THANK GOD IT’S ALMOST MAY

This month being a mother has been very busy and trying on my patience. I feel I’ve earned my “Mother’s Stripes” as my Mom would refer to them several times over.

The month started with Ryan suddenly having issues at school, which took most of the month to manage. I don’t think they are quite resolved, but have become manageable to deal with at the present time. I need to check the status of his being evaluated by the school, but we have contacted and seen a new pediatric neurologist for this Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), and although it has been a week that he has been taking Adderall once again, we seem to have found a solution which is working.

Joel has finally buckled down and realized he needs to do his assignments as assigned, not just before they are due. This will help him immensely when he is in Middle School starting in the Fall. It took him all year, but he finally realizes it is better to be checking over the final draft a few days before rather than cramming and rushing to get it done in time.

Even Chad, who just had to write a sentence a day for two weeks was a challenge. He had several excuses, but finally finished up the homework once he realized this wasn’t his battle to win.

Usually when a crisis occurs, it has been my experience that it is with one child at a time, not all at once. Maybe in the past I’ve just been lucky, or it is because they are spaced out age wise, but it can be challenging to switch gears between the needs of the different ages, especially when it occurs simultaneously.

Throw into the mix that we had our Spring Vacation with the accompanying activities, preparation for Cultural Day for both Joel’s and Chad’s grades, and in my spare time I have been planning an E-Shower or “Shower in a Box” for a relative out of state (no one lives near her at present, not even her husband), so it has been a little hectic during the month of April.

I see the patients at work who have just given birth, and see how they look at their new babies, and I now think, you just wait. You have no idea the wild ride you have just signed up for. Although it can make life crazy at times, the unpredictability is sometimes the best part. There are some days you just don’t know what will happen, good or bad. Not to mention the unexpected moments of joy that you would have missed out on otherwise.

Now that April is drawing to a close, I can’t help but wonder, is it Mother’s Day yet?

IN DEFENSE OF MARIA

This past weekend we experienced two instances of people misunderstanding Maria and I think it’s time to set the record straight. First was on Friday when we went to the zoo. While I was getting the stroller out I saw one of my co-workers who was excited to get to see the babies. She ran over to the car just in time for Maria to realize I was out of sight and she started to cry. Jeanne went over to Maria’s side of the car, opened the door and got right in her face. Well, Miss Maria wanted no part of it and cried louder. “Oh, Maria is the one who likes to cry!” Jeanne exclaimed. No, Maria doesn’t like to cry…she was uncomfortable in the situation. One, I was out of sight and she’s in a “stick close to Mommy and Daddy” phase and she does not like when people, especially people she doesn’t know, get right up in her face, which is something that people tend to do to babies.

The second incident occurred on Saturday when we went to a baby shower. We arrived to a room full of mostly strangers and of course, people are excited to see twins (I’m finally getting used to the spectacle). Several people reached out to see if Maria would come to them and she suction cupped herself to me and started to fuss. My friend stated, “Maria doesn’t like people,” to which I had to quickly reply, “no, she just needs time to get comfortable in a new situation.” A little later on in the gathering, Maria was happily sitting on the floor and loudly “reading” a book to the entire room. While she didn’t ever venture far from me, she did relax and show her cute personality.

Maria is an observer and thoroughly inspects a situation before letting down her guard. She does things on her own time and won’t be rushed. I knew this about her as far back as her NICU days when the medical staff thought she wasn’t gaining weight fast enough and wanted to add calories to my milk. First, I had them check my milk to see if it was the issue, which it wasn’t. It was plenty caloric to sustain growth. Second, I observed that she wasn’t losing weight…she was just gaining slowly. I suggested to just give her time. Her genetic mother is tiny, so I just had a feeling Maria was going to be the same way. I was right. She just needed time.

Thankfully, not everyone misunderstands Maria. We’re taking a music class and her music teacher commented last night that Maria really checks things out and is taking it all in, but can tell that she is enjoying the class. Grant is crawling around the room, exploring and interacting with the other children while Maria is sitting back and observing. Once she’s comfortable, she’ll join in and play with the instruments or pat her hands to the music. BTW, she LOVES the drums. We will not be getting her a drum set.

