thoughts on pregnancy

… very post partum!

The girls will be nine months old next week and I find it interesting how frequently I think back on my pregnancy, the delivery and the weeks following.  I suppose the fact that my dear friend VIcky is going through some pregnancy concerns may have triggered some of these thoughts (if you pray, please pray for her and sweet baby Bubbles and her husband Tim and their little boy Caleb).  But anyway, in no particular order, the things I think about are:

How strangely calming it was to be on hospital bed rest.  Perhaps that’s where the phrase “peace that passes human understanding” comes from. And while I’m sure I was not always peaceful about it, the way that I remember it was that I didn’t have much anxiety about the situation most of the time.  I remember being alone in my room a lot, looking out the window at the office of my childhood pediatrician. The memories of my childhood pediatrician are pleasant, although most memories involve being home from school sick.

Aside from actually being sick, I usually liked being home from school sick because it afforded a sneak peek into a world I didn’t usually get to enjoy.  It put the world into a new context for me – a glimpse into what adults did while I was at school. Often I would look at the clock and think of what I should be doing in class and compare it to what was going on in the world around me – the mailman delivering mail, neighbors out walking, adults going to the store and so on.  I would hear my bus stopping near my house, dropping off all of the other students who had gone to class and I wondered what it would be like if I had been at school that day and was disembarking the bus at that moment, instead of tucked away in my bed.

And really, that’s what it was like on hospital bed rest.  The world was going on around me and I was watching it happen from my adjustable hospital bed. I tried not to think too much about work, although I checked in frequently to make sure that everything was OK. It was as though if I could just make it another day and just stay pregnant a little bit longer, it would be so much better for our girls.  I made it ten days.

I also think a lot about the labor and delivery. I remember it like I was watching things happen to me and not actively doing something about the situation.  As a matter of fact, I spent much of my mental energy trying to stop the freight train of labor so that Frank could be there for the delivery.

I was apprehensive about delivery because I felt like there was a big question mark hanging over the outcome. I wondered, somewhat fearfully, what my children would look like.  I wondered if they would look like real babies and if the image of alien-looking babies would follow me for my entire life.  It made me sad to think that their birth wouldn’t be “normal” – that a trip to the NICU was a certainty.

I remember the doctor announcing I was “complete” (ready to deliver), but was only measuring 9 cm (normally you measure 10 cm before you push).  Then I realized that the reason I was “complete” was because they were expecting me to deliver very, very small babies.  I was filled with dread.

When they wheeled me into the operating room to deliver and told me to start pushing, I was suddenly confused and unsure of how to do it.  I had thought about this moment over and over in my head, but I found myself afraid to push.  Not because I was afraid of pain, but I was afraid I’d push too hard and hurt the babies.  Silly, right?

I pushed anyway. The girls were born within 20 minutes.  I remember wondering, as I was pushing, whether they would cry when they were born.  When Ellie was born, I found myself holding my breath, waiting for her to take her first breath.  Oh, and when she cried, it was the sweetest sound I’d ever heard.

And when just three minutes later, Carrie was born, screaming and all angry, I was flooded with relief.

Yes, they were small, but OH! they looked like real life babies! I was so relieved.

I did get to hold Ellie in the operating room for a few seconds – long enough to snap a picture.  I think about that moment a lot – how surreal it felt. How different that moment felt than I had ever imagined.

I also think pretty frequently about getting to go see my girls in the NICU after I spent time in recovery. My entire pregnancy, the thing I couldn’t wait for was hearing the lullaby played over the intercom system at the hospital.  But all the times I had imagined it, I was holding my babies with my husband.  Instead, the first strains of the song rang out as I was being wheeled to the NICU through a long, winding hallway.  The doors of the NICU ward opened and directly ahead of me painted on the wall was an excerpt from the poem “‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers” by Emily Dickinson:

“Hope” is the thing with feathers—
That perches in the soul—
And sings the tune without the words—
And never stops—at all—

And oh, how those words chilled me.  I remember seeing those words when we toured the hospital two months earlier.  I remember seeing those words on our tour and saying a quiet prayer in my head that I wouldn’t see them again.

