel like it or not.

Probably one of my biggest challenges lately is restless leg syndrome. It has been taking me at least an hour and a half to fall asleep every night, and I'm waking up about three times per night, so I think that the days of restful sleep are over. I was pretty anti-tv for Harriet until this pregnancy. Clifford has been my saving grace on an almost daily basis as it gives me an hour to rest or some extra time to get stuff done if I happened to lie down while Harriet napped. When the twins arrive, I think we are going to give her a stuffed Clifford "from the babies" since he is her absolute favorite.

And now for some belly pics. Brace yourselves, people...

a few weeks ago

a few days ago
a few minutes ago
I think that one of my favorite aspects of this pregnancy is feeling continually in awe of what my body is doing - growing, stretching, adapting. Miracle is a word that is quite overused when referring to birth, babies, and all things pregnancy...but no wonder! It truly is amazing. I am just so curious and excited to see what's going to happen in the next weeks and months. What an honor it is...every part of it...even the accidental peeing when I sneeze, the difficulty standing up from the floor, the snoring, and the fact that my husband gently discouraged me from wearing a swimsuit at the pool today...



part of it.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

being that woman

I already shared the story of my ultrasound at the infertility clinic - the ultrasound I had to bring Harriet to, the  ultrasound that first introduced me to the twins. But I want to talk more about it, specifically about the internal aspects of that experience.

To refresh your memory, I had gotten a positive pregnancy test the week earlier and was having an ultrasound to confirm it. I was six weeks, five days pregnant. Andrew was camping on the north shore and both of our babysitters had sick kids, so I brought Harriet along to the ultrasound. She slept on my shoulder as I walked into the clinic and took the elevator to the fourth floor. I had called the clinic ahead of time, asking if they could scoot me right back to a room so I didn't have to make anyone's clinic visit all the more unpleasant with the presence of a longed-for child. I stood in the hallway while I waited to be called back to the ultrasound room.

I was facing the desk, and when I turned around, there she was - a woman a bit older than me in a wheelchair and hospital gown, being slowly pushed down the hallway by her husband. The tear lines on her face looked like they had become permanent ruts over time - riverbeds of sorrow. I assumed that she had recently woken up from an egg retrieval and had been given bad news. She looked up at me holding my daughter and the look on her face spoke so clearly - Really? A woman with a child in the infertility clinic right now? In my moment of pain and disappointment? I can't take any more of this.

Her husband looked at me too, but his look had a little more anger in it. I could tell he felt protective of his wife and I don't blame him. She looked so vulnerable and broken-hearted. I wanted to protect her too, but without meaning to, I was the one rubbing salt in her wounds.

Thankfully, soon after they left, I was called back for my ultrasound. I left the office with tears on my cheeks too...but they were thrilled/humbled/grateful tears, not the tears of disappointment I had seen on the face of the woman in the wheelchair.

In the elevator on the way to my car, mixed up with elation and shock were feelings of...what else? Guilt. I was her. I was that woman with the toddler on my hip, two babies in my belly and a free IVF in my back pocket. This realization stunned me. I am one of the fertile infertile. I am one of those women for whom fertility treatments actually work...more than once. The mix of emotions can be dizzying - gratitude, joy, the ever-present guilt, even embarrassment. There are worries about hurting others, offending others, selfish fears of having my infertility invalidated because I'm pregnant again.

I love being that woman and I hate being that woman.

But I've also been that other woman with two babies in heaven. I've been that woman who brings down the mood during conversations about pregnancy by adding a comment about the birth of my son after he died. I've been that woman whom no one wants to invite to their baby shower. I've been that woman whom moms can't be real with about the toughest parts of pregnancy and parenthood. I've been that woman who protects her pain ferociously and damages relationships along the way. I've been that woman who unfollows the blogs of pregnant women because I just...had to. I have been that woman, angry and disheartened by the presence of a child at the fertility clinic.

I've been that woman too. And I hated being her. It was so, so hard to be her. And it sure is easy for me to say now that I'm on the other side of it, but despite all the pain and waiting and uncertainty, I'm glad that infertility is part of my story. I will always love the babies that we lost and wouldn't trade their place in our family for a honeymoon oops baby...not in a million years.

As I click "publish" on this post, I am praying with all of my heart that the tearful woman from the clinic is now pregnant and that several years from now, she will be wrestling with these same feelings - what it's like to be infertile with a toddler on your hip and another (or two) on the way.

