MOTHER’S MILK

Earlier this week someone asked if I was still breastfeeding and my answer was yes. She replied, “it’s so time consuming.” I thought this was odd; I can’t think of a better way to spend time with my babies. One, I know I’m giving them the very best that there is; God created us to nourish our children this way. Two, there are wonderful physical benefits for me including returning my body back to its pre-pregnancy state (actually it’s made me smaller than where I started, which is awesome), nursing releases a hormone that helps to relax a mother, and nursing reduces the risk of future illnesses including breast cancer. Additionally, nursing no longer takes a long time and when we dual nurse we’re done in less than twenty minutes. In the early days that wasn’t the case, but it was something that I was committed to doing even though it was exhausting and not always comfortable. I was raised around women who nursed their babies, so it was very normal for me to make the same choice. When Grant and Maria were in the NICU, providing breast milk was one of the only things I felt I had control over, which I think made me even more committed to breastfeeding. We’re only two weeks away from my initial goal, which was exclusively breast milk for the first six months. Studies show that babies who are exclusively breastfed for the first six months have reduced risk for allergies, asthma, obesity and other illnesses. Now that we’re close to that goal, we’ll continue for as long as this works for all of us. I’ve gotten creative and skilled on when and where I pump while I’m at work and traveling. Wal-Mart parking lots seem to be my favorite. I just hope I don’t show up on the People of Wal-mart website! I’m thankful to those who encouraged me during the difficult times, including my mom and sister-in-law. Without their support, I could have easily given up. I know there are many reasons why families choose not to nurse, but I want to encourage all those who are thinking about it…it can be done, even with more than one. So, for those who sarcastically told me “good luck with that,” luck wasn’t needed. Dedication, encouragement, and trusting my body to do what it was created to do is what we needed.

Mother’s Milk. It does a baby good!

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I HAVE BEEN ASKED

I have been asked, a time or two, if Brian and I are going to have any more children. We first had to decide this about a year after the twins arrived so the NEDC would know if they should be “held” for us or put back into the embryo pool for some other blessed couple.

My OBGYN told me, while I was still recovering in the hospital from the C-section; I was not to have any more children. My pregnancy had been such an ordeal he did not want me to go through this again. I had put my life at risk having Natalie and Julian and the stakes would be higher next time. So, there was my answer, to if I was having more children or not.

But my husband wanted us to have more, so when asked by the NEDC what we were going to do, I asked Dr. Keenan to speak with my OBGYN since he knew him. Dr. Keenan got the same answer I did so while I was on vacation with the Cassidy family in July 2009, Dr. Keenan called with our answer. Brian was disappointed, but I was not.

I remembered all too well what I had gone through and even though it was worth it in the end, we do not always get the same ending twice. I have been blessed with one boy and one girl. God gave me two at once, because He knew what was best. I have sometimes questioned that, when they were infants, but now they play together well and we just have the best of times.

I have included pictures of a tea party we just hosted. Natalie and Julian made the invitations; we put them in the mail, and then waited for our guests to arrive. I am sorry to say that neither Ernie nor Big Bird could attend our high tea; however, as you can see we still had an excellent time.

RESULTS DAY

September 28th was the day we had been waiting for.  This was the end of our wait to see if we had any clingers.  During the previous 11 days I obeyed doctors orders and didn’t do any strenuous activity; I limited my workouts to casual walks in the neighborhood with our dog, Charlie.  Work was relatively calm and the time actually passed quite quickly.  A few people who knew about our transfer asked if I felt pregnant and my answer was that I wasn’t sure.  The drugs I was on didn’t make me feel normal, so it could have been the medicines making me feel “off” or it could have been the beginning of a major construction project in my lower abdomen.  The only thing that was definitively different was my appetite.  I just wasn’t that hungry and got full very quick…two things that are VERY abnormal for me.  My appointment to have blood drawn was at 7:45 a.m. and I woke up on my own around 6:00.  Knowing that my ability to concentrate would be in the toilet and not wanting to get bad news at work, I arranged to work from home.  I got ready and started to get worried when I started cramping…not what I wanted to feel.  I prayed more fervently than I think I ever have.  Jeremy came home before going to the gym for my injection and knowing how anxious I was rode with me for my blood test.  My test was quick and I was home by 8:30.  The lab technician said results would be sent to Knoxville by 1:00; so began the longest part of our wait.  For the next seven hours I would wait.  I would jump every time my cell phone rang and I looked to see if it was from the 865 area code.  I had a minor distraction due to an employee’s positive drug test and issue with his subsequent rehab.  I got all that worked out and continued to wait.  The weather couldn’t have been more beautiful, so at lunch I took Charlie out for a calming walk.  I played “Desert Song” by Hillsong over and over again.   The lyrics “All of my life In every season You are still God I have a reason to sing I have a reason to worship” spoke to me and reminded to rely upon and praise God no matter what the results.

