Friday, November 30, 2007

Because Sometimes I'm a Jerk

I wanted to clarify something that I posted in my last entry, brought to my attention by a friend from the old ATL. When I said that having two children very close in age wasn't the same thing as having twins, I in no way meant to make light of the unique challenges of having your children close together in age. Having twins was most hard the first six months (but I LOVED it and wouldn't change a minute of it). All I'm saying about that is it's not so easy lifting two people with no control of their necks out of a crib from the AAP recommended "Back to Back" position at the same time. But I totally know from watching some of you that my life is even a little easier because E and L are in the same position developmentally. So all I'm concerned about is singing Row, Row, Row Your Boat to two people, rather than singing to one and trying to figure out an explanation that makes sense to why the sky is blue at the same time for someone else a year or so older. Everyone said it would be that way- hard in the beginning, but increasingly easier with time until it reached a point where I was taking two hour long uninterrupted naps lounging in the sun while my toddlers entertained themselves. All of that to say- it is a challenge having your children close together (whether two minutes or two years apart) and each has its difficulties and really fun parts. Let me state for the record that I'm sure this is also true for having your children spaced many years apart, but I know nothing about how that all works.
Anyway, if I made you feel like I was suggesting that your parenting load was WAY easier than mine- I'm sorry. For all my big talk about being sensitive to others, sometimes (this will REALLY surprise those of you who know me), I speak and write without thinking. I appreciate having it pointed out and hope that any of you feel free to keep me informed when I'm being a narcissist about my own experience.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Just Making You Aware

Saturday evening, I returned from a quick overnight trip to Atlanta. A good friend and her husband from our old community group (who had also moved away from the ATL to professor) adopted a baby in April and we were able to get most of the old group together this weekend for a shower. Additionally, Phil, of the Phil and Christys linked at the left, was having a surprise birthday party for Christy, which was successful to the point that I was afraid that Christy would need to be transported to the hospital to have her heart restarted. On Saturday, after most people left the shower, the guest of honor, Christy, Erin, Ph.D, and I were sitting around the living room talking about how funny it was- and not in a terribly humorous way, mind you- that the four of us had all struggled with fertility issues. Which led to a discussion of the fact that even now, when all four of us have children and one of us, Erin, Ph.D, has another on the way (she's waiting for her referral now), we still hear people saying the same things over and over, really, truly believing them to be facts. Most of us have a lot of compassion for the ignorance, knowing that we say stupid, insensitive things inadvertently all the time.
This past week was National Infertility Awareness Week. I wanted to post something about it, but kept wondering what I could say that hadn't been said already and much better elsewhere. But as I've noted in other places, the three of you that are reading this might not actually actively read the infertility literature and might find it helpful. So in the spirit of helping others become aware, I'm going to give you some statistics on what Rachel, the new mom we honored this weekend, considers to be her least favorite of the infertility and adoption myths. Because I know you all totally come here for the educational content and not to see pictures of my daughters. Don't click to another website yet just because I used the word statistics- I think these are interesting. As a few of you commented on my previous infertility post, one of the least helpful and most offensive things that people say to those unable to conceive is "Relax" and it's cousin, "oh, now that you're adopting you'll get pregnant." Now, for the statistics portion of our program. In a normal, healthy population of 100 couples attempting to have a baby and timing things correctly, 75% (AT LEAST) will become pregnant in the first six months of trying. The reason women's magazines and general internet sites and your doctor tell you to wait a year between throwing away the birth control is because they assume you don't know much about when you ovulate and they want to make sure that you've statistically had a fair shot trying at random. But if you're charting or using ovulation predictor kits and all of that (and probably even if you're not), you can expect to be pregnant in six months. After that, about 2 to 3 % of the 100 couples will get pregnant each month until about a year. So 12 months after these 100 couple started trying to get pregnant, about 85% of them will be on their way to having their baby. Now keep in mind, if the woman in the couple is 23, her odds are probably a little better and if she's 39 maybe a little worse. Most of the studies of this don't tend to tease out exactly the effect of age. Over the next year, if the couple doesn't seek medical advice, about 2% of them total will become pregnant. So at this point, 87 of our 100 couple are having their children. If the couple decides, "well, I guess we can't have children. Too bad- I guess God doesn't have it in His plan." and does nothing else, over the course of five years about 2 to 3% of those couples will get pregnant. If a couple tries everything science has to offer up to IVF and it fails to work and they decide to quit treatment- after 5 years 2-3% of those couple will become pregnant. And if a couple decides to adopt a baby and pursues no other fertility treatment, guess how many of them will spontaneously become pregnant? No, really, guess. Yes! THAT'S RIGHT!!! 2 to 3% of those couples who either do not pursue fertility treatment or decide to move on from it will spontaneously get pregnant on their own within five years of their adoption. So given those numbers, we all know a few people who "relaxed and quit trying" or "just adopted" and wound up expecting a biological child. But you know the old saying "The plural of anecdote isn't data." So two things happen when I drag out the old "I have this friend who adopted twins and 10 months later had a baby- it was like she had triplets-"(a side note- I promise you, having two or three babies close in age is not really like having twins or triplets). First, I inadvertently imply that adoption is some sort of fertility treatment. I have a gentle and very kind friend from a group I was a part of in Atlanta in the process of adopting from China, who when confronted with these stories and "you're bound to get pregnant now" statements always says- "That's nice. But no amount of adopting is going to regrow the fallopian tubes my two ectopic pregnancies destroyed." Second, I unmeaningly suggest that I think adoption is an inferior way to grow your family, which, while it might not have been in the original plan, is definitely your first choice right then if you're doing it. So anyway, I hope I've helped dispel that myth. All for you, Rachel.
In other news, last night Rob and I were watching on our laptop a popular television show about a group of people working in an office. Our not having cable or TiVo here in small town Arkansas is a post for another time. I thought I heard a bang coming from the babies' room. I was sure that one of the girls had banged her head on the edge of her crib Rob assured me that I was just being overly paranoid. But a couple of minutes later we both heard the unmistakable sound of more banging. We went to check on the source of the noise and heard angry crying and L.'s voice yelling "Not, not!" as she pounded on the inside of her door, where she had stumbled in the dark after hurling herself from her crib. We're now working on the crib tent situation, but I am only now recovering from the shock. Speaking of shock imagine my surprise at discovering these pictures on our camera, apparently taken by Rob the same day he took the pictures from my last post. I can only assume it was in a fit of optimism after the Hogs last victory, which we will not specifically discuss out of respect for the Gamecock fans among us. Here is L. (I'm not sure what E. is up to there in the background).


Here is E.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Solicitation for Books

Sometimes I sort of feel like the Tolstoy of bloggers. Except that I’m not a man. Or Russian. Or a brilliant writer. And I don’t really think of myself as depressing either. Okay, so I am unlike Tolstoy in any way- except for being a little too long winded in my writing. A couple of years ago, a friend of mine decided she hadn’t read enough of the classics, so she picked up Anna Karenina and began to plow her way through it. I kept telling her when we would discuss how it was going that, while I didn’t want to ruin the novel for her, it wasn’t going to end well. As you know, if you’ve read it, it really doesn’t. The thing about being an English major in college is that you end up reading a lot of what is considered “great literature.” I’m not trying to suggest that I’m the best and most unbiased judge of literary works written since the evolution of modern English or anything. In fact, most of the things I read were well-crafted, marvelously written works of art. Unfortunately, the majority of these novels were-allow me to draw deep on the vocabulary I gained during those years- real downers. And I’m not trying to say that all great novels should have a happy ending, because that’s not real life or necessarily even decent art, but there has to be at least some really well-written fiction that has some sort of hope of redemption.

