LAUGH A LITTLE

We laugh a lot in our house. Many might not find our antics funny, but after 11 years together, we have our fair share of games and inside jokes that we find quite amusing. We have a long history of coming up with band names that arise out of the normal course of conversation. “Kamikaze Ice” (rock or metal), “Scarf Belt” (punk) and “Rivers of Snot” (metal) are just a few that we have dubbed over the course of our time together. Bizarre, I know, but Jeremy and I are well matched in our wit and weirdness, which I think is one reason we do so well together. I grew up in a home where dry and often sick humor was the norm, so it was only fitting that I married someone who not only gets the humor, but also can easily play along. The only time I ever got called out in class was my senior year in college when Jeremy and I were in a child development class together and were discussing “utterances” that babies make. Jeremy quickly writes “ants on udders” at the top of his notebook page, inducing me to laughter and caused our professor asked if there was something we wanted to share. I wanted to die. Thankfully, Jeremy quickly responded that everything was okay.

I think laughter is one of the reasons our embryo transfer was successful and now there is a small study that could confirm my line of thinking. It’s a very stressful time, but Jeremy had me (and the nurses) laughing to the point where I was finally able to empty my VERY full bladder into a bedpan while inverted. Laughter helped relax me and possibly lowered my stress hormones enough to allow my body to let Grant and Maria latch on. An Israeli study showed that women who were visited by a clown on the day of their transfer had almost double the pregnancy rate of those who did not receive a clown visit. Now, this was a small study, but the results are statistically significant. More research is needed, but I think they are on to something. I think clowns are frightening, so that might not have worked for me, but never under estimate the power of a witty husband to make a stressful situation tolerable. For the right price, I will consider loaning him out for the next round of embryo transfers.

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PARENTS’ NIGHT OUT

This past Friday night, my church had a parent’s night out and a Valentines party for the kids! Brian and I took advantage of this wonderful opportunity to have some time alone! We went out to eat and then went bowling. Fourteen years ago this month Brian and I had our first date at the bowling alley. That night I scored a whopping 36, yes you read that right! I even managed to roll the ball behind my back, very hard to do, but can be done! I am happy to report that I have improved just a bit. Friday, I bowled 54 and then 91. Just think how much I will improve in 14 more years! Brian and I then went to Starbucks to top the evening off.

When we picked up the kids they told us what a wonderful time they had. Julian told me that he got to eat a cupcake and play in the jumpy room as well as watch veggies on TV! They got a treat bag full of candy with a book about how much Jesus loves them and a heart shaped balloon, which Julian is holding right now while we watch Sesame Street. I am so thankful that we all had such a wonderful time.

Tonight we all get to go see Brian play basketball. I just hope he does not break his leg like he did several years ago in February, since we are now frantically getting ready for our Disney trip with the Cassidy family! Three more days and counting!

HEALTHY FAMILIES

Julian’s hearing test has been on my mind. Natalie is going to be tested when Julian goes in for her pre-op exam in March. Since she did not behave and let them test her when we were there last week, they want to try to get the results soon, since Julian failed one ear. The doctor does not want to wait another six or nine months for her to be tested at our next appointment. I have felt the appointment would have gone better if I had someone with me. So for the next appointment I have been thinking about who could go with me. Since Brian will have to take off for Julian’s ABR screening test just two days after our next appointment, I knew that would be too much to ask him to go with me. A lady that I teach children’s church with told me that she would help me if she could, but she does not get her schedule until the week before. Then I realized that my case worker, from Healthy Families, could go with me. So I am happy to say my problem has been solved. She is going to meet me at the doctor’s office.

I cannot stress enough what a blessing the program Healthy Families has been to me since Julian and Natalie were born. Healthy Families is a program for first time parents that provide education and support to the families. I first found out about this program when I was in the hospital after I gave birth to the twins and was about ready to go home. Since the twins were so premature, I was very concerned about their developmental progress as they got older and that I would not pick up on what was “normal” development and what was not. I have had a case worker from around the first week I got home from the hospital and what a blessing she has been.

I could not drive for many weeks after the babies were born and this was a huge burden for me since Julian and Natalie were in the NICU at UT hospital. Brian went back to work, so that he could take time off when the babies came home from the hospital, so he was not able to cart me to and from the hospital. I was also very sick due to the C-section and rearranging of my parts the doctor did. Therefore, I did not feel well enough to be at the hospital from 7:30am until 5pm. The NICU was shut down every day for several hours for shift change. So when my case worker told me she could drive me to the hospital every day. I was so relieved. And yes, that is what she did: she would come by my house after lunch and take me to the hospital, then Brian was able to pick me up after work. Brian and I would often then get something to eat and then head back to the hospital again. I was also pumping every two hours, so I was very restricted to how long I could be away from an outlet!

