Friday, November 16, 2007

Second Time Around

Now that we've had a few days (two weeks to be exact) to settle in to our new "normal," I've been reflecting quite a bit on how different things are this time around. Talking to my friends who have more than one child (most who never struggled with infertility, granted), it seems like we all share the sense that things are much easier- and more relaxed- the second time around.

A friend of mine who has twin girls that just turned one is thinking of having a third and asked me if it's much easier with one. I told her that it is much easier, but I'm not sure if it's a function of having "just one" or if it is because I'm no longer a first time mother.

With the twins, everything seemed overwhelming at first, in particular my attempts to nurse them. I will never forget the endless days and nights where I felt like I did nothing but try to nurse one, then supplement that one with formula, then try to nurse the other and supplement that one with formula, THEN pump to try to get breast milk to feed by bottle later. By the time that whole cycle was done, it was time to feed again. Even though I gave up nursing after about a week at home, I kept up the pumping and pumped 7-8 times a day after feeding both babies. Not only was it time consuming, but I felt like such a failure for not being able to do what my body should do naturally. My mother-in-law is a pediatrician, so the pressure from her (subtle, but definitely there!) was unbearable. DH was wonderfully understanding, telling me to do whatever made me the happiest, but I still couldn't accept the fact that I had failed- yet again- at something I should be able to do.

This time around I decided to give nursing a try while I was in the hospital, but had pretty much resigned myself to formula feeding once we got home. In fact, I felt sort of proud of the fact that I wasn't going to let myself feel sorry for not nursing this time. I pictured myself telling my mother-in-law and the lactation consultants at the hospital, "Thanks for your advice, but we have chosen the best option for ourselves and our family, and it is a personal decision I hope you will respect." After all, I definitely don't feel that feeding a baby formula, even exclusively, is harmful. While breast milk may be "best" by certain standards, I really think that genetics and family health history also play a much more significant role in the health and development of a child. I always say that I was formula fed and DH was breast fed (albeit for only a few months, which I didn't find out until way after I felt guilty for letting my MIL down...) and I have far fewer health problems and allergies than DH does. So I'm a shining example that formula-fed babies don't have to be less healthy than those who are breast fed :)

So imagine my surprise when LS actually gained weight in the hospital before we left, and the pediatrician at the hospital told me that he hardly ever sees that happen, that nursing must be working really well for us. And imagine my further surprise at LS's two week pediatrician appointment yesterday when we found out she not only surpassed her birth weight but passed it significantly. Whereas babies should be gaining an ounce a day at this point, she gained two ounces a day. And she hasn't had a bottle yet- I've been nursing exclusively (now there are two words I never thought I'd use in a sentence when talking about me and one of my children).

I think a big part of our success this time is that I am much more laid-back than the first time around. Having the attitude that at any time I can stop and switch to formula if necessary, and that I won't be a failure because of it, really took the pressure off. I'm also not so worried that my baby will waste away if nursing doesn't work...I realized that if she was losing weight, I'd just simply supplement with formula and all would be well. With the twins, I got freaked out that they were losing too much weight- in part because the nurses at the hospital made me freak out- and immediately doubted my ability to nourish them with my own body. Of course, it doesn't hurt that this time around there was "just one" to feed, whereas last time there were two!

So I think that my whole experience with nursing mirrors my entire approach to parenting this time around- more laid-back, recognizing that there is no "right" or "wrong" way of doing things. It's OK if the baby cries for a few minutes while I get the twins settled in with their breakfast or snack. It's OK if I can't spend every moment doing productive activities with her in an effort to make sure her little brain develops correctly. It's OK if I take a few minutes for myself. I don't think that any of this has to do with having "just one" this time- although the extra sleep at night does help!- but I do think that it's a factor of having the perspective, and hindsight, that comes the second time around.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Birth Story, Part 2

LS is napping now, but the twins are due to be up any second...let's see how much more of the birth story I can get down before they're awake.

So the first spinal didn't take. My doctor wisely advised me that as horrible as it sounded (and as I indicated by the tears rolling down my face as I realized the first one hadn't taken), it would be "better in the long run" if we "got it right" with a second try. I fully agreed- the last thing I wanted to do was feel anything related to the actual cutting! My hot-shot anaesthesiologist called in his colleague, who was scheduled to attend the next c-section, to give it a shot (no pun intended). In the meantime, he had tried again, which involved about 10 more shots of the topical numbing medication and at least two tries with the big needle going into my spine. All the while, I'm holding on to one of the nurses (I think she was a nurse) for dear life, shaking uncontrollably, either from fear or the large amount of anaesthesia I already had injected.

After what seemed like forever (turned out to be about 45 minutes after the ordeal started), the second doctor got the shot in the right spot and I was laid back down to let it take effect, hopefully. Luckily, when they tested me again I couldn't feel a thing. And from there on out, things went smoothly- and quickly. I did have a bit of nausea but the (new) anaesthesiologist put something in my IV that helped within a few minutes. DH was allowed back into the room as the surgical team prepared to cut, and within five minutes the doctor told DH to get his camera ready for the first shot of his daughter.

A few things I feel I should mention about the surgery itself- first, unlike the twins' birth (which was at a different hospital), DH was allowed to watch, and take still pictures, of anything he felt like watching. With the twins, he had to wait until the babies were born and then he could only take pictures of them- not of anything "behind the magic curtain" (i.e., my blood and guts). So whereas our first pictures of the twins are in an isolette as they were cleaned off, our first picture of this baby is her head emerging from the incision in my stomach. I'd share, but I'm not quite sure how many people want to see that image. The next shot is my first view of LS- and again, unlike the hospital where the twins were born, when I wasn't even able to see the twins until after they were checked out and cleaned up (in fact, my first image of them was not live but on the digital camera after DH took pictures of them and came back to show me as I was being stitched up), this time our wonderful doctor held LS up above the curtain so I could see her.

A second memorable fact about the surgery was that the doctors were all remarking about how little fat I have. I definitely don't mean to brag (and trust me- my stomach muscles and skin are so out of shape it doesn't really matter that I have little fat under it) but it was sort of gratifying, in a sick and twisted way, to hear someone actually looking at my insides that I have little fat, at least in my belly area.