I’m going to give you two of my book recommendations and I am hereby soliciting yours. It’s not like in my in my dark days a few years ago where I refuse to read anything remotely sad, but I’m looking for books where the star crossed lovers do not attempt suicide via sled. Because, frankly, when that happens, you’ve lost me as a reader, and I no longer care that you get what you deserve in the end. (If you haven’t read that one and want the recommendation, e-mail me). Okay, first on the list is Peace Like a River by Leif Enger. I feel like it hasn’t gotten the praise it deserves, but it is beautifully written, a story that’s easy to get caught up in even though when you read a synopsis you might not think so, and, at the end, you don’t want to stab your own eyes out.

Second is Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton. As loathe as I am to suggest a book that’s been on Oprah’s book list, and everything I said about Peace Like a River is true of it as well. Now it’s your turn. Suggest your favorite work of fiction that everyone in the world hasn’t read (Narnia, Tolkien, Harry Potter) and tell me why I’ll like it. I’ll send the person who recommends the one I end up liking best a special present I haven’t decided on yet.

One of the fun things about having eighteen month old twins is that they are beginning to recognize what the other one likes and dislikes. For example, E. loves squash. L. thinks it’s okay, but feel nowhere near the level of passion for it that E. apparently has. I’ve noticed that when they think I’m not looking, L. will move some of her squash to E.’s high chair tray. In return, E. will usually move something of hers that she like less that L. (for example, pears) to L.’s tray. All of this food trading is messy- not that eating with toddlers is a tidy experience to begin with. So every evening after dinner, Rob sweeps up while I neaten the living room. The girls LOVE to help him with this, mostly, I think because they like to use an adult sized broom. Here are a couple of pictures we got last Sunday of L. and E. cleaning up after dinner (willingly and not in violation of any child labor laws):

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Our Second Halloween

When I first heard that November was NaBloPoMo, when bloggers attempted to post every day of the month, I had a hearty laugh at the idea of trying to participate. Obviously, there are some bloggers who are either not raising twin eighteen month olds or who are able to type using more than just their index and middle fingers. Plus, I tend to be an overly wordy blogger, so I felt exhausted just thinking about it. But I did decide that I would make the effort to blog every three to four days during November. There are a lot of things that I’ve been meaning to post about and it will give me the push I need to sit down and write.

But first, here are the E. and L.’s Halloween pictures. Although we were all sick, we went up to the university where Rob teaches where they host trick or treating each year for faculty kids. Typically, L. hates to have things around her neck or on her head, so I was a little concerned about how well the costume situation was going to go over with her. As you can see, it was a little touchy there at the beginning.


(E. was not one hundred percent comfortable in the beginning either).

Once she saw E. in her costume, though, she got more comfortable. Apparently, she thought E. looked pretty cute and reasoned that she must look good as well. These pictures were taken at the entrance to the building where Rob’s office is. He took the candy that the girls got and said he was saving it to “give to the girls when they are older,” but I have no seen any evidence of that candy, even in his normal secret candy hiding places in his closet.
The tiny giraffes climbing the stairs.
L., finally happy in her giraffe suit.
E., excited to be allowed to climb stairs without parental intervention.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Ahoy, Ya'll

One of the things that I have always found peculiar that you hear reasonably often when people are discussing Asian cultures, especially, is that “it’s really considered rude in that culture to make another person loose face.” And I always think to myself “and it’s not in every culture?” Perhaps it’s true that losing face is a bigger deal in places other than the US, but still, it sounds to me a lot like getting a reminder that gagging on the food someone has prepared for you and then dramatically spitting it out into your napkin is considered bad form “in some places.” Anyway, one of the first things you learn in marriage therapist school is that families are a little like their own culture and when two people marry negotiating, adopting, tolerating and eliminating different aspects of the spouses’ family of origin culture is one of the major tasks of the first five to seven years of marriage. I’ve found this to be true in my marriage to Rob. I love some aspects of his family culture. For example, if two members of the family are having a disagreement, they see no need to hash it all out during meal times, like Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. My family, all of whom I love, is much more likely to go ahead and get it all out the very moment we feel it, rather than take the very real risk we might forget about whatever it is that we’re upset about. Robert loves some aspects of my family culture, perhaps his favorite of which is the concept of “the birthday week,” which I think I’ve written about before. You get to choose which of the seven days around your birthday count as your week and you get to choose all of the meals, all fun activities and so on. We’re still working out how we’re going to make this work with two people who have the same birthday. Other aspects of my family culture, though, have been more of a challenge for him to adjust to. My family is all about seeking medical attention at the slightest provocation. It’s not that we’re hypochondriacs (although maybe there is an element of that to it) and, if you look closely at our family history, do in fact have valid reasons that we’re a little more “proactive” in the treating illnesses early department. However, in the time I have known him, upwards of ten years now, Rob has only willingly see a doctor once for a bout of the flu he had our first year in Atlanta. And I know the only reason he went was that he secretly thought was going to kill him. That said, more than once we’ve had a conversation that begins with my saying “I think I need to see a doctor…” and that ends with him saying “Well, let’s just wait and see what happens.”

All of that is important background for the story of my ER visit the weekend before last and the not-so-very-good week that followed. I had gone to visit my hometown with the girls, as Erin and my newest nephew James were visiting for the weekend. It turned out not to be the best weekend we’d all had together; James had to get his four month shots and didn’t feel so great about that, L. and E. refused to be photographed by the professional photographer and even showed a lot of resistance to being caught on film by Aunt Erin, who they usually pose for. And, however it happened-and I am not making accusations here, but I think I know- one of two people I know who enjoy vigorously poking others in the eyes poked me in the eye with her razor sharp finger nails. So by Friday night, I felt like I had ten thousand eyelashes tuck in my left eye and was unable to hold it open without being blinded by the torrent of tears it was leaking. When I awoke Saturday, the situation was no better. Wisely, I decided to use my one good eye and drive us on back to SmallTown, AR that afternoon, because as long as I didn’t have to glance to the right I wasn’t completely blind. By the time I arrived home, I knew that the next step was to seek medical care. Naturally, Rob was concerned, but as he pointed out, there were no eye doctor’s offices open at 6:00pm on Saturday night. Further, there aren’t any even any urgent care centers in the town where we live. Thinking this through came as a bit of culture shock to me- although I never made use of them, I liked knowing that Atlanta had an 24 hour emergency dental center (we lived three miles away), and emergency eye center, also open 24 hours a day, and even an all night cat clinic. Okay, really, I always just sort of thought that last one was silly, but when I was complaining about the lack of health care available here, I will admit that it came up, even though we do not now, and will probably never, own a cat. Reluctantly, and I knew in my heart he was judging me even as he said it, Robert agreed that if I was unable to get my friend Karen, whose dad used to be an eye doctor in this area on the phone to tell me what to do with my broken eye, I would drive myself to the emergency room at our local hospital to begin waiting, while he put the girls to bed and found someone to come sit with them while he came to meet me.

