Arrival, Part 2: Special Care

Our hospital doesn’t really have a “NICU” per se; it’s a special care nursery for babies born after 34 weeks (we made the cut-off, yay!) or born with some problems that aren’t necessarily life threatening ones. The nursery has lifesaving equipment in case of an emergency, but they couldn’t, for example, keep an infant on a CPAP for a very long time because they aren’t trained for that. If that became the case for someone, they’d have that baby transported down the street to Memorial, where they have a Level III NICU for very sick babies.

So that already makes the place a little different from what I’d expected. I watched videos about babies in NICUs because I knew that twins have this tendency to come early. From what I’d read, 35 weeks was the average, but I was placing money on anywhere from 32 to 36 weeks, regardless of anyone else’s expectations. Towards the end of my pregnancy, the placing money was kind of a “hope” more than anything else because I was enormous and uncomfortable and itching so bad I wanted to peel my skin off with a cheese grater. Of course, nobody ever wants their baby to be sick or to need time in the NICU because, well, it hurts.

But I’ll get to that.

When my surgery ended and I was wheeled back to the eerie room with its pseudo Lovecraftian aesthetic, my twins headed straight for the special care nursery. We got a report later from the nurse who’d taken charge of their care, explaining the treatments they’d received upon arriving there. She explained about babies breathing that it was like inflating a balloon. The first time you inflate a balloon, there’s a lot of resistance, but if you leave a little air in the balloon when you deflate it, it will inflate much easier the second time.

(I don’t know who’s inflating and deflating balloons out there, but I’m here to tell you, friend, that is not how you use a balloon)

Baby lungs are the same way, but when babies are born before their lungs are completely mature, they can just expel all of the air from their lungs, which means that although breathing still happens, each subsequent breath is as difficult as their very first, and they get very tired, very quickly. The solution is a CPAP machine, or one of several other methods of forcing air into the lungs and keeping it from all escaping completely. “But we don’t have a longterm CPAP machine here,” the nurse-or-doctor explained (and apologies that I don’t remember; I was kind of still on a lot of drugs when she talked to us), “so if they do need that–and they don’t yet, but if they do, we’ll have to send them to Memorial.”

She told us other details about the twins’ oxygen saturation and CO2 saturation and how they were working to balance that out, but assured us that they were really strong and healthy for 34-week-old twins. “And big!” she added and laughed. Isaac topped out at 5 lbs, 12 oz and 18.75” long, while Carrie tipped the scales at 6 lbs, 1 oz and 18.5” long. They didn’t necessarily fall into the category of MAHOOSIVE, but for perspective, another 34 weeker came in about four days after they were born and weighed in closer to 4 lbs. So they’re not delicate for their age either.

But the twins were alright; that’s what I gleaned from the entire conversation, even though my head was swimming and I couldn’t feel or move my toes. The trouble was that I’d have to wait to see them for several more hours, as jumping right out of bed after major abdominal surgery isn’t the best idea of all time.

Kyle got to see them first, and I don’t begrudge it of him because he took pictures and videos for me. By the time he got there, both babies were breathing room air and sleeping, as exhausted by the ordeal as I was. They had so many wires and tubes and IVs hooked into them that they looked sort of like they were part of the Matrix, but of course, they weren’t.

And they were so pink, too, healthy and pink. I held onto that quite a lot over the next several hours as my nurses changed shifts and I faced the big requirement for going to see them: peeing.

(I’m going to tell the story of my first time peeing after the surgery later, because I want to write about the twins now. Aren’t you so excited to read about me peeing? I know you are)

The peeing thing happened at around 4 a.m., and I was exhausted and dizzy and my eyes kept closing and I hurt everywhere, but I DIDN’T CARE because I literally would have walked barefoot on a mile of Legos to see the babies at that point. And thankfully, the hurty part ended quickly and with me sitting in a wheelchair and wrapped in blankets, like the sickly character in a novel that takes place in a time when ladies wore really large dresses. And it was 4 a.m. and Kyle was half asleep and I was half asleep, but we still all wheeled down the hall, merry as can be, to go and see the babies and to finally have skin-to-skin contact with them.

Skin-to-skin contact is one of the most important things you can do for your baby in the first hours of their life: it helps them to regulate their breathing and body temperature, it helps with bonding, and it’s just an emotionally uplifting thing overall. If the twins hadn’t been preemies, I’d have spent the first two hours of their lives holding them both against my bare chest, letting them feel my heartbeat and warmth, smell my skin, remember me. It’s what I did with Sam, and something we practiced very frequently even after he left the hospital. Kyle did it as well, and I honestly cannot emphasize how much it meant to me, how much good it did, and how much I’d wanted to do it again with the twins.

But I didn’t get the chance until 4 a.m.

Still, at 4 a.m., I took the fucking chance. I was too tired and too eager to really care who was seeing me with my hospital gown flapping down about my waist after the nurses helped me to unsnap it. They closed curtains around the twins’ corner (they have their own corner of the nursery because there are two of them and they’re both in incubators), but honestly, a parade of leering assholes could’ve marched through the nursery and gawked at me and I would not have cared from the second I held each of my babies against my chest.

(this is very sappy and crunchy, like eating a tree)

And then we had to leave. They were too small and delicate to be out of their incubators for very long, and I needed my rest and my medication. Before we left, though, the nurses explained all of their lines and wires to us. The twins each had monitors checking on their heart rate, breathing rate, and the oxygen saturation in their blood. They had IVs in their hands, delivering liquid nutrients and calories to their tiny bodies, since they were still too unstable to try eating from a bottle. They had little thermometers giving feedback on their temperature. They were wrapped in hospital blankets, and they had those funny striped hospital hats on their tiny heads.

Which was something I couldn’t stop thinking about, even after we left: how tiny they were. Now, mind, they’re pretty big for 34 weekers, as I’d said before; but I also have to point out my basis for comparison, which is Sam.

When Sam was born, he wasn’t one of those monster babies that you see on the news where they look like they already know how to drive a truck and sing baritone, but he was still a very respectable 8 lbs, 11 oz and 20.5” long. He’d already mostly sized out of newborn clothes and was definitely too big for newborn shoes, bringing to mind the saddest six-word story ever written:

For sale: baby shoes, never worn.

That was written by Ernest Hemingway, and it’s objectively sad until you realize that the reason the baby shoes were never worn is because the baby had unexpectedly ENORMOUS feet, and that baby was Sam. I still remember reflecting sadly over a pair of fuzzy monster shoes I’d bought right after we found out he was a boy. They were too small. He never wore them.

So that’s my basis for comparison, a baby too big for baby shoes and newborn clothes, not monstrously huge but definitely never tiny.

And here were these little peanuts, big for 34 weeks, but compared to their brother and most newborns I’ve held, absolutely teeny. Teacup sized. Their heads and hands are so tiny, their noses are eensy, their ears are weensy, but what gets me the most is their feet. Their feet are SO SMALL. It’s absolutely ridiculous! Each foot, each of the four baby feet, is the length of my thumb. I do not have long thumbs. In fact, they’re kind of stumpy. And my babies’ feet are smaller than my thumbs.

Their feet also do not fit in the baby shoes, but this time because they are far too SMALL.

Anyway. We had to leave. And the next couple of days became a sort of confusion when it came to visiting the nursery. When you have a healthy baby, you can go down to the nursery and see them and hold them and love on them any time. You can request specifically that your baby is brought to you for feedings; if you’re in a baby friendly hospital, your baby will be there anyway. You can hold them while they sleep, you can hold them while they’re awake, you can change their diaper any time and let their siblings and grandparents and aunties and uncles and cousins hold them, and it’s grand.

You can’t do that with NICU babies.

NICU babies, you see, need to spend a lot of time in incubators when they’re very young because they can’t figure out how to regulate their body temperatures yet. You can theoretically keep the overall room temperature really high and hope that works for them, but it’s usually not high enough, and if they start to get cold, things go downhill quickly.

So they stay in incubators except for brief visits outside when they’re being examined or eventually fed. And in theory, the outside visits happen roughly every four hours (side note: dear nursery, thank you for getting my babies on a schedule long before we could ever hope to do so at home), but sometimes there’s a checkup you didn’t know about or sometimes the babies wake up early or sometimes you’re trying to get there on time but you keep getting cornered by medical personnel wanting to check your incision, and by the time you get there, the NICU nurses just smile apologetically and say, “Oh, we just finished with his feeding and put him back to sleep. He needs to rest now.”

And this also hurts.

Because you want what’s best for them, you want them to get the best possible chance, but knowing that you missed having them in your arms by that much is a bit like a punch to the face.

This really only stayed a problem while I was still at the hospital, and even when I couldn’t hold them, the nurses gave me all the news of their progress. Carrie has been progressing the fastest, but Isaac hasn’t been far behind, except that he has a fondness for what they call “bradys.” Bradys, where preemies are concerned, are times when the baby’s heart decelerates, and they can happen for any number of reasons. Isaac’s preferred reasoning is that he’s hungry and drank his bottle too fast, and that somehow makes his heart rate drop, which in turn makes his oxygen saturation plummet (this is called a “desat”), which in turn makes his mother freak the fuck out when she’s trying to feed him, even after the nurses easily get him back to normal and tease him for being such a brat.

Not that this, you know, happened to me yesterday or anything.

Now that I’m out of the hospital, we plan our visits and coordinate with the nurses, so they’ll know that we’re going to be there for the noon feeding or the 4:00 feeding or something along those lines, and they’ll make sure to try and postpone the feeding until we get there. Even if they can’t (read: Isaac is screaming and Carrie is kicking the walls of her incubator), they make sure to put off as long as possible so that we have a chance to at least hold them and rock them and change their clothes for the day.

(changing their clothes is illogically one of my favorite things because it makes them seem so normal and so like they’re just at home, and I need that)

They’re showing real bits of personality, too, different on some levels from what I got used to when I was carrying them, but familiar as well.

Isaac has two modes: enrage and asleep. If it’s taking too long to get him his bottle, if he feels like he’s not getting enough attention, if he needs a diaper, he’s enraged. And oh, that boy can scream. He goes from zero to RAGING in about 0.04 seconds flat, and he’s got lungs on him. Usually, the incubator walls muffle the babies’ crying somewhat, but not Isaac. He has a problem, and you WILL know about it.

But then when the problem is solved, he mellows out so easily and reaches this incredible state of peaceful bliss, especially with me or Kyle. He wants to be comfortable more than anything, so if he’s getting the attention he wants and snuggled up with someone he loves and has all his needs met, it takes another 0.04 seconds for him to fall right asleep and sleep so soundly and deeply that, yes, he occasionally had bradys in his sleep.

He also belches like a trucker.

Carrie, on the other hand, doesn’t really scream or cry that often. She’s more of a fusser, kind of like Sam was. If she’s not happy with her circumstances, she’ll give her own little cries, which are more of polite protests than anything else, but will immediately stop once things stop being weird. She’s far more interested in looking around and taking in the world around her, as much of it as she can see. When you hold her, her eyes just stay WIDE wide open and drink in everything, especially you.

She vacillates with how she does on feedings, and her feedings have a lot more variety than Isaac’s. Sometimes, she’ll just sip at 25 ml and be done; other times, she’ll chug 45 ml before you know what happened. She’s not a belcher, nor often a burper, which gets frustrating at feeding time, because you need her to burp in order to make room for more food, but nope. She prefers to just look up at you and will actually use what little neck strength she has to pick up her head and turn it to face you if it’s not already doing so (e.g., when you’re holding her forward and getting her to burp). And when the nurse can’t get her to eat anymore and I can’t get her to eat anymore, it seems to help a great deal when we get Kyle on the phone. She’s a daddy’s girl already.

They’re both such delights, honestly, and leaving them is the worst part of the day, even when you know that it’s just another day closer to when they’ll come home. When it’s time to leave, I’ll have packed up their dirty clothes and picked up their diaper bag, and they’ll both be tucked sweetly back in their incubators. They have blankets from  home now, muslin ones, that I slept with one night so that they would be saturated with my scent (which sounds creepy and weird, but scent is pretty much the only reliable sense they have right now). They’ll both be asleep or mostly that way, but because they’re in the incubators, I can’t really touch them, so I tap the glass and tell them to be good and that I love them and that I’ll see them tomorrow.

And then I go, and I thank the nurses on the way out, and I make jokes even though part of me is staying behind. I press the silver buttons that let me out of the maternity ward, after I have one of the nurses validate my parking ticket, and I ride home with Kyle because I can’t drive yet.

And sometimes, like yesterday, I go home and I cry and I cry and I cry because I know they’ll be home soon, but goddamnit, soon isn’t now, and I’m very childish and temperamental when it comes to having all of my babies under one roof and within easy access of my arms.

Rumor has it, though, that we’re just a few days out. Rumor has it that Isaac is getting off the monitors, and that afterwards, he and Carrie can both try sleeping in cribs instead of incubators. Rumor has it that we need to bring their car seats in for a car seat safety test (where the nurses make sure that they have the neck strength to not suffocate themselves in a car seat), and rumor has it that once they’re in cribs, it’s only another couple of days until they’re home with us.

And I really hope that rumor is true.

Arrival, Part 1: Actually Arriving

In retrospect, I could probably write a long blog entry about the signs of early labor I’d been dealing with for several weeks by the time I went into the hospital on the morning of Wednesday, March 14, because as it turns out, I’d been dismissing a lot of things that I shouldn’t have been: actual contractions, loose stools, pelvic pressure, the works. For as much as I fancy myself knowledgeable on topics of pregnancy, labor, and delivery, I actually was completely clueless when it came to recognizing that I’d been in early labor for several weeks.

BUT this is already going to be long, so I’ll just fast forward to Tuesday.

Tuesday, March 13, we had a nor’easter here in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. It was the third in less than three weeks, and everyone had a feeling of fatigue when the forecast called for a whole bunch of snow on top of the stuff we’d gotten the week before. Sam’s school was closed for the day, Kyle was working from home, and I was adamant that I absolutely would not go into labor that day.


Not that I had a lot of reason to believe I’d go into labor so early, of course. Despite my immense discomfort, my pregnancy had been smooth and healthy, and the twins were growing steadily enough. I itched like hell and was begging for my bile acid test to show that I had ICP so that I could start receiving treatment for it, and of course I had the aches and pains to be expected with carrying twins, but I had no reason to suspect that I’d be delivering them any earlier than overall vague guestimates of 36-38 weeks. I expected Easter babies, I expected several more weeks of misery, and I expected my body to listen when I demanded that it NOT go into labor in the middle of a snowstorm.

And, well, I didn’t, but I was uncomfortable. The discomfort was nothing new, but I just felt overall unwell, tired and full of malaise. Both were easy to chalk up to late pregnancy misery, but late pregnancy misery or no, I was relieved when it was finally time for bed.

I’ve mentioned before that falling asleep while so enormously pregnant is a difficult process, and on Tuesday night, it was no different. I rolled and I shifted, I stretched and I turned, and eventually, I fell asleep on my side, facing a gently snoring Kyle. And I’d been sleeping pretty well, too, until around 2:30 a.m. Kyle’s hand must have fallen from wherever it was resting as he slept, and it gently thwacked me in the belly, jolting me out of sleep (as even a gentle jolt against that belly is enough to shock me into consciousness). I sleepily berated him and then began the difficult task of walrusing myself out of bed to use the toilet.

Because when you’re that pregnant, you always need to use the toilet.