Another interesting fact was how many people there were in the OR with me- I think DH counted at least 12 at one point, including my doctor, the anaesthesiologist, a neonatologist (a surprise since LS was term), and a host of nurses. I was surprised that there were so many people at a "normal" birth- I had expected it with the twins, but certainly not this time.

We had not found out the gender of this baby during my pregnancy, but as I've mentioned before, I felt strongly it was a boy. My official guess was a boy, 7 lbs. 2 oz. Well, so much for motherly instinct: obviously, it was a girl, and she was 7 lbs. 12.7 ounces. For the record, DH guessed girl, 7 lbs. 12 oz, so chalk one up for him!

Another surprise was the fact that LS has a full head of dark hair, unlike our twins who had very little hair and what they did have was light. I still remember the doctor saying, when he saw LS's head (but nothing else yet), "I'm not sure if it's a girl or a boy, but whatever it is has a head of dark hair!" My first reaction was "is he talking to me?" It's still a shock to see one of our children with dark hair, especially because DH is extremely fair and I was born with light hair. However, if anything, LS looks more like me than DH, which again is a surprise because our twins look so much like him. It also made me feel proud and particularly attached to LS right away, as I feel like I finally have a child who looks like me. And even though I didn't think I'd cry when LS was born, I bawled plenty of tears when I heard her cry and saw her face for the first time. For all my thinking it was a boy, and for all my worries about being able to love three children equally, there was no doubt that the moment I heard her voice, I was in total love with our new daughter.

As LS was weighed and cleaned, I was stitched up in what seemed like just a few minutes (I think it was more like a half hour, though). DH brought LS over to my side so that I could see her, and I remember one of the nurses telling me it was OK to touch her so I guess I was hesitant, or maybe feeling too constricted in the position I was in for surgery, to reach out to her. I just remember marveling at how surreal it felt to finally meet the little person who was inside me for so long, how we finally had a face (and a gender!) to put with the movements. I had said several times the night before and the morning of the surgery how I just couldn't picture how our family would look a few hours later- would we have two boys and a girl or two girls and a boy, and what would this baby look like? Now I had my answers, and everything seemed to fall into place.

After I was wheeled out of the OR, I was taken to a recovery area where I was told I'd stay for a couple of hours. I had some bad bouts of nausea, which were effectively treated with some meds in my IV. A nurse came in shortly thereafter to take LS for her first bath and to be checked out by the neonatologist. The neonatologist determined that LS was breathing rapidly, likely because of the fluid still in her lungs because she was born by c-section. She explained that they would monitor her for the few hours I was in recovery and if she did not improve by the time I was transferred to my room, she would go to the short-term (4 hour) NICU, and if she still didn't improve after that 4-hour stay, she would go to the NICU. I felt my first wave of panic- again, while I expected these sorts of issues to come up with the twins (none ever did, thankfully), I never expected them to come up with a full-term singleton.

Luckily, LS's breathing slowed down enough for her to go to my room with me when I was finally transferred. It was still rapid- in the 70's whereas normal range is 30-60, but over the next few hours it slowly came down to the 60's and then into the 40's. The only other issue the neonatologist spotted was some clicking in her hips, another issue that would seem to resolve itself by the time we left the hospital.

Our visitors arrived later in the afternoon, with my father coming first, followed by my sister and her husband, and then my father-in-law (our mothers were with the twins). I most anticipated having the twins come visit- I missed them a lot and just wanted to see their faces. After what seemed like forever (they had to take a nap and then eat lunch before leaving for the hospital), they finally arrived with our mothers and two "It's a Girl" balloons that they told me were for the baby. We spent the afternoon with our families, with me drifting in and out of sleep and and having a couple of episodes of nausea/vomiting from the anaesthesia.

Because of her rapid heartrate, the doctors and nurses asked me to hold off on trying to nurse LS until much later in the day. I was already apprehensive about trying to nurse- it wasn't quite smooth sailing with the twins (in fact, it was the most frustrating issue of the entire first few weeks of their existence) so I had already resigned myself to bottle feeding this new baby. Much to my surprise, however, she took to nursing pretty easily and although she lost weight at first, she actually gained a few ounces before we left the hospital. I have been taking it day by day, telling myself I can always go to formula if necessary, but so far I haven't even given her a bottle of expressed breast milk (ok, once I gave her a few sips just to see if she'd take a bottle). This has come as a complete surprise to me, as I really never expected to nurse this baby. We'll see how things go once DH goes back to work and I'm on my own with the twins, but for now I'm content with nursing and feeling rather confident that it's worked so well so far. After such a horrible experience with the twins, I've been pleasantly surprised to see myself able to make it work this time.

There are many other differences between the early days of LS's life and that of the twins (or at least my memory of it), but that post will have to wait for another day. For now I'm going to take advantage of the few hours of quiet I hope to have as the twins nap and LS sleeps after her last feed.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Birth Story- Part 1

I only realized during LS's birth how much of the twins' birth story I had forgotten, so before any more time goes by (and while DH has the twins at their once-weekly Mommy- or Daddy- and Me nursery school program and LS sleeps), I want to get down as much of LS's birth story as I can remember.

The night before the birth was, of course, Halloween, my most loved and anticipated holiday. We spent much of the day as a family- DH came home early from work and we took the twins out to run some last minute errands as well as to a local Halloween festival for kids. On the way home, we picked up pizza for the four of us and my parents, who came by at dinner time to see the kids off and hand out candy while we trick-or-treated. We schlepped the kids out around our neighborhood, which gets VERY into the Halloween spirit. Our duaghter lapped it all up- she immediately got the hang of asking for candy (and saying thank you!) at every house, and laughed at even the scariest of decorations and costumes. Our son, on the other hand, already the more sensitive of the two kids, was a bit more skeptical. He was OK until the kid with the three-headed costume came out of a house, and then he clung to me like super glue. Needless to say, I probably carried more toddler than I should have, for longer than I should have. By the time we got home I had excruciating pain in my round ligament/groin area. Nothing I thought was labor (it was more muscular than contraction-like) but it made me realize that going into labor at that point would have actually been a good thing. First of all, I had been off of my blood thinner (in anticipation of the next morning's surgery) for the required 24 hours; secondly, if I went into labor, I could avoid a c-section.

