Tuesday, August 3, 2010
Sunday, July 11, 2010
Friday, May 21, 2010
Don’t get me wrong. Taking care of two babies, even fairly good-natured babies with a LOT of help from my husband, is hard fucking work. And it can be fairly tedious as well—I’m starting to understand the age-old, and fairly sexist, saying “a woman’s work is never done.” Because I’m never on top of what needs to be done. There’s always laundry to fold and bottles to wash and feeding, diapering, and holding/cuddling/entertaining to be done. And that whole “sleep when the baby sleeps” thing is a total crock. Because the housework really does have to get done, and I can’t sleep on command, and the most I can get—after feeding/diapering/soothing/swaddling both—is maybe an hour of real sleep, which messes me up more than it helps.
But what I want to tell you all—want to shout from the rooftops—is that it’s SO WORTH IT. Yeah, yeah, part of this is the antidepressants talking, and thank god I had the foresight to go on those at the first sign of trouble (a couple of days after I wrote that last post, in fact), rather than try to tough it out. It’s so nice not to be so sad, crying all over my babies every time I tried to feed, always feeling like I’m not doing enough for them. If I had advice to anyone about to have a baby, it’s to seriously consider antidepressants.
But my newfound happiness isn’t coming from my pill bottle. It’s that this really is exactly what I wanted. I love these babies so much. And so does J—watching him with them makes me love him even more than I already did. And all this love and support has poured in from family and friends, sometimes from where I least expected it. All this infusion of love into my life—it’s a heady feeling. And maybe because I went through so much to get here, I feel like I deserve it.
And then, on Mother’s Day (which I still think is a crock of shit holiday), this happened, and my heart stopped beating for a moment:
And the next day this happened:
And my heart nearly exploded.
So yeah, my back is killing me (seriously, it’s bad), and my nipples hurt, and I can only put a baby to the breast four times a day (I pump the rest of the time) and sometimes I feel like feeding G is more of a wrestling match than a joint effort, and I’m living on 5 hours of sleep a night. But all of these things are temporary—hell, they’ll last a lot less time than my journey through infertility. On the other hand, the love I’ve found—the love J and I have created—is permanent. (J often responds that he didn’t “create” these babies, but I disagree. You can “make” cookies even though you use ingredients from the grocery store, can’t you? J chose our donor, which is one half of what makes these little guys who they are.)
My yoga teacher tells us that to have a child is to forever wear your heart on the outside of your body. I’m sure that will be scary someday. But for now it’s glorious.
Friday, April 9, 2010
Eleven days in, and J and I are really struggling. We seem to have moved beyond the fun and exciting phase and entered The Grind.
It's not just the lack of sleep that’s bothering us—it's that we feel like we aren't getting a moment to enjoy the babies. This is especially true for me. At least J gets to feed them their "top off" bottles, and burp and change and re-clothe them. And that might not sound like much fun, but it's a hell of a lot better than my relationship with them, which consists of me fighting with them to get a decent latch, and struggling to keep them on the breast when it's hurting so badly. It really seemed like they were both on their way to being champion feeders, but we seem to have slid backwards. Or maybe Dex is actually doing better (he had his tongue-tie fixed on Wednesday and now appears to have a decent latch, but it's hard to tell because my boobs are so sore that it might just hurt even if he's doing everything right). But Gretchen's latch is going downhill fast—she's doing a lot of chewing on me rather than sucking. And then if she doesn't get a lot of top-off milk she screams for two hours. And when your baby is hurting you feeding eight times a day, it can wear you down fast.
I'm also really on the border of not having enough milk for them. Each of them is getting a full ounce of top-off bottle after every feeding, and that's almost exactly what I've been able to produce. The problem is that it isn't enough. When they feed well at the breast I don't manage to pump that much, and even then they always want more, which means that sometimes they cry through an entire cycle where we were hoping to get our precious 1 1/2 hour of sleep. It isn’t a medical problem—they gained five and four ounces respectively in three days earlier this week. But they’re not satisfied. And unhappy babies just plain suck.
This morning I realized that I'm on the verge of giving up breastfeeding altogether. I just want to start enjoying being a mom. I want my babies to stop being mad and me, and I'd like to stop being mad at them. In either event, we'll probably be supplementing with formula by the end of the day. No matter how hard I've been pushing at the pump (and I've REALLY been pushing—I pump till dry after EVERY feeding), I can't seem to get my milk supply to kick in more. I am more exhausted than I ever thought was possible. Every day I think I’m as tired as I could ever be, and every day I discover a whole new level of exhaustion. We're on a strict 3-hour timetable for feeding—it's really the only way to get 8 feedings in a 24-hour period, which is the minimum. And with G's size we can't yet go four hours at night with a couple of short feed cycles during the day.
