Before and After Baby Tips

What I’m glad I did before babies were born:

Joined the local twins’ club (the classified section was a huge help; we got to shop early at the club consignment sale; we got to meet other new and expectant twin families in town)

Took photos every week to document my belly growth (see them here!)

Shopped at the big consignment sales (got tons of stuff for a fraction of the price!)

Got a new car (originally we thought we’d wait til about a month after they were born. Thankfully we came to our senses!)

Prenatal chiropractor (I could hardly walk for weeks, with this weird back/hip thing causing me to limp like an elderly person. My OB referred me to a prenatal chiropractor–I had no idea that was a thing! But thank god it is! My chiro was so friendly and she FIXED me!)

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What I wish I had done before babies were born:

Taken more time off (I only ended up with one real day off. There wasn’t much to do even when I was working, so I should have just let myself relax more.)

Gone swimming like everyone told me to (I didn’t have a swimsuit and I couldn’t shave anything. Dumb excuses that I should have worked through and figured out.)

Bought and worn more/better clothes (I had one nice pair of maternity jeans, plus maternity leggings, and a handful of maternity tops. But especially toward the end, I was in a maternity tshirt and sweats, and looking back, I looked so sloppy. I wish I’d enjoyed some more ‘real’ clothes a little more often.)

Prenatal massage (because duh.)

Did less stuff (I should have slept in more often.)

Done professional maternity photos (I couldn’t afford to do both maternity and newborn…but maybe I could have gotten a package deal. Above is one of my DIY maternity photos.)

Journaled more (Because I have the world’s worst memory, and blog posts don’t tell the whole story.)

Taken more regular photos (and videos!) of me and us, out and about with the belly (I wish I’d done more of my whole self, of the both of us. I did make sure to take a bunch on our cross-country road trip!)

 

What I’m glad I did after babies were born:

Had our first few days be just us (I didn’t want anyone else around while we got to know our new babies. I wanted us to be a family and focus on the four of us. No extra noise, no extra personalities, just us. Later on we had visitors and that was wonderful–made even better because of our just-family time at the beginning.)

Did professional studio photos of babies (They were so very tiny. We had no idea. I knew in theory they would change and grow a lot, but man, it happened so fast! We have a storyboard (three 8×10 images on one print) up in our room and we just treasure it. The babies themselves even like looking at it.)

Bought a new bra, undies, and jeans (This was probably my favorite thing I did. Two months post-partum, I went to Target and got some new, non-maternity jeans that actually fit properly. Same with a new bra and underwear. I knew that none of these would fit for very long, but I had been haaaaating wearing all the ill-fitting, loose and baggy everything. I seriously felt like a new person with clothes that fit my current body! Truly, it was amazing, and the cost wasn’t very prohibitive.)

Bought new socks (Just because all my socks are years old and I decided to just treat myself to brand new ones. Plain white ankle cut, 6 in a pack, nothing fancy at all. But soft new socks are such an inexpensive delight!)

Went out for groceries and Target by myself (I started doing this after the first month or so–I would go late at night, like 10 or 11pm. It was so nice to get in the car by myself, and be invisible, with nothing/nobody else to carry. It was a little melancholy, but it was such a relief too.)

Took a shower regularly (it felt great to be clean (and be off the couch), plus it was a good place to cry in private)

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What I wish I had done after babies were born:

Eaten more (It probably would have helped take the edge off a bit–physically and emotionally. I wasn’t actively hungry until about a month post-partum. I knew that I should be eating, but with our ridiculous schedule, I just couldn’t work up the energy enough to care, let alone the energy to find something to eat and the time to eat it. I should have done it, or I should have prepared my husband to make me do it.)

Rested more (after the first week or so, I started moving/lifting more because I felt bad about my husband doing everything. I shouldn’t have, and should have stayed more sedentary when it mattered.)

Had a post-partum doula (It was expensive, my husband had paid paternity leave, my mom visited a few times, and my husband’s parents visited for a week. So I/we had help. But it might have been a little different/better to have a third-party helper come in and help us out too.)

Made a list of chores for visitors to help with (Although really, who cared. I certainly didn’t. I thought that I *should* care if the house was a mess. I’m a terrible grown-up that way.)

Called/emailed people who reached out (I didn’t know how; I didn’t know how to articulate what I was feeling. I couldn’t articulate much. I really appreciated the reaching out and I wish that I had just picked up the phone and done something.)

Had my husband take more photos of me and the babies (I have ONE good photo of me with the babies, when they’re about a week old. [Which I had to ask him to take for me.] None from the hospital. I have lots of phone shots, mostly selfies of low-quality shot in the horrible lighting in our living room. I hate asking people to take pictures of me, because it’s annoying. But I always love to have real-camera shots, and I should have just asked more. I would treasure them. There is no such thing as enough good quality photos of a mama and her baby/babies!)

What about you? What are the best things you did or wished you did before and after you had a baby/babies? Please share in the comments!

Things I still think about, six months later

I wrote this over a year ago, when my babies were only a few months old. I never published it at the time partly because I wasn’t sure how it would be received–I never read  about these kinds of opinions and experiences. And partly because after I wrote this, I realized that I felt a lot better. Getting it all out on virtual paper proved to be truly cathartic, and a year later, yes, I’m still annoyed, but nowhere near as upset and emotional. I decided to publish it now in order to get it out there for anyone else who might be able to relate. I have edited a few details and fleshed out the links at the end, but kept it mostly how I wrote it. Sorry that it’s a little disjointed.

If you talk about or read about birth, chances are you’ll hear about a woman who is devastated about her birth plan going awry and having to endure interventions that she didn’t want. That the birth went completely opposite of how she wanted a beautiful, natural experience. You might also hear about someone who was ‘forced’ or coerced into using formula, or who wasn’t encouraged or supported in breastfeeding.

I had the opposite experience.