There I was, facing those words and hearing the song playing over intercom and my heart was so sad.  “This is not how I imagined it!” I wanted to say.  But there were no words.

As they wheeled me into Ellie’s room, the second lullaby started playing for Carrie. They wheeled me up to her incubator, a glass box, and there was my very small, but very beautiful, baby girl.  She was hooked up to monitors and an IV and wearing only a diaper.

They placed her in my arms and I think about that moment, too.  I was so sorry.  I felt like she was hooked up to monitors and IV’s and I didn’t do everything possible to stop it. I came up short and she had only been alive for a few hours.

Carrie hadn’t been cleaned up yet or fully observed, so I didn’t get to hold her.  I looked at her through the glass, marveling at her tiny, perfect features.

I think a lot about going back to my hospital room on the Mother & Baby floor.  All of those rooms, in my mind, were full of babies and their mommies.  And I was going back empty and alone.

I think about swallowing all of those feelings and thoughts when I saw my little girls. They needed me to be strong.  They needed me to be happy when I saw them and to cover them in love. This whole thing wasn’t about me any more.

I think about the next day when they explained to us that the girls would need feeding tubes. While we were sitting in Carrie’s room, they ran her feeding tube through her nose and into her tummy.  She screamed these fragile, tiny baby cries that broke our hearts.

I remember the sound of the breath leaving Frank as he watched them run the feeding tube.  The “oomph” was like he had been punched in the gut.

I think a lot about the nights when we first had them at home.  The nights sort of blurred together. On the morning that Prince William and Catherine Middleton married, Carrie woke up at 3 a.m. Frank and I wound up watching the entire wedding, thanks to Carrie.

I turn these moments over in my head, over and over.  I think about what they mean, how they changed me, and wonder what would’ve happened if things went differently.

But what happened is what happened, as un-profound as that is. Months and months later, the girls are doing great. They are healthy, vibrant, active little girls.  They laugh and squeal and chatter.  It’s hard to imagine that they were born a minute before they were meant to.

The more I talk to people and hear their stories, the more I realize that life rarely turns out as expected or planned. Perhaps that’s what John Lennon meant when he said, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”

Life is fragile and delicate and rough and sharp and beautiful.

evolution

For those of you who were guessing that my post would be an announcement of another pregnancy – you are very wrong.

Frank would lose his ever-loving mind if we had another child barely a year younger than the twins.

Nope.  This is not a clever blog announcement about a pregnancy.

I started this blog the same month that Frank and I became engaged to be married.  I was 22 years old.

I had been out of college for less than one year.  I had been working for less than six months.

I am not even really sure why I started the blog, other than that I had a weird fascination with the idea of having a diary.  And I’m not even sure why I had that weird fascination.  I’m a terrible correspondent.  Ask anyone who has tried to correspond with me.  I found letters from my darling college roommate, Kelly, and nearly wept at the beautiful notes she would write me.

I doubt that she could make the same claim about the letters I wrote her. Because I didn’t write.  I was a horrible pen pal.

If you look at my blog from 2003, you will find that it was nothing more than a documentation of shopping excursions, what I ate and how I felt about it, and who could forget my rankings of area shopping malls?? (answer: just about anyone and everyone could and should forget it)

I don’t go back to those early postings very often.  Sometimes I do re-read various posts from our wedding planning.  But truthfully, my most pressing concern (if I’m being honest) was finding a tube top so that I would tan evenly.  Heaven help me if I had strap marks while wearing my strapless wedding gown!

I look back on those early years and I wonder at how Frank and I managed to make a life together.  I mean, considering how seriously the odds were stacked against us (under the age of 25, for starters) and then reading my blathering thoughts at the time, it’s a wonder that we managed to move across state lines, find full time employment and not critically hurt ourselves in the process.

But here we are.

