A quick update on Etta and Claire

Just got home after another ultrasound with our maternal fetal medicine team. We got to look at the babies, which is always super fun–just looking at them reminds me that all this near-constant discomfort and pain are worth it. I also know now why my right ribs hurt all the time: both babies have their big ole noggins on that side.

Baby Etta was called an “Amazon baby” by the doctor because she’s measuring a couple weeks ahead of where we should be at 28weeks gestation at 3 lbs. 6 oz., and Claire is just slightly petite at 2 lbs. 9 oz. The discordance is nothing the doctors are concerned about.

The best news was that neither the tech nor the doctors saw a defect on Claire’s spine. Basically, based on her head anatomy, the presence of a “lemon sign” and the fact that her cerebellum has been pulled down trapping some fluid in her ventricles, mean that there must be a spinal defect somewhere. But, the fact that they can’t find this defect means it must be very small and is therefore unlikely to have a very large negative impact on her. It seems more and more like the neurologists will have to find it after the birth rather than seeing it in utero.

We are so thankful and hopeful. Both girls look great and are growing well and we can’t wait to meet them!

thankful that no news is good news

It’s possible I’ve gotten a little spoiled in that I’ve yet to go to an OB appointment alone. Jon’s got a flexible schedule, and he’s been willing and able to go with me every time. Until today, when some very important disaster training coincided with my appointment, and he couldn’t make it. Because I’m spoiled, my stepmom came with me instead. It was an uneventful appointment, and for that I am very thankful. Just a quick check in, a chat with my doctor, and off on my way, with a pat on the back because I’m still gaining the weight I need to for the babies. No bad news in the ultrasound room. No difficulty finding two little heartbeats on the Doppler. No real problems to report except that I’m still insanely insanely tired, and the constant heartburn is a little annoying, but overall I’m pretty happy for 6 months pregnant, which still feels insane to say.

I am so thankful for this uneventful appointment. I’m thankful to have a great team of doctors and nurses and genetic counselors and care coordinators. I’m thankful that, even though Claire will have to be transferred to another hospital right after birth for surgery and care, it’s the hospital where my husband works, right by our house, and one of the best in the country. I’m thankful to have family nearby to take care of all of us.

In short, I guess I’m just feeling really thankful. Possibly because I’m reading One Thousand Gifts, which is a book all about the practice of gratitude as the central practice of the Christian faith, which is a really great read so far, even though I don’t agree with all of it. The author seems to suggest that God causes all things that happen to us, be they joyful or painful, and I just can’t get on board with the idea that God causes things that are bad. That isn’t to say that I don’t believe that God works all things for the good, or that we can’t be drawn nearer to God in all things, or that we can’t learn and grow from every experience that happens to us. But I just can’t agree, though it has been suggested to me by well-meaning people, that God caused, for example, my Claire’s spina bifida. I am sure it will be an opportunity for learning and growth and drawing nearer to God, but I don’t believe God gives anything but good gifts to his children. I can’t believe God would cause disease or suffering and pain and still maintain faith in God. Spina bifida just happens sometimes. Even if you take your vitamins. Even if you say your prayers. Because that’s the way this world works. And God’s heart is broken along with mamas’ and daddies’ when they find out something’s wrong with their baby. And God rejoices when the defect isn’t as bad as it could be. That’s what I believe.

And so, I’m thankful for uneventful appointments, and for hope for the future, and for days when we don’t get any bad news. And I’m thankful for arms that hold me when the bad news comes too.

six month pregnancy update

Jon and I last week.

I’m now 24 weeks pregnant. That means 6 months. Before I was pregnant, I thought 6 months was a whole lot pregnant. Now that I am actually 6 months pregnant with twins, I’ve discovered that while it is indeed a whole lot pregnant, I still have a long ways to go. Apparently I don’t look as big as folks think I should, because when they ask me how far along I am and I tell them “6 months, with twins,” they always remark how tiny I am. Well, the babies are just now breaking a pound in the weight department, and I have to get to 6 pounds each, so I have a feeling the growing is going to start speeding up in a hurry.

