Thursday, June 27, 2013

Alistair & Emerick's Birth Story: Part 2

Part I of the boys' birth story is here in case you missed it. 

I climbed onto the bed per the nurse's orders.  Shortly after, the room shifted into an unsettling quiet.  She placed an oxygen mask on my face, ushered in two more nurses to watch with her Emerick's distress displayed on screen, and I steadied myself for the unknown.  I prayed God keep my sweet babies safe.  They explained to me that Baby B's (Emerick) heart rate was dropping each time I was having a contraction and that they needed him to recover quickly.  The unsaid being that an emergency c-section might be knocking on our door.

I did what I always do in times of difficulty. I quieted myself, wringing my stomach and throat from the inside, choking back the letting loose of my fears. It was just then that my mom, dad, and brother, Mark, walked into our room.  It took me a moment to register that a.) my dad had successfully surprised me with his presence and b.) three nurses and an oxygen mask on their daughter might be an image a touch distressing for my family who hadn't yet heard of any complications or concerns.

My dad is a truck driver. I grew up with him working long hours, difficult shifts, and either waking at wee hours in the morning or climbing our stairs to go to bed long after we had all fallen asleep.  My parents both carried the load of stress this lifestyle offered as means to provide for their family.  My dad couldn't make it to my mother's birthing of me because he was on the road (and I love hearing that story about so much waiting and Grandpa driving anxiously and Grandma helping out).  My dad's unexpected arrival with a timing no one could have predicted seemed a happy throw-back to that which he missed before.  Just as my mother's presence for Thomas's birth was a comfort indescribable, so was my father's for this one.

Someone grabbed my hand as my eyes closed in concern for Emerick.  I thought at first it was Paul's, but in my tightening grip of a smaller hand, one which seemed to match my own, I realized it was my mother's fingers which wrapped around mine and I cried because I did not want her worried about me.

My family was asked to leave while Emerick stabilized.  With me cut off from the Pitocin, we held our breath for him to bounce back.  And he did.  At some point a nurse checked my cervix and felt Emerick's umbilical cord pushed in a position which did not favor him working through those contractions.

I couldn't tell you if it was 1 minute or 10 later, but when I looked up to see my obgyn, Dr. Lehnert, at the side of my bed in scrubs, I couldn't have been more relieved.  We hardly needed to say anything to each other.  We had gone over and over and over my concerns, my questions, my feelings and what-if's every appointment throughout my pregnancy.  In that second I looked at him, I felt like we were talking without words, an experience I thought reserved only for family and loved ones.  He asked me, "You ready to do this?" and I must have said yes, but all I remember is crying big tears of happiness and telling Paul that I was so excited that we were about to meet our boys.

The shock and sterility of my 1st c-section was replaced by big doses of joy for our 2nd. I already knew the sheet would be stupidly close to my face and that I would crane my neck to see my boys.  I already knew I would go numb in nervousness when they did my spinal and that I would feel like Paul coming into that surgery room, a vision of hospital blue, would feel like being separated from him for hours (even thought it's only 20 minutes or so).  I already knew they would count off the instruments, that I would generally feel like a piece of meat, and that I would need to be okay with more people seeing my body mechanically opened than I could even keep up with.  All this which is great to be avoided when you can worm your way into natural birth, vaginal birth... it didn't matter much to me because I made it.  I made it to the end and I was so glad to be there.

Alistair, Baby A, was the first to be pulled out at 11:20 a.m. and hearing his panicky screams sent me into big momma sobs of joy.  I heaved with joy.  And sixty seconds later, as Emerick emerged I sighed relief and heaved with joy all over again.  Paul and I marveled at the sound of two newborns crying simultaneously.  As real as the pregnancy was, the sights and sounds of two identical healthy baby boys was so completely unreal to us.  Nothing could have prepared my heart for its jump in size, the way it climbed up and crashed upon this moment like waves on a shore, so fierce and beautiful and loud.

Alistair sporting his Mr. Contemplative look on the left and Emerick donned with a #2 on the right.
I shooed Paul away from my side to capture the boys in photo.  Alistair calmed first while Emerick continued to short cry his way through a little bit of what you might call pissy-ness which is completely founded considering Momma scared him quite a bit with all that contraction nonsense.  Paul tentatively checked the boys out as their APGAR scores came in and weights and measurements were announced: Alistiar at 5.12 and 19.5 inches.  Emerick at 5.10 and 19 inches.  A nurse asked Paul if he wanted to hold both boys and just like that the man I know and love looked the most natural picture of father to twins.  I think Paul could have two more added to him here, maybe one on his back and one wrapped around his leg and he would still look like a natural. Just sayin'.

