Monday, October 31, 2011

happy halloween!

faithful provision

Yesterday, for the first time, we took our little munchkins to mass. Andrew was doing the second reading, and it just felt like time. I was terribly nervous, mostly due to the germs they could be exposed to. We snuck in, sat in the back, and tried to avoid letting anyone touch the babes. Thankfully, it went off without a hitch. Andrew held Barnes and I held Frances for most of the service, and we were able to worship God together as a family unit...the way it was intended to be.

Over the past year, I've had my share of ups and downs with both my faith and the Catholic church, which I call home. When we couldn't maintain a pregnancy and seemed to be facing loss after loss, it was hard for me to sing of God's goodness. I felt like we were being punished, and I was angry that God was letting us go through such pain. As it became clear that our children would be conceived through IVF (if at all), my views on my church started to get more complicated. The Catholic church teaches that IVF is wrong, yet it also teaches the importance of family. Andrew and I prayed over our situation, spoke with authorities both in the church and in the medical field, and made the decision that we felt was right. We found our own peace within the contradiction of a Catholic doing IVF, though it was far from easy at times.

As I sat in the back row yesterday cuddling our daughter and catching glimpses of Andrew holding our son, I was overwhelmed by how God truly does provide. It often doesn't look the way we thought it would, and unfortunately there is no way to opt out of the hard times, but God's faithfulness is real. It is embodied by my loyal, loving husband who always looks for the bright side; by my precious twins; by a church family and priest who are a little different but more accepting than any other Catholic community I can imagine. Yesterday, as I received the Eucharist with Frances in my arms, I was flooded with thankfulness for God's faithful provision.

I can't say that I remember which songs were sung or exactly what the homily was about, but I know that I will always remember our first mass as a family.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

life by the numbers....

Our little miracles turned two months old on Monday, and life just continues to get more and more interesting. What are our lives like with two spunky two-month-olds? Here's a little peek into an average day:

  • 40 bottles washed

  • 12-14 bottles made

  • 12-14 bottles fed

  • 20 burping sessions

  • 18-22 diapers changed

  • 4-6 faces washed

  • 3 pacifiers replaced (usually because Stella found one)

  • 7 pumping sessions

  • pump supplies washed 8 times

  • 4 nighttime feedings

  • 2-4 times when both babies are screaming at the same time

  • 2-6 spit ups cleaned

  • adult conversation- little to none

  • a million kisses stolen

  • more smiles and laughs than we ever thought possible (at least on most days....)

Sunday, October 23, 2011

sunday funday

We've had a fun, busy weekend, and we thought we'd share a few pictures with everyone to show what our little lives are filled with these days. Thanks for following our story!

Barnes & Frances

We had lots of playtime:

Sometimes we do the exact same thing at the exact same time and mom is reminded that we are twins.

We took pictures outside:

Dad took us on our first campus tour:

We went to another pumpkin is really excited about Halloween:

Which one should we pick?

Check out my sticker!

We played in the laundry:

And now we're exhausted:

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

the big thaw...

It happened yesterday. I knew it was coming, but I was saddened nonetheless. The babies officially outpaced me. The milk I pumped in 24 hours made 6 bottles each, and yesterday they took 7 each. This morning, I thawed some of our precious frozen milk to make the final bottle in this 24 hour period.

Despite my dread, I hastened this a bit. Until last weekend, the little ones were on a four hour feeding schedule. It was working so well, and it gave me time to get things accomplished between feedings. Recently, though, we noticed that they were starting to sometimes sleep more than four hours at a time. I am obsessed with them getting enough ounces/calories per day, so in anticipation of them sleeping longer stretches we are feeding them slightly more often (every 3-4 hours). This change upped our bottle consumption and pushed the little ones beyond my production. They are now eating around 48 ounces combined per day, and I'm producing around 42ish. Not quite enough.

It's incredible that they are eating so much and growing so well, but I wanted to sustain an exclusive breastmilk diet as long as possible. Now that we are starting to use our frozen supply, I'm not sure how much longer we will make it. I've been making very short-term pumping goals, and my most recent one was 2 months. Somehow that's only 6 days away! At least I know we can make it that far with nothing but mommy's milk!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

night and day

One of my favorite hyms is called City of God, and it begins as follows:

Awake from your slumber! Arise from your sleep!
A new day is dawning for all those who weep.
The people in darkness have seen a great light.
The Lord of our longing has conquered the night.

Let us build the city of God.
May our tears be turned into dancing.
For the Lord our light and our love has turned the night into day.

Lately, I've been meditating quite a bit on the nights and days of life, our periods of darkness and light. Staying home with twins is exhausting--sometimes I literally want to collapse by the time Andrew gets home in the evening. But this is my day...not just any day, but the brightest, sunniest day imaginable. What a difference a year can make.

On this weekend last year, I was in the midst of a gravely dark night. I had travelled with Andrew to Death Valley, California for a cycling event to raise money for juvenile diabetes research, and I found myself in the desert miscarrying our second child. Soon thereafter we had our third miscarriage and had to make hard decisions regarding our path to parenthood.

Later, despite being overjoyed with our pregnancy, I was still not basking in the daylight. Life was more like a foggy dawn...I knew that our children were on the horizon, yet I also knew the risks of multiples and that too many stories do not have happy endings. Then came the NICU, and even though I could gaze at our little ones, the sun seemed to be slipping away. I was more afraid than I ever let myself admit, and I became acquainted with the indescribable fear a parent has for a sick child. But now here I am, with two beautiful, healthy children. Sometimes I cannot believe this is my life.

