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Saturday, March 17, 2018

The IVF Chronicles: Prelims to Preggo-hood

Bilbo and Wall-E have now been out longer than they have been in if that can possibly be believed.  That saying of the days being years and the years being days is spot on; it is a cruel yet amazing truth that our babies have grown and become people as rapidly as they have.  Seeing my coworker's new baby boy at a few weeks old and B&T's sweet baby girl at three months reminds me how tiny yet fragile they felt when they were below fifteen pounds.  The new baby smell is so nice and those first sounds are so sweet;  I do get the butterflies in my uterus feeling their tiny fingers and hearing their little coos, but I am reminded that those early days I felt very fragile and vulnerable and affected by their every cry and overwhelmed with all of their possible needs that I could not translate.  I know they are forming bonds and learning to make sense of their "people" and how to make their wishes known in ways other than squalling, but I remember it feeling like slow goings as we went through it.

I think back to those beginnings and am blessed to know how lucky PG and I were going through our preggo journey.  We learned a lot a long the way, and I now understand so much more about my own lady hormones than I ever thought I wanted to know.  Due to life circumstances, we were never going to have children the fun and sexy way, bummer I know (especially for you readers who thought you were going to get the 50 Shades treatment of my love life).  We discussed with our doctors the options, and they were confident IVF was our only option to potentially have our own biological children.  I should have written more down as we went through it, but honestly, then and still now, I feel like I am grasping at the strings of my balloons of responsibilities and constantly have this feeling like some are slipping away.  So here I am beginning to jot some of my thoughts on the development of our preggo adventures, and maybe if you are going through your own infertility struggles or twin preggo journey, there are some anecdotes here to laugh at or at least give you one more person to connect to on your way.

Prelims to Preggo-hood

PG and I were put on the IVF path by our urologist, Dr. J.  As part of the UPMC Magee team, we knew were going to see a quality doctor, and he really was knowledgeable, but he had not really a sparkling personality, but definitely a memorable one.  I have learned throughout this whole business that medical professionals need that ability to banter and bond when dealing with people at their most vulnerable or with sensitive subjects (you know, the ones involving body parts that would make my fourth graders giggle).  I learned that these professionals have a level of comfort with body parts that is admirable, yet to the lay-nonmedical person, alarming.  Dr. J. was no different, but was very matter of fact and supportive in what we were trying to do and how we could reach our parental goals.  He had the coolness of an all-state athlete who did not need to remind you of how talented he was and if he were an instrument player, I have no doubt he would have been a trumpet player with his NBD attitude about overcoming obstacles.

We were able to ask questions about alternative options and he gave us the honest odds of the likelihood of conception without the highest level of Assisted Reproductive Therapy (ART).  The numbers were not good (like for some reason below seven percent chance not good sticks in my head), and he told us straight up that we would probably waste a lot of time and money going through those options and not just jumping into the deep end.

I am not a fan of facing odds and numbers.  I don't feel the rush of possibility when the PowerBall comes around with its super mega-millions because I have never felt like a beat the odds kind of person (we'll revisit this later-turns out I was incorrect about my preggo-potential).  I like making confident, calculated decisions.  I like knowing that I have the capability to control variables and therefore outcomes. So naturally, I wanted to have a kid where the possibilities were endless and there would be no control any more!  And we were going to have to do so in the most foreign to us way possible, where the odds were daunting and the cost financial and emotional high.  

As you are embarking on your own tiny-human adventures, a critical component when getting involved in any getting preggo ambitions, you will need people who are convinced that every challenge is conquerable and are willing to cheer you through plan A, B, C and D in your efforts to get to the finish line (or the starting line depending on how you view the successful birth of your child/children).  PG and I needed the team of people we had both medical and non-medical who checked in on us, offered us advice, and gave us emotional support when we most needed it.

Dr. J. was one of those folks who offered us some of our earliest advice when we consulted him about where he recommended we look for IVF services and his combination of professionalism, coolness, and caring stick with me as what we needed at that stage of our journey.  He directed us to Reproductive Health Services out of Monroeville and we fully had faith that he was giving us the best advice.  Trust and faith are big pieces to this reproductive puzzle and we trusted him with this recommendation.  And now we have two couch climbing, belly laughing bubs thanks to his early guidance.