When I got back to bed, I settled down in my sleeping nest and was immediately greeted by hip-to-hip pelvic pain. It was pretty bad–a six or seven on a scale of 1-10.

a-better-pain-chart(per Allie Brosh’s fabulous chart, I saw Jesus coming for me)

Still, I dismissed it as round ligament pain for the most part. The entire team who’d cared for me throughout my pregnancy had warned that, especially when you’re carrying twins, round ligament pain can be excruciating. I’d just gotten up and shifted my position, which logically had shifted the twins’ position and thus the position of the pain. The fact that I managed to fall asleep within ten minutes seemed to further my conclusion that I wasn’t really in labor, that it was just regular aches and pains, that I’d be fine by morning.


Morning came as it always does. Sam woke Kyle up, and the two of them started to head downstairs in order to let me sleep a little longer (until 8:30; it was 7 at the time). The trouble was that I couldn’t fall back asleep because the pain was still there, just as bad as it had been at 2:30 in the morning. I shifted and rolled and tried to calm it down with positional changes, but it persisted. Still, I didn’t want to call it “labor” because it didn’t feel like contractions–the pain wasn’t coming in waves or intensifying and releasing. It didn’t take breaks; it just hurt. At that point, I thought I’d just really aggravated the muscles, but I still wanted to call a doctor, just to be sure.

So I called Kyle up. “Don’t start freaking out,” I told him, “but I’ve been cramping since 2:30 a.m., so I’m going to call the doctor if moving around, eating breakfast, and drinking water don’t help.”

To his credit, he kept his freak out internal as I shuffled downstairs and slowly ate breakfast. He got in touch with his boss and said that he might not be in that day. I gently urged Sam away from my lap and ate, still not noticing any ebbs and flows in pain like you’d expect from contractions, but instead noticing that the pain was lessening the longer I sat. Not lessening, however, were the number of Braxton Hicks contractions I started feeling.

Braxton Hicks contractions, for the uninitiated, are painless “practice” contractions the uterus goes through in the last several months of pregnancy. The uterus tightens and releases, but the contractions do nothing in terms of thinning or shortening the cervix, so these contractions don’t require medical attention. They’re annoying and can be pretty intense, but they’re not a sign of anything going awry.

And I was having them Wednesday morning, but they weren’t at regular intervals, and they certainly weren’t painful. Intense, yes: the way the muscles in my abdomen tightened left me entirely breathless and unable to do much until they relaxed. But painful? Not even close. It was like involuntarily trying to deconstipate or lift a heavy object; again, not painful, just a lot of effort.

I finished breakfast and excused myself from the living room, where Sam was pretty engaged with his movie (Moana, maybe? I was a little focused at that moment). I intended to sit at my computer and google my symptoms while calling the nurse line and making sure that my phone had some good labor playlists on it, which was one of my last checklist items. To my annoyance, my computer had decided to install updates overnight, so I watched it balefully while chatting with the nurse line and coming up with a plan of action.

Initially, the on-call nurse suggested that I go to an appointment at their Westborough office to get checked out. Because the pain wasn’t strong and rhythmic, she said, it didn’t sound like labor, so a quick appointment would probably help me figure out what it was and end with me going home to rest and drink water. She’d talk with the physician assistant on call to make sure, but she said it just sounded like I needed a quick once-over and that I’d be fine. My appointment would be at 9 a.m.

I got up and started pulling myself together, texting my mother to ask if she could watch Sam for a little bit, telling Kyle that he should probably hold off on going to work for at least the morning, and planning to just drive myself the half hour to Westborough and get checked out on my lonesome. Five minutes later, the nurse called back after speaking with the physician assistant. “She thinks you should go straight to labor and delivery,” the nurse explained. “It’s probably nothing, but since you’re expecting twins and since you’re 34 weeks along, she just would rather have you there, just in case.”

Alright, cool. I got off the phone and told Kyle and my mother (over the phone in a different conversation) of the change in plans. We’d drop Sam off at my mother’s house on our way to the hospital, in Framingham, and then pick him up later today or tonight, depending on how long they took to monitor Isaac and send us home. “Just in case,” I gave Kyle a list of things to pack in a labor bag, like our chargers and a bathrobe for me and so on. I went to help get Sam get dressed.

Five minutes later, the phone rang again. This time, it was the doctor at the hospital where we’d planned to deliver. “How far are you from here?” she asked. “Because the roads aren’t great, and if this is an emergency, we don’t want you to have to travel far. I see that you have two hospitals closer, Saint Vincent’s and Memorial. Saint Vincent’s is actually our affiliate, so why don’t you go there?”

COOL. I told Kyle about the new change in plans, passed the information along to my mom, and bundled everyone up in the car. I kept my phone in my hand, just in case they called again, and we sped along the highway for the ten minute drive between our house and Saint Vincent’s.

(you may wonder why we weren’t going there in the first place, and in fact, I had Sam at Saint Vincent’s, and it was a great experience. This time, I’d been more interested in following my OB-GYN, even though it meant a longer drive to an unfamiliar hospital, so heading to Saint Vincent’s again was… off-book, to say the least)

My mom met us up at registration, where the Braxton Hicks contractions hadn’t really let up and were keeping me from concentrating on the questions at hand: things like emergency contacts, insurance, and so on. We hadn’t planned to deliver at this hospital, so we weren’t preregistered or anything, and every question and signature only served to make me appreciate the preregistration process more. After what seemed like hours of paperwork, but was really only a few minutes, the registrar set me free and found me a wheelchair, which Sam desperately wanted to ride in. We denied him this and instead distracted him with the fancy glass elevator between floors.

Once off the elevator, our motley crew wheeled through the hospital’s grand atrium (complete with birds, trees, and a working waterfall) until we reached the Center for Women and Infants. Our party split there–Sam and my mom went to the waiting room while Kyle and I continued on to one of the labor and delivery suites, the one in the farthest corner of the hall.

The room itself embodied the unsettling sort of Lovecraftian aesthetic that’s so familiar in our part of the state, for better or for worse. The walls had a sort of mauve-and-seafoam Victorian border against beige “texture,” broken up only by a large picture of babies in hats. Jesus stared down at us from a silver crucifix–after all, it’s a Catholic hospital–and something about the decor gave the flavor of a turn-of-the-20th-century asylum more than anything else. The view of bricks and snow and the grey light from outside the frosted window only added to the eeriness, and I laughed with Kyle at the sight. Wouldn’t it be funny if I really was in labor and this was the where of it all?



Every trip to labor and delivery begins the same way. Once you’ve been admitted, the nurses send you into the bathroom, where you pee into a cup, take off all your clothes, and change into a gown that is in no way large enough to cover you. You’re lucky if it ties at all, enormous belly considered. You’re also lucky if they remember to give you a plastic baggie of slipper socks (I was not lucky on Wednesday, at least not to start). Once this is all done, the nurses return to you and place monitors the size of whoopie pies all over your belly to monitor your kids and your contractions. This is uncomfortable, but definitely not the most uncomfortable experience of the day.

It’s even more uncomfortable when you have one twin who is just completely disinterested in being monitored ever, ISAAC.

The nurses found him eventually, though, and I explained my situation to about 50 people coming in and out of my room to do various things–take my blood pressure, give me an IV, ask me what was going on, ask me how far along I was, introduce themselves as Nancy (I had three Nancys helping me at one point). At length, the nurse midwife on call came in, introduced herself, and performed a pelvic exam, which felt like the fist of God. I figured this would be the thing to send me home–that she’d have reached up into my tonsils and come down with the conclusion that I wasn’t dilated at all, that I just needed to poop, and that I could go home.

As I writhed on the bed and grimaced and Kyle watched me and eventually remarked, “That didn’t look like fun,” the midwife hummed and finally withdrew her hand. “You’re about 60% effaced and at a -1 station, and you’re also about 4 cm dilated.”


And now, a lesson on dilation, effacement, and labor.

In labor, the muscles on the sides of your uterus contract to thin out, or efface, your cervix while simultaneously opening, or dilating, your cervix. The goal is to reach 100% effacement and 10 cm dilated, which can take anywhere from hours to weeks. Over the course of this process, your muscles also ease your baby, or babies, into the birth canal–their station is a determination of how close they are to birth, with -5 being “nowhere near the birth canal” and +5 being “actively being born.”

Dilation is the number most people are familiar with, and it’s also the number doctors use to determine whether or not you’re in active labor. Most won’t send you home once you’re past 4 cm dilated, and suddenly, there I was, having no idea that I’d been dilating at all and being told that this, this was it. I was 4 cm dilated, and because of the twins’ gestational age, they weren’t going to do anything to stop it. I was having two babies, and I was having two babies on that day, Wednesday, March 14.

This is, I believe, the third time during this pregnancy that a surprise revelation has caused me to say, very loudly, “Holy shit!”

Knowing that I was in active labor, everyone picked up the pace. I got a bag of fluids to start my IV adventure, and the doctor on call wheeled an ultrasound machine into the room to double check Isaac and Carrie’s positions, the latter of whom remained breech. The midwife also came back to do my test for Group B Strep, which I’d not had done yet because, again, 34 weeks pregnant. Nobody really expected me to go so soon. While I was being poked and prodded and having my dignity slowly removed (it’s kind of a burlesque routine), Kyle took charge of calling and texting everyone to let them know that hey, babies were coming TODAY, surprise!

Partway through the tests, the doctor came into the room with me and sat down next to my legs on the bed. “So we have a few options here,” she said. I liked her a lot from the get-go; she was young, with a broad smile and the most gorgeous dreds I’ve seen in my life, dyed a golden ombre. She also had the matter-of-fact attitude that I appreciate about doctors, and a sense of humor about the whole thing. “Because Baby B is breech, we normally wouldn’t be able to give you much–you’d have to delivery by Caesarian. We do have a doctor here today, though, who specializes in breech deliveries. So we could let you labor through and try to deliver Baby B breech. We could also have you labor through and then attempt an external cephalic version after Baby A is born–that would just mean me pushing on your stomach to try and get Baby B to turn head-down for delivery. There’s no guarantee either of those would work, and in both cases, that would mean a C-section. You also have the option of just going for the C-section from the get-go. It’s all in your hands; whatever you want to do, we’ll support you, because the babies are both healthy and responsive, and you’re young and healthy as well.”

This was objectively refreshing. There are a lot of stories around the internet as a whole telling of forced C-sections, cascades of interventions, and painting doctors as pushing women into unnecessary C-sections for a variety of reasons, depending on how conspiracy theory you want to go with these things (liability, money, the Illuminati told them to, etc.). And I’m not saying that sort of thing never happens; I’m sure it happens plenty and in plenty of places around the country.

But. Having a C-section presented as my choice, having it be my choice, was really refreshing amidst those stories. It set the tone for the entire experience: even though a C-section is a situation in which you literally have no control over a lot of things, the medical team made sure I had control over this one thing, and that helped so much.

So I chose the C-section. I love delivering vaginally; it’s a huge rush, and I’m damn good at it. With Sam, it took me all of 45 minutes of pushing and he was out and home free. I know I could probably do a breech delivery, especially of a pre-term baby, and I know that I could cope with the discomfort of a version if I had to. But all that said, the idea of going through all of that, of laboring and laboring and trying these methods and having one fail and needing a C-section anyway? I hated it. A C-section was never my ideal, but in that moment, I knew it was the right choice for me, and I told the doctor as much.

And thus the prep began.

My C-section was tentatively scheduled for somewhere between 2 and 4 p.m., leaning closer to 4 p.m. so that (a) my breakfast would digest, and (b) the steroid shot given to help the twins’ lungs mature even a little bit more could take effect. A steady stream of people flowed in and out of my room, everyone doing something different, having me sign a different form, telling me details of a different facet of the procedure.

(Kyle sneaked out to get a slice of pizza and some coffee somewhere in there as well)

I got bags of antibiotics, both because of the surgery and because we didn’t know if I was positive for GBS or not. I got more fluids. I got another cervical check, confirming that I’d dilated to nearly 5 cm. I got a nice shave–of my bikini line. I got to meet Joe, the nurse anesthetist, who had me sign an entire book of papers. I signed that book of papers. I signed some more papers about surgical consent. I signed more papers about drug testing (standard procedure for preemies). I had a third cervical check, confirming I was at 5.5 cm.

Around 3:45, another nurse anesthetist (Nancy, not to be confused with Nancy the admitting nurse or Nancy the baby monitoring nurse) brought me a cocktail of drugs to stave off the nausea I’d normally have experienced with anesthesia. I choked down something impossibly bitter while another nurse gave Kyle his own set of scrubs, complete with hat and booties. Another nurse rolled a pair of slipper socks onto my feet, and another wrapped a sheet around my shoulders like a robe. I heard another woman give birth across the hall, and I applauded, though I don’t think she heard me.

Nancy the Nurse Anesthetist and another nurse (possibly also another Nancy, I lost track) served as my escorts as we left the labor and delivery room and made our way down the hall to the operating room. I’ve been in my fair share of operating rooms before, especially considering my history with IVF, but this one came as a pleasant surprise to me. Sure, the table and room overall were cold and sterile, but something about the two radiant warmers set up and covered with blankets settled my nerves. They seemed to say, nothing bad will happen here today. Today, this room is a room of life.

At Nancy the Nurse Anesthetist’s instructions, I heaved my walrus body up onto the operating table, my butt as far back as I could manage without actually falling off (wouldn’t that have been an adventure?). Once I’d settled, she introduced me to Sergei, another anesthesiologist, who would be monitoring me. Sergei’s job, at that point, was to keep me from moving or being too uncomfortable as Nancy gave me my spinal block, a sort of epidural on steroids that essentially turned off my entire body below my stomach. Sergei didn’t completely succeed: the spinal block still briefly felt like someone driving knuckles into my vertebrae, but at length, a warm sensation flooded down through my back and legs, and I felt insanely dizzy. Sergei and Nancy lowered me onto the table, and my legs disappeared from existence.

Well. That’s not true. I felt my legs. I felt my entire lower body. It just felt like instead of existing as things that could be moved on their own or used, they were all wrapped in a heavy blanket, warm and comfortable. The weird part was that I couldn’t move my legs or wiggle my toes, no matter how hard I tried. A lot of people would logically find this weird or frightening; I thought it was hilarious that I was putting so much brain effort into something so simple, mostly because I knew it was temporary.

Anyway. I couldn’t wiggle my toes, and soon, I couldn’t see anything below my chin, as the medical staff placed a huge blue sheet so close to my face that I kept inhaling it. Nancy the Nurse Anesthetist clucked her tongue at this. “I always tell them to put it a little farther down; it doesn’t need to be in your mouth,” she scolded nobody, moving the sheet away from my mouth. Meanwhile, below the sheet, someone remarked to me, “Abigail, this is going to feel like sandpaper, alright?” And then I felt no sandpaper, just someone rubbing my belly a lot. The rubbing didn’t stop and eventually turned into more of a rocking as my doctor arrived.

“Are you going to pinch me to make sure I can’t feel anything?” I asked nobody in particular, remembering what I’d seen in educational videos on C-sections. My doctor smiled at me over my sheet; or I assume she smiled, because she was wearing a mask.

“I have been,” she assured me before returning to her work. A moment later, Kyle came in, though I couldn’t really see him because of his placement and my position. Still, I gave him a cheerful smile.

“Hi honey!” I said. “I can’t feel my feet!”

“I saw your guts!” he answered in as cheerful a tone. “They’re yellow!”

