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)

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(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?

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(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.

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(“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.

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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.

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(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.

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(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.

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(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.

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(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.

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

Holidays are coming…

It’s time for a rambly, unfocused, totally all over the place post because this is my blog and I can be rambly and unfocused if I want 😀

Last week, Kyle and I took Sam down to Texas for a visit with Kyle’s family and to celebrate Halloween. We do celebrate Halloween up here, to an extent, but our neighborhood is really not built for trick-or-treating (our little house is halfway up an enormous hill, and our road is twisty, turny, and poorly lit). Kyle’s parents’ neighborhood, on the other hand, is PERFECT for trick-or-treating, so that’s where we went.

Sam dressed as Jack Skellington, a costume he decided on after roughly two months of debate (first, he wanted to be Darth Vader, as he has been for roughly the past three years; then he wanted to be the cat from the Simon’s Cat videos; then he wanted to be Darth Vader, Simon’s Cat, and Jack Skellington at the same time; and finally, he settled on just being Jack). Kyle’s mom made the costume, since every store was sold out of Jack costumes by the time Sam made up his mind, and it honestly looked a thousand times better than any store-bought costume would have:

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It took Sam a little while to warm up to the idea of Halloween overall, mostly because he’s not a fan of change, and last week threw him for a loop (I mean, we flew down to Texas and then he was sleeping in a hotel and at his Nana’s house and there was no school and our singular cat had been replaced with three dogs and it was just wild). He was overtired, too, and reluctant to get into costume at all before Halloween itself. Still, he dove into Halloween crafts with his Nana (including ghosts for the doorway and little skeleton finger puppets and Halloween cupcakes) and was all too happy to help carve the enormous pumpkin we got from the local pumpkin patch:

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As trick-or-treat time approached, Sam was still reluctant to put on his costume, despite all of our arguments in favor of it (you’ll get candy! Look, we dressed your stuffed puppy up as Zero the dog! You can sing all the songs from the movie! You’ll look so cute!)… until Kyle told him, “Sam, if you put on your costume, you can have this umbrella.”

For some reason, that worked. The mind of a three-year-old is an enigma.

Trick-or-treating was still a challenge for the first couple of houses, though. Sam’s never really been, so the idea of walking up to complete strangers and saying, “Trick or treat!” to get candy was a little out of his league. He eventually got the hang of it, though, and by the time we’d canvassed the street, he was happily exclaiming “TRICK OR TREAT! THANK YOU! HAPPY HALLOWEEN!” at every door.

And he got a TON of candy that we’re still picking through.

So it was a good Halloween. I didn’t dress up, except to put on some Princess Leia buns I got for $10 at the Disney Store; in lieu of pictures of that, please enjoy this picture of me dressed as an “angel” (or the physical embodiment of the spirit of disco, depending on how you look at it) when I was seven.

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(shown here on the far right, with my younger brother as a cowboy and my younger sister as a ballerina)

While we were down in Texas, we got word from Kat that the huge windy storm that blew through Massachusetts about a week ago had not left our property unscathed. One of the many, many oak trees on our property hadn’t been able to withstand the storm and toppled over onto our driveway. Thankfully, it didn’t do any damage to our cars or property, but it was still a pain in the butt to deal with until we had a tree removal company come and take it away on Saturday.

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(we had several suggestions that we put up a sign that said “FREE FIREWOOD; CUT YOUR OWN!”)

So that was a thing when we got back. The other thing, the more exciting thing, was that I had a doctor’s appointment on Friday. Everything has been copacetic since the last bleeding incident, so this was just supposed to be a routine visit, and it was. Twins are harder to get individual heartbeats for, so we had an ultrasound to check on those (both very good!), and we saw some good movement as well (Baby B made “hook ‘em horns”–the hand sign for fans of UTA–so Kyle was happy). We were hoping to get a shot that would give us some insight into the sex of our Doublemint Twins, but nothing doing–Baby A was positioned diagonally, so we couldn’t get a clear look, and Baby B was just uncooperative.

But oh well, we figured. We’d had genetic testing done to check for any abnormalities, just so we could know what to expect, and while the test results came back clear for abnormalities, a mix up with our forms hadn’t given us any information on the gender(s). The office faxed another form over to the lab, and we expected to get the results at this appointment…

…and, well. We did. Just the results were “inconclusive,” which I don’t understand how that could be the case (look, either there are Y chromosomes in there or there aren’t), but okay. Error 404: Gender Not Found. Cool.

I laughed about it. It’s frustrating, sure, but not nearly as frustrating as two years of failed transfers and miscarriages and sickness leading to this point. The twins are alive and healthy, the ultrasound tech said it looked like one was a girl, and I’m okay with that. We’re going back for our big anatomy scan on December 7, so in theory, we’ll know at that point… assuming everyone cooperates.

(I’m looking at you, Baby B)

And then, my birthday was this weekend, the big 3-4. It was a pretty typical adult birthday, lowkey and laid back. On Saturday, my mom took me shopping for maternity clothes, my biggest need at the moment, and I got some really cute stuff. We had a good day together, with lunch at the Cheesecake Factory and a side trip to the American Girl store (hush, I need to pretend to be 8 sometimes), and it was cool just getting to spend time together (and to go shopping with someone as enthusiastic about going into Pottery Barn Kids as I am).

Sunday was just a chill day. Kyle let me sleep in as much as I could (which wasn’t very much; if your body’s used to getting up at 7 a.m., it’s hard to go past 8:30 without needing to get out of bed), and I got big hugs and kisses from Sam once I got downstairs. After that, Kyle, Kat, and I went to dinner at the Melting Pot, my absolute favorite place to eat (seriously, the fondue is amazing but then you have the main course stuff that just… I wish I was still eating it, it’s that good) before heading home for the night with a sleepy Sam in tow. The day overall ended with Sam curled up on my lap, chin quivering as he insisted on watching the “Baby Mine” scene from Dumbo. I, naturally, was sobbing hysterically because son, why on earth did it have to be that video? Any other video I can do. I mean, not any other video, but come on. COME ON. That video should be banned by the Geneva Convention for viewing by pregnant mothers–or any mothers for that matter.

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(gross sobbing)

So it’s been a good time. This is my second-to-last week of work (that’s a story worth telling), and I’m spending a lot of it helping Kat get ready to move out on Saturday (she’s heading out to her mom’s place before eventually settling back in California) and preparing for my mom’s birthday this weekend (she’s requested a rum cake but without alcohol, so that’ll be an adventure). And then it’s on to Thanksgiving and Christmas… my holiday season has officially begun!