In the end, it didn't matter because I was NOT in labor, just a lot of discomfort, which prevented me from sleeping a lot of the night. I fell asleep at about 11:00 p.m. and woke up at 3:00, unable (for a number of reasons) to fall back to sleep. I thought a lot that night and early morning about how much our lives were about to change, and was emotional at the thought of leaving our twins while I was in the hospital. Finally, at 3:30 I got up and showered to get ready for the day. We had planned to wake up at 4:30, anyway, so I was just about an hour ahead of schedule.

DH's mom arrived at our house at 5:15 in the morning (because my own parents, who live just a mile away, refuse to do anything before 8:30 or 9:00 a.m., but that's a whole different story...) She took some pictures- one of me as my "last picture before delivering" (she took the same picture before I delivered the twins) and one with me and DH. Looking at those pictures I realized how much smaller I really WAS (even if it didn't feel that way) then with the twins. After some last minute instructions, it was off to the hospital. I was sad leaving before I could say good morning to the twins, but also didn't want to risk waking them by going into their rooms before we left.

We arrived at the hospital about 15 minutes ahead of schedule at 6:00 a.m. There was no one at the admissions desk at the L&D unit, which made me wonder- what if someone had come in in active labor? We waited for at least 20 minutes before anyone came out to discover me waiting (DH had gone to the bathroom, of course, right as someone finally came out). I was admitted quickly and met my prep nurse, Paulette, who took me back to the pre-op preparation room before DH even came out of the restroom (he caught up to us while I was changing into my robe in the bathroom). Pre-op seemed to go by quickly- before I knew it, it was 7:00, just 45 minutes before my scheduled c-section. We went through all of the standard admission questions, which I seem to remember from the twins' birth. A few memorable interactions happened during pre-op: a nurse questioned Paulette's entry of "P2 G3" in the computer, indicating it was my second pregnancy but third child. Paulette explained (as did everyone else during my hospital stay any time they said "P2 G3") that I had twins at home...and of course added, for emphasis, that they were just 19 months old. This small fact seemed to make me a superstar at the hospital.

Another interesting incident that happened during pre-op was the fact that we had several "observers." The first was a student nurse who I would come to know well during my stay, and I didn't mind having her observe at all. In fact, I was her first c-section and she kept thanking me for letting her be a part of such an important part of our lives. The second, though, was a (seemingly) random guy who came into the pre-op room in scrubs. I think he got off on the wrong foot with me with one of his first questions- when he heard I had twins at home, and that they were boy/girl twins, he asked me if they were identical or fraternal. One of my pet peeve questions- when someone asks me that question, their perceived level of intelligence in my head goes WAY down. Now maybe that's unfair- if I didn't have boy/girl twins, maybe I'd fail to understand that to be identical, twins must be identical in ALL OF THEIR PARTS too, but I really didn't like this guy from the get-go. It turns out he was from the local fire department, where they send trainees to the hospital to watch operations so that they get used to seeing blood and guts. Now I'm all for supporting our local fire department, but I really didn't see the need for this guy (who was already making stupid comments) to watch MY blood and guts along with the 12+ other people who would be in the operating room. When Paulette asked me (in private) if I minded having him observe, I told her he could observe the pre-op procedures but that I would prefer he didn't come into the operating room. I felt a little badly, but it was also my prerogative to limit the number of "observers" in the OR, and if anything went wrong I wanted fewer people in the way.

While in the pre-op room, my doctor came to talk to me along with the anaesthesiologist. I really do love my doctor- this isn't' the one I had planned to have do my c-section, but he's one of my favorites in the practice anyway and just a really great guy. After the necessary preparations were taken, including inserting my IV (one of my biggest fears but Paulette did a great job) and shaving "down there," I was walked into the OR next door. The anaesthesiologist prepped me for my spinal, which unbeknown st to me at the time would become the most trying experience of my entire delivery.

To start out with, the idea of a needle going into my spine is NOT my idea of fun. However, when I had my c-section with the twins, it was a relatively easy and unpainful process. That time, however, I had an epidural with a spinal IN the epidural (in other words, a tube in my back that fed both the epidural meds and the spinal meds into my back). That was a different hospital, though, with different protocols, and at this hospital the protocol for c-sections is a spinal only, which means a shot into the spinal fluid (no tube inserted). I knew there was trouble when the anaesthesiologist seemed to have to try several times to get the needle in the right spot. Luckily this was after he had given me a few shots of local anaesthesia so I didn't feel it that much, but I was still uncomfortable. Finally, after what seemed like forever, he thought he got the meds in the right spot (and in fact told me that with spinals, you know for sure because some of the spinal fluid comes back in the syringe- nice image, thanks). However, when I laid down and was tested several minutes later for numbness, it was obvious the spinal had not taken.

LS is fussing...the rest of this story is going to have to wait until later...guess this is the story of my life from now on :)

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Quick Update

Just a quick update- first of all, thanks to Mel for the shout-out in her Friday Blog Round-Up. I feel like a celeb for even being mentioned :)

So we now have answers to a lot of the questions I had in my last post: first of all, it was a girl, a beautiful, 7 lb. 12.7 oz. girl who I'll call "Little Sister" (or LS) for purposes of this blog, at least until I come up with a more apt nickname. Unlike her older siblings, LS has a full head of dark hair, which was quite a shock. So far, she's amazingly easy- but then again, I think all babies are pretty easy at this stage (eat, sleep, excrete, repeat...)

The birth itself was pretty smooth and uncomplicated, except for the little issue of the spinal, which took one hour, two tries, and a second doctor to complete...not something I ever want to repeat in my life. However, the recovery so far has been much easier than I remember it being with the twins. I'll post the full birth story when I get a few minutes to reflect- hopefully sooner rather than later as I don't want to forget the small details like I seem to have done with our twins birth!

The hospital stay was wonderful- I really enjoyed bonding with LS and even though I missed our twins sorely, they did come to visit and I could still appreciate having the time to myself (and LS) at the hospital.

Most surprising, I am nursing LS exclusively so far and doing well, if I may say so myself. Nursing was my nightmare issue with the twins- by far the one issue that made me most miserable- so I am shocked (pleasantly) at the ability to do this- successfully it seems- so far. She lost a little weight the first two days in the hospital (nothing to be alarmed about, though) and then GAINED the last day we were there. Even the pediatrician said that was not routine, and must mean that she's thriving on my breast milk. I still have to stifle a laugh when I hear people say things like that- I can't believe they are talking to me. I'm taking it a day at a time- I know things can change, especially now that I'm home and real life (vs. life in the hospital, with all the time in the world) kicks in. But for now we're making it work, me and little LS.