So off I went to SmallTown’s Emergency Department. Let me state for the record that I am not a stranger to emergency rooms; arguably, given the bizarre series of events that occurred during my pregnancy, I received up to a fourth of my prenatal care from emergency rooms throughout Tulsa and Atlanta. Fun memories. But this was by far the craziest experience I had yet had. When I arrived there was just one other person waiting and I naively took that as a good sign. So I checked in and sat down in the fifteen person waiting room to wait. It was at this moment that they began a new DVD on the television in the corner- Last of the Mohicans. If you’re unfamiliar with the story, let me just say that what with all the rifle fire and flying hatchets included in the movie, it’s not a film that is going to make anyone in the ER feel more relaxed. In fact, one could make the case that teenage boys imitating this movie are probably a prime reason that many people are forced to visit the ER in the first place. Immediately after I sat down, another woman, probably in her mid-forties came in, moaning loudly. I gathered from the twelve people that she had brought with her- apparently, they had been attending a barbeque of some sort- that they all agreed that she probably had kidney stones. She kept shrieking about the pain and her friends kept demanding that the receptionist move her to the top of the line to see the triage nurse. A few minutes later, an eight year old girl came in who had been badly bitten by a dog, She ended up waiting next to me, as the “party of thirteen, kidney stones” was taking all of the other space. The kidney stone woman began to yell more loudly, and it was becoming more and more difficult to hear the carnage occurring on screen, because what with the eye, I was forced to use my ears because I couldn’t really see all that clearly. Which was the cosmic cue for the teenage boy who had cut his hand playing football to come on in. Go ahead and guess who got triaged first. Let me give you a hint- I have never been more annoyed that the stereotypes about Southerners and their admiration for those who play football is true. The kidney stone woman was even able to knock off the dramatic moaning for a bit to complain about it. Hey- I know that maybe he had cut a tendon and needed immediate surgery or whatever, but still. I felt like the child bleeding from her head wounds deserved a bump to the front of the line and the mommy in me would have accepted that without bitterness, but a non-life threatening football injury? Really?

Anyway, Rob eventually arrived and just in time for me to catch one last hatchet throw on-screen, they called me back. I could hear the annoyed wailings of the kidney stone woman behind me, but at that point, I was just so glad to be out of the waiting room with her giant crowd of social support that I had a difficult time feeling bad that I getting in first. The nurse immediately gave me eye numbing drops. I realize these aren’t available over the counter, but if you ever get a chance to get your hands on them, I can’t say enough positive things about them. They then gave me some “make the wound on your eye glow” drops. Here is an actual artist's rendering of what they found:

Needless to say, Rob felt a little bad about secretly judging me for seeking medical attention too quickly, because in his words, “it was really disgusting.” But bear in mind this is from a man who doesn’t like to wear contacts because he hates touching eyes; it could well be that he just has some sort of eye issue. So, anyway, they taped my eye shut and patched it. The next day, E and L took turns gently poking at my patch, which I tried to discourage, given that it’s how I got myself into the situation in the first place. But you couldn’t blame them for being fascinated with Mommy’s pirate eye. And you know, I’ve always had kind of a pirate-y look in terms of my personal style, so you can imagine how well I pulled off the whole thing. So let this be public service announcement about the dangers of letting small children near your eyes.

Here are some pictures for the grandparents:

E. with crazy hair. L. trying to climb onto the picnic table.


Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Our Almost Seventeenth Month Report

For the past five months or so, Robert and I have sort of worked out a system about how we handle night time awakenings on the part of the girls. They've typically been fairly good sleepers, but on any given night, the chances are good that one of them will wake up at least once, usually for a diaper change or needing a parent to retrieve a stuffed donkey who has inexplicably escaped the confines of the crib. It's easy to recognize this particular nighttime emergency by the plaintive cries of "uh-oh" that you can hear in addition to the impassioned weeping. Anyway, the system, as it stands right now is fairly simple. I do the vast majority of getting up with the girls between our bedtime and morning, as I have been blessed with the gift of being able to fall right back asleep when I wake up at night. Robert, however, once he's been asleep for a couple of hours is usually up for several more following each night wakening, except of course for that first four months when every parent is able to fall asleep at anytime, including while running to escape attacking wolves or during peaceful, quiet times, like driving in Atlanta traffic at rush hour, when he was able for the first time the beauty of falling asleep on demand. Although there is the added factor that I'm not the one who has to be up for work the next morning and I have an outside chance of getting a nap if I need one. Apparently, they frown on napping at Robert's new job. Around 5:30, though, when the slightest sound wakes Rob up he goes on duty and gets up with the girls and feeds them their breakfast while I sleep in until he has to jump in the shower a little before 8:00. We live a mile and a half from the university, so when he leaves the house at 8:25, I reach him by phone in his office by 8:30, for which I'm profoundly grateful , as it allows me to sleep longer. I'm really glad, too, that Rob and the girls get to have special time together. One of the things that's been the most challenging about our move has been that, for the first time since L. and E. were born, Rob is away for full work days five days a week. I know it's different and special that he had the opportunity to be such a hands on parent for their early days; for the past two years, from the time he began his exams and entered candidacy, he was able to work from home a few hours a day almost everyday*. So for the babies, it's been an adjustment- his being gone so much. Every morning around 10:30 someone, usually L., will say "DaDa?" Suddenly, they both seem to realize, "Hey, it's been two hours since we saw DaDa. I wonder what he's up to?" So after a few minutes "DaDa-ing," they take matter into their own hands and go to find him. First, they go to our bedroom door and yell "Not, Not DaDa!," which means "knock, knock" and E. and L. strongly feel must be said as you're knocking on door or any other hard surface. When Robert doesn't answer, they run through the kitchen to the laundry room door (the office is on the other side of the laundry room) and knock and call for Robert there. When they get no response, they return to the living room sadly and someone, again, usually L., shrugs her shoulders sadly and says "DaDa bye-bye." When they hear the garage door opening as he arrives home, they like to go to the laundry room door and knock while shouting for DaDa until he opens it and greets them.
(Here is E. first thing in the morning, obviously under the care of the parent who is not as paranoid about babies who climb on boxes to try and pry open the fridge falling and getting a concussion.)

(Here's a picture of L., who saw me trying on my polka dot shoes to see if they went well with my outfit before my first mom's group meeting. They did not, but L. was excited about them and tried to wear them around the house for much of the day. I didn't have the heart to tell her that two bold prints on one outfit can be a little overwhelming.)

Everyone says that as you get between 16 and 18 months there is this incredible vocabulary spurt, so it may be silly that I've been amazed to see it happening in the girls. It seems like in the past month, they've gone from knowing a few words, to really beginning to communicate in small phrases. One afternoon at the beginning of August, E. came up to me making the more sign and saying "Mo!Mo!" So I asked, "More what, E?" "Mo Nana (banana)!!!" In my best sad mommy voice I told her, "Oh no, Sweetie. We're out of bananas." Which led, to "Mo nana (while making the please sign)," followed by her hurling herself dramatically on the ground, sobbing at my hard-heartedness in not being an adequate provider of bananas. I wonder where she gets it. I love, though, how communicative they are. For posterity, I want to list some of their favorite words : Mama and DaDa, La-La (which is what E. calls L.), cahh (cat), dog-dog, nana, mo, dank you (thank you), camel, donkey, behr (bear), baf-baf (bath), diggle (tickle), coe (cow), snack, wader (water), hi, bye-bye, moo, baaa, growwwwl (a lion sound), woof, mooow (meow), ew-ew-ew (chimp noise) and, because we read a lot of Sandra Boynton around here, they both believe that pigs say "la!la!la!"Lastly, L. began calling my mom, their Grammy, "GaGa" two months ago and they both call her that now. So we'll see what she ends up being called in the long term. Here's a picture of GaGa's last visit when she put their hair in what my family calls "buffys," although "dog ears" is also an acceptable term. L. is the one in back:

It changes from day to day, but on the balance right now, E. is doing more talking than L., but L. is the one to whom you can give an enormously complicated command like "If you want to play "stir in the bowls," you can go into the kitchen and get the bowls out of your cabinet and then the spoons out of your drawer." And she pads off to the kitchen and you hear the cabinet door open and close and then the drawer open and close and then she emerges with a bunch of bowls and spoons. It makes you secretly wonder if she's understood English all along and is trying to gather information on her family in their natural habitats for a book she's writing or something. E., on the other hand, will listen to your helpful suggestion and merrily go on her way. Sixteen months has been fun, but while it's so wonderful to see them grow and I would never want to change it, they are so much more little girls than babies most of the time that it makes me a little sad. (But only a little-they're too much fun to be too sad).
(E. playing tupperware. Rhianna- I have a tupperware cabinet now! It's such a mess- I hope you're proud of me!)

