Thursday, January 16, 2014

Life after twin pregnancy: The first two weeks

It has been nearly two weeks since Beth and Sadie were born, and nothing is as I expected it to be.

It is so much better.

The night before

After what felt like the world's longest pregnancy capped off by a short but depressing hospital stay where I was put on bed rest for high blood pressure, the C-section date was bumped up one week. I thought I would be totally ready to get those babies out of there, but the night before their birth — and especially the morning of — I was seized with fear.

What if I couldn't do this — manage twin newborns and a 3-year-old? What if the babies were colicky or fussy or sick or wouldn't sleep at night? What if the worst in Evan came out at once and our world was ruled by three screaming children? What if I got postpartum depression again and spent my days and nights in tears? What if I couldn't love my children enough?

I tried to keep these thoughts at bay, but I still hardly slept a wink the night before my scheduled C-section. Couple that with the fact that the babies were going nuts the night before, kicking and wrestling and rolling, and it was a restless night. So when the nurse came in at 5:30 a.m., I was practically already out the door. Aaron joined us shortly thereafter while they monitored the babies and prepped me for surgery. Neither of us said much, partly because of the early hour but more likely because we both had the same anxieties. Nevertheless, it was time to go.

The surgery

I waddled on down to the operating room (quite a victory for an about-to-burst mother of twins), where we were joined by our large medical team: the anesthesiologist, my OBGYN, several nurses, a surgical assistant, two pediatricians, and NICU staff. Ready or not, the time had come.

When I had my C-section for Evan, I was so ready. I had been in labor for 36 hours and he was stuck every which way, so we were overjoyed to be finally done and get him born. This time, I had way too much time to think about the surgery beforehand. I was pretty nervous, which may or may not have contributed to the unpleasant experience of throwing up while strapped to the operating table — not once, not twice, but four times. And twice more in recovery. Not a pleasant start to the proceedings. But once the surgery was actually underway, things got much better.

Up first was Baby A, Beth. My doctor told us she was about to be born but stopped with a laugh, saying Beth was helping deliver herself: Apparently she had reached out and grabbed onto one of the surgical tools and was pulling quite fiercely. At 7:07 a.m. weighing 4 lbs. 10 oz., Elizabeth Lindsay was born. Next up was Baby B, Sadie, who had turned during the night (again) and came out feet first. At 7:08 a.m. weighting 4 lbs. 14 oz., Sadie May was born.

Most moms of multiples say it takes weeks if not months for twins to realize there's another baby there and to acknowledge their sibling, but Beth and Sadie found each other right away.

And they have been like that since. While they're too young to understand anything that's actually going on, when lying side by side they always find each other.

We often find them in their cribs just like this, heads turned toward one another, foreheads and even cheeks touching.

The babies

This is how sweet our girls have been since day one, and now almost 2 weeks later, not much has changed.

Nothing bothers them, other than being hungry or naked and cold. And even then, they calm down right away. They need no help falling asleep or staying asleep, and they're incredibly mellow pretty much 24/7. My theory is that they have been kicked, shoved, and pushed around in the womb for their entire existence, so they're just used to being harassed. Couple this with the fact that they always have another little body nearby to comfort them, and they never get so carried away that a little cuddle doesn't calm them down in a snap.

Probably the best thing of all is that they sleep at night. Aaron and I have been keeping them up with us after Evan goes to bed, giving them awake time and a feeding just before we go to bed around 11. Other than the first night home, where they fussed from about 2 a.m. to 5 a.m., they have only woken up to eat once in the night. Yes, once. So they eat around 11 p.m., 3 or 4 a.m., and 8 or 9 a.m. Oh yeah, we've hit the new baby jackpot.

Some of you may be saying, "Yeah, they're mellow because they're newborns, and sleeping is all they do." Not so, my friends. Our first newborn did NOT sleep. He didn't do anything but scream since the day he was born, so we know what a drastic difference this is. In fact, the most surprising thing of all is the fact that these two newborns are 50 times easier than Evan not just as a baby, but still now as a 3-year-old. Other than the time it takes to feed and change two babies, they are a piece of cake. I am actually enjoying this stage that I've spent years dreading!