I’m still irritated, angry, sad, about breastfeeding. It wasn’t my attempt, it wasn’t something I wanted to happen. For two solid days someone was poking and prodding at me, and I didn’t like it. I didn’t want it. I didn’t know why it was happening.

I think during the intake questions before the c-section, the nurse asked if I wanted to breastfeed. I think I said, sure, I’ll probably try it. I guess I thought they were asking just for informational purposes or something? But that was it. Nobody laid out what would happen or what that would actually, logistically mean for me and these two new babies.  Nobody asked me anything about it after the babies were actually born. Certainly nobody told me that whatever I had said would result in such a frenzy of unwanted activity.

It literally only occurred to me like 5 months post-partum that I could have said STOP. I had just had two people cut out of my abdomen, and my system was full of various drugs. I felt completely helpless and I was completely out of it, physically and emotionally.  Half the time I wasn’t sure if I was awake or asleep. I had no idea what was happening but this stupid breastfeeding thing CLEARLY wasn’t going to work with no milk. Duh. What the ever-loving fuck did they think was going to happen?!

It never even occurred to me to say no, any more than it would have occurred to me to start tap dancing on the ceiling. I was in the hospital and nurses were taking care of me. They knew what was going on. I didn’t know what I was doing; I had never done any of this before!

I think back to that recovery room. My first minutes with these brand new babies, but I didn’t get to enjoy them–I mostly remember that dumb frazzled nurse trying unsuccessfully to latch two 36-week-old babies to my very dry boobs. Seriously, what did she think would happen? Even I knew it wouldn’t work! Why couldn’t they have just left me alone? Why couldn’t they have ASKED me what I wanted to do? If someone had asked me if I wanted to breastfeed–as in, right then, not as in a hypothetical, sure I’ll try it–I would have said no.

She (and the other nurse she brought in because she couldn’t handle two babies) must have eventually backed off or given up. I so wish that I had a better memory and know why and how. Did I tell them to give it a rest? (No. I so wish I had.) Did they just get tired of trying to force something that wasn’t going to work? What made them finally go away?

It makes me kind of mad, and kind of sad. It’s such a frustrating thing to remember and I really wish I could go back in time and slap that nurse’s hands away from me.

But again, it literally didn’t seem like it was my decision. It’s like my body wasn’t mine.

And I feel like I’m the only one who feels this way about breastfeeding.

The hospital was a great hospital, and I loved the rest of the nurses during my stay there. I felt cared for and cared about. This hospital–and many hospitals–boasts of being ‘baby-friendly.’ The more I learn about what that actually means, I’ve come to think of it as ‘mama unfriendly.’ There’s no nursery to give you a break. One nurse sort of broke a rule and took the babies for two hours one night. And those two hours of blessed silence made a huge difference for us. If we had had that first night to sleep and rest and, I don’t know, start to RECOVER FROM THE MAJOR SURGERY I’d just had, I would have felt so much better and more with-it. I understand that rooming in with your baby gives time to bond and a better chance at breastfeeding. But why didn’t we have an option? A choice? Why weren’t my boobs allowed to be in peace? Why on earth are the baby and the boobs more important than the mama who owns the boobs and who just birthed that baby?

I think that’s a key factor–all these well-meaning lactivist folks are thinking about the baby. I guarantee you that the baby has no idea what’s going on. The mama is the one you need to worry about. There need to be guidelines, sure. But why can’t there be very clear questions, options, or statements given before and after the birth happens?

They need to re-name “baby-friendly” to “breastfeeding friendly” because, really, that’s all they’re trying to do.  Apparently that’s all that matters–not what mamas may actually want or need. All the things they do are done solely to encourage breastfeeding. (That’s not hyperbole, either–go look at the policies.) If the goal were to encourage bonding, they would give mothers the OPTION to get some goddamned rest. Our hospital apparently no longer had a regular baby nursery, so we were forced to be woken up every ten minutes by our two newborns. I can tell you that both my husband and I would have been exponentially more sane had we had at least one night of good, solid sleep in the hospital. And I promise, our bonding with our new babies would not have suffered one bit. It might have even been better, if we hadn’t been so desperately exhausted.

Here are two semi-relevant articles that really spoke to me:

America’s Post-Partum Practices

We were in the hospital for four nights, and I would have happily stayed a lot longer (well, if they would have stopped waking me up every two hours, that is). It was a relief and a blessing to have knowledgeable people coming in to help and advise us all day long. To not feel alone.

“The problem is that no one recognizes the new mother as a recuperating person, and she does not see herself as one.” I actually did–but didn’t always have the luxury of acting like it, with two babies to care for.

“Perhaps if we started talking about the time and energy it actually takes to recuperate from childbirth, women wouldn’t feel the need to return as quickly as possible to “normal.””

And a Jezebel piece about that same article: Stop Acting like Bouncing Back from Labor is Even Possible

THIS: “What’s really cool is that, on top of all this you’re-on-your-own-sucker bullshit, the conversations a new mom will likely encounter are along the lines of: “Do you love it?! Is it everything you dreamed?!””

I have no doubt that many women have a blissful, zen-like post-partum experience. I was not one of them.

Expectant Mamas: Giveaway!

DSC_6373_WEB  I have never been a huge fan of e-books and e-readers, or at least the idea of them; I am such a book lover and the tactile experience of a real book is just priceless to me.

Now, I did take my husband’s first, old Kindle on some work trips and vacations, and the convenience of many books in one slim gadget is invaluable. But I maintained that use as an outlier, not the norm.

DSC_6414_WEBThat said….since the babies were born, I’ve been reading almost exclusively on a Kindle. (It’s a Kindle Fire handed down from my MIL.) An e-reader has turned out to be one of my favorite post-baby tools! There’s not much happening online during a 4am baby feeding, so you might as well get lost in a book for a few minutes.