I look back on those early years – my immaturity and my self-absorbed interests – and I am struck not by how much I’ve changed, but how much more aware I am that I haven’t changed as much as I should have.

Yeah, this post is not about patting myself on the back.

“Way to go, self, you managed to generally stay clear of the Emergency Room for most of your adult life. Bravo.”

No.

I think a lot of life is about peaks and valleys.  Peaks offer a moment of clarity where I get to see where I am going and where I have been – and realize that the road in both directions is long, winding and generally uncertain.

And valleys remind me of my own humanity.

I think that I am on a momentary peak.

The K-Fam, for all intents and purposes, is doing very, very well.  Frank is employed.  I am employed.  The girls are healthy and growing and developing and have clean diapers on (at the moment).  We have food and shelter and enough extra cash to afford a brand new Starbucks addiction (as long as I keep brewing at home…).

Our coffee cup runs over.

But in this rare moment of clarity, I see my life as it is.  I’m not sad about it or angry or hurt or feeling guilty.  I am just aware that I was young and like pretty much all young people I know, I was blissfully unaware.  And now I am approaching middle-aged.  Or, if I am honest, I am probably middle-aged already (I’m 30 – does that count?).

Whatever.

The point is that I see myself driving home from church, work, wherever – I see the sun shining and the wind rustling the leaves on the lush green trees and even though I have many responsibilities, I feel unburdened. I feel light.

And I am becoming aware that being unburdened is a rare, precious gift; I feel that while I am in the sunshine, enjoying the beauty of this world, there are people whose burdens are great.

Reading the news is a buzz kill.  You are bumping along in life all concerned about what is for dinner or wondering whether or not you remembered to pay the water bill, when all of a sudden a news anchor calmly, matter-of-factly explains that 32 girls in Ghana were rescued from a baby factory where their brand new babies were sold into slavery or as human sacrifices.

The juxtoposition of my life and theirs is hard to grasp.  How can my brain comprehend such disparity of the human existence?

God has been working on my heart, opening my eyes.

Am I going to end human trafficking in this world?  No.

But how can I do nothing?  How can I enjoy a warm summer day spent going for a walk or teaching my baby girls how to build sand castles, while other men, women and children are in such total darkness?

Many children find themselves sold into slavery because their families cannot afford to eat.  They are sold so that the rest of the family can survive.

And yet so easily, I can go to McDonald’s and enjoy a fruit and yogurt parfait, oatmeal or a warm cup of coffee.

While I am contemplating ways I can get involved (more to follow over the next few weeks), I cannot help but realize how mindlessly I eat.  I think very little about what and how much I put in my mouth.  After fertility treatments and a twin pregnancy, this is definitely starting to show.

I have a lot of weight to lose.  Fifty pounds to be exact.

Yeah, that’s right.  Fifty.

Not fifteen.

FIFTY.

Ugh.

What’s sad is that I’ve lost pretty much all of the baby weight.  The weight I have left to lose crept on slowly at first.  I slowly gave in to the weight gain.  “It’s just a pound.  Or two.  Or five.”

Or fifty.

Working out my body is just as important as working out my mental muscles.  The discipline I use for walking and running (and not eating dessert after every meal) helps me be more disciplined in other areas of my life, like time management or finances.

Getting involved in helping to stop human trafficking isn’t going to happen over night.  I won’t find a solution by writing a check for $5.  Big problems like this require persistent and unrelenting action.

In 2001 I started Weight Watchers.  I lost 60 lbs over the next 8 or 9 months.

I did not lose all 60 lbs in the first week.

Every week I lost a little bit and it all added up.

It’s that kind of discipline – making one more person aware, getting one more person to care – that adds up.

A little bit of kindling added slowly builds a big fire.

My goal is to become more disciplined and aware of what I eat, which will simultaneously help me work out the mental muscles needed in order to be dedicated to a cause as important as ending human trafficking.

It’s a weird way to connect two things, but it makes sense to me.

If you ask my mom, she’ll tell you I’ve always been annoyingly persistent. When I want something, I usually find a way to get it.