Friday, December 27, 2013

moms who look good

Harriet had her final gymnastics class last Tuesday. Gymnastics class is always a gamble. Some days she loves it - rolling and running and bending and bouncing like a champ. Other days, she scowls at her teacher, buries her face in my lap and walks as slowly as possible down the tumble track while the other kids patiently wait their turn to run and jump. Tuesday was a good day and I was thrilled to end on a happy note. I have to admit I'm a little glad it's over and excited to start a new activity, although I'll really miss seeing Harriet in her absolutely adorable leotard and leg warmers. It's easily my favorite part of gymnastics. But my least favorite part? Those full-length wall mirrors. One quick glance to the side and I startle at the sight of a frumpy, stained-shirt woman...who is me.

As we were walking out of gymnastics class the other day, in strode a woman with three children. She...was...gorgeous - tall and fit, dressed in an equestrian-themed outfit, complete with boots, skinny jeans and the most lovely half-up hairstyle. Her makeup was simple but flawless. I couldn't stop staring. I wanted to go up to her and ask a simple but very important question - how?!?!

Because I don't get it. Honestly, I don't. When I see a mom looking lovely, especially a mom who has a child in tow, I am stunned. Every time. Because every single day, I look like this:

Yep, I just took that picture right now. So as you can see, it's not a great look. And today I'm even wearing makeup! Which I never do. So imagine this photo...but worse. Also, to get the full effect, imagine my pants. They're my husband's sweats. And they're brown. And I rolled them up about five inches. Okay, fine...here they are:

So that's me...every day. I look like this at home, at the grocery store, at the library, at playdates. I've even gone to church this way...more than once. I think that over time, one just gets used to seeing herself this way, and then it doesn't seem so bad. Until you run into Kate Middleton at gymnastics class...and she has two more kids than you do.

That's kind of a wakeup call.

But that's the thing! How does she do it? I simply don't have enough time! I'll sit Harriet down in front of Clifford and I'll go take a shower (without shaving my legs), sort of do my hair (usually a ponytail), and make a half-way attempt at my makeup. I routinely do my eye shadow while walking around the house, without the assistance of a mirror, so you can imagine how that goes. No nail polish. No eyebrow tweezing. No eye liner. No hair product. And this is my "going out look."

Typing all of this makes me realize how sad it really is.

I used to look better. I used to take the time and put in more effort. I used to shave my legs. I used to get my hair highlighted. But let's be real...even then, I never looked like those women I'm referring to. The ones who look flawless in a sweatshirt and jeans. The ones who can actually make messy hair look gorgeous. I can't blame it all on motherhood because some of goofy-looking stuff happened beforehand.

I'm the boy in the middle row.

When this is where you start, one would think that you could only go up from there. Au contraire.

When I was younger, I would always picture myself a few years in the future, and I always looked stunning. I would literally envision myself from my feet all the way up to my head - perfect pedicure, legs tan and toned, etc. But high school came, then college, then engagement, and marriage (a bright spot, I'll admit), and I never accomplished the look I thought I'd eventually embody. And then came pregnancy - all hope of that look was lost. About three weeks after finding out I was pregnant with Harriet, I had already stooped to this level:

And that's when I decided to grow out my hair. Things went downhill quickly from there.

Honestly, what is my hair even doing?

So now I'm realizing that perhaps this should have been a post about the challenges of growing out very short hair.

And while we're on the topic of hair, let me just take a moment to speak on behalf of those of us who faced adolescence in the dead zone between "it's-the-eighties-and-everyone's-hair-is-atrocious-so-it's-fine" and the invention of flat irons. Ladies, how did we do it? Not only did we have to brave insurmountable frizz on a daily basis but we also got our braces in high school (not elementary school when they're still cool), AND there really was no such thing as cute comfy clothes. But, we made it. Now, I have two CHI flat irons...which I never use.

We often talk about women who have "let themselves go." It sounds like a quiet thing that takes place over time, a peaceful decision one makes. But let me assure you - the letting go of oneself is not a gentle process. Myself is going, whether I like it or not. I never gave it permission. It just turned its back and started for the door. I tried for a while to hold onto it. I dug in my heels. But alas...

So here's where I go back to that head-to-toe fantasy. Someday, I'll have the time and the money to get pampered at the salon, to actually wear the outfits I pin on Pinterest, to try new things with my makeup, to work out regularly. Someday, I'll be tanned and toned and perfectly put together. And I'll sit down around the coffee table with my grown children to look at old photos, and they will say, "Mom, look how pretty you were!" And inside, I will remember that the greatest years of my life had nothing to do with what I was wearing or even whether it was clean.

I'll look into the tired eyes of that puffy young woman in the photos...and I'll feel so proud of her.
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