As mentioned, this is the beginning of a series of reflections on our preggo adventures where hopefully I accurately recall and give proper credit to the folks who helped us in our journey and how we managed to handle the transition from married couple to married couple with two bopping boys.  I'll look next time at the "holy crap-what do all of these letters stand for and you really want to take my blood again?!" of IVF.      

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Keeping Them Safe

I practiced for my own death today.  I scrambled to turn off the lights, but did our obligatory hall sweep to snag any straggling students who needed a safe haven from a hypothetical gunman.  My room is the first classroom inside past the main building doors, so as I am doing my hall sweep, I know in my head that were this not a drill, I would be dead.  I hid behind my desk with my co-teacher trying not to worry about the unthinkable, but after Florida and so many others, how does one not?  

It's the worst to fear going to your place of work and think that if the worst happens, all of the drills are not going to stop the bullets from coming.  Going into college to become a teacher of tiny people, I didn't plan on it being a high risk job.  I figured some bloody noses, days of germiness and puke, and the curmudgeonly family member here and there were as exciting as it gets.  But with every terrible, totally preventable tragedy that hits the headlines, I stop and wonder could it happen here.  And now as a parent, the thought makes me feel that much more helpless not just for my students, but for my children.

There were moments late in my pregnancy that I was afraid to get in my car and drive home.  I live in deer country and despite my love of animals have learned to hate their presense and proclivity for spontaneous road bouncing.  I am not a bad driver, but I worried that every time I got in the car, the worst was going to happen.  I wanted to keep my babies inside me forever near those last weeks because how could I protect them when there were so many chances for danger to manifest?

The arrival of the babies did not help ease this anxiety I felt as it was painful, scary, and traumatizing in ways I wasn't really prepared for.  I remember the tears running down my face as they rushed me to my emergency c-section, worried we were all going to die as they cut me open.  I never want my babies to be that scared or that sad or that worried.  However, one can't really live in a bubble and experience all of the highs of life without the potential of also enduring the lows.  So for a while I felt stuck in how to move forward and live and show my babies that this life is worth living for.

Today's news headlines cause such an ache in my heart.  I listen to the radio news in the morning and mourn when I hear about a young man swallowed up by the opium crisis.  He was someone's son, someone's brother, someone's friend.

There are things that we can be doing.  Phone calls made to representatives to demand action, marches and walk outs participated in to show that hate and pride will not stomp out the rights of children to attend school (and teachers to work) in safe places where they can worry about antonyms and algorithms and not lockdown procedures.  It is easy to feel stuck; I know I was in that place.  But I want a world where I am not agonizing about the dangers and hurt my babies will face.  I want a country that accepts that letting gun fanatics block sensible gun control legislation is why so many peoples' babies have been senselessly murdered.  I want to do my job of creating a caring and nurturing next generation that realizes that mistakes can be learned from and that they can stand up for good, rather than hiding under cabinets and waiting for our deaths.  


Sunday, February 4, 2018

How We Got Here-Choosing Parenthood

I once explained to my grandmother that I was not looking to get married or have any children.  This was a teenage pipe dream I had at about 16 when my boyfriends had been lackluster and the prospects were not inspiring.  I told her that instead, I intended to build or buy an enormous house with at least twenty rooms, one of which would house a one lane swimming pool (because I obviously thought that ambition would last forever 🤣).  I could see myself, Richie Rich-style, just chilling my days away playing in all of my rooms solo or with dogs, because that's what introverts dream about; not some lavish wedding reception with people looking at me or planning on babies that would rely on me for their existance.  This was around the time I thought I'd make a good lawyer too because I enjoyed arguing (but honestly what teenager isn't?!) and hadn't figured out that I actually liked some people and enjoyed my hometown so much that I might actually stay there one day and have a family of my own to share it with.  So that was my first life plan.

Fast forward about ten years and the child prospect hadn't improved much.  As far as boyfriends went, I up and married a high school sweetheart who turned out to be more teeth decaying sweet and not long lasting as that marriage crashed and burned a year in thanks to epic and unforgivable infidelity.  I had thought children were a part of that long term plan (I am a big planner as you might have noticed, both short term and long term, and so I said you know what, let's have some kids and see how I enjoy years of not knowing what will happen), but not until we both had #realjobs and a home of some kind nailed down.  Well, Mr. Can't Love Just One Person blew that idea up, and I wandered into my mid twenties experiencing a quarter life crisis that I had not anticipated.

