Saturday, January 28, 2012

check your complaints at the door

When you walk into a reproductive endocrinologist's office for the first time, they take your insurance card, your medical history, and your right to complain about being a parent. If they forget at that initial visit, it's inevitable that at some point over the course of your treatment, you will promise the powers that be that if you are ever able to have a child, you will be thankful for each moment and never, ever complain.

I love Barnes and Frances. I am thankful for them each day, and I feel incredibly blessed to be experiencing the unique miracle of twins. But...raising multiples is hard. Really hard. Tonight, for instance, Andrew was at a wedding and the twins decided to stage a revolt. From 3:00 until bedtime, Frances cried. Her crying agitated Barnes, and the only thing that soothed them was if I held them both and walked around. I consider myself to be moderately strong, but I cannot bounce two babies for over three hours. Thus, they cried. And over and over I had to choose a twin to soothe. Then came their bedtime bottle. Barnes wanted to eat, and Frances wanted to scream. Again, I had to choose whether to let Barnes eat and let Frances cry, or soothe Frances and make Barnes cry. That's the hardest part...feeling like I'm constantly choosing a baby.

It's difficult for me to admit how hard twins can sometimes be. Like other infertiles, I worry that if I complain, I will somehow jinx myself and never have another child. Even more so, I think about the couples who would give anything to have a child to "complain" about. But as I record my memories, trying to capture both the milestones and the mundane, I strive to be honest. Honest about it all...the picture perfect moments as well as the meltdowns. And today was a meltdown kind of day.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

toot, toot

What's that sound? It's me tooting my own horn, of course. As women, we are hesitant to do this...we deflect compliments, and we almost never call attention to our own accomplishments. But today, I am proud of me. Today B&F are 5 months old, and they are STILL getting more breast milk than formula each day. At 5 months, they remain on a majority mommy milk diet!*

Once I realized that every drop of breast milk they received would be pumped, I never thought I would make it this far. I wanted to quit at 6 weeks, I really wanted to quit at 2 and then 3 months, then the big goal became 4 months. With Andrew's support and the new addition of a few hours of babysitters each week, though, I have made it far beyond my expectations. Now the ultimate goal--6 months--is only 31 days away. While I'm not sure what the ratio will be, I feel confident that I can continue to give them at least some of the good stuff until then.

Five Month Baby Stats:
  • Both are rolling from belly to back, and both roll from their back to their side.
  • B eats 6 ounces 6 times a day; F eats 5 ounces 6 times a day (but she rarely finishes her whole bottle).
  • B is now dairy free, and is a much happier baby since making this transition. Mommy misses her cheese and ice cream, though.
  • Both are laughing out loud.
  • Both can hold themselves up on their arms during tummy time.
  • Neither has a tooth yet, though F's teeth still appear to be closer to popping through.
  • Both are superstar sleepers. They go to bed (in their cribs) around 6:45 pm and usually sleep until sometime between 4:00 and 6:00 am. Of course they still have rough nights, but overall we are very lucky.
  • Both are now on a three nap a day schedule, and they take their naps together. Nap training over the past two weeks made our household much more manageable!
  • Both are enjoying toys more and more. B may be slightly more interested at this point, but it's sometimes hard to tell.
  • F is obsessed with her paci. B still takes it at night and nap times, but otherwise prefers his hand.
  • They are both drooling machines! B goes through about three bibs a day.
  • Both are getting cuter and more fun each day! We are so, so blessed!!!
Just look at those adorable rolls on my sweet babies' legs...we've come quite a long way from 3lb. 13 oz. and 4 lb. 15 oz!

*Note: This in no way makes me a better mom than someone who gives their baby all formula from the very beginning. We all have to do what works best for our family.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

choosing kindness

We're almost three weeks into the new year, but I believe it's never too late to think about your resolutions. In 2012, I resolve to choose kindness. Being kind is not something you are or something you aren't, it's something you choose (much like love in my opinion, but that's a topic for another day). So this year, I will attempt to choose kindness as often as possible.