(L., looking like a little girl. Look at how long her hair is!!!)
Our last update item: September 6 is the anniversary of the day we found out I was pregnant, so it's sort of a special family holiday for us, where we celebrate the indescribable joy that E. and l. have brought us . Since we couldn't visit our nature preserve in Atlanta, we celebrated last weekend by picnicking at a lake near here:
(L. enjoying lunch.)
(E. enjoying some cheese as an appetizer to her main course of sand.)

*Since this is my blog, one of my pet peeves in counseling (and in real life) is when husbands refer to "babysitting" their own child. It always makes me want to shriek. When it's your own progeny, you are "caring for" your children or being a decent "co-parent." Maybe the desire to shriek and lecture people is part of the reason it's such a good idea that I'm taking a break right now.


Thursday, August 23, 2007

A Quick Anniversary Post

I just wanted to commemorate that two years ago today, in that lab at the Reproductive Biology Associates, L. and E. came into being. Here they are the week we moved into our new house. They're sitting in their part of the living room, looking out of their favorite window.

This week in babies: both girls have been saying "mama" and "dada" since well before they were one- "dog"or "cat" and "donkey"(oddly enough) quickly followed. One of their new words lately is "camel,"which we assume is in honor of the crazy camel footstool that belonged to Rob's grandparents and used to sit in our office, and now is in the living room for them to play with. You can just see the camel's head in the pictures posted above. They both love camel, and several times a day I look up to find them giving it drinks from their sippy cups, patting its head and giving it kisses. I've noticed, too, that they like to grab two stuffed animals and go to their chairs and cuddle them- apparently, they are both under the impression that people just sort of have two babies. We're feeling blessed and thankful beyond our wildest imaginings that these two hilarious people are our daughters.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Moving

Well, most of you who are regular readers of this blog probably already are aware of this, but Rob, the girls and I moved sometime near the beginning of July. You may recall I had written last fall about why my children are being raised as Hogs fans and I had talked about the things I would be sad to leave here. At the time, though, leaving here seemed like something that was terribly far away, like retirement or the age 35 when I was 16. I remember when we moved to Atlanta- I was unemployed and didn’t know anyone and Rob had a social network quickly because of school and at the time I couldn’t have voiced a strong opinion about anything going in the Middle East (okay that’s a lie- I have many strong opinions about most things and I voice them frequently- it’s just that often my opinions are based on my own ignorance, rather than anything substantive, like facts) and I felt so out of place. It’s a big switch moving from a city of 50,000 to one with 5,000,000. I thought all the time about the day coming when we could move “home” to one of the towns we had come from, when I could be back with all of my friends, where the streets flowed with milk and honey and people say ya’ll a lot more than they do here. Our fifth Sunday here we visited Intown Community Church, where we we’re now members and, gradually, my heart began to change a little. Rob and I had agreed that we would visit each church we tried at least three times before we decided, just to give it a fair chance. Plus, every church we’ve ever been a part of immediately starts a building program the first Sunday we walk in the door and we wanted to give each church a chance to talk about something other than building plans. We had attended a huge church in Northwest Arkansas that was biblical and emphasized the important things and liked it, but it was so large that we never got fully connected (it was funny; we led a community group there for a while and I don’t think that we ever technically took the class that was required to join the church). And, while a great church, the teaching wasn’t terribly challenging if you’d been a Christian for any length of time; it was much more oriented to “seekers.” Anyway, our first Sunday at Intown, Scot Sherman preached about the passage in Jeremiah 29 that we evangelicals are all too quick to apply to ourselves- you know, the “I know the plans I have for you” passage. He started at the beginning of the chapter and put it in context: Israel was in the middle of their Babylonian captivity and God was sending a message to them not to trust the false prophets who were promising this exile would be coming to an end soon, but to instead seek the well-being and good of the city to which He had sent them. He actually instructed them to plant gardens and eat of their produce and to have children in exile and raise them, all the while working toward blessing Babylon, because God had promised to prosper them as He prospered the city, which leads into that misapplied verse I mentioned earlier. And I was absolutely dumbstruck; it could not have been more clear that God had brought- you could go as far as to say dragged, because I really didn’t want to visit this particular church- us there on that Sunday because He had a few things He wished to say to us. Me in particular. As we were driving away, Rob, trying to be casual, asked “so what did you think?” And I was so surprised to hear myself saying, “Let’s forget three weeks; I want to go to this church forever.” So did he. Like I was saying, my attitude was starting to change. I had decided I was going to make the most of our exile here. We joined a couples’ community group at church. Rob had a class that first semester on Wednesday night when it met, so I went alone from September to December- )you guys must have totally thought that I was making Rob up to be able to join a couples group, didn’t you?) In a very literal way, we did everything God commanded the Israelites in Babylon to do. We planted a garden in the backyard and fed the girls cherry tomatoes from it the other day before we left. We had children here. And I began to realize as moving day got closer that I was not in exile anymore. This had become home, where Robert and my daughters and my “new” friends are. And I’m so sad to be leaving.

I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that this move has been orchestrated by the Lord. Rob got a job he applied for, not expecting to get an interview because he’s not done with his dissertation, in a specialty area that is one of the most difficult to find a job (history, not Islam), half an hour from his hometown and 75 minutes from mine and got it. I know that it will be wonderful for E and L to grow up having close relationships with their grandparents, aunts, uncles, “uncles-in-law-for all intents and purposes uncles*” and cousins and the “friend cousins,” who are my Cul-de-Sac friends’ children. I know there are Ted’s Escondido Cafes and Abuelos near where we’re going. I know the Golden Driller, the most beautiful example of sculpture in the Western world is only an hour away. And I know that I will be happy here, in our new house, like I have been everywhere that God has moved me. But it feels for all the world like I’m being sent back into exile and I’m dreading the whole process of starting over. When you move away from where you used to live, you loose you’re niche and it’s always a struggle to find where it is you belong again. It hardly seems possible that we could find a church as incredible as the one we’re leaving or friends as supportive and loving and, frankly, just really cool. I’m trying to remember that time when moving to Atlanta felt like moving to Outer Mongolia and attempting to figure out how it is I was able to start over, in hopes I can do it again. Those of you in Thailand, I’m so sorry to be complaining And am touched by your e-mails and prayers), and I’m praying for your homesickness whenever I’m feeling mine.
On a lighter note, one of the things I’m going to miss is our really cute Atlanta neighborhood. Robert and I like older homes, so the one we were in is a 1950ish ranch in a neighborhood full of 1950ish ranches, all of which with essentially the same floor plan, but most of which have been completely renovated. We were about a mile and a half from the University Robert attends, which has a major medical school; so are neighbors are a blend of medical residents and law students and their young families and those people who bought their homes in the fifties for $15,000. Here are some pictures from our neighborhood:

This is of our neighbor's house and the one below was our house (you can see L. waiting for me behind the glass door).