Magic in a Jar of Dirt

So there’s a scene in one of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies where Jack Sparrow is trying to avoid Davy Jones. Tia Dalma, a voodoo priestess and otherwise witchy character, gives him a jar of dirt, as Davy Jones can’t set foot on land.

“Is the… jar of dirt going to help?” Jack asks, utterly skeptical.

Tia Dalma stares him down. “If you don’t want it, give it back.”

Jack clutches the jar to his chest protectively. “No.”

At that, Tia Dalma smiles and steps back. “Then it helps.”

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There’s a weird sort of power in that kind of talisman, in a real life kind of talisman. I don’t necessarily mean an actual power, but that comforting power… the idea that maybe this will help, that maybe it will make things go right. It’s come into play both in my infertility journey and in my parenting.

I had a lot of talismans for my infertility journey; the most important were green fingernails, for fertility, and my Princess Leia socks, for strength. I started wearing them this year, after last year’s IVF treatments kept falling flat on their faces. I don’t think they really necessarily did anything, but then again, I could be wrong. I wore them to my two embryo transfers in the first half of the year, but both of those failed. But then again, I also wore them to my egg retrieval and transfer for this actual pregnancy, so who knows? The point is that they made me feel better, good luck charms, if you will. They made me feel like I had some control over a situation that has long been completely out of my hands.

In truth, the success of this IVF cycle was a combination of things: Kyle’s semenalysis had much better results this go-around, we used the right medication cocktail, I took it easy and carefully throughout the earliest days. Did the socks and the fingernails have anything to do with it? Probably not; but you bet your ass that if something happened and I had to go through this again for any reason, I’d be wearing those Princess Leia socks and painting my nails green.

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(which is to say, next time, I’m totally going for beetle wing green)

Talismans, rituals, magic, all of that is pretty important when you have a little kid, too. They need things to comfort them, because they don’t always understand the world around them. It’s big. It’s weird. It’s sometimes scary. And they’re small and often powerless, so giving them something to hold onto that makes them feel more powerful, even if it’s not really magical or powerful… it helps.

When I was really young, I was terrified of thunder. Absolutely bananas terrified. My parents gave me magic to help with it: they called it a thunder stick. It was really just a paper towel tube, sometimes even a toilet paper tube. It was my weapon against the thunder, though. I could shake it at the sky, and I could yell, “Stop that thunder!” and eventually, the thunder would stop. I was powerless, really, against the weather (sadly, I was not a pint sized shaman), but believing that I had that power made me feel less afraid.

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(I was not this vulgar as a three-year-old, but if I needed a thunder stick nowadays, I would be)

Sam has his talismans, three that we see regularly and a fourth that we consider breaking out the big guns. The three regulars are his lovies: Puppy, the ubiquitous stuffed husky that Kat got him for his first birthday; Pillow, which is literally just a Star Wars pillow; and Blanket, one of the Aden and Anais receiving blankets we were given when we were expecting him. They obviously haven’t got any real magic or power to them. They’re tools of comfort, things that make him feel safe. And he won’t go to bed without them.

The big guns talisman is his Darth Vader bear. That one, though, I actually believe has magic in it.

Eleven years ago, when Kyle and I first started dating, a lot of people in our community cheered us on. We were pretty well known in the small, tight-knit group of RPers, and it seemed like everyone was thrilled to see us together. None, however, were more thrilled than our guild leaders, Veri and Ged. They lived thousands of miles from both of us, but we may as well have been down the street. They cheered us on more than anyone; I swear, when we announced our engagement, we could hear Veri’s squeal of delight from across the country.

And that’s to say nothing of when we told them we were expecting Sam. Veri greeted us whenever we talked by asking, “Are there going to be any baby bears?” (Kyle’s nickname among the group was Kody-bear… it’s a long story) When we told her that yes, a baby bear was imminent, I’m amazed that the joysplosion didn’t take out half the country.

A couple of weeks later, a package arrived at our doorstep, our very first gift for Sam. It was a box from Build-A-Bear, and inside was a black bear dressed in Darth Vader’s robes. The bear was, of course, from Veri and Ged, and came with warmest wishes for a healthy pregnancy and greetings for our new baby. As soon as Sam was born, I started to introduce him to the bear; in recent months, it’s his greatest comfort when all else fails.

Like tonight, when the wind and rain were making him nervous. I rocked him in my arms for a while and let him talk out his anxieties. He wanted some of the stuffed animals that he knew he’d tossed out in the hallway, so we walked over to inspect them, and then he asked me to bring them into his room while he got into bed. He didn’t even ask for Darth Vader bear, but when Darth Vader bear came into his line of vision, it was all he cared about. He touched the mask, the hands, the feet, gently and almost reverently. He asked me to tuck him in (moments before he’d been asking to go downstairs), and his eyes closed as I slipped out of the room.

So Darth Vader bear is special, even more special because Veri passed away last year. She was this beautiful light of a person who could make even the most stubborn of skeptics believe that magic was real, and there’s an ache whenever I remember she isn’t here anymore.

Darth Vader bear may be just a jar of dirt. It may be special because it’s a gift from someone who loved us, who’s gone now. Sam may feel comforted by it because it’s a plush Darth Vader, the only one he has at the moment. He may feel comforted because it’s been part of his life since before he was born.

But for my own sake, I like to believe in a little bit of magic. I like to believe that the most magical person I ever knew put love and blessings into this sweet keepsake, and that maybe, when Sam hugs Darth Vader bear at night, a little bit of that love and magic is hugging him back.

 

Water Redeemed

This was the weekend of another family trip, kind of a pair of day trips that got melded into a weekend getaway. The occasion was a celebration of Kat’s birthday (29 years young tomorrow!), and the destination was the Plymouth/Carver area of Massachusetts for some beach shenanigans and adventures at King Richard’s Faire.

Which went okay. King Richard’s Faire was, ultimately, a wash. We got there around 10:30 and were thrilled to get front row-ish seats for the tiger show, but around the time the show started, so did the rain. Within a few minutes, it went from spitting to a downpour, and the awesomeness of seeing big cats jump around the stage and show off their majesty was rapidly overpowered by the misery of palming handfuls of water out of our faces.

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Sam dressed up as a pirate but had no interest in the fair whatsoever because of the rain. He and Kyle went on a swinging boat ride, but after that, the whines set in and our attempts to keep Sam entertained despite the storm were mostly futile. He felt better once a few performers teased smiles out of him, and even better after he had a large pretzel and ice cream (look, you don’t go to the faire and eat healthy, ok), but the realization that we weren’t going to drop $300 on a shoulder dragon hit him kind of hard towards the end of the day.

