Sunday, November 28, 2010

Christmas trees and my holy child

Last Friday I started writing this post in my head. It was about turkey soup. You will see that turkey soup is now only one line in the post. Then it also had a temporary focus on us going to get a Christmas tree. Well I did a full 180 and ended up with an artificial tree. You know why? Because it takes forever to do a good job with Christmas tree lights and I have two one-month olds. So needless to say, I don't have the time or patience to put lights on my tree. If I had that kind of time, I would have actually finished this post on Friday.


I have given in to the Christmas spirit. The moment I put the turkey carcass in the pot to make turkey soup, my heart leaped forward to the holiday season. We had plans to get a tree on Saturday but it rained all day. My mom offered several times to come over and babysit so we could go pick a tree, but after much debate, I ended up with an artificial tree. It makes me a little sad because I love walking through the trees and looking for one I fall in love with. I love the smell of the fresh cut tree and watching Brandon try to make it stand straight. I will miss the smell when I walk into the house and how every year the tree is different. But now I don't have to put on the lights or figure out how to get rid of the tree in January. And there are no needles covering my floor.

Brandon and spent this afternoon decorating. I love opening the big Christmas boxes and rediscovering all the decorations and ornaments we packed away 11 months ago. We already received two sets of ornaments for the girls and I know that it is the beginning of many years of my children receiving personalized ornaments. I know that in just a few short years our girls will be decorating the tree with their homemade ornaments. And I know that our girls are way too young to remember this Christmas, but it means something to me to celebrate this first year as a family.


Tales of motherhood: the other night baby Ana fell asleep face down on my chest. About 30 minutes later I remembered my necklace and hoped it wasn't poking her, as it has a a pretty sharp point at the bottom.

Nope, not poking her. She was laying flat on it and had an entire cross embedded in her face. Didn't seem to bother her. I should have photographed it and posted it on the internet. There would have been crazy Catholics coming from all over the nation to see the child with a cross on her face. It would have been like Mary on the tortilla or Jesus on the grilled cheese.


I am exhausted. Things are going well, but there is no avoiding being tired when there are two babies to care for. But I love my girls like crazy. They are so cute. I just want to kiss them and hold them. I love how soft and fuzzy their little heads are and how adorable their tiny feet and fingers are. I am in awe that they were both inside of me. There are still moments of shock that I have TWO babies. Two. That is twice as many as one.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Welcome to life...

Our family is all under one roof.

Last week we brought home Ana after 15 days in the NICU. Those 15 days started out rough with my early delivery and then juggling life at home with my babies in the NICU. And then it seemed a sudden transition to bring home Grace one day, and then equally sudden when Ana came home four days later.

So far, so good.

The girls were on a similar schedule thanks to the NICU and for the most part we have continued to keep them on this schedule. While in the hospital the girls were bottle fed with breastmilk, so I am now trying to transition them to the breast. I need them to do this for my sanity. It takes long enough to feed two babies. But then pumping on top of that is like having a third baby. I have one kid who can do it and another who refuses. Go figure.

I am trying to approach infant parenting with a sense of humor. There is nothing serious about any bodily function that can become projectile-- so I just laugh. I am washing so much laundry and trying to be lighthearted about the number of diapers I have changed already.

I know that my mom is surprised by the way that I have embraced parenting, and to be honest, I have surprised myself a little. I was always a little wary of babies and no one was afraid to say that I was better with older kids than the younger. And then to have two? Forget about it. But the natural part of motherhood has overtaken me. I don't know how I feel about vaccines; I have no real opinion on whether formula is bad for your baby; I don't know if I want to be a stay at home mom or go back to work-- but I do know that I feel a deep urge to protect my girls and to care for them at all costs. We are figuring it out. It feels right. My instinct to care for them manifested itself from deep inside me and it is a beautiful feeling.

This post is mostly to say that we are well. In just a short time Brandon and I doubled the size of our family and went from husband and wife to dad and mom. I didn't know what to expect, but what I got is two beautiful girls and a life that I am loving. I am sleeping (enough) and accepting help (most of the time) and enjoying my days filled with visitors. My former self is retired and I am discovering myself again from a new role.

Monday, November 15, 2010

wondering what the neighbors think

When we moved in I really hoped that we would be all nice and friendly with our neighbors. We didn't need to be BFFs or anything but I did envision at least a cordial relationship. I made the effort to introduce myself to the 5 or 6 neighbors closest to us, but after nearly a year here, the best I get is a wave or a short "hello" if we happen to be in speaking distance. The kids all seem to like me, but there isn't much of a relationship to be had with a bunch of 8 year old boys.