There is this one house though, that we will especially miss. It’s the first house off of the major street as you turn into the neighborhood and we know the people around this man are so grateful for what he must be doing to their property values:


It all started with the mannequin, which used to be propped against the mailbox. Apparently, he felt that complaining about this constituted an egregious attempt to inhibit to his freedom of expression, hence the impassioned cry with purple polka dots for his First Amendment rights. We won’t find this sort of thing in Arkansas and, well, that will be a real loss I’ll be grieving, too.


Posting

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Friends of the Infertile

Several of you have asked me before about how to be a good friend to an infertile person. Other of the infertility bloggers, most notably Tertia, have written about this much more eloquently than I ever could. But if you’re not infertile, you may not have found those sorts of blogs yet. So I will give it a shot. Let me start by saying that, as difficult as it sometimes is for me to believe, not everyone is like me. So your significant infertile person may be different about the particulars and you might have to ask for their opinions about some of these issues. But here are what I regard to be some basic things to keep in mind:

1.) Think about who you want to comfort, you or the other person. This is, in my opinion, the most important thing. It’s probably actually an important life lesson in general, because I find myself saying it a lot to clients who say things like “I just don’t know what to say to her,” regarding a friend who has lost a loved one, suffered a miscarriage, etc. In general, we’re all a little uncomfortable when we see someone in crippling pain, be it emotional or physical and we just want to reach out and make it better. And a lot of that is just to make ourselves more comfortable more than it is to comfort the hurting person. I’ve found that the thing Christians say to the suffering a lot is “well, it’s God’s will” or “God’s timing is best” or some other version of “Well, if it’s not happened, it’s because God doesn’t want it to.” And, hey, I have high view of God’s sovereignty and all of that, but there are times when you need to correct someone’s faulty theology and there are times when an excellent theological truth is not what is called for. It may make me, the speaker, more comfortable, and make me feel like I’ve imparted a great gem of spirituality or am very wise, but may actually reflect you’re no really listening to your friend as well as you think. As I walked through the darkest season of our primary infertility, I did not find that sort of statement to be particularly helpful. It wasn’t that God gets to make the plan that I was angry about. It was just the one He seemed to had made for me that was horking me off. I’ll bet you $20 that you can’t offer a compelling reason why Kevin Federline has four children and your infertile friend has none. (Call me if you can and I’ll send you your money). Giving a pat answer that strongly suggests to your infertile friend that God must not think they’d be a good parent, but He thinks Michael Jackson is might be more hurtful than helpful. Remember Job’s friends- sometimes being silent with your friend is much more comforting to her than all the good theology you know.

2.) Open up the discussion. During those days, the friends who were most helpful acknowledged what I was going through and asked me how I wanted them to approach it. Did I want them to ask how things were going? Did I want to bring it up? Did I want them to pretend that nothing was going on? Infertility really showed me a lot about the nature of my friendships. I was surprised at the some of the people who stepped up and met me where I was and some of the people I thought would be supportive just never, ever brought the topic up. Some of those friendships are still recovering. The friends I appreciated most allowed me to talk about my grief and sadness and didn’t try and talk me out of it because it made them uncomfortable (see #1). .

3.) Be sensitive. I so appreciated the women in my life who let me know they would be starting to try to conceive themselves and were thoughtful enough to ask how I wanted them to handle announcing their pregnancies if God blessed them with one. With close friends, I wanted to know before “word hit the street” and not in a big group setting if they were planning on making a group announcement. With medium friends, I appreciated a heads up the day before they stood up in Sunday School. I needed time so that when I was called upon to publicly shriek with joy, I could do so without betraying my own sadness for me. The one friend who had an unplanned pregnancy during this time handled it perfectly. She called and told me “We’re so excited, but wish more than anything that you were calling me to tell me the same thing first. It’s fine if you can’t talk to me until the pregnancy is over.” Because she was so sensitive, it was easier not to “forget to call” her a lot during her pregnancy and allow that to cause a rift between us. Those were my preferences. Announcements of pregnancy, though, are one of the things that infertile women feel violently different about- find out what your friend needs; often, people prefer an e-mail or voice mail message so they can process it alone, others don’t want to be treated any differently than they would if they weren’t struggling with infertility and want you to tell them like you ordinarily would have. When I know there is going to be an pregnant person at an event that I know an infertile person might not know about, I try to let them know beforehand so they aren’t blind sided at the annual Canadian Independence Day party or whatever.

4.) Don’t Complain. Not that you literally can’t complain- just choose your audience wisely. If your pregnancy is unplanned, I know it can be startling and can feel like bad news at first. But complaining to an infertile person about it is a little like saying, “We’re just so wealthy. It is such a challenge to decide what to do with this two billion dollars we just inherited from Great Uncle Larry” to your friend whose husband has just lost his job and who is afraid they are going to loose their house. It’s hard for them to work up a lot of compassion for you and it’s a lot more likely to make them bitter, because they think you don’t see it as the blessing it is. And it’s fine if you don’t just yet, but your infertile best friend, no matter how much she loves you, probably can’t hear it just then. Likewise, your swollen ankles and nausea, spontaneous nosebleeds at horrible, inopportune times and inexplicable knee pain are unfortunate side effects of pregnancy. However, your blog readers or your other pregnant friends might be better listeners than your co-worker who desperately wants to be pregnant. It’s strange that this is the thing that many of my close friends totally didn’t get. And that’s unfortunate because this can be one of the things that damages friendships the most. While your friend does, in theory, have an obligation to be there for you, to be a good friend to her during her season of infertility, you might need to let her off the hook about holding your hair back while you have violent morning sickness. Likewise, when you’re the sleep-deprived parent of a newborn or going crazy because your toddler’s favorite new word is “NO,” another parent friend might be the most appropriate choice for the empathy you need. Because your infertile friend may just hear, “It’s just so HARD, keeping track of all of our investments and figuring out whether to buy a house in the Hamptons to summer in or not,” and it might add to her pain, instead of making her feel like you’re including her in your life.