For every pound that I lose, we (Frank and I) will donate $10 to end human trafficking.  It’s a weightlossathon.

If you want to join me in this effort – either by losing weight yourself or donating money for every pound that I lose, please do!  Let me know in the comment section if you are “in” and what you are doing.

And if you aren’t interested in joining in, if you could keep me in your thoughts and your prayers as I go down this road – both weight loss and figuring out how to help raise awareness of human trafficking issues – I would be so grateful.

Thank you.

refocused

“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”  ~Micah 6:8

I was having a rough day emotionally.  Really, a rough week.  I’ve been over-tired and that makes the days long.  Being tired distorts the lens through which I look at life.  Little things seem big and big things seem gigantic.

Tonight I was letting myself just get worked up.  I can’t even say what I was worked up about because it’s sooo inconsequential to anything.  And I decided to go on BibleGateway.net to see what the verse of the day was and it was the verse I posted above.

It was like drinking cool water on a hot summer day.

Sometimes I over-think things (this is not shocking news to people who know me) and I find myself worrying about things that I should not worry about.  Telling me “don’t worry” is seldom effective in turning my attention from my generally inane worries.

Saying “don’t worry” makes me try to find ways to justify my concerns.

But God, in His infinite wisdom, put the verse from Micah in front of me tonight just when I needed it.  The verse does not say, “The Lord requires you to be awesome all the time, to never make mistakes, and to win popularity contests.”  What the verse does say provides a lot of freedom.  God has shown me what is good:

Act Justly.

Love Mercy.

To Walk Humbly with our God.

In the simplicity of the words, there is so much beauty.  God does not explicitly list of rules and regulations, but He gives us wisdom.  Am I seeking justice?  Am I being merciful?  Is (whatever behavior) allowing me to walk with Jesus?  And the thing is, more often than not, if I am being honest with myself, I know when my actions are good – and when they fall short.

If you read the rest of Micah 6, he spends a lot of time reminding the readers of all the things God has already done for them.  How easily I forget all that God has done!  Writing down 100 joys over the holidays was a great reminder of the abundance of blessings God has put in our lives – big and little.

And so I think about what was troubling me before, and I know that it was just a distraction.

 

100 joys (32-36)

What a long week!  I feel like it was a marathon of activity and I cannot wait to nap.  So here are a few things that brought me joy today (and then I am going to bed!!):

joy #32

Frank and I discovered a fantastic website called Cozi that allows us to share calendars, journal our menu for the week and create to-do lists. Love it.

 

joy #33

OMG.  Have you seen this show?  You should watch the first season, but don’t expect much until you get to the end of the first season.  Sorry, it just wasn’t their best.  But something magical happened towards the end of the first season and we’ve been hooked ever since.  It appeals to both of us – I love time travel/universe swapping sci-fi angles and Frank loves love stories.  Hrm.  No.  I got that wrong.  I love time travel/universe swapping sci-fi angles and Frank loves Peter Bishop (played by Joshua Jackson).  Hrm. Well, whatever the reasons we like to watch the show, you should be watching it too.  You’d be much happier if you did.

 

joy #34

Since I’ve started down the path of shows we like to watch, I may as well be 100% honest with myself (and those of you reading this blog), we watch a lot of TV shows.  This is largely due to the technological wizardry known as the DVR.  Love it.  This means on Friday, after a long week, Frank and I can park ourselves on the couch and catch up with some of our favorite shows while only moving minimally and grunting occasionally when whomever has the remote control forgets to fast forward through the commercials.  So, that being said, we are LOVING Modern Family. Perhaps it’s because we identify with the characters so well.  Specifically, it seems we have the most in common with Cam and Mitchell. What can I say, I have the flare for the dramatic like Cam and Frank is emotionally… ahem… reserved – like Mitchell.