I was pregnant for a little more than 33 weeks. With twins. Needless to say, I looked pregnant. In the later weeks of my pregnancy, I definitely saw lots of our neighbors as we did our usual hello and wave. They would have had to notice I was huge. For the last two weeks I have been walking around my neighborhood again with no belly. I certainly don't look pregnant anymore. And it makes me wonder what they think. No one bothered to ask me about my pregnancy, and since all of a sudden I wasn't pregnant and I didn't have a baby home with me, don't they wonder at all? I am just saying. Maybe I am just one of those nosy neighbors who would have thought these things about someone else.

In other news, our Grace has been home now for 2 days. So far, so good. Ana is doing great on her feedings-- we just need her to gain weight daily and then she can come home too. Right now we are adapting our schedule for one baby. I have to say-- it isn't as hard as I thought it would be. The NICU has the babies on a specific schedule and Grace has stuck to it. I am hoping that it stays this easy...

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

On accepting help


I am fiercely independent and determined to do things myself. I generally prefer to do things myself rather than watch someone else do it half-assed or inferior to how I would do it. Rarely will I admit that I cannot do something-- I will try every avenue to accomplish something myself before asking for help. These characteristics apply to my personal and professional life.

For the first time in 28 years I find myself having to ask for help and relying on others to do things for me. It is uncomfortable. It is awkward. It is also extremely humbling and a reminder that I am human.

Apparently a cesarean section is a big deal. Since I have been taking only ibuprofen and haven't really had any pain, this is a little hard for me to believe. I received a heap of post-op instructions that I am trying to follow. Despite my desire to live life as normal, I have been relying on family and friends to drive me around and asking my husband to do things that normally I would do myself. It is amazing how losing something as simple as the ability to drive suddenly made me feel so trapped, so reliant on others. And so day after day this week I have called people in my life and asked them to do something for me. I am allowing others to drive me. I am accepting offers to help, to cook dinner, to visit me.

These small things are difficult enough for me to accept. But the added challenge of learning to care for two preemie babies has been a real opportunity for me to accept the help of others. While there is certainly some parts of motherhood that I think are natural, so much of caring for a preemie baby is completely unnatural to me. Additionally, I have TWO babies who are immensely different in their needs and their progress. I spend hours each day in the NICU with my babies. Brandon and I are able to change their diapers, take their temperatures and then feed them. Every feeding presents new problems and I think that in eight days I have only fed Grace once without having to ask a nurse for help. But every time I go back, I ask questions and learn from what each nurse has to say.

In only one week I have had to abandon my stance as the strong, independent Erin and admit that I need help and the result has been suprising. I feel more love and support because I have allowed people in my life to share their gifts with me. This week I learned that NICU nurses are a true gift to my girls and to Brandon and I. They are patient as they teach us how to care for Grace and Ana. I feel more and more confident every day because of what they share with us. In my personal life, accepting help has given me the opportunity to spend time with people I love as they drive me to and from the hospital. It gives me a chance to draw from their strength and love. I realized this morning that I was happy to have 20 minutes to spend with someone else as I let them share their generosity and love with me. I am immensely grateful to everyone who has reached out to help our family. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Finally, the last week has given me the chance to spend time each day with my mom. Whether for a short visit or a ride home, my mom has rearranged her whole life to help me. And only 8 days into their lives, I already know that when my girls need me, I will drop everything for them.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Labor and Early Delivery

I know that twin pregnancies are likely to result in pre-term labor. But to be honest, I was convinced that I would carry my babies until at least 36 weeks. I remained active throughout my pregnancy and felt great. I did go to labor and delivery last week for cramping, but after evaluation, my doctor said I was fine and I was even cleared to go to game 2 of the World Series. I had a pretty normal weekend-- we had friends and family over for Brandon's birthday and to watch game 3. I carved pumpkins and watched game 4 while handing out candy to trick-or-treaters. On Sunday, Brandon and I decorated the nursery and I washed all the newborn and 0-3 month clothes we had.

On Monday morning at 7:15 I was laying in bed trying to decide what time I should get up. As I was laying there I felt a gush of water. I jumped out of bed and ran to the bathroom, while reviewing in my head if it was possible that I was actually peeing on myself. I stood in the bathtub in my pajamas and determined that no, I was not peeing. So I ran and got my phone, then returned to the bathtub which seemed like the only logical place to be. I called Brandon first, who was already at work. I don't have a clue what I said to him. Then I called labor & delivery and they told me to come in right away. Despite my insistance that I could drive myself, the lady convinced me I needed someone to drive me. I called my mom and asked her to come get me so Brandon could just meet us at the hospital. I had 30 minutes to wait while she drove to my house, so I packed a toothbrush and some clothes. Then I wandered around my own house in complete shock because there is nothing that prepares you for going into labor 5 weeks early. By the time I got to the hospital I had accepted that I would likely have babies by the end of the day.