When people used to say their child was sleeping for three or four hours at a time, I would ask myself—what’s the big deal? What’s so bad about getting a few three- or four-hour sleep cycles in a night instead of eight straight hours? But what isn’t generally explained is that the three-hour clock starts at BEGINNING of one feeding session, not the end. So if you add in how long it takes to wake, change, feed two sleepy babies at the breast, burp them, supplement with a bottle, burp again, change again, lull them back to sleep, and then pump for at least 15 minutes (which I have discovered I can’t skip even once at this critical stage of trying to get my milk to come in enough to feed two), two hours can go by easy before you even look at the bed again. And then you have to decide—is it worth a catnap, or should you just stay up and get something done? J and I have managed to work the cycle down to an hour and a half, with him doing the bottle supplementation, burping, and changing. But we still usually only get an hour and a half at a time, and that’s if everything goes perfectly. Maybe that works out three times a night, assuming no one's refusing to go back to sleep. And we can't really sleep during the day yet. Too much to do with doctor's appointments, etc.
J and I refer to Super-G as our small-mouth bass—her head is so tiny that, though willing, her mouth is too small for a latch that doesn’t hurt. (She has mastered the hippo mouth, which is hilarious, though we don’t always manage to get it on the boob at the right moment, and often there are tiny hands in the way.) The lactation consultant who we saw on Tuesday recommended that I put her on a nipple shield, which I’ve been using for Dex (more on that below). I was willing to try that (and trust that we could get her off it later on, when she’s bigger), but the first time we tried it at home she HATED it and “bit” down so hard on the shield that I yelled out and immediately started crying. And believe me, once I start crying these days, it’s hard to stop. Can’t tell you how many times I’ve cried all over my breastfeeding babies. She did it one more time that feeding, and did it again on the next breast (though not so hard) the next feeding. So I said “fuck it,” and ditched the shield. I’m already at the end of my rope, and the last thing I need to be doing is fighting with BOTH my babies every time I have to feed them, which is essentially my entire relationship with them right now.
And Dex has had his own set of problems. In the hospital, he was trying to feed, but would always pull back from what looked like a good latch into a terrible one at the last minute. And, desperate to make breastfeeding work with this baby, I would let him. So my nips were getting mangled, to say the least. Then we took him to the pediatrician the day after we got out of the hospital, and he noticed that D was tongue-tied, which kept him from sticking his tongue out to suck when his mouth was wide open. So we started using a nipple shield with him, which allowed me to keep feeding him at the breast while we waited for an appointment to get the string tying his tongue down snipped.
Through fairly Herculean efforts on my part, I managed to get Dex an appointment with an ENT on Wednesday, and managed to get my HR department to get him enrolled on my insurance in time to not have to pay out-of-pocket for the procedure. The procedure was pretty scary, though it only took moments. Ended with poor Dex wailing through a wad of gauze sticking out of his mouth, which was just pathetic. But within a few minutes he was trying to feed, and he managed to get a pretty nice, pain-free latch a few minutes after that. The problem now is that I can’t tell if he’s adding to my tenderness problems or if I’m just so sore from G’s feeding technique that he’d hurt me no matter what he did. In either event, with either of them on the boob I just sit and watch the clock and try to hold out for 15 minutes before I call it quits and hand them off to J for the top-off bottle.
This morning I managed to pump enough that we are doing one “pump-only” session (which is how I’m writing right now—after five days of computer withdrawal I finally got wise and moved the pump to my computer desk), while J feeds both from the bottle. Just to give my nipples a solid five hours off from the evil twin mouths. I’ll call the hospital lactation consultants today, though I’ll have to pay a chunk of cash to go see them in person (which I probably will do). But my guess is by the end of the day I’ll be introducing formula. This shouldn’t feel like a failure to me. I know that, I really do. But I was so proud of having gotten this far without, and truly believe that we were into the home stretch with this.
I know this will get better. But it’s really hard to see that future right now.
Tuesday, April 6, 2010
Introducing . . . (drum roll please) . . . the fabulous new additions to our family! Meet Gretchen ("Baby B") and Dexter ("Baby A") (probably “G” and “D” from now on, but I’m so happy with the names I had to share). Dexter was born 6 pounds, 4.8 ounces. Gretchen, or “Super-G” as we like to call her, was born 4 pounds, 12 ounces.
In the past week I have had no time to eat or sleep, let alone blog or catch up on any of the thousand e-mails waiting for me. Parenthood is the most beautiful experience in the world, but trying to keep up with the feeding of two insatiable tiny creatures is brutal. We’ve had a couple of night/day cycles where we’ve gotten less than an hour or two of sleep. Last night J suggested that he take over one feeding with pumped milk (a scary prospect, given that I’m pumping after every feeding but just barely staying ahead—we have to give them a lot of “top off” after every feeding because they’re so small), and I literally started to cry at the prospect.
Anyway, could write for hours, but I only have about five minutes. Thought that instead of trying to re-create the story through my eyes, I’d give you a sampling of J’s e-mails to our friends and family in the first week of our babies lives.
here's the update from Wednesday morning - no time for personalized responses to all of your great thoughts.
Yesterday afternoon, after a very rough 24 hours, we finally had a lactation consult and it was life changing. Since then, we have had excellent feedings with both Gretchen and Dexter, every 2-3 hours. They are champion eaters both. Got into a great schedule last night - fed them both and sent them off to the nursery so we could sleep for 3 hours! They came back - we fed both again and sent them back to the nursery and we slept for 2 more hours. 5 hours for Holly with an hour break for feeding - a better sleep schedule than she's had in months and she is ecstatic. And caffeinated now, after some Starbucks this morning.