Because, as it turned out, they’d already begun the surgery before he came in. I was mildly disappointed–he’d brought my phone with him so that I could play my C-section playlist, which started with Weird Al’s “Like a Surgeon”–but hey, it meant he got to see my guts. That’s a privilege not many people have experienced.

(and as he said saccharinely later that night: “Now I can say with all honesty that I love you from the inside out.”)

Someone warned me of pressure and tugging, but I didn’t feel anything different, and then before I knew what was happening, I heard a cry: angry and small and demanding to be heard. “Isaac,” Kyle confirmed, and I started to choke up.


“He’s crying,” I said. Hearing your baby cry right when they’re born is such a relief, especially if that baby is being born early. Crying means breathing. Crying means that air is coming into and going out of their lungs. Crying means that, even if just for this moment, your baby is alright.

And Isaac was crying.

And before I could get over that emotion, I heard another cry, this one an angry kitten. “Carrie,” said Kyle, and I cried again. Carrie’s warmer was within my field of vision, and I watched a half dozen nurses surround her, rub her, and start to care for her.


I couldn’t look away, even though my neck started protesting the position after only a few minutes. I didn’t know or care what was happening below the blue sheet. I didn’t mind at all that my upper abdomen was being used as a repository for tubs and tools and the like. I just wanted to see my babies and see that they were alright. Someone placed a mask over Carrie’s face, and I knew that she was receiving oxygen, and that was good. The doctor poked her smiling head over the sheet again. “We’re about 75% done with you, alright? You did a great job, just hang in there.”

And then came the twins, Isaac first and then Carrie, both bundled up in blankets and hats, both amazingly pink, even pinker than Sam had been when he was born. I kissed them both on the cheek, touched their soft skin, told them I was there and that it would be alright. And then they were gone, off to the nursery, and Kyle and I sat in the OR and waited for my stitches to be complete.

“You did a great job,” everyone kept saying, and I wanted to laugh. A great job at what, lying immobile on a table? If I’d known that was all I had to do to get such high praise, I’d have started inviting observers to my naps a long time ago.

They took the blue sheet down, and I could see the doctor fully now; she was spattered with blood, but she looked pleased. “Everything went really well,” she said. “Great job, mama. Those are some really healthy babies, especially for their size and age.”

A handful of nurses concurred. One said that the twins had the healthiest umbilical cords they’d ever seen: “so thick and coiled and full of nutrients. Good job mama!” I thanked them for this, though again, I had NO idea what I might have done to construct such awesome umbilical cords. I still don’t know what I did, but if I ever find out, I’m 100% going to market it and get super rich in a Gwyneth Paltrow GOOPy sort of way. Shoot, I might just pretend that I know what I did and market it anyway, like maybe I’ll say that it was because I ate so many Milano cookies and I’ll sign a deal with Pepperidge Farm and everyone will buy Milanos because (a) delicious and (b) really healthy umbilical cords!


The nurses rolled me out shortly thereafter, and Kyle trailed along behind on the path back to our eerie room, where I took my first steps of recovery and we started to learn how the twins were doing.

But that is another blog entry altogether.

Concerning Boobies

So I’m going to write about boobs, specifically about breastfeeding. If you’re weirded out by that, (a) might be good to talk to someone about why breastfeeding weirds you out; and (b) you may want to skip this blog.


I’ve always been on the Bigger Boobs side of things when it comes to my own development. For a long time, I still fit into the “big but can still shop at Victoria’s Secret” category, a category that ends with the letter D; but weight gain and eventually pregnancy showed me a whole new set of letters to describe my chest flesh. At the moment, I’m squeezed into an older bra that’s a bit too small for my “pregnant with twins, what’s your excuse?” chest because I really don’t want to get measured and refitted when I’ve still got a while to go yet in this pregnancy.

People talk a good game about wanting gazongas like mine, but they aren’t fun. On the most pragmatic scale of all, affordability, they’re a nightmare. Some maternity stores do go up to my size for cheap(ish), but if I really want to wear something that’s cuter than beige, I have to go online to find it, and it always costs ~$50-60, which is why I own three bras and three bras only. Objectively cuter bras that exist to make me feel good about myself don’t really come in my size, or if they do, they don’t come easily (though I will say that once the twins are born, I’m totally getting a galaxy bra from Torrid and you can’t stop me).

Less pragmatically, my back hurts. A lot. Contrary to what animes would have you believe, big boobs do not function like helium balloons. They consist of fat and sinuses and chest flesh and thus actually weigh something, and that weight must be supported by something, namely your back muscles. Consequently, I’ve noticed that since I went from my high school size of “appropriate” to my postpartum size of “even turtlenecks give me cleavage,” my upper back hurts a lot more. It’s not excruciating, but it’s enough that, when lying in bed at the end of the day, I pray for the funds to get a breast reduction sooner rather than later so that I don’t develop a hunchback before I’m 40.

(no offense Quasimodo)

Now, you’d think with these gazongas, I’d be an enthusiastic heifer, udderly producing way too much milk for one baby, let alone two.

And you would be wrong.

I felt encouraged in this direction towards the end of my pregnancy with Sam. Nobody mentions this, but you leak a lot the further along your pregnancy gets, and I kept developing stains on my favorite shirts and bras (which were more numerous then). It was frustrating, but I felt like it was a good sign: if I’m producing enough to leak right now, I’ll surely be a dairy farm for this kid, and we’ll never have to spend a cent on formula.


Fast forward to Sam’s birthday, the day of his actual birth. After 45 minutes of pushing, the nurses lifted my child with his enormous head and baby slime to my chest, and it was time to breastfeed for the first time. This practice is encouraged for understandable reasons: breastfeeding causes your body to release oxytocin, which causes your uterus to contract, which helps expel the placenta and slow your bleeding. If, for whatever reason, you can’t breastfeed or your uterus isn’t contracting, you’ll get a dose of synthetic oxytocin (known as pitocin) to speed the process along and hopefully prevent your delivery room from turning into that scene from The Shining.


So anyway, I tried to breastfeed. I’d read all the videos, knew all the tips, and figured it couldn’t be that difficult. I held my boy tenderly against me and gently guided my huge freaking gazonga titty towards his face and his face towards the huge freaking gazonga titty. For about half a second, he put in a valiant effort of latching onto the bulbous orb that was suddenly coming towards him… but then that second ended and he decided that no, he did not want the orb.

In the moment, it wasn’t a big deal. I was still on an IV that gave me a steady drip of pitocin because of my induction. The placenta came out, and I didn’t die of too much bleeding, and Sam and I had those moments of bonding together–albeit minus the breastfeeding.

But it’s cool, it’s cool, I told myself. I’ve been in labor for 24 hours, Sam is brand new to breathing, we’ll just keep trying until we get it.

Back in those days, hospitals didn’t really go for the baby-friendly hospital movement thing, so we had the option to let Sam spend the night in the nursery and get some sleep. Exhausted from having been pregnant for what felt like 18 years and going through 24 hours of labor without having slept at all in the 36 hours beforehand, I gladly took advantage of this program. The nurses fed Sam formula while I slept and recovered, about six hours a night.


During the day, we worked on breastfeeding. A steady stream of lactation consultants came in with various tools to help Sam realize that breastfeeding was awesome, but nothing doing. Our most elaborate attempt involved a syringe with a long tube attached that went into Sam’s mouth at the same time as my boob. The idea was that he theoretically wasn’t getting into breastfeeding because my boob wasn’t producing immediate results, which I still think is true, but the syringe didn’t help with that at all. Sam just got angry when the syringe stopped and screamed instead of trying harder, a strategy I can definitely relate to.

But we went home, and I tried to put Sam on the boob every time he needed food. These sessions were, to put it gently, miserable. They lasted at least an hour and a half apiece and needed to start all over again when they ended.

See. First, I’d put Sam on the boob with the mindset of “maybe he’ll get it this time.” Breastfeeding involves a LOT of moving parts, and trying to get your infant to understand which moving parts are which is an exercise in having the patience of a saint and the stamina of a tank. And I did everything the lactation consultants suggested. I used the syringe. I avoided pacifiers at the very start and used breast-shaped bottles to avoid “nipple confusion.” I massaged and focused and switched boobs and did what I could, but even after 45 minutes of wrestling, Sam was screaming with hunger and I was exhausted.

But we still weren’t done, or well. I wasn’t done.

For the first couple of weeks, I had Kyle with me to help, since he had a week of paid paternity leave and then worked from home, returning to work in gradual steps. He would go and mix up a bottle of formula for us, and I’d get out the pump. Breast pumps are kind of weird machines, and it’s impossible to use one and NOT feel like you’ve devolved into some sort of human-bovine hybrid. Even with the most modern and discreet models, you’re being milked, and there’s no way for that to NOT be awkward.

(sorry to shatter any illusions; it’s exactly like this)

So Kyle would take Sam and sit on the couch with pillows and give Sam a bottle so that the poor child would stop being so hungry. I would get myself hooked up to the milk machine, which was… an adventure, to say the least. I’m not sure if it’s easier for people whose breasts don’t fall into the huge freaking gazongas category, but getting everything aligned properly was always a Process for me. After that, I’d sit and pump for a total of 45 minutes, half on the left and half on the right. I couldn’t do anything else during these pumping sessions, because I had to hold the cups in place or else they’d just be trying to milk air, and that’s not very good. And the end product was always roughly 15 drops of milk–a generous amount for, say, a pet mouse, but not very useful for keeping a child alive.

It was exhausting. And by the time I was done pumping and Sam was done eating, we’d have a reprieve of maybe half an hour before it was time again.

I hated it.

What’s more, I hated myself for hating it. Breastfeeding, feeding in general, was supposed to be this wonderful bonding time with the two of us, but I dreaded the very thought. The best part for me was when Kyle would give Sam back to me, after all the pumping and eating and wrestling and angst, and my baby boy would curl up against me and fall asleep to the sound of my heartbeat. The worst part was literally everything else about it. I was miserable.

If I’m honest, the beginning of the end came about 3 days after Sam was born. Maybe four. Our hospital had a policy that if you left before the 48 hours you were allowed to stay following your child’s birth were up, you could have a nurse visit you at home. Sam was born at around 5:45 p.m., which gave us a solid two nights in the hospital, and we didn’t want to deal with rush hour traffic on the ride home, so we left a good four hours before we had to… and two days later, the nurse came.

She brought a scale with her and blood pressure monitors and all sorts of portable tools to measure Sam and measure me and make sure that we weren’t secretly dying. Sam went first; she took his blood pressure, checked out his jaundice (a lot of babies are jaundiced when born, but most end up better after getting some sunlight), and then weighed him. “That’s really impressive!” she remarked. “He’s gained back all of the weight he lost after birth. He’s back to his birth weight. Whatever you’re doing to keep him growing like this, keep it up!”

The remarks were both flattering and embarrassing. We were about 50/50 formula and breast-wrestling at that point, and even Sam’s pediatrician said at the one week mark, “If you want to start starving him a little so that he’ll take to the boob easier, he’s got more than enough weight on him.” But for my own sanity, I couldn’t do that, knowing what it took to get him to even breastfeed for a solid ten minutes.

I don’t remember the specific day I decided to quit breastfeeding entirely, only that Kyle was there and asked if I even wanted to try to put Sam on the boob. And I took a deep breath and I said, “You know what, I think I don’t. Let’s just give him formula.” The breast pump parts started to gather dust, and although my ginormous freaking gazongas still leaked like a haunted faucet (leading to at least one incident of which Kyle has said he learned a valuable lesson about not honking your wife’s boob affectionately while she’s lactating), things started to look up.

Sam kept up his pace of growth, and he was a much happier baby now that he was able to actually eat and not have to deal with having a boob thrust in his face whenever he got hungry. Kyle and I were actually able to function better as well, especially once we discovered various charts describing how much formula we could give Sam based on how big he was and how long we wanted to go between feedings. We were able to take shifts at night, so we both got about six hours of sleep, which wasn’t great but was a huge improvement over the three we’d been getting before.


And, blissfully, Sam started sleeping through the night around three months old. That night is burned into my brain: Kyle and I both decided to crash around 10 p.m., and when Sam woke us up fussing at 5 a.m., we both looked at each other and asked, “Did you get up last night? No, did you?” And then came the realization of what had transpired and life was good.

Four years later, and Sam’s a healthy, happy kid whom his teachers describe as “scary smart.” He is absolutely average in terms of height and weight, and aside from a bout with ear infections well after I would have weaned him anyway, he’s been fantastic all along. I have zero regrets.

And I could go into all of the other things that contributed to the zero regrets: how I had to have gallbladder surgery when he was three months old, how I started antidepressants shortly after that, how scientifically speaking, babies who are formula fed and babies who are breastfed have negligible differences, but… why? What matters here was that breastfeeding was making us both miserable, and everyone was much happier when we stopped.

It’s all making me lean towards not breastfeeding the twins, which is a horrifying prospect when you consider the cost of formula for two babies, but at the same time…

Well, I look at my boobs. They’re still enormous. They could have their own gravitational pulls. I look at how hard it was to convince Sam to even try the boob and imagine doing that, with all its moving parts, for two babies. I look at Kyle and Sam, with their incredible bond that I don’t believe would be nearly as strong if Kyle hadn’t been able to be so involved with Sam’s care in those early days. I look at the almost certain chaos of those early days with two newborns instead of one.

And then I go to the store and buy a dozen more bottles (20% off at Babies R Us!) and say, you know, I think they’ll be alright.

In your head

If I’m being completely honest, I don’t remember hearing about it. It wasn’t an event like 9/11, where the shock and growing horror you feel as you watch events unfold in real time burn everything about that moment into your memory: where you were, what you were doing, what happened before and after, how you felt.

It was the spring of 1999, and I was a sophomore in high school, watching all of my friends who were born earlier in the year getting their learners’ permits and getting our first tastes of that irresponsible freedom that comes with being a teenager. I used to tell my mom that people called them “LPs” for short, but nobody called them that, learners’ permits, I mean. And anyway, I wasn’t really focused on world events at that point in time, except for when I had to be, like in AP U.S. History.

Most of my attention was focused all over the place, because I was a very busy high school sophomore, fifteen and not-quite-sixteen. I had a pretty big supporting role in the school musical that year (stepmother in Cinderella), I had a boyfriend who was in college (automatic cool points and elimination of dating as a distraction in anything ever), I sat state standardized tests (the MCAS exam, which is highly mockable and always has been), I was miserably failing Algebra II, life was busy overall.

I wasn’t thinking at all, of course, about school shootings.

They were on everyone’s radar, sort of, not like they really are today. We all knew about Paducah, we all knew vaguely that this was a Thing That Happened, but it wasn’t something that anyone thought about. School shootings seemed like flukes, like something you’d say “damn that was crazy!” about but then move on with your life, assuming that the perpetrator was bullied or had some sort of vendetta or something.

Somehow, Columbine changed that.

I don’t really remember hearing about it, but I remember the impacts. Not long after Columbine, we had something that was like 50% fire drill but really more of a school shooter drill. This was before you had lockdown practices, of course, because we thought it was a fluke. We all wandered aimlessly out of the buildings, accompanied by our teachers, and hung out on the front lawn until we got the all-clear. It may have been a real threat; I heard rumors that someone had left notes somewhere about shooting up the school, bombing the school, but nobody was really scared by it. Columbine was a fluke, after all.