After our last ultrasound ended in scary news and tears, I was a little nervous about this morning’s appointment, but I have to say it went so much better. It’s always fun to get to peek at our girls, and we had a great ultrasound tech and a MUCH warmer Maternal Fetal Medicine specialist this time around. The great news is the girls are growing very well, with Etta (baby A) weighing in a little ahead of schedule at 2 lbs. and Claire (baby B) just slightly behind schedule at 1.2 lbs. There was a little fluid in Claire’s skull, but it looked pretty good, and there appears to be no sac on her spine, so again, the best possible scenario for spina bifida.We met with a genetic counselor and a nurse for the Arkansas Fetal Diagnosis and Management Program which will help coordinate all the various care Claire will need both before and after birth. We feel great to have such a good team of healthcare providers and are very hopeful for the best for Claire.

Both girls were still as wiggly as ever, and the tech managed to get one really awesome shot where it looks like Claire is giving Etta a kiss on the cheek. I realize it’s entirely possible that I’m only looking at this pic with a mama’s eyes, but I’m sharing it anyway. It’s sort of like a magic eye– don’t look too hard, and you’ll see two little faces, I hope. Can you see it?

Overall, I feel pretty good. I’m really exhausted practically all of the time, have been experiencing more and more rib and back pain, and am completely annoyed by all the heartburn. Still, I’m thankful I don’t feel too bad, and also thankful that I have plenty of time to rest when I need to. The craziest development is that we can now SEE the babies moving around in there from the outside. It’s a completely trippy experience.

cry/babies

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.”

we’re having…

One girl for sure, and the doctor says she’s 80% sure the other twin is a girl too!!

Baby A, so-called because she’s the closest to an exit, gave us a great view and no doubt about the fact that she’s a girl. Baby B was turned to the side and there was a lot of umbilical cord in the way, so we can’t be positive until the next appointment on my birthday, December 16. This means Tinycat just might be our only baby boy, though my stepmom, who is known to have some fairly accurate dreams, swears we can’t be sure about Baby B, who is definitely a boy in her dreams. We’ll see!

We’re excited, and I can’t wait to finally narrow down our list of names!

turnips: a week 16 pregnancy update

I’m now 16 weeks pregnant. 4 months! That seems crazy long! According to my What to Expect app, the babies are now the size of turnips, which Jon says reminds him of “those Harry Potter plant babies with the creepy faces.” Which is now exactly what I’m picturing inside of me:

Gotta love Ron’s face in that picture. I have a love-hate relationship with that whiny git. And yes, both Jon and I are huge Harry Potter fans.

Maybe I can start picturing them as something other than screaming turnip monsters if they cooperate at my doctor’s appointment tomorrow afternoon. There’s a chance we might see the babies’ sexes if they’re in decent positions on the ultrasound. So, I thought a little poll might be fun:

In our “real life” no one who knows us has guessed two girls. Almost everyone is split between two boys and one of each. I don’t have a “feeling” one way or the other, but I’m kinda hoping for one of each, just to get to have both experiences (not that I think gender=set experience or even expectations, or really wish to conflate sex and gender, but that’s a whole ‘nother super femininisty pregnancy post that I’ve yet to write). The idea of two boys scares me, but that’s just because I grew up with sisters, so I have very little experience with little boys. What do you think I’ve got in there??

 

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?

FAQs: people asking about my womb edition

One thing about being pregnant with TWINS?! is that everyone has lots of questions. Most of them are actually kind of rude! But I figure people aren’t generally trying to be rude, but just don’t realize how rude they’re being. Surely no one would ask me prying questions about my sex life and lady parts in the full knowledge of just how rude that is, right?? (Wait, don’t answer that.)