Dexter is eating now - so far not too traumatized by this morning's rude snipping. Gretch is out in the nursery getting checked by the pediatrician. Everyone seems healthy and happy. We're in the hospital for another night tonight and are debating whether to go on Thursday or stick around for one more day of support (assuming, of course, that Gretchen passes her car seat test - she's very small and when uncovered, shakes her arms uncontrollably - it's quite pathetic and cute).
Thanks for all your wonderful thoughts. More updates and pictures to come (but to be honest, all the pictures look the same at this point - when we get home, at least they'll have different clothes and surroundings).
-J and H
Just a couple more pictures. Can't resist the cobunking pictures. And there's a picture of Dexter and H trying to wade through the DC government bureaucracy to add the kids to the insurance (still unsuccessful).
Here are some more pictures. Life is full of ups and downs here at the hospital. Dexter is getting better - we'll follow up with his heart condition - the irregular beat found at birth, but the cardiologist didn't think there was any issue.
Both kids have some jaundice and may need to get some light therapy. Gretchen hasn't pooped in awhile - the pediatrician is not concerned - just something to keep an eye on.
H is working out the breast feeding. She's had 3 lactation consults and all have taught her more than the last. She is honing her technique and her regular milk has come in.
Gretchen failed the car seat test today. She is too small for the seat we have. Any volunteers? We need a new car seat specifically designed with a minimum weight of 4lbs. Ours has a minimum of 5lbs and she doesn't fit right in it, even with blankets and special padding. We are being released tomorrow, so we need this tonight, ideally. Please contact me directly if you have the time to run this errand for us. There is a babies r us in Silver Spring with the correct seat, but there may be some available at other stores, like target - I haven't had time to research (if you can't make the run - maybe you can help with phone calls for me).
Thanks. Going home tomorrow. First pediatrician visit scheduled for Saturday - 8:30am!
Crisis averted for the moment - thanks for the offers of help. H's Dad was able to run out and get a car seat for us. We'll try it out in the morning.
More info later - waiting for real food from Armand's to arrive. Hot pizza - can't wait.
Hoping to be released this morning or some time today - they say check out is 11am, but no one believes it.
Kids are with the pediatrician for their routine morning check up. Jaundice appears to be getting better over night. Both kids had great digestive movement in the last 12 hours - especially Dexter, who had an epic movement last night (songs will be written).
Kids were demon twins last night as we had a double meltdown that lasted upwards of 5 hours, with occasional breaks - while one fed, the other screamed. Sometimes the feedee screamed as well. Thankfully, the feeder never lost her cool. Is it cute when Dexter wails so loud he gets hoarse? - sort of. At least it's quieter.
But after a night in the nursery (for two 2 hour stretches so we could sleep), two little angels appeared in our room this morning, content to eat and sleep.
Gretchen will go for her car seat test later this morning. No new pics today. They all start to look the same at this point. This weekend - we'll send out more. They'll be the same, but in different clothes and blankets with a new background. Perhaps some action shots of Valentine [the cat] hiding from them (a streak of black down the hall).
We are home!
Took forever to get out of the hospital, but we finally left at 4:30pm, just in time for rush hour.
Getting home wasn't too bad, though. We got home, fed them, ate dinner, and crashed for an hour.
We're finishing another feeding right now and hoping to get another couple of hours.
Now that we're home, I'll probably stop with the daily updates so we can all get on with our lives. Thanks for all the good thoughts.
And, of course, some more pictures:
Daddy and Skinny-Legged Super-G
Mommy and Floppy-Necked Dex
Saturday, March 27, 2010
I had envisioned March going one of two ways—either I would simply be pregnant until March 29, when the scheduled C would go forward, or I would go into labor earlier and have earlier surgery (and maybe have to deal with the whole preemie thing). Either way, I figured I wouldn’t have to experience much “labor.” And I certainly didn’t anticipate having to deal with labor pains for at least a week before the babies came.
Is this normal? (Is there any “normal” when it comes to pregnancy?) For more than the past week, in late afternoon or evening, the contractions begin. Mind you, I also have contractions during the day. But they’re not regular, and they tend to be brought on by activity. In contrast, the evening contractions are coming every 8-10 minutes. Or maybe even closer, because I’m still having trouble figuring out what’s a contraction and what is just—for lack of a more precise term—pain. Dude, it hurts! The contractions tighten my abdomen and speed up my heart rate, and sometimes I whine and whimper as they get intense. But then there are also all these other pains in my abdomen—sharp stabbing pains, like one of the babies (okay, let’s lay blame where it’s due—it’s always Baby A) is trying to cut his way out from the inside. And then there are the pains in my even-lower torso (sometimes across my lower back or butt, sometimes in what feels like the bottom of my bladder, sometimes in more unmentionable places). And these extra pains aren’t on a schedule, they just hover around and in between the contractions, sometimes making it hard to tell the difference. Do I count those when I’m trying to figure out how far apart the contractions are? Who the hell knows?
But none of this really matters, because the one clear truth is that none of this is “real” labor. How do I know? Because it eventually goes away—sometimes by midnight, sometimes not until 4 or 5 in the morning. If it were “real” labor, I would have real babies, by now, right?
And so I wait. I hurt, and I wait. The one bright side is that at least I know the babies are coming out Monday morning no matter what. I can’t imagine wondering if this was going to keep going for weeks on end.
