Thursday, March 31, 2011

becoming a parent

Two and a half years ago, Andrew and I moved into our dream house. Built in 1940, it still boasts its pre-World War II floors and molding. Last year we renovated the backyard, which may now be our favorite "room." Sure, it's not perfect. The layout is a little strange, and it's somewhat lacking in the insulation department. But it's cozy and warm (figuratively, at least), and has truly become our home. For all these reasons, it pains me to say that we are leaving our little cottage.

When we moved in, the plan was to have one baby here, then move when we got pregnant with our second little one. Life, though, did not follow our plans. With two on the way at once, we quickly realized that our next move might come sooner than we thought. Our cozy cottage is the perfect home for Andrew and me, but not so much the perfect home for our little twins.

So over the past few weeks, we put our parent hats on and made the responsible decision to sell the cottage and move to a "family home." I must admit that I did not come to this place easily...I secretly hoped that no one else would find our precious home as charming as we do. I even pulled out a card that I haven't used since before our infertility battle--"If we're supposed to move, God will make that clear." Well, we put the house on the market and were under contract four days later. I guess that's pretty clear.

Throughout our treatments, I felt that we were making decisions for our future children, but it was completely intangible since those children did not yet exist. Now, with my belly expanding and our growing book of ultrasound pictures, the children who must now come first are real. And with this move, we've made our first major parent decision. We just hope it turns out to be a good one!

(Our new house as of May 6th!)

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

worth the wait

We are 13 weeks pregnant!!! We had our first appointment with our regular OB yesterday, and though we waited for 2.5 hours to see him, we LOVED him. He answered all of our multiples questions (and there were a lot), and he provided a good outline of what to expect in the coming months. He seems to be conservative in his treatment with a tendency towards over-monitoring, which is great for us. He also did my first over the belly's what we saw:This is our little Baby A. He is lowest, so if I'm able to deliver, he'll come first. He is our active twin...he wouldn't even be still enough to get a reading on his heartbeat. He danced, wiggled, squirmed, flipped around, and was oh so fun to watch. In the top picture, you can actually tell he is moving!

And here we have Baby B, our mellow little one. He waved his arms a bit, but really couldn't be bothered to put on a show. Before we were focusing on him, we are pretty sure we saw him kicking his crazy brother/sister in the head, though, so I think he will hold his own well.

And finally, an image that truly melted my heart. We had just finished talking about whether the twins were aware of each other when the doctor snapped this beauty:

Our first picture of the twins reaching towards one another! Precious! I just know there will be lots of hand holding and love between these two for years and years to come.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

the belly begins

Here it is, the beginning of my twin baby bump. This is at 12 weeks 3 days. I'll keep you all updated as it continues to expand!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

12 weeks

The twins have officially reached 12 weeks! They looked perfect yesterday...they are both over 5 centimeters long, and both of their heart rates had dropped to 153, which is great. Yesterday was supposed to be our last trip to the fertility center, so Andrew talked the nurses into bringing him a little "graduation" gift:

He saw these scrubs when we went to Chattanooga for our retrieval and transfer procedures, and has been talking about them ever since. We like to dream that we work at the Fertility Center, since the work they do is truly amazing, and they are the most compassionate, kind medical practice we could ever imagine.

Anyhow, our graduation gift was premature. I went off all meds for two days to make sure my placenta(s) had taken over hormone production, as that should happen around 11 weeks, but we weren't quite there yet. My progesterone is low, so it's back to the meds and back to the fertility center in two weeks. At least we get to see our favorite nurses again!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

family photo

We're a little over 11 weeks, and the babies are looking great! They both put on quite the show today, although one is definitely more laid back than the other. Andrew tried to convince me that the laid back little guy takes after him and the crazy one takes after me, but I'm pretty sure it's the opposite. After all, he's the one who usually cleans the entire house before I even roll out of bed on a Saturday (which I do realize will be changing soon).

The picture we're sharing this week is of both twins nestled together. Every week our doctor tries to get a "family photo," but as the babies grow bigger these get more difficult to take. Today we could clearly see arms, legs, hands, and feet, but all you can really see above are heads and torsos. I think it's unbelievably precious to see them side-by-side, though, so I don't mind the poorer quality photo. When I see these pictures of both babies at once it makes the fact that there are really two in there sink in a little more. And sinking in is a good thing, because there are definitely two babies coming our way!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

the road to our babies

We could not be more excited to be welcoming our twins this fall, but the journey to these two little ones was bumpy at best. It all started in the fall of 2007. I began having intense pain and knew that something was not right. My doctor recommended physical therapy, which provided no relief after two months. I convinced myself that maybe the pains I felt were normal and tried to ignore it for the next several months. The following fall, however, the pain refused to be ignored any longer. The next doctor I saw informed us that she believed I had endometriosis, a condition in which tissue that normally grows only inside your uterus begins growing elsewhere. The only way to diagnose this disease is through surgery, so we moved forward. During my surgery the diagnosis was confirmed, and the endometriosis that could be seen was removed.

Being diagnosed with endometriosis was terrifying...Andrew and I had always wanted kids, and one-third to one-half of all women with endometriosis have difficulty getting pregnant. Endometriosis often damages a woman's fallopian tubes, and without working tubes pregnancy is basically impossible. We were hopeful, though, that the surgery would cure the pain issues and give us a good chance of conceiving down the road.

Unfortunately, the pain did not subside. For the next two years, we consulted multiple doctors and tried everything from muscle relaxers to bladder medications and special diets. Nothing worked, most likely because there was additional endometriosis that was not treated in the initial surgery. After more than three years of attempting to cure the pain issues, we decided to toss in the towel and try to have a baby. After all, being pregnant is one of the best treatments for endometriosis.