The twins have been such troupers and seem to love their LS already. I'm SO proud of them. My heart was so filled with pride, love and joy tonight when we got home and the five of us were sitting around, enjoying life as a new family, that I almost started crying. What a different experience from when we got home from the hospital with the twins and my crying was more out of frustration and a feeling of ineptitude. Again, I know there will be frustrating times ahead, but for now I'm just basking in this beautiful feeling and appreciating the many blessings we've been given.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Musings on the Day Before...

Well, technically it's not the day before- it's two days before (or about 42 hours, but who's counting?) but I figured I should start this post today because the next few days are going to be hectic, especially with Halloween tomorrow.

Everyone keeps asking me, "So, are you ready?" I was definitely ready with the twins- after all, I had been sitting around for months on end, obsessing about a healthy outcome, and, towards the end, feeling VERY uncomfortable. I also had no idea what was about to hit me (namely, a couple of months- luckily only a couple- of sleep deprivation, mood swings, and the general feeling of total ineptitude). This time I'm in a happy place right now- we're in a great routine, I feel like I have my act together, I'm not in too much discomfort from the pregnancy itself....and frankly, I'm NOT looking forward to the first few weeks- the recovery, the hospital stay, the sleep deprivation.

Don't get me wrong- I am very excited to add to our family and if this baby brings even a fraction of the joy that our twins have brought to our lives, it will be more than enough to offset the initial "unpleasantries" of caring for a newborn. It's just that I hate change, and this is a big change. Once I get into a new routine and learn how to manage with three kids instead of just two, we'll be golden. But that unknown looms out there and without a crystal ball to tell me that things will be just fine, even more wonderful than I can imagine, I can't help getting nervous.

In the meantime, we're staying very busy trying to jam every ounce of quality time into these last few days. Lots of Halloween festivities, play dates, classes, running errands. It's certainly making this week go by a little too fast.

There's not much left to do in terms of preparation. Consistent with the Jewish superstition of not setting up much (if anything) in the house for a new baby ahead of time, we haven't really set up the room but everything is ready to go once the baby is born. Unlike last time when I wouldn't even allow anything baby-related into the house, I do have everything we'll need when we get home from the hospital on hand and organized. One of the most disconcerting feelings last time was coming home to a house that wasn't ready for our babies. My mother and mother-in-law attempted to organize things (wash and put away clothes, stock the supplies, etc.) but I had no idea where anything was and that just made me feel more inept and out of control. This time I'm at least getting somewhat prepared, if not totally set up.

I'm spending a lot of time trying to picture this baby and our new life with three kids. Whereas with the twins we knew we were having a boy and a girl, this time we've saved the gender as a surprise so I can't even picture that aspect of this baby. My gut says a boy- mainly because the heartrate has always been on par with what our son's was while in utero- but DH is guessing a girl. I wonder if I'm going to be totally thrown off if it's a girl. I know it's obviously a strong possibility, but I have just been assuming it's a boy for so long it will be somewhat of a surprise if it's a girl. I also wonder if this baby will look like either of our twins (who looked very different from each other) or if it will look more like me than either of them do. Will this baby be a "good" baby, sleeping well and easy to please, or, G-d forbid, will it be a difficult baby? Our twins were SO good- I feel like I'm due for a difficult baby. Hoping that's not the case, though.

What will I be like with this baby? Will I be more laid-back than with our twins? Will the crying bother me less? Will I want to lavish as much attention on this baby as I did with our twins, or will I even be able to if I want to? Is this baby going to end up watching the world go by from his/her carseat carrier while his/her older siblings partake in their activities?

I guess we'll know the answer tomorrow. Everything that needs to be done is done- preliminary blood work and pre-registration at the hospital, instructions left with both sets of parents (who will be caring for the twins while we're at the hospital tomorrow), the house is in as much order as it's going to be in. Stay tuned to find out what life is really like with three under two.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Just What the Doctor Ordered!

During my twin pregnancy, I couldn't eat a bite of sweets- which is VERY odd for me, since I could practically live on sweets in my non-pregnancy state. Much to my relief, my love of sweets came back after I gave birth to our twins and during this pregnancy it actually intensified. So imagine my luck to have signed up with Mel's awesome Candy Exchange Program (now there's a girl after my own heart!) and to have been matched with Rebecca from the UK.

Yesterday afternoon I was having particularly strong cravings for chocolate but there wasn't too much in the house- some chocolate ice cream, but what I really wanted was the good stuff. Imagine my happiness when the post woman dropped off a box mid-afternoon, just as my craving was peaking:

First of all, isn't it cool how it says "Royal Mail"? Something about that made me giddy- imagine me, getting some "Royal Mail." But even better was what was inside when I opened the box:

Oh. My. Gosh. Can I just say how much Rebecca ROCKS? All of the "sweets" are amazing- and yes, I've taste-tested everything already. My favorite so far is the Milky Bar, a "kids chocolate" (actually white chocolate). But the chocolate creams are really good too- Rebecca described them as "unusual, but okay in small doses." Well, chocolate and "small doses" don't go in the same sentence with me, no matter how rich- so an entire bar is gone already. Luckily she sent me several :)

So a big THANK YOU to Rebecca and to Mel for putting together this exchange that has brought so much happiness to my heart (and my stomach). And even better- in the process, I've made a new friend who loves sweets as much as I do!

In other news, things here are good- and we're currently at T-minus a week and counting. I have such mixed emotions- on the one hand, I'm eager to meet the newest addition to our family and to get rid of this ever-expanding belly. On the other hand, I know that this baby is a LOT quieter and easier to take care of inside of me than it is going to be outside of me. I'm also a little sad at the thought of it not being "just the four of us" (or during the day, just the three of us). I've found myself sitting with both kids in my lap, getting teary-eyed at the thought of having to divert any attention away from them...not to mention not being able to fit all of my kids in my lap at once, since I can't imagine fitting three kids on my lap at the same time! I know I am going to love this baby just as much as I love our twins, but a small part of me is grieving the fact that we won't have this time again, and that they won't remember what it was like without a sibling. Maybe that's a good thing- I want them to be close to the new baby- but it's also bittersweet that we've had such a special 19 months together and they'll never remember a thing about it.

