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.

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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.

THE FAMILY PARTY

On Julian and Natalie’s birthday we got up and started making their birthday cakes. Even though we are not having a party until summer, I had to do something for their big day. So they each chose a cake they wanted me to make, Natalie a Snow White and Julian a train. Brian said we could not eat two cakes alone, so I invited my family. It was a great party.

The twins were so excited all day long. Julian kept asking me to play hockey with him, while I was making his cake; he had to ask at least every 5 minutes. I told him if I played I would not get his cake done for the party and that Uncle Craig was coming (he used to be a hockey ref) and that he would play hockey with him! Julian is so cute; he uses his putter as a hockey stick.

My mom had almost always made my birthday cakes and I loved that. So I decided this year I would try and do that also. My Mom had always just used a mix and a round cake pan. My twins wanted special decorated cakes, so I tried to get what they wanted. I now know why people pay to get this done! They tasted fine; the artistic part was just a bit out of my league. I needed a different type of pan for the Snow White cake. She looks like she is in an inner-tube instead of a ball gown. I am still learning!

It was a delightful time and they had a blast. It was so fun seeing how excited they were when they opened their gifts. The next day, we had to clean out the playroom to find room for everything. It is hard to accept they are growing up and packing the baby toys away made it more real. They are at a wonderful age and I look forward to all they will do and learn this next year. I thank God for bringing this family together that I wanted for so long!

MOTHER’S INSTINCT

Last month the marking period closed for the semester in our elementary school. Joel must have thought I wouldn’t know this fact, because he “forgot” to give me his report card. His grades were above average, it was the comments of his not working to his fullest capabilities that were the issue. I guess he figures I wouldn’t remember that conferences were held in conjunction with the close of grades for that term, and hence the issuing of report cards. He has had repeated issues throughout the year, with the basis of these issues being that he hurries to complete the work, and it is sloppy and has mistakes that would be caught if he would edit his work. I have at times stepped in and spoken to his teacher about this, and we continue to work towards changing his work habits both at home and at school.

Recently grades closed for the semester at the high school, and I once again intervened, this time for Ryan. He had missed a few days of school when we went to WDW with the Baileys, and he was out sick for two days last week. Daily I have his grades emailed to me, and I had consistently asked him about the zeros which were the missing assignments. It is my feeling that everything became out of control for him what with being out sick, missing additional work as a result, and grades closing. He had more than one class now with zeros for assignment grades, and his final grades were suffering as a result. I called to speak with his guidance counselor, and reminded him that Ryan has Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). He said he could talk with another staff member about Ryan, and see if they could come up with a plan to help him with his classes. I agreed that this would be helpful, and am in the process of finding another doctor to manage Ryan’s ADD, since the doctor he had been seeing is no longer in practice.

I had a feeling that it would be a matter of time before the ADD would once again affect his ability to learn. Ryan finds he is at times very distracted, making it difficult to read and write. The majority of his classes now require both skills, and lots of them. Ryan has learned to compensate for his inabilities, and has done quite well for the most part. It is hard to know when to step back and let them handle the situation, and when to intervene. I’ve had to do this on more than one occasion for the ADD. In order to have him diagnosed, we had to undergo numerous assessments which took course over an entire school year in elementary school. I’ve also had to intervene when he had his allergy to dairy if I felt it wasn’t being handled appropriately.

This time he sees what I’ve been saying all year; if you have trouble keeping up, things will quickly fall apart in all of your classes. Trying to GET back on track is often times harder than just staying there in the first place. Sometimes, mother does know best.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY JULIAN AND NATALIE

Three years ago today, I was at UT hospital giving birth to Natalie and Julian. The whole pregnancy for me was not what I would have imagined nor the delivery, since I did not get to hold them for a long time after that. Even though the pregnancy was not what I would have hoped for I would not trade my whole experience for anything.

I am such a better person since Julian and Natalie have entered into my life. I have learned how to keep going even when I did not see how I could go any longer. Motherhood has stretched me to become more compassionate, more loving and more understanding. I have also made so many mistakes, that I realize how important forgiveness is to receive, not only give. God has used Natalie and Julian to teach me so much about myself as well as my life. My love for them grows deeper with every passing day as I watch their personalities develop.

We celebrated their birthdays yesterday by going horseback riding and then to Dollywood with the grandparents and some friends. I have baked two cakes and am having family over to celebrate tonight as well. This summer we will have a pool party for them with their friends. We hoped Patty and her family could attend that, but with rising gas prices as well as flights, we may have to enjoy their company another year. No matter what we do as long as we are together, that is all that really matters to me. Forty six days in NICU was enough time to be apart, so every day we are together is a celebration.

MOMMY TIME

Jeremy and I had a rare Friday night date last night. Normally, we’re both so tired by the end of the week that our goal is to get the kids down by 7:30 and enjoy a quiet dinner together before we both pass out. Last night we had tickets to our church’s final production of its Easter Pageant, which is a wonderful depiction of Jesus’ life and the sacrifice He made for us. We decided to make it date night and grab dinner before the show. The only down side to this plan was it meant I barely spent an hour with the babies when I got home from work and we weren’t going to get to put them to bed. We’ve gotten into a really good routine where I get individual time with each baby, nursing and rocking one to sleep, while Jeremy has one-on-one with the other. Because Grant goes down easier, he gets to go first. While he’s nursing, Maria is getting eased into sleep on Jeremy’s chest. By the time Grant is down, which takes about 15 minutes, Maria is very relaxed and dozing. Once I get her she quietly nurses to sleep and generally goes down without protest. This is one of my favorite times of the day. Nursing not only calms them but releases calming hormones in me and gets us reconnected after being separated most of the day.

Last night we left bottles with my parents with instructions to go down between 7:00 and 7:30 and we would be home for their 10:00 top off. We got home shortly after 10:00 and both babies were awake and in serious need of mommy time. I’ve wondered recently if they really need that 10:00 nursing session and last night was confirmation that, yes, they do still need it.

I nursed both at the same time and put them back to bed. Maria, however, wasn’t ready and I realized she needed that one-on-one time that we normally have at bedtime. I went to get her and she nursed some more, rocked a little longer and was finally ready to go to bed. Mom said they both took nearly an hour to fall asleep and I think it’s because they didn’t have their normal routine and one-on-one mommy time. In the past, I’ve noticed that they will wake and wish to nurse more during the night if I’ve been gone longer than normal and I’ve read that it’s pretty normal behavior for babies whose mom’s work outside the home. They need that connection time and honestly I need it too.

I’ve thought recently about when they should wean and realize that even though they are almost a year old, none of us are ready for weaning. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breast feeding for 12 months minimum and to continue as long as each party mutually agrees. I think it’s safe to say that these three parties agree to keep on going. We’ll see where we are in a few months, but I venture to guess that at the very least, we’ll all still go for our evening fix.