I guess I’m going through some figurative labor pains as well, which are a lot more interesting. This morning J and I went to a breastfeeding class. I had signed up for one weeks ago, but missed it (along with most of my other classes) due to hospitalization and recovery. When J mentioned that we could take a make-up class today I jumped at the chance (though I wasn’t even sure I could sit through the class). It was kind of funny to be going to a class like this when we’re going to be putting this very information into use the day after tomorrow (unbelievable!). I’m so glad we went. It seems like feeding the baby is about 80% of caring for the baby, and I was feeling frantic at my lack of knowledge about how it all works (especially with twins). Now I’m feeling a lot more confident.
In between all this whining, fussing, and desperate last-minute preparation, J and I are finding some excitement creeping in. Every day this week J has announced that this is our “last Thursday,” or “last Friday” before the babies come. Or he’ll mention, casually, “Did you realize that in three days our lives are going to change forever?” And then we’ll start giggling in disbelief, because neither of us really can get our heads around this idea. “Really,” we’ll say to each other (a la the SNL Weekend Update segment), “Really. We’re going to be parents on Monday. Really. They’re just going to hand us two babies and expect us to take care of them. Really.”
We started trying to conceive in June 2005. I was only 33 years old—the ideas of infertility, repeat pregnancy loss, adoption or IVF or the use of donor gametes never seriously having crossed my mind. In the past last five years, this naivety has been stripped from my soul. As I told a friend who was afraid she’d scare me with her high-risk-pregnancy stories, I’ve seen the boogeyman. J and I have been through three IUI cycles, one FET cycle, and five IVF cycles. We’ve had intense battles with the blood-sucking HMO over coverage for infertility, surgery, treatment for J. I’ve negotiated a shared-risk contract with my fertility clinic and taken out a second mortgage to cover the costs. I’ve had dozens of sonos, close to a hundred blood draws, and have lost track of how many sharps containers J and I have filled with our various injections. We’ve seen five pregnancies, and four miscarriages—one of which was an especially heartbreaking ectopic pregnancy. We’ve researched adoption, even gone so far as going to an international adoption meeting at a local agency. We’ve seen me through major surgery, and we’ve spent hours in front of my computer choosing a donor.
And god only knows how many tears I’ve cried. Huddling behind a closed door in my office, trying to regain control long enough to escape down the stairs (because waiting for an elevator is just too exposed) without anyone noticing, or praying no one would knock on my door while I waited for the xanax to kick in; hiding behind sunglasses while I walked through a neighborhood full of happy, screaming kids—playing basketball in the street or running through the sprinklers or the inflatable pool in front of their houses; rocking back and forth in my bed, wondering how long I could let myself go before giving myself a migraine. And the one time I heard J cry when I had to give him the bad news over the phone—just one cycle where we got a negative beta and it was just too much for him—when listening to him sob on the other end of the line broke my heart all over again.
I’m 38 years old now, and while I’ve been beaten and battered by the last five years, I wear my scars—literal and figurative—with pride. I would never wish this experience on anyone, but I’m not sorry about who I’ve become as a result, or what this has done to my marriage. I once thought that when I finally made it through this phase of my life (and that’s how I always made myself look at infertility—just a phase I had to get through, one way or another, to become a parent) I would look back on these years as “lost” years, years wasted on tears and obsession and desperation. But I don’t. I’m not even sure that they were the worst years of my life. Certainly infertility has been the worst thing that’s ever happened to me. But in these years good things have happened, too. In some ways, I feel like I’ve finally grown up. I finally feel like a real lawyer in a job that could well satisfy me for the rest of my career. I finally took the steps necessary to heal my chronic lower back problems, and I feel more confidence in my body’s ability to cope with aging than I have in years. And J and I have grown to love and appreciate each other’s strengths more than I ever thought possible. I couldn’t have chosen a better father for my children, and just thinking of him holding one of my babies makes my heart ache.
I’m scared about next week. Scared that, no matter how good our intentions, taking care of two babies is going to overwhelm us beyond our ability to cope. (It doesn’t help that much of the support promised from various friends has evaporated in the cold reality of their own job schedules and family obligations. And I can’t blame them—annual leave is precious and free time is hard to come by these days.) Scared that when neither of our needs are getting met, J and I won’t be able to maintain the cohesion we’ve achieved over the years. Scared that being stuck at home with two babies while J escapes back into theatre la la land (which will happen about three weeks after the babies are born) will make me bitter and resentful, or lead to post-partum depression.
But underlying that fear is a confidence that even if the beauty and magic of parenting doesn’t show up right away, even if J and I start sniping at each other, even if I get depressed and bitter and angry, this is going to be wonderful someday. We will get through this and still love each other, and we’ll love our babies more than anything we ever imagined. And I’m not sure I would have this confidence in myself—and in J—if we hadn’t traveled through hell and back together.
The day after tomorrow it all starts. I’m going to be a mommy. J’s going to be a daddy. And we’re gong to be a whole new kind of family. As J puts it, on Monday our lives change forever. To which I can only add: Hallelujah. It’s about fucking time.