It doesn't hurt that the twins are as healthy as they come; poor little Evan had a rough start. It took us months until we figured out that he had acid reflux, a dairy intolerance, and a kinked neck and spine from a traumatic labor, so I don't blame him for being pissed at the start.

But despite being born at just 36 weeks gestation, the girls are remarkably healthy. The NICU staff was standing by, but everyone was shocked that the twins didn't need a single thing at birth. They had no breathing problems, no feeding issues, no jaundice, nothing. Other than being tiny, you would never know they were born an entire month earlier than most single babies.

In this picture, Beth is one week old. Had I still been pregnant they'd be at 37 weeks gestation. This shows you just how tiny they really are, chicken legs and all!

But other than being skinny minnies, they are absolutely perfect. What a rare and immense blessing!

In the end, I think this mellowness really just has to do with temperament. Evan has always been an all-or-nothing kid. When he's happy, he is HaPpY!!!!! When he's not, look out. So far, it seems like these girls don't go to the same extremes — not even close. Time will tell, as they grow out of the newborn phase and start to be their own people. But my hope is that right now while they are so easy, we'll get them on a good schedule and teach them good habits so that by the time the newborn spell wears off they'll be trained, for lack of a better word, and happy.

The recovery

Turns out I didn't need to be nervous for the surgery at all. It was no walk in the park, but the aftermath wasn't nearly as bad as after my first C-section, which was preceded by 36 hours of labor. I have been reading a bunch of blogs about recovery after a twin birth, trying to prepare myself for whatever madness may lie ahead. But once again, I got the best-case scenarios and seemed to recover in a flash.

Well, it's not like I was dancing around the hospital room. I had a lot of pain and I could only walk slowly, inch by inch, but I was up the next day. The funny thing is, recovering from a C-section pretty much felt exactly like being extremely pregnant with twins, so I was already used to that. The main difference: Every day got better, not worse.

This is me just one or two days after delivery. Not too shabby, eh?

Other than pain from the incision, the worst side effect was the swelling, which was partially from pregnancy and partially from IV fluid. Luckily, while on bed rest I got rid of most of it and probably the rest by the time I got home.

Remember this?

Down to this a week after delivery:

Also, I don't think the incision pain would have been so bad on its own, but I got a terrible cough while in the hospital. Every time I had to cough, it felt like my incision was being torn open again. That sucked, but even then the pain was manageable. By the time we left the hospital three days later I didn't need pain pills. I could walk almost at a normal speed, though in short distances only. A week after the birth we even made a little family trip to the mall. I couldn't go far, but it's a far cry from post-surgery with Evan, where I could still barely hobble a month later. 

The other amazing thing — that thing which all mothers-to-be are so anxious about — is that just 2 weeks after delivery, my belly is miraculously almost back to normal size and I am only about 10 lbs. above my pre-baby weight.

Remember this, just a week before delivery?

Bam, three weeks later.

Whenever someone tells me I look good I've been joking that all I had to do was have major surgery to remove two humans from my body. Easy peasy! 

Of course it wasn't so easy, but it is astounding to me how long ago my pregnancy feels. I never thought I'd say this in a million years, never ever ever, but ... I almost miss it. Almost. Yes, it sucked, but it was also miraculous. What an incredible thing, to grow not just one baby but two! To have them here now, so healthy and strong, makes me feel pretty amazing. I can't believe I did that! All on my own, I not only survived but I kicked twin pregnancy's butt! 

And to bounce back so quickly almost makes me feel even more amazing, but strangely it feels sad that reminders of such a long and arduous task would vanish just like that. It must be how Olympians feel after the Olympics are suddenly over. This also must be why Mother Nature is letting me keep a stomach full of stretch marks. She couldn't let me feel too hot to trot or forget that monumental accomplishment so soon.

All in all, this quick return to normalcy has done wonders for my moods, which I was very concerned about beforehand. I got terrible postpartum depression with Evan, almost immediately and for many months. I was prepared for that, but again I was pleasantly surprised at the reality.

