Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The First Month


Can you believe it's been one whole month already? I would say no. Jackie might say YES, ha ha. There is a quote I love that says something like "parenthood consists of long days and short years."  The more children I have, the more I appreciate this truth. Now--six children into this life--I can sit in bed at 2 a.m. battling exhaustion and love every minute of it. (Okay, most minutes of it.) I can snuggle my nose down beside their little heads nestled into the crook of my neck and be completely content with life. I know that all too soon one month will be two and the days will slip right through my fingers and before I know it all their tenderness will be concealed beneath a teenager's sharp facade. And then I'll wish again for these sweet moments when it's so simple to convey my love for them. Because for now all they want in the world is a warm embrace in which to find nourishment. But I suppose in actuality that's all we all truly want!

I spent months imagining what the girls would be like. I wondered most often what they would look like. I honestly never considered the chance that they would look so different. My doctor laughed at me after seeing them and said, "And you were worried how you would tell them apart!" Since they've been born I've gotten a lot of comments from strangers about them while we're out and about (almost always prefaced by the ever typical "You've got your hands full!") but the most absurd question came just the other day from a Walmart employee. She oohed and cooed over them then turned and asked, "How do you tell them apart?" Ha ha! I wanted to say, "Um, I look at them?" But the truth is I need not even look at them. Everything about them is so different that I can tell who is beginning to wake and whose cry that is without a glance. 

Braelyn, for example, is by far the more vocal of the two as you've surely noticed if you've ever been around them. She moans and groans and grunts, and her cry is hardy as if she's trying to convey a sense of impatient frustration more than anything. Her new trick is making a gulping sound when she nurses. It sounds like she's definitely getting satisfied; if only I could teach her to say, "Aaaaah," when she is finished! She does burp proudly (as in, like a grown man) with barely any provoking. Brooklyn, however, sounds like a little lamb when she cries; other times she is quiet as a mouse. She speaks more loudly with her eyes though her gaze is soft and meek. And forget trying to get her to burp; she much prefers to hold it in and spit up all over the place later. 

As you might have noticed (unless you are a specific Walmart employee), Brooklyn has a head full of dark hair while Braelyn's hair is more sparse, shall we say, and blonde hence Ryland deeming Braelyn "the Jackie baby" and Brooklyn "the Traci baby." The babies skin tones are also quite different; Brooklyn seems to be a bit darker with my warmer, yellow-toned skin, while Braelyn is a cooler toned pink color. And Braelyn's skin is absolutely the softest skin I've ever felt! Poor Brooklyn's skin peels and she now has those little baby acne bumps on her face.

Brooklyn really loves being held and sleeping close to her mama. She enjoys being swaddled, and I discovered during my little one-month photo shoot that she DOES NOT enjoy being naked. Braelyn is totally cool laying by herself arms thrown over her head, although she does not object to sleeping snuggled up close to her mama's milkies. She fights being swaddled, pushing her two little fists against the fabric grunting and groaning all the while. And when I took her little naked pictures, she looked confidently into the camera then fell asleep and and slept peacefully (naked) for two hours. 

Even their poop is different, people! I'm guessing you don't want a paragraph describing that. ; ) It just amazes me that two people who grew in exactly the same environment alongside each other and who are now receiving exactly the same breastmilk can look, act, and defecate so differently, lol. 

So, today was the babies' one month doctor's appointment. In all honestly, I was afraid they might tell me Brooklyn was not growing properly. Braelyn seems to have filled out so much; she has chubby little cheeks and a big round belly. Beside her Brooklyn looks lean! I was pleasantly surprised to find that both babies are right on track for growth and that, in fact, Brooklyn is still the bigger twin. She weighed 7 pounds 6 ounces, and Braelyn came in at 7 pound 4 ounces. I suppose that just goes to show how every body is different. It was such a relief to know that they are receiving enough milk since there has been some speculation about my ability to nurse TWO babies. They are thriving, and their health is yet another testament to the amazing power a woman's body has! I'm so happy to be able to nurse them (although--don't get me wrong--it can definitely be trying at times) and hope to continue as long as they want. 

So that's what the babies' first month has been like--full of personality and discovery and anticipation of the months to come!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

An Unexpected Benefit of Having a Large Family

Now that our family has grown to 8 members, I suppose we are considered a large family. This is a strange concept for me because most of the time we still seem like little ol' us to me! Hanging out on the couch watching TV or gathered around the table or even making our way down the aisles at Walmart is just as normal to me as to those of you with one or two children. Getting ready to go somewhere is a different story. Sometimes I wonder if we'll ever make it somewhere on time again!