5.) Keep Helpful Suggestions to a Minimum. Sometimes, I really wanted my friends’ advice. Usually, when this was the case, I asked. In one instance that almost made my head explode a friend asked, in all seriousness, about a m onth after my second laparoscopy whether or not we had tried having sex around the time I ovulated. If your friend is telling you she is having fertility issues, odds are good that she’s been charting her cycles, talking to her doctors and wants support, not to hear what she might be doing wrong. Another big one that everyone I have ever known who has dealt with this issue has gotten is the classic “why don’t you guys just adopt?” or the more judgmental version “Well, Joe Bob and I decided that if we ever had any trouble getting pregnant we would just adopt. We’ve always had a heart for kids who need a family.” Now please keep in mind, I felt the need to spend the first six months after we discovered that my endometriosis was causing a problem in the getting pregnant department writing letters to people I’d said some insensitive things to related to fertility in the past. In fact, I still have one left to write. One note in particular I wrote to someone begging forgiveness for having asked that very question. So I’m not writing this from a position of moral superiority. I genuinely believe that the bulk of the time, people say insensitive things out of ignorance, not seething malice- but I was ignorant and if I can save even one infertile person one comment that makes them go home and cry, well, I consider that well worth it. Anyway, the primary problem with that statement is the assumptions that underlie it. There is no “just” adopting. Of the three major types of adoption currently practiced in the U.S. (domestic newborn, international and foster-to-adopt programs), the first two are very expensive. The average cycle of IVF costs around $12,000; the average domestic or international adoption is running people between $10,000(very low end of domestic)-$30,000 (high end of international). But you can quite reasonably expect to pay at least $20,000 to cover all of the medical, legal and travel expenses associated with these types of adoptions. Plus, some countries that permit international adoption have income requirements on the part of prospective parents. Foster-to-adopt is significantly cheaper, but more difficult in terms of odds of becoming deeply attached to a child and he or she being reunited with their parents (which is rightly the typical goal for a child in foster care). All three types require massive amounts of paper work, invasive personal questions, indefinite waiting periods and all three types of adoption are fraught with their own serious ethical considerations that have be thought through in a way that going to a hospital, giving birth and bringing home your new baby definitely don’t require. So a friend who opts to pursue fertility treatment rather than “just” adopting may not have the financial resources right now to adopt, may have some serious questions about adoption law and ethics, or may simply not be ready to give up her desire to have a biological child, to experience pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding. One thing a fan infertile friend always asked when people ask her that question is “Why did you and your husband try and have biological children instead of just adopting?” She’s always so gentle about it, but everyone she asks gets a new perspective on the whole question and, I’m willing to bet, never ask it again. Again, especially in the Christian community, I think we try and shame people into adopting whop aren’t necessarily called to do so. I’ve had countless women make some version of that second comment above, often just within my earshot (and again, I’ve done a version of that “just in earshot” thing myself-not about adoption-but I’ve definitely been a jerk about things in this fashion before. God willing, I won’t be again). The fact is, unless you have dealt with the sadness and grief that comes from experiencing infertility, you don’t actually know how you would feel or what you would choose to do. You can speculate and imagine, but until you are face to face with the possibility that you may never get to see you and your spouse’s genetic material combined and running around your house in only his or her diaper, you don’t really know what how you would react. You might try Clomid. Then maybe injectibles. Possibly even IVF. You would never suggest to a grieving person, “Well, if MY mom died, I certainly wouldn’t carry on for six months or more with the crying and sadness.” Because unless you’ve been there, that’s a bold statement to make. And this is another one of those cases where it’s probably the best policy to keep any feelings you have about what you think you might do in that situation to yourself.

6.) A Few More Things about “Just” Adopting. The correct response when someone tells you they’re adopting is exactly what it would be if someone tells you they are pregnant. This is a big one to the women in my church’s infertility group. If you normally solemnly shake hands and say congratulations, do that. If you normally, as in my case, shriek or do the happy dance, do that. If you normally say something encouraging like “Ha! Get your sleep now, because you’ll need it,” don’t let the fact that someone is adopting stop you from being your discouraging, negative self! Since “When are you due?” doesn’t apply as well, “Where are you in the process?” is usually considered by my adopting friends to be a nice follow-up. Then the usual questions about gender, nursery d├ęcor, and cloth versus disposable diapers follow naturally from there. Even if you know it’s been a fertility struggle that has led a couple to adopt, it’s news to celebrate without asking uncomfortable questions about fertility unless the information is volunteered. (Erin and Rachel, is there anything else I need to add? You guys can probably address this much better than I).

7.) A Few More Things Not to Say. It’s in poor taste to offer to let your infertile friend “take mine” in reference to your children. While it’s usually meant in a joking way, it communicates to your infertile friend that you are ungrateful for the blessing of your children and, if they’ve been discussing their infertility with you, it can feel like you are making light of something deep and heartfelt that’s just been shared. Again, see #1-it might be an attempt to make you feel more comfortable with your friend’s pain, but it’s not sensitive to her. The same is true for warning your infertile friend that motherhood is not all that great and she doesn’t know what she’s getting into. No one having their first child knows what they’re getting into, but almost universally, people want to have children. Back to the example of the inheritance, telling someone they have no idea about how burdensome being ludicrously wealthy is-well, maybe it’s true- but most people I know would be willing to give it a try.

Obviously, this is not a comprehensive list. It’s mostly things I and my closer infertile friends have experienced or things that I have said or done terribly wrong, both to the infertile and to those dealing with other kinds of pain that make me want to stab my own eyes whenever I think about them,. I’d love the input of others who have been down this road, too. What did I miss? What else can people do to show compassion and thoughtfulness in dealing with people who are hurting in this way? What else should people never, ever say or do? Any experiences to share?(Leanne? Lesli? Christy? Erin? Rachel? Nathan?)

Sunday, June 17, 2007

To The Best Daddy in theWorld

E and L love their DaDa a lot. They regard him as quite possibly the funniest human being who has ever lived. And I love Rob a lot, too. More people than I can count have said things like "oh, my goodness! How do you do it with twins?" The short answer is really, "Well, being married to Rob OurLastName is probably the only way I can imagine doing it." He has been the person who has made this past year one of the absolutely most fun of my life rather than the most stressful. Rob usually gets up with the babies first thing in the morning and gets them breakfast so I can sleep for a few minutes more and have time to get ready before he leaves for work. And more times than I can count, he has moved heaven and earth to be home at times when I need him to. One of the things I so appreciate about him is that he is so eager to be involved in L and E's lives; he knows their schedule as well as I do and I never worry about leaving them with him. Last year on both Mother's and Father's Day, our first, we didn't do much. Having four and then eight weeks old had something to do with that, I think. I was just so glad not to have to leave church early or cry all the way home that year because I wasn't sure I'd ever get the opportunity to be a mom- so, you know, that was really all I wanted. But this year we celebrated more. The girls "helped" me make breakfast in bed for Rob and we let him open his presents there. We had a gift from the three of us, and L gave him a copy of That's Not My Bear, while E had selected a copy of Horns to Tail and In Between, the Sandra Boynton classic. Here are pictures of the girls giving their Dad his gifts. Our usual no jumping on Mommy and Daddy's bed rule was suspended for the morning.


I think L looks like such a toddler in that second picture! The last shot is from earlier this week when Rob was playing "animal in the zoo" while working in the kitchen. I couldn't quite capture his elephant motions in the picture, but we've all been working on our elephant noises since that morning.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

The Breastfeeding Follow-Up

(Just some non-related pictures from a recent post-bath "naked time" for the grandparents to enjoy.)


When last I left my overly detailed description of our breastfeeding saga, it was about nine and half months postpartum and I was pumping about ¾ of the girls’ milk. In February, I dropped to pumping 5 times a day for 45 minutes each session; then, two weeks later, to 4 times a day. Amazingly, this didn’t affect my milk supply much. It felt so indescribably freeing to be pumping so comparatively little. At the beginning of March, I dropped to three times a day; and again, two weeks later I dropped to two a day. It was fairly uncomfortable, but by the end of March I was dropping two minutes a day from each of my 45 minute pumping sessions so that I was completely done on the girls first birthday. I had a little milk frozen because as they were eating more solids, I was finally having a little leftover to freeze, so they had their last breast milk bottle sometime at the end of April. It felt a little weird stopping; the girls haven’t been seriously ill this year and the colds they got were so minor, that I knew they were benefiting from some of the immune components of milk even if I wasn’t able to supply all that they drank. It didn’t make me feel any better that they became very sick the weekend of their birthday when they were getting far less breast milk. I know in my head the two things probably weren’t related, but it certainly didn’t making quitting any less guilt inducing. Plus, you know, I want them to be happy adults who don’t end up in prison and we all know that if you don’t breast feed your kids will spend at least some time in jail. That is, if they don’t succumb to scurvy first. It says so in all the breastfeeding books. A friend from college, let’s call her “Jenni,” was weaning her younger son around Christmas. At a party we were at together, she mentioned that she had been feeling guilty because, as she looked up information about weaning she ran across a website that said that it was important to be very sensitive to a child you are weaning because he or she is probably feeling that he or she is no longer loved. Rob was standing behind her as she said this and he was nodding his head as she spoke. When she finished talking, he said “Don’t feel bad Jenni- just imagine our babies, who have never known love.” So when I felt guilty, I would just imagine that moment, have a good laugh and remember that being a good mother is 99 percent of the time, not about what my children are eating.