While being put back together and grinning like an idiot, I stole myself for that last scary, awful element I had prepared myself for continually during the seventeen weeks I knew I was carrying twins, quieting my anticipation of the birth for the very strong likelihood the NICU would whisk off our boys right when we needed them the most.  I caught eyes with the closest person near me, feeling as if I was reaching out with my very arm to stop them in their wrapping up of surgery.  "When will the NICU take them away from us?" was answered by an eager reply of, "Oh, they already checked them. They're fine. They're all yours!"  And my heart leapt again.  Had I ever known such great joy??

I'm not quite sure where a birth story ends and the rest of life's story begins. And there's really so much I could share with you about all the joys that continued to pour in with the arrival of the boys, namely the love and support of so many family and friends through visits, texts, calls, and so on.  But if I had to book end this experience of meeting my sons, nothing would be more fitting than our connection via that first nursing session.  Because sure I didn't warrior woman my way through birth, opening myself up like a flower or scream-pushing like some possessed monster, but I nursed my babies and said hello, you're mine, I love you and in a way that's all that ever mattered to me--showing up and being fully present.

Both boys latched, Emerick first and then Alistair, with an ease that took me by surprise.  To hold them, one by one, skin to skin, brought my ship safely into harbor.  I could take on what lay ahead. I had this, this connection, and that's all I needed to make my way.  That and the boat loads of oxytocin two nursing babies can release because hello holy high; nursing twins feels like being drugggggged up! And nowhere in those awful, horrible things that I read about twins did I find a mom professing love for the happily milked ever after.  But there I was, double, triple checking with the nurse that I really wasn't slipped something something without my knowing, that it really was these tiny littles that had me high as a kite.

And it was. It is. It will always be that my sons, all three of them, through a lot of work and some preparation and a few scares here and there, will over and over again catch me by surprise and have my heart soaring.

the end

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Alistair & Emerick's Birth Story: Part I

On the morning of Thursday, June 6th Paul and I woke at 4 am to a very clean and very quiet (sans toddler) house, excited to meet our sons.  It was with a touch of bittersweet that I struggled for the absolute last day with the size of my baby bump  mound to shower and dress.  I took photos of myself in my skivvies, sensing my twin-sized belly might, for some unfathomable reason, be missed or forgotten or of lore in the future. I had barely slept and woke to an anticipation that had me holding back ridiculous grins.  Today was the day. What a wonderful feeling!

The night before, my sister, Amanda, had, after venturing out with me for a pedicure (my 1st ever), drove away with Thomas in the dark to stay overnight.  I had a particularly difficult time on the brink of my one last hug with my first born.  We had to close the door on the season of just the three of us and I scraped up just enough maturity to actually let him physically go without melting right then and there as one hot mess of sappy love and pity and hopes for my boy.

Due to the nature of the high risk mono-di pregnancy, an induction at 36 weeks was strongly encouraged by our doctors. We had finally made it to that day, a day I hadn't envisioned making it to, and after packing up the last few items into our suitcases and my purse, I sighed relief and gratitude for an unexpected gift of carrying the twins as long as possible.  That was the 1st of many unexpected blessings during the arrival of our twins.

Our induction started shaky.  They accidentally had us swapped with a 7 o' clock appointment.  Once that was fixed and we were settled in the labor & delivery room, my i.v. blew.  Shortly after that, the nurse decided to do a quick ultrasound on the boys to double-check their positions, but the machine kept shutting down.  I laughed off what seemed to be some comical bad luck so early in the morning and was ready to see if the Pitocin could get things moving.

The week prior I was 50% effaced and 1/2 cm dilated.  I confided in Paul that I knew nothing had progressed. Not only was I sure of that, I had emotionally calmed to a total inner lull one week prior to the induction, knowing I would make it to the last day and that my body still wouldn't be ready. A quick check confirmed my suspicions. No progress. Same numbers. Time for the Pitocin.