When we got home I was suddenly overwhelmed by how much I had missed being there with my family. I was only gone a week, but that feels like a month when you have a small child. I missed the daily routine with Evan, and I know he really missed me. When I stopped to think about that I really got depressed. I felt cheated out of not only the week, but by the fact that our routine was forever changed from that day on. I was lucky to have bonded with the girls already and I loved them dearly, but depression knows no logic. I was dreading the months ahead of trying to give enough attention to all three children, fumbling my way through each day and robbing my son of the happy, content life we had thus far led. It hit me hard.

But then I had an epiphany. I thought back to each time I had a meltdown over big changes, when life charged ahead and I felt cheated of the past and unprepared for the future. At those times I felt safe and loved the place I was at, but looking back, I would never, EVER want to revisit them. My life has just gotten better and better exponentially, rocky roads notwithstanding. And though I knew a rough road may lie ahead, I also knew that whatever was beyond it would be wonderfully, gloriously fulfilling.

Since then I've had a small handful of brief weepy moments, but blessedly I've been completely content — even blissfully happy at times. These children, all three of them, are just so incredible. It is hard for me to be so in demand and so crazy busy, but the amount of love here is also truly amazing. They need me, and while that feels so draining at times, I keep telling myself that this is why I was put here on this earth: to give when I am needed, even beyond what I think I have to offer. I'm going to have to remind myself of this over and over and over throughout the years, I know. But it's worth remembering. 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Introducing Beth and Sadie

On January 7, 2014, just after 7:00 a.m., once again our world changed forever.

At 7:07 a.m., weighing 4 lbs. 10 oz., Elizabeth Lindsay was born. 

At 7:08 a.m., weighing 4 lbs. 14 oz., Sadie May joined her sister.

And it was all worth it. Everything. 

We are in love with our Beth and Sadie.

Much more to come...

Monday, January 6, 2014

The calm before the storm

It is the night of Monday, January 6, 2014. In approximately 9 hours, my baby girls will be born. What a journey it has been.

In a lot of ways, I have grown so much. In many others, I am just as overwhelmed as I was that July afternoon when I learned that I was carrying not one, but two babies. I wish there was some easy way to sum it all up, but there's no simple way to do it justice.

I would like to say that on the eve of this life-changing event, I am ready and eager for what awaits. But truthfully, I just don't know. I am certainly ready to be DONE being pregnant, but as for being eager to be a mom of multiples, I'm not so certain.

In fact, if I'm being completely honest, I'm not sure I'm even ready to have one new baby. Much of this has to do with the fact that babies have always made me nervous, even my own — and with good right, as we did not have an easy road with Evan.

But I think that's what makes this transition even more difficult. We have worked so hard to be good parents and work through the difficult phases, and I feel like we've made it through the worst of it (teenage years not withstanding). We are in such a good place right now. I am so proud of my sweet little boy. He is imaginative, playful, thoughtful, considerate, hilarious, rambunctious, and oh so smart. He is a delight to be around, and even though he has his moments (as all of us do), I am so impressed with how he handles his emotions — not just for a 3-year-old, but for anyone at any age. What an honor it is to be his mother and guide him through life.

It's hard to leave this phase behind and essentially uproot everything. The three of us are in a groove, and life is good. It's always sad to leave something great to embark into the unknown.

I'm probably thinking about this more than I should, because the reality is rarely as bad as the fear. But I've had nothing to do but think for the last few days: I've been on hospital bed rest since Saturday, alone in these four white walls to think and think and think. Under any other circumstances I'd probably enjoy the respite and down time. Now, it's almost been a recipe for disaster. But again, my wonderful family and friends have come to my aid and I haven't had too long to be left to my thoughts.

Cuddles with Mommy before leaving for the night

I can't let it go unsaid that I am extremely grateful. Despite the difficulties of these past few weeks, I have been blessed with incredible health. To go this far in pregnancy and be put on bed rest at nearly 36 weeks is amazing. To have near-perfect check ups each and every time is almost unheard-of. Our babies have been absolutely perfect in every way, and though I am hurting and my blood pressure keeps climbing, I have made it so far and have been so much stronger than I ever thought I could be. I know the thoughts and prayers of many have been with me, and I can feel them all.