At about 2:00 my phone rang and I fumbled to pick it up.  It was my best friend checking on me…she laughed and realized I was disappointed that it was her and not Dr. Keenan’s office.  She was thinking about us and praying for the best.  Finally, at 3:30 p.m., the phone rang and it was THE CALL.  I braced myself with my back against our front door as Jennifer asked how I was doing…”waiting for you,” I replied.  She paused and said “Well, you are definitely very pregnant.”  Really?!?  I was relieved, excited, and couldn’t believe what I heard.   She went on to tell me that the minimum number they look for is 100 to indicated positive pregnancy and mine was 362.  I commented that maybe what I felt that morning was all three in there vying for space already. She said that just because my number was so high didn’t mean we had more than one, but my gut told me there were at least two clingers.  I had a follow up test scheduled for two days later and she said they wanted to see my number increase.  Normally they wanted to see it double, but mine was already so high that any increase would be good (two days later, my hcg level was over 700).  I thanked Jennifer, hung up the phone and went to wake up Jeremy.  I don’t know that he completely came to, but I told him about the results; he smiled and said “well, that’s what we wanted.”   I sent out an update to all my prayer warriors thanking them and asking for continued prayers for the rest of our journey…we were going to need it!  In just a few weeks, dry heaving would become a part of my normal morning routine, I would lose nearly 10 pounds and look like death on a cracker as Grant and Maria tried to suck the life out of me.  Praise God!

BORN TO PUTT

The twins and I took advantage of a free day of putt-putt near where we live. I had them take their own putters, since last time Julian had a melt down after he had to give back the putter he was using. With putter in hand off we went for a fun day of putt-putt. I started off well, with a hole in one and Julian got it in three strokes. After about the sixth hole I stopped keeping score. My strokes just continued to go up, since I did not have my husband, putt-putt champion, to assist me on where to hit the ball. (Brian won a small scholarship from a putt-putt competition for his college tuition.) So, I have decided I need to start the twins early, so they can get a full ride to college.

We still have a bit of practice to do, but I would say Julian is well on his way to give his Dad a bit of competition. Natalie is a runner and does not stay at the hole long, so we may need to think about track for her. Or she is just going to have to make all holes in one. Never the less, she is very supportive when Julian and I do not make the putt, she gives us words of encouragement such as: “try again,” and “good try.” Due to Natalie’s marathon while Julian and I putted, she was a bit exhausted at the end. They had such a great time that I decided to get out Dad’s mini putting green so we can putt all day if we like.