I remember about six sprillion 20/20 esque programs dedicated to Why This Happened, and everyone had a different thought process. Violent video games! Bullying! The goth subculture! And therefore Satanism (Satanic Panic 2.0?)! Marilyn Manson! Trenchcoats (I’m not kidding)! My boyfriend at the time wore a trenchcoat like it was his job and played Resident Evil almost religiously, so I got a kick out of those theories. I think the newspeople eventually settled on bullying as The Reason, and after that, everything faded… but then later research revealed that the perpetrators were actually more often the bullies than the bullied, so that’s probably not it.

I remember the weird capitalization on certain victims’ lives and deaths. Cassie Bernall was the big one. The story went that she was asked, “Do you believe in God?” and said yes before being murdered. It was a great narrative from a Christian perspective; it turned her into a martyr of sorts, ostensibly killed because she said yes (which was the name of the book her parents wrote about her). Christian recording artists wrote songs about the incident, it was this great wonder and beautiful tragedy and… it didn’t even happen. Students who were with Cassie when she died reported that the shooter only said, “Peek-a-boo!” before murdering her.

But it was still some good music.

And it kind of… went away. Not completely, of course, and certainly not for the victims and their loved ones, but school shootings just anywhere near as common back then as they are now. Oh, they happened. Thirteen shootings happened between Columbine and my graduation from high school two years later. That seems like a lot, but then you realize that 2018 is so far 46 days old and there have already been 18 school shooting-style incidents, and suddenly, 13 over two years doesn’t seem as high of a number.

Next year, it will have been 20 years since Columbine. A lot has changed since then. The weirdest thing to me is that if you go to certain places on the internet, you’ll find pockets of people who are huge fans of the Columbine shooters. I don’t mean assholes who say, “Man, I wish I could shoot up a school!” I mean people who look at the shooters, say they were well within their rights to massacre people or that they did nothing wrong, coo over how attractive they were, and so on and so forth.

It’s… strange.


I always talk to Kyle about meta-fears I have for our kid(s). I call them meta-fears because the likelihood of them ever happening is statistically small, but as a parent, you still sometimes lie awake at night and wonder, “but what if…?” But they’re fears that you have to put on the back burner because if you let them, you’ll become irrational and incapable of functioning because they’re fears of such HUGE things that you have so little control over.

Meta-fears are things like “what if some random person grabs my kid off the street?” Statistically, this isn’t very likely to happen. The vast majority of kidnappings are perpetrated by members of the victim’s family, and while you have some pretty famous stories where that was not the case, they’re famous because they’re so rare. So you hold your kid’s hand and watch them when you’re out of the house, but you can’t let this fear consume you or else you’ll end up locking your kid in a tower, growing out their hair to about 70 feet, and only visiting them on weekends and bank holidays.

Things like “what if my kid gets cancer?” Statistically, this isn’t very likely to happen, even though we all know someone or know someone who knows someone whose kid got cancer. We’ve all contributed to fundraisers and all watched hashtags. One of the towns around here had a big rally for a kid that had one of the worst forms of childhood cancer, DIPG. Their hashtag was #whynotdevin, and it was HUGE around here. And it was heartbreaking, and of course, it made me wonder in my parental way, what if Sam contracted DIPG? 100% fatal, a disease that deteriorates who you are, and the only thing you can do is try and make your kid comfortable until they slip away in less than a year. It’s ridiculously rare (200 cases a year worldwide kind of rare), and you theoretically worry, but you have to put it on the back burner or you’re going to end up losing your mind because it’s not something you can predict or protect against.

Things like “what if this plane we’re on crashes?” Things like “what if there’s a drunk driver?” Things like “what if an asteroid crashes through our roof spontaneously?” Things like “what if nuclear war?”

Things like “what if my child’s school gets shot up?”

This wasn’t a worry when I was a kid. We had fire drills, of course, and those were usually pretty chill. One time, we had a fire drill while we were watching a video about volcanoes, and everybody thought that was hilarious. Another time, some kids brought a ouija board to recess and apparently, the ~spirits~ told them that the school would burn down that afternoon, and when we had a fire drill that afternoon, they all freaked out and that was also hilarious.

But it’s a worry now.

One of the things I’ve had the hardest time reading lately is the swath of accounts from teachers, telling the world who’s never experienced such a thing what it’s like to have a lockdown drill. They talk about kids not knowing it’s a drill, big and tough kids bursting into tears of absolute terror when the assistant principal rattles the doorknob to make sure it’s locked. They talk about teachers not knowing it’s a drill and screaming at their students in a panic, telling them to be quiet and stop talking and giggling, because if there is an active shooter, their silence could be their lifeline.

Fearing that your child’s school could be shot up should be a statistically rare meta-fear, like cancer or a plane crash or nuclear war. It should be something that you can just put in the back of your mind and worry about that bridge if you ever come to it, but it’s not.

Lockdown drills are pretty standard across the board nowadays. I don’t know if our town’s schools do them, or how early they start, but I imagine that they do and that they start very early. It adds a new layer to the meta-fear. It adds a thousand new layers to the meta-fear. I imagine, without wanting to, my sweet little boy with big hazel eyes and blonde hair having to hide in a closet behind locked doors. I imagine him being so terrified that he can’t fall asleep for weeks. Worse, I imagine him having a hard time comprehending what’s going on, being the loud and silly voice, and it not being a drill, and suddenly, I’m planning a funeral for my first baby.

I don’t want to imagine this. I don’t want this to be a fear that we have to take logical preventative measures about, like choking hazards and SIDS and batteries in smoke alarms and car seats.

But here we are.


Of course I have opinions about the whole thing. Anyone who’s known me for more than five minutes knows what those opinions are, but I’m not throwing them out here because I don’t want to attract That Crowd, if you know what I mean. I’m also not throwing them out here because I don’t want to sit around and debate and throw statistics back and forth and scream ceaselessly into the void at a group of people who just will. not. care.

I do want to scream into the void. But I’m tired.

So instead, I take a deep breath. I take comfort in the people I love. I hug Sam extra tight, even when he’s spent the entire day being a little shit (true story: this blog was initially going to be about the emotional weirdness of being angry with a toddler over something they don’t know any better, and it was going to be about poop). I listen to the Cranberries singing, “But you see, it’s not me, it’s not my family,” and wonder what happens to That Crowd when it is their family.

Sorry about the lack of entertaining or diverting gifs; they seemed inappropriate.

It’s been a week…

Today is Sunday, a nice calm Sunday. It’s pouring rain outside, and that combined with the melting snow has made for some soupy lawn shenanigans and a kind of dreary view. But it’s peaceful and calm, and honestly, after this week, I need a nice, peaceful, calm day.

(side note: I totally wrote this last night and it’s so long that I couldn’t finish it until today, oops)

Not that this week was wholly bad, mind you. It was actually really good on a lot of levels! Just… it was one of those weeks where everything happened so much, and by the time I crashed last night, I was relieved to put a pin in it and just enjoy the good memories and the knowledge that next week will be just as crazy (but still in good ways).

Last Sunday, I guess some superb owls were around? I don’t know. We mostly spent the day either at the supermarket or at Target or home. I was craving some chips of any kind, but the superb owls had made off with most of them, which was a little depressing, but not the end of the world.


And even Monday was a calm day. Sam and I followed his usual routine, playing all morning while checking in with his favorite TV shows (Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and My Little Pony, for those keeping track at home), a nice lunch (which he devoured enthusiastically thanks to the promise of dessert cookies), calm naptime and a bit of screen time before an evening filled with him enthusiastically waiting for Kyle to get home. And then Sam went to bed after dinner, Kyle and I relaxed apart and together, and Monday was a wholly normal day.

Tuesday was not.

Tuesday, I had some testing to do–specifically the dreaded three-hour glucose test.


The glucose tests are for the sake of seeing if you have gestational diabetes. As pregnancy complications go, GD isn’t really high on the scale of freaking out. It’s not nothing, and you do have to keep an eye on it, as it can cause plenty of complications (especially later on), but compared to, say, preeclampsia, it’s relatively meh; and the testing for it is probably the biggest nuisance of the entire situation.

When I was pregnant with Sam, there were potentially two GD tests I could wind up taking–the one-hour and the three-hour. The one-hour was the first and was more of a screening. For that test, I had to fast the 12 hours beforehand, get my blood drawn, drink the second-most god-awful sugary drink in the history of the world in under five minutes, wait an hour, and then get my blood drawn again. The drink was awful, but the orange flavor helped… it tasted kind of like a melted popsicle with a weird aftertaste, and while that’s not a good flavor, it wasn’t horrendous. After that one-hour test, I went out for breakfast with Kat and my mom, and life was grand.

And I passed, so I got to skip the three hour test.


This time around, they’d changed the screening protocol. You used to need to fast before the screening, but this time around, they told me to go ahead and eat breakfast, whatever, it doesn’t matter. I still had to drink the gross drink (it’s called Glucola, by the way, and this time it was fruit punch flavored, but really, it tasted like if NyQuil tasted worse) and wait the hour, but they didn’t take my blood beforehand, so the whole thing seemed… kind of screwy, to be honest. Without a controlled test environment, how was the test supposed to tell anyone anything except that if you chug a bunch of soda immediately after breakfast, you’ll have high glucose levels? I’m no scientist, but I’m pretty sure that experiments work best if you have controls in place, so why would they do any sort of testing this way? You don’t know what I had for breakfast. I may have had a completely carb-and-glucose free meal, or I may have chowed down on some chocolate cake. How is that supposed to tell anyone anything?

Which is all to say that I did not pass this time because I ate breakfast.

I figured that the breakfast was the reason, but I still worried, what if it wasn’t? Gestational diabetes is more common in people who were obese before getting pregnant (hi) and people who are carrying multiples (hi). The potential complications of GD weren’t something that worried me too much–with treatment, the likelihood of really nasty complications developing isn’t very high. On the other hand, the treatment made me nervous, since it mostly falls under the umbrella of “lifestyle changes.”

I’m entirely capable of making lifestyle changes; Kyle and I made some major lifestyle changes when we were trying to get pregnant with Sam. I know that, if I had to, I could cut out the carbs and the sugars and make it through the rest of pregnancy without issue… but I really didn’t want to. For one (comparatively minor) thing, my baby shower was coming up on Saturday (more on that in a bit), and I knew that my family had planned quite the spread, food-wise. Macaroni and cheese bakes, an ice cream cake, cupcakes to decorate, a cheese platter with delicious artisanal crackers, the works. I know I could technically still eat all of that if I had gestational diabetes, but not without paying for it, and that made me sad.

I also worried about the impact lifestyle changes would have on the family as a whole. Kyle promised that he’d join me in the dietary changes, but my big worry was Sam. Like most three-year-olds, he has a very… limited palate. He likes foods that are beige, the primary exceptions being chocolate, broccoli, pepperonis, and apples. Sometimes carrots, too. He doesn’t like meat of any kind, and attempts to change that with even the beigest of meats, the chicken nugget, have all been unsuccessful. He’s also thoroughly unbribeable unless you bribe him to do something he already wanted to do.

And, well. I could probably figure out a way to enjoy zoodles instead of noodles or many varieties of carb-free meals, but Sam?

So I went in nervous. The three-hour glucose test is a fasting test, so I went in hungry and very tired, had my first blood draw, and then chugged an 8 ounce bottle of even sweeter Glucola (for the one-hour test, you drink a mixture that’s got 50g of sugar; for the three-hour test, you drink a mixture that’s got 100g of sugar, and let me tell you, you taste every. single. gram.). And then I waited for them to call me in for hourly blood draws until my three hours was up.

The lab was mostly populated with people fighting off some sort of viral infection, so immediately, I wanted to hide. I’m not usually one to shy away from folks fighting off illness–it’s not their fault they got sick, after all–but knowing how nasty flu season has been and knowing how bad the flu can be when you’re pregnant, I was kind of wishing for a hazmat suit, especially when a tween flopped down next to me and proceeded to hack up a lung every two minutes or so without covering his mouth. Hnnngh.

The other most common patients I saw were babies. Babies and lab work are never fun, but they all need it at some point, whether it’s testing for lead levels or something more serious. And, well. There were a lot coming for those tests on Tuesday. The smallest was dressed in red checked pajamas and a pair of sneakers. He seemed to have just learned how to walk and kept toddling over to the lab entrance and then back to his mom when he got concerned. He had the cutest black bowlcut and was basically just charming the hell out of everyone there…

…and then he had to go get his blood drawn and came out sniffling and trying to be brave but failing miserably, and my heart shattered just a little bit.

Anyway. The test was long enough that I got to see the entirety of a snowstorm play out and see that it had all melted by the time I left.

The real snowstorm, the one that made things gross, hit on Wednesday, shortly after I called the doctor and got my results back–negative for gestational diabetes, yes! Kyle worked from home that day, as he had on Tuesday, though this time because of the snow. It wasn’t supposed to hit until that afternoon, but it would’ve made for a hellish evening commute, and he figured he could just work more easily if he didn’t bother.

So it was a typical day with Kyle working from home, and by that I mean that Sam was out of his mind with glee. He loves when his dad works from home, somehow convinced that this means he’ll get more playtime during the day (he doesn’t). He also usually has to be corralled away from the office door so that he doesn’t spend the entire day butting in on Kyle’s phone calls or trying to convince Kyle that he should stop coding and play Overwatch instead.

In short: I did a lot on Wednesday.

That may have been why, as the day wore down, I started to feel a nasty pain around my left eye. Or it may have been the weather. Whatever the reason, by 8:00, I had a full-blown migraine with aura. Now, this would usually just be a sign for me to just go to bed and pray it would improve by the morning except that severe headaches with vision disturbances are also a sign of one of the Big Bads of Pregnancy, preeclampsia.


With preeclampsia, everything sort of goes wrong at once. Your blood pressure rises to dangerously high levels, your liver gives you the finger, and it’s basically a huge emergency situation that means delivery is imminent unless you want yourself and your baby (or babies) to die. It’s another thing that’s more likely with obesity, twin pregnancies, and also with the medication I’m taking for my depression and anxiety.

(and before you ask: I’m still on the medication because I like not being suicidal and/or having panic attacks, particularly when pregnant. There’s a risk of preeclampsia with the medication, but there’s a guarantee of a downward spiral without it)

Anyway, there I was with a migraine that kept me from focusing on the computer screen in the least. Kyle noticed me looking worried and asked what was wrong, so I explained the situation to him. He’s a worrier himself, even more than I am, and when I explained what preeclampsia was and how I was feeling, he said, “Call your doctor. Now.”

“Can’t I just have a drink of water first?”

“No. Now.”

He was right, of course, and I swallowed my absolute loathing for phone calls (seriously, even calling friends, I’m like… why do I have to do this??? The only people I don’t get skittish about calling are Kyle and my mom, and that’s it in the entire world) to call the 24-hour nurse line and ask for advice. They connected me with the on-call doctor pretty quickly, and she said that while my lack of swelling and so-far, so-good blood pressure readings were reassuring signs, she wanted me to come in for testing and observation so that we could completely rule out preeclampsia.

Because you don’t fuck around with preeclampsia.

While this was an overall good idea, it still created something of a dilemma for us, and that dilemma’s name was Sam. We needed to get Sam to my parents’ house so they could watch him overnight, get to the hospital, and hopefully get home, all over VERY icy roads. Fortunately, my parents were more than willing to help out with the entire situation, and Sam was so soundly asleep that the transfer between our house and theirs went almost entirely unnoticed (by Sam, at least). We packed a bag for him to stay overnight, and my mom said that she’d either take Sam to school the next day or just have him stay at the house until I was done with my doctor’s appointment in the morning.

