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:

DSC_6556-002

And tonight (with a baby on my chest):

IMG_7326-2-1

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:

DSC_7921-1

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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! πŸ™‚

–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. πŸ™‚

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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. πŸ™‚ 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. πŸ™‚

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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).Β  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).Β  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. πŸ™‚

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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.Β  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_factΒ  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!Β 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. πŸ™‚

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

35 weeks

Dear A and B,

Hurray, we’ve made it to 35 weeks–this is a big milestone for your growth and development in utero! You’ll be even more developed if you can hang in there for another week at least, if not two. We’re hoping for two, obviously!

35 week twin pregnancy photo

A, you’re really wedged in, head-down, like you’re trying to head-butt your way out. You’re like a baby Lord of the Dance though, because I feel a lot of movement of what must be your feet. We might have a dancer or soccer player on our hands! B, you’re still the quiet one; I don’t feel as much from you. Sometimes a few big slithers around the top half of my tummy.

This week we bought you a car. Not for you to drive; you can’t even hold your heads up, and you certainly can’t reach the pedals, even working together. πŸ™‚ No, we got the car so that we’ll have something bigger to cart you and all your attendant stuff around. And it’s newer and more reliable, so we feel safer and more comfortable having you in there. We installed the car seats, too. (We tend to procrastinate on some things, can you tell? Maybe we’ll try to be better role models for you.)

I washed your clothes and started putting things aside to bring to the hospital for you to wear and come home in. I have no idea how big or small you’ll be, and most of those newborn clothes are impossibly tiny. It’s hard to imagine that anyone could wear it, or that it could even be too big for you! You’re both around 5 pounds already, so I hope that by the time you arrive you’re even bigger, which wouldn’t make you too much smaller than ‘regular’ babies.

That process made you start to seem more real to me. I won’t lie, for all these months, you’ve been more hypothetical in my mind than real. Part of that is self-preservation–there are so very many things that can go wrong in this process, and so I don’t want to plan too much just in case.

But I can now picture you two tiny babies in those tiny outfits. I hope you’ll be cute in them, and I hope that you arrive healthy so that we can bring you home in them as soon as possible.

We have a crib ready for you, and a swing, and two bouncy seats. We have some decor items to get on the walls, but I guess you won’t really care about any of that for awhile. You won’t even be able to see more than two feet for at least a few months. It’s more for us and for you in a year or two. Mostly we just need to get it done before you’re here, because you’ll no doubt keep us too busy to do pedestrian things like hang up a print.

I’ll be hanging out on the couch for the next couple weeks, taking it really easy to make sure you aren’t jostled out too soon. So both of you please also do lots of resting and growing for the next two weeks, and try not to arrive too soon yet!

Love,

Mommy

I’m a Hater.

No joke, one of the first things that I started worrying about after getting pregnant was names.

Seriously.

I Hate Your Kids’ NamesΒ  (I originally wanted to use that for this post title, but didn’t want to outright insult anyone.)

I hate most names. Either they’re just stupid (Axel! Nevaeh!), or trendy (Brayden and all its rhymes; Jackson; Madison), or kriaytyve (Braidynne, Madissyn, Jaxson).

Hate!

Baby’s Named a Bad, Bad Thing

I occasionally visit the Babycenter.com message boards, and once spent a few hours trawling through the name boards. One mother proudly proclaimed her baby’s future name: Paityn. Pages and pages of other posters saying, basically, NO, that is a stupid name, don’t do it! And every once in a while, the original poster would pop in and say things like, It’s my baby, I’ll name her whatever I want to, you’re just jealous, I really like the name, etc etc etc. That post and even all the other ones, with their names that are So Precious and So Unique That All Sound the Same….I just can’t roll my eyes hard enough.

I told you I’m a hater.

Utah Names

The worst thing is that I’d bring this up to people who asked if we had names. I would sigh helplessly, ‘No, because I hate all the names.’ And every.single.time, they would proceed to begin rattling off names. Depending on how close I am to them, I would vary my responses from a headshake to a polite ‘no’ to an eyeroll to an emphatic ‘UGH’.

American Baby Names are Somehow Getting Even Worse

The other major problem is that I’ve taught about 500 kids. Which means that any name from that pool is going to conjure up memories–mostly bad ones, for boy names.
Plus one has to cross off names of former peers, colleagues/coworkers, family members, and babies/children of people you know well.

STFU, Parents: The Future of Baby Names

Thankfully Andy didn’t have any names he loved already–you can figure out that I sure didn’t. Neither of us have traditional names to choose from (his dad’s family had a tradition, but it’s a terrible name that has now ended its reign, thank goodness), neither of us has a culture that might be a good inspiration. Neither of us has any favorite author/artist/literary character that would make a good name. Neither of us is religious, so the traditional Bible names aren’t meaningful for us.

Horrid Baby Names (twitter)

I made sure to bring a baby name book with us on our road trip this summer, because that would force us to find some time to work on the options. A part of me was truly worried that we would never find a name–let alone two!–that we liked enough. One day driving through Ohio, we took turns going through the sections. Most of the time was spent eye-rolling or groaning.

Seriously, choosing a name for a human being to wear and use and be for the next eighty years or so…that’s a big deal. We have to live with it, and they have to live with it as small children and as grown adults, they will hope to avoid bad nicknames, they have to job hunt with it and fill out a lifetime of paperwork. Why burden someone with an annoying name that people can’t pronounce or spell correctly? Ugh.

Happily, after a number of hours of reading and considering, we did come up with a list of names that we didn’t hate–less than twenty. And we actually narrowed it down to two full names that we like pretty well. We haven’t told anyone, partly because we may change our minds, and partly because we don’t want to deal with other people’s opinions–and it seems like when people share their baby names, the other person feels compelled to share their experience or opinion of that name. And this is a hard enough decision without other people’s input!

So when these babies make their way into the world, we will introduce them to everyone for the first time, with names that are real names, solid names, that will hopefully grow with them into adulthood.