Kat had initially planned an elaborate costume for this excursion, all feathers and corsets and the like. She wanted to portray the Raven Queen from Dungeons & Dragons and Pathfinder lore, but after we found out the weather would be iffy at best, she pared the costume down to just a feathery mantle and a gorgeous wrap that looked like wings. She looked awesome (though she won’t let me post the pictures; I have them on my phone, so I have proof) but also got drenched and learned that the black feathers of her mantle weren’t actually black feathers–they were rooster feathers dyed black, and the dye wasn’t set enough to not trickle down her arms during the downpours. That said, she got a gorgeous tooled leather collar as a birthday gift for herself, so all wasn’t lost there.

Kyle spent the entire time with a soggy Sam because I can’t carry anything that weighs more than 10 lbs (doctor’s orders; that along with pelvic rest make me basically the most pathetic wife ever). That said, Kyle was also sad that we didn’t have $300 to spend on a shoulder dragon.

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As for me, I managed to acquire a barometric pressure headache at around 3:00 in the morning before anyone woke up. The right side of my head felt like it was cracking open like an egg, and I ultimately shuffled off to the hanging swing chair building to rest both my pelvic muscles (which scream at me if I walk for more than 10 minutes or do physically strenuous things like rolling over in bed) and my head. To say I was disappointed is the understatement of the year; I LOVE King Richard’s Faire. I love exploring the shops, watching the shows, and overall just exploring. But my god, I was so miserable, I couldn’t even keep my head up.

And that headache lasted for two more days, until the stupid tropical rainstorm that caused it finally shuffled out to sea.

(I tried SO many remedies to calm things down, but ultimately, with a barometric pressure headache, you just have to weep and soldier through)

But that was just Sunday. Saturday, which we spent in Plymouth, was a fantastic day.

We went to Plymouth last summer, just on a fun day trip to Plimoth Plantation and to wander around on the beach for a bit; it wasn’t a bad day, though it was agonizingly hot. The beach was crowded, as beaches tend to be at the absolute peak of summer grossness, too crowded for us to get much farther down the shore than a tiny sliver of sand right beside the parking lot. This was meh in and of itself, but poor Sam had the worst time of it–being all of two years old, he was terrified of both the sand and the waves and remained either firmly planted in one place or attached to either me or Kyle like a lamprey.

So my expectations for a beach day on Saturday weren’t terribly high, especially as it’s October, and though the weather was nice, it was a little cool for the beach.

We started our jaunt at the Cabby Shack (if you’re in Plymouth, I recommend them very highly, though be forewarned that the cheese in the mac and cheese is basically queso–not bad, but a surprise), where we feasted on the thickest clam chowdah in the world, fried clam strips, and coconut shrimp. Sam was game to get his picture taken with one of Plymouth’s infamous lobsters…

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…and once we’d done that, we headed back to the same beach we’d visited the year before. Again, my expectations weren’t particularly high; Plymouth beach isn’t a bad beach, but I always prefer my autumnal beach jaunts to take place on rockier coastlines or somewhere on Cape Cod that’s removed enough from streets and bustle that all you can hear are crashing waves and seagulls.

(maybe I’m a beach snob)

(but not as bad as Kat is, though in her defense, she spent most of her life living in Santa Barbara)

Once we’d parked, Kat headed off to explore and Kyle and I escorted Sam down to the water’s edge. Things were already a little different–Sam eagerly kicked off his flip flops and ran through the sand, not at all wigged out by the different textures beneath his feet. He hesitated just a moment when confronted with ridiculously cold North Atlantic seawater (look, you don’t go swimming at New England beaches, unless you like turning into a popsicle) but a beat later, he was splashing through the waves and laughing gleefully as he found rock after rock to toss into the water with Kyle.

And they had a blast. Kyle isn’t a big beach person–his beach experiences mostly come from the Gulf Coast of Texas, and in his own words, those beaches “aren’t the best” (he’s very polite). Even when he’s not out of the car and splashing in the water, he’s expressed that the vastness of the sea and sky make him skittish (to which I always say, “You’re from Texas? Where you have nothing but sky?”), so when it comes to beaches, he’s reluctant, to say the least.

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But on Saturday, he and Sam dove in together. He tried to teach Sam how to skip rocks (that went about as well as you’d expect), and then they got to work trying to build a sandcastle. Kyle led Sam into the waves (pretty tame at this beach; nothing that went above Sam’s knees), and they both had an impressively great time frolicking about, as if neither had felt anything but love for a beach in their lives. Sam loved the beach so much that, at one point, he scooped up a handful of seawater in joy and tried to drink it as I squawked, “No, don’t do that!”

Well. It was a learning experience. And it didn’t ruin the day for him; he spat the water out and then went right back to playing happily, jumping up and down in the water and screeching, “Yay beach!” as loudly as he could.

Kat, meanwhile, returned to us with a handful of seashells (always her gift to me when we hit the beach) and a $20 bill (she called it her birthday gift from the ocean and used it to buy that tooled leather collar on Sunday).

Once we were all beached out, we packed up the car again, de-sanded ourselves, and headed back to the hotel. Most of Plymouth’s hotels are quaint little B&Bs or fancy spas, so our choices were either squeeze into a way-too-fancy room at a spa or B&B or the Hilton. Of the two, the Hilton seemed the better option, and we had a nice room on the second floor, just a quick walk from the pool and jacuzzi.

Yes, pool. An indoor pool, at that. Nothing terribly deep (the deep end was 4 feet even, the shallow about 3’9”), nothing too fancy, but we all wanted to get some swimming in, and Kyle and I wanted to give Sam a chance to try a swimming pool again, this time accompanied by our guiding hands.

He was reluctant to step into the pool, to say the least, but Kyle was right there holding onto him the entire time, and I was nearby (in a super cute suit, I might add; thank you, ModCloth, for still having cute plus-sized bathing suits despite your turn towards the awful lately). Gradually, Sam’s fear of the water began to disappear. He still didn’t want to try floating on his own (and every time we tried to sneak it in, he screamed, “I want to get out!”), but he liked “swimming” between me and Kyle and splashing about and playing overall. I couldn’t hold him as much because, again, lifting over 10 lbs (I gave myself some leeway because water makes things buoyant and that helps with lifting), but I held his hands and guided him around the pool and helped him get over his fear of putting his hair in the water.

So it went really well! Sam likes playing in pools now, though he’s still not quite independent in the water, but we’re getting there. Overall, Saturday was a day of redeeming water adventures, and I’m happy about that.

We ended the day with a trip to a local IHOP, an IHOP that was… surprisingly really nice inside. Most IHOPs have that really casual “yeah, we’re IHOP, don’t expect much” feel to them, but this one was decorated like some sort of fancy independent restaurant, with exposed industrial ceilings and the kind of shabby chic decor that would make it feel totally normal on any given HGTV renovation show. The food remained IHOP-y, but the fanciness and the fact that we were the only ones there turned it into this strange sort of liminal space, and I’m still not sure that it was a real experience.

