good news and the best possible bad news

Friday was my birthday. I think 27 is going to be a good year. It was also the day of our “big ultrasound” or “anatomy scan” for the babies, the day we would finally find out if Baby B was a boy or a girl.

The tech was very sweet and showed us right away that we have two very wiggly baby GIRLS! Baby B, the one on the top if you remember this early ultrasound picture (they’re now too big to both be seen at once) is named Claire Elaine, and Baby A, the one on the bottom, is named Etta, with an as-yet-to-be-determined middle name. I’ll tell you all about the names and their significance later, I promise.

We got to see our girls kicking and punching and flipping around, and at one point, I swear they high-fived across the membrane that separates them. It’s so cool to think they’re already interacting, and that they will ALWAYS have each other. We couldn’t be more excited about them.

The atmosphere in the ultrasound room got a little weird right at the end of the scan. Instead of wiping me off and sending us on our way, the tech draped me with a towel and said she had to go talk to one of the doctors, who may come back in in a few minutes. We were soon joined by a maternal fetal medicine specialist with an all-business demeanor. She took the helm at the ultrasound machine and told us that Claire has a slightly lemon-shaped head, and this was a red flag that made them want a better look at her spine.

She then got to work looking at Claire’s spine, and I got to work freaking out. Hormones and fear took over, and though I was trying very hard not to cry so as not to have a heaving belly making the scan more difficult, the tears just came. I was confused and scared and all I had heard was that there was something wrong with my baby’s head and spine and no one was speaking to me in a way that I understood. Jon held my hand and tried to comfort me, but he was also trying to get all the information so he could explain it to me later, which I am very grateful for. I have never felt more like a mama bear than I did in that ultrasound room, wanting to protect my tiny baby girl.

Ultimately, Claire has what we hope is a best-case scenario of spina bifida. This is known as a neural tube defect, and means that her neural tube didn’t close all the way when her brain and spine were forming very early in my pregnancy. This means there is an opening at the bottom of her spine, in the section known as her sacral region. There is a little sac there, but there appears to be no neural tissue in the sac, which is a good sign. It’s hard to know how this will affect her until she is born, but she might have disability in her legs and some other issues. However, her legs looked good anatomically, and though the MFM specialist said that movement doesn’t necessarily mean anything in utero, she was kicking and wiggling her legs all around. She will most likely not have neurological or cognitive issues. The abnormality in her head shape is known as a Arnold-Chiari malformation. She might have problems with excess fluid building up in her head, which may require surgery and a shunt to drain the fluid, but we don’t know this yet either.

We do know that I will definitely be having a scheduled c-section, and that Claire will most likely be having surgery within a few days of her birth to close the opening on her spine. That’s all we know for sure.

We are thankful that the opening on her spine is down so low, and we are thankful that there appears to be no neural tissue in the sac. We want it to stay that way. We are thankful to be at UAMS, where we have access to some of the best specialists and surgeons around, and to know that our OB will definitely be there at the girls’ birth. I am personally thankful that I’m married to a pediatrician who can listen to all these doctors speak and translate it into a way that I can understand and that calms me.

We are so excited and so in love with Etta and Claire already. They are moving like crazy inside me, and every night at bedtime, they seem to have a little dance party. Jon has been able to feel them moving too, and it’s just the craziest experience in the world. I love that they’re still keeping a little secret to themselves, and that we won’t know until after they’re born if they’re identical or fraternal twins.

Friday was a hard day with a lot to take in, but after a couple of days of reading and settling in, we are feeling much better. We, all of us, are going to be OK.


*Update almost two years later: Claire’s spinal defect was more severe than originally predicted at this and other ultrasounds and ended up being a myelomeningocele that extended up to around L2. At this point, she is 17 months old, has had a shunt placed for her hydrocephalus, is crawling on her own, can pull to kneeling on her own, wears knee-high braces on her legs, and can stand with help and step with help. We have every hope that she will walk, though what types of braces or other support will be required remains to be seen. So again, more best possible bad news: the defect was worse than we hoped, but her abilities remain better than we might have expected with the location and severity of her spinal defect.


I spent yesterday feeling sort of hungover.

From crying.

In order to explain the crying, I have to first say that I spent at least an hour snuggling my friend Kat‘s adorable, sleeping newborn on Saturday. It was divine. She nestled and nuzzled and made tiny bird noises and drooled all over my chest. I was in heaven.

And then, when we were going to bed and I was telling Jon about it, I suddenly started sobbing about how I’m never going to get to do that sort of thing with my babies because there will always be another one with needs and wants and OH MY GOD HOW DO I EVEN HOLD TWO BABIES AND HOW WILL THEY FIT IN OUR HOUSE AND WHY CAN’T WE JUST BE NORMAL PEOPLE WHO HAVE ONE BABY AT A TIME WE DIDN’T ASK FOR TWINS THIS IS TERRIBLE.

I cried so hard I literally couldn’t breathe, and then I cried harder because I can’t take any sinus medication. Jon stroked my hair and held me and handed me tissues and eventually I fell asleep, only to have another crying jag the next day when we started doing the great bedroom switcheroo to make what was the guest room into our bedroom and what was our bedroom into the babies room. I think the crying trigger that time was that we don’t have enough closets which became me not having enough arms for two babies which became me feeling insane which became me fearing that having two babies is really going to send me around the bend.

