51 Weeks

Facebook has a tool that allows you to see posts you made on a certain day in the past, and it’s become part of my nightly ritual. Unless I’m absolutely soul-destroyingly exhausted (read: I have pneumonia or am on Percocet after delivering twins), I try to stay up until midnight to see what happened a year ago, two years ago, five years ago. Part of the fun comes in watching Sammy grow up through my memories, seeing my favorite old videos of him (the one where he laughs hysterically at a dancing doll, the one where he imitates Kyle using the phone, the one where he learns to say his name, the one where he eats my sunshine) and reading old updates on something cute he said or did.

Last night, as the clock flipped over to midnight, I looked at last year’s memories with a little more curiosity than usual, since last year, I was unknowingly a week out from giving birth. I only had two: an updated cover picture and a comment that our power was flickering. This was probably due to the weather, since I remember we had a lot of Nor’easters last winter (Wikipedia tells me that it was due to weather, so go me and my foggy memory!).

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But that’s surprisingly all. No comments about the babies or the pregnancy. No weekly update picture (I think that will show up tomorrow) with size approximations. Just power flickering and a cover picture. All quiet on the baby front.

Weird.

I don’t know what I would have or could have done differently, had I known I was just a week away from delivering. I suppose we could’ve set up the bassinets sooner, but it wouldn’t have made much difference, since the babies were in the NICU for two weeks anyway. Maybe I could’ve packed a hospital bag, but no, I was too pregnant to move almost.

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(this is the secret about being pregnant with multiples: the bigger you get, the harder it is to move)

(also I’m sure someone is going to show up and be like “I had quadruplets and ran a marathon the day before I delivered them” which is really good for you, Mackayla, but my hips still haven’t recovered)

Something I thought about recently that I never wrote about here was my own physical recovery from my C-section, and I feel kind of bad about that. I feel like so much of the internet’s stories about C-sections and recoveries from C-sections are horror stories; I know when I was trying to read up on C-section delivery to prepare for the twins, I kept coming across tales of hemorrhaging and hysterectomies and the like, which did not help my nervousness about the procedure, let me tell you.

So here’s the blurry remnants of what I remember despite the Percocet.

In the immediate aftermath of the surgery, I was fuzzy all over. I couldn’t feel anything below my waist, and the nurses were very interested in maintaining that particular status quo, at least in the immediate period after I delivered. I still had an IV giving me pain medications for the next 12 hours, if I’m remembering correctly, even after I moved from the delivery suite into my recovery suite (which was the same room I had when I delivered Sam, and that brought me to tears more than once). I also kept the booties on my feet–the ones they’d given me to prevent clots while I had my spinal block–for the next 12 hours, until they were confident the spinal block had worn off. And I’ll be honest: I was sad to lose them. They felt nice, like getting a nice calf massage but not from someone who’s like “this won’t hurt!” and then drives their knuckles into your bone so hard that you realize they’re going to hold you captive and force you to write a novel for them.

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For the intervening 12 hours, I mostly just sat and watched TV/played around on my phone. I couldn’t get out of bed, which was both frustrating and fine–I was tired, but I really wanted to see the twins and just move on my own.

Kyle brought me something to eat, but I don’t remember what it was, which is a note to myself that if I ever do this again, I’m going to have a very specific idea what I want for a victory dinner and Uber Eats it, and then send Kyle out to the atrium to await the driver. I don’t know if you can even use Uber Eats if you’re a hospital patient, but I do think it should be allowed for maternity patients.

(when I had Sam, my victory dinner was half a dozen donuts, which I ate while holding him, because I hadn’t eaten anything for about 24 hours at that point)

I remember I had the sweetest night nurse, and I think her name was Michelle. She came in when her shift began and introduced herself before explaining how the night would go. First, I would get some sleep. Then, around 4 a.m., she’d come in and get me ready to try walking again, since this was about 12 hours from when my surgery began. This is when she would remove my IVs, remove my beloved massage booties, and, with another nurse, help me walk to the bathroom so that I could pee without a catheter (which would also get removed at that time). And as a reward for that? I’d get to see my babies, finally.