Ahhh...better get to bed before the hormones (and the rest of Rebecca's box of chocolate and candy) gets the best of me...

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Almost There...

I'm still here, and still alive (and well!) It's been a long two weeks, but the kids have continued to behave beautifully (OK, I'll admit there have been a few brief interludes of difficult behavior, but nothing to complain about) so it hasn't been as hard as I was expecting. Of course, the following day after I posted my last post our daughter decided it would be fun to throw a fit in the bookstore after I wouldn't allow her to take the book she had in the car (which came FROM that bookstore) in with us, for the obvious (to me at least) reason that it would look like we were stealing the book when we left with it. For the first time that I can remember, I got looks that said "I'm so glad I'm not that woman with the screaming little girl and another baby on the way." Or maybe they were saying, "Lady, if you can't even control your little girl, what business to do have giving birth to yet ANOTHER little brat?" only lasted a few minutes and eventually she calmed down enough to be presentable in public.

And then there was the bright idea I had of having some of my neighbor friends over for a pizza dinner. It started out innocently enough- their husbands were out of town, too, and gee, while I'm at it why don't I invite a few other neighbors and their kids over too? So we ended up with five adults and TEN children, six of whom were "older" (2-4 years old) boys with enough energy to tear our basement to pieces. Two of them are the sons of my friend and neighbor who I personally really like but am amazed at the difficulty she finds in controlling her kids, especially the older one. I swear- I really do adore this woman and think she is an intelligent person who I can relate to-- I consider her a good friend...but I just don't get her parenting philosophy. When her older son acts out (and I mean really acts out- not the typical 4-year old tantrum) she says,"wow- what am I going to do when he's 14 years old and yelling 'f-you' at me?!" Umm, am I the only one who sees something totally backwards with that statement? I am really the last one to judge others on their parenting decisions- everyone has to do what works best for them- but sometimes I find it hard to see the logic behind certain approaches.

Anyway, needless to say that one night beat me to a pulp and even though my friends were all extremely helpful (most stayed to help clean up and offered to do anything necessary to help me out a bit-- more than I can say for my own family sometimes!), I was already feeling run down that day and the dinner experience just did me in. Lesson learned. What I was thinking when I decided to have everyone over after an already tough (physically draining) day, I'll never know.

So, you see, it's not all roses and smiles, but again, I have little to complain about. I love spending the time with the kids and we've done a lot of really fun activities we probably wouldn't have done if I wasn't on my own with them all day- dinner with friends, extra play dates, etc. I'm kind of going to miss this time after the new baby comes. Which for those of you keeping track is just two weeks from today. When I have more energy and more time (hubby gets home tomorrow night and no more plans to travel in the immediate future!!!) I'll get into how I'm feeling now that we're SO close. For now, it's off to bed...

Friday, October 5, 2007

Off to a Good Start

I'm feeling a lot more confident today and less stressed about the prospect of being on my own for most of the next few weeks. Today was a good day, though-- everything just seemed to fall into place and the kids were so well-behaved I'm even afraid to mention it, lest I jinx myself for the next 13 days.

We started out the day with an impromptu get-together with a bunch of neighbors whose kids had the day off from nursery school because of the Jewish holiday of Simchat Torah. I had mentioned to one of my neighborhood friends that my husband would be out of town, and she immediately asked if we'd like to join her and our other neighbor/friend since they already had plans to get together because of the holiday/lack of school to keep the kids busy. It turned into a much bigger gathering, but it was great- my kids had a "new" place to play (our friends' playroom), friends to keep them busy, and I got a few good hours with my friends. It was a great way to spend the morning before we came home for a nice long(ish) nap. And it was heartwarming to see our kids playing with their friends, and also to know that MY friends were looking out for me and trying to keep us occupied.

The kids were great during and after lunch. We had to run to the post office and grocery store, and they were perfect angels, even hugging each other and laughing in their stroller. It was like they were showing off: "look, Mommy, we're going to be SOOOOO perfect today!" Passer-bys couldn't help but smile and several complimented me on how happy and well-behaved our children are.

After lunch and errands, my father came by to play with the kids and give me a little break. They were running around the house, hysterically laughing and playing with each other. I planned to go to the gym while my dad was here, but by the time he got here it was late and we had plans to go out to dinner when my mom got home from work, so I figured I'd just rest for a bit and take a shower. I ended up falling asleep for over a half hour (guess I was more tired than I thought I was).

When my mom got here after work, we took the kids to a nearby kid-friendly restaurant and again, they were perfect- they sat sweetly for a half hour while we placed our orders and waited for our meals, and then cleaned their plates. A family next to us had a newborn baby and our kids kept waving and saying "hi, baby!" Again, we got a lot of compliments on how well-behaved the kids were, and my parents couldn't stop talking about how wonderful they are. Not that our kids are usually poorly behaved (in fact, I'm pretty proud of how good they are, especially out in public), but I was just thinking all day, "this is too good to be true- when will I get at least a little bit of bad behavior?" Someone must be looking out for me today, because it never happened.

I wonder if somehow they know that Mommy just needs a break for the next few weeks. Whatever the reason, it's interesting how one day like this can make me feel like Supermom again. And I know how one day in the opposite direction can make me feel like the most inept mother in the world. I'm just hoping that we have more days like today and fewer- or NO- days in the opposite direction!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Sucking it Up

Oh, my. So I was looking forward to a nice long weekend, as my husband has Monday off for Columbus Day (which I've always found to be an odd holiday, but whatever...) I was especially excited because he was going to get to come to the kids' gym class on Monday morning; not only would he get to see how much they enjoy the class, but I'd have an extra set of hands to help chase them around the room, which is getting a little bit harder as I get bigger and bigger.

Today we found out that his grandmother, who lives in Germany, is headed downhill quickly. This woman is amazing and I've always found her inspirational- she is 94 years old, but until the past few years, she had more energy and spunk than most of my 30-something friends. I remember when I first met her about 10 years ago, when she'd come visit my husband's parents and stay here for a month or two, how she'd go out on her own to sight see, taking public transportation all on her own. She'd complain about the "old fogies" at her retirement home in Germany, and how no one ever wanted to go out on the town and have fun with her. She'd entertain us with stories from her younger days when she was wild and crazy (and quite progressive). She speaks at least four languages that I know of, and probably understands a whole lot more. In brief, she's an impressive woman with an unbeatable spirit.