DSC_6392_WEBThe convenience of reading one-handed, in the dark if need be, is amazing. The ability to shop online for a library or new book, click a few buttons, and have it appear on your device instantly…well, it’s downright magical! Lord knows you won’t be taking a leisurely stroll through a bookstore or library with a brand new baby–with an e-reader, the library is in your hands. Like I said, MAGICAL.

DSC_6396_WEBMy husband was gifted a new Kindle Paperwhite for Christmas, so his older Kindle Touch is lonely and needs a new home. So guess what–we want to gift someone else the magic convenience of an e-reader. We’ll also include a booklight so you can read in the dark without disturbing baby or partner!

If you are expecting a baby, or have just had one (or more!) within the last month, please leave a comment below to enter. Leave your due date/baby’s birth date, and a book that’s on your list to read. Last day to enter is Friday, February 28, 2014 at 11.59pm PST.

Legal: You must be over 18 years old and a resident of the United States. Make sure that your email address is on/in your comment ID so I can contact you. The prize of this giveaway is a used Kindle Touch. This giveaway sweepstakes is NOT affiliated with or sponsored by Amazon.com or Kindle.

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Helpfully seasoned by Malcolm.

I will randomly select a winner using random.org on March 1, 2014. I will be sending the winner the Kindle and booklight, plus maybe a surprise. 🙂

UPDATE: And the winner is….Jenni! Congratulations! And congrats to everyone on their pregnancies, I can’t wait to see photos of all the new babies. 🙂

Things I Wish I Had Known

I read a lot, in general. So of course when I was pregnant, I was excited to read books and blogs and learn new things about pregnancy and babies. However, I was disappointed because all the books (hahaha, “all the books”; I read like three) and blogs have the same old information. Fetus size compared to food. Complications. Morning sickness. Weight gain and nutrition. Call your doctor when. Blah blah everybody knows this already! Tell me something new! Tell me something that I really need to know!

Here are a few things about pregnancy and newborns that I wish had been in the books and blogs! Maybe it will be helpful to someone else out there.

It’s possible to have a twin pregnancy without major complications.

A multiple pregnancy is automatically categorized as high-risk. Lots of shit can go wrong with more than one bun in the oven, for the buns as well as for the baker. (Haha!) When we learned that I was carrying two wee ones, I assumed that a) I would get super giant super quick, and b) I would have problems and go on bedrest etc. However, neither of those things happened. As the weeks went by, I continued being surprised at how uneventful my ‘high-risk’ pregnancy was. I kind of felt bad about having it so easy, and I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop. There are a lot of women out there (and I’ve met some) who did indeed have a lot of serious complications, and this is not meant to dismiss them or their experiences in any way. I just wish that it was made clear that it doesn’t end up that way for everyone. Everyone should be prepared for issues, but it doesn’t have to be a given or an assumption, if that makes sense. We got lucky.

Pregnancy can cause congestion and therefore snoring.

I read this tidbit in one book–I don’t remember which one–and I was surprised. The reason was increased something or other–more pressure, more fluid, something like that. I thought it was interesting and I was also surprised it wasn’t in the rest of the books with the other classic symptoms. By seven months if not sooner, I had started snoring at night! I was so embarrassed but at least I knew why it was happening. Didn’t make it easier on my husband, who ended up sneaking out to the guest room when it got to be too much. But he was (generally) understanding about it not being my fault and only being temporary. (And it was. By a week or so after babies, the snoring stopped. Thank goodness.)

New babies sleep a lot.

I sort of knew this maybe, in the back of my mind. But nowhere was it made explicit that newborns sleep almost literally all day long. Not counting feedings, of course. But they are hardly ever awake. No one told me that!

Related: Newborns are boring.

They sleep all day and eat every few hours around the clock. But that’s it! Not very interesting at all. You will be very tired but not exactly busy. You can’t do anything fun unless it’s in one or two hour chunks between feedings. You could read a lot, if you had the mental wherewithal. But if you’re like us, you’ll veg on the couch like zombies and watch a lot of television. This is a great time to watch an entire series on Netflix, Hulu, or DVD. Don’t forget your laptop. But be aware that no one else is up in the middle of the night, so Facebook gets boring. Could be a good time to write subpar and silly blog posts though! 🙂

Diaper rash is not a rash.

I felt really stupid about this. I assumed that anything called a rash would look like an actual damn rash! But diaper rash is more like redness and chapped skin. My MIL was here when the babies were six weeks old and told us that they had some diaper rash. I had no idea! We had the ointment in the changing table, because I’d read about the good brands and that it’s important to have, so we got to treat it right away. But I had no idea what to look for! Duh!

Bibs are important right away!

At the family baby shower I had last summer, I must have received close to twenty tiny bibs. I thought that my aunts and cousins were getting me set up for the messy eating stage with baby food and such. It took us over a month of spitty babies in dirty onesies to figure out to put the bibs on the babies now. Talk about DUH! The bibs do catch a lot of the spit up and prevent some of the outfit-soiling. Of course, just as often, the spit up rolls right OFF the bib and onto US.

Not all babies are fussy.

I read the book Happiest Baby on the Block, as it was highly recommended by several people and one of our childbirth classes. I read about the 5 S’s and felt like I was more prepared for our babies, though I was scared of all the horror stories–hours of screaming babies and exhausted, frustrated parents! I think I assumed that all babies do that. Happily, our babies didn’t. Not all babies have colic or scream. Ours, in fact, didn’t really cry at all for most of the first month. We did find the shushing extremely effective when they would get upset, and of course we swaddle them. But we never needed to ‘escalate’ to the other S’s. Thank goodness.

Babies *can* sleep.

There are also a lot of horror stories of babies who never sleep. Who wake up throughout the night, even between feeding times. Who have trouble going to sleep or being soothed back to sleep. Again, because of the prevalence of these stories, I think I assumed and was afraid that all babies did this. I was dreading months of never getting any sleep at all. Ours actually sleep pretty well already, and according to the twins group I belong to on facebook, plenty of other babies do too. Frankly, I think everyone is quiet about this because we don’t want to make anyone feel bad whose babies have trouble sleeping!