And it was a good weekend. A wet weekend, a weekend that ended with us eating McDonald’s food instead of turkey legs at King Richard’s Faire and driving home at 2 p.m. instead of 5 p.m. like we’d expected, but a good weekend nonetheless. And best of all, Sam is no longer afraid of large bodies of water. Hallelujah.

Big Brother Blues

Sam’s been having a rough week. Roughly every night has been punctuated with nightmares, usually about Kyle walking away from him or Kyle not being able to help him with something scary (like falling into a pond). We have these nightmare phases whenever Sam becomes aware of a big change coming up, and there are a LOT of big changes coming up, one of them bigger than the others.

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(hint: the big change is acquiring two babies, seen here at my 11 week appointment)

All my life, I’ve imagined having a gaggle of kids (the “gaggle” in my imagination has shrunk to a “few” since getting pregnant is such a pain in the ass). I grew up with two siblings, and my parents have four siblings apiece, so the idea of only childhood is kind of a foreign concept to me, and has been since my sister was born in 1986. Kyle only had one brother, but he, too, couldn’t imagine having just one kid, even though that one kid took a LOT of work to bring into the world and has the energy of roughly five kids combined.

So it was never a question that Sam wouldn’t be our only child, but as our attempts to have more kids took longer and longer, Kyle and I started to wonder about something that never crossed our minds when we’d talked about family size before: how was this huge change going to impact Sam emotionally?

Now, of course, that question wasn’t enough to keep us from charging forward–we’re both oldest siblings, and we turned out pretty okay (most of the time)–but it still gave us pause. Although we know that Sam will eventually adjust to older brotherhood really well, the transition is something that’s worrisome because neither of us really remember how to help him cope with it.

As I mentioned before, I’m the oldest of three. My sister was born several months before my third birthday, so I wasn’t quite old enough to feel established as THE child yet. I don’t remember any strong emotions building up to my sister’s birth; anything I remember from the nineish months leading up to my big sisterhood is completely unrelated to that and more related to things like the awesome green icing on my birthday cake or the hurricane that knocked down the entire woods behind our house.

I don’t even remember anything about when my sister was actually born. Pictures exist of me visiting my mom and sister in the hospital, sitting on a rocking chair and holding her, counting her toes, playing with my mom’s wonderful hospital bed. I don’t remember feeling anything, though; I’m sure I did, but it wasn’t anything strong that my brain decided to store as a memory.

Family lore has it that at some point when my sister was very young, I remarked to my dad, “Daddy, do you remember when it was just you, me, and Mommy? That was best.” This seems to be a pretty common thing for kids becoming big siblings, even if I don’t remember it happening. Kyle’s mom tells the story of him asking, a week after his brother came home from the hospital, “So when does he go back?” My favorite, though, is the story of Kat’s father, who apparently punched his younger brother the day he got back from the hospital.

BUT. I don’t remember this conversation. What I do remember is Christmas. As with every Christmas, we spent a good chunk of the holiday season at my grandparents’ house in New Jersey, along with the rest of my dad’s family. The two years prior, I’d been the star of the show–I was the first (and to that point, only) grandchild, and all of the aunties and uncles fawned over me and played with me and indulged my toddler whims. My grandparents made remarkable gifts just for me (some of which are still in my house, like the enormous toychest my grandfather built when I was two? Ish?), and overall, it was a good time.

But this year was different. I wasn’t the only grandchild anymore. Now there were two new grandkids added to the equation–my sister and my cousin Tim, born about six weeks apart. The attention was, naturally, almost entirely on the new babies–that’s pretty much par for the course at holidays. Any time a new baby or two or three (as was the case on my mom’s side of the family one year) shows up, that’s what everyone wants to talk about.

(as an aside about my mom’s side of the family: by the time I came along, there were four older cousins, and my first younger cousin was born a year after I was, so jealousy wasn’t an issue there)

I remember feeling really sad. I wasn’t angry, not really. There wasn’t anybody to be angry with, because it wasn’t anybody’s fault. I was still the cutest kid in the universe (Sam hadn’t been born yet, you see)…

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…and I was still lavished with presents. But I felt left out of all the excitement, like I was no longer important to the family as a whole. This isn’t logical, of course, but three-year-olds are hardly known for their feats of logic.

It was my beloved Grandma who eventually noticed that I was sad. This is the two of us in that moment (I’m playing with what I mentally called “mean Santa” because he looked like he wanted to destroy the world rather than bring it joy).

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(I sometimes wonder if Sam got any of my genes, but this picture is exactly what he looks like when he’s being serious)

Grandma took me aside and gave me a big hug. She made sure to tell me how very much she loved me and that the presence of my new sister and cousin hadn’t changed that a bit. She told me that I was always going to be special to her, that nothing in the world would ever make her love me less. She took the time out to let me know all of that, and I believed her because that’s what I had been waiting for all along–for her to tell me that I still mattered.

(of course, I’m sure that people told me that from the moment my mom got pregnant with my sister, but this is the instance I remember the most, and also no, I’m not crying, I just have allergies to human emotion)

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(but I do miss you, Grandma)

So that’s been the first step of what Kyle and I are trying to do with Sam. I’ve noticed that it works pretty well: on Wednesday, when I got home from work, Sam was acting pretty aloof. He didn’t want to talk to me or give me a hug until I said, “Hey. Dude. I want you to know that even when the new babies get here, you’re still gonna be my guy, okay? I still love you just the same; that’s never going to change.”

And then he tackle hugged me, and we had spaghetti.

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(the universal language of reconciliation)

By the time my younger brother came along in 1988, I was an old pro at the sibling thing. I was also five years old, which helped a lot, I think. I remember how I felt when my mom was pregnant with my brother; I knew from the get-go that he was going to be a boy, and I was SUPER EXCITED about that. The day before he was born, I remember dyeing Easter Eggs, and the kit came with a tiny sticker that said “brother.” I held onto that sticker, and when I met him for the first time in the hospital a few days later, I stood on tiptoe and placed the sticker on his swaddling blanket, just so the world would know, this was MY BROTHER.

Probably because of my age, I felt compelled to help a lot more as well. With my sister, I’d been pretty limited in what I could realistically do to help–again, two-year-olds aren’t really known for their childcare skills. As a five-year-old, though, man, what couldn’t I do? I remember helping my mom to give my brother a sponge bath when he was still little enough to have the stump of an umbilical cord (“eww,” I remember thinking, but my mom promised me that the stump would be gone soon). I remember that he cried a lot, and I remember that I could help with that–I’d play music for him from a copper windmill music box we had, and that would help him feel better. I remember feeding him baby food from a bowl, disgusted that he was so eager to eat this mush, but glad to help him do so.