One of the challenges we've faced recently is getting everyone down the stairs. See, we live on the third floor. And there are 8 of us--two of whom cannot walk and two of whom are still little and wobbly on the dangerous stairs. (Piper flipped down a few steps backwards just this week!) But we are blessed with a great playground directly outside our building where the kids can not only burn off energy playing but the mommies can also socialize. So there's a lot of incentive for us to get outside each day!

So somehow I need to make sure everyone has been to the bathroom (because I sure do hate dragging everyone back up those stairs to go potty), everyone has had a snack (why do I bother? they're going to attack whoever brought their food to the playground anyway), and, now, that the babies are fed before we head down. Then I have to figure out how to hold two babies and guide one toddler and one preschooler down three flights of stairs. First I tried stuffing the babies in my Sleepywrap, which I LOVED with Ryland and Piper.

At first it seemed like it would work. They are both still small enough to fit but they were very squished and I was pretty uncomfortable. The first time I tied it, it felt too loose. The second time, it felt too tight. Braelyn especially doesn't like being swaddled, and she grunted and carried on the entire time. Finally I gave up. Perhaps I'll have to go straight to carrying one on front and one on back!

Yesterday, I decided to just carry them downstairs in their little laundry basket! 

This should work for a few more weeks perhaps although it will earn me some chuckles and strange looks, ha ha! 

So, we made it down to the playground but then a million things can and will happen! Jathan is pretty much good to run free. Ryland is okay about 95% of the time. Piper is a wild card. Perhaps she'll sit quietly beside me on the grass. Perhaps she'll delight in sliding over and over. Or perhaps she'll run for the road or up the stairs every single second you are outside. The babies will want to nurse. The possibilities are endless. And you know what? I can't handle it. At least not on my own.

And there is the unexpected benefit of having a large family that I've just discovered: needing other people. I've got to tell you, I have been resisting this idea. I really like being independent and get a certain thrill from being able to wrangle everyone and having it look all effortless. I suppose there's a lot of pride there that God is stripping away and replacing with thankfulness and friendship each time someone offers to help me and I accept. 

Yesterday, when there were other mamas holding my babies and retrieving Piper from the stairs and when a friend brought me a meal and when two sweet young ladies carried stuff upstairs for me then sat and held the babies while I cleaned the living room, I was reminded of this verse:

"For just as we have in one body many members, but the members do not all have the same function, so we, although many, are one body in union with Christ, but members belonging individually to one another." 
--Romans 12:4, 5

We're not meant to do this alone! Even in paradise, God saw that it was not good for Adam to be alone and made him a helper. God set us in families and communities and wants us to go to church, in part, for fellowship. Even Jesus surrounded himself with friends. 

Ecclesiastes 4:9, 10 says, "Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their hard work. For if one of them should fall, the other one can raise his partner up. But how will it be with just one who falls when there is not another to raise him up?"

When we alienate ourselves and limit the endeavors we undertake based on what we can do all by ourselves, we are really only hurting ourselves and perhaps even succumbing to a ploy of Satan. 

In many aspects living on this seminary campus is very different than living in other communities. We are all in the same boat--we are strapped financially, drained mentally, and charged emotionally--and we all live in very close quarters with thin walls. We get to know each other, like it or not! In my life this has meant I've gained a lot of friends.  Friends who see my children misbehave, who know that my life is not perfect, and who see me need help on a daily basis (and who still come around despite all this!). 

I'm so thankful to have been able to come be a part of a family like this. Our time at seminary has been when I've seen the church at work the most! I only hope that I never forget what it's supposed to be like. That I take these experiences and reach out to the next church and community God places us in and also allow them to reach back. 

And to everyone around me who has chased a child down for me or rocked a baby or cooked a meal or offered a ride or carried something heavy or just sat and talked with me, to everyone far away who has sent cards and letters and gifts over these trying years, know that you're kindness has never gone overlooked. You have been a blessing to me and are appreciated. Keep up the good work! 

Monday, March 11, 2013

Brooklyn and Braelyn's Birth Story

TMI WARNING! This post contains a candid description of my twins' birth experience which contains details about birth and bodily functions. If the words mucus plug, placenta, or nipple or infant nudity make you cringe, this is not the place for you. = P

Okay, so after I reached the 34 week milestone I was kind of like, "Alrighty, babies, come on out!" I was definitely uncomfortable but also totally willing to go the long haul should they decide not to come out for a few more weeks. However, Sunday morning I noticed that I was beginning to lose bits of my mucus plug. This was both really gross and really exciting. I've actually never had it happen before so I felt it was a good sign that my body was actually readying itself for labor. After a self check that night, I knew that I was beginning to dilate.