Today, I was reminded of just how real a different ending to this story could have been. I am part of an infertility community online, and though I don't know these women in real life, I love them. They have been my cheerleaders and my confidantes, and they stuck with me even when I achieved the pregnancy that many of them had not. On Thursday, one of these women lost her twins at 20 weeks. One died during birth, the other lived for around 15 minutes. I feel so connected to this woman...she did IVF, she was having a boy and a girl, she was elated at the thought of raising these children. And now they are gone. I cannot imagine the night that she is in now. What separates us? Why did I get the happy ending, while she is living through hell? Why can't she make it to her day? Please join me in sending her our thoughts and prayers, lifting her up as she struggles through this night.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

happy fall!

Last weekend, we took the babies to the pumpkin patch for their first outing. In reality it was an oil change place about a mile from our house that was selling pumpkins, but Barnes and Frances didn't quite know the difference. We cannot wait until they are bigger and stronger so we can take them on more adventures!
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Monday, October 10, 2011

baby days

Everyone warns you that your children will change too quickly, but you can never really be prepared for just how true that is. Sometimes the days seem long, but the weeks pass before you know it and your one month old is suddenly closing in on the two month mark. Because of their special preemie status, our little ones have been in the newborn phase a little longer than most, but I know it won't last forever. Our lives can be a bit blurry right now, but I want to hang onto these days and remember the little things that made our two newborns so adorable.

I love how Frances holds her hands. When she eats she keeps them upside down, and when she's awake she looks like she's waiting for a manicure. She always stares at you while you are trying to burp her, which is pretty adorable. She is already so interested in her brother...she stares at him while they lie in the floor and scoots next to him when they are in the pack-n-play. She still can't fill out newborn clothes, but she has finally gotten a sweet little double chin. She often sleeps with both arms stretched above her head, and she loves to lie in her boppy. She adores bath time. Most of all, I want to remember her sweet, laid back personality and her beautiful, tiny face.

I love sweet Barnes's animated expressions. He loves to wrinkle his forehead, and he has the most beautiful big eyes. He grunts a lot and often sounds like a grumpy old man. He hates all things wet--both wet diapers and baths--and he makes his dislike known. He has the strongest little neck and already lifts his head all the time, and he has practically mastered rolling from his belly to his back...clearly someone forgot to tell him he was a preemie. He is obsessed with his paci. He loves awake time, and it's incredibly fun to watch him stare and explore his new world. He is the best cuddler I know, and I want to remember how wonderful it feels to hold him tight.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

on the charts

We had a growth check today at the pediatrician, and we're excited to report that Barnes is officially on the 6 week old growth chart! He is now 7 pounds 13 ounces, which puts him in the 3rd percentile. He is 20.1 inches long (not on the chart), and his head circumference puts him in the 14th percentile.

Frances is still quite petite, checking in at 6 pounds even. She is 18.5 inches long and is not on the growth chart in any category, but her personal growth curve looks great.

They are both growing and thriving, and we couldn't be more blessed!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

0 years old

Happy Due Date, Barnes & Frances! Today our little ones' adjusted age is officially zero. It's so strange to think that these smirking, wiggling wee ones who we've been enjoying for the past six weeks are just now supposed to be arriving in the world. We are so thankful for our little zero-year-olds!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

shopping...with a purpose

We all have moments where we question ourselves, wondering if we are following the correct path. Today I was reminded of just how purposeful even our small decisions can be.

I left home at 4:15 p.m. intending to do some quick shopping before mass. Between the shopping and church, this would be the longest I had been away from the babies. My first stop was Ann Taylor Loft. I had just walked in and was still standing near the first rack when another NICU mom walked in. Her son is nearing release, and we were able to talk at length about our NICU experiences. I had the opportunity to share much of what we learned in the discharge process and give her some tips that I wish we had known in our final few days there.

A few minutes later in the same store, I ran into an acquaintance who suffers from pelvic pain similar to what I experienced a bit ago. We stood next to the sweaters and swapped stories, finding it strangely comforting to speak to someone else who understood the pain of a bladder distension.

Finally, I went to mass. Because I had been shopping in far west Knoxville, though, I went to a church I had never been to before. I chose a pew at random. On my right was a guy around my age who was also alone. About half way through mass, during a time when the congregation was standing, he suddenly sat down, then rolled into the pew and was unresponsive. I literally yelled "we need a doctor" in the middle of mass in this very formal church. No one responded...the service didn't even pause...but the man regained consciousness and was able to walk to the lobby. I followed him in case he fell again, and another young girl sitting to my left came with us. We got him sitting in the lobby, but as soon as a nurse from the congretation arrived to see if we needed help, the man started seizing and was unresponsive for over a minute. I immediately called 911, then spent the next few minutes corresponding between the EMTs, the nurse, and the man (once he regained consciousness).

As I was leaving home, I felt a bit nervous about being away from the babies for so long. But in just a short time I had three distinct experiences wherein I felt I had been placed somewhere for a very specific purpose. It's nice to be reminded that no matter where we are, God can use us. Whether we are in a church or at a mall or lying on a play mat with our children, we can be of some type of service. We just have to be available when the opportunity arises.