Here are a few of the questions we’ve been getting a lot:

Are they natural?

Well, I’m pretty sure they aren’t synthetic… is that what you mean? Of course it isn’t. The person really wants to know if I had some sort of fertility treatment, which is kind of private, right? The answer is no, these are just freak of nature twins, but the question still feels a little weird.

Do twins run in your family?

Ah, everyone is an amateur geneticist, but most of them only have part of the story right! The answer to this one is also no, not unless going back a few generations counts, and the scientific truth is that twins outside of your immediate family do not “count” toward making you more likely to have twins. Also, only the mother’s family counts, because the only kind of twins that happen genetically are fraternal– which only occur when the mother releases more than one egg that gets fertilized and implanted. It has nothing to do with the father or his family. Identical twins happen when a single fertilized egg splits into two or more embryos somewhere along the way– this just happens, and the genetics of the parents have nothing to do with it.

Are they identical?

We don’t know yet, and without a genetic test it’s possible that we’ll never know. For now, I can tell you that the twins appear to be di-di, meaning they’re in two separate sacs. This could mean that they are fraternal, or it could mean that they are identical but split within 3 days or so of conception. If we find out they’re two separate genders, we’ll know for sure before birth that they’re fraternal. Otherwise, the placenta(s) could tell us, or they could look markedly different, or we could get genetic testing done.

Are you going to have more kids?

Seriously?? I haven’t even had these yet. How bout we wait and see how it goes first?

10 Weeks

First official belly pic! Taken last night after we went and saw a play. Thank God for wrap dresses that still fit.

I’m now at 10 weeks, which means if you’d like to compare my belly to someone with only one baby inside, my bump is supposed to be comparable to someone at 16-18 weeks. The babies, whom Jon is calling Bjorn and Bjork (no we don’t know genders yet), are now the size of limes.

Apparently I am now pregnant enough that it’s apparent to particularly observant strangers, like the cashier at my Kroger who looks just like Whoopi Goldberg, if Whoopi wore glittery cat-eye glasses. As I walked up to the checkout with a cart full of ice cream, milk, and cheese, she said, “What are you gonna do with that lil boy in there?” I seriously looked under my cart to see if a child had snuck onto the bottom rack. “What boy, where?” “In THERE!” she said, pointing to my midsection. “Oh, there’s twins in here, but we don’t know what they are yet.” She decided it’s two boys and told everyone else nearby, “SHE’S GOT TWO LIL TWINS IN THERE!” Meanwhile, the young woman bagging my groceries told me she had twins once, but lost the pregnancy. Um, I’m so sorry for your loss? Why would you say that to a total stranger? It’s like, “Hey, here’s my new puppy!” “Oh, I had a puppy once, IT DIED.” Womp womp.

Overall, I’m still feeling pretty good. Still no puking, though I feel constantly on the verge– I had to sit apart from my family while they ate funnel cakes at the Food Truck Festival yesterday because the smell was making me gag. I’m still fall-down tired all the time, but I’ll take napping over puking for sure. I’m attempting to follow a diet from When You’re Expecting Twins, Triplets, or Quads, which means I’m supposed to be eating 3500 calories per day, with at least 176 grams of protein. And you know, we have all joked how awesome an all you can eat diet would be, but it’s HARD. I’ve always been kind of an intuitive eater– I listen to my body, eat when I’m hungry, stop when I’m full. But my appetite is like it was B.T. (before TWINS?!), and when I’m constantly on the verge of nausea, shoving food into my face when I’m not feeling it feels almost torturous. Still, I’m trying not to whine too much about having to eat more ice cream. I should probably say for those of you who are familiar with my food values, I’m eating a lot more meat these days. I wasn’t happy about it, but getting that protein level is pretty much impossible otherwise (one cup of beans has about 14 grams of protein, for example), and Jon assured me that for 9 months, I can prioritize the babies over the environment.