Monday I had an appointment with a chiropractor. (If you're local go see Dr. Rizer at Provance Chiropractic!) Unfortunately he is not certified in the Webster baby-turning technique but did a general alignment in the hopes that being straightened out properly would give the babies some room and motivation to turn head down. Jackie had had a big day Monday as well. He had met with a few different representatives from different state conventions in the hopes that we would get linked with a ministry to join after graduation. So that night we decided to get a babysitter and go out and discuss what he'd learned just the two of us. After remarking my impressive tummy size, our babysitter's dad (hello, Mitchells!) suggested I eat some eggplant parmesan. It seems his wife ate that once and was in labor within 24 hours. So guess where we headed? Olive Garden, of course. Jackie did not want me to order the eggplant, however, so I went with the chicken scampi, ha ha. I had told Jackie on the ride there that I just had a feeling that the babies would be born soon, and he said it was a good thing we'd gotten to go out that it might be the last date we got in a while. I had no idea how true those words were, no eggplant parmesan needed!

We arrived back home and went to bed but at 2:45 I awoke feeling different. There's no other way to explain it. Yes, I was having contractions but I'd been having contractions for MONTHS and these didn't seem distinctly different. They didn't hurt in the least; I only felt lots and lots of pressure. I mainly had to keep running to the bathroom over the next hour wondering if this was it. I even Googled whether bowel movements had anything to do with early labor. Apparently they do! At around 3:30 or 4 I woke Jackie up, and he sprang into action. I probably would not have gone to the hospital immediately; I was really just needing some company and support, but he was determined not to have an accidental homebirth so he said we must go. I must have a shower and makeup first, I told him. I thought the shower might stop the contractions but that ended up being one of the shortest showers I've ever taken. I knew then that this was serious. A quick blow dry, some makeup, and a call to one of the best neighbors EVER later, we were on our way to the hospital. I convinced Jackie to drive the speed limit this time and actually enjoyed the ride there as opposed to the last late-night trip to the hospital during Piper's birth. The city was lit up beautifully and there was a full moon out; I just soaked it all in.

I was a little afraid the ER wouldn't take me seriously when I came in because I was in zero pain, talking easily, and had no clue how close together my contractions were. Happily, they got me right up to labor and delivery, though, where it was confirmed that I was having strong, regular contractions which were lasting about a minute. Who knew? At this point I was dilated 3 centimeters. My doctor was alerted that I was there. She suggested they hydrate me to see if that would stop the contractions but the nurse wisely didn't listen. The doctor came in a little later and rechecked me to see if perhaps we could put off labor for a bit longer, finding that I was then at 5 centimeters. "Nope, this is it," she said. It was confirmed that the babies were still in breech position (both the little stinkers!) via ultrasound, and I was prepped for a c-section.

Prep includes them giving you informed consent which basically states that you might die or worse. It also includes a shave; the nurses apologized but I was like, "Are you kidding? I think y'all should do this at every office visit; I haven't been able to see down there for months." LOL. I downed the customary shot of super sour antacid. Holding your nose doesn't not help. Next I put on my cute little papery hat and walked myself to the OR. I wiggled my way up onto the table which obviously was not meant for short people and received my spinal block. Jackie was not with me at this point so I was so very thankful for my sweet nurse. She wasn't reluctant at all to put her arms around me and help me relax during the spinal. I was amazed at how quickly it started working. After that the big blue curtain went up and Jackie joined me all decked out in his surgical duds. I wish I'd gotten a picture of him. I also missed taking one last bump photo but it was too late at this point. They told me it would take about 20 minutes before the babies were born but before I even knew what was happening I heard a loud little cry ring out. Brooklyn Jubilee had made her appearance into the big world! Yes, after being Baby B for 8 months she became Baby A all of a sudden. I think it was at this point that I felt a huge amount of pressure. I know my eyes grew as wide as saucers and the nurse explained that this was the pressure she warned me about. For all I knew, the doctor could have been standing on my stomach at that point. (The other strange thing I noticed during the surgery was a burning smell. I didn't ask what it was because I was afraid someone would honestly tell me. I was sure it was me that was burning and after later investigation, I discovered I was right. Eeeew.) One minute after the first cry, Braelyn Joy followed her sister. They were taken to the warmers, wiped down, and checked out.



A nurse brought Braelyn over for me to see; Jackie was on his way over holding Brooklyn. I got one quick peek then a huge wave of nausea hit me (probably the result of having my internal organs removed then put back in, oh the joys of c-sections!). Because of this I missed having a cute picture of the babies being held up at my face like so many other people have. Rats. Jackie walked with the girls to the nursery and anesthesia gave me a shot of something wonderful in my IV to "help me relax". I am generally opposed to drugs and their over usage, but that narcotic had it going on. I had been given narcotics during Jathan's birth, and they made me feel foggy and confused; I found myself fighting their effects on me. This time though I just felt all warm and completely relaxed and wished that the doctor would quit talking to me so that I could just go to sleep. At that point I promised myself never to judge drug users again, ha ha.