Next, it was off to the hospital. The roads weren’t as nasty as we expected, but everything was quickly gaining a fine sheen of ice, and the temperatures were dropping quickly. If we got to go home that night, it would be a very interesting drive.


Kyle and I both tried to keep things light on the drive in, but we were nervous. I’ve only just hit 29 weeks this week, and that’s pretty early for even the most healthy of babies to be born. Our twins would be looking at a fairly long NICU stay and, what’s more, we wouldn’t be as close to them as we wanted. The hospital we’re delivering at only has a Level 2B NICU, which is great for babies who aren’t that sick or are born past 32 weeks gestation… but that wouldn’t have been us. We’d have needed to be transported by ambulance to our hospital’s affiliate in Boston, Tufts and its Floating Hospital for Children. On the one hand, if you’re going to have a sick baby, Floating Hospital is the place to do it. Boston overall is the place to do it. Our medical facilities are among the best in the nation, and they’re constantly coming up with new technologies and new methods of treatment for all of their patients.

On the other hand, nobody wants to see their baby or babies that sick. And on the other other hand, Boston is a huge drive for us–without traffic, we’re looking at 45 minutes at least, and there’s always downtown city traffic. We’d figure it out, of course, but the idea had us both a little shaken. At a closer hospital, we could visit the twins often, as often as we felt necessary, and it wouldn’t have a huge impact on our lives overall. At Tufts, though?

It was after hours when we arrived, so we had to go through the ER to get to the maternity ward, up on the third level. The nurse at the front desk was more than happy to assist and even called a wheelchair for me, which I blame on the fact that even though the twins are 29 weeks along, I look like I’m at a full 40. Another nurse, apparently visiting from Florida (poor thing, what a night to be visiting from Florida), wheeled me along while cheerfully gabbing away about the weather and the superb owls and other innocuous topics; Kyle shuffled along behind us, bearing most of the nervousness for the rest of the group.

I haven’t taken the hospital tour yet, so getting to see the maternity ward was pretty awesome. It’s a nice place with private rooms and pleasant views from every window. The nursing staff are all really helpful and cool, and I’m grateful for that: although I’ve had nothing but positive experiences with L&D nurses, I know a lot of people who’ve had some absolute Nurse Ratchets, and that’s something that can just ruin the entire experience.

(the niceness of these nurses made me feel extra good about my L&D strategy of bringing in food for anyone who will be helping deliver my babies. Last time, we brought candy, and I think we will again this time, plus granola bars that they can nosh on whenever they have a couple of seconds free)

Anyway, needless to say, I didn’t deliver on Wednesday; it was just a migraine after all. The hospital visit was as unremarkable as they come: I gave urine and blood, I had my blood pressure monitored, the babies were monitored (they kept moving away from the heartbeat monitors because neither of them are fans of having their space intruded on; Carrie, in particular, kept kicking at the darn thing to try and get it off). At one point, I received an ultrasound from the on-call OB resident (who looked to be about 12) because they kept losing the babies’ heartbeats–not because either Isaac or Carrie were in distress, but because neither of them wanted to have any attention paid to them.

All told, we were in the hospital about three hours, and we got sent home after I got Hospital Brand Excedrin for my migraine. Everyone agreed that I’d done the right thing by coming in, so I didn’t feel too bad about “crying wolf,” as it were, and best of all, we learned that–at least on Wednesday night–both babies are head-down. This vastly increases my chances for a vaginal delivery, meaning shorter recovery time and, you know, a lack of major abdominal surgery.

We got home around 1 a.m. and promptly fell asleep because Kyle had to work and I had a doctor’s appointment the next day. Both were similarly unremarkable, to a point: my doctor’s appointment was a nice, quick one that lasted less than 15 minutes and mostly involved a conversation about (a) how they’re hoping I’ll stay pregnant for at least another 3-4 weeks; and (b) what I want to do for birth control afterwards.

I told my provider (not Dr. Solano, whom I’m seeing in ~2 weeks) that I want the whole system removed. I’m 100% serious on this; I don’t know if I can get a complete hysterectomy before the age of 35 without a major medical reason, but I want one like Christmas. I’ve had nearly 25 years of agonizing periods and overall misery. I’m done. I want this terrible pear-shaped organ taken out of my body, set on fire, and peed on by a dog.


My provider misinterpreted this to mean that I wanted my tubes tied (an option, but it means I still get periods, so not the BEST option) and told me that I could get my tubes tied during a C-section or afterwards. OR, if I didn’t want to have surgery in the first year after giving birth, I could have an IUD instead!

I took the pamphlet. I do not want an IUD.

But that was another conversation for another time. My mom and I both got back to the house around the same time, her with Sam and me with a Dr. Pepper. Sam was effusively excited to be home, hugging me and cuddling up with his blankets and having a wonderful time. My mom was glad to have further details of my hospital adventure to put her mind at ease. We had a lovely visit and, when my mom left, it was time for Sam to go up for his afternoon rest.

And this is where things got interesting.

Sam was upstairs for about 45 minutes, and he was playing quietly. I had my lunch and began to tool around online, checking to make sure the minivans we’re hoping to buy next weekend were still around, chatting with friends, the works. At the 45 minute mark, Sam called down to me, “Mommy, I pooped.”

This is not uncommon for my not-completely-potty-trained child, who will do everything in the toilet except poop there. We send him up for rest time with a pull-up on, and that’s usually when he chooses to go. “Alright,” I told him, “I’ll be up in a few minutes.”

I set about gathering the things I’d need to change a poopy diaper, and Sam called down again, this time with a wail of despair. “Mommy, the poop is getting everywhere!”


There are many phrases you never want to hear as a parent. Most pertain to situations in which your child is dead, injured, or in grave danger; but assuming that your child is healthy and safe, and assuming that you are caring for them at the moment, the phrase “Mommy, the poop is getting everywhere!” ranks pretty high on the list of things you DO NOT EVER WANT TO HEAR. What does it mean, that the poop is getting everywhere? Is it on your clothes? Is it on the walls? Is it on the floor? Did you clog a toilet? What happened? How afraid should I be?

Very, as it turned out.

I told Sam not to move and made my way up the stairs, carrying plastic bags, diapers, wipes, and faith. At the foot of the stairs, the stench hit me, an almost visible miasma that I’m 99% sure gave me X-Man powers. It grew stronger as I ascended and nearly brought tears to my eyes when I reached the room.

The sight that greeted me shook me to my core. Sam lay on a pile of blankets, tears in his eyes. His feet were barely recognizable as such, as they were coated with poop. Poop trailed down his legs and arms, though I thankfully didn’t see any near his face. A trail of poop footprints led from the doorway to the blankets, like incredibly pungent ancient fossils. Shadows prevented me from seeing the state of the blankets upon which he lay, but that was probably for the best.

I swore as quietly as I could. In a very PG-13 way, even though my head was screaming obscenities that would get me banned from most decent theaters.

But I had to take care of it. I pasted on a smile. “Alright, buddy!” I said in my chipperest voice, like we were just going to change his diaper in a completely normal situation. “Let’s get over to the bed so I can change you!”

Sam stood. The tears in his eyes began to trickle down, but I kept the smile on. “Come on, bud, I’ve got you,” I said. I lifted him gingerly under his arms and placed as much of his lower half as I could on a plastic bag. And then we began.

The de-poopinating took about 45 minutes, all said and done. And it was nasty. Without details, I’ll say that by the time I considered Sam clean enough for decent society, his poor hands, feet, legs, and butt were scrubbed so hard that they’d gone pink and raw. He spent most of the time crying “Mommy, that really hurts!” and I spent most of the time feeling guilty because SON YOU NEED TO BE CLEAN but oh, I imagine it hurt a lot. And I didn’t want it to.

But he got clean, and then I looked around the room and felt a wave of despair. The carpet was vile. The blankets were terrifying. And Sam himself could probably stand to have a proper bath or shower rather than the wipe down I gave him.

And I couldn’t do any of it.

As I said before, the twins are 29 weeks along, but I’m measuring 40 weeks. My belly is huge. It eclipses half of my thighs. It kicks Kyle out of bed. It weighs a ton. And I cannot bend over, even to do mundane things like putting on socks or shoes. Getting down to scrub the floor, pick up the blankets, even crouching to help Sam with a shower or bath? Absolutely out of the question.

And I still have 9 weeks or so to go!

I set Sam up in Kyle and my bed with his Kindle and told him that I’d be back soon. And then I called Kyle, and I’m not ashamed to admit that I was crying a little when I did. I begged him to come home early. Not too early, I told him, like you don’t have to leave right this second, but there’s so much to be cleaned and if we wait until the usual time you get home, at 7:30, Sam won’t get to bed until midnight.

Kyle is a good husband. He talked to his boss right then and there and was home in an hour, armed with carpet cleaner, treats for Sam, dinner stuff, and a kiss for me. He kissed me, kissed Sam, cleaned the carpets, put the blankets in the wash, and then dove back into work.

And there was morning and there was evening on Thursday.

Friday was blissfully calm. Sam had a wholly normal day, I had a wholly normal day, and Kyle had a wholly normal day. We were all sort of holding our breath for Saturday, though, because Saturday was my baby shower.

My mom and my cousins especially were adamant that I have a baby shower for the twins. It’s been four years since Sam was born, I needed a lot of stuff, and on my part, I really wanted to celebrate this rainbow pregnancy with the people I love most. And they, along with my aunt and uncle, planned a fantastic little party for me, complete with cupcake and onesie decorating, an ice cream cake, Mad Libs, and everyone I loved surrounding me.

I was even more excited about the party, too, because my aunties on my dad’s side were planning to attend. I adore them, honestly, but we live so far away from each other than I rarely get to see them outside of Major Life Events, like weddings and baby showers and so on. BUT they all RSVPed, which caused me to break into my happy dance, and I was seriously bouncing with joy just to see them there. I’ve missed them! I think the last time we were all together was at my cousin Tim’s wedding in 2015, so seeing them again was just awesome, absolutely awesome.

And the whole party had the net effect of making me feel a million times more loved and supported than I already did. I know how much my family loves me, and how we have a very strong sense of being there for each other as a group, but it’s always awesome to have that reminder, seeing the people you love all together and telling you how much they care.

Which is to say, it was a really good end to a crazy week. Next week is going to be similarly busy, though I’m hoping we can avoid the whole hospital visit thing. And I’m hoping that the weeks that follow will be chill enough that we can prepare for the twins’ arrival in relative calm.

But we’ll see.

Who needs sleep?

When I was pregnant with Sam, I had Plans.

(not these kinds of plans)

Specifically towards the end of my pregnancy, I Planned to get as much rest and sleep as possible because I knew I wouldn’t be sleeping much–if at all–when the Child arrived. Logically, I know you can’t save up sleep like you can save up Target gift cards or reward points at your favorite clothing boutique, but the thought of getting exactly zero sleep frightened me, and I thought that perhaps I could mitigate its potential damage by sleeping a lot beforehand.

But nothing doing. I had a lot going for me in my attempts to sleep before Sam arrived, but none of that lot helped me. The night before I went into the hospital to deliver, I didn’t sleep at all (not from excitement or anticipation, but simply because pregnancy insomnia is actively the worst). Our hospital offered a night nursery so that moms could recover and get some rest, and I gleefully took advantage of it–by the time Sam was born and safely in the night nursery, I hadn’t slept in nearly 48 hours and was getting desperate.

And weirdly enough, once Sam was here, I actually got more sleep. After about two weeks of insomniac misery, we devised a system of shifts, where one of us would stay up with Sam for three hours at a time while the other slept. We actually each got about six hours of sleep a night until Sam started sleeping through the night at three months, and let me tell you: it felt good.

Somehow, I’d forgotten about the pregnancy insomnia this time around. Maybe because my mind has been on the fact of twins or because I’ve just had so much to think about, but I’d forgotten.

I remember now.


On average, it takes me about an hour and a half to fall asleep, and that hour and a half follows a specific pattern. First, I lie on my back to stretch out my muscles, which are all exhausted from a day of carrying around not one but two babies inside. This feels very nice for about 20 minutes until the itching starts. The itching is a full body thing, probably related to a mild case of intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy (which I had last time but haven’t been diagnosed with yet this time–likely because the itching starts long before you reach bile acid levels that are required for diagnosis), and it’s hell. HELL. Everything itches, from my stretching belly to my hands to my feet to my thighs to, worst of all, my entire back. For another 10-15 minutes, I claw at my body as if trying to remove my skin because, really, that would be a huge relief about now, but eventually, I’m forced to admit defeat and roll onto my side.

Rolling onto my side is a feat of strength and coordination that always wakes Kyle up, because while I’m usually as graceful as a concussed duck on roller skates, pregnancy has upped the ante so that I’m now a walrus whose entire left side fell asleep. This walrus also has three or four pillows around her “glowing” body, including the miraculous C-shaped body pillow that enables me to sleep at all, several pillows for my head (including the necessary memory foam pillow that prevents neckaches), and a nastyass nasty ass pillow for between my knees and feet. Between all of this–my lack of coordination, my multiple pillows, and trying really hard not to punch my darling husband in the jaw–it takes me a good 5-10 minutes to roll onto my side.

And I get comfortable there because now, my back is no longer resting against sheets at all; instead, I’ve awkwardly flailed the blankets away from my body so that my back is exposed to the chill winter air of our bedroom, which isn’t actually chilly, but I made Kyle turn the fan on right after we went to bed. For about 45 minutes, I’m elated: I’ve finally found a comfortable position for sleeping.

But it’s too good to be true. Though my itching is no longer aggravated, my shoulders and hips now have the distinct pleasure and pressure of supporting the enormous pregnancy belly and my mammaries, which have expanded so much during pregnancy that they’ve graduated from “jugs” to “gazongas.” As I finally begin to drift off, the pain starts, just an ache at first, but it soon becomes unbearable. Now comes the other half of rolling onto my side: rolling back.

While rolling onto my side requires a great deal of strength and coordination, rolling from my side to my back requires only one thing: a high pain tolerance. The actions required to roll onto my back aggravate my already overtaxed groin muscles, sending jolts of burning pain radiating from said muscles back to my butt and down my thighs. The pain is brief, but it’s intense, and more than once, I’ve let out a yelp of pain as I performed the act of rolling over in bed.

What happens next depends on how well I’ve pleased the nebulous pregnancy gods on any given day. On good days, the itching has subsided enough or I’m tired enough to ignore it, and I fall asleep quickly. On bad days, the itching reaches excruciating heights again, and the cycle restarts itself. And that’s leaving off the nights when I have an RLS (restless leg syndrome) flare, in which my legs ache and burn unless I’m performing a Riverdance at all times. On those particularly bad nights, I eventually just give up and move my legs incessantly while reading articles on my phone and waiting for the itching to calm down just enough that I can force myself to sleep.

(shown: what my legs want; not at all relaxing)

On a good night, I will then sleep through the entire night and wake up at around 7 for the day, groggy and miserable but functional at least. On bad nights, however, something wakes me before I’ve gotten those precious few hours of sleep, and the cycle starts all over again.

Last night was not just a bad night; it was a HORRENDOUS night.