I think the twinshock has worn off, and twin reality is setting in. We’re undertaking a major life change. And while most of the time, when your life suddenly and completely changes, you don’t really see it coming until it’s in the rear view mirror, this change is looming up ahead like a mountain we have to climb, behind which is another mountain, and another. Add to this utter unknown the fact that I’m hopped up on literally double the hormones of the average pregnant woman, and you’ve got a perfect storm for lots of tears.

It’s not that I don’t think the babies are a blessing. I DO. It’s not that we’re not thrilled. WE ARE. But I think we’d also have to be in some sort of deep denial to not also be a little bit terrified, and we’d have to be blind not to realize that our entire lives are changing, and it’s OK to mourn that change a little bit. We’re processing some major stuff.

Will this be hard? Of course. Will there be a lot more crying in our future? Of course. Will we survive? Yes. Will there be a whole lot of joy and cuteness too? Yep.

So while I may feel a tiny bit guilty for being actually angry and sad about this whole twins thing (along with excited, happy, blessed), I’m trying not to beat myself up over these feelings, but instead, just to feel them. It’s a process. As I learned from my beloved Mr. Rogers:

“Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable. When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary. The people we trust with that important talk can help us know that we are not alone.”

weeks 12/13

So, it’s been a bit since I’ve done a pregnancy update, huh? Tomorrow marks 14 weeks, but since the pic I’ve got is from the middle of week 12, this is sort of a combined update. Check out the bump on the beach (ignore the windblown hair):

I’m feeling pretty good as I start Trimester #2. Still sleepy pretty much all the time, but not AS sleepy as I was before. I spend a lot of time like this, still, though:

Tinycat is an excellent nap partner.

Still no puking, but I feel the general queasiness has increased. Everything makes me want to gag. Getting some of my own hair in my mouth? Gag. A seatbelt touching my neck? Gag. Trying to wear a scarf? Gag. Brushing my teeth? Gag. Even the sheets and blanket touching my neck in bed? Gag. It’s super fun.

Though I’ve written about struggling to get the calories and protein level recommended by my multiples pregnancy book, I’m gaining weight right on schedule. About 14 pounds, for those of you keeping track at home. It’s a weird thing to be cheering myself on for every extra glass of milk I drink and pound I gain, but I want nice big, healthy twins, so I’m doing it.

The reality of TWO BABIES seems to sink in more and more as my belly grows and grows, and we’re starting to think about all the stuff we need for the twins. One of our big concerns is that we might need a bigger car. We have a 6 year old Pontiac Vibe and are a one-car family. We’re a little concerned that my tall husband won’t be able to scoot his seat back far enough to drive with a carseat behind him, and not sure our backseat is big enough to have one seat behind the passenger and one seat in the middle. We really need to get some carseats and just try it, but we’re researching cars and trying to figure out what we need, and stressing out a little bit. How do you know what kind of car you need? Do I really have to get a minivan? How the heck are we going to afford these kids?

kids ask the darnedest things

Over the holiday weekend, we had some friends over for a cookout. Their nearly three year old was the first fully-mobile (infant visitors don’t really count) child-sized person to visit our house, ever, and the pediatrician husband, ever cautious, made sure our TV, formerly perched precariously right at toddler height, was securely mounted to the wall before our small guest arrived. He was as delightfully behaved as any of our guests, and perhaps the kindest of any guest we’ve ever had when it comes to the treatment of our only children who happen to be two large dogs. He was patient with the fact that they kept trying to lick food off his face. He even threw a ball for them for longer than I ever have. At one point, noticing an unscooped pile of dog poo in the yard, he asked, “Who pooped there?” Because really, it might have been any of us.

And then, as he munched on a cookie for dessert, he asked me “Do you have any toys?” All I found was a stuffed monkey, which he deemed THE TICKLE MONKEY. It was still sitting on an ottoman when he and his parents left, and I let the dogs into the house. They rounded the corner, saw the furry intruder (who usually lives in a closet), and immediately started barking as if the TICKLE MONKEY were trying to kill us all and steal our tasty snacks.

Fast forward to a couple of days later. I agreed to babysit a friend‘s four year old because she was in a pinch (I’m very selective about my babysitting gigs, rather like an exclusive club). She’s often talking about how her son just wears her out with questions, and until today, I really had no idea what she means. It was like a police interrogation. The cutest police interrogation ever. He quizzed me about the names of vehicles from “Cars,” and about the backstories of obscure characters from Scooby Doo episodes I’ve never seen, about who my best friends are, and my thoughts on the motivations of the 5 little monkeys jumping on the bed. One more hour of that and I probably would have broken, just laid down on the floor and told him I’d tell him all my deepest darkest secrets, just to get five minutes without a question.

I sent my friend a text that read “I finally know what you mean about the questions.” She replied that she read my text to the women she was in a meeting with, and they all cried with laughter. I imagine this is similar to the reasons people with children laugh at me when I say I usually get 10 hours of sleep per night and require a lot of sleep to function properly.

Because my charge was asleep when I arrived, and he woke up to find me there instead of his mommy, he got the idea that I had spent the night.

“Did you sleep here?”

“No, I slept at my house, and I came here before you woke up and your mommy left for work.”

“Where do you sleep?”

“At my house.”

“Does your dad live there?”

“No, he lives at his house.”

“Is he dead?”

“No, uh, he’s very much alive, and I’m going to go see him tomorrow. I live in my own house with my husband.”

“Do you play there?”

“Um….I guess so?”

Clearly I need more toys and a lot more playing in my life. The pre-school set thinks I’m totally lame. I just hope said toys don’t scare the bejesus out of the dogs.

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