Monday, March 22, 2010
(Prelude: I never wrote about it, but on February 26 I was hospitalized with a kidney stone. After five days, we agreed to have a stent put in—not to solve the problem, but to make it tolerable until after the pregnancy when they could actually do something to get rid of the stone. But some asshole anethesiologist talked me out of the agreed-on spinal block, which was a safer/more rational form of anesthesia for a woman 33 weeks pregnant with twins—he did this moments before the operation when I was wacked out of my mind on morphine and desperate to do the procedure—into general anesthesia, which carried a much greater risk of aspiration. And so I aspirated some of my stomach acid into my lungs, woke up in the recovery room with instant pneumonia, and spent four days in the ICU trying to breathe, with the doctors freaking out because I was having preterm contractions and was in no condition for a c-section while so ill.)
I’ve been home from the hospital for two weeks, and still haven’t been able to get myself to write about it. Which is a shame, because my memories of those 11 days, or at least the back half of them, could prove useful in a med mal lawsuit someday. Which is a possibility, though by no means a guarantee. And I’m already having trouble remembering what it was really like, remembering the physical pain and claustrophobic panic of the ICU, the sinking feeling of being totally duped by my anesthesiologist, and the sure knowledge that if I’d just had the mental wherewithal to say “no” to his suggestion that I switch from a spinal block to general anesthesia, I could have been home already, maybe even working, rather than struggling to breathe and wishing I wasn’t exposing my babies to yet more medicines, x-rays, and other interventions I’d hoped to avoid.
But right now that seems so far away. I’m in another place entirely—waiting for my world to change. I don’t know when it will happen, exactly. And I don’t know what I need to do to get ready for it anymore. J’s been working 16-hour days for the past week, maybe more. I’ve actually lost track. And though I’ve had some friends come by, it isn’t the same as having a real life outside of the bubble I’m floating in.
When I first got home I was still recovering, still healing, and desperately weak. I lost 15 pounds in the hospital, which sounds great in theory, but so much of it was muscle mass. I’ve never seen my arms so skinny.
Despite my weakness, I had a purpose. Every day, I would have a new priority, just one thing to I would have to deal with. I only had a couple of worthwhile hours a day to get stuff done. The rest of the time I was sleeping or resting or trying to get my feet up to reduce the swelling (the swelling was so bad in the hospital that even my slippers wouldn’t fit—I came home in hospital socks—but it suddenly went away (thank God!) about four days after I got home). The first day it was setting the wheels in motion for my disability insurance to process, and figuring out how to work my sick and annual leave around that. And then there was all the baby gear, bedding, and clothing that had been unpacked and arranged by the group of family and friends that had come to set up the house while I was in the hospital, just in case we came home with babies. I had to find space in my closets for more stuff, find ways to arrange everything so I knew where it was. And because any day could bring the babies into my life, each day was critical for getting ready. In fact, last Tuesday night I knew I was at the brink of total insanity when I vacuumed the house. That’s right. I’m on bedrest, but I vacuumed. I just couldn’t take it. The floors were disgusting, and J is at wits end just doing the essential stuff, so I couldn’t ask him. I actually hoped he wouldn’t notice (and if he did, he didn’t mention it). In short, my nesting hormones had taken over and I was helpless to resist.
And then the next day I was done. Oh sure, there’s plenty more housekeeping to be done. The fridge needs cleaning out and the mountains of crap balanced precariously on my dressers needs a home. And I guess at some point I need to get out the bag of tubes and bottles and mysterious paraphernalia that goes with my breast pumps and figure out how it all works. (Though I’m planning on renting a pump from the hospital the first month, so I’m counting on them showing me how it works.) But the basics are in place, and, like flicking a switch, the nesting instinct has switched off. And the house is getting gross again, because suddenly I just can’t face it anymore.
Last week J and I were faced with an unexpected choice. We went to our doctor’s appointment last Tuesday, fully expecting to be told that two days later—when I hit 36 weeks—I was to go off the procardia (the anticontraction medication I’d been on since arriving at the hospital in late February) and we would let nature take its course. If I went into labor, we would do a c-section immediately. If not, we stick with the 29th as our scheduled date.
But the doctor said we could stay on the drugs all the way up to the 29th if we liked. It was our decision. Mind you, this “choice” probably gave us a false sense of control, because the procardia won’t keep me from going into labor if my body really forces the issue, nor does going off it guarantee that labor will ensue. Part of me desperately wanted to stop taking the drugs. But J really, really, really needed me to stay on them for another week. I know a lot of people won’t understand how someone’s job can be that important, but he has a show to finish and he has classes to teach. He’s trying to convince his university to hire him full-time, an event that could lead to him being a tenured professor, rather than a freelance lighting designer who’s gone all the time. We’re desperate for this to happen in the next few years, as I don’t fancy raising these kids on my own. And he’s got some important classes next week (though now it’s looking like Thursday’s class is less important). Besides, we all know that bigger babies are better, and 37 weeks is better than 36. So I decided to stay on the drugs, as hard as I was struggling.