The doctors sewed me back up. I listened to the resident explain what she was doing to the med student attending the birth. I was kind of hoping she wasn't giving him a go at it back there. I heard her tell the nurse to leave the placentas so that they could examine them. I looked over to see one of the placentas being lifted up. Had I been more awake I might have asked to examine it myself. Yeah, I'm weird like that. At least I don't eat them like some people though!

I was wheeled back into the labor and delivery room where Jackie came in and told me about the babies. He showed me the pictures. I couldn't believe how differently they looked! And Brooklyn had a head full of black hair! This is still completely foreign to me; I have BALD babies!

Unfortunately I had some minor hemorrhaging and required some medication to help stop it. Luckily my spinal block was still working at this point because the medication consisted of 10 little pills that you don't swallow. I'll let you guess where they had to go. They seemed to do the trick, though!

Braelyn in the nursery

Holy cow at the hair

The nurse informed me that it would be a while before the girls were brought to me. They were breathing quickly, a common thing for c-section babies, and would be observed until that issue resolved. I was very concerned about this because I wanted to nurse them. I asked my favorite nurse how the nursery really was.  Would they really bring the babies to me as soon as possible or is this something I needed to stay on them about? She assured me that the nursery was good about getting the babies out as soon as possible, and I trusted her. The pediatrician visited me and assured me they were doing well. Around four hours after their birth, they finally brought me Braelyn. Brooklyn was still breathing quickly. We nursed and took pictures and enjoyed this special time. Eventually Brooklyn was brought to me as well but it was several more hours until I got to have both the girls with me at the same time. I was so glad to see them together in the bassinet!

They had been born one day shy of 35 weeks and were nice and healthy--Brooklyn weighed 5 pounds 14 ounces and Braelyn weighed 5 pounds 9 ounces. The only problems they had were the result of the c-section (breathing quickly after birth and retaining amniotic fluid which was either spit/gagged up or deep suctioned out). Of course I wish that I could have had a vaginal delivery but I was pleased that the c-section hadn't been traumatic as some mothers had described. I had the pleasure of going into labor on my own. I knew that it was truly my birthing time; I'd not had to choose it or allow someone else to choose it for me. The atmosphere in the OR was light and cheerful. If my c-section experience could have ended on the first day and I hadn't had to endure recovery, I would have been totally okay with that.

Sadly though the drugs wear off and they take your morphine button away then ask you to walk to the bathroom the next day. I'll save that story for another post, however!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Twins' Baby Shower

A few weeks back my friend Amanda asked if she could throw me a diaper/wipe party. Of course I said yes! Since I've never had a "real" shower I was thrilled at the prospect of a girls night in musing over babies and baby stuff. I was a bit nervous, however, that I might not make it to the shower date still pregnant. One of the reasons I've never had a real shower is because every time someone plans one, I end up having the baby early. I would be just over 34 weeks pregnant this time and I had no idea what to expect with twins.

The day finally arrived, though, and I waddled downstairs to Amanda's apartment. This cute sign was waiting to greet me!

Then I stepped inside and knew this wasn't your typical baby shower. The lighting was low; candles twinkled here and there. Soft jazz was playing in the background and her apartment was decorated beautifully. The pictures really don't do it justice.

And on that table? Some SERIOUSLY delicious food. No chips and dip or fruit punch here. My gracious friends, Amanda and Tracy, had prepared a spread which included brisket sliders, macaroni and cheese balls, Greek salad, fruit kabobs, and some of the best ooey gooey brownies. I don't even know how much I ate. 

Soon guests began to arrive. I was just amazed at the number of ladies who showed up to bless our family with diapers, wipes, and other goodies. Honestly, I would have been happy to have just had a night with all of these women talking. It's always so refreshing. The gifts were the icing on the cake. 

I didn't get a picture of the gift table but here are a couple of shots of the gifts my hostesses gave me. Tracy made the girls some pennants with their names on them. They're hanging about their bed now. I also got the cutest burlap owl door hanger. I took it to the hospital with us, and now it's hanging on our door. What a cheery announcement of our new additions!

As our time together drew to a close, Amanda ended the party with a real treat--a foot massage for me!  See, I told you this wasn't your typical baby shower.

Yes, I am so happy to have so many good friends all around me. Especially those who know how to make macaroni and cheese balls and give foot massages! Amanda, you definitely set the bar high for baby showers!