Once the babies came home, 46 days after they were born, my case worker came by weekly to check on us and see if I had any questions. When the babies and I got thrush, she proved to be a life saver again. Not only did we get thrush once, but many times, which I later learned, it was never really cleared up. My case worker showed up with new nipples for the bottles, pacifiers and lots of information on thrush. I know I could have gone on the internet myself; however, when you are pumping every two hours, sanitizing the equipment then feeding and changing babies, that leaves little time for anything else including sleep. So any help I could get I was so grateful for!

I do not know if the Healthy Families program is throughout the United States or just in Tennessee, but it is worth looking into. It has been such a support for me and my family. I cannot express enough gratitude I have to them. I am also happy to report that developmental screening has been done on the twins periodically since they were born and they have been at age appropriate levels the whole time. Even now with Julian’s possible hearing loss he has scored high on communication. If this program was not available I would only be guessing at their progress.

LIFE LESSONS FROM MAMA

Today marks the first anniversary of my Great Mama Brown’s death. I think about her a lot and realize that during her 104 years on this earth she touched countless lives and taught many lessons through the way she lived her life. She departed this earth leaving a legacy of over 75 grand, great, great-great, and even great-great-great grandchildren.

At our wedding rehearsal dinner, we celebrated her 99th birthday and asked what her key was to such a long and healthy life. Her simple reply: “I don’t take pills and I don’t worry.” Those are just two of the lessons we can all learn from her life. Here are some more that I hope to pass on to Grant and Maria with the same gentleness and grace.

• Don’t overeat. She didn’t eat much; ate when she was hungry and quit when she was full. I can’t say I have the same self control.
• Grace and forgiveness. Her gentle, yet firm spirit kept her family from falling apart in the wake of a terrible family tragedy.
• Don’t offer unsolicited advice. If you wanted her opinion, she would give it, but otherwise she kept her mouth quiet…something that I’m sure was difficult at times.
• Keep your mind sharp. She was always working on some sort of puzzle. I recall going to her house when I was growing up where she was working on the latest 3-D puzzle.
• Laugh often. She truly enjoyed life and loved to people watch. She had a great chuckle that I can still hear as if she was just here.
• You are never too old to try something new. She set a Disney World record by being the oldest person to ride the Tower of Terror at age 92. I also have in my mind a picture of her on Splash Mountain (possibly during the same trip as Tower of Terror). Everyone around her was waterlogged, but there she was, smiling and dry.

Grant and Maria will never have the privilege of knowing their Great-Great Mama Brown, but she left a wonderful impression on me and those around her. I look forward to sharing stories of her life with them and hope they love life as much as she did. After all, our life is a gift from God. What we do with that life, is our gift to God. What a wonderful gift she gave!

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THIS TOO SHALL PASS

Sometime last week while we were talking at work, the subject of IVF and prematurity came up. One of the nurses was asking if anyone had heard an update about a baby that had been born prematurely with various health issues. No one present had heard, and I’ve oftentimes wondered myself how these children fare later in life. Sometimes we do hear, depending on where the baby has been transferred to, but this isn’t often the case.

Last week Marti called me after she had taken Natalie and Julian to see the ENT doctor. She was telling me about Julian’s failed hearing test, and asked if anyone on either side of our families has any hearing issues. I told her only Great Grandma, but she’s 96 years old! Marti has often said she feels blessed that the twins are as healthy as they are considering they were born prematurely. She herself had been born early, and has dealt with health issues her whole life.

This is also one of the very reasons I chose an open adoption. I felt it was important and beneficial for both the adopting and donating families to keep in contact, because no one knows what the future holds. I felt that an open line of communication would benefit all involved. I think it is important for all involved to know and share health information. How else would you be able to accurately give a health history as time passes?

After our conversation had ended, I thought back to how I felt when Ryan was diagnosed with a dairy allergy when he was a year old. I felt like I had a baby that was less than perfect; I know that is terrible to say, but it was true. I was unsure what the impact would be on our lives. Once the initial shock wore off, I realized that this could have been much worse. I was fine with the fact that I would have to be vigilant with everything that he came into contact with. I was most concerned about his attending daycare and later school. Although there were a few incidents of exposure at both places, there were also ones which occurred at home as well. I was more concerned about what would happen as he got older, namely, how would others deal with it. Would they be as vigilant? Most importantly, how would he handle it? Would he be as careful when a teenager and later an adult as he was when a child? Fortunately for us, he outgrew his allergy, so our worries have ended.