It really is fine to wake a sleeping baby/babies can be scheduled.

This is one of the cardinal baby rules–‘don’t ever wake a sleeping baby!’ This is the first baby rule broken by people with twins. It’s total bullshit. Another rule–baby experts insist that newborns can’t/shouldn’t be on a schedule. Again, bullshit. Ours were on a schedule from literally day one, in the hospital. (This is the case with most if not all the twins I’ve ever heard of.) It wasn’t a firm schedule at first in terms of the same time every day, but damn straight we woke the one or both babies when it was time to eat. And they’re great with it. Not to say we don’t feed them a little ‘snack’ when they are clearly hungry, but the feedings have always been three to four hours apart. And they eat great and have been growing like adorable, chubby little weeds!

All baby seats/bouncers are not the same

I remember hearing several recommendations for a Rock N Play. I thought it was just a bouncy seat. At one of the big consignment sales, I found two bouncy seats and figured that was good. No no, not so! Turns out I bought a bouncer and a rocker, and they are NOT the same as a Rock N Play. Our tiny babies were way too tiny for the bouncer and the rocker, but they were just fine–and very happy–in the Rock N Play. It was really helpful for them to sleep in the RNP because the incline kept them from spitting up. (Andy figured out in the hospital that they needed to be kept at a little incline for 15-20 minutes after eating so they wouldn’t spit up all over themselves.) We’d had them in a co-sleeper, which of course has a flat surface. Moving them to the RNPs made a big difference. They’re still in them now, at three months. We’ve just introduced them to the bouncer and the rocker, and they seem to enjoy them. The vibrating function is new to them, and they seem to like sitting up in the rocker.

We got all of these used, by the way. If you have twins, you should invest in at least one of each of these, but don’t buy new. Check craigslist and your local twins club. Ours has a great classified section–that’s where we got the Rock N Plays and our co-sleeper.

Bouncer

A bouncer has stationary legs and springy legs attached to the seat. Most of them have a vibrating function. The seat is very inclined. The babies can kick a lot in this seat, which in turns makes the seat bounce–very exciting.
Rocker seat

A rocker seat has rocking legs and a vibrating function. The baby sits up much straighter than in a bouncer, so he can look around at the world instead of just the ceiling. (Although our babies continue to be entranced by ceilings everywhere, so.)

Rock n’ Play

The Rock N Play is much taller than the other two and folds up. The seat is inclined, and of course it rocks back and forth, which is very soothing. I think the seat also kind of envelops the baby, which is another soothing feeling. This one does not vibrate.

Note: These are Amazon affiliate links.

Anything you found out the hard way that should have been in the pregnancy/new baby books?

Holy Shitballs, We Have Babies: The birth day

On Tuesday, November 20, we went in for the weekly non-stress test and doctor appointment. I was 36 weeks pregnant. The previous Friday/Saturday, I had developed what I was pretty sure was PUPPS, and it had spread and worsened rapidly. The monitoring went well, but my blood pressure was still elevated. And when the doctor saw the rash and how bad it was, she was like, “Ohhh.” She said that she had scheduled the c-section for Friday so we could wait til after Thanksgiving, but now she didn’t want to wait that long. She went away for a few minutes and came back: “Okay, tomorrow at noon.”

Andy and I looked at each other wide-eyed. Holy shit. Go time.

She went over the risks and consent form with us, and then we left, reeling from the knowledge that the babies would be out in less than 24 hours.

We went out to dinner, to a popular pizza place on Hawthorne, as our ‘last night out’ as just us. We came home and did some last minute arranging and setting up of baby things, now that we were on such a tight deadline. I had been working on a blanket for them, and I’d wanted to do more on it, but I wanted to have it done when they arrived. So I spent some time weaving in a bunch of ends, while watching tv.

I continued to be somewhat in panicked denial about babies arriving so soon already. We called our families and told them the news. They were all very surprised, obviously.

In the morning, I finished getting my things together, and we left for the hospital. I took one last photo of my belly and of the two of us as just us.

We drove to the hospital. Andy dropped me off at the front door so he could go park the car. I (very slowly) walked the longest hallway of all time to the bank of elevators and went to the second floor.

IMG_6989(at the far end looking back. seriously it probably took me three minutes to walk this.)

Andy caught up to me on Floor 2 and we were greeted with another long hallway to the entrance to L&D. Turned the corner and saw yet another hallway! A nurse saw us and steered us to our room close by.

In the room they hooked me up to an IV and some monitors. We hung out for awhile and they got me all ready and soon enough it was time to go. I opted for a wheelchair to the OR, then they loaded me onto the table. Getting the shot before the spinal hurt like a bitch! I was draped and prepped. A few minutes went by and my doctor and everyone else assembled, and they got started. Andy was seated at my left shoulder.

The front drape was up high, so neither of us could see anything. They didn’t narrate the procedure, but I did hear the doctor ask several times, with maybe a measured, tiny note of uh-oh, for a clamp. Apparently a placenta came out first, instead of one of the babies, and a lot of blood with it. (This could have been really dangerous had we been attempting a vaginal birth.) I felt a lot of tugging and rustling around my insides. I don’t  think–or at least I don’t remember if–they announced when each baby was out. They were a mere minute apart. I think I heard some crying, and Andy says they both cried when they came out. I looked in their direction and said, “It’s a baby!” He took a picture or two, and then one of the nurses took the camera and snapped a bunch of photos. Someone handed Baby B to Andy, and he showed him to me. I couldn’t believe it. That they were real and that they were really here.

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Baby A was still on the warming table being watched, because he wasn’t breathing exactly right. Both of their Apgars were great though–B was 9,9 and A was 8,9.

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When A was a little more ready, Andy and B went over to see him. The drape was in the way of my view, so I couldn’t see anything. When he was gone, I let the tears come.