Although my heart was light and Paul and I were in good spirits, the 2 by 2 increments of Pitocin, which started sometime around 8:30 that morning, brought about predictably little to none in terms of progress.  My chest felt heavy when we hit 12 because we were over halfway to what I was allowed (for VBAC) and I was experiencing irregular, moderate contractions that only served up enough discomfort to simulate a superbly full bladder.

The time had come for me to let hopes for the VBAC go.  My goal for this birth was to experience everything to its fullest in the moment, to be at peace, and to choose joy.  So it was that just a few hours after arriving at the hospital I let a few tears fall while confiding in the nurse my specific fears about going into my 2nd c-section: recuperating from surgery with twins, not getting another chance at a VBAC, and (my greatest fear) someday listening to a doctor tell me I couldn't get pregnant again. I turned to Paul and told him I knew it wasn't going to happen and that while we would ride out the rest of the power of the Pit, I would be preparing my heart for meeting our boys via surgery.

Paul didn't get to coach me through contractions.  He didn't rub my back while I labored on top of a ball or groaned next to a bed.  But he was the best darn coach I could have ever dreamed of.  He told me jokes, listened to me, showed me his love, and fulfilled, as my best friend, my ultimate goal of showing up and being fully present in our experience.  We talked and laughed and made a time of it.  When we reached 18 or 20 on Pit we were standing next to my bed, closely tethered to machines due to monitoring of the boys.  I asked Paul to go to my purse and find the letter I had written to him, the contents of which were meaningful and intimate, a wife's charge to grab life by the horns.  He held my hand and we watched random contractions rise and fall on the monitor as he finished the letter.  The timing of him reading the last line which read "let's do this!" was uncanny considering it was just a matter of minutes later that our nurse rushed in and immediately started lowering my bed, urging me to get on it as soon as I could physically do so.

We were closer to meeting our boys than we knew.

Read the rest of the birth story here

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Brother On-Board

I need the Blogger version of police tape wrapped around this post.  Warning. Enter at your own risk. Danger. Do not cross ... a postpartum woman hoping for a coherent post.  Dead grammar and vocabulary inside.

Adjustment period?? We got this!
With that being said...

We've got a big brother in the Anderson house. A stork dropped him off, swapping him out for his younger looking and quieter version.

Thomas is warming up to his new role as #1 little person of the Little Persons Anderson Brigade quickly.  He's heard one hundred different ways from mommy and daddy NOT to touch his brothers and yet has managed to find himself both in the episodes of hijacking a baby swing (baby inside) and the operation of thermometer near baby's head in the past 24 hours.

 Despite his wavering understanding of, "NO. NO. That's dangerous!!", his sweet demeanor has been off the charts, evidenced below, in granting each of the boys their own bear to "take good care of and don't lose", in just one of dozens of ways he's made sure the twins are in good care. He's showered kisses, hugs, and pats on burping backs to his brothers sending my heart into a melt fest, oozing soft and primed for the impending contrast which rains down on me when a random act of Thomas's kindness, in the form of suffocation or screaming, sends me into cardiac arrest.

Yesterday, I snatched him away from Superman play to do a little spa treatment with the persons he often refers to as "those guys".  As in, "I think that guy needs a blanket too." And "that guy there wants a pacifier." This is an upgrade from his initial insistent observance that he was still the only male child of the house: "I want to kiss her"; "Her is crying again."; "Her has a penis like me..."

Tandem nursing has afforded Thomas a crash course in milk production.  A few snippets of a curious three year old wrapping himself around the concept:

As well as this:

Me: "Lots of animals feed their young milk."
Thomas: "Do they take off their clothes too?"

And at day care, after professing love for "his babies", he told all the kids and his teachers that they "drink milk from mommy's boobs".

*     *    *    *    *

Needless to say, we're all adjusting here.  T.V. has been on more than normal.  I've definitely done that grit your teeth while growl-talking bit once or twice. And Paul and I are trying our darndest to sweep in with some extra love on both sides for our first born.

Kid knows he's still got our hearts on lock.  No doubt about that.

Paul took a doze with him for nap time but got out of bed for a minute to grab some medicine.  Thomas said, "But don't you want to sleep with your favorite best friend, buddy?"