Until a few weeks ago. She was sick and had to spend time in the hospital, and after that her fire just seemed to die. She told my father-in-law (her son) that this was the end of the line for her. While I'm used to hearing that type of talk from my own grandmother (who is convinced every malady is "it" for her), hearing it from my husband's grandmother was really disconcerting, just because she's always been so full of determination.

Since her episode in the hospital, she's been pretty much despondent. Apparently it's gotten so bad that she is not eating, drinking or responding to anyone, including her son. So my father-in-law is headed to Germany to see her, and my husband and his sister decided that they should go too. My husband was hesitant to go and leave me (his eight+ month pregnant wife) but I told him he needed to go. I would hate to be the reason he didn't get one final visit with his grandmother- how could I (or he?) ever live with that? So he's headed off to Germany tomorrow evening until Monday afternoon.

Typically, it wouldn't be an issue- I've been with the kids on my own for as much as a week before, and although it's exhausting, I can do it. I have plenty of family and friends to step in and give me a little break if I need it, but I usually like to do it all on my own (typical Supermom mentality...and my stubborn nature). However, this time he'll be coming home only to leave the next day for a business trip. And once he gets back from that, he turns around four days later to leave for another trip. So that means he'll be gone for ten of the next fourteen days.

I'd like to think I'll be fine, and under most "normal" circumstances (read: not 35 weeks pregnant), I could do it with ease. And I'm so stubbornly independent that typically I wouldn't even accept any offers of help. But I'm a little nervous this time, and it's the first time I've felt such trepidation at having him leave. This is actually the first time I've turned to my parents and asked them for help while he's gone. Usually I tell them not to worry, I'll be fine on my own, and they take that literally and stop by for maybe 20 minutes, but that's the extent of their assistance. This time I'm going to have to learn to suck it up and ask for help, because I just don't know if I can make it through the next two weeks without asking for a helping hand. That means not only my parents, but my sister, my mother-in-law (and trust me, accepting her help is VERY difficult for me), and anyone else I can find. Hopefully I can spread the weight around so that I don't have to impose too much on any one person.

Honestly, I think the hardest part about the next two weeks is going to be letting myself accept help. But if I don't, I'm afraid that I'll be so beat by the end that I could end up hurting my own--or worse, this baby's- health. So I'll be sucking it up, and hoping the next two weeks go by very quickly.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Run Ragged

I'm beat. But I can't stop running around like a crazy woman- I honestly feel like I am on speed or something and I don't know why.

During the course of the last week, I've been out every evening for some volunteer activity or another (ok, one night was our monthly Girls Night Out, so not "work," but still out late and tiring!) I have spent about 10-12 hours devoted to our parents of multiples club (we had our semi-annual sale this past weekend and I volunteered for most of it), 3 hours to planning our neighborhood Halloween Parade (I stepped up to take over the organization of the annual event before I found out I was pregnant...and due around c-section is now scheduled for November 1 so that I won't miss Halloween), and 5 hours working on a newsletter I co-edit. Most of this time is during the evenings, after the kids go to bed, since there is just no time during the day.

I'm notorious for taking on way too many volunteer responsibilities. Whenever we're in a room and someone starts a sentence with, "We're looking for volunteers to help with...," my husband immediately pins both of my hands down and gives me "the look." I think part of it is because I'm a stay-at-home mom after spending several years in the workforce in an intense and workaholic atmosphere (law). Maybe it's part of my desire to stay productive and busy, not that having two 18-month old toddlers and another on the way isn't enough to keep me busy already. Another reason is that I just have a lot of energy and need somewhere to direct that energy.

The catch is that activities- volunteer, kid-oriented, social, etc.- are like crack to me. Not only are they addicting, but they put me in some sort of hyper-overdrive, jacked-up state. My mind races, my hands literally shake, I talk a thousand miles a minute...I feel like the Tasmanian devil in fast-forward. I can't sleep at night because I'm so amped up, so I am operating on very little sleep (maybe 5 hours a night, which is little for me nowadays). Friday night I couldn't sleep so I finally got out of bed at 1:20 a.m. to clean out the future baby's room. I would have gone down to the basement to organize the play room/new office space but I didn't want to have to turn off the security alarm and possibly wake the kids or my husband. Instead, after I had organized the future nursery, I took out a book of NYT crossword puzzles and worked on those until I felt drowsy enough to try to go back to bed. And then I was up at 6:00 a.m. to head back to our parents of multiples club sale, where I volunteered almost all day. And then we went straight to a neighbor's house for a BBQ before heading home to put the kids to bed. After that, I cleaned (scoured) all of the new toys I bought them at the sale earlier in the day.

Is there something wrong with me or is this typical nesting/energy spurt before the new baby arrives? I vaguely remember having insomnia with my twin pregnancy right before they arrived, too. Is this mother nature's way of priming my body for the sleep deprivation I'll experience next month? Whatever it is, I wish I could quiet my mind so that I could actually rest up before the new baby arrives. Instead, I'm like a crazy woman looking for things to do, stuff to organize, activities to coordinate, etc. I try to work off excess energy at the gym, but it's still there. I guess it's good for now because it helps me keep up with the twins at the very end of my pregnancy, but I fear the inevitable crash and just hope it doesn't happen simultaneously with the birth.

Maybe I'm just one of those people who thrive on business- I do love the fact that I have all the energy I do- but I just can't help wondering if it's going to catch up to me one of these days.

Friday, September 28, 2007

It Takes a Village

First of all, I want to thank everyone who's left comments on my blog so far. I was amazed-- and touched-- to find so many supportive comments from other bloggers (and non-bloggers!) Now I see why so many people find blogging to be so therapeutic-- not only does it give someone the chance to get their thoughts out into words, but it gives us all the ability to connect with people all over the world who are in similar situations and who we wouldn't have a connection with otherwise, due to the simple fact that they just wouldn't meet face-to-face in real life. So I thank everyone who has visited and commented and hope to make it to all of your blogs to keep up with your lives and share our experiences.