I think it was five or ten minutes before I saw Baby A. They put both of them at my shoulders and covered us with a heated blanket. Baby A looked me directly in the eyes. Again, I was in complete disbelief.

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The doctors stitched me up. Parts of it felt like someone was roughly rummaging through my insides like a junk drawer. Very strange.

Soon enough we were all done and were wheeled back to the L&D room for two hours. The babies were placed on me and a baby nurse immediately started buzzing around me, (wo)manhandling me, my boobs, and the babies, trying to get them to latch. It wasn’t working and she was clearly frazzled. She actually called in a second nurse because she couldn’t handle twins. Meanwhile, I was just sitting there, itching all over my face. [Apparently that’s a normal reaction to some of the surgery stuff, which made me unhappy to hear, since I’d been scratching up a storm for days already. Thankfully the face itching didn’t last too long. (Unlike the PUPPS, which continued for days.)] This part really annoyed me. I wanted to be left alone and I didn’t want to be prodded at.

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A bit later they took the babies off of me and they hung out on a warming table in the room. The baby nurses stayed in the room, along with another nurse. For a few minutes everyone stepped out and we were able to chat about names and confirm which baby would have which name. But it was almost two hours until we were actually left alone for good.

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After it had been the set amount of time, they wheeled me to the maternity ward room. I don’t remember how Andy or the babies got there, but finally we were alone. Just the four of us, a new family.

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I kept saying to myself that day, “Holy shitballs, we have babies.” I could not get the idea to sound real and attached to us. (Heck, it’s been four weeks and I still can’t!) I thought the babies were really cute though, and right away I loved holding them. We had worried that our babies wouldn’t be cute but we might not know, being biased, and that no one would be honest with us about their cuteness or lack thereof. But when we finally saw them, we were pretty well convinced of their objective cuteness, and we got confirmation from lots of the nurses too. 🙂 And you know, if for some reason they’re not objectively cute after all, who cares, I think they are. 🙂

I think I was pretty out of it for the rest of the evening; I dropped in and out of sleep. Andy emailed family with the news and the names. Later we made some phone calls, and I probably sounded drunk with fatigue and painkillers.

The nurses had me attempt to get out of bed that evening. They were super impressed because not only did I get up, but I was able to stand up straight. It actually wasn’t that painful. Later though, the pain started. Lying still wasn’t a problem, but getting in and out of bed was really difficult and painful.

They took my blood the morning after delivery, and my platelets were at 70,000. The low end of normal is 140,000. No wonder I was so out of it! (My platelets had been around 100,000 for the last few weeks, which was another thing the doctor was watching and one of the contributing factors to the early delivery.)

PUPPS is one of those pregnancy afflictions where the only cure is to have the baby. However, because my body is just so awesome like that, my case actually kept spreading and getting worse for a few days after the babies came out. Everyone who came in said mine was the worst they’d ever seen and they clucked over my poor itchy self. At one point my doctor went to find out if there was such a thing as an on-call dermatologist. (There isn’t.) She prescribed steroids early in my stay and then had to double the dosage!

For the next couple days, I was in and out of sleep and stupor. Half the time I felt like I was awake and asleep at the same time. I literally couldn’t tell. It was pretty disturbing and no one could really tell me why, other than pain drugs and sleep deprivation. I would get exhausted and barely be able to keep my eyes open when people were talking to me.

Andy did a lot of the work, since I was either asleep, out of it, or couldn’t get out of bed. He was a rock star and wasn’t getting much rest. I sent him home on Friday afternoon so he could take a nap in our silent house. (My mom had arrived at the hospital to keep me company, so I wasn’t alone.)

As I probably said elsewhere, the nurses were amazing. Several of them did feedings with/for us overnight, which helped us feel a little less overwhelmed and tired. Some of them spent an hour or more with us in our room during the day. They were so helpful and kind.

We were in the hospital for four nights, which is one more than standard for a c-section. I was really glad to get the extra day, because I so did not feel ready to go home after only three. Partly because I was so tired and in pain, but also partly because I was still having trouble accepting the fact that we now were parents and had two babies. Unreal.  I also felt like we needed a lot more information, which never really came. (Someone really needs to write a baby instruction manual!)

Finally it was time to go. I took my third shower of my stay and put on actual clothes as we tidied up all of our stuff. (I had brought a suitcase and used just about none of the stuff in it.) It was important to me to get a photo of all of us before we left–not just a going home photo, but the first photo of our newly expanded family.

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I don’t have any wise or thoughtful words about the birth experience. It was an extremely surreal yet emotional day–I still can’t quite grasp that it happened, as weird as that sounds. It’s kind of miraculous when babies arrive, isn’t it?

The Recovery

Today marks two weeks post-baby, and there are still lots of changes going on body-wise.

Almost all of the PUPPS rash has faded and now the scratch scabs are finally healing. So glad that I don’t look like a leper anymore.

My feet started swelling this summer. Certainly by mid-August they were puffy pregnancy feet. Over the last month, they got even puffier. Imagine my delight in noticing last week that my toes look like toes again (instead of sausages), and the thickness of my feet is now back to normal. Plus, no more cankles! Phew. Now I just need to get some long-overdue new (comfortable) shoes.

My hands also swelled; I had to take my rings off in July. I’ve tried them on this week and they don’t fit over the knuckles yet. I hope that ‘fixes’; I hate having naked hands and I miss my pretty rings! My hands look fairly normal again, at least.

Then of course there’s my face. Oh, face, you cause me so much trouble. In the late summer I noticed that my face was somehow fuller, and then a double chin developed in the fall. I am happy to note that two weeks after babies, the double chin is gone, and my face looks ‘normal’. I’m really happy to look like myself again!

Here’s my round-faced drivers license photo from October:

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And tonight (with a baby on my chest):

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My final weigh-in the day before delivery was 216 pounds–around 66 pounds gained. I visited the doctor the following Monday, 5 days post-baby, and weighed 189. Today at my two-week follow-up appointment, I weighed in at 178. Wow–almost forty pounds gone already!