I consider her cautious nature a good thing. Unlike Grant, she’s not going to just dive into any situation with reckless abandon. Hopefully, she’ll be able to keep both of them out of trouble when they are older!

THE BIG ANNOUNCEMENT

Easter weekend was full of celebrations. Saturday Brian and I took the twins to an egg hunt at my Aunt Nancy’s church. There were games, a cake walk, face painting and lunch. We all had a great time. The twins enjoyed bouncing in the bounce house and running around the playground. That was our third egg hunt this Easter season. We also went to one at our church the weekend before and one at Healthy Families.

Saturday night was a “white” shower party for my nephew, Ryan, who is getting married this Sunday. Everyone was to wear the color white and it was for adults only, so I left the twins with Brian. It was a beautiful night with great music and a wonderful time to spend with family. Most importantly we were all there to celebrate the upcoming wedding of Ryan and Elyse.

Easter morning we all got ready for church and then came downstairs to discover the bunny had left a few treats! At church that morning the children performed, which was directed by my sister-in-law, Tracy, however, the twins were not old enough to be a part of the production. Next year we will look forward to seeing them. The pastor then reminded us of the hope we have with Jesus.

Once that was over, we went to the park and had our pictures made. Of course my batteries in the camera died and I did not get ones of my brother and his kids nor of my sister! I will just hope they will pass them along. After cooking a few dishes we then went to my Aunt Nancy’s house for a late lunch. The kids got to hide eggs again and then we were all handed an egg by my cousin Kristy. Inside the egg was candy and a note saying it was from her, her husband & baby! That is how she announced her pregnancy! What an exciting day, my Aunt Nancy will now be a Grandmother!

Because of the timing (in April), of my cousin’s announcement, I could not help but remember the time I also announced my pregnancy at my brother’s birthday party in April many years ago. I had wrapped the pregnancy test up in a box for him to open. They did not know that we had a procedure done, so it was a big surprise. We were all so happy! The next time I did not make a big announcement, because everyone knew about the transfer and was praying for us this time around. My Mom told me that when my brother’s youngest son found out that I was pregnant again, he wanted to know what happened to the other one! Sometimes I am reminded of the other children I lost (even though it was a “chemical” pregnancy I still consider it a loss) and think of other women who may think of their losses as well. It is funny what can trigger those thoughts and bring it all back again.

Hearing my cousin’s announcement was so exciting for everyone in our family. It just made me think of the girls I know who so long to have a child, yet it has not happened yet. I know when they announce their pregnancy; it will be so exciting too. Sometimes faith and hope is all we have to hold on to while we are waiting for our “big announcement.” Psalm 27:14

GIFTS FROM GOD

At our Easter worship service this weekend we were handed cards and told to fill in four blanks. One of the blanks was to list your greatest disappointment in life. I briefly thought of infertility, but then quickly realized that I no longer see it as a disappointment. Had this been three years earlier, yes, I could have easily listed that on my card, but now I know that without that journey I wouldn’t be who I am today and wouldn’t have the joy of knowing Grant and Maria. Through the power of God, we overcame infertility and I was softened in the process. I know I’m a more compassionate and patient person. I also have a much deeper faith and stronger relationship with Christ. While I don’t think that God “caused” our infertility, I do think He used it as an opportunity for me to come closer to Him. Science can explain how Grant and Maria were made, but they are still miraculous gifts from God. There is so much for which to be thankful as we close this Easter season – family, friends, and precious children, but I’m most thankful for Jesus paying for my sin and overcoming death on the cross.

DO YOU HAVE A PRINCE?

Over the past few weeks I have been looking back at my own infertility journey. The support group I became a part of many years ago, Sheltering Tree, has just started back up as a support group to women going through infertility. As I listened to the new girls talk about their losses, anger, hurt and disappointment, it brought me right back to those days, and what hard days they were! For me it was so difficult to put myself back in the situation of loss, over and over again. Even the last transfer, which resulted in the twins, I was very hesitant. It does not seem like a big deal when you just talk about (as I did daily as the PR Manager for the NEDC), but when it is you, it is a very big deal. Putting yourself back on the front line, is hard to do, but I think it would be much harder, if I had already had a child. I think now, I would better understand what that loss really means. Before, I only had dreams of what being a mother would be like, now I know what I really was losing.