You may be thinking that being kind shouldn't require a resolution, and you are correct. Being kind should be our natural response. Too often for me, though, things like frustration, annoyance, and lack of time and patience get in the way of kindness. As we were showered with kindness over the past 18 months, I realized how often I have failed in this department.

In the midst of our miscarriages, numerous people showed us great love. I clung to the notes and encouragement I received from sweet friends. During our pregnancy, we were literally bombarded with kindness. I have never experienced such generosity in my life, as we received cards, sweet words, and so many gifts which allowed us to prepare our home for B&F. After B&F arrived, the cards and gifts continued flowing and delicious meals began arriving at our home. So many people gave us their time and energy, providing dinners so that Andrew and I had one less thing to worry about. I could have never imagined the innumerable acts of kindness we would encounter in the process of welcoming our son and daughter.*

During my pregnancy and the birth of our twins, I realized just how much a simple act of kindness can mean. A little note, an encouraging email, can truly make a difference in someone's day. So this year, I am hoping to begin repaying the debt of kindness we now owe. From realizing when a friend needs a little extra love to making sure I say thank you and make eye contact each time a server refills my beverage, there are so many opportunities each day to choose kindness. This year I want to look for these opportunities, to find ways to make other people's days a little better. Will I do it perfectly? No. Will I still respond with frustration, will I still be impatient? Of course. But I still choose to try.

*If you were a giver of any of these things and have not yet received a thank you note, please know that we are extremely grateful for you, and that I promise to finish all of our notes soon!

Monday, January 16, 2012

hello little embryos...

One year...I have had my precious babies with me every day now for one whole year. At 8:55 a.m. on January 16th of last year, I got pregnant. No, it wasn't the most traditional way to get pregnant, but it was beautiful nonetheless. I held Andrew's hand while we stared, transfixed, at the ultrasound screen. I cried as I watched two tiny new lives make their way into my body. I was encouraged by the sweet words and kindness of our doctor and embryologist. I prayed more fervently than ever before that I would get to meet these children in 9 months. And my prayers were answered.

Babies' First Pictures- January 16, 2011

January 16, 2012

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

our fighters

"This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it." Psalm 118:24

Our dearest Barnes & Frances,

This day was most certainly made by our sweet Lord. This is a day full of hope...hope for the future and hope fulfilled. On this day one year ago, your miraculous lives began.

On January 11, 2011, the best parts of mommy and the best parts of daddy came together, marking the beginning of your journey. On that day you were just two cells--two tiny cells. But even as two cells you were fighters. You fought so hard to grow, to survive and get the chance to be reunited with us. When we met you a few days later, you were already so beautiful and strong. Then you fought as you tried to make a home inside mommy. When we found out that you had won that fight, we were indescribably elated. You fought through 34 weeks of pregnancy...through pre-term contractions and other scares...and you won again. Finally, when you were born, you fought to be healthy. You worked so hard, learning to breath, learning to eat, learning to keep yourself warm. This time we could watch your work, and we were so proud of all you accomplished in such a short time. At last, all your fighting paid off, and we were able to take you home and begin life as a family of four.

B&F, you are truly the strongest people that your dad and I have ever known. You amaze us each day. We are not worthy of the privilege of being your parents, but we are so grateful to get the opportunity to be your mom and dad.

Thank you for fighting so much over the last year. We promise to fight for you every day for the rest of your lives.

We love you more than you can possibly know,

Mom & Dad

Saturday, January 7, 2012

toys, teeth, and tummy time

My friends, these twins are changing more quickly than I can possibly explain. They may still be small in stature, with Frances checking in at 10 lbs. 3 oz. (less than 1st percentile) and Barnes coming in larger at 13 lbs. 6 oz. (16th percentile), but they are certainly not small in personality. Both have recently discovered toys...they stare at them, try to grab them, and lick them like it's Thanksgiving dinner. They are both holding their heads up like champs--we look much less wobbly these days. They both smile, laugh, and love to play games with mom & dad.