And then, late last week, the pregnancy took a turn for the stranger and less tolerable. I was up all night last Thursday and Friday nights with contractions. By Friday I was timing them, and they were averaging 10 minutes apart. Not real labor, not enough to warrant emergency surgery. But not something I could ignore either. By 3 a.m. Saturday morning J and I decided that it was just too much to expect to stay on like this for another week, and I stopped taking the procardia. We fully expected to have the babies on Saturday. But despite stopping the anticontraction meds, the contractions slowed and faded in the wee hours of the morning. By Saturday afternoon I had given up and gone back on the procardia. I still had the occasional contraction on Saturday and Sunday, but it looked like we were back in the waiting game. So I put on my game face and decided to settle in for the long haul.
Then last night—Sunday night—the contractions started again. Again, just outside of the reach of true labor (averaging 8 minutes apart for several hours), painful but not so bad I could be sure of a c-section if I went to the hospital. (Mind you, the LAST thing I think I can cope with is more time in the hospital and coming home still pregnant. I refuse to go to the hospital with a false alarm.) Again, I called J at work at about 10 p.m. and asked him how he felt about having babies that night. This time I stayed on my drugs, though. And sure enough, after a long and painful night, the contractions slowed down around 5 or 6 in the morning, allowing me to get a bit of sleep, an hour at a time. And then they faded away almost altogether, appearing only once or twice an hour.
When this happened on Saturday I was pretty chill about it, despite the fact that the contractions caused me to miss my allergy shots, which I desperately need this time of year. But today has been different. I don’t know if it’s that I’ve been home too long alone, or whether the all-day headache (likely from aforementioned allergies) wore me down, or whether I’m just having another hormone shift. But instead of being chill about waiting, or excited about the babies, all I feel is empty and tired and depressed.
The contractions are back tonight with a vengeance—it’s been going on for hours. They are starting to hurt like hell, but they still aren’t more often than 8 minutes apart. I never knew someone could be in sort-of, limbo-labor like this for so long. It’s so frustrating.
I expected J to be on his way home at 10. My procardia dose was due at 9, but I figured I’d wait and talk to him. At 10:45, I called to see if he was ever getting out of rehearsal. As soon as I heard his voice I started to cry. He told me that he’s in as good of shape as he needs to be this week, and we agreed that I should just stop taking the drugs.
So maybe I’m having babies tonight, or tomorrow. Or maybe not. Maybe my body is just going to keep fucking with me for another week.
I’m so tired. And frustrated. And weak. I wanted to go into motherhood strong and hardy, geared up for the c-section recovery and the challenges again. Instead I feel like I’m limping toward the finish line, both mentally and physically. Which would be great if the finish line was actually the finish, instead of a whole grueling new beginning.
I’ve fallen down the rabbit hole for sure. But I’m not in wonderland yet. I’m just falling and falling, waiting for the bottom to rise up and meet me.
Sunday, February 21, 2010
I'm in a really weird place right now. We had the baby shower yesterday, and it was really great. It was nice to have so many friends show up and I felt really loved.
Today I just feel ... strange. I don't know--maybe it's post-baby-shower letdown. I still need to figure out what to buy, and I still don't want to buy stuff too soon, but I'm getting kind of frantic to have everything in place so that I can stop worrying about it. I've become kind of stuff-obsessed, probably because I still can't envision how this is all going to work out. Not that I think it won't work out, but I just wish I could picture it, you know.
Oh, and my mother in law really upset me yesterday. My sister, my dad, and several of my friends went in together and put together a fund to hire me a night nanny. They’ve gathered enough to pay for seven nights, and they think they might be able to get a few more. This is a really great present. It doesn’t have to be seven nights in a row—I can spread it out over several weeks. But it does make me feel strange, because the night nanny is really most useful if I’m pumping or using formula instead of breastfeeding, and I still don’t know how that’s going to work out, and I have this fantasy that I’m actually going to be able to breastfeed my babies and all will be well. Then again, last night at 4 a.m. when I still wasn’t asleep and was feeling frantic, it occurred to me that having a night nanny come once a week for a couple of months is probably an amazing thing. And once I got over the idea that now I was going to have to buy the expensive items on my registry myself, I realized that this is probably a really fabulous present, because I will buy the stroller and car seats myself, but I would never splurge on a night nanny myself.
So what does my MIL have to do with it? I ended up arriving ½ hour late to the party (which annoyed me, but I couldn’t rush my friends who were driving with us, because they had traveled down from B’more to come to the shower). Apparently, before I got there—but while a lot of my friends were there—my sister asked my MIL whether she wanted to contribute to the night-nanny gift. And not only did she refuse, she gave my sister a dressing down in front of everyone, lecturing about how she would NEVER contribute to something like that because SHE had twins and SHE didn’t have any nighttime help and so on. (I didn’t get the exact quote.) So she really upset my sister, which just pisses me off. Because my sister has been WAY more supportive than anyone else in my family about all this.
And speaking of my sister, she took me out to dinner last week and told me that she might be splitting up with her husband. She’s already moved out into the guest bedroom, and I think it’s just a matter of months before they separate. The reasons are hard to explain (and when I tried to explain them to J he got really frustrated with me). The short version sounds like a cliché—she’s spent her whole life trying to make other people happy, and as part of that has pretended that she’s fine and not “damaged” (her word, not mine, because I think we learn and grow from our scars) by our rocky childhood (hers much worse than mine), and basically has been faking a happy family/happy marriage for years. But the thing is, it’s hard to explain why the marriage isn’t working. Her husband is a great guy, and she loves him. So there’s no villain here. She just wants out, and it sounds to me like it’s really going to happen. And it even sounds to me like this might be really good for her. I’m so glad that, after all these years, she’s taking a stand for herself and being a bit selfish.