I’m not super stressed about weight, but I was/am interested in seeing how it all works for me. I’m surprised how quickly my belly seems to be going down. I thought it would be a lot slower, actually. I don’t really look pregnant anymore, just kind of thick around the middle. I won’t expect weight to drop dramatically, but will try to manage my expectations in a healthy manner.

DSC_7753(1 week post-partum)

DSC_7932(2 weeks post-partum)

It’s kind of amazing, but not surprising I guess, how soft my belly is. It’s soft, and squishy, in a way I’ve never felt before. Last week it was a little bit numb, which felt like a very deflated nerf ball was attached to my abdomen. My belly button is still an outie; I wonder if it will stay that way or return to innie.

My incision is still sore and irritated. I heard that by the two-week mark I should feel a lot better. And it is better than the first week, but it’s still quite painful at times, especially at night getting up out of bed so often (to attend a baby or two). I am really, really ready to be pain-free. My doctor today gave me another prescription for the painkillers I was taking at the hospital and only sporadically taking at home. I don’t like taking medicine/pills, and the pain isn’t extreme, but I think I’m ready to accept that I still need the help. It’s been months since I’ve been fully, comfortably mobile, and I know I’ll have to take it easy, but I do want to be a little more active.

I will look forward to getting out and about with the babies. We’ve taken our stroller out for a couple times and are happy at how easy it is. I hope that next week I’ll be ready and able to take short walks around the neighborhood, or even go to a park to walk around.

In general, I guess things are going pretty good. I guess I can’t expect to bounce back super quickly physically, after not just pregnancy but a major surgery. I should probably keep a positive attitude and be aware of progress.

My husband continues to be very supportive and helpful, and though I’m able to do more than I was two weeks ago, there’s still a lot I need help with. I continue to be so thankful for him. And also for our cute babies:

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What I will and won’t miss

I will miss:

–how easy it is to take care of babies when they’re on the inside.

–how quiet babies are when they’re on the inside! 🙂

–freedom.

–sleeping an entire night.

–taking a nap if I want to.

–a smaller wardrobe. I kind of like having only a few options for clothes that will fit my growing self. I’m sure that when I can fit into my regular clothes again, I’ll be able to do a big purge.

–using my belly as a table. It’s terribly convenient to rest a bowl on there.

–feeling babies moving around. It’s weird, but it’s really, really neat. Still my favorite part of this whole process. I’m not a religious person at all, and I don’t throw around the word ‘miracle’, but growing people is pretty dang miraculous. There are TWO PEOPLE slithering around in my belly! What?!

–the smooth skin on my tummy. So far the stretch marks are still pretty faint, and I hope they stay that way and then fade even more. But I know that I will wish my after-tummy would look like my before-tummy. Good thing I’ve taken a lot of self-portraits over the years, so I know what it looked like. Although maybe looking at those will just make me bummed.

–positive public attention. I get looks and smiles, which is nice. It’s like being pregnant is special, and people enjoy seeing it. About a month ago I was in Home Depot for some plastic bins, at the very back of the store. I picked them up and then realized that since I hadn’t grabbed a cart, there was nowhere to put them and I couldn’t carry them to the front (which I could have in my previoius life without that belly/tiredness!). A clerk was nearby and asked if I needed a cart, and a few minutes later he brought one for me! I was really grateful.

I won’t miss:

–the extra five pounds of weight in my face. Will I look the same after all this?

–the extra ten pounds of weight in my feet and ankles.

–feeling blood and fluids pool in my hands when I’m walking around for a while (doesn’t happen so often anymore because I’m unable to be up for very long).

–being so uncomfortable laying/moving/turning in bed; it feels like my pelvis is on fire. I think I have this.

–maternity pants.

–oh god, THE ITCHING.

–annoying public attention. Once a random dude on the street was passing by and touched my arm and said, “I think pregnant ladies have such beautiful bellies!” Um, gross. And sometimes I just want to buy groceries without answering questions about my due date and the gender of baby. (I never volunteer that it’s two when a stranger asks anything.) I hear that once I’m out and about with two, I’ll never hear the end of the questions.

I’m looking forward to:

–being able to shave my legs if I want to

–being able to bend down easily at all

–seeing my belly button without a mirror

–wearing regular shoes

–wearing my rings again

Grateful

There are many things that I am and have been very thankful for over the past eight months, and I want to acknowledge them. Perfect timing with this early Thanksgiving!

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I am so, so lucky to be on my husband’s health insurance. My full-time employment has been on and off for the last three years, but thanks to him, I’ve always been covered. His company’s health insurance is fantastic. The maternity coverage in particular is great–everything is covered, and all the well visits are covered as preventative, which means there’s not even a co-pay. Since I’m high risk and go to the OB and for ultrasounds a lot more often than low-risk pregnancies, by now the co-pays would have added up to at least $1,000. The hospital stay for the three of us has a low maximum each, so if god forbid anything went wrong, we wouldn’t rack up thousands of dollars in bills.

There are so many women and families who don’t have this luxury and privilege–whose families can’t afford insurance at all, or who don’t have full-time employment that includes benefits like health insurance, or whose insurance plans don’t cover everything they need or have really high deductibles. All the debate about healthcare this year makes me sad and angry–it’s not about politics, you schmucks, it’s about PEOPLE. There are people like us who are lucky (or the rich who can afford to buy the absolute best care no matter what), but there are also so many who deserve to have the same level of care without sacrificing other things for their families. I hope that as time goes on and more people see the benefits of getting everyone covered and an increase in preventive medicine, that the debate goes away. Because there’s really nothing to debate. Sorry, rant over. 🙂

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At the risk of jinxing things or sounding braggy, I want to again acknowledge how lucky I’ve been just in being pregnant. In general, things have been just about as easy as they could be. No sickness, though I got too tired and sore to keep exercising pretty quickly. No super huge belly that stopped me from doing anything. Our road trip was pretty darn easy on me, which was a very happy relief. The back/hip pain in August and September was the worst part, and in the grand scheme of things, that wasn’t so bad. No restrictions or complications. No heartburn or reflux. No gestational diabetes. Hand/finger pain, but not carpal tunnel. As things have started to get more uncomfortable and painful in the last couple weeks, though I’m not enjoying it, I’m not surprised or upset. So I hope the weekly posts in which I detail all the things going on don’t sound like whining, because I’m really not. At least not much. 🙂 So many people have had such a hard time, and have struggled, and had a lot of complications of varying levels. I find myself not wanting to say anything about this experience because I have been lucky enough to avoid the really bad stuff.