So when 4 a.m. rolled around, I was MORE than ready to shuffle to the toilet. I queued up the Proclaimers’ “I’m Gonna Be” (you know, “Now I would walk 500 miles and I would walk 500 more…”) for motivation, warned Kyle (who was asleep in a cot across the room and acknowledged me with a faint grunt), and got ready. Michelle and her assistant gently helped me to my feet, arms looped around my waist, and served as my crutches as I walked, not unlike a 90-year-old woman, to the toilet and, in a moment that my pelvic floor doesn’t realize has since ended, let loose.

The nurses praised me, gave me my first dose of painkillers (Percocet and ibuprofen), and helped me into a wheelchair. “Try and walk as much as possible while you’re here,” they said, “but don’t overdo it. If you’re hurting at all, stop.”

Which was the weird thing about my recovery, because it was kind of a utopian vision of what a C-section recovery can be. Because I didn’t have the babies in room with me, I got all the sleep I needed to heal quickly, even surprising the nurses attending me when I was wearing my maternity jeans two days after delivery (I mean. They have an elastic waist that’s glorious and that I still take advantage of at Thanksgiving). When I left the hospital, I got plenty of rest as well, so that by the time the babies came home, after two weeks, I was well on my way to recovered.

And, well. In the 51 weeks since, I’ve pretty much returned to something that slightly resembles a more tired version of normal (side note: a study came out recently saying that parents, on average, don’t reach a state of being well-rested until their youngest child is six years old, which is why when the opportunity arises for me to nap, I TAKE THE NAP). The only real indicator of my C-section is the scar on my bikini line, but that’s also mostly hidden underneath my other pregnancy souvenir, the massive flap of stretched out skin left over from how big my belly got.

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I had a couple of big takeaways, the first being that C-sections and C-section recovery aren’t as terrifying or difficult as I’d expected. Something that should be the first choice of everyone involved, regardless of circumstances? Definitely not. But a C-section that’s medically indicated isn’t something to fear, and the recovery, while not easy, isn’t as terrifying as I’d thought going in.

(which, mind, was based on my last surgery, where a bad reaction to anesthesia left me fucked up for a full week afterwards… compared to other people who’d had similar surgery and were back to work the next day)

Another was that everyone’s experience when it comes to birth is going to be different, and that my situation isn’t applicable to everyone. I’m not trying to contradict myself and say that “yeah, that last paragraph about C-sections not being scary? BULLSHIT THEY ARE SUPER SCARY!” because I don’t think the idea of having a C-section, when it’s medically indicated and performed by competent professionals, should frighten anyone. What I am saying, though, is that the speed and ease of my recovery owed a lot to my overall circumstances:

  • My babies spent two weeks in the NICU, so I had two weeks of not waking up at all hours to feed them.
  • When they did come home, Kyle and I took shifts overnight, because the babies were formula fed and didn’t require a boob whenever they got hungry.
  • I’d resigned from my job already by that point, and our survival as a family wasn’t contingent on me getting back to work, so I had time to stay home and recover.

Adding all that together, it makes sense that I was able to recover as quickly and completely as I was and that my story didn’t fall in line with the horror stories I’d expected. BUT, that said, I do think there are some universal things I’d want anyone else facing a C-section to know as well:

  • Do not put off walking unless you’re in excruciating pain. The sooner you start, the sooner you’ll be doing it on your own.
  • Rest as much as you can, and don’t overdo it. Listen to your body. If your body starts feeling bad when you do something, stop and rest.
  • Do not be a martyr about pain meds. Seriously. If you’re not comfortable taking certain meds while breastfeeding, ask for something else. If you try to be a martyr, it will hurt like hell and you’ll wake up yelping in pain at 4 a.m. begging your partner to get your meds and some water while your three-year-old sits at the foot of your bed innocently asking, “Mommy, what’s wrong?” and trying to climb into your lap, except you can’t straighten up because it hurts so much, so you just kind of pat him and lightly push him away, which likely scars him for life, but then you get your meds and ALL IS WELL AGAIN. (ahem)
  • Take a deep breath. Let it out. In with blue skies, out with grey skies. It’s okay to be scared, but know this: odds are, you’re gonna be okay.

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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.

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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.

Well.

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?

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Ha.

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.”

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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.

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“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.

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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!

Anyway.

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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

If.

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.

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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!”

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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.

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(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.

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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.

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(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.

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(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…

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…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.

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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.

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(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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.”

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(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)

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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!

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.