In triage they confirmed that my bag of waters had broken and put me and the girls on monitors. I was only dilated to 1 cm (where I had been for several weeks) and was not having regular contractions. The doctor decided to admit me to labor & delivery where they would monitor me and the babies on complete hospital bedrest. He hoped I could put off delivery for up to a week. So just hours after believing I would deliver that day, I was now planning on spending several days in the hospital just letting my girls grow longer inside as long as labor didn't progress and the girls showed no signs of distress.

I spent the rest of Monday in bed with very little excitment. I got my laptop from work and Brandon brought me enough DVDs to keep me entertained for days. Brandon and I watched the SF Giants win the World Series from my labor room. We decided that since Baby A had broken the water, she clearly wanted to see the Giants and that is how we chose who should have what name (her middle name is Posey--named after Buster Posey, the Giants' catcher). Although I had a few cramps, there was nothing regular and I assumed that the doctor's plan would work. I was incredibly miserable because the monitors lost the babies' heart rates everytime I shifted my body. The bed was uncomfortable and I couldn't find a position that didn't ache. Nurses were constantly coming to adjust the monitors and they were incredibly patient with my need to use the restroom and unplug every machine I was hooked up to.

Unfortunately my body didn't have the same plan as my doctor. At 3am I began having contractions about 5 minutes apart. They were bothersome but I hoped they would subside and so I didn't even wake up Brandon. I breathed through the contractions and several times told the nurse that I did not need any narcotics for the pain. By 4:30 I was having regular contractions about 3 minutes apart. They had intensified in pain so I finally woke up Brandon and told him I needed my labor partner. Brandon was fantastic at supporting me through contractions and emotionally supporting me while I was trying to understand what was going to happen. The resident that night didn't seem super concerned over the fact that I was having regular contractions. She said they would just keep monitoring them.

At 5am the contractions were 2-3 minutes apart and I was in a lot of pain. I was still turning down narcotics because with two breech babies, I knew that if delivery was coming it would be cesarean and I didn't want drugs and a spinal. She decided to try some sort of oral tablet that slows and stops contractions. After 3 doses there was no change in contractions and finally another doctor came and saw me at 6:20am. His exam revealed that I was now 3 cm dilated and 80% effaced. At 6:40 he decided that I needed the cesarean soon. Brandon called my parents and told them.

The shift change for the entire hospital happens at 7am. So the transition was a little slower than it should have been. While waiting for everyone to be in the correct place, I was experiencing intense contractions 2-3 minutes apart and was absolutely terrified of having a c-section. When the anesthesiologists came in I was barely capable of listening to them between the pain and my fear. Finally I was walked into the operating room. They introduced me to the NICU nurses who were there to take my babies and I lost it right there in the hallway. The nurses and the nurse anesthestists were amazing with me as they tried to calm me and explain to me how the spinal would work. I got the spinal and they had me laying in place when suddenly some code was shouted out in the room and the room emptied. There was a good 10 minutes of questioning about who would do my c-section since everyone had just gone to an emergency. Everyone returned a few minutes later and after asking for the 3rd time, someone finally went and got Brandon from the waiting room.

My entire upper body was shaking and I was in tears the entire time the procedure was happening. Brandon got to stand up and see each of them pulled out. Grace Posey was born at 8:22 and she came out screaming. Ana Cristina was born 2 minutes later. Although she wasn't crying, I felt comforted by the fact that there was no commotion or great concern. Brandon was able to bring them both to see me before he went with them to the NICU.

After the c-section I had to wait for feeling to come back to my body and then I was faced with several hours of dizziness. It was 7pm before I was able to finally go the NICU to really see my girls for the first time. Brandon had been showing me pictures and giving me updates all day. What an overwhelming moment-- to meet my children in such a place. We are blessed that they are quite healthy and well for their gestational age. They need only to meet a variety of milestones before they are released.

I was released from the hospital this afternoon. We have no idea how long the girls will be in the NICU-- it could be anywhere from a week to five weeks. There are many things to say about life in the NICU, which I will certainly share in the days to come. In the meantime, say a prayer for my little girls-- that they will meet all their milestones and come home to us soon!