All is well in the land of streaming Netflix and mother's milk.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Five Favorites - The Postpartum Edition

I'm linking up with Hallie for my shout-out to things I've loved during my postpartum recovery with the twins.    Writing a five favorites might be something simple enough for my fatigue-ridden brain to handle.  This edition is all about stuff I've been grateful for having during this time, but my heart right now is the world over more consumed in love over little fingers and toes and dressing up five lb babies in matching clothes. But if I started writing about that... I'd just be a mess of tears and never get finished with my post!

I received $30 in iTunes gift cards for Christmas.  It took me months to actually spend any of it. I downloaded Baby Connect the second my friend, Angie, suggested it, trusting that the $5 purchase needed only the prerequisite of a good friend's insistence.  

I'll be writing lots more about nursing in upcoming posts but for now I'll say that we have seen such a beautiful success nursing the twins, and we started tandem nursing less than 24 hours post delivery. If you aren't familiar with tandem nursing, I'll fill you in later; for now: tandem nursing this soon is a big deal! A great portion of the ease and success of our experience is due to this app.  I would go back and spend $30 if I had to, especially with the added complications of keeping track of feedings and diapers for two babies that look absolutely, positively identical.  If you are expecting, and I can't stress this enough, purchase this app! 

My mother-in-law brought this basket of recovery goodies into the hospital. I was so grateful to have a plethora of snacks and drinks to enjoy.  All I had packed were a few Clif bars. I've made a mental note to pass forward this gift basket kindness for a loved one in a similar situation. My favorite item in the basket was Kashi Ripe Strawberry cereal bars. So crazy good! 

Maybe my favorite items later will be that bottle of wine.
I've always secretly wanted a token to remember my birthing by.  But my 1st c-section had me doubled over in a bit of shame and made me grateful Paul hadn't surprised me with a necklace or some other something special to remember the occasion.  When my mom pulled out this gift she hunted down, a wine glass with adjectives of praise scrawled all over it, I was incredibly touched.  Heaven forbid that wine glass ever breaks.  It symbolizes so much of how I feel about being a mom, carrying twins, and birthing in whatever way was necessary to help the boys make their debut. Best gift ever!

My Medela Pump In Style (which is actually brand new because the 1st one I owned was recalled and replaced by the company at the very end of my nursing journey with Thomas). When new moms ask what they should buy, I always say this.  And here's just one of a hundred reasons why these contraptions are worth every single penny... You're looking at 37.5 ounces of frozen milk on Day 5 of post-delivery. 

At the Anderson house, we're big lovers of swaddling.  In efforts to establish the difference between night and day for the boys, we only use the swaddling wraps during the night.  While frugal mommies might skip purchasing swaddle wraps and go forward with their swaddling ingenuity with nothing more than a blanket, I'm no such mom.  I like the velcro packin' pouches so I know my strong little boys won't wiggle their way out 5 minutes after I've wrapped them up.  Here's my sister with the boys last night. Isn't she a cutie?!!

And for a bonus... a photo of my strapping husband with our babies because those are my true and all time favorites (along with my son, Thomas, who would look a bit funny if I cropped his photo-ed self into this black and white shot...)

And time's up for this mommy.  We've got a big day ahead of us with the whole family under one roof! 

Monday, June 10, 2013

The Twins Have Arrived!

Alistair Zane and Emerick Blaise made their debut last Thursday, June 6th at 11:20 & 11:21 a.m. Alistair weighed 5 lbs. 12 oz. and Emerick weighed 5 lbs. 10 oz.  We're experiencing epic baby bliss at the Anderson home. I'll share details of their arrival when I get a chance. For now, photos of our identical cuties for your viewing pleasure. 

Numbered hats and painted toe nails were necessities for knowing who was who. 
This is what pure joy looks like.

Our family of five!


Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Great Expectations

Two new girlfriends, Rosie, from the blogosphere, and Susanne, from the school I worked at this past year, have served as lighthouses for me in the past four months as I prepare my life for twins.  Both equipped with twins of their own, they've cast their lights (over and over again) as I've needed to find my way to shore.  Their piercing brightness sends both the message that I should be forewarned of jutting rocks which could slice my ship in half and leave me and my crew drowning within arm's reach of harbor and the message of "you're home, you're home, we're so glad you've made it home!"

Susanne's boys, Cord and Wes.  Thomas was overheard saying, "Quarter, Quarter. Give me your hand." Preview photo.
Mommy personalities which carry a sense of peace, calm and cheerfulness, where affordable, about the whole twin thing is more of a happy find than you might realize.