After talking with Marti about Julian’s failed hearing test, I realized she must be having similar feelings. Sometimes we just want to know the reasons why something has happened, even if it won’t change the outcome. Was this a result of genetics, or being born prematurely? Or was it caused by some other unknown factor? Does it really matter? In the end, it is what it is, and you learn to deal with and accept it.

TODAY’S SOAP BOX

There was a conversation at work this morning about babies and I was asked if we were going to have any more. I replied that Jeremy says we’re done, and while I’m slowly coming to that conclusion, who really knows at this point? A co-worker commented that if we did try again, there is the chance of more multiples, to which I replied, yes and that would be one reason why we wouldn’t go through the process again. “Isn’t there a way to reduce if that happened?” was the question that followed. She followed up by recognizing that it isn’t something I would ever consider, which at least they know me well enough to know I could never intentionally stop the beating heart of one of my children, but I can’t believe it’s even something that would be suggested so cavalierly. The thought makes me sick. With assisted reproductive technologies (ART) comes certain known risks, and one of those is multiple babies. Why would someone go through the process to create life only to intentionally destroy it? People try to justify it by saying it could save the lives of the other babies or the mother, but it’s something I could never justify. A multiple pregnancy isn’t easy, but no one ever said it’s supposed to be. If you don’t want to be faced with the risks of ART, then choose another method of having children. Or better yet, if you want a life that is easy and without complications don’t have children at all.

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” (Psalm 139:13-16)

PRICELESS

Kids aren’t cheap. This is especially true for anyone who has gone through infertility. Right out of the gate, the embryo adoption process cost nearly $6000, and considering we only went through one attempt and hadn’t tried any other treatments before $6000 is just a drop in the bucket to what some people spend. Once they were born and we went to one income, we really watch how we spend our money. Thankfully neither Jeremy nor I are materialistic; neither one of us wants or “needs” a lot of stuff, so that’s one battle we don’t have to deal with. Being a parent has made me even more frugal. Not only to I dislike spending money where I don’t have to, I enjoy finding a great deal. This started well before the babies were born when I scored their furniture on craigslist for only $600. Two solid wood convertible cribs and a matching chest were being sold by another twin mom who wanted to sell to another twin mom. For another $100 she threw in all the bedding. I couldn’t believe it! Throw in the nice glider my mom found at a consignment store and we had their nursery outfitted for under $900. I know many who spend this and more for just one baby. I’ve also only paid full price for one clothing item and that was a whopping $8 for Maria’s red tights she wore at Christmas. Everything else has been bought at consignment sales or handed down from friends and family.

The children’s spring consignment sales are right around the corner and I’m ready to take inventory of what I’ll need through the spring and summer months. I covered fall and winter on only $100 and plan on doing the same at the next set of sales. As they’ve gotten older, I’ve learned a few lessons and might not even spend that much. I highly recommend consignment shopping for babies, especially multiples. Why spend $6 on a onesie when you can get the same one for a $1? And all their accessories, such as swings, jumpers, and other expensive toys can be found in great condition for a fraction of the cost at these sales.

Diapers are another area where we’ve gotten a lot smarter. Due to the generosity of friends and family, I don’t think we had to buy diapers until they were about 3 ½ or 4 months old and at the time we’re spending about $120 a month on diapers. Every diaper was about twenty five cents and I cringed when we had one of those diaper changes that ended up going through three diapers on one kid. In November, I discovered that I could save almost $50 a month by buying online through Amazon.com. Not only did I save money, we saved time by having them shipped automatically each month. It was also in November that we finally stopped battling Maria’s diaper rash. Turns out she was reacting to my diet and once I eliminated ice cream and orange juice, she cleared right up. Since her butt was finally clear, I decided to see if a less expensive diaper would not be irritating. We tried them out a couple of weeks ago and thankfully her rear stayed clear, which means we’re going to save another hunk of money. Because we’re using about half the number of diapers per day that we went through in the beginning and being able to go to a less expensive diaper, I’ll have our monthly cost down to $25, or only twelve cents a diaper. You can’t beat that!

We’re getting better and better at finding deals and learning where we can save money. Coupons are in play now in our house and Jeremy enjoys telling me about the deals he finds at the grocery. I know that breastfeeding has saved thousands of dollars and making our own baby food saves money as well. I’m very thankful for the way Jeremy and I planned and budgeted to put us in a position to have one of us at home with the babies. The love and care they get by being at home with Jeremy is something on which you can never put a price tag.