It started as just a bad night. I tossed and I turned, I itched and I rolled over, I yelped and I squirmed. For a brief period between midnight and 12:30, I became the actual Lord of the Dance (eat your heart out, Michael Flatley), but finally, finally I fell asleep, long after Kyle had drifted off entirely.

(eat. your. heart. out.)

Now–a tangent. About 15 years ago, a horrendous cold combined with some end-of-the-college-semester stress to morph into a bad case of bronchitis around Christmastime. The bronchitis wasn’t bad enough, though, oh no. When I came home for Christmas break and my mother saw me looking pale and weak, she insisted on taking me to the urgent care clinic on Christmas Day itself; there, I received a diagnosis of “illness-induced bronchial spasms,” which is a fancy way of saying that if I get a cold that’s bad enough, I have asthma attacks. Fun, right?

On the plus side, I don’t usually need an inhaler to control these attacks; if I catch them early enough, I can calm myself down and convince my lungs that they’re overreacting. On the minus side, I never know which cold will be bad enough to induce an attack, so it’s always a surprise, like opening a present on Christmas morning and finding out that someone wrapped an inability to breathe.

The attacks also usually happen at night, so I’ll be blissfully tucked away in dreamland when all of a sudden, I can’t breathe. It’s always a riotous time.

So cut back to me, around 3:30 a.m. last night. Kyle is sound asleep still. I was sound asleep when all of a sudden, I couldn’t breathe. Thankfully, my body is smart enough to know that this is a major problem and jolted me out of my blissful slumber and into a coughing fit. This has happened often enough that I immediately recognized it for what it was, thus avoiding anything but (a) some coughing and (b) an inconvenience that lasted the rest of the night.

The coughing was the bigger immediate problem; if I’m going to stop an attack from reaching its full potential, I need to focus on calming my breathing and reminding myself that I can breathe, that I’m alright, that I have control. The trouble was that my bladder was painfully full, so every time I coughed, I ran the risk of flooding the bedroom and ruining Kyle’s night as well as my own. That in mind, and still trying desperately to catch my breath, I staggered off to the toilet, pulled an Elsa with my bladder…


…and finally stopped coughing. Now, of course, I faced an entirely different problem: I was itchy again. So for an hour and a half, I once again turned into the paraplegic walrus version of an egg beater and Riverdance star, desperately seeking a comfortable position that would allow me to sleep. Finally, finally, at 4:30ish, I found one, and prayed that my struggles were at an end.

How naive of me.

I don’t know if it was the coughing or the movement or what, but something prompted Carrie into a fit of hiccups. Obstetrically, this is a great sign–it means that she’s practicing breathing by moving amniotic fluid in and out of her lungs, so yay Carrie! Good job! But at 4:30 in the morning, the sudden powerful spasms of a baby the size of a 7-11 Double Gulp were not helping me sleep. At all. I put my hand on my belly to wait for her hiccups to subside, which they eventually did…

…but woke up Isaac in the process. At first, his movements were the typical tentative, gentle taps I’d come to expect from him, as if he were saying, “Mom, can you please make her stop? I was sleeping.” And I sympathize, son. I honestly do. I, too, wish that I was still sleeping. But then, because I couldn’t do anything about the hiccuping Carrie, Isaac took matters into his own hands and squeezed down as far as he could away from his hiccuping twin.

This, of course, meant that he was crushing my bladder.


So out of nowhere, I had to pee. Again. A lot. I grumbled my way out of bed, grumbled my way to the bathroom, and grumbled through my duty. “You two are lucky that you’re cute,” I informed the twins as I shuffled my way back to bed, now itchy and restless once more.

Itch itch itch, turn turn turn, Riverdance Riverdance Riverdance. By now, it was 6 a.m., and I knew one thing for certain: Sam would soon be awake. The child has not yet discovered the joys of sleeping in to a reasonable hour, though we’ve been trying to train him on it. The training basically involves the use of an alarm clock, not as a signal to encourage him to get up but as a signal to tell him “DO NOT start yelling for us until you hear this beeping.”

At one point, he was committed to learning as much, but that process has gone out the door lately. Instead, what we get is 45 minutes of him yelling through the monitor, variants of “DADDYYYY. DADDYYYYYY. DADDY I FARTED,” and the like until Kyle hears the alarm clock go off and gets up to bring Sam downstairs while I try to sneak another ~hour of sleep (if this seems unfair, remember that I’m with Sam the rest of the day and also have twins in me).

So this morning, as the hours grew small before wake-up time, the sense of dread I felt was overwhelming. I knew that soon, Sam would wake up and start yelling. I knew that it would happen right as I fell asleep. And I knew that I couldn’t sleep through it, the way that Kyle seems to, and that staying awake through the yelling would start me on another itching, turning, Riverdancing cycle.

And I was afraid.

(listen, Pennywise. You can try and make balloons scary and have a floating fetish all you want; just let me sleep)

Sam, still allergic to sleeping in (we’ll get our revenge when he’s a teenager, and oh do I look forward to it), woke up at precisely 6:22 a.m. At first, he talked and sang quietly to himself, but it took only five minutes for the gentle, quiet talking and singing to erupt into yelling. “DAD! DEE!” he hollered into the monitor. “I WANT TO GO DOWNSTA-YERS.”

Kyle responded in a typical way. “Your alarm clock didn’t beep yet,” he grumbled into our half of the monitor, which functions as a walkie-talkie. “I’m not taking you downstairs yet.”

But Sam kept yelling, and I was now on the verge of tears. My heart and mind wanted to be more threatening, to tell Kyle, “If you don’t take him downstairs or turn off the monitor RIGHT NOW, your day will be a living hell because I will sleep through all of it.” And the pregnant, hormonal, exhausted snarl was in the back of my throat, but some part of my sleep-deprived brain remembered that you catch more flies with honey than with arsenic, so instead of snarling, I warped my gravelly, exhausted voice into something that sounded sweet-ish to me.

“Honey,” I whispered to my husband, who’d snored through the whole ordeal. “If you aren’t going to bring him downstairs now, can you just turn off the monitor? Because I’ve been awake since 3:30.”

The sweetness worked. Kyle sighed heavily and said, “Alright, I’ll just bring him down now.” About ten minutes later, they were in the living room and very quiet; and I was, at long last, asleep.

There’s no moral to this long story, no nice little bow to tie things up. I’m still exhausted, even though Kyle let me sleep until 10:30 despite that he was working today. I know that tonight will probably be just as bad in terms of falling asleep, though maybe better in terms of staying asleep (I’m not counting on it).

But I also know that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. The twins are coming soon, and that will bring an end to my walrus body, my itching, and my housing hiccups. Kyle and I will take shifts again, and I’ll sleep in three-hour spurts, but I will sleep, and that’s almost as great a reward as having my babies here with me.

Happy New Year (?)

Hooooooly shit what a day. I don’t think I’ve had this eventful a start to the new year since I accidentally and tipsily got unintentionally vulgar with a youth pastor at a New Year’s Eve party before driving home at 2:30 a.m. in a literal blizzard.

This was much crazier.

New Year’s started as it does for most parents. Kyle and I finished our nightly gaming before heading out to the living room at 11:58 to watch the ball drop. The ball dropped, it was 2018, we kissed and started to head up to bed.

Which is when the fun began.

I just dragged myself straight up to bed, pausing only to check in on Sam and make sure he was sleeping comfortably. Midnight is an hour past when I usually crash, and I was already feeling it. Both Carrie and Isaac were awake enough to be questioning the situation (via kicks), and I was more than a little eager to get into bed. No sooner had I snuggled under the covers, curled around my maternity pillow (my blessed nest, I call it), than Kyle came upstairs very worried.

“I think something is wrong with the furnace,” he said.

We’ve had “I think something is wrong with [x]” conversations at bedtime before. Nine times out of ten, nothing is wrong and it’s just something completely normal. I expected this conversation to go the same way. “Why do you think that?” I asked.

“It’s making kind of a pulsing hissing noise? I heard it in the living room.”

Now, it was 12:30 a.m., and I knew that Sam would have no consideration for that fact when he woke up in… probably 6 hours, tops. That was the first thing on my mind when I said, “Well, if you’re really worried about it, we’ll check it out in the morning.”


But Kyle was convinced something was seriously wrong and first took the step of turning the thermostat down to 50 so that we could avoid overtaxing the furnace. I’d protest this any time but the balmiest of summer days, but last night, it was well below zero outside… -3 with a windchill of -18, which is probably colder than it was in Barrow, Alaska. I vehemently protested the furnace being turned down and Kyle compromised by turning it up to 60.

Only the furnace didn’t kick in. We didn’t hear the reassuring hum and roar of forced hot air, except for a few false starts. Kyle went downstairs to inspect again (it was now 1:30 a.m.) and found the furnace hissing, squeaking, and then falling silent with the lockout light on.

He called a 24-hour HVAC service, hoping to catch someone on New Year’s Eve, during a huge cold snap, at 2 a.m., but after about half an hour of holding, he gave up on that endeavor. We made a plan: at 7, he would get Sammy and bring him into our room so that Sammy could get dressed in approximately 32 layers of clothes. Then Kyle would dig out his car, pack us some bags, and send us off to my parents’ house (with the cat as well) to ride out the coldest of the incident. With any luck, the problem would be resolved sooner rather than later.

It was 2:30 a.m. at that point, and the two of us fell into an exhausted sleep that lasted until 5:30 a.m. for no good reason. It wasn’t that Sam woke us up or Tinkerbell woke us up, we just woke up at 5:30 and, knowing what the day held, couldn’t fall back asleep.

But we tried. Oh my god did we try.


Around 7, Kyle went to bring Sam into our room, where he could burrow under the covers and keep warm until it was time to leave. Sam thought it was all a wonderful game, especially because he got his Kindle straightaway and because he had Mommy and Daddy there to play Kindle with him. He showed off his favorite games and tried to get us to participate, but I’ll be honest–I was still in a twilight space of not even slightly awake, so it all sort of blurred together.

Kyle dug out his car, Sam got very excited about Tinkerbell being on the bed with him, and around 8 a.m., it was time to make tracks. I bundled up–five layers on top, two on bottom–and we packed up the car to head out to my parents’ house, leaving Kyle to wait for the HVAC guy and stopping for Dunkin Donuts on the way.

Stopping for Dunkin Donuts ended up changing the morning somewhat significantly. As we drove down our street towards the nearest Dunkin, I saw a woman crossing the road. At first, I felt a stab of annoyance that wasn’t even logical–we’re in the middle of nowhere and don’t really have sidewalks at all, much less crosswalks. So of course she’d be in the middle of the road, and I don’t know why I was irritated.

Anyway, she flagged me down, and once I slowed and stopped, I could see that she was really distressed–tears running down her cheeks, all bedraggled and out of sorts. At the same moment, I remembered that, oh yeah, it’s three whole degrees outside. There’s no reason for someone to be out in that kind of weather unless they’re either really dedicated to their fitness routine or in really dire straits.

She was the latter. I didn’t really piece together the whole of her situation, but I gathered enough–that her sister had kicked her out, that she needed to get back to her apartment in the next town over (coincidentally, right on the route that Sam and I were taking to my parents’ house), that she didn’t know what to do.

So I told her to get in the car.

She was effusively grateful and offered to pay me something, but dude, I’m not even going out of my way here. It’s alright. Just hold the donuts for me and don’t turn out to be a serial killer and you’re good.

And, well. Like I said, her apartment was on the way. We chatted the whole way there, friendly conversation about nothing, and she got upstairs alright. And then Sam and I (and Tinkerbell, who she thought was actually a baby?) continued on to my parents’ house.

I’ll be 100% honest–my recollection of the morning at my parents’ house is pretty fuzzy because my exhaustion had started to hit by that point. My mom had to work, but my dad was home for the holiday, and he and Sam play off each other really well, so I knew Sam would be in good hands despite my zombie-like state. I mostly remember the series of games they played: dragon vs. castle (with the old play castle my brother and sister and I had when we were kids), Wall-E and Silly Songs, Sorry, and finally, drums and piano.

That last bit involved the new drum machine my dad got for Christmas, which had Sam all excited because it made noises, and my dad plugged it into the living room sound system, so it made loud noises. Nothing in the world is better to a three-year-old than loud noises, except perhaps loud noises sanctioned by and shared with his grandfather. The two of them had a marvellous time.

As for me? I… tried to sleep. I tried really hard, but comfort is just not something my body is capable of lately except under very specific circumstances. I laid down on Sam’s bed (which used to be mine, until I moved out of the house wayyyy back in 2009) and tried to sleep, but my weirdly shifted center of gravity didn’t really lend itself to a comfortable rest in my childhood bed, so that was a wash. At some point, right when I was getting to a stage where I could ignore my discomfort long enough to pass out, Sam burst into the room crying and tattling on my dad, something about donuts? I have no idea.

The HVAC guy got to our house around noonish, give or take, and found that the furnace had just shut down because–get this–it’s so cold outside that the oil line literally froze. I guess this can happen sometimes when you have an outdoor oil tank (which we have because our house is kind of low on storage for literally anything) and it’s cold as balls out, which it has been (but hey! Next week, it’s going to get into the 40s, so break out your bathing suits, citizens of Massachusetts!). The problem was fixed within 5 minutes and for less than $200, both of which had us sighing in utter relief–when things go wrong in our house, those things tend to be massive fixes that cost at least $500.

And, well. Money has been tight since I left my job, which we knew it would be. We had enough squirreled away that we could afford to pay for some minor repairs, but furnace repairs have a pretty wide range of costs, and we didn’t know what range we’d end up on. That the costs were on the low end of things basically took an awful situation and made it infinitely more palatable.


When Kyle told me all of this, he also said that he’d keep an eye on the interior temperature and let us know when it was back to being livable (that morning, when we’d all gotten up, the temperature inside had dropped to 40 degrees, which was admittedly significantly more than the -3 degrees outside but was still not even slightly livable), and I told him that I was coming home by 3 regardless. This was at least partly because of the one piece of chaos that we were expecting: the arrival of our new dryer.

Let’s rewind a bit to when we bought this house, three years ago. The former owners kindly left the washer and dryer behind for us, which was fantastic–before moving in, we’d had to either use our apartment complex’s machines down three flights of stairs and costing about $6/load or make a weekly jaunt to my parents’ house to hang out while doing 1-2 loads of laundry (we learned to be frugal with our laundry in those days). Any washer and dryer were an improvement over that situation (much though I love spending time with my folks, it’s better to be able to do laundry in your own place, especially when you have a baby).

And the washer, at least, is great. It’s not brand new, but it’s lovely and functional and has all the different settings and is basically a Washing Machine For Grown-Ups. Having it handy to take care of various messes–cat-induced, baby-induced, otherwise-induced–has been a joy.

The dryer… eeeeeh.

It was quirky from the start. It only ever worked on the medium setting, meaning that we basically had to throw everything in and pray for the best. What was more, it didn’t turn off on its own after any period of time–if you forgot about it, forgot to set a timer or what-have-you, it would just keep running and running and running, wasting so much energy and threatening to burn down the house and shrink your clothes in the same breath. The lint trap was also a hilarious mistake: it caught lint in the filter, alright, but the lint also often got stuck in the trap holder, which made the entire thing pointless.

I probably could’ve lived with it for a while, but my parents weren’t fans of that strategy and bought us a new dryer for Christmas. And it was scheduled to arrive January 1.

January 1: the day of the broken heater, the wandering stranger, the playing at my parents’ house, and no sleep.