But—to be a bit selfish myself—this really sucks. She and her husband and my nephew have been a HUGE source of stability for me. I mean, for god’s sake, J and I have been planning on executing a will naming them as the guardians of our kids if something happens to us. We love them as a couple, and I don’t know what happens to our tiny little family unit we’ve created here in DC if they split up. The truth is, this family unit right now consists of me, my husband, and my sister and her family. After all my broken/fucked up family problems, I've settled on creating a new family for our children. So it's hard to see that fantasy dissolve.
And it also just makes me sad. Because I want her to be happy, but I’m not sure this will make her happy, and I know it’s going to devastate her husband and hurt her child and I love them, too. And there’s NO ONE I can talk to about this. It’s not like I can talk to J’s mom about it, and I don’t think most of my friends would understand. (Though at least now that the shower’s over I can talk to them about it. I didn’t want anyone to feel awkward at the shower.) The truth is, the person I talk to about stuff like this is my sister, and the last thing I want to do is lay a guilt trip on her when she’s finally finding herself.
Okay, now I’m sitting in my chair bawling. I think I hadn’t realized how upset I was about this before now. It’s just that everything seems to be going topsy turvy right when I need stability more than anything.
And it doesn't help that my body's frequent temper tantrums have me completely disoriented. I ended up staying up too late last night, then was awake most of the night with back pain and burning, screaming, excrutiating heartburn that no drug seemed able to touch. I'm having trouble even finding foods I can eat. Had macaroni with butter and parmesean for lunch today--how sad is that. So then I ended up sleeping all afternoon today, and now it's dark outside and I'm just disoriented and fussy.
I’m worried that I’m going to end up freaking out when I’m stuck at home with the babies. I think I need my job more for structure than for stimulation. When I'm home for several days in a row, especially alone, I get into this funk where I don't know what I should be doing or feeling.
So I’m kind of a mess today.
* * *
Wanted to note that I realized there IS someone I can talk to. Called my BFF in Boston who I sometimes forget I can hit with this stuff, even though her life is very different from mine. It was really nice, and I'm feeling a bit better.
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
I haven't been able to get my shit together and blog for weeks, so instead I thought I'd just pass on a mashup of email rants I've sent out in the past week:
God, I'm losing it. My doctor today confirmed what I suspected: I'm basically experiencing full-term pregnancy . . . with six more weeks to go. As of three weeks ago I already was carrying about 7 pounds of baby (3.3 and 3.6 pounds). I can't eat without getting stomachaches, nausea, and heartburn, and I can't digest what I do manage to eat. I can't really walk that well, because my knees are getting tweaked and my legs and feet hurt. And nighttime is the WORST. I can't sleep, because my back and hips are killing me. And turning over totally sucks. Sometimes I'm just happy to have morning come so I can give up on trying to sleep. Every three or four nights I get a decent night's sleep, but it's a real crap shoot otherwise. I've thought about trying to sleep in my recliner, but I can't recline it very far before the dizziness/heart pounding starts, which tells me the babies are sitting on my vena cava. And I worry that it'll hurt my upper back and neck so badly it won't be worth it. AARGGHH. Very frustrating.
And my work responsibilities just WILL NOT LET UP. This storm last week really messed me up. I was supposed to have oral argument on Wednesday--and I already was upset that it had been scheduled this late in my pregnancy. Now it's been canceled and likely will be rescheduled in MARCH. And it's not like I can easily ask someone else to handle it. The issues are incredibly complicated and I know the case really well, but it would take days for someone else to get caught up (and that person still might not really get the argument). So as long as I'm hauling my gigantic self into the office a few days a week, I'm really in no position to say I can't walk across the street and argue a case in court. But I REALLY REALLY REALLY don't want to do it. Any teeny amount of stress is kicking my ass at this point. On top of that, I have two briefs (that are interrelated and therefore hard to separate and reassign) due in March. I'd like to just knuckle down and focus on them, but other shit keeps cropping up that needs my attention. And I'm actually feeling so crappy that I'd love to just stop working altogether.
Oh, and I have all this baby stuff to get done too, like meet with our day care person (I think we found someone!), and find a pediatrician, and take our parenting classes, etc. And CRAP, I keep forgetting that I need to meet with our personnel specialist and call the disability people and figure out how to get all of my leave paperwork taken care of, too.
And apparently my pregnancy hormones have finally kicked in. I was snowed in all week last week, which you'd think would lead to blogging, but I was so cranky I couldn’t even get started at it. At first I thought it was stress over work, then I thought it was cabin fever. But finally I realized that it could be those third trimester hormones kicking in. You know that PMS feeling where you're so agitated you just want to start screaming at everything and nothing? That's how I'm feeling almost ALL the TIME. Add in the random panic attacks (also for no reason--simply a physical reaction to having twice as much blood, my doc says) and I'm not good company.