When I took Natalie to the doctor this week, Julian stayed at home with Dad. While we were at the office Natalie asked about Julian and wanted to know when he was coming back. I told her we would see him at home. Then when I got home it was off to dinner with former co-workers from the NEDC. I was able to take Julian since he was not sick, but Natalie stayed behind with Dad. When Julian and I got home, Natalie ran into the garage hugged Julian and they each told one another how much they had missed the other. Natalie then went and got the extra sucker she took from the doctor for Julian, to give it to him. This was a priceless moment, the love they have for one another is like no other.

Natalie wears Princess dresses all the time and tells everyone she is a Princess and Julian lets everyone know he is her Prince! Last weekend we were at my brother’s birthday party and Julian was making this grunting sound and flexing his arms. I just thought Brian had let him see some wrestling match on TV and that was where he was getting that from. Then he was doing it earlier this week as well. When I asked him about it he told me that he was the Beast and that (pointing to Natalie) was his Belle, as in Beauty and the Beast. Julian was flexing to protect his Princess. Wouldn’t life be so nice to have always had a Prince right by your side to protect you and love you?

When I think of Easter, that is this Sunday, I am reminded that is what I have too. I have a Prince who not only gave his life for me, my own mother would have done that, but took on my sins and because of that His own father could not look at him. My sin separated Jesus from God at that time, and yet he still loves me. The most amazing part of the story is that my Jesus defeated death! He arose and now is waiting in Heaven for my return, yet is with me always. So when I look back on my infertility journey I see that God was always there for me. I may not have liked what was happening at times, but He has the master plans that I could not see. He will always protect me and be right by my side, Psalm 121.

BIRTHDAY BABIES

We made it! We survived our first year raising twins. It’s hard to believe that a year ago we went from thinking I just had an “inability to void” to “we’re having babies” in only five minutes. No, doctor, I’m not constipated…I’m in labor and that’s a baby’s butt you feel! It was like an out of body experience as they prepped me for surgery…one thing’s for certain, this wasn’t how I was expecting to spend my Saturday night. I was shaking terribly and I don’t know if it was nerves, medication, or a combination of both, but one nurse had to physically restrain me so they could administer the spinal block. It was only then, when my lower body went numb, that I could start to wrap my mind about what was about to happen. I said my favorite Bible verse (Nahum 1:7) repeatedly in my head, “The LORD is good. A refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in HIM.” With any luck, the steroids I’d been injected with nearly three days earlier when my water broke had done their job and would allow my babies to breathe on their own. At only 32 weeks and 5 days gestation, we knew they were going to have to go straight to the NICU. We just prayed that they wouldn’t have any complications; that they would only have the “normal preemie” issues. Thankfully, they were both remarkably healthy and hearty for preemie twins. Grant Louis tipped the scales at 4 lbs 7 oz and was 18 ½ inches long. Today he’s 20 lbs and 29 inches long. Maria Isabel weighed in at 4 lbs 3 oz and was 17 inches long. Today she’s 18 lbs 14 oz and 28 ½ inches long. We’ve even graduated out of measuring them against their adjusted age as things start to even out about now. They are both around the 15-20th percentile, although Grant’s head is still at the 75th. Grant is crawling, pulling up on everything, and has 4 teeth. Maria can spin in circles and go in reverse, but hasn’t mastered forward motion yet. She’s sporting 6 teeth. Both have a wide range of vocalizations, but I think our favorite is Maria’s karate “HIYA!”