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I’ve really been touched by all the family support. The grandparents are all so excited and have been really supportive. They and other family members have really contributed to the preparations, either in help/offers of help, or with actual stuff. I feel humbled by it, and I really appreciate all of it!

Not only that, but we’ve also had generous support and gifts from friends and colleagues. Again, it’s humbling and we are so grateful!

Also, if you’re reading this, I’m grateful to you too. 🙂

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Of course what I’m most grateful for is my husband. He’s always been so, so wonderful to me. And as I’ve gotten more and more pregnant (or at least more visibly so, I guess there’s really only pregnant or not pregnant), he’s been ever more supportive. He worries about me, and helps me, and doesn’t complain. I couldn’t ask for more.

He’s been involved with everything from the start. He’s attended all the appointments with me, and of course all the classes too. He scratches my back and rubs my feet (which he’s always done, but I think I might have started asking for more recently). He opens things for me (my hands/thumbs still aren’t fully functional or strong). He’ll stab my potato for me (again, hurts my hands).  If he sees or hears me drop something, he’ll pick it up for me (bending has gotten more uncomfortable and almost painful, especially all the way to the floor. If I’m on my own, I end up in almost a sumo/full second position plie; my belly prevents anything different at this point). Sometimes I’ll ask him to take my socks off for me so I don’t have to struggle to reach them, and twice now I’ve asked him to put my socks ON for me. He empties and loads the dishwasher (except sometimes I still do, if it’s been too long).  He’ll fetch me snacks or beverage so I don’t have to get up.

This is so embarrassing–but apparently I snore now. For some reason, one little-known side effect of pregnancy is increased congestion, and so now I snore. This is like the ultimate shame for me, because I hate noises at night that keep me up, especially snoring. But when it wakes him up, he goes and sleeps in the guest room. I feel so, so terrible, and wish I could do something about it. But he’s so understanding–I think it’s starting to get to him, but he never says anything. He says he knows it’s not my fault and that it will go away (IT BETTER GO AWAY, RIGHT?!), but I still feel terrible.

He’s been doing all of the driving when we go somewhere together lately, and will have to continue to do so, even though he’s not a big fan of driving. For the last few weeks of doctor’s appointments, he drops me off at the door and then parks the car, and picks me up at the door at the end. Or when we’ve gone out for errands, he’ll go in to the store and I’ll wait in the car. (He admitted once that he likes that, because he can walk at his normal fast pace instead of my snail speed.)

I’m sure I’m forgetting more of the little things he does, but you get the idea. He’s really supportive and wonderful, and in general, such a great husband. I feel so very lucky that he’s in my life as my partner and best friend. And now I’m really excited to see him become a daddy–he’s going to be amazing at that too. 🙂

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We’ll be meeting our new babies in time for Thanksgiving. Wow.

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I have a lot to be grateful for this year!

I hope you and yours have a good Thanksgiving.

Failing to Plan

McSweeney’s: Jamie and Jeff’s Birth Plan

Mom Stories: I’m Still Mad About My Birth Story. You?

Thankful for a Cesarean Delivery

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One of the hardest things for me as the end of this pregnancy journey nears is how it’s all going to end. With twins, a lot of birthing options go right out the window. Multiple births are always considered high-risk, even for me, with a super easy go of it so far.

I know that all-natural, midwife-assisted home birth is all the rage, and many women get upset at the very idea of hospital birthing with Evil C-Section Doctors. Both of those are too extreme for my taste. BUT–I still support women to do whatever makes them happy. I don’t want to judge anyone on their birth choices–CHOICES, LADIES.  It seems like a lot of People on the Internet get very judge-y about one choice being the “right” choice and the other one is “wrong” and detrimental. In fact, it seems like that’s the case with everything about childbirth and childrearing. I want everyone to do whatever they want and works best for them, while realizing that it’s just that–what’s best *for them* and not necessarily for anyone else. And I hope things go well for each woman, no matter what.

Here’s a fascinating look at the development of obstetrics as a practice over the last two centures. It’s long but worth the read: http://www.newyorker.com/archive/2006/10/09/061009fa_fact  The big piece to remember about birth is that for thousands of years, it’s been a very commonplace event, but also a very dangerous one. It’s still dangerous, even now, in hospitals! One of the strangest things to me about this whole experience is realizing just how much no one knows about it. The process of growing a new person is still mostly a mystery, even to the medical establishment. Shit goes wrong in an instant, no one knows why, and it seems like a lot of times there was no warning and/or no treatment other than to monitor and see what happens.

Anyway, all this to say that if I were only having one regular baby, I would still want to be in a hospital with a doctor. Just my personal preference. Although I would probably want to try for a water birth, as I hear those are a lot more comfortable, and more hospitals are offering it.

As it stands, with twins, I have to give birth in an operating room, no matter what kind of birth we try for. If something goes wrong with one or the other, they are quickly prepared to get them out as quickly as possible–something that sounds scary but also reassuring. But there are also so many other factors at play–the positions of both babies is a big one, as is my first-time status. But also the condition of all my systems, their conditions and weights, the placental locations, etc etc. In general, the type of birth we have is a big old who-the-heck-knows. Which means that it’s kind of out of my hands.