 

joy #35

We’ve loved Chuck for a long time.  Chuck is witty, smart, geeky and fun.  It’s everything that we enjoy, but recently I’ve found Frank’s TV affections are wandering.  I still love Chuck, but Frank has proclaimed that he is “over” Chuck and is on the market for a new show.  Whatever.  I still love Chuck, even if we’re reliving the same plot lines again and again.

 

joy #36

Every day I have at least one of these.  I love them.  They are delicious.  They make me smile.  Yum.

 

 

the things I just don’t forget

Since we are having twins, our doctor wanted us to do the birth classes at our hospital early.  So at just 22 weeks, we are in a four week birth class at our hospital.

Our hospital is a large, sprawling campus.  It is the hospital that I was born at, that my great-grandmother (and namesake) died at, where they took my dad when he had his stroke, where one of my close friend’s mom passed away and where we went for the D & C when we lost Lily earlier this year.  There are so many entrances to this hospital and they are constantly expanding the hospital and building new wings and towers.  It’s easy to go there and not enter in the same doors twice.

On our second night in class, Frank and I ventured around the south side of the campus to see the new maternity wing.  Our adventure took us past the blue awning of the “Day Surgery” center.  The same blue awning that I came out of after our D & C.  Frank and I both looked at this awning at the same time.  I could hear the air going out of both of our chests as we looked at that sad, sad spot.  It was like walking past a grave for us.

I don’t remember what we said to each other, but it was just a gentle acknowledgement of that door.  That time in our lives when our hearts were both simultaneously broken.

If Lily had been a healthy little baby, she would’ve been born in late September, likely.  We would be getting her ready for her first Christmas.  I’d be going back to work in January after my maternity leave.

But Lily was not a healthy little baby.  Frank and I have discussed this – not extensively – but in brief conversations about her since March.  Things just seemed to be going so slow with her.  The doctors were always pushing the due dates back – she always measured small.  In a family where we’ve always measured well past the bell curve, this seemed strange – foreign – to us. She was a fighter, though – and she tried really hard.  But in the end, she just couldn’t do it.  And that’s ok.  It’s hard for us to have to wait so long to meet her, but we have peace that she’s with God in heaven.

All we have from losing Lily are a few early ultrasound pictures and a doily they gave us after the D & C to help us remember her by.  I put all of these items in a folder and I put them in a filing cabinet in the basement.  I’ve looked at that doily and the pictures since then, but only quickly and only to put them in a new location.

But driving by the blue awning of the “Day Surgery” center was a fresh reminder for us of the sweet baby we lost.  And in some ways, of the struggles we went through over 18 months in order to get pregnant.

I don’t take anything about this miraculous twin pregnancy for granted.  Sometimes I feel like I’m in an out-of-body experience – I see myself looking at baby furniture or picking out a nursery theme – and I can’t believe that it’s me.  I can’t believe it because in the either-or experience – either I’m pregnant or I’m not, either the baby is healthy or it’s not, either I’m ovulating or I’m not – I’ve been on the “or not” side with great frequency.  I have not had the experience of easily getting and staying pregnant.  I have not had the sense that “of course I am pregnant, why wouldn’t I be?”  Instead, I feel very frequently how delicate life is.

I read a blog called Moosh in Indy. Casey, the blog author, struggled with infertility for FIVE years.  She battled serious depression and tried a lot of medical procedures to resolve her infertility.

And then one day… she was pregnant.  Of course, there was so much rejoicing and so much happiness, but as she writes so poignantly about infertility in this blog post – “I can never forget where I came from that got me to this point.”

I also cannot forget all of my friends who are still waiting, hoping and praying to start or expand their family.  The notion that because we are pregnant, we can then forget the heartache of losing Lily and struggling with infertility is entirely wrong.

Life is precious.