Being a helper was HUGE. It made transitioning from having two siblings to having three siblings a LOT easier on my emotions; I never felt left out or like attention wasn’t on me because I was necessary the entire time. Nobody could get my brother to sleep like I could (so my five-year-old brain thought). I helped and I was needed.

That’s part two of our strategy with Sam, and it also seems to be working to an extent. All of the baby books we’ve bought to explain things to him talk about how he can help with the new babies–playing with them gently, helping give them baths, helping them calm down when they’re sad. I know I’ll be relying on him for even more than that, things like fetching diapers and feeding them and helping with tummy time and who knows what else? He seems to like the idea of being a helper, and we’re trying to involve him even now, letting him choose a few things for the babies… nothing crazy and major, but I think it wouldn’t hurt to have him choose some blankets or this season’s Wubbanubs.

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(“What should I buy?” ask first-time moms. “WUBBANUBS!” I roar without letting them finish the sentence)

And, of course, there’s my dad’s brilliant idea: we’ll have two gifts at the hospital for Sammy “from the twins.” The more like Santa Claus he sees them, the better.

It’s a rough transition. I don’t think it could ever be anything but. At the same time, though… I think he’ll be okay. We just need to keep reassuring him that he’s loved and letting him be a helper, and he’ll be okay. Eventually.

The Right Choice

This was going to be a long entry in which I went through my mental list of “things we need for the babies” but when I got about halfway through writing that, something happened that made me change course.

I have a deadline coming up for my job; not for another week and a half, but it’s coming up. On Tuesday, my boss came in to talk to me about what needed to happen for the deadline. The meeting had me tensing up, at least partly because my to-do list got longer than I’d anticipated it being. When the meeting ended, I got to work on my first action item and paused midway through to run to the bathroom. I figured, I’d check the first thing off my list, have lunch, and then really dive in.

That all changed when I got to the bathroom because, you see, I was spotting.

Spotting is common in early pregnancy, even more common in twin pregnancies. Reasons for this vary–cervical sensitivity, old blood clearing out, one’s body being a COMPLETE JERK–but most of the time, it doesn’t mean anything, as long as it’s not (a) bright red and (b) accompanied by cramping. Still, when you’ve had as many miscarriages as I have, seeing any blood–brown, pink, or red–automatically sets off klaxons in your brain.

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I called my doctor as soon as I got back to the office, and the nurse on the line told me to come in for bloodwork to make sure that my HCG numbers were still high. I thought this was pretty odd–I’m 10 weeks along, so HCG should be kind of besides the point by now, right? But I needed answers, so I went, in a rush of panic; and once I’d gotten my blood drawn, I went home to rest and wait for the results. To my surprise (they’d told me that I wouldn’t get results until at least the next day), the office called me back less than 20 minutes after I got home, largely because the nurse had spoken to my doctor personally.

Let’s rewind some. My doctor, Dr. Solano, was my obstetrician when I was pregnant with Sam. I hadn’t planned to see him, but the doctor I had planned to see had apparently decided that she wanted to be a urologist instead of an obstetrician, which was weird, but okay. Dr. Solano immediately put me at ease with his friendliness and straightforward responses to my questions. He didn’t sugar coat things, but he also gave me information in a kind of enough manner that I could digest it without an ounce of panic. Even towards the end of my pregnancy with Sam, when my body went completely haywire, he stayed calm and optimistic, while still maintaining a realistic view of what was going on and making sure to get me the help I needed.

So naturally, when we found out that we’d FINALLY managed to get pregnant, I called his office right away. I couldn’t imagine seeing anyone else for my prenatal care, even though he’d since moved to an office that was farther away than the one I’d seen him at when I was pregnant with Sam. As soon as the RE’s office released me (that’s what they call it when you’ve successfully gotten pregnant and can start seeing a regular obstetrician instead of the REs), I called Dr. Solano’s office to set up appointments.

The new office handled appointments a little differently than I expected. When I’d been pregnant with Sam, I’d gone in for a blood test to confirm the pregnancy and then gone in for a complete physical with Dr. Solano a couple of weeks later, around the 8 week mark. By simple merit of the process I’d been through, I wouldn’t have been able to have an appointment at 8 weeks, but it turned out that they don’t really do that anymore anyway. Instead, I’d go in and see a nurse (in my case, a pair of nurses) ASAP to go over the whole pregnancy process. At around 10-11 weeks, I’d have an ultrasound with a nurse practitioner. I wouldn’t see an actual doctor until around 16 weeks, two weeks into the second trimester.

Odd, I thought, but alright. I went to the first appointment on Friday, September 22, and it was… well, it happened. A pair of nurses sat down with me and went through all the dos and don’ts of pregnancy with me, all of which I know by heart and could probably teach a class on. They gave me a booklet about those dos and don’ts, a slightly revised copy of the one I’d received four years ago, when I’d giddily gone in for my first appointment with Sam. The primary questions I’d had referenced any way in which twin pregnancy might be different from singleton pregnancy; mostly, their responses were “I don’t know” or “I’ll have to look that up.” When the appointment ended, they sent me to the building’s lab for bloodwork and a urine test, and then I was free to go.

That appointment left me feeling something I’d never felt during my pregnancy with Sam: processed. My appointments with Sam were never particularly long, but that’s largely because I didn’t really have any questions 99% of the time. When I did have questions, Dr. Solano answered them quickly and thoroughly, and I never felt the need to do more of my own research when I got home. The nurses were friendly and joked around with me a lot, and we all established a good rapport that continued when I went into the hospital to deliver.

This stood in stark contrast to what I’d heard about the differences between obstetricians and midwives in terms of prenatal care. For those not in the know, the obstetrician vs. midwife debate tends to be a hot one in pregnancy communities. People complain that obstetricians are too cold, that they leave patients feeling processed and rushed, that midwives are warmer and more caring and will take as much time as you need. I don’t have much experience with midwives (one checked me for dilation when I went to the hospital contracting at 36 weeks, and I later called the check “the fist of justice” because I imagine only God or an embodiment of Justice could cause that much pain to a person’s cervix), but my experience with obstetricians has always been enough for me to argue against this stereotype. Maybe some doctors are like that, but not my doctor.