We’ve learned a lot over the last year and I know it’s only the beginning. Here are some of things we’ve taken away from our first year of parenthood:

• It is possible to live on one income. It takes some sacrifice, but it is worth it.
• When you are a tired, scared, and overwhelmed NICU parent, true friends stick by you, even if they can’t understand what you are going through.
• It’s very possible to successfully breastfeed twins. Eat lots, drink plenty of water, and trust your instincts. You won’t regret it!
• I can function on less than 8 hours of sleep.
• I like coffee.
• Jeremy and I can sleep in the same bed together. After years of working and sleeping on opposite shifts, I wasn’t sure if this was possible.
• Raisins come through the digestive system unscathed….almost as if you could wash it off and eat it again.
• The laws of physics do not apply to baby poop.
• The amount that goes into a baby does not correlate to the amount that comes out.
• As soon as you get used to one routine, they switch it up.
• Babies don’t need a lot of stuff. They just want to be with you. Blocks, books and balls are plenty of entertainment.
• Naps are essential for everyone’s sanity.
• The $12 we spent on Grant’s Wubbanub paci was the best $12 we spent all year. Securing said paci to his sleep sack blanket with a diaper pin…brilliant!
• It’s important to take time to take care of yourself and your relationship with your spouse. Jeremy says they will kill you if you let them!
• Each stage has its advantages and disadvantages.
• Plan ahead, but be flexible.
• Parent according to your instincts and don’t get bogged down in what some book says or what advice others give you. You know your baby best.
• Our lives will never be the same; but I wouldn’t trade it.

It truly is hard to believe that a year has already passed and we’re now embarking on our 2nd year as parents. By the grace of God we’ll make it to 2 and beyond!

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ORDINARY DAYS

This past week we have done so many wonderful spring events. Last Saturday we went to the park where my cousin Katie took pictures of the twins while we hunted eggs. Then on Sunday we went to our friend Mariano’s fourth birthday party at a bounce house. On Tuesday we went to Mornings with Mommy where we learned about weather and made a rain maker! Wednesday we went to their three year check-up with great results. They are both around 25%-50% on height and Julian is the same on weight, but Natalie is more around 10% on weight. They have come a long way since the first time we saw their doctor!

Thursday we got to go to an Easter Celebration where we saw our friends Kristi and Amelia! We made picture frames, decorated egg magnets, hunted for eggs, ate lunch and played on the playground. One of the best parts was seeing the many animals from the farm. They got to hold chicks, pet bunnies, and puppies as well as a pig! That is lots of fun for city kids!

Then today we went to see Farmer Jason, from PBS, at Oak Ridge Museum with my friend Susan and her twin boys. Susan and I both forgot our camera, but were able to take a few pictures with our camera phones. This was our first official concert and Natalie was jamming. She was the first one up to dance and then she inspired others to dance as well. Julian never got his groove on, but I think he is like his Dad. It will take an act of congress to get him on the dance floor! The twins Jack and Regan got up and danced. Regan tried to dance with Natalie, but she told him she was a princess. She then asked me if I was a princess too and I replied of course I am! Then there was a dance contest and I told Natalie she needed to get up front if she was going to win. Thinking she would never go up there, but she did dragging me along with her. She was most likely the youngest, since there were several school groups there. I am sad to say she did not win, but she should have! When Natalie met Farmer Jason she told him how she is a princess and Julian is a prince, not a princess. She is always full of cute sayings. They went and did lots of crafts, had a dinosaur tell us a story, played in water and saw miniature trains.

What a great week this has been. The week has flown by fast with all our activities. Each day that I am with them I know that it is a blessing. The Bible tells us our days are numbered and only God knows the days we have left. I often think of this since I have lost so many people I love. I think I am more appreciative of the ordinary days we have due to that as well as my infertility. God reminds me every day what miracles they are!