I don’t usually consider myself a control freak (I wonder if that makes anyone laugh), but this situation is making me reconsider. Something about not knowing how or when they’ll arrive has really done a number on me. We took the childbirth prep class and learned about labor and breathing and all that jazz…and I don’t know if I need to be preparing for that. We learned about C-sections, and I don’t know if I need to be ready for that. I don’t know how I’ll deal with pain, or how I’ll know which options are right for me. Mainly it seems like I can’t really consider *any* options, because it’s all still such a crapshoot. I just don’t know what will happen.

Earlier in the year, I figured I should be aware that they could arrive any time after 30 weeks. (Hence my big relief every week that things continue to go well and they continue to cook.) I feel totally at a loss, because I basically have no say in the birth timing or experience. And that’s really made me emotional. A few weeks ago I asked the doctor about the birth–what, if anything, I could plan for or think about–and I started crying! I’m not even sure exactly why. I guess because I don’t/can’t know *anything* for sure, and that has me feeling so helpless and uncertain.

Now that we’re getting down to the wire, things are suddenly getting a lot more real. Like, those are real babies in there, and there will be an actual birth happening in the next two weeks or so. One doctor said that she pretty much guarantees I won’t make it to 38 weeks, because of a few small conditions popping up (low platelets, possible pre-pre-eclampsia). I’m skittish about scheduling a C-section; I would much rather wait and see if my body starts the labor process so I know the babies are as ready as they can be. BUT, I also understand that may not be an option, if my body is starting to get unhealthy and becoming an unsupportive environment. I’m willing to put babies’ health above my personal preferences or wishes.

It seems like for now we’re probably looking at a C-section, and I can already feel my future self coming up with defensive statements about why it was necessary and important. Especially here in Portland I’m not looking forward to potential judgey moms who think that no matter what I should avoid a C-section. My OB, and the practice really, is not about unnecessary interventions at all–all along she’s said it depends on the babies. And so now that B is the bigger of the two, and hasn’t moved from breech in over a month, and she doesn’t want to take the risk for a natural delivery, I can accept that. She knows best.

So why this title and links at the top? Two of the big pregnancy-process words: birth plan.

Just the words make me roll my eyes. First of all, can we just mention the PRIVILEGE that a ‘birth plan’ implies? So much entitlement! To me it smacks of Special Snowflake syndrome. ‘Here’s what I want to happen to me and everyone better read it and know it.’ This isn’t a picnic event that you’re planning in the park, people, this is a very serious medical event–no matter if you’re in your own home or in a hospital. Things go wrong, things have to change at a moment’s notice, for the health and safety of mama and baby(ies). It’s now such a thing to ’empower’ pregnant women to plan everything that it seems a lot of them end up really disappointed, sad, frustrated, and even angry–for years afterward!

This just seems counter-intuitive. And sad.

Which is why I really appreciated what the childbirth prep educator shared about the whole birth plan thing: instead of listing all the things you don’t want (epidural, pitocin, c-section, whatever), make a general list of what you *do* want (or really, “hope”) to happen, and keep it vague, on purpose. She said that her first birth had a lot of complications and interventions, but she absolutely loved it, because the big things were still there–like that her partner was with her the whole time.

Turning the birth plan on its head like this made me feel so much better. Mostly because, as I’ve now said like eight times, I basically can’t plan for my birth and it’s not really up to me. (Which, I also understand, is not a common situation; most mamas-to-be do have a lot of say in their choices.) I’m happy to let the medical experts be the experts and make the call for what’s best for my health and babies’ health. I do have a few big ideas that I would like, that are pretty generic, and that could be feasible no matter what (barring unforeseen circumstances, of course):

–If I end up in labor, I am open to pain medication, since I have no idea how I’ll deal with that kind of pain.

–I want my husband there, and I want him up with me, not at the business end.

–I would really like to hold the babies as soon as possible. I’ve heard two different people say that the hospitals here are really good about fairly immediate skin-to-skin, even in C-sections. I’m not sure how that works, if I’m all numbed up for another 30-45 minutes. But if I can’t hold them, then at least Andy will be there to hold them.

–If I have a C-section, I’m afraid of being left alone and cold after the babies come out. I’ve read a couple birth stories where that happened, and it sounds kind of upsetting. So I will have to ask what happens after the birth. It’s kind of tough, if they get taken away to get cleaned up, or to the NICU–do I want Andy to stay with them, or stay with me? Can they give me lots of blankets or turn the heat up in the room?

–This is silly, but I’d love to find out the possibility of music, even just iphone on speakerphone, in the OR. Since I listen to music all the time, I think it would be neat to have some good music on when the babies come out and then for me to listen if I’m getting stitched up.

And really, the biggest part is the health of everyone at the end of this event. I think it’s important to understand that unlike teaching, there is definitely such a thing as too much planning. In fact, it seems like it might be most helpful to do as little planning as possible. I want everything to go as smoothly as possible so that all of us are ready to start our new life as a family.

DIY Maternity Photos

If we had the budget for it, I would have loved to do a professional maternity photo session. This is a once in a lifetime experience (we hope!), and I know that I will enjoy looking back on the photographic evidence of this pregnancy journey.

Alas, we don’t have that budget. I do plan to do a newborn photo session, though. Partly because I don’t imagine I’ll be physically able to take many photos at the very beginning (my last year of hospital newborn photography involved a lot of bending and twisting, two actions that I am currently physically unable to do, and I’m pretty sure I won’t be able to for at least another month, if not longer), and partly because I don’t have a studio setup/equipment to get the kind of baby and family shots I’d love to have.

This week the weather was going to turn icky, and I’m not very mobile any more (am supposed to be mostly sitting/lying down), so Andy agreed to do a few quick photos in our front yard. These aren’t the best or most creative maternity photos around, but they’ll do. 🙂

I set up my tripod and attached my SB-800 flash, using a Demb Flip-It to bounce the light.