And ready or not, it's time to move on. Time to meet these two little spirits who have been entrusted to us. Time to put my needs aside and focus on them and make our family work as one. Time to walk away from fear and go forward with faith that I have what it takes. Time to welcome the joy that is sure to accompany these babies in the years to come.

So on Tuesday, January 7, 2014, just after 6:30 a.m. our two little girls, Beth and Sadie, will be welcomed into the world.

Let the new journey begin.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Twin pregnancy: Week 35

Not gonna lie, this has been a rough week.

Belly at 34 weeks, 6 days. Still growing...

I have no words.

Last night I sat down to blog about it, but everything that came out was terribly negative and depressing. It was all the unembellished truth, nothing dramatized or exaggerated (like I said, it's been a really tough couple of days). But instead of feeling like I got everything off my chest, I felt buried even deeper in frustration and hopelessness.

Not a great start to the New Year.

So instead of hitting 'Publish,' I abandoned ship. Rather than wallowing in my own misery, I did something I don't normally do: I asked my friends for help lifting my spirits.

Facebook gets a lot of flak these days for making people feel worse about their lives. I don't know what kind of friends other people have, but mine are pretty awesome. Admittedly I'm a bit of a hermit in real life, pregnant or not, but I still have an incredible circle of friends and family who are willing to lend a hand when I can drop my pride long enough to reach out. I'm very glad I did, and I thank each one of you for your responses and support.

Did that make my troubles disappear? Nope; I'm not out of the woods yet. But instead of feeling my own fear, anxiety, and weariness, I began to feel lifted up and filled with strength I couldn't have mustered on my own. People who don't believe in prayer really should stop to reconsider the next time they suddenly feel stronger or more at ease in the face of adversity.

So while I still have the constant contractions, a stinging stomach rash, a bruised belly button, and elephant cankles, once the migraine I went to bed with last night subsided this afternoon I was finally able to feel something other than my own sorrow: Peace.

I came home from my doctor's appointment (after just learning that the daily contractions are, yes, to be expected at this stage, and we won't know if they're the real deal until they result in a baby or two, so yes, keep going into the hospital like you did on New Year's Eve if they get to be regular, even if that's every single day until you deliver) and had some time to myself before Aaron and Evan got home. I turned on the fireplace, sat on the couch, and got to finish my book in solitude. Then I looked around me and thought, "What a wonderful home to bring children into."

And it's not just the cozy fire, although that helps on a day like this. We do have a lovely house, big enough for our soon-to-be family of five, in a lovely neighborhood with more than lovely neighbors and friends around us. We have family nearby, like parents who say yes without question when you call at 6 a.m. saying I am too sick to take care of my son today, will you please take him? Or who bring over dinner even when their day hasn't been the best either, or who come over just to scrub bathrooms, or who call just to check in, or are constantly reminding you that they're going to be there to help when the babies finally arrive.

But more importantly than what surrounds our house is what's inside. Forgive me for getting all Hallmark Channel on you, but in the warmth of that cozy fire as I happily looked forward to seeing my husband and son after a long, pain-filled day, I realized that there is just so much love in our home. It astounds me sometimes when I really stop to think about it, because we're not overly lovey-dovey and we express our affection in silly, obnoxious ways that make people think we must secretly hate each other. It makes me ache when I remember that this isn't the norm, either — that far too many children are born into horrible situations where the lack of love is the least of their problems.

And that's when I realized that, yes, I am ready for these babies. In fact, we are perfect for this job. It's going to be chaotic and tough and really put us through the ringer in ways we probably can't even anticipate for all our worrying. But we have been chosen to be the parents of these two little girls and our son, and we do not take that responsibility lightly.

So, in honor of my 2014 New Year's Resolution: Twin parenthood, show me what you got. I am ready and we will RISE TO THE OCCASION.