I've been thinking a lot about community lately. Last night I had a monthly "Girls Night Out" with five other women in my neighborhood to whom I've grown close over the past year since we moved into our new neighborhood. Our neighborhood is somewhat of my "dream" neighborhood- a very close-knit, friendly community complete with an annual Halloween parade (which I volunteered to organize this year- before I found out I was pregnant and expecting the same c-section is now scheduled for the morning after Halloween), annual ice cream social, playgroup, book club, Bunco group, etc. A smaller group of us have our monthly Girls Night Out as well as a monthly family BBQ (hosted on a rotating basis) so that the guys (and kids) don't feel left out. While I always envisioned living in this type of community, I never could have foreseen how vitally important it would become in our lives. The support we have in our neighborhood- from a simple offer to lend a lawn mower when ours was broken to handing down baby clothes and toys, to offers to stay overnight in the hospital with me if my husband has to be with the kids and to watch our twins if I ever need a break- is a perfect illustration of the importance of community.

I have found the same sense of support in the infertility community- it's unbelievable what people will do for individuals they may have grown to "know" through a blog but never met in person. Or how close you can feel to someone who you finally do meet in person after getting to know them only through their blog or an Internet bulletin board. In fact, the sole reason we ended up getting a second opinion at the Top Clinic was a woman I met online. We had "known" each other for a year or so before our local clinic declared us "lost causes," and when she heard the news, she made me promise to consider getting a second opinion from her doctor at Top Clinic. I took her advice to heart, and because of that we now have our twins.

Along the same lines, I was pleasantly surprised at the community that developed once I started talking openly about our struggles. While we were going through treatments, we were very private and didn't tell many people outside of our immediate family. I think a lot of people going through infertility do this, for a number of reasons. One may be the desire to avoid the multitudes of questions and well-intentioned (but increasingly annoying) words of encouragement from friends and family. I remember one friend who told me every time she knew I was cycling that she was "sure" this would be "it" for us- she "just had a feeling." Needless to say, every time she was wrong- and eventually I stopped telling her about our cycles because I just didn't want to deal with the disappointment (hers, not mine) in the end.

However, another reason I think people (including myself) keep quiet about their struggles is embarrassment. Looking back, I wonder why exactly I felt embarrassed. If I had another illness or disability, I would likely be open about it in seeking support and understanding. However, there is something about infertility (I suppose the fact that it implicates a host of issues people usually keep discrete) that makes people ashamed. I wish people could accept infertility for what it is- a disability like any other. In legal parlance, a "disability" is defined as a condition that substantially limits the performance of a major life activity. Infertility is just that- it substantially limits the performance of bearing a child, which is certainly a major life activity. If you had any other disability, would you be ashamed to talk about it with other people?

After we had our twins, I started to become more open about our struggles. I was inspired in part by my involvement in RE.SOLVE as well as one particular friend of mine who is very open about their experience with IVF. Listening to her respond to questions from mutual friends in a very open and matter-of-fact way made me realize it was unnecessary to be so closed and private about what we went through. As I started opening up to friends (and even strangers), I found that I developed connections to many others experiencing infertility, and in several cases I ended up able to help someone else just starting their journey through fertility treatments.

Now when someone asks me if twins run in our family, I tell them that we conceived our twins through IVF. I say it as casually as I would say "I was born in Rhode Island" or "We met through mutual friends," as I am intent on communicating the message that how we conceived our children (while really none of their business, but they did hint at that through their question) is as natural and acceptable as any other aspect of our lives. I don't whisper it behind my hand, or say "I usually don't tell people this, but..." My frankness sometimes takes people off guard, but often it results in the other person feeling comfortable enough to ask me questions about fertility treatments, usually because they know someone going through treatment, or to confide that they themselves are going through (or heading towards) treatment.

I always come away from these conversations wondering why we don't all talk about infertility- and our experiences- as openly as we'd talk about where we were born, or how we met our spouse or what we do for a living. Everyone has their reasons for keeping quiet (or speaking up) but I personally encourage people to be open about their experiences-- hopefully, eventually infertility will be a widely-recognized, legitimate disability. At the very least, opening up can help form a community- and as with any difficult task (like raising children!), it takes a village.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

"You're a Busy Lady"

I am often self-conscious when out and about with the twins and my ever-growing belly. Especially because our twins look like they could be nine months apart (our son is at least five pounds heavier than our daughter), I feel like people are looking at me and thinking, "there's a woman who needs to learn about birth control..." It doesn't help that I don't look my age (33)- I've been told I look closer to 23 and often get mistaken for my kids' nanny. I suppose I should look at that as a complement, but for some reason I get defensive when people mistake me for a much younger woman (girl).

I could care less about what most people think, but I do worry that the sight of me and my brood could cause fellow "infertiles" to feel pain, sadness, anger, resentment and a host of other not-so-nice feelings. I've been there, done that-- looked at women out with their children and envied what they had, feeling pity for myself. On one of the online infertility community bulletin boards I frequent, I often see posts "bashing" women perceived as "fertile"- the teenager with three kids, the friend who had an "accidental" or unplanned pregnancy, the co-worker who gets pregnant the first month she and her husband try. I worry one day I'm going to see a post complaining about "that 23-year old woman I saw at My Gym today with her 18-month old twins and third one on the way" on one of the infertility community bulletin boards. I want to wear a shirt that says "No, I'm not a 'fertile,' just lucky" or "It took us six rounds of IVF and over $50,000 to conceive our twins."

Most of the time, I'm left to wonder what people are thinking and hoping that no one is upset by the sight of our growing family. Sometimes, though, people come right out and tell me. Today at the mall, a woman passing by said (in a not-so-friendly tone), "You're a busy woman." I just smiled and nodded. Similar comments I hear frequently are "You certainly have your hands full," "You're working on quite the family there," or even "Better you than me!" When people make these remarks, I immediately get defensive and my response is usually something aimed at proving to them that only extraordinary people have the ability to handle three kids under two years old. I usually say, in an overly cheerful voice, "Yes! It's wonderful, isn't it?!" or "Yes! We are so lucky!" I would love to tell those people who say "Better you than me," "You betcha...I wouldn't want to see you try to deal with three kids!" but I never get up the nerve to do it. I have lots of snarky responses in my head but no chutzpa to use them.

The comments from strangers tend to get to me a lot less than those from friends. One of my closest friends (who also has twins our kids' age) told me that she'd "literally die" if she was in my position. Another friend's response to the announcement that we were expecting again was, "are you crazy?" (gee- thanks- most people say "congratulations.") How am I expected to respond to these questions? My mom always taught me to respond to negative people by "killing them with kindness." So the best I can do is come back with an overly bright-eyed, cheerful version of "we are so lucky!! We can't wait!!" At the very least, it throws people for a loop. And gives me more incentive to prove to everyone that I can be Supermom. No pressure, of course.