As Sam and I were preparing to pack up and leave, Kyle called again to let me know that the dryer would be delivered in the next 20 minutes, which was wonderful timing, as it takes about 20 minutes to get home from my parents’ house. I rushed out the door a little bit, letting Sam get away with abducting a Santa hat he found, ignoring the loud protests of the cat as we slipped her into her carrier once again, and trying to drive safely despite the fact that I was seeing double by that point.

We got home to see a truck parked outside the house and a man running from the front door back to said truck. And the truck drove away, and Kyle poked his head out the door and told me to go into our laundry room.

And, well. My new dryer is beautiful.

26165767_10155121262840592_1631067740820553886_n(it makes pretty little music noises when you turn it on and off)

And that’s how my year started! Dinner and evening activities passed in an absolute blur, and both Kyle and I were asleep almost as soon as our heads hit our pillows, only to find when we woke at around 7 a.m. that the furnace had died again sometime during the night. This time, though, it came back to life after a bit of swearing at and cajoling by Kyle… and after protesting with concerning squeaks and clanks that had us calling the HVAC company back again (they still haven’t arrived–it’s almost 9:30 p.m., and our window for service was approximately from 7:30 a.m. until midnight, so yay).

I think I need another holiday.

And a partridge in a pear tree…

I’ve been meaning to write this entry for weeks, but every time I started, something new came up that made me say “well, I should probably wait until after [x] happens to really write, so that I can get a nice holistic picture painted.” And so, for three weeks, I’ve been sitting on stuff that I want to write about but didn’t figure it was a good time for, but now everything is all settled, so here we go.

Mundane first: Christmas happened.

It’s the first Christmas where Sam was really able to understand what was going on, and he spent the entire lead-up to Christmas absolutely vibrating with excitement. He doesn’t quite  understand time yet; he just figured that days change when we moved the reindeer in our advent calendar over a space. And so even right after we’d move the little guy over, Sam would be clambering back up to the advent calendar and asking, “Can we move him to where it says 22? That’s closer to Christmas, right?”

It was a smallish Christmas, probably one of the last smallish Christmases we can count on, since Sam’s still too young to want for anything particularly expensive and there’s still just the one of him. All he wanted this year were some character toys from Toy Story (the Evil Emperor Zurg and Woody, the latter of whom is… quirky, we’ll say) and a toy bow and arrow. All together, those cost about $50, which is a nice number for a child’s Christmas complete. We got him a few other things, too–some clothes, books, and stocking stuffers–but it was a nice, frugal time, and I’m proud of that. And he, of course, was thrilled with everything.

Kyle and I spoiled each other, too, as much as we could on a relatively low budget. I got Kyle a breakfast sandwich maker (thank you, Buzzfeed gift idea lists!) that he’s used every day since, along with a D&D shirt (shown below) and a whole bunch of reinforced socks because he wears holes in socks like nobody’s business.

25659880_10155103815140592_7037687082169598011_n (1)

His big present to me was a woefully mostly complete (woefully because she can’t write anymore) collection of Carrie Fisher’s writing. I finished The Princess Diarist a couple of days ago, and I had to hug it when I was finished because it was like reading something I’d written, like looking back at the words and thought process of my nineteen-year-old self and ahead at the words and thought process of my sixty-year-old self. It’s probably pretty vain to compare oneself to a famous writer of any kind, but I’ll accept that if I can also accept that it’s possible to feel like someone else out there thinks and writes (or thought and wrote) like you do, even if that person is very famous.


But point being, I love these books.

And there were other gifts aplenty. My parents are springing for a new dryer for us, since ours is one of the saddest things in existence (it has two modes: on and door is open; you cannot clean the lint trap properly because the lint just falls off in the lint trap door; it’s a dangerous thing). They got me a maternity pillow, which has been fantastic in terms of giving support and nestling me in warmth. And they positively spoiled Sam with a guitar and RC cars and Legos and so much stuff I can barely remember. Sam made out like a bandit this year overall–from Texas, he got a ton of books that he loves and lots of winter shirts that actually fit him (which I love).

And, as the Grinch would want me to point out, Christmas isn’t bought in a store. We spent Christmas Eve with my family, decorating gingerbread men and having Chinese food, and that was a delight. And then Christmas Day was the traditional holiday dinner with my mom’s side of the family, who are all just fantastic. My uncle cooked up a HUGE delicious feast, we all brought desserts, and then we all laughed ourselves silly with the annual Yankee Swap (White Elephant if you’re not from around here).

The week since has been pretty chill. I theoretically wanted us to make plans, but it’s been cold as balls outside, and Kyle had to catch up on some work on Tuesday and Wednesday (to both of our frustration, since it’s supposed to be a vacation week, but at least he’s getting comp time in January). Sam is drowning in new toys and also in a newly acquired love for My Little Pony, so he’s been well occupied, though still getting very bored by around 3 p.m. without school and trips outside the house to keep him entertained. We’ve had a few teary meltdowns, but nothing overwhelming, and we made up for it today (and will make up for it tomorrow).

Today. Today was about babies.


But to give context, let me rewind a little bit. About a week and a half ago, I’d gone back to bed after Sam went to school (ignoring my to-do list like a good and exhausted pregnant mom), hoping to get another couple of hours of sleep in before I had to go and pick him up. As I started to drift off, my doctor’s office called because there had been a few problems with the anatomy scan.

In theory, I knew about this. When we’d been at the scan, the tech mentioned that she hadn’t been able to get a good profile shot of Isaac, so we’d probably get a call in the next couple of weeks wanting to follow-up. What she did not mention, however, was something the nurse on the phone line said that caused a good week and a half of tension for everyone. She said that it looked like there was too much amniotic fluid around Isaac–a condition called polyhydramnios–and that we’d have to measure the fluid again. If the fluid levels were still too high, we’d have to talk with a maternal fetal medicine specialist at the hospital to make a plan moving forward.

Naturally, the second I hung up the phone, I started buzzing around Google. Polyhydramnios isn’t the end of the world, necessarily, but if it gets severe enough, it can cause all sorts of nasty things that nobody wants in their pregnancy: placental abruption, preterm labor, uncontrolled uterine bleeding, the works. The treatment looked to be monitoring, by and large–lots and lots of non-stress tests and ultrasounds until we absolutely had to deliver.

Bad ends in mind, I called Kyle and my mother to give them the news so that we could all be tense together.


Fortunately, we already had an appointment scheduled for today, so the nurse just adjusted that ultrasound so that we could kill two birds with one stone. We went in this morning with Sam, hoping we wouldn’t see anything bad but also prepared for the worst. The three of us bundled up like we were making a trek to visit penguins in Antarctica, shuffled through the frigid air, and had our scan.

And everything mostly looked great, but I’m not an ultrasound tech, so I couldn’t say. Both Isaac and Carrie were moving around and had fantastic heartbeats (Isaac at around 150, Carrie at around 160), both of them were measuring ahead of schedule (24 weeks exactly, as opposed to the 23 weeks, 2 days they actually are) and weighing in at a great size for viability’s sake–1 lb, 7 oz apiece (which translates to 652 grams; preemies with a birth weight of more than 601 grams have an excellent chance at survival). We saw fingers and legs and toes, and we got a perfect profile shot of Isaac (Carrie was like “not today, plebes”).

To my untrained eyes, everything looked good, but we still had to meet with the doctor. When we got into his office, he was cheerful and friendly as usual and amazed to see Sam (Dr. Solano also did my prenatal care when I was pregnant with Sam, so seeing him now at nearly four years old was a little mind-blowing, I’m sure). We started the appointment with questions and concerns, as we usually do, and I immediately brought up the polyhydramnios.

“I wondered if today’s scan gave us any more information on that polyhydramnios thing?” was how I phrased it (if you put “thing” after the name of a medical condition, it makes it seem like you didn’t spend 3 hours googling it and panicking).


Dr. Solano was confused and wanted to know where I’d heard that I had polyhydramnios. I explained that the nurse who’d called me about the updated anatomy scan had mentioned it, and that I wanted to make sure that everything was okay. He got that look on his face that people get when they want to express that they’re annoyed, but not with you, but they also can’t say that they’re annoyed with someone else because it’s unprofessional or something.

“What it looks like,” he finally explained after paging through my files, “is that you had excess fluid around Baby A (Isaac, for anyone keeping track) during your anatomy scan a couple of weeks ago. It wasn’t a huge excess, but it’s still something to keep an eye on. The good news is that today’s scan shows that he’s on the high end of normal–we worry if his numbers go above an 8, but he’s at a 7.5, so you’re all set.”

HUGE relief. I’d been telling Kyle that I wasn’t too worried–if you’re going to have a complicated pregnancy, after all, Massachusetts is the place to do it–but those were some scary possibilities. And thankfully, it looks like none of them are in the cards.

The other concern I had… well, that also requires some backstory.

About two weeks ago, Kyle and I got it in our heads to go Christmas shopping at one of the malls around here. I had to get stocking stuffers, Kyle hadn’t bought ANYTHING for me, and we all just wanted to get out of the house. We bundled up into our car and drove to the mall hella early, to beat the crowds and try to get in and out before Sam’s naptime. It was a challenge, but we were confident in our ability to shop quickly and efficiently.

Too confident, as it turns out.

From Kyle’s perspective, the trip was kind of a wasted effort. Sam has reached an age where he’s very difficult to shop with, being too old for a stroller but also too young to not be distracted by every shiny object within 10 feet of him. Kyle’s plans to get me more grown-up gifts went awry as Sam dragged him into Build-A-Bear and Learning Express and all the toy stores, leaving exactly no time for anything remotely resembling a gift from a husband to a wife. And then I texted him.

I texted him because I was having an Incident. We arrived at the mall, and I promptly hoofed it from our parking garage to Newbury Comics, home of Yankee Swap gifts galore (you know, things like “Maybe You Touched Your Genitals” hand sanitizer, handerpants, “Kleener Weener” soap, and bacon-scented car fresheners). I hoofed it a bit too hoofily, as it turned out: within about 30 seconds of entering Newbury Comics, the world started spinning. My heart pounded like it was going to come out of my chest, and I felt deeply nauseous and crampy. I haphazardly reshelved my would-be purchases (with no small amount of guilt; I hate leaving a mess behind, especially at Christmas) and staggered down to the nearest bench, where I texted Kyle: “Help. Just almost fainted at Newbury. I’m at the benches on the lower level near there. Bring water please.”

(shown: not a successful shopping trip)

I swear, Kyle must have moved at supersonic speeds to get to me with a wonderful bottle of Fiji water. By that time, the worst of the symptoms had calmed, but I still felt dizzy and weak. “Do you think you could bring the car around?” I asked, and Kyle did so, leaving me and Sam to watch children zooming around on oversized plush animals (which was actually really entertaining, as the kids’ dad gleefully filmed his son with the narration, “Here’s my thirteen-year-old son, riding the plush animals at the mall!” Said son rolled his eyes and said, “Daaaaad!” but then was laughing with delight as he joined his younger siblings in chasing the dad around in circles for the next ten minutes). We went home after that, and I spent the rest of the day lying down or sitting with my feet up, trying to regain some equilibrium. I was fine by the next morning.

And then it happened again, two days before Christmas, only now without the hoofing it. I was just standing in the shower, washing my hair and doing shower things, trying to shave, when it all hit me again. Nausea, dizziness, heart pounding, the works. I made it out of the shower and plopped to the toilet, drenched from head-to-toe. I called for help then, too, but I forget what I asked for. Water? Maybe. Towels? Probably. I don’t know what else.

I could kind of understand an episode of syncope (that’s the ~official medical term~ for “passing the fuck out”) like the one at the mall–I’d overexerted myself, the mall was overwarm, I just needed to slow down. The shower one, though, had me concerned. I thought about calling Dr. Solano’s office, but then it occurred to me that (a) I was alright, if a bit shaken; and (b) the office would be closed pretty much until the day I’d be going in anyway, so it would be a waste of time to call.

So I held off and brought it up today. Fainting isn’t exactly something to be taken lightly, and Dr. Solano listened to my retelling before nodding in understanding. “I’m glad you told me. I don’t think there’s anything too big for us to worry about–you’re about halfway through pregnancy, and your blood volume has dramatically increased, so your body’s coping with that–but we’ll still test your iron levels and hypoglycemia to be sure. In the meantime, try and take it easy–no more hoofing it at the mall, and shorter showers–and let us know if you have another episode.”

Which was reassuring. I figured it had something to do with the whole “now you have more blood than an anime character” thing, but I didn’t want to dismiss what might be a sign of a larger underlying problem. The shower incident made more sense in context: when your blood volume is higher, you get more sensitive to changes in temperature, and that can cause a major drop in blood pressure, which causes fainting. Yay! Nothing had been out of the blue; everything had a logical (or semi-logical) cause, so I feel less nervous. And if it turns out that I’m anemic or hypoglycemic, both are easily treatable, so.

SO! Things are going well, and it’s all a good sign as we head into the new year. Until next time…

What’s in a name?

I take my kids’ names very seriously. Perhaps too seriously. I’ve had a list of potential kids’ names running in the back of my head for years, probably decades, and though I’ve had to remove some of those names (for example, “David” has been removed because our last name begins with “David” so it makes it sound like we’re stuttering), the list has remained pretty consistent for a while.

list_of_santa_claus-snow(also David is on the naughty list, come on)

I like names with strong meanings, names that flow well with our last name and with any middle name, names that–if they’re longer–lend themselves easily to nicknames. Part of me loves kind of quirky names (Tennyson and Peregrine are perennial favorites), but ultimately, meaning is the heart of any name I choose for my kids, and not just the meaning of the name itself, but the meaning and cultural influences that inspired us to even think of the name in the first place.

For example, Samuel Matthew.

Matthew, first off, is a family name–it’s Kyle’s middle name, so immediately, we liked having that as part of our first child’s name (before we found out Sam is a boy, we thought about Madison as a middle name for a girl, since it means “Matthew’s child”). The name Matthew means “gift of God,” which was especially appropriate–we went through a lot to get pregnant with Sam, so he really did feel like a gift, and still does.

Samuel is also a family name, on Kyle’s mother’s side–his mother’s grandmother–but we were also inspired by the Sams we kept seeing in fiction. There is, of course, Samwise Gamgee in Lord of the Rings, who is arguably the absolute heart of the story. He is, after all, Samwise the Brave–loyal and heroic, the reason Frodo gets anything accomplished, and Tolkien’s everyman. Samwise was meant to represent the brave English soldiers who fought in WWI, and really, he’s just the best character. Everyone loves Sam.

(and I do often call Sammy “Samwise” when I’m trying to get his attention)

(annnnnd now I’m crying)

And there’s Samwell Tarly from A Song of Ice and Fire and Game of Thrones, who is sweetly pragmatic and so damn likable (particularly in the show). And overall, the Sams we’ve encountered in fiction are just the kind of person we want our Sam to be.

The name Samuel comes from a Biblical story about infertility, one of several. Hannah, Samuel’s eventual mother, wanted a child so badly that she went to the temple every day to pray for a child, eventually promising that she would dedicate any child she had to God entirely. Sure enough, she eventually had a son, a boy whom she called Samuel, which means “God has heard.” Samuel was the last of the Hebrew prophets and the one to anoint both Saul and David to be king.

So Samuel Matthew. A good, strong name.