I’m growing out of my clothes already, and I’m rigging up my pants with rubber bands and covering them with belly bands. I already bought two pairs of maternity skinny jeans, and the stretchy waistbands are HEAVEN.

We’re going to the OB on Wednesday, so maybe we’ll get another look at the babies. I kind of hope so. The more I see them, the more real and less surreal this all becomes.

my baby just cares for me

Mush alert.

Being pregnant has given me the warm fuzzies for my husband. I feel closer to him because I know we’re basically jumping off a cliff together, and because I know that we’re making something beautiful together, and because there’s no one else in the world I’d be willing to take this kind of adventure with. But I’m also feeling the love because he’s taking excellent care of me.

I shouldn’t be surprised– he’s always taken great care of me. When we were dating, we were in a car accident one Thanksgiving. I was driving us to my grandparents’ house on a wet road and hydroplaned while trying to grab my ringing cell phone (don’t phone and drive, kids!). The car spun into a ditch, and the airbag did a doozy on me. It turns out, thanks to mild scoliosis and an extra mutant vertebra that’s shaped like a wedge, I had a perfect spot for a compression fracture of my spine, and to this day am a quarter inch shorter on my left side as a result. After the accident, when deciding whether I would go back to college or go home with my parents or stay with him, he was adamant that he would take care of me. And he did– he fed me my pills on schedule, let me sleep in a recliner, and kept me supplied with my favorite ice cream until I felt well enough to go back to school.

A year into our marriage, we moved to Charleston, SC, where he was doing his residency in pediatrics. I had a hard time with the move, far away from everyone I knew and loved, in a strange new place, working a job I didn’t really like much, and for the first few months I was pretty much a mess. One day, I attempted to go for a bike ride with our dog Bessie, and she pulled me off and I scraped up my knee really bad. Bleeding and hysterical, I called Jon. I’m sure it sounded awful on the phone, because he biked all the way home from the hospital, bandaged up my knee, which was really not as bad as my hysterics made it sound, held me, hugged me, kissed me, and then biked back to work. He never said anything about how crazy I’d acted about that skinned knee. He knew it was just an emotional catalyst that broke the dam that had held back my sadness and depression about the move, and he loved me through it. Eventually we made friends and settled in, and when it came time for us to leave Charleston, I was sad then too.

Last winter, I got the flu. People who tell me they think they have the flu, I have one response for them: “Do you feel like you’re dying? Do you think maybe death would be preferable to the way you feel right now? OK, maybe then you have the flu.” It was the sickest I’ve ever been. I had a fever of 102 for 8 days straight. I coughed so much and so hard that I bruised my ribs and was sore for a month afterward. All told, I was sick the entire month of December. Jon was working lots of shifts in the ER, and, in between, when he should have been sleeping, kept me dosed on meds, made sure I was fed, and prevented our house from falling apart. He held me as I coughed and cried and promised me I’d feel better one day, even though in the middle of that illness, I didn’t really believe him.

Now he’s dealing with me, hopped up on a double dose of twin hormones, admittedly acting insane a lot of the time, the kind of pregnant person they make jokes about. While he did jokingly reassure me that my insanity isn’t a new development for him to deal with, he has made me feel so cared for. He encourages me to nap when I’m tired, he picks up the slack that I’m leaving in all the things to be done around the house, he bought me Miralax and reminds me to take it (and he’s not grossed out by talking about gross pregnancy symptoms like constipation!), and he helps me find things I’m willing to eat. He gets me wet washcloths and anti-nausea medicine and holds my hand as I sit next to the toilet and cry, because even throwing up makes me cry these days.

In other words, he’s doing what he’s always done: taking amazing care of me. Just like I know he will take amazing care of our babies. And maybe I’m hormonal and mushy and this whole post is making you want to barf (hey! welcome to the club!), but telling the story of this latest adventure would be incomplete without a little insight into the awesome partner I have along the way. This whole thing would be entirely too terrifying without him.