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GAME CHANGER

A year ago today, the game changed. My normal twin pregnancy suddenly got a lot more complicated when my water broke at 32 weeks and 2 days gestation. It had been a fairly normal day for me, but in hindsight I recognize that the ebb and flow of my aching back was likely actually contractions. I was in interviews for a good portion of the day and due to a late meeting, I didn’t get home from work until almost 7:00. I was exhausted, my feet were massive and all I wanted to do was sleep. I ate dinner, and Jeremy and I rested on the couch until I went to bed around 9:00 when he left for work. No sooner did I start to doze off, when I awakened suddenly by what I thought was my bladder giving up and just emptying on its own. I quickly waddled to the bathroom and briefly thought that this was the best, most productive emptying of my bladder I’d had in a long time…then I looked down, saw blood, and quickly realized that I had a problem — my body had officially given the babies their eviction notice. Knowing that Jeremy was at work and couldn’t leave until he got a replacement, I called my parents. No answer. I then called my sister-in-law. She answered and I told her my water broke and I needed a ride to the hospital. Thankfully, my brother was in town, so she could leave and not disrupt Jake; she grabbed her breast pump and headed out. I called Jeremy, told him what was going on and that he needed to meet us at the hospital. He needed directions. We just weren’t ready for this. We thought we had more time. I calmly gave him directions to the hospital in Southern Indiana, where my doctor and midwife practiced. I got myself dressed, grabbed a towel, and saw Meredith’s car swing around the corner onto our street. We made the 9-mile journey to Clark Memorial Hospital and eventually made our way to the labor and delivery unit where the nurses confirmed that my water was indeed broken and I was able to hear the babies’ heartbeats, which was a huge relief. My blood pressure was through the roof (still, no one will tell me how high I went) and I was hyper reflexive – both of which are symptoms of preeclampsia. While I never was officially diagnosed, we wonder if I was brewing it up.

After exchanging text messages with the doctor on call, it was determined that I was to be transported back across the river to a hospital better equipped to handle preemies. I “enjoyed” my 2nd ambulance ride ever and I learned that I wouldn’t be having tax day babies (yeah!). We had a plan. I would be in the hospital until the babies were born, which was hopefully not until at least April 26th when I hit 34 weeks. As long as I wasn’t in labor, not showing signs of infection and the babies were not in distress, they would keep cooking sans water. To help mature their lungs faster, I would get the pleasure of two steroid injections that were the most painful shots I’ve ever endured. We met with a neonatologist who discussed the NICU and potential issues with 32 weekers and met with one of the maternal fetal medicine specialists on call, who made my night when she told me I could get up to use the bathroom and wasn’t going to be subjected to the bedpan.

I remember so many little details about that night. I remember leaving the house looking like a crime scene with spots of blood an amniotic fluid everywhere (my favorite flip flops are still stained). I remember Meredith putting her car in park anytime we had to stop so it wouldn’t stall (note to my brother – don’t put off car work). I remember her asking me if I could feel the babies moving as she merged onto the bridge; the answer was yes, as Grant shoved his head under my rib cage. I remember emailing a co-worker who I knew would be checking email late and told her to let a fellow co-worker know I wouldn’t be picking her up in the morning; she promptly replied that she was praying for us. I remember Meredith gently cleaning up my swollen ankles and legs from the aforementioned bodily fluids. I remember the EMT who accompanied me in the ambulance and her, how should I say it, butch appearance. She was much more gentle and calming that I would have anticipated. I remember the nurse changing out the bedding under me and knowing precisely why I didn’t go into that profession. I remember asking the nurse if it was normal for the room to spin after getting a steroid injection. It wasn’t. I just needed to sleep. I remember the look on Jeremy’s face when he made it to the hospital; it was a look of realization and perhaps slight panic that our lives really were going to change…just a little sooner than we anticipated. I look back on my life and remember certain days and events like they were yesterday. This night will most definitely be one of those times. While this wasn’t the way we thought things were going to go, I look back and know that everything happened just the way it was supposed to happen and God’s hand was on us the whole way.

LESSONS TO LIVE BY

This past weekend provided my children with a chance to see what life was like for my generation when we were their age. Although they didn’t travel back in time to the ‘70s and early ‘80s, they were able to partake of some of the activities that we did as kids and find that things could be simple to have fun.

Friday night Joel slept over his best friend’s house and spent most of the day Saturday playing with him at his house. Ryan went to see the play his fellow classmates were performing at the High School. It is nice to know that it is relatively safe to let your teen attend a function at school without you being present. I feel much more at ease doing this living in the suburbs as opposed to if we lived in a city.