To all of my friends who are struggling with various forms of loss and infertility, my prayers are constantly with you.  I have not forgotten.

three things: thanksgiving

Frank and I are so blessed and this Thanksgiving I wanted to spend some time reflecting on three big blessings

Thing 1: Family

My family – immediate and extended – is such a huge blessing.  My family is a collection of vibrant, fun, interesting people with very distinct personalities.  This means that life is always interesting!  Even between Frank and I, we are both very different people, but we really enjoy each other greatly.  We are both so excited to add two new little personalities to our family!  I can’t wait to see the little people they are and how they fit into our already personality-filled family 🙂

 

Thing 2: Friends

Frank and I have been so fortunate to have wonderful friends.  We have friends that are close by in geographic proximity and we have friends all around the country, but thanks to technology, we never seem to be far apart.

 

Thing 3: The Tough Stuff

For the past few years, I’ve realized how grateful I am for the difficult times.  Even though it’s rough, I’ve noticed that my faith is strengthened, my marriage grows and my friends become closer as we go through challenges.  I have a hard time expressing myself sometimes about how I’m feeling, so having this blog as an outlet as well as close friends to talk to about the things we’ve experienced has made it all the easier.  But without the difficult times, I wouldn’t appreciate the good times as much, either.

beautiful things

This morning at church they played a song by Gungor called “Beautiful Things”.  The lyrics were really simple, but really poignant:

All this pain / I wonder if I’ll even find my way / I wonder if my life could really change at all / All this earth / Could all that is lost ever be found / Could a garden come up from this ground at all

You make beautiful things / You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things / You make beautiful things out of us

Even though we are pregnant now, I still think a lot about our struggles with fertility. I think about how tested I felt and how alone, even in the midst of knowing quite a few people going through the same things.  I think about how often I wondered why we were going through this challenge.

A lot of the time, I think about how I could’ve done it better.

Maybe I could’ve been more positive and more optimistic.  Maybe I could’ve made it easier for the people around me by not talking about it or by talking about it more or by talking about it more positively.  Maybe I could’ve put on an attitude that was happier and more joyful, even when I was hurting.

And I kind of wonder what would’ve been accomplished.

It’s been occurring to me more and more the importance of reaching outward in difficult times and of being honest about where I am at, even if that location is not exactly lovely.  Glossing over feelings and putting up a front of being happy and in control is great if my goal is to make people feel like I have my crap together.  But it doesn’t do anything to draw people in, to connect with others or build community.  Of course, I believe there is a time and a place for being emotionally honest (ahem, losing it at work is not an option).

And then I think of Frank.

Frank loves to help people do projects around their homes.  He’s really good at helping, too.  He is much more coordinated than I am, so he is definitely more of an asset than a liability in pretty much any home improvement project.  He is smart, but he is not someone who thinks he has all the answers – which means he’s willing to problem solve and take direction.

Whenever he’s been asked to help with something and he’s not flying, he willingly and joyfully obliges.

And the thing about when he helps people is that it builds community.  He gets to know the other guys he’s working with and they usually feel like they are closer friends for having done the work.  I would argue that it is more effective for guys to build relationships working alongside each other than it is to go on a double date with their wives/girlfriends.

It’s just how guys are.

But imagine if no one asked him to help?  If everyone could just do it on their own?

I have a friend Rose, who you’ve read about here on my blog.  She and I have struggled with starting a family for some time.  She’s probably one of the sweetest girls I know.  And I doubt we’d be as good of friends as we are if we had not struggled through this fertility stuff together.  If she had said, “yeah, everything is WONDERFUL for me” and I’d lied and said the same thing, we’d probably never know each other as well as we do.

We share in the struggles together.  We cheer each other onward.  We rejoice and we grieve together.

I would also suggest that sometimes it’s the small things that bring us together.  Yes, the holidays are a great time for families to come together, but I also think that casual Tuesday night dinners and birthday dinners and celebrations of day-to-day things also brings us all closer.

So I don’t think I did the fertility stuff perfectly.  I didn’t keep myself together in a perfect little package of happiness.  But I don’t regret the struggle.

The song at church today reminded me that God uses all of this life we live to make beautiful things.  Out of the dust of our sadness and pain, God has grown friendships, strengthened our marriage and rooted us more deeply in our faith.  Our God is a faithful God, no matter the circumstance.