Actually, breastfeeding/pumping is a fantastic way to suppress endometriosis and it had done such good job of doing that I was reluctant to give up that side effect as well. That and the oxcytocin and prolactin hormone cocktail that allow you to lactate are natural relaxants and feel good hormones that I was sad to part with, too. But, on the other hand, I gained back approximately FOUR HOURS a day that I had been devoted to expressing milk and that went a long way to making me feel good, hormones or no. One can do a lot in four hours-like clean the house, cook a meal, take two naps, work out, go to the mall without having to pump in the car. The possibilities really are endless. I hadn’t realized how physically exhausting making milk was. In the past month and half that I’ve been done, my energy level has increased 100% (as it turns out I can’t, but I FEEL like I could run ten miles) and I am finally loosing my baby weight. So while, I’m finally done with the breastfeeding, I feel like I’ve gained a lot more time in my day to focus on the more practical aspects of mom-ing, like keeping the girls from eating smooshed bananas off the floor or from poring olive oil all over the kitchen floor or programming our stereo to go off at 2 in the morning, as E recently did. It caused our Killers CD to come on at top volume and we are only now recovering from the cardiac events it caused to hear “Mr. Brightside” out of nowhere in the middle of the night. When you’re lactating, studies show you don’t reach deeper levels of sleep as often because your brain on some level is listening for your baby in case it wants to eat, so I’m finally sleeping deeply again, which is nice, too. People ask me a lot if God were to bless us with more children whether or not I would do the same thing again. The honest answer is “I’m not really sure,” followed quickly with “if that happens, you must fast and pray that the breastfeeding goes perfectly smoothly next time.” I’m so glad that I did it, but it was so enormously hard physically and because of the sadness I felt about the nursing thing not working out the way I’d hoped. Anyway, that’s the end of that story (I hope) and thanks so much to everyone who was so supportive during the whole thing.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Update on James

I'm just writing a quick post to update all our family and family friends about Erin, Elliot and James. They were released from the hospital on Friday afternoon, but at their first pediatrician visit on Saturday, James informed the doctor about his parents' inadequate tanning bed facilities at home and their refusal to let him lay out by the apartment pool without sunscreen. Naturally, the pediatrician was upset by this as well and readmitted James to the hospital where he could bask in the tanning bed like atmosphere of the bili-lights until his jaundice had resolved a little. With the mediation of the hospital staff, Erin and Elliot agreed to let James have a tanning apparatus at home, so he in turn agreed to come back home with them on Sunday afternoon. Everyone is still exhausted from the whole ordeal, but promise that when the grown-ups in the family have gotten more than four solid hours of sleep and aren't having to take the baby to the pediatrician daily for bilirubin checks that there will be more information and pictures on their blog.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Birth Story

(Not the most flattering picture of me, but this is E and L about an hour and half before they were born).

Okay, you can stop holding your breath. Here it is. (While you wait for Erin and Elliot to post James's story, here's E and L's to tide you over). So after Dr. N told us we were on for the next day, we immediately began to freak out. The week before, she had told me I could get my hair cut and take ½ an hour a day to get ready for the babies, so a lot of the nesting work around the house was done (and my hair looked better). But I hadn’t really left the house for anything other than doctor visits for over eight weeks, so there were a few things I needed to get done. Like eating at our favorite Mexican food restaurant, for example. Each week at the beginning of the week, Rob would promise me that if I was really diligent about my bed rest and very cautious to do nothing, he would take me to Uncle Julio’s Casa Grande after my doctor visit the following week. And every week, after the visit, he would say, “I don’t feel good about your being up and around so much today. Maybe next week.” And I would say that he was being mean and we were going anyway, but he would drive us on home and back to the couch, because I wasn’t supposed to be driving and my balance was thrown a little by the 6 zillion pounds of baby I was carrying and the prolonged bed rest and was consequently unable to wrest control of the car from him. So you can imagine how excited I was for Robert to no longer have any excuse for his cruel oppression. But first, before the chips and salsa, I felt that if I was having major abdominal surgery the next day, I was definitely going to need a pedicure. Fortunately, there was a spot open at the day spa near the doctor’s office an hour after our 9:00 appointment had ended. So we had just enough time to run to the mall for a nursing bra (let’s all have a hearty laugh at this point about how necessary that ended up being). Then to the spa. Now keep in mind that I’d been lying with my feet even with my heart for about 8 weeks and that I had been very disciplined about getting off my feet for about 10 weeks before that, plus, the doctors had scared me into drinking a ridiculous amount of water each day, so I hadn’t swollen at all. In fact, instead of the cankles every one else who was pregnant along with me were getting, I had these comically skinny ankles that didn’t look like they could support my normal weight, let alone the whole “two baby figure” I’d developed. But when I emerged from the warm water soak and foot massage part of the pedicure, I had the most swollen feet and ankles I had ever seen. My toes were kind of numb where the skin had stretched so quickly. It was the first thing Robert noticed when I emerged from the treatment room- normally he says something kind about my feet, but all he could manage was “Wow-your feet…” However, there was no time for chit chat about my grotesque looking lower legs, because we were off to Casa Grande! Which was everything I’d dreamed that it would be, except that I could only eat three bites because E (then known as Baby A to her friends and family) took the precaution of keeping her head under my ribs crushing my stomach so as to avoid being kicked in the head by L (known to her significant other as Baby B).

We went home and had naps- I needed to rest, as this was the most activity I’d been involved in since before Christmas-did the pre-op stuff by phone with the hospital and headed to our last community group meeting with the Tim and Rhiannas (although it might have been held at the Phil and Christys, I’m fuzzy on that point. It was a great way to spend our last baby free evening-with our wonderful friends who had supported and prayed with us until God brought our babies into being. But I was beginning to feel very uncomfortable. I hadn’t taken the Brethine since that morning before our appointment and I was having contractions probably every seven to 10 minutes, plus my fingers were beginning to swell, too. So we borrowed the Mill’s video camera (and we’re so grateful now that we did) and headed home so I could lie around and feel swollen. We had called my Mom as we were leaving the doctor’s office (it was her birthday) and she and Dad immediately got tickets and headed out. Since I hadn’t been able to go on the hospital tour (just Rob and the other expectant couples), I wasn’t really sure about the hospital waiting room arrangements for surgical births, so I my parents them Rob would just call them at their hotel when the girls arrived –I’m not sure what I was thinking- but they said no, they’d come wait in the hospital lobby if necessary, thank you. And again, I’m so glad they were there.

I had contractions all through the night, but I slept pretty well, considering. We got up early, got the house ready to bring babies home, set up the pack and play bassinet at the foot of our bed and got ready to go. As Rob was loading the car, his Mom called and said that she had decided that she would probably need to come out and meet the babies the next day and we were so glad that she’d be able to- it hadn’t looked like as much of a possibility when we had initially called and we wanted both families to be there and be a part of the girls’ first few days. So that was a really happy moment for us. We headed for the hospital around 11:30. Rob dropped me off at the Women’s Pavilion lobby and I did the initial check in work and waited for him while I waited for them to call me back. I was watching all the other women coming in labor and remembering that night in January when Robert was still in Egypt when I was bleeding and sitting in those same seats, praying the girls wouldn’t come at 24 weeks- that they would at least wait until their dad could get home. And at that moment and ambulance pulled up at the door and they unloaded a woman- I heard the EMTs giving the background to the nurses that met the stretcher- she was 24 weeks and her water had broken. We made eye contact and she just looked so terrified and I remembered the much smaller taste of that terror that I’d had and I sat there in the check in area and cried until Rob came in. I prayed for her all through my hospital stay and still find myself praying that her baby made it and is a happy, healthy one year old somewhere today.