Much of what I've read of parenting twins has had me peering half-heartedly in horror like that time I watched It as a small child through holes in the afghan. I wanted to submit myself to face the scary clown and yet I knew I would have been better slipping off the couch and hunting down some toys for entertainment instead.  Maybe it's the anti-charm of reading someone's voice in a book and missing an element of face-to-face authenticity that left a bitter taste in my mouth as I made my way through the stack of twin literature.  The naked honesty of bloggers has handed me quite a few opportunities to drop my jaw or raise my eyebrow at sad comments made by women whom have gone before me and know better.

Dude, apparently raising twins is bleak. High rates of divorce. Stretch marks which announce themselves like fireworks in the sky. "Twin skin", a catchy way of labeling a deflated air balloon on your front side.  Fatigue which rivals torture. NICU flavored medical bills. Parenting as a blackout of recollection from previously mentioned fatigue.  Super crap-time birth stories. The list goes on.  And then there's that bleeping schedule of help I was told no less than a hundred times to have outlined already wherein I would hypothetically have three adults on deck at all hours of the day for the 1st month--or die.  Our calendar is on the fridge. Blank. Happy to be filled in when texts and calls bubble to the surface of our harbor.

A week ago a happy, if not delusional, thought occurred to me. Oh my gosh, Ash! This is totally going to be like heading to the movie theater when one too many people have exclaimed, "That's the best movie ever. You're going to love it!" You see the movie. It's great. But you were holding your breath for some kind of cinematic miracle. Maybe the movie would have been "the best movie ever", but simply because you were set up for that, it just wasn't.  It didn't even have the chance to be so.

Maybe I'll witness that phenomenon in reverse.  I've been holding my breath for devastation.  I've expected nothing less than a few shades short of death two weeks into bringing home the twins. A landscape has painted itself inside my mind of an unhappy tumble-weeding peoples in a desert of a home dried up on love and praying for some normalcy to rain down somewhere, anywhere in what we had previously thrived in as our oasis.  Maybe my dark and dismal expectations have set me up for a pleasant surprise when things are a 7.5 on the Richter Scale of Miserable rather than a 9.

But the movie analogy has a big fat hole in its screen.  We all see the same movie. Our experiences are only marginally different by nuisances like your ability to keep up with the plot faster than me and my need to go to the bathroom right at the climax. Essentially, we see the same thing. This is not the same for life. Not the same at all. None of us get our ticket collected for the same "movie" even when we think we've been handed the same title: Marriage, Children, Buying Our First Home, A Child with Special Needs, Homeschooling, Neighbor with Dog Obsession.

No amount of prep can set us up for definitive success in life.  It helps. Sure it does. Choosing daily to show up and be fully present has to take us the rest of the way. It might be important to wrap ourselves in the safety nets of similarities in our experiences, but it is more important to pick up quickly on the uniqueness of our scripted-by-action, moment-by-moment, day-by-day narrative.

"We put a baby in this, Momma."
I have once or twice detested some frustration from my mother when I've drunkenly resurfaced from my recent nonfiction pick as some sort of last key to unlock the mysteries of my life.  We are kindred spirits in our bottomless appetites to drink up words, but she and I both know I have the tendency to lean on testimony, facts and figures, and a webbing of stories as a crutch for finding my way.

Expectations, whether created from the scratch of our souls or, like me, pieced together through books, blogs, and brochures, should only be allowed so much real estate in our minds.  Good or bad, expectations don't hold water to reality.  Even if I do have babies in the NICU and a C-section and an embarrassing meltdown on the phone for more help three weeks in, it won't matter that I knew it was bound to happy thanks to this or that statistic or twin mommy saying so.  It will only matter that I'm in it, living it, embracing whatever it is that I'm experiencing.

My expectations which will be ushered on stage in just two days are etched in vague strokes. I hope to remember that I always have a greater capacity to grow, that it's okay to die to self for a greater good, that an attitude of aptitude is our greatest tool, and that I have a strong and loving hand to hold through all of it.  I expect to show up and be fully present through all of it!

And I expect to remember that sometimes life can be a crap time and that's okay too. Somehow, it usually comes back around.

Thank you to Rosie & Susanne for your upbeat attitude and for the family members who have been a necessary antidote to my melodrama. I'm hoping you're all saying "I told you so" shortly.