Having watched friends and family get pregnant instantaneously, I was sure that we would be expecting in a few months. Instead, within just a few months, we learned that I would definitely need medication to help me ovulate in a way that could produce a pregnancy. Basically, after you have a "quality ovulation," your body should produce progesterone. Without enough progesterone, a pregnancy cannot begin or be sustained. So, we began using Clomid in the hopes that it would help my body create the correct hormones.

During our second month of Clomid, we saw the holy grail for all couples trying to conceive...a little plastic stick with two lines! We were pregnant! Initial testing, however, revealed that something was not right. My hormone levels were extremely low, and though we prayed and prayed that this would be our baby, things only got worse. After having my blood drawn every other day for about two weeks, an ultrasound showed that this pregnancy was most likely in one of my fallopian tubes. The same day, bloodwork revealed that the embryo had stopped developing. On what I will always remember as one of the worst days of my life, we saw three different doctors, had two ultrasounds, and ended up in a chemotherapy ward to get a shot that would increase our chances of not losing one of my tubes.

The drug I had was very strong, so we took a month off from doctors and drugs. Somehow, at the end of that month, we saw two lines again...our second pregnancy. The initial testing was again troubling, and within a few days the little one had stopped developing. My doctor recommended a rather unpleasant test to see if my tubes were open. They appeared to be open, but he still had concerns that they weren't working. If we had one more loss, we needed to move on to more aggressive options.

The following month we upped our Clomid dosage and crossed our fingers...and again got pregnant. This baby was due the week after our fifth anniversary--this had to be it. A week later, we were facing the same nightmare. The baby had stopped growing. Based on our history, my doctor was fairly convinced that my fallopian tubes did not function properly and that it would be virtually impossible to get pregnant without more aggressive assistance. After much prayer, consideration, and two "second opinion" appointments, we decided to go for it. We officially signed up for IVF. On New Year's Eve 2010, I gave myself my first set of injections. After 36 shots, a little anesthesia, and a lot of hope, we found out we were expecting our two little miracles!

As I said before, it's been a bumpy road, full of the deepest heartbreak we have ever known. But this terrible road led us to the most wonderful gift...a double gift more precious than we could have imagined. God's plan is always good, even when it doesn't seem that way.

So why are we sharing this? First, pregnancy loss is a taboo subject. After losing our first, I longed for a community of women my age who understood my experience. Unfortunately, this is a part of life that many women experience but few talk about. If sharing our story can make just one couple feel less alone, then it's worth it. Second, infertility, recurrent pregnancy loss and IVF are so misunderstood. IVF is often portrayed as a way for couples to get pregnant when it's convenient for them. In reality, IVF is a final option for couples who have been through incredible loss and excruciating pain, both physcially and emotionally. It is a last resort when nothing else has worked, when your quest for a biological child has nearly reached its end. It is not glamorous or is a sacrifice made by men and women who long to be parents, who long to know the love of a parent for a child. Our hope is that as more people open up about their struggles to conceive, the stigma often attached to infertility will change, and people experiencing infertility and recurrent pregnancy loss will feel able to leave the shadows and receive the support they so desperately need.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

dance party

We had our 10 week ultrasound (we get ultrasounds every week during the first trimester), and the twins put on quite a show! Baby B, whose picture appears on top, was waving his arms and twitching around. Then Baby A, whose picture is on the bottom, did a full-out dance for us. It was so adorable! We had seen small twitches the week before, but this was incredible. You can actually see their little hands in front of their faces and their little feet/legs in these pictures.

While this path to parenthood is not what we would have necessarily chosen, there are some benefits along the way. From 5 weeks on, we have gotten to visit with our babies each week. Seeing the weekly growth has been an experience we will never, never forget. Plus, if we had taken a different path, we would not have ended up with these two perfect babies...the babies that we know were meant to be ours!

Friday, March 4, 2011

the adventure begins

It's official....we are expecting twins in September! It's actually been official for a while now, but after telling our extended families today it's starting to feel more real. Keeping this secret has been extraordinarily difficult. We have been bursting with excitement--I have literally had to stop myself from telling random strangers on the street. We are so excited to not have to hide our wonderful news now!

So how did we learn that we were expecting two bundles of joy? After initially finding out I was pregnant, we had an ultrasound a few days later to make sure everything was where it should be (more about this coming in a later post). We saw one perfect little gestational little baby beginning to form. About four days later I had a total meltdown and convinced myself I was no longer pregnant. Sweet Andrew convinced my doctor's office to let me come in for blood work to make sure everything was progressing well, so I rushed to the office. Andrew didn't come since it was just a simple blood draw and we wouldn't get the results for a few hours. My veins are notoriously hard to stick, so when I arrived the nurse suggested we do an ultrasound rather than a blood draw. I, of course, agreed...I wasn't turning down a chance to see our baby again. The doctor quickly pointed out the gestational sac, and the now visible yolk sac. He then moved the ultrasound a bit and showed me a second gestational sac and yolk sac! I will always remember that as one of the most amazing, surreal moments...and I will always remember telling Andrew that he was going to be a dad times two in the Food City parking lot immediately following the appointment.

So here we are, nine and a half weeks pregnant with fraternal twins (our 40 week due date is October 4th, but twins are full term at 37 weeks). We are excited to begin what is sure to be a wild, wonderful adventure. And we will try to keep this blog updated so you can follow along as our set of Shafers continue to grow!