As soon as Robert had parked and gotten back in the building, they took us back to the obstetrical surgery prep area. We were third couple having twins that day, so the nurses were excited for us and made us feel really comfortable- both nurses had had c-sections in the past, and that was reassuring. We took a few last belly pictures and the anesthesiologist came in to give me the epidural. He said as he was working that he had his first baby eight weeks before- I think if I had realized at the time how sleep deprived he must have been, I might have been more nervous about his inserting a needle into my spine, but you know what they say about ignorance being bliss. I was so surprised at how heady the epidural made me feel, but also shocked at how good I felt. I hadn’t realized how much my back and legs had been hurting the last trimester or so and how uncomfortable the constant low-grade contractions had been. I kept saying over and over how great I felt, so while I hadn’t wanted the medicated birth, I definitely loved the medication.

They left us alone for half and hour to make sure I was thoroughly numb and I told the babies how much I’d loved carrying them around the last eight and half months and then we told them how excited we were to meet them in person and what we’d be wearing so they’d recognize us (“I’ll be the one in the hair net cap and blue, tie back hospital gown. With glasses”). It was then, in the prep room that we decided for sure whose name would be whose. Robert said, “I’ve been kind of wondering if we should go ahead and name them. We feel like we already know them pretty well.” And it turned out we both agreed Baby A (always what the doctors call the twin closest to the cervix who’s going to come first) was E and Baby B was L. We had chosen both of the girls full names based on their meaning. E. means “Christ has mercy” and her middle names means “clear and full of light” and L means “crowned with glory” and her middle name means “consecrated to God.” It was one of the most moving moments for me of the whole day. By 3:00, they were wheeling us into the operating suite. It was quite the party with the surgeon, the assistant surgeon, the neonatalogist, the nurse anesthetist, the two respiratory techs (one for each baby), and the team of nurses for me and the two nurses for each baby. Rob points out that, given the number of medical personnel that were involved in their conception, it only seemed right that there be at least an equal number present at their birth. I asked them to tell me when they began cutting and Dr. N. said she already had and that I would feel a little pressure and suddenly (at 3:12) she said “The first baby is here!” and she held her up and she (E) started to cry- and so did I. I don’t think I truly believed until that moment that I was going to have two, live, healthy, take-home babies and I was overwhelmed with the anxiety and fear that had clouded so much of the pregnancy and how quickly it all dissipated with her angry little cry. Robert went over to the incubator where they were rubbing her off and suctioning her out and doing her Apgar, but Dr. N said “Dad, you’d better get back here! We’re getting ready to deliver the next baby!” I remember calling across the room, because I needed him there to tell me about her when she was born. He ran back, and at 3:14, Dr. N. held up L. and said “She’s so much bigger!” And she was-she weighed a full pound more than E at birth. L. was crying, too-she’s had a very distinctive cry since birth- and I felt so relieved and grateful. When we had planned the surgery, I had initially thought that I might want Rob to stay with me while they finished the suturing. But once I saw them, there was just no way I wanted them to have to be away from at least one of us at, so there was no question that Rob would go across the hall to the surgical recovery suite and wait for me with the babies. Before he went, though, the nurses brought them over and let me hold them for a few minutes. They were indescribably beautiful and they were looking at me with their tiny eyes and they got so quiet and I knew they knew I was their Mom. It was probably the helpful physical description I had given them earlier. We called them by their names for the first time and Rob went with them over to the recovery room.

One of the neat things about the surgery- if it can be said that any aspect of a procedure that involves your organs being removed from your body is neat- was that the assistant surgeon recognized me from my pre-in vitro laparoscopy he had assisted on the year before with another surgeon (actually, my OB’s uncle, who is an endometriosis specialist). He said that he had taken such care to minimize my scarring last time that he wanted to take extra time to make sure my section scar was not noticeable- and he really did. He gave me great sutures and I didn’t have any of the numbness and all of that that a lot of people I know have had. (***unsolicited advice warning: if you ever for some reason require a c-section, request that your surgeon do a double closure on your uterus and do NOT let them just through in staples. That’s faster for him or her, but the outcome in terms of incisional pain is much worse in the controlled studies that have been done. So you’ll feel better more quickly with stitches. Just so you know***). While all of this was going on, I got to listen to the fascinating surgical talk as he and my OB debated the name of the movie with Michael Douglas, Gwyneth Paltrow and that “guy from Lord of the Rings.” It went on for so long that I finally had to speak up and tell them “A Perfect Murder” because I definitely wanted to hear about something else while I was lying there, shaking as a result of the epidural. I remember getting sick from the medication and the nurse anesthetist telling me it was a common shock reaction to the trauma caused by the surgery and the handling of major organs that the process involved. She hit me with a little Z*fran and I felt a lot better. My last major memory of the surgical suite is a nurse using my abdomen as a desk for her clipboard as she made a few last notes before she moved me. Then it was onto the recovery room. I’ve written elsewhere about getting to hold and nurse E. They wouldn’t let me hold L. because I couldn’t do kangaroo care in the recovery room, as they were about ten minutes from moving me to my postpartum room and she was having a hard time maintaining her body temperature. But they let me see her in the incubator before they wheeled her off to the special care nursery for an hour or so. We were moved pretty quickly to our new room and my parents met us there. I introduced them to E and, a few minutes later L was wheeled back in and we got to introduce her.

As I look back on the day, I know that I was too in shock, in such a good way, to have processed it all at the time. I think that’s a big part of the reason that it’s taken me so long to commit the story to paper. It’s not beautifully written and the OCD part of me hates that. I want the girls to know their birth story and I don’t ever want to forget, but it’s really hard to wrap everything we experienced that day into words. One of the nurses offered to videotape the birth for us so Rob could concentrate on helping me and focusing on the babies and she held the camera up so high that, well, if you’re ever planning a c-section, so don’t rely on mere descriptions in books about what exactly they’ll do, but call me and I’ll send you a tape. I couldn’t watch it until November and I still cry every time I do. I see so much of God’s hand in our story-His bringing our babies into being, His protecting them during a complicated pregnancy, even His perfect timing in their delivery. While they scheduled my surgery to avoid complications from the choleostasis, by the time I arrived at the hospital, I was swelling and my blood pressure, which was perfect the whole pregnancy was very high. Even the epidural, which normally causes blood pressure to drop didn’t help and I know that, if we hadn’t been scheduled that day, I wouldn’t have recognized that I was developing some serious symptoms that could have been devastating for me. And I’m so grateful. I’m grateful for an end to that particular season of infertility, I’m grateful for the blessing of two beautiful, healthy children and I’m grateful because in the midst of a world in which everything can and so often does go wrong, Christ had mercy and granted us those days of complete joy and grace. I know that when I’m in another season of suffering I’ll probably forget-I always do- but I pray that Rob and I will be able to look at our children, remember why we named them what we did, remember that beautiful day they were born and know that God is powerful and that Christ is merciful and try to order our lives in the knowledge of those two things.