I had read earlier in the week that a movie theatre we had never gone to was featuring free cartoon movies, one of which was Candy Land. Chad has a video which has an advertisement for this movie, but it was released in 1995. Whenever he sees the ad, he asks why I never bought that for him, and every time I tell him because that was a year BEFORE I had any children (Ryan was born in 1996). I’ve looked online, but have never been able to locate it for him. We even had Santa try with no dice. Because of all this, when I saw the ad in the newspaper, I thought it would be a fun thing to do.

Chad woke up bright and early on Saturday morning, ready to head off to see his movie. He helped with the few chores that needed to be done “so we won’t be late, because they don’t wait movies.” He helped look for the landmarks from our directions, and we did fine until we actually reached our destination. The directions said it was on the opposite side of the street from the actual location. We drove right past, because believe it or not, it wasn’t a big, huge complex which we are now used to. It was located in the middle of a strip mall, as I remember from my childhood. We turned around, and on the way back we spotted it. Everything was newly renovated, but it had the feel of attending the movies as I remember when I was a kid. I had as much fun as Chad.

That night, the boys attended a Scout function with Jim. They cooked their dinner over open fires, watched a movie outdoors, and had the option of camping out. They decided to come home instead, but had enjoyed all the other activities.

Chad had had such a good time at the movies on Saturday that he asked if he could go see the movie playing that morning. Jim took both Chad and Joel, which is something that he often doesn’t get the chance to do. Ryan, on the other hand didn’t have as much fun, but still was able to experience something from our pasts. Jim would often times as a kid go door to door offering his services to do seasonal yard work as a way to earn spending money. Ryan did this Sunday with the members of the Crew Team. They did yard work for homeowners around town, and in return, the homeowner would make a donation to support the Crew Team. He was pleased with the amount of money they earned, because the work had been a difficult task.

Chad spent the afternoon Sunday at a friend’s birthday party. His classmate had just wanted a few friends over to play. It was refreshing to see them have fun the old fashioned way, by getting dirty as boys should when playing outside. They played party games, including breaking a piñata, and wrapped it up with birthday cake and ice cream. Jim was a hit when he went to pick up Chad in the John Deere Gator, and took all the party guests for rides on the Gator through the woods. The kids were able to see you can have fun just being together, and you don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars to celebrate at a facility.

Not once did anyone play with a Gameboy, Play Station, Wii, watch a DVD or VHS tape, use the computer for games (Ryan did use it for homework purposes), or listen to an IPod. It was very refreshing to not have modern technology infringe on how simple life used to be. Now, back to the reality of the present.

IN IT FOR THE LONG HAUL

My parents celebrated their 38th wedding anniversary yesterday. In this day in age, it’s refreshing to see a couple not only stay together for the long haul, but still really like each other. I can only imagine how much more complicated our lives would be if they weren’t together. Weddings, birthdays, holidays…all would be very different and I think it’s safe to say that I’d be a different person if they were not still married.

Jeremy and I have been married nearly 7 years and together 11 years today. We didn’t enter into marriage lightly and knew that it was to be a LIFETIME commitment. We went through what I call “pre-marital boot camp” at our church; so if we weren’t sure by the time our wedding day came around, then shame on us! Today, I hear people have wedding vows that say, “until we no longer love.” Seriously? What about “’til death do us part?” Marriages, like many things in life, have seasons that come with storms and other challenges and like Mother Nature—it’s good to have a healthy respect for the marital relationship.

A recent study found that parents who have twins as their first children have a slightly higher divorce rate. The study didn’t indicate exactly why, but I can make some guesses as to why, one being communication. It’s very easy to get completely caught up in all things baby and forget to nurture your relationship with your spouse.

Jeremy and I make sure to have time together each night. We wait to eat dinner together until after the babies go down. We won’t always do this because family dinner time is important, but at this age, we feel we can still get away with waiting. We enjoy that quiet time together to talk about the day or just be together without distractions. We make going to church together a weekend priority and when the weather is nice enjoy time together on family walks. The babies are happy to stroll and he and I get to have time to catch up on the day while we exercise.

If we’ve done our job right, one day Grant and Maria will move out on their own and Jeremy and I will be empty nesters. It’ll be important for us to not be strangers when that happens. I’m grateful for the example that my parents have set for us and pray we all have many more anniversaries to celebrate.