And yet, after that first appointment, I had doubt. The nurses seemed dismissive of the miscarriages I’ve had (“oh, but those were part of the IVF process,” they said, not writing down the number 4 when I said that was how many miscarriages I’d had. “Yes,” I tried to explain, “I was going through IVF, but I was also pregnant and miscarried.”) and didn’t know that I was having twins until I told them three or four times, despite it being written on my file. I didn’t feel like a person to them; I felt like a number or a checkbox, just another person to process before getting to lunch.

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So I wondered if I’d made the right decision. Had medical care changed so much since Sam was born? Was this how all of my prenatal appointments would be?

And that brings me back to spotting on Wednesday. When the nurse on the phone told me I needed bloodwork, it seemed to confirm my worst fears: that nobody knew who I was, that nobody was going to actually treat me like an individual but simply as another cog in the wheel. And then she called back and said she’d spoken to Dr. Solano, and not only that, but he’d wanted me to come in immediately for an ultrasound and appointment.

Which, not to sound entitled to healthcare or anything, but that’s what I’d hoped for and expected.

Kyle and I hurried out to the car and drove all the way to Dr. Solano’s new office. The receptionist warned us that we might have to wait a while, but also told us that Dr. Solano was adamant about seeing us that day, even if we were his last appointment of the day. We did wait for about half an hour before being called in to the ultrasound, and though the technician didn’t know that we were pregnant with twins (honestly, I feel like I actually need to wear a shirt that says, “TWINS” or “#TWINNING” sometimes), we got to see that despite the spotting, they were perfectly healthy with strong heartbeats, tiny kicking limbs, and fingers.

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(the tech said that those aren’t fingers on Baby B, but COME ON, what else could they be?)

That put my mind at ease, but not as much as the appointment with Dr. Solano about half an hour later did. Once we’d gotten our photo booth strip of pictures, we returned to the waiting room and were shortly called into a small, warm office. Kyle and I waited in there for about fifteen minutes, sipping from tiny bottles of Wells Fargo water (no, I didn’t know they made water either) and joking around about various methods of contraception until Dr. Solano came in and shook both of our hands, looking genuinely happy to see us.

Which is always a good sign.

He told us that everything looked fine, that I should take it easy and stay on pelvic rest to prevent further spotting adventures (Kyle looked sad), that heavy lifting and heavy activity were out. We all caught up on our lives since Sam was born–he was promoted to the head OB/GYN at a new hospital (which he explained using Star Trek metaphors that Kyle later nitpicked), we have a three-year-old and impending twins.

Best of all, he was able to answer questions, and was happy to do so. He told me that my pregnancy wouldn’t be very different from a singleton pregnancy, except that it would be shorter and involve a lot more ultrasounds (at least one a month to measure the twins’ growth). When I expressed my nervousness at the prospect of needing a C-section to give birth (nationally, twin births are a LOT more likely to be C-section births–about 60-75%, depending on what you read, compared to 30% for singletons), he told me that he likes to avoid C-sections for twins at all costs. He talked about having a 40% C-section rate for twins, which blew my mind–that’s a LOT better than average. And he said, “If you end up needing a C-section, I’ll be right there the whole way.”

It’s a silly thing to be comforted by, but it worked.

The appointment ended, and as Kyle and I headed back to our car, reassured, Dr. Solano made it a point to tell us, “Guys, I was really, really happy to see you on my schedule.” And all the doubt was gone.

It all reinforces some of my strongest beliefs about prenatal care, namely that it’s less about midwife vs. doctor and more about who makes you feel heard, cared for, and safe. For me, that’s an obstetrician (a very specific one, but still an obstetrician). For someone else, that might be a midwife. You really just have to go with whomever works best for you.

My next appointment is on Wednesday, an ultrasound and all that blood drawn for various prenatal tests (I still need to make sure that our insurance will cover Harmony–that’s the most accurate test for chromosomal abnormalities–even though we’re having twins). I’m seeing Dr. Solano’s nurse practitioner, whom he’s said is really great, so I have high hopes. Overall, I’m feeling a lot more confident about this pregnancy, and that’s a huge relief.

Symptoms and Big Siblings

When you’ve had as many miscarriages as I have, you start to get paranoid about feeling those early pregnancy symptoms; if they aren’t overwhelming and making you miserable, you instantly start to panic and think, “This is it, I’m losing this one, too.”

I didn’t really notice my symptoms yesterday, because it was a crazy day at work (worked late for the second day in a row trying to meet a couple of deadlines). I was so worn out from work itself that I couldn’t even pay attention to the usual pregnancy stuff–sure, I was tired, but that’s to be expected when you’re busting your butt to meet a deadline. Sure, I felt a little queasy, but I’d also had some tense exchanges with a couple of people that would’ve set any anxious gal’s stomach a-fluttering. And I went to bed early, as I have every night for the past month, not thinking much of pregnancy but rather thinking of how crazy work had been.

So when I woke up this morning and didn’t immediately feel pukey and achy, a little bit of panic set in. I hadn’t been paying attention yesterday; had my symptoms been gradually fading into oblivion? Was I going to have to sheepishly delete my “Babies #2 and 3” album on Facebook and write another entry on miscarriage? Would I spend the weekend chugging moscato and Cosmos and drowning my sorrows?

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Well… no.

I had some breakfast once I got downstairs (not an easy feat–Sam was in a very friendly mood this morning; more on that later), and it only took about three bites, plus a sip of cranberry juice, for the nausea to return with a vengeance. Crisis averted, time to go back to whining about how sick I feel (the answer? Very).

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(I wish this could be me, I would love to be horizontal right now)

So in terms of emotions, I’m basically vacillating between paranoia at the idea of miscarrying and panic at the fact that I’m less than seven months away from having two newborns. I’m having such a hard time wrapping my head around the latter that I can hardly begin to plan things, which is a fine kettle of fish because I love planning things. I just don’t know where to start is, I think, the main problem. I know what we need, in theory, and I know that it’s going to be a lot of investment in Things, but it’s also pretty overwhelming.

A lot of it was easier to think about when we were thinking of just one baby because so much of the planning involved recycling what we used with Sam: one crib with its mattress already there, one pack ‘n play, one set of baby clothes (though if you think I wouldn’t buy more clothes if it turned out we were having a girl, you’re a little crazy), one this, one that. Now recycling won’t cover what we need; we’ve got to get double of everything. One more crib and mattress, more baby clothes, two car seats, two of this, two of that. It’s… overwhelming.

Less overwhelmed is Sam, who’s reacting to the fact of becoming a big brother with something between apathy and excitement. Most of the time, it’s apathy because I don’t think he entirely understands what’s happening yet. Occasionally, he gets excited. He pokes my stomach to try and “talk” to the babies (when he’s feeling more impish, he leans back on me to “squish” the babies) and asks if he can come with me to the doctor to see the babies (which is basically going to be impossible until I’m a lot further along  because all of my ultrasounds are pretty much going to be really early in the morning).