Our petite princess is quite the kicking queen. "Kick, kick, kick" is her favorite game, and luckily it can be played anywhere. Her favorite venue, though, is in her crib wearing nothing but a diaper. Get this girl naked and she will kick like crazy. Precious! While she loves practicing her kicks, she is less excited about the two white things creeping through her bottom gums. Yes, our little ten pounder has teeth trying to peek through. The white dots on the corners are visible, and the rest could come through any day now. She is not enjoying teething one bit. Despite the teething, Frances is still such a sweet, calm little one, and her soft laugh is truly enchanting.

Sweet Barnes has been operating on two modes lately--super happy or super grumpy. We are attempting to minimize his grumpy mode with some dietary changes, but when happy Barnes makes an appearance it more than makes up for his alter ego. When B is happy, he is not just happy...he is giddy. He smiles, laughs, and squeals up a storm. He is so much fun to play with that it's impossible to get anything done; you simply cannot pull yourself away from his sweetness. In addition to being charming, B has been mastering (sort of) new skills. From 4 weeks to 8 weeks both babies rolled from belly to back all the time, but then abruptly stopped. As of Friday Barnes re-learned his rolling, and now he won't stay on his tummy for anytime at all (although when he is on his tummy he has learned to prop himself up on his arms, which is adorable). He is so proud of his rolling that he has almost figured out the back to belly roll as well.

Thanks for continuing to follow our story. We are so enthralled with these little ones, and we are honored to share their milestones with our family and friends!

Drooling is our new favorite....see...

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

looking back

I've always been open about our use of IVF. I have not, however, ever really discussed the details of our IVF cycle. Despite the clear success in the form of our son & daughter, our cycle was not pretty. Not at all. From the first ultrasound, I was convinced we were doomed.

First, a mini science lesson. Eggs (which are of course necessary for pregnancy) mature inside and are released from follicles. During a typical month, a woman will have one dominant follicle, which is how a normal woman gets pregnant. During IVF, a woman takes drugs to create many, many follicles. The goal is to retrieve lots of mature eggs so that they can be fertilized, so that hopefully a healthy embryo (or two) can grow and then be transferred back to the woman's uterus and given a chance to implant. Not all eggs retrieved will be mature, not all will fertilize, and even of the ones that fertilize most will usually not grow and survive as needed. The more eggs you get, then, the more chances you have to actually have a baby.

When we started IVF, I was only 27 years old. Other women around my age said they had 20 plus eggs retrieved. Though I had lost three babies, I had always responded well to meds and had no reason to think I had "egg problems," so I was expecting similar results. Lots of eggs, meaning lots of chances for our healthy baby. On January 3, 2010, that expectation came to a grinding halt. One of my ovaries showed only one sizable follicle, and the other showed around 5 or 6. Although I had several more days of shots ahead, I knew that my dream of a high number wouldn't be coming true. My doctor told me to expect around 10. 10 eggs. I had read that no more than half would fertilize, then no more than half of those would grow healthily. I was devastated with these odds. In the journal that I was keeping at the time, I wrote that I thought we wouldn't even make it to transfer...that we would have no little embryos to put into my womb.

My doctor and Andrew stayed positive, making "quality over quantity" our mantra. I cannot tell you how many times Andrew said this, but I can tell you that I wanted to throw things at his head an equal number of times. As often happens in our home, though, Andrew was right. I may not have had many eggs, but the ones I had were clearly top-shelf.

Monday, January 2, 2012

sick mommy= sad mommy

I've been so concerned with protecting the twins this winter that I overlooked one minor detail...mommy can get sick, too. Saturday evening I came down with quite the cold, and then yesterday a stomach bug hit. Taking care of twins anytime can be difficult, but taking care of twins while sick is H-A-R-D. Luckily, Andrew is the best dad and has been super-involved with every aspect of twin-care from the beginning, so he is pulling single dad duty today. You all probably get tired of hearing this, but I am so blessed to have him as my partner in this adventure!

So yes, I feel pretty terrible right now. The worst part, though, is the self-imposed distance from my precious babies. I am aching to cuddle them in my arms and kiss their sweet heads, to make goofy faces at them and watch their smiles light up the room. I know it's for the best that I stay away...the last thing we want is for our precious preemies to get a stomach bug. But I will never be so relieved to get well and get back to my babies.