So, heart hurt and feeling professionally stuck after several years of substitute teaching, I was blessed when I met a man who could help me heal my heart and be the partner I didn't realize I needed.  We courted and discussed various marrying challenges that were certain to come our way.  We discussed the obstacles of overcoming first marriage failures, our age difference, whether to have a mattress on the floor or not, and whether or not we saw kids as part of that future.  My mama-hormones were not feeling ready for a while, probably in no small part to still needing to feel settled in this marriage and pursuing some kind of full time job-ness.  That all fell into place not without its bumps as I had the job but then experienced the fun of being furloughed, or laid-off, as the school district closed a building.

I think part of getting ready for parenthood for me was going through these tough changes that would make me more heart-strong, more patient, more understanding and ready for tiny humans who needed that woman and not the one I was at 16 or 26.  I needed to experience other joys and trials before I could do this and do it in any way well or confidently (not that it ever feels well or confident-but as I look back at these first eight months, I realize I'm not doing too bad).  Learning and reflecting is not just a part of my profession, but really a part of my DNA and personality, so I'd like to think that I have taken a good part of my life to learn how to be a good parent, and hopefully, now that the real work is required, I am ready, come what may.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Choosing to Snuggle

It was a glorious, GLORIOUS night where the boys slept from 8pm to 4am earlier this week.  Seriously, those who have not gone months where the longest sleep stretch is three hours cannot process the amount of crazy that starts to accumulate and how regular brain function begins to deteriorate with the deprivation.  I felt so human and jazzed for the day, and thankful that baby-sleep gods had looked down on the husband and me and threw us a one night bone.

Bilbo, boppy, and baby snuggles.

So, it was a bit of a bummer that last night we were back to the 11pm, 1am, 3am, 4am bottle relay that we have pushed ourselves through for 800 months.  The only difference between last night and the previous many was that I had banked some sleep the night before and struggled with falling and staying asleep rather than waking up to tend to my children.  When you know you are probably going to be needed and on call for baby fetching and feeding at 11pm, the needing to fall asleep in an efficient, expedient manner is a matter of maintaining sanity.  So I was unhappy with my wakefulness when all I needed was a bit of unconsciousness to get me through the regular nightly routine.

Wall-E and Bilbo, one and a half months.
By the time we got to the 4:15 wake up and bottle feed of the early morning, I had been thinking to myself that maybe I should just haul my ass out of bed and get my day going early.  Perhaps I could get the dog's morning needs addressed and put away dishes or get a load of laundry started.  However, as I was laying in my bed feeding Bilbo and feeling his body tucked into my side and armpit, I realized that by pushing myself to clean, organize, and clean, I am forgoing time that is fleeting with my babies.  I was reminiscing earlier this week about last January when the husband and I were starting to feel the flutters and bubbles that were baby movements in my belly.  It's sad to think that what seemed like such a long time going through it is over and how the same issue of time slipping too quickly will happen as my boys grow.

Wall-E and Bilbo, party animals.
As much as I feel the impulse to declutter, clean, and straighten the things as a way of managing my anxiety and wanting to make my house feel cozy, functional, and a place I can relax in rather than feel fret-y about, I want to be with my husband, and I want to be with my children because this time will be gone before I know it.  I want my babies to grow and be happy and become amazing kids who later grow into amazing people, so I need to realize what/who is the most important even in the times where I could be working on my never ending to-do list.  At the end of the day, there will always be something I could be working on, but at this point, I am learning that I'd rather snuggle with my husband and babies while I have the time to enjoy it.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Be Gentle

Some days are just rough ones.  This day was one of them.  I have never known exhaustion to the level that I do now as a parent.  There must be a word for what happens when you have only had like five complete REM cycles in the past seven (plus the end of my pregnancy where I was up and uncomfortable all of the time) months.

The look of our bed throughout the night; often one or more babies , post-bottle catching the sweet sleep we so so are longing for.
For the most part we have had luck with babies who are willing to fall asleep without too much pomp and circumstance.  We bathe, read, eat and then they are generally conked by 8/8:30pm, with us following quickly behind.  We have been testing this with staying up little bits later here and there, sometimes reading, sometimes playing a stupid phone game, sometimes even watching an episode or maybe just half, of television.  I know this daring of time to bite us in the face would come back to get us one of these nights, and last night it did.

We had a highly stimulating day yesterday, traveling to Pittsburgh to participate in the Women's March.  I was thrