Friday, March 23, 2012

The Twin Effect

There are three main reactions you get when you tell someone you are having twins. Some people get REALLY excited. They gush and say congratulations over and over and ask if there are twins in your family and talk about what a blessing twins are. Then there are the folks that seem horrified. They gasp in shock and stare at you as if wondering why you aren’t freaking out more. They say things like “What are you going to do?”, ”Better you than me” or even ”Good luck with that.”

Then there are the folks that seem much more interested in how you came to be than in the fact you are coming. Fertility drugs have certainly increased the number of twins that are around. But, most IVF twins are fraternal twins. Fraternal twins occur in nature when the woman ovulates more than one egg at a time and both eggs are fertilized at the same time. Fraternal twins are just as likely to look alike as any two siblings are, they are just carried at the same time. IVF involves implanting already fertilized eggs into the uterus. Because it is expensive and doesn’t have a horribly high rate of success, frequently more than one fertilized egg will be implanted at once. Many times only one egg makes it into a viable pregnancy, but other times, two or more eggs survive and twins, or even higher order multiples occur. Identical twins occur when one egg is fertilized, and then at some point after fertilization, the zygote splits into two embryos. Identical twins occur in about 2-3% of pregnancies and account for about 30% of all twins. Although identical twins can happen with IVF, it is about the same rate as occurs in non-fertility assisted pregnancies. Identical twins don’t run in families. No one knows what causes the egg to split, it is just the luck of the draw. But, the average person doesn’t know this and so I patiently explain that while there are two sets of fraternal twins in my dad’s cousins, there aren’t any identical twins that we know of in my family. But, identicals don’t run in families and this was just a fluke. However, this usually doesn’t answer the question these people are trying to ask. Usually what they want to know is if I was taking fertility drugs or if we did IVF. So, they then ask something they perceive as a tactful way of getting at this information, but that kind of make me cringe.

“So, were you trying to get pregnant.” I feel like asking “Well, what do you mean by trying? Like did we MEAN to have sex? Are you really asking me about my sex life?” But, I know that they aren’t trying to be rude, they are just curious. A twin pregnancy is still rare enough that people are somewhat fascinated. I will usually say that we did not use fertility drugs. Most people seem surprised by this and I guess given how many fertility multiples there are, people are much more likely to know someone who had twins via IVF or Clomid than not. I try not to get offended, but after the 1000th time you answer that question, you start to get kind of irritated. I hear from other Mothers of Multiples that I will get even more tired of people asking if you are identical when you are here. I can see how that would be.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

We Interrupt Your Regularly Scheduled Programming...

Ok girls, up until now, I have been writing about stuff in a linear sequence, but I have to break in today. Today I am 31 weeks and 4 days pregnant. And I look and feel every single day of it. Please don’t misunderstand me. I feel blessed that you are both growing, and are healthy. I thank my lucky stars that I haven’t had a lot of problems carrying you and I hope sincerely that I can carry you all the way to “twin full-term”, but I just have to say, that I am getting really tired of being pregnant. Not the carrying you part of pregnancy, just the condition in and of itself.

There are women who say that they never have felt better than when they are pregnant. That they are born to do this. They glow and say how wonderful they have felt through their pregnancy and they frankly, make me want to vomit a little bit. Or slap them.  Or just call shenanigans.  I think it must be some type of lie they perpetuate to make sure we suckers will join them in Mommy-hood.

My good friend Michelle describes pregnancy this way: “For 30 years, your body has been all about you. Keeping you alive and doing what is best for you. Then when you get pregnant it is like your body turns on you. All of the sudden, things that have worked one way forever, all of the sudden are different. You are no longer priority number one. If the baby needs hormones, it is really irrelevant that those hormones are poisoning you. The baby gets the hormones and you feel sick.” That Michelle is one smart cookie. And what can you expect? She is a rocket scientist after all.

Now, I heard her say these things, but until you live them, you just can’t understand how TRUE they are. Feeling bloated, crampy, nauseous and bone tried during the first (and for me second trimester) was not fun. But, it was disconcerting too. All my life, when I felt nauseous, the remedy was usually to throw up. If it was something that I ate that made me sick, getting rid of it usually at least helped if not alleviated the issue. But in pregnancy, this is no longer true. I felt nauseous, I vomited, I continued to feel awful, I vomited some more. I still felt nauseous. But even more appalling, quickly afterward, I frequently got hungry. It was like my body was saying “Nope, that didn’t satisfy my whim today, try again.” And each day, it was a different thing it didn’t like. Today Saltines are ok, tomorrow saltines make you sick, but applesauce works. Next week neither of those work. Things you have always loved like peanut butter now couldn’t turn you off more if it was spread of horse manure. Everything just changes.

Feeling hungry while being nauseous is a horrible feeling. You know you need to eat. I mean, after all, there are two little growing beings in there that need food. But, you have NO idea what might go down and stay down, or if that is even possible. You contemplate what might be easy on your stomach. You contemplate what might be the least objectionable food currently at your disposal to throw up. You try to gauge whether you can ignore the hunger and just not eat anything else and go to sleep. I call this “the Scarlett O’Hara I will think about it tomorrow” plan. You learn that this tactic frequently leads to waking up dry heaving…and usually before you have even gotten to tomorrow yet. You learn to choke down crackers while feeling like any minute you could be seeing them again. And this is very bizarre because never in your life before have you tried to eat while feeling this sick and the whole time your brain is screaming “What are you doing?!?” All the old strategies for feeling sick no longer apply and you have no idea what to expect. Sometimes you think you just feel a little bit nauseous and then all of the sudden, it is on you and you have to run to find a bathroom (at these times, the little blue emesis bags were god-sends). Other times, you would think vomiting was imminent and you would wait all night and never throw up, just be convinced you were going to. And then one day, boom. You are just ravenously hungry. No nausea. No explanation. Just today, it’s over.

And then, there was a time there when I was big, but not too big. When I was tired, but not exhausted. A time when I couldn’t run a marathon (well, ok, maybe I could never run a marathon, but you get my drift), but I could still grocery shop, or clean house or help with household painting and floor installation without feeling like I might die. That time seems to have been quite brief. It wasn’t long before I felt like I got huge. Now, other people still say I don’t look big enough to have twins in there. I don’t know what to tell them. Right now you are both approximately 3.5lbs. There is 7 lbs of baby and a bunch of amniotic fluid in there. The doctor measured me at 37 cm. That is what the average singleton pregnancy would measure at about full-term. I have no idea where it seems to be hiding, but it is there. And I feel every ounce of it when I walk around, try to roll over in bed, or lift my arms above my head. I can climb one flight of stairs. At the top I will be quite out of breath and feel slightly dizzy and faint. I wasn’t in the best of shape before you, but I could climb one flight of stairs and hardly breathe any differently at the top. Give me 3 or 4 flights and I might breathe a little faster, but I would think nothing of it. I am pretty much good for nothing right now. Even sitting or lying in one spot for too long hurts.

And I am not complaining here, but Pippa, your stubborn refusal to get down out of my lungs seems to have caused one of my floater ribs to either stretch and separate, or actually cracked it. And it HURTS. If I sit up straight and hold still, it’s fine. It hurts to lay down, but not horribly. But holy cow, twisting or maneuvering to get up out of bed (something I do at least 4-5 times a night now) really stings. And coughing and sneezing pretty much suck donkey balls (as Daddy would say). Now you girls have switched places. In a strange move, you both are diagonally transverse (not up and down, but not really all sideways either) with now Kate’s head lodged up under that rib. And Pippa seems to think it is a blast to either kick or punch me in the cervix. I got news for you kid, banging on the door is not the way you are going to get out. You are going to have to get down there and head butt it. You have to wait a couple of weeks to do that, but you could get down there and get all ready and in position anytime now and that would be just fine with Mom. After all, if I can breathe more easily, you will too. Just sayin’.

It occurs to me that pregnancy is designed so that toward the end, you are so uncomfortable, the idea of labor doesn't seem so bad if you are done with pregnancy in the end.  Of course, for me, the idea of two babies to take care of is still pretty scary, but it's seeming more appealing every day.

Ok, so I know you need 4 more weeks of cooking, at least, before you are ready to make your debut. And in truth, if I had to do this for several more months, I would do it. But, boy am I glad it’s getting toward the end. Aside from being so curious to meet you I could just burst (this might be less if you were more willing to pose for the ultrasound, Pippa, I am talking directly to you my girl), I am anxious to give you every chance at health and a good start in life. So, stay in there and cook a while longer, but do me a favor and cook while floating head down the way you are supposed to. Daddy says that he thinks the way you guys are laying would be the most comfortable way to be, like in a lazy boy. You must agree. Whatever, just stay in there for a while, ok?

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

All is Revealed

We were both relieved the 12 week ultrasound date had finally arrived. Glenn had spent his sleepless nights researching the 12 week nuchal translucency test and knew precisely what was going to happen. I had researched it, but not nearly as in-depth as he had. The ultrasound appointment was first. I wasn’t feeling great, but I was very ready to see you guys and make sure all was well. I knew I had probably lost weight rather than gained and I worried about your development. Plus, I had read about vanishing twin syndrome and I wasn’t sure what was worse, one baby that had it’s twin disappear, or two babies stuck in the same sack. We went into the ultrasound room and I lay down on the table. The tech pulled out the wand and squirted jelly on my tummy (which was nice and warm) and got the machine all ready. She put the wand on my belly and then she pulled the wand away and said something like “are we looking for more than one baby?” Glenn said “There’s two?” I swatted at Glenn and said “Yes, it is twins.”, so relieved that there were still two babies. She looked back at our chart and got very flustered. I imagine she has probably accidentally told a couple or two that they were having twins and obviously, she didn’t want to be the one to break that news. But, she was also upset as the appointment had not been made for twins, so we hadn’t scheduled enough time to scan both babies adequately. She went into a set-up screen and changed the number of fetus option from 1 to 2 and we were off!

They refer to the baby closest to the cervix (or presenting baby), as Baby A. We looked at Baby A first, checking the fluid on the back of the neck (the nuchal translucency) and it was well within the range so as not to indicate Down’s syndrome. We heard your little heart beating, saw you batting your arms and kicking your legs. Saw the fingers on one hand. The little zipper-like spine was easy to spot and at one point, you flipped all the way over. I thought the technician had flipped the picture somehow, but she said “No, that baby just turned over.” Glenn and I held hands, and he kept asking if I could feel you moving. I couldn’t. It amazed me how much you were moving and I felt nothing. In the background behind you, we caught glimpses of Baby B. Then, we switched over to Baby B and did all the measurements and checks again. Again, good heart rate, and the nuchal translucency was good. We were relieved to find out you were both healthy, but we really wanted to know about the membrane. Had she seen it? We couldn’t see it at all, but Glenn asked just as we were wrapping up and the tech said that yes, she had seen a hair like membrane between you. We walked out of that room on cloud 9.

Now you look much more like a real baby.  Although I can't remember which one this was.  What a bad mommy I am.

Glenn was very animated and excited as we moved to the doctor’s office and awaited a visit from the doctor. I was very happy, but I was also feeling very crummy. When the doctor walked in to me sitting over the trash can, he said, “Well, this won’t do.” Thankfully he prescribed me two drugs to help manage the nausea. He confirmed that everything had looked good at the ultrasound and that we were in fact having mono-chorionic/di-amniotic twins! Praise the Lord!

Glenn and I headed to Chick-Fil-A again after the appointment, but I couldn’t eat much of it. I was anxious to go fill my prescription and try these anti-nausea drugs. And we were both anxious to tell people. We had been keeping this secret (although I think most of my co-workers had figured out that me looking like death and puking in the bathroom meant I was pregnant) and it was so fun to be able to tell people.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Waiting with Bated Breath

For your grandmother, it seems that being sworn to secrecy was the hardest part. She had been waiting so long to be a grandma that she just was fit to burst. She insisted that on our way back from Bertram we stop in Georgetown and tell my grandparents. She HAD to have someone to talk to about this. I couldn’t leave her all week with my Dad back in Lubbock and no one to talk to about it. So, although we were both exhausted, we headed to Grandma & Grandpa’s house to share the news. My Mom met us there. I guess she couldn’t wait to see the looks on their faces. We came in and G&G were settled in their den for the evening, Grandpa in his chair, Grandma on the couch. I told them we had some news and told them we were expecting in May. They seemed very happy, but not really overly excited. I mean, they already had quite a few great-grandchildren by this point. But, when I said it was twins, they got pretty excited. We briefly mentioned the mo-mo possibility, but breezed right over it. We asked them to pray for the babies to be healthy and every time I saw them after that, they told us they prayed for the twins each night before bed. I am sure they asked for more details from my mom later that week, but I imagine she glossed over it just as my dad had done with her. It really was too awful to think about for long.

And there were lots of other folk that prayed for you too. My Mom told a missionary couple they have known for years that we needed prayers and they prayed for you. You were unspoken prayer requests at church until the news came out. Little did you know it, but we prayed that darn little membrane into being.

Glenn and I really were on pins and needles waiting for that 12 week ultrasound that would reveal our fate. Glenn would say “It just can’t be mo/mo. The odds are so slim for a mo/mo pregnancy.” We were very hopeful, but the stories we had read online gave both of us nightmares. Glenn didn’t sleep at all at night It might have kept me up at night too, except that I was so darn tired I would fall into bed right after work and never get out. He stopped eating and I didn’t realize it until we had dinner with my parents several weeks later and my Mom pointed out how gaunt he looked. He lost about 15 lbs worrying about you guys in there.

For my part, each day I got sicker and sicker. Smells overwhelmed me and made me sick to my stomach. If I didn’t eat soon enough, I got sick. If I ate, I got sick. I would get up at night and eat toast or applesauce trying to stave off the nausea. During the day, there wasn’t a smell that escaped my notice. I would walk down the hallway thinking: Hmmm, strawberry yogurt, oh boy, someone needs some deodorant, wow, that lotion is really strong. I have always had what my co-workers refer to as a dog nose. I can smell someone peeling an orange 4 cubes away when not pregnant. Add pregnancy senses and I was almost kind of scary. I would suck on peppermint, which did seem to help both mask smells and soothe my stomach. But, the further we went, the more miserable I got.

At one point, in the middle of the night, I got up feeling sick and went into the spare bath. Glenn had taken off his tennis shoes in there and left them by the tub, for some unknown reason. I began feeling sick, but I needed to use the restroom. I realized I was going to be sick before finishing and tried valiantly to turn to throw up in the tub and managed to spew into his shoes. I told him that for the next couple of months, anything in the bathroom was fair game. Move it or lose it.

I had several close calls at work, but always made it to the bathroom in time. But, driving to work, I had to pull over one day, so I finally bit the bullet and ordered a box of air sickness bags to carry with me. Those suckers are worth their weight in gold when you really need them.

However, it really troubled me that I was having issues with swallowing my prenatal vitamins. I had been taking them for months without a hitch, but I had noticed they smelled pretty foul. I was able to overlook this before the pregnancy, but as just about every food started to bug me, the prenatals became a daily battle. I would save them until a meal, dreading taking them. It didn’t matter what smelly drink I tried to take them with, I could still smell them and just could barely gag them down. I worried that I really needed the vitamins so you guys could grow strong, but I just couldn’t get them down. And then one morning, I had the brilliant idea to use tropical fruit punch to wash them down. Using grape juice had been successful the day before. We were out of grape juice, but I thought fruit punch might mask it enough to get them down. I tried swallowing one and ended up throwing up while on my way to the toilet. I dry heaved until I was exhausted and I lay down on the bathroom floor trying desperately to convince my stomach that it was indeed empty and didn’t need to purge any longer. Glenn came in to find me on the floor with bright red vomit all around me and almost had a heart attack. He helped me to bed and cleaned the whole mess up like a champ. In fact, he was very helpful through this phase. I often was embarrassed and didn’t want him to see me that way, but he always brought me cool wash rags, and helped me to bed. He re-purposed a trash can and stationed it by my side of the bed. He took great care of me and commiserated with how miserable I felt.

Friday, March 2, 2012

More Fun Reveals

The next day there was a UT football game on TV, so we headed out to Craig’s to watch the game. He had Matt and Casey (Glenn and Craig’s friends who had four year old fraternal boy/girl twins) were at the game. Ben and Connie, their twins who inspired Glenn to hope for twins before we even met were also there. I tried valiantly to watch the game, but was so exhausted I fell asleep. I didn’t think this was ALL that telling, since Casey took the twins up to watch a movie when they got bored and fell asleep herself. And I knew she wasn’t pregnant, but apparently it set off some warning bells. Later in the day, Casey asked Glenn if he was getting a baby for his birthday. He elegantly side-stepped this issue by saying no. After all, he was getting TWO babies!

After the game, when it was just Glenn, Craig and me, Glenn pulled out a gift for Craig. He had discussed different methods of telling his brother and eventually decided to utilize those onesies I had gotten him. He was giving Craig two of his shirts that were slightly too small. Rolled up inside each shirt was a onesie. The plan was that Craig would open the first, we would say “Surprise, we are pregnant!” and get all the excitement out, then he would open the second, find another onesie and we could say “Surprise! It’s twins!” Glenn had asked me why I deviated from the plan to give my parents time to digest the one fact before springing the other. I told him that I just panicked when my Mom cried. He admitted that her reaction surprised him too, but that my immediate revelation hadn’t helped the situation, but it was already done. So, we resolved to do it right with Craig.

He opened the first shirt and exclaimed how much he liked it as the onesie rolled onto the floor. He looked down at it, and promptly ignored it and took to admiring the shirt. Neither Glenn nor I knew how to respond to this. This was not how this was supposed to play out. We just kind of sat there in shock as Craig proceeded to pull out the other shirt and admire it. He scooped up the onesies and put them in his lap and set about totally ignoring them. Glenn finally said something to him about well, did you see what else was in there. Craig finally acknowledged the white rolls and with some prompting opened the first one. He didn’t seem horribly shocked or surprised. And of course, he asked immediately if there were two since there were two onesies. We were batting zero for 2 on letting the idea sink in. Oh well! Craig said later that when he first saw the rolled up onesie, he thought Glenn had given him tighty whities and didn’t want to open them. What a goof. He seemed genuinely pleased about the idea of twin nieces or nephews. We talked for a while about it all and showed him the ultrasound pics. He told us he was happy for us and seemed to take it all in stride.

On Sunday, we drove out to Bertram to visit Gaylon and Jean. We hung around the house and talked for quite a while. I kept expecting Glenn to say something about it and I was on pins and needles the whole time, but Glenn chit-chatted about this and that with not a care in the world it seemed. As it neared dinner time, I nudged Glenn and told him that if he didn’t say something soon, we wouldn’t have any time to talk about it before having to leave to eat. Finally he brought the gift bag with the onesies in and gave them to his father.

After much thought about what went wrong with the reveal to Craig, Glenn decided that a bag with JUST the rolled up onesies was the best plan. He rolled them and unrolled them and rolled them even tighter several times during the drive there. Gaylon reached in the bag and pulled out the first. The little UT longhorn was clearly visible, but it wasn’t clear what it was. As Gaylon unrolled them, he said, “Are they socks?” and both Glenn and I said no. He got the onesie opened up and plainly had no idea what it was, but it was clear from the squeal from Jean that knew PRECISELY what it was. There were maybe a minute or two of excited talk before Gaylon reached in the bag and said “Another one?” and the twins were out of the bag….literally. At least they got SOME time to absorb. Jean was overjoyed at the thought of children in the family and Gaylon seemed quite pleased at the thought himself. As we discussed it more though, there were times that Gaylon would get a blank expression on his face. You could almost see the Excel spreadsheet in his head tallying up the expenses of two babies at once. He would say something like “Wow! Twins!” and then snap back to the present. We explained the mo-mo possibility to them as well, but it was easier to reassure them that although it wasn’t good, it also wasn’t for sure and to pray for a good outcome. Not being medically trained, or having heard of it, they were smart enough not to Google it.