He’s making the transition from junior preschool to preschool, and it’s mostly going well, finally. The first couple of days, Sam was really nervous about the change–he hates change overall, and school-related change is the absolute worst. He cried every day at drop off and told us that he didn’t like preschool, that he thought the teacher didn’t like him, that he was afraid of the bigger kids because they play too rough, etc.

Gradually, though, he’s started to enjoy himself. I dropped him off yesterday (because Kyle is having car trouble, as is customary in the fall) and he was all smiles and excitement, talking about playing in the sand table and how happy he was to see his friends. When I got home from work, he was all smiles, cuddles, and giggles. He was really glad to have been at school, told me that he had a great day (compared to his “wonderful” day the day before), and I’m glad. Transitions are hard for a three-year-old, and he’s got a lot coming up.

Sometimes I worry about how this is affecting him, because it’s one thing to be gung ho about having a lot of kids when you don’t have any, and it’s another when you’re planning to add a sibling to a family dynamic that already exists. Part of me gets really nervous that changing up the dynamic of our family will cause him serious issues, but then I remember, “oh yeah, I had two younger siblings, and I’m mostly okay.” It’s just a different perspective, at the end of the day.

I miss spending more time with him; my weekends end up being completely derailed by how tired I am, the fatigue resulting in a 2-3 hour nap for me every Saturday and Sunday (I’d take one every day of the week, but for some reason, my office isn’t okay with that). When I am up, I feel bad because I’m overall feeling so crappy that playing with Sam is just completely outside of my capabilities, at least in most of the ways he wants to play.

He’s so very sweet about it, too. He tries to find ways to make me more comfortable and capable of playing with him, and some of those methods work (e.g., bringing a table over so that we can play a game together) and some don’t (putting a pillow on the floor so that I can sit with him). He understands that I’m not at my best right now, and he’s doing everything he can to accommodate me, and that’s sweet.

This morning, he tried to keep me from going to work by “locking” the door (he actually unlocked it) and demanding “one more hug” and “one more kiss” until I finally had to pry him off and tell him I’d see him tonight. If nothing else, I’m really looking forward to those couple of months between me leaving my job and the twins being born where Sam and I can have our days together like we used to. He’s such a sweet boy.

Anyway. First proper prenatal appointment tomorrow, next ultrasound on October 4. Until then…

Just a little anxious

The fact of being pregnant with twins keeps hitting me roughly every 90 minutes, which is about when my stomach acid bubbles up like some sort of asshole Old Faithful. “Gaaaargh,” I say, feeling as if I’m about to start breathing fire, and then, “Why do I feel like this?” and then I remember that oh yeah, I’m pregnant with twins. This sends me into a mild panic spiral because I still don’t know how to process this fact, that there are two fetuses in me, that both are healthy, and that come probably somewhere between mid-March and early April, I will be responsible for the lives of not one but two potato humans.

(I call them potato humans because let’s be real: newborns don’t do much besides lie around and be fleshy potatoes. I mean, they also eat and poop and puke and cry, but most of my potatoes do that too, so)

I can’t really figure out a way to come to terms with this because it’s never happened to me or anyone I’m really close with before. With one baby, I could look at the roughly six gajillion friends I have who’ve had exactly one baby, or I could plumb the depths of my babysitting experience, or I could even look back on when my mother had my sister and brother and say, “Hey, I know something about that.” With two, though? Honestly, I think the only example I can think of off the top of my head is Full House, and much though I’d love to have John Stamos come help me with twin care, I don’t think that’s going to happen.

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(but, I mean, John Stamos, if you read this and you’re like “hey, I want to go help that chick out with her twin care,” I will not complain, like. At all)

So I imagine it’ll be a lot of flying by the seat of our pants and a lot of swearing (newborns have the benefit of not understanding swear words yet and not being able to repeat swear words yet, so you don’t have to worry about embarrassing Target trips where they remark, “I have a mosquito bite. What the fuck?” and you realize that maybe you should start censoring yourself a little bit), and I don’t imagine I’ll feel very sane for at least another three years after they’re born. Once they’re born, I imagine all attempts at planning anything will go straight out the window, and we’ll just be improvising a lot. We’ll survive, and we’ll be stronger and better for it, but it’s going to be chaotic getting there.

That said, to my absolute delight, I can start planning for some things, and that’s heavenly. I haven’t been able to plan for things since we started this process, so being able to say, “Alright, in Februaryish we’ll do a maternity shoot and we’ll need to get a minivan by late February at the very latest, and we’ll learn the genders sometime in November, and I’ll have energy for the holiday season” and things like that is awesome. I can say with absolute confidence that I’m not making any plans between March 1 and April 25 but that other days and times are theoretically open, particularly before the first of the year.

And I’m making lists of things we need two of, like two car seats, a double stroller, two bouncer things, two new sets of bottles, two million white onesies…

So all of that planning is keeping me from panicking too much about other scary aspects of this, specifically the health aspects.

My pregnancy with Sam was probably objectively an easy one for at least the first ~8 months. I didn’t have nausea so much as I had fullness (read: I could only eat one taco at a time 😦 ). My emotions were chaotic, and towards the end, I got REALLY tired of hauling around all that baby; but for the most part, I was pretty healthy. I didn’t gain too much weight until the last month, I maintained my usual levels of activity, I got enough sleep, and much though I hate pregnancy (and I do; I’d like to skip the next 30 some odd weeks and just get them here), it wasn’t a bad time.

At least until the last month. The last month, my body just got fed up with housing my adorable squatter. I ballooned right up, gaining a good 50 lbs over the course of a month. I never had swelling above the waist, the general ticket to ride a train to Ohshitsville, but my feet and legs were so swollen that we could draw smiley faces in them with our fingers (by “we” I mean me and Kat and Kyle). My liver enzymes were pretty elevated, and my blood pressure kept skyrocketing briefly before going back down to pregnancy lows again.

It was miserable.

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(this is funny because no, I could not even move like this for half a second)

And that was just with one baby! I’m looking at a pregnancy with two babies and feeling pretty concerned because twins make basically everything more likely to happen. On the one hand, you have things that are fairly common anyway like gestational diabetes and early delivery; on the other, you have panic-inducing conditions like preeclampsia and HELLP syndrome and oh, just about every other bad juju pregnancy thing you can think of. Scientifically, pregnancy is already an extremely risky prospect for anyone; but when you add double babies to the mix, things get dicey real fast.