And now we’re onto the twins, and coming into today, we faced a slight dilemma. You see, we were struggling to come up with boy names. Girl names, that I can do all day. I’ve got enough girl names stored up that we could have identical octuplets and be all set for names. I am good for girl names. Boy names, on the other hand… eeeeeh. I had various ideas, but nothing really stuck, and Kyle refused to even consider the question until we knew for sure that we were having at least one boy. This caused me a LOT OF STRESS, as I kind of like, you know, planning ahead. Crazy, right?

(this is fine!)

But whatever. Even if we didn’t come up with a name until we saw the anatomy scan, we’ve still got 18 weeks to go, a little more than four months. That’s plenty of time to come up with a good boy name, even if we dragged our heels and procrastinated and took our dear sweet time and waited and waited and…

Well. We didn’t really drag our heels and procrastinate and wait, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

We had the anatomy scan today, the big look at how everybody is developing, if all parts are where they should be, and all of that important stuff. You can also, assuming everyone cooperates, find out the baby’s sex (and there’s a whole conversation about gender being a social construct and what if either of them are trans and so on and so forth and look, I just want to know if I can finally buy some sparkly Mary Janes for my baby without people looking at me funny).

Baby A was first, resting comfortably at the bottom of my uterus. Right now, said baby is head-down, which is the ideal position for any given baby, but that can change at any time (and considering how acrobatic these two are, will probably change at least a couple of times). Heart rate at 148 BPM, which according to old wives’ tales means that Baby A should be a girl…

…but old wives’ tales are wrong because Baby A is a BOY.

Very much a boy. There was no mistaking what we kept seeing on that screen (unless it’s a secret tail?), and honestly? Despite the name thing, I’m happy. He’s a much more chill baby than Sam was (or than his twin, more in a minute on that side of things); whereas Sam was always bouncing and kicking and moving, Baby A sort of languishes and lounges, stretches and moves his hands in long, fluid movements. He’s not dive bombing my cervix and not causing issues; he’s healthy.

And his name is going to be Isaac William.

Despite me thinking we’d need like four months to come up with a name, Isaac William actually came to us in about 15 minutes as we waited for the doctor to come in. We were going through lists of names we’d never consider (“Ebeneezer!” “Draco!” “Blayze!”) when Kyle asked, almost offhandedly, “What about Isaac? What do you think of that?”

As a name, Isaac means “he will laugh” or “laughter,” coming from the Hebrew tzachaq. The name first shows up in the Biblical story of Abraham and Sarah, another infertile couple, who were wayyyyyy older than anyone has a right to be when Isaac was finally born. As the story goes, a Visitor (implied to be God or an angel) came and told Sarah that she would have a baby; her response was, naturally, laughter, like, “Dude, that’s nice and all, but literally, my bits and pieces are dust and my wrinkles have wrinkles.” But sure enough, Isaac was born shortly thereafter.

(the next story about Isaac involves Abraham’s faith being tested by him being willing to sacrifice Isaac to God because not all Bible stories are pleasant)

So already, Isaac is a good name. It also has the association with Sir Isaac Newton (physicist and mathematician), Isaac Asimov (sci fi writer), musicians, designers, and artists. It’s not a super common name, either, but it ranks near Samuel in terms of overall popularity, which I am a-okay with. And it shortens well to Ike or Zack if we want to do a nickname thing.

William, meanwhile, means “resolute protection” (anyone else getting paladin vibes, because I sure am). Going through a list of Williams who could influence the existence of this name would take a decade; as a name, William is everywhere, and has been for centuries. We chose William as a middle name over Liam, though, because it’s a family name–my grandmother on my mother’s side was named Anne Williams before she married, so it carries on the tradition.

Isaac William. Our middle child.

Thus we moved on to Baby B. I’ve had suspicions about Baby B for a while; as babies go, Baby B has always been the more active of the two and was actually the first baby we saw as an indicator that this cycle was a success (tl;dr – Baby A is usually the baby closest to the cervix, but Isaac held off on making his presence known for a good week or so after we knew Baby B existed, so…). At every ultrasound thus far, Baby B has been SUPER active–jumping, kicking, punching, the works. Today was no exception. After giving us a dazzling profile shot, Baby B proceeded to do the usual gymnastics routine, which made the ultrasound take twice as long as usual. Usually the tech would have waited until the end to show us the sex, but in this case, she knew we were excited…

…because Baby B is a GIRL.

A healthy, bouncy, excited baby girl. Bigger than her brother by an ounce, but also with a slightly slower heartbeat (143 to Isaac’s 148). She’s the one who protests me lying down every night by squirming across the width of my abdomen at the best pace she can manage. At one point in the ultrasound, she had her hands above her head like she was dancing, and at another, she was very definitely punching Isaac in the head. She is going to give Sam a run for his money; he may think that his brother will be his partner in crime, but no. His sister will be right there with him and possibly leading the charge, and I am slightly terrified.

And her name will be Carolyn Jeanette.

Both names require a bit of digging to get to their meanings, because they’re both variants on other names. Jeanette comes from Jehann, which comes from John, which means “God is gracious.” That has nothing to do with why we chose Jeanette, but it’s a nice meaning nonetheless. Our reasons are more personal. First off, names in variants of John are pretty common for people close to us (my dad’s name is John, Kyle’s grandmother was Joan, etc.), so there’s a connection in that way. Closer to home, though, Jeanette was a dear friend of ours who passed away just a year or so ago; she and her husband were probably the biggest cheerleaders in our early relationship, and I can’t say how much we both miss her. Naming our baby girl after her was a no-brainer.

As to Carolyn (which means “warrior”), that name comes from my grandmother, Therna Carolyn Sturgis (before she married). By far, pretty much the most awesome person I ever knew, my Grandma exuded love and warmth. She always had a song in her heart and on the tip of her tongue (even when her hearing loss got a little too bad for her to be on key, pretty much ever). She embraced people and welcomed them into her life, and she loved people dearly. I can’t imagine a better legacy for my daughter to inherit.

And then, of course, there’s Carrie Fisher, late and great (why yes, part of my child’s nickname comes from Carrie Fisher, fight me). Her take no prisoners, give no fucks attitude is something I want my daughter to have; I want her to have that strength and courage, and the knowledge that no failure is permanent, that you can always fight your way back. I want her to embrace glitter and funny looking dogs and sharing her strength with others.

(“Look,” I told Kyle, “if either baby flips us off during the ultrasound, their name is a variation of Carrie. Cary for a boy, Carrie for a girl.” He agreed)

Carolyn Jeanette. Our baby.

They’re both growing very well, and my doctor is actually expecting that I’ll go to term, making my delivery date around April 11, by hook or by crook. As for me, now that I know their names and am starting to know them, I just can’t wait until they get here. Isaac and Carrie, my long-awaited babies.


Sweet dreams are made of this…

To preface, I love my antidepressants/anti-anxiety meds, which are really just one drug, an SNRI by the name of Venlafaxine/Effexor. It has its side effects (risk of high blood pressure, drowsiness, absolutely wild dreams), and withdrawal is a b i t c h (migraines, severe vertigo, and then night terrors forever, and that’s just with missing one dose), but my god does it help. Since being on the current dosage, my panic attacks have completely evaporated, and I haven’t had anything remotely close to a depressive downswing. As the joke goes, if you can’t make your own neurotransmitters, store-bought is fine.

(also if you’re one of those people who posts the memes about how mountains are antidepressants and meds are shit, I will personally come to your house and make you touch old wet food)

The weird thing about Effexor is that the anxiety ends up manifesting when I’m sleeping instead of when I’m awake, which is both nice and annoying. It’s nice because yes, I’d much rather have anxiety dreams than a panic attack. I’m pretty sure everyone who’s ever had a genuine panic attack would rather have anxiety dreams than a panic attack. With an anxiety dream, I can wake up and reason with myself: “It’s okay that you didn’t buy the calculus book because (a) you’re 34 years old and not in school;  (b) you never took AP calculus to begin with; and (c) the math teacher that’s featuring in this nightmare has probably been retired for almost 20 years now.”

With a panic attack, there’s nothing to do but ride it until it subsides–the chest pain, the feeling of being unable to breathe, the heat and claustrophobia, the desperate need to get out even though you don’t know where or why. Your stress response goes absolutely haywire for no goddamn reason, and no amount of logic or reasoning makes it calm the fuck down because it’s coming from your most base instincts that are trying to save you from a deadly threat that doesn’t fucking exist.

My last real panic attack happened right around the time I started Effexor, just after I’d started taking it regularly. It was the weirdest thing: my stress response was still going haywire, but I was looking at it objectively as it happened and acknowledging that this was entirely pointless, body, there’s nothing threatening us and we’re absolutely fine. Before being on the Effexor, the stress got to my brain as well, as it does for pretty much everyone who’s ever had a panic attack, because it honestly feels like you’re dying. You can’t reason it away because you are having chest pain and trouble breathing and the walls are closing in, of course you’re dying. But being on Effexor, it was so bizarre, just looking at it as an outside observer and saying, “Idiot, you’re not dying, your stress response has just decided to fritz out, you’ll be fine soon.”

And after that, it’s been mostly smooth sailing. I think I’ve had one panic attack since then, and again, it was just the same thing: “calm down, body, there is literally no reason for you to be doing this.”

Which brings me to the dreams. The dreams are always vivid, and I always remember them. From what I’ve read, that’s the norm on Effexor. Usually, the dreams are just weird like “we’re at Disney World and I’m juggling bananas while Mickey Mouse cheers for me!” but since this pregnancy started, things have taken a decidedly more anxious turn.

The most common dream is the school dream. Naturally, I’m running through the halls naked, but that’s not the anxious part. The anxious part is that I get to my AP calculus class (again: I never took AP calculus because math and I are not friends), and there’s my high school math teacher, glaring at me as always. He announces that it’s time to take the final exam, and I feel all confident… until I realize that I never bought the AP calculus textbook and never came to class and never did any homework and never studied. I’m pretty sure literally everyone on the planet has had a variation on this dream, but it’s been especially recurrent in the past ~4-ish months.

(actual footage of me in honors pre-calculus)

A couple of weeks ago, as I got my ducks in a row to leave work (which I have since done, yay!), I dreamed that I was in a graphic designers’ version of Chopped. We were each assigned a different document to produce and refine, and we had 8 hours in which to do it. Objectively, for me, producing and refining a document probably would take about ~4 hours, maybe less, but in this dream, eight hours was nowhere near enough. Worse, there was this table on the document that was all horribly misaligned, as if someone had just drawn a bunch of squares and haphazardly stuck them together and I could not get them to realign, and time ran out and I had to turn in a document that looked like complete ass.

Last night’s dream was the worst, if only because it was so real. I dreamed that Sam was in kindergarten, that he had a group of four friends and that teachers called the lot of them the “Fab Five.” Sam wasn’t in school for the day–it was Halloween, and I think we’d taken him to Texas again in the dream story. Regardless, I dreamed that while Sam was out of school, a maniac came and shot up the place, badly injuring the rest of the Fab Five and one of their dads. The rest of the dream involved me in a rage, going to dispense some justice to the inexplicably noseless shooter with my fists. I woke up right as I found him and couldn’t go back to sleep for another hour because the emotions I felt were so awful. Instead, I got up and made sure Sam was still asleep and in bed (he was) and then quietly played with my phone until I relaxed enough to fall back asleep.

(look at these adorable pandas)

I have no idea where all of this latent anxiety is coming from, honestly. My stress levels have dipped way down in recent weeks. We’re done traveling for the foreseeable future, so that stress is missing. I left my stressful job, so that’s done. We’re not in the best place financially, but we’re stable. Sam is healthy and mostly happy (though impatient to stay home with me). It’s the holidays, which makes me happy, and I’m objectively and at least to my overall knowledge stress-free.

Of course, there’s the meta-anxiety that comes with raising a kid nowadays. Everyone’s always had multitudinous fears for their kids; the fears just change shape depending on the world overall. School shootings are now so common that seeing one in the news barely registers as a blip on my radar; it’s become like seeing “there was an accident on 495 during the morning commute,” where I objectively know it sucks for the people involved, but it’s so damn common that I don’t have the emotional energy to work up a major shock and horror every time it happens (which is complete and utter bullshit because this should not be a common thing). And that commonality obviously translates to anxiety as a parent; what if Sam’s school is next? And there are other fears: what if Sam gets taken in by a predator online? What if he’s the unlucky child to contract one of six billion forms of brain cancer? What if he’s bullied into suicide when he’s older? What if, what if, what if…

But I call it meta-anxiety because I have to push it to the back of my mind to even function during the day. Everything is terrifying, and if it’s constantly at the forefront of your mind, you can’t live your life. You can’t help your kid to cope or teach them to deal with the bad things that come their way. You’re just always afraid. So the meta-anxiety lurks back there but doesn’t rear its head often, except apparently in last night’s dream.

More specific anxieties also get pushed to the back of my mind lately, largely because again, I need to be able to function. Those anxieties are all tied to this pregnancy and how Sam will cope with everything. They edge into health concerns, emotional concerns, and the overall how in the hell am I going to take care of twins panic that’s always lurking whenever I tell someone how excited I am.

Health-wise, it doesn’t help at all that 99% of twin birth stories you can find online are honest-to-god horror stories or stories of someone having a completely unassisted homebirth in a stream or something with a dolphin doula and little birds singing.

(no offense if a stream birth is your dream birth, but all I can think about is EELS)

I have exactly zero interest in the latter–I’m a big fan of giving birth in a nice, sterile hospital with a wonderful doctor at my side–so the former is what I get. And these stories are basically all the same. Mom goes in, somewhere during labor we realize that the twins aren’t getting born vaginally, it turns into a C-section, everything seems fine but then Mom’s vision gets blurry and lots of people yell and the next thing she knows, it’s four days later and she’s been given like 72 gallons of someone else’s blood and half of her internal organs are removed. But the twins are fine!

Obviously, this is not the norm. Obviously, it’s not even close to the norm. But goddamn, would it hurt for people to write about a completely boring birth experience, even if it’s twins? “They gave me a spinal block so I was numb from the waist down, I didn’t feel any pain, they took both twins out, the bleeding stopped very quickly, and I recovered in a pretty typical way.” My kingdom for those stories, because at this point, I’m at least 75% convinced that I’m going to spend a month in the hospital after these babies are born.

And, of course, there are other health concerns. What if I get a pulmonary embolism and randomly die? (having a cold is really helpful when you’re worried about that, let me tell you) What if my blood pressure skyrockets and I develop pre-eclampsia? What if my liver decides “you know what, no” and I have to deal with that? What if I just randomly stroke out? What if, what if, what if…

Again, these are all just in the back of my mind because I couldn’t function otherwise. But that doesn’t mean my dreams aren’t tapping into them for material.

And then there’s Sam. Objectively, I know he’ll be just fine with the transition from only child to oldest sibling. Kyle and I both were. But he’s still my baby and I still want to do everything in my power to keep him from experiencing things in a rough manner, to keep him from feeling jealous or left out or lonely. And I know that’s not necessarily possible, but I still sit there and worry about it… in the back of my mind, where apparently my brain is going to get dream material.

Pregnancy is a weird time for dreams anyway. It’s common for folks to have weird-ass dreams while pregnant, because hormones be like that sometimes. But oy, I wish that my brain would just clue me into what’s the matter and let me fix it so I can have some less stressful dreams. Like ones about Disney World. Those would be good.

(and hey brain, if those dreams can be vivid enough that I wake up tasting churros, that’d be great)