The rest of the time I’m weepy and sad. My sister suggested that I put together some baby pictures of me and J for our baby shower this Saturday, and I got all upset, because there really ARE NO baby pictures of me. (Totally true. My parents took a ton of pictures of my sister, but when I was born they took almost none. My mom had a nervous breakdown after I was born. And those that she did have of me she managed to lose in one of her many moves over the years. I have maybe two or three pictures, which just happened to be in a school project from 7th grade that I had kept. For a long time I thought my dad would have some pictures (given that he’s an amazing amateur photographer), but when he sent me his CD archives a few years ago I discovered that aside from the ONE photo of me in the hospital, there are no pictures until I’m more than two years old.) Anyway, I ended up sitting on the couch crying about this, asking myself why no one loved me as a baby. Like this isn’t the oldest of old news. But there’s something about being an almost-mom that brings out the strangest thoughts about my own parents. Who suck.
We're making progress on getting the house ready, but that's been kind of stressful, too. Especially now that it seems that--despite everyone's assurances that "lots of people will want to buy you stuff"--no one seems to be buying us anything off our registry. I feel horrible and greedy for feeling so disappointed about this, but I spent weeks putting together that registry (which is okay, I guess, because it's still a good shopping list) and it feels weird to have it ignored. My shower is this Saturday, and it doesn't seem like many people are coming. Again, normally I'd be cool with this, but it's also a little strange. I keep telling myself that it's okay--we have a little bit of money (from last years health care flex account) set aside to buy the essentials, and we have been given a TON of secondhand stuff. In fact, I suspect I have more clothes than I'll be able to use in the first few months (though it's hard to tell for sure). But I’m still feeling let down.
Rest assured, I will somehow get through all of this. But I’m struggling like I never have before. I feel like I’m clawing my way on hands and knees to the finish line, and I’ll be lucky to make it across in one piece.
So . . . how’s everyone else doing?
Sunday, January 17, 2010
Saturday, January 16, 2010
I am greatly in need of reassurance, because I’ve entered into a new world of terror. For six months all I’ve thought about is my babies dying. (Okay, that’s not ALL I thought about, but it’s been my overarching fear.) Then, for the last few weeks, what with the constant kicking and every week bringing me closer to viability, that fear has eased.
Now I have a new fear: my babies coming out damaged in some way. And the little monsters apparently are in on it, because they’ve (almost) completely stopped kicking. Maybe that’s an exaggeration—I can’t really tell, because I wasn’t timing or counting the movements before. They’re definitely still alive in there—each one checks in occasionally. But both babies’ movements seem have become less frequent and much fainter.
Here’s what happened (in my paranoid cause-and-effect way of thinking): I think (but am not sure) that everything was normal (i.e. lots of strong movement, mostly twisting type stuff) as of last Wednesday. Then, on Thursday night, I had a really really bad night. I had an incredibly stressful day at work, and my day-long pounding on my keyboard triggered some sort of muscle spasm behind my left shoulder. That night, I discovered for the first time that I couldn’t lie on my back for even a minute or two (before this I tried not to lie on my back, but I kept waking up in that position so I knew it was happening anyway) without the dizzy/heart-racing/nausea feeling that lets you know that the babies are, in fact, crushing the vena cava. And though I never believed that this also could happen sleeping on the right side, it seemed that I was getting that sensation sleeping on that side as well (or maybe I was having a panic attack). And my left side had this throbbing shoulder and sleeping on that was killing me as well.
Sometime in the middle of the night I got up to pee, eat, and see if I could do something about my shoulder. When this shoulder problem used to happen, I could spend 15 minutes lying on my back with one of my “miracle balls” (used for physical therapy) between my shoulder blades. Despite my concerns about lying on my back, I tried this. And despite the fact that I was feeling panicky and dizzy, I stayed there for a few minutes. (Not sure how long—definitely under 5 minutes.) Baby A was kicking when I started this, then his kicks faded away.
A few minutes later I got up and tried to ice my shoulder while lying on my recliner. But the dizzy/panicky feeling remained. At this point I don’t know if it was the pain, a panic attack, or an actual circulation problem. Baby B gave some feeble kicks, and I think I got some movement from Baby A, so I knew they were both still alive after my admittedly foolish move.
And then I started to worry (and yes, this really does sound crazy to me). What if I cut off their blood supply enough to damage them, but not kill them? What if I have brain-damaged babies in there now? What if I’ve ruined their lives, and our lives in the bargain?
The thing is, these thoughts probably would have eased by now but my babies have chosen this moment to go into partial hibernation! Every day they kick—I know they’re alive. But it’s NOTHING like what I was feeling in the past few weeks, or even earlier this week. (Actually, I think Baby B is about where she was before with movement. But Baby A—my baby that NEVER stops moving—seems to kick only rarely now and weakly.)
My rational explanation: earlier this week, for both babies, the kicking was surpassed by a lot of strange twisty motions. (Very hard to describe, but I imagine some of you know what I mean.) My rational guess is that the babies have changed position—or at least Baby A has changed position—and now his kicks aren’t in a place that I feel as much. I also wonder if they’ve gotten bigger and don’t have the leverage to kick like they used to. Or maybe there was just a growth spurt and he’s tired out.
But my rational explanation isn’t doing much for my mounting paranoia/terror. I’ve already decided that if this doesn’t change by Monday I’ll probably call my doctor and see what they think. But for now, please tell me, is this normal?