Interestingly enough, the most supportive friends I've had are those who have struggled with infertility themselves. Those are the friends who said "congratulations," and "you must feel so lucky." Those are the friends who "get it." I could never- and still cannot- relate to the parents who see their kids as burdens. My sister-in-law HAS to work full-time because she can't imagine spending all day (or I guess any part of the day) with her kids. My friend and neighbor said she has to work or she'd "kill" herself and/or her children if she didn't have time away from them, even though she barely makes enough money to pay for their daycare. I can't imagine ever feeling this way, even now with a third, easily conceived, child on the way. I often wonder if it was infertility that allowed me to avoid the feeling that our children are burdens. I'd have to imagine that there are certainly mothers out there who did not struggle with fertility and who appreciate their children as much as I do, but in my experience it's those mothers who went through infertility who see their kids as blessings, not as curses. If infertility gave me this appreciation of our kids, then I say "thank you, infertility."

Monday, September 24, 2007

What a Long, Strange Trip

I have been an avid infertility community blog reader for over a year now and finally decided it's time to get off the sidelines and participate. When I read other blogs, and leave comments (as I frequently do), I feel sort of like a "fraud"-- or a sense of imbalance-- since I get to look into other peoples' lives but provide others no opportunity to look into mine. Plus, I have so many thoughts swirling around in my head about infertility, parenting after infertility, parenting multiples and other topics that I figure a blog will be a good place to put those thoughts into words. Hopefully by doing so, I'll feel like I'm truly a part of the online community I've grown to appreciate over the past year.

So, who am I? Good question. I'm certainly a very different person than I was three years ago when my husband and I started going through fertility treatments. Diagnosed with hypothalamic amenorrhea at age 29 after going off the P.ill and not getting a period for over a year, my case seemed "easy" to the doctors with whom we consulted. We were otherwise in great reproductive shape- we were young, had no family history of infertility and no other medical issues. I distinctly remember our RE telling us "as soon as we get you ovulating, you'll have no problem getting pregnant." Ha. Two IUIs and five rounds of IVF (two with PGD) later (all fresh, as we never had anything left over to freeze), all we had to show for it was a string of BFNs and a bank account that was getting lower and lower. That's when our local RE told us that getting pregnant with my eggs was going to be like "finding a needle in a haystack" and that we should just move on to donor eggs or adoption. Before we could accept that conclusion, we went to The Top Clinic (starts with a "C" and is in NYC) for a consultation with the doctor of one of my online buddies who urged me to consult with him (also her doctor) before we made any life-altering decisions. He concluded that the treatment we had at our local clinic wasn't the optimal protocol, and felt strongly that with a few minor tweaks there was no reason we couldn't have success. Overwhelmed with the logistics but convinced we'd always wonder "what if," we did a (what we claimed would be one last) "hail mary" cycle at The Top Clinic. Lo and behold, that cycle resulted in our boy/girl twins born in March 2006.

The experience of infertility changed me as a person. I had always been set on returning to work after having children, but as soon as I got pregnant I told my husband there was no way I could leave children we worked so hard to conceive. He was a trouper (I had always promised him HE could stay home with the kids and he was pretty psyched about that idea) and agreed it would be best for me to stay home. Now I can't imagine my life any other way- the thought of returning to work makes me tear up, and I know that as long as we can afford it financially, I will be home with our children and will only work around their school schedules. Our children mean the world to me-- I worry constantly about their well-being and think I am a much more patient and laid-back parent than I would have been had we not experienced infertility.

I am a much more skeptical person, sadly. I was always Ms. Sunshine before going through infertility- now I am less trusting (especially of doctors), more cautious and less naive. Infertility, in a way, came to define my life. I became very involved in RE.SOLVE, the national infertility association, participate in online infertility communities and read infertility-related blogs in my spare time. I was very closed about our experience while we were going through it, but now I am very open and tend to share the fact that we struggled with infertility freely. Most of my friends have experienced infertility because I tend to feel most comfortable with other mothers (or hopefully future mothers) who went through what we did.

And then something happened to shake this new found (and comfortable) identity: we conceived spontaneously when our twins were just 11 months old. We knew logically it could happen-- after giving birth to our twins (and when I stopped pumping for them), my period came back like clockwork for the first time in longer than I could remember. But when you put back so many embryos and end up with zilch most times, you just can't imagine how things could ever work out on their own. Apparently, somehow they did.

Instead of being elated and carefree about this pregnancy, I found myself with very mixed emotions. Sort of like a girl in junior high who is afraid the popular girls at her lunch table are going to shun her from the group because she talked to someone in the "unpopular" crowd. I felt guilty that this pregnancy had come so easily, and found myself justifying the pregnancy to everyone and anyone with a "but we had to go through six rounds of IVF for our twins!" I dreaded telling my friends who had struggled with-- or were still struggling with-- infertility. It just seemed unfair. Not to mention a kink in our plans...or my own plans- to run the Boston Marathon (four weeks after I found out I was pregnant- needless to say, I had to cancel the airline ticket and hotel reservations...), to compete in my first triathlon this August. Imagining going through the newborn stage (and a pregnancy!) again freaked me out, frankly. I had always said that I'd be happy to have a third if we could do it without medical intervention, but I meant several years down the road- not 19 months after our twins were born!

So we found ourselves going from no children (and the fear that we'd never have children) to the prospect of having three children under two years old. As grateful as I was, I can't deny that I was still stressed out. But over time, the shock and stress has passed and instead I'm feeling optimistic and, amazingly, strong. I feel a sense of pride (and maybe too much optimism?) knowing that I WILL be able to care for three young kids, and I'll do it with grace, energy and a smile on my face. Or at least that's what I'm telling myself. I'm going to be Supermom, and my family will be my source of pride and joy.

This blog is going to be my place to talk about whether I can really be the Supermom I imagine, the days that I feel like anything BUT Supermom, how infertility still plays a huge part in my identity, family life, playground politics and chatter and anything else that comes to mind. I hope I'll find a community of readers who will chime in to give me perspective, support, advice and inspiration.