Even assuming everything goes really well throughout pregnancy, there’s also the realization that 60% of twins are delivered via C-section. Now, I’m not a natural birth junky by any stretch of the imagination. I loved my epidural (I wanted to take it home with me), and I’m very glad that medical interventions exist. I’m absolutely fine, on an emotional level, with doing whatever it takes to bring my babies into the world safely and without incident.

That doesn’t change the fact that a C-section is major abdominal surgery.

I’m not really wigged out at the surgery aspect of it; the only thing that’s been an issue for me in previous surgeries is the general anesthesia, which makes me nauseous. I think surgery’s kind of cool, honestly, and wish that I could simultaneously be on the operating table and watching my operation take place.

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(if only to avoid the possibility of being operated on by Weird Al)

It’s really more the recovery that’s got me skittish.

Because recovery is the hard part of any surgery. During surgery, you’re blissfully pain-free (in theory; I’ve read horror stories) and often times in dreamland. Afterwards, things get dicey. I know I take a while to recover from surgeries; when I got my gallbladder out, I didn’t really feel even close to myself again until a week later, and that’s comparatively minor surgery. What’s going to happen when they have to slice me up like a Christmas ham to get the babies out? How miserable am I going to be, and how much shit is going to end up on Kyle’s shoulders because I’m just not capable of doing things?

I kind of long for the days of families all living together in communes and being able to really rely on each other wholly when things got rough like this. I feel shitty putting a lot of the baby and house care on someone else when I’m recuperating; people have their own lives and shouldn’t have to spend their time helping me with mine.

Maybe I could hire someone?

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And of course, there’s Sam. Transitioning into life as a big brother was already going to be hard on him (we spoil him quite a lot, which I think happens even more when you’re infertile; you don’t know if this one is the only one you’ll get, and you’re so thankful that he’s here that you’re like, “Sure, absolutely, take all of my time and have a brownie and why not, you can totally have that four-foot-tall Darth Vader”), but even if I manage to deliver the twins vaginally, he’s going to be competing for attention with two newborns, not just one, and he may find himself wholly at the mercy of his mother’s C-section recovery.

I know that once we’re out of those first wild and crazy weeks of newborn-ness and into the baby life, it’ll be a little easier to make sure that he has time with us, just with us, but I still hate the idea of him feeling left out or neglected. And I shouldn’t be so concerned about it because I survived it just fine and Kyle survived it just fine and every oldest sibling on the planet survived it just fine, but you know. I want to make sure that he knows that he’s always our baby, even though we’re bringing more babies into the house.

ANYWAY. There are all my anxieties. These are not going to go away and will be hovering like a cloud of gnats basically for the rest of my life. And that’s not even touching on financial worries (I’m leaving my job, because daycare for one toddler plus two infants would be about twice what I take home in a month; also we need a minivan; also how are we going to pay for diapers and formula–because lol I’m not even bothering with breastfeeding this go-around–and also diapers and clothes and diapers and wipes and diapers for two infants?) and emotional worries (I AM FAT AND JIGGLY AND MY LIFE IS CHANGING) and more meta worries (I am bringing two new humans into a world with a Doomsday Clock two minutes to midnight and recurrent giant hurricanes because of global warming).

I think the only reason I sleep at night lately is because I’m on Effexor and am so tired from growing two humans that my brain starts to be like, “Let’s go over your anxieties!” and the rest of me responds, “Yeah, no, we’re sleeping now, bye.”

All the way across the sky

I want to try and get my feelings about this on paper (“paper”), but there’s a problem with that because I don’t know what my feelings ARE.

So let me document.

Friday evening, after a long and difficult week at work, I came home and sat down on the toilet to see a lot of blood in my underwear. No woman ever likes to see blood in her underwear (even when you’re hoping not to be pregnant, it’s kind of a mixed bag because periods suck), but for me, it was an added layer of NOPE. This is how all of my miscarriages began, and so I was more than a little frustrated–not really afraid (well, a little), but more angry because literally why does this keep happening to me?

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I called the emergency nurse line for the IVF place, and they told me that bleeding was pretty common in early pregnancy, that if I wasn’t filling a pad or passing clots, I should just take it easy and wait until my ultrasound on Monday to see what was going on.

So the weekend passed as usual, and also not as usual. This pregnancy has been really rough on me, and I wasn’t sure why. The morning sickness has been worse, the fatigue, sore breasts, all of it has been way worse than it ever was with Sam. I had plans for this weekend, but most of them ended up put off so that I could spend long hours of each day sleeping, so tired that I fell asleep the second my head hit the pillow and didn’t move from one position the entire time.

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(which says something because I usually sleep like an egg beater)

I didn’t tell Kyle exactly how tired I was feeling–or Kat, for that matter–because I didn’t want them to worry, but I think they picked up on it. And I think we all assumed that hey, pregnancy is balls, I’m just going to have to ride this out.

Today arrived, and I was ready for the ultrasound. I half expected to go in and see nothing, an empty uterus or a misshapen, ungrown fetus that they’d have to remove surgically. I had accepted it; I felt calm and, really, mostly just tired. Really, REALLY tired. We had our favorite ultrasound tech again, and within a few seconds of the ultrasound beginning, we saw something that has basically settled us both into stunned silence ever since.

We saw twins.

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Two gestational sacs, both measuring about 7 weeks, 2 days (I’m 7 weeks, 5 days, but for twins they just like the sacs to be within two weeks, size-wise). Two yolk sacs, both measuring about the same size. Two fetuses, one measuring 7 weeks, 5 days and the other measuring 7 weeks, 3 days. Two heartbeats, one at 157 beats per minute and the other at 131 beats per minute. Everything looks great. Everything looks perfect.

And we’re having twins.

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I’m–stunned, honestly. That’s the best word I can use to describe how I feel at the moment. This has obviously always been a possibility–and even a probability–but I never actually expected it. We’ve had such bad luck up until now, and the thought that just one of the embryos we transferred was growing strong was fantastic. To think that two were in there, growing strong, with healthy heartbeats and at exactly the right size?

Never mind that twins–TWINS–are just… it staggers your mind. Having one baby is crazy enough, but two at once? I can’t wrap my mind around it. How do you even begin to process this? Twins is something that happens to other people, not me.

I mean, I’m happy. I’m genuinely happy. Once this actually sinks in, I may even ascend to “thrilled” territory, but I just–

I have NO idea how to process this! I can’t even start planning, that’s how stunned I am! I plan everything, and I just– I know that we need like. A double stroller. Two more car seats. Another crib. Probably two bassinets. Twice the bottles. Twice the formula (holy shit we are going to go broke). Twice the diapers (AAAAAA). Two bouncy chairs. Two of everything.

But legitimately, WHAT IS LIFE EVEN? I AM HAVING TWINS. AAAAAA.