SPECIAL CONSIDERATION

Lately, Jeremy and I have been discussing our remaining embryos and what our future plans might be. Right now, Jeremy says we’re done, but I’m not sure. I figure that until we can all sleep through the night regularly that we can’t make that decision with a clear and rational head. What Jeremy really says is “no more babies; we can adopt an older child if we really want another.” While he says no more babies, I say, “but, what about the others?” As I’ve mentioned before, Grant and Maria were labeled as “special consideration” because of a sibling born with a VSD (ventricular septal defect, aka hole in the heart). What I didn’t know until recently is that we are the only couple in the NEDC’s history to adopt special consideration embryos. I understand a couple’s reluctance to go with these embryos because for many they have already been through years of infertility and embryo adoption is the last stop. Why take the risk of a problem? Truth of the matter is there is no guarantee with any baby, whether conceived naturally or through IVF, that there will be no issues. If we put our embryos back in the adoption pool would anyone ever adopt them? Jeremy thinks (hopes) that others have read our story, see the VSD consideration and will remember Grant and Maria and how perfect they are. Yes, Maria did have a small VSD, but it closed on its own and caused no issues whatsoever. In fact, it was so small that it went unnoticed for several weeks and had they not been in the NICU due to being premature we likely would have never known that she had it. During our profile selection, I did research on heart defects and learned that only eight out of 1000 babies were born with some type of heart defect and of those defects, 30% are VSDs. In the grand scheme of things, the odds are very small. Being obedient to God’s direction, we picked the embryos we were supposed to have. I could have easily let fear sway my decision and gone with “the giants” but am so thankful that we didn’t. Many asked why we didn’t go with the “strongest” so we would have the best chance at success, but 1 Corinthians 1:27 tells us that God uses the weak things of the world to shame the strong. I think it’s evident that we were blessed in our decision and we hope that others will consider the “weak” among us. And maybe one day, they’ll see that same special consideration profile that Jeremy and I had on our coffee table and heed the call from God to step out on faith and be blessed just as we have been.

LESSON LEARNED

This weekend Ryan is attending a biking trip to Martha’s Vineyard with the Boy Scouts. It was an incredible deal ($60 including ferry transfers, bike and helmet rental, food and misc. expenses), so I wanted him to take advantage of the opportunity. He’s been very into biking since the Springtime. My father in-law is an avid biker, and would take Ryan and Joel to the bike paths near our house for hours at a time. Ryan and Joel have been racing each other up and down our 1/4 mi. long driveway, so he’s in great shape for this trip.

I had considered being the “Mean Mom” and not letting him attend because of the Labor Day fiasco, telling him the money he spent on that would have paid for the trip, but in the end even I couldn’t be that mean. I had taken his wallet away that weekend as a consequence, with the explanation that he could have it back when he could spend his money responsibly. I even considered making him pay for the entire trip, but in the end I relented, paid the $60 fee, and told him he will be responsible for any other costs involved. He was sent with $40 of his own to use as spending money. Anyone with children knows that if they are spending their own money they usually think twice prior to making a purchase.

Yesterday before the designated drop off time, we double checked his gear, and headed off to meet the others attending. As we are driving down our driveway, he turned to me and said “Thanks Mom for letting me go on this trip. I really appreciate it.” It was on of those AH moments in parenting, when you know you have finally instilled a lesson or value in your child. Although it was a hard lesson for him to learn, the important thing is that he did.

THE SECOND NIGHT

I am not sure what time I got to bed Friday night. The girls left early Saturday morning and we did not hear them. In fact my Aunt Nancy called us at 9am to ask us if we were still coming to the pancake breakfast at 8am that morning. Brian and I rely on our two alarm clocks to wake us up and they were not up yet either! They got to bed late due to our date night and then being in a different room, I think we were all worn out before the day even began.

We all made it to the breakfast in the pouring rain. After that we went home and I went out in the monsoon to check out the church consignment sales. When I returned Brian and I started getting ready for dinner. The girls were going to be joining us as well as the two guys from the same college. We also had my niece, Caroline’s father as well. We had all the food I had made on Friday as well as taco soup, and brownies.

Everyone enjoyed the food then the students played games while my family watched the UT football game. Natalie and Julian were shy around the students, especially Natalie. She would hide her face in me or her blanket. Soon the twins could not take anymore. I took them upstairs and we got ready for bed. The UT game was delayed over an hour due to weather so we decided to go to sleep and let Brian and the rest of our company find their own way to bed.

Our alarm clocks went off on time on Sunday so I was in the kitchen when the girls got ready to go. The pastries I had purchased on Thursday night Brian had put in the pantry so Natalie would not cry for them. When I went to get them Sunday morning for the girls they were filled with ants!!!!! The girls were so understanding and were just as happy with cereal. Natalie really opened up to them and just chatted away and Julian was the shyer one, until I asked the children to give kisses to them. Julian “let” them all give them good bye kisses. We hated to see them go, but were so glad that we got to spend the time we did with them. They thought the twins were so well behaved and just went on and on about them. I told them the special way the twins came into this world, so I hope they also learned something new from us as well.