In the past 26 weeks, we have found some products that we absolutely love. Some are items we expected to be useful, and some took us by surprise. Here are the top 10 Shafer family must haves:
B with his O-Ball
1. O-Balls: These funny looking toys are a hands-down favorite in our home. They were the first thing B&F could grasp, and have continued to be the twins' toy of choice.
2. Soothies: Though they may not be the cutest pacifiers, soothies have magical powers. Seriously.
3. Pampers Swaddlers: We have tried other diapers, and these are the best by far. They are soft and absorbent, and seem to keep "things" under control.
4. Free Nipples from the NICU: When we left the NICU, we were sent home with a bag full of nipples. Cheap, brandless nipples. We have tried the fancy stuff, but have always come back to these. B&F love them...they are the perfect flow speed and seem to be as good as anything at keeping gas away. Thanks, NICU!
5. Ameda Hospital Grade Pump: If you ever have to exclusively pump, you must rent one of these. It looks a little scary, but trust me--it gets the job done.
6. Dishwasher: This is Andrew's addition to the list. We run a full dishwasher every night, and we are oh so thankful for this appliance. Yes, we have practically killed the one we have (it now has two bowls under it to catch drips), but it's still chugging along. I cannot imagine washing all those bottles by hand.
7. Sound Machine: When B&F first left the NICU, they slept to country music cranked up loud. Thankfully, we slowly weaned them down to just the sound machine. Now they nap at the beach and sleep in the rain. This genius little machine allows us to carry on with our normal activities without waking our little ones.
8. Onesies: B&F love to be naked. Unfortunately, taking your children out in public naked is frowned upon. We love onesies around here. B&F get to keep their legs free of clothing, yet no one calls DCS to report undressed children.
9. Video Monitor: We weren't sure whether we really needed a video monitor, but now we love it. Being able to see which twin is stirring--and more importantly, whether they are waking the other twin with their antics--is priceless.
10. Sophie the Giraffe: Y'all...this may be the most overpriced toy ever, but babies truly love it. B is especially enamored with sweet Sophie. And what's cuter than a little one chewing on a rubber giraffe leg?
Note: I am not getting paid to endorse any of these products. If you would like to pay me to endorse your product, however, I would be happy to. I am not one of those people who are "not for sell." The twins are always open to sponsorship opportunities!
Any authentic relationship has its ups and downs. Where there is real love between two people, whether it be friendly, familial, or romantic, there will also sometimes be less than warm feelings. Feelings of anger, mistrust, jealousy. I believe the same is true with God.
So often, we talk about our "relationship" with God. If that's truly what we have, a relationship with our Maker, then shouldn't it be okay for that relationship to look similar to our other relationships? Shouldn't we expect our divine relationship to go through cycles of bliss and bitterness, just as our earthly ones do? After all, how strong is a friendship never tested? How deep, then, is a faith never questioned?
For the past several weeks, I have been quite angry with God. Infertility affects 1 in 8 couples. While Andrew and I struggled for a child, I prayed that I would be that one--the only one--within my circle of friends. I hoped that none of my friends would become acquainted with the longing that had taken up residency in my heart. Apparently God was not listening. This January, three of my friends underwent various forms of infertility treatments, ranging from IVF to initial IUIs. It's February now, and none of the three are pregnant. Zero. WTF, God?!?! My heart breaks for these women, these couples. I know the pain of a failed cycle--the frustration that your time and energy were just "wasted," the questions about where to go next. Sometimes I think Andrew and I are terrible poster children for infertility. People look at us and think, "IVF worked the first time for them, and they got TWO babies. See, you can always get pregnant if you really try." What people fail to remember are all the failed cycles--the drugs that didn't result in pregnancies, and worse, the pregnancies that didn't result in a baby in our arms. Despite our ultimately positive outcome, infertility is terrible...even remembering that dark time in our life makes me feel literally, physically ill.
What's the point of this rambling post? To encourage women struggling to get to their child. It's a miserable struggle, and there is no way around that. Allow yourself to be angry...with God, with the stupid needle you have to stick in your stomach, with the girl who just "accidentally" got pregnant with her fourth child. There will be days when you just need to sit in your car and cry. Do it. Feel those feelings, and don't beat yourself up over them, because every woman in your position has been there. Every infertile has made up an excuse to not go to a baby shower, or blocked a facebook friend who just cannot stop posting belly pics. You don't mean these lovely fertiles any harm, but never feel like you have to torture yourself. Self preservation is okay.
But amid these difficult days, there will also be wonderful ones. Days where you forget about ovulation predictor kits and two week waits. Days when you feel happy and content and at peace with the world. Let yourself feel those feelings, too. After our miscarriages, I found myself feeling guilty about these happy days, like I was somehow disrespecting the children we lost. Please know that feeling happy and peaceful is always a good thing. I believe God gives us these "days off" to sustain us.
I wish I could tell you how your story would end. I wish I could guarantee that you would soon be cradling your biological child. As anyone who has stepped through an RE's door knows, however, that is a promise no one can make. What I can promise you, though, is that if/when you do have a child one day, however that happens, you will have an amazing appreciation for that little one. You will know every detail that had to come together for that baby to get to you. You will look into his or her face and remember the months of determination that brought your family together. While you won't love your baby more than your fertile friends love their children, you will more deeply appreciate the miracle it represents. For all your struggles, parenthood will be that much sweeter.
In June 2010, my sister and I met for a long weekend in Ireland. During those three short days, I fell in love with Dublin. It was beautiful and friendly, and there were so many treasures waiting to be discovered. One such treasure rested at the Whitefriar Street Carmelite Church.
This sweet place, which looks less than special from the outside, is home to some of the relics of St. Valentine. St. Valentine is an interesting "character." Little is known about St. Valentine, and many believe that there were in fact several St. Valentines. What is agreed upon, though, is that he was martyred in ancient Rome for his role in the Church.
As I knelt before his relics, I could not have cared less who he was. I prayed the prayer that was becoming my mantra. I asked St. Valentine, whoever he was, to pray for me. To pray that I would get pregnant. To pray that Andrew and I would know the joy of becoming parents. To pray for peace and perseverance on our journey. And I believe he did. His prayers joined those of our family, our friends, and ourselves, as he pleaded with our Lord to grant our request. And just to remind us that he was on our team, St. Valentine made February 14, 2011 extra special. On that day, we heard both of our children's heartbeats for the first time...the sweetest sound imaginable.
Sweet little B is growing up all too fast, and we are starting to see glimpses into the toddler he will become. Plenty of people have commented that he often looks mischievous in his photos, and I fear he may live up to these expectations. He has officially mastered rolling both ways (back to belly/belly to back). We are so proud of his accomplishment, but it's brought a whole new challenge to naptime. Almost every time I put him down, I see this on the monitor just a few moments later:
I snapped this picture the first time he rolled onto his belly in his crib. He was staring across the room at Frances here, and I'm pretty sure he was trying to talk her into playing instead of sleeping.
He is also finding ways to mobilize his adorable little body. This week while I was pumping, Andrew yelled down the hall that B was crawling. While his proud dad was exaggerating a bit, B can scoot around now. It's hard to explain...he isn't really doing the army crawl yet, but he manages to travel a few feet when he wants to. We're pretty sure he missed the memo that he is a preemie and is supposed to be a little behind developmentally.
And for his final shenanigan this week...we toured a few mother's day out programs yesterday with the hopes of starting one in the fall. B has never been shy. When we walked into the office of the program we really love, though, he took one look at the director and started sobbing. And this wasn't just a little whimper, it was a true, sad cry. Stranger anxiety starting at 5.5 months? Apparently it can happen, and trust me when I say it did.
Sweet little B, we love you and think you are too much fun...but we have our eye on you!
How did people parent before google? I have seriously pondered this multiple times since August 24th. How many ounces should a five month old eat? Why does my baby scream in his sleep? What is the best rice cereal for starting solids? Where can I find coordinating boy/girl outfits? Google has wonderful answers to each of these queries.
In all seriousness, though, google recently changed our lives. B's sweet, smiley self had been replaced with an angry elf. He screamed, writhed in pain, and spit up 15+ times per day. Something was clearly wrong. We consulted our pediatrician, but they repeatedly blamed his behavior on his reflux. Having dealt with reflux since our preemies were born, our gut told us this was something more. Enter google. When I began researching milk protein (whey) allergies, I found myself reading our story over and over again. Babies exhibiting the same symptoms as B found relief in a dairy free diet. Although our pediatrician disagreed, we decided to give it a try...and we are so, so glad we did. Since changing B to a hypoallergenic formula and cutting all whey from my diet, his sunny personality has returned. He still fusses sometimes, of course, but the screaming and throwing up have all but vanished.
Our pediatrician believes that this is just a senstivity that he will outgrow, and not a true allergy. We will hopefully be able to reintroduce dairy at some point (although me eating a nutrigrain bar with just a small amount of whey recently sent him into a tailspin). Until then, we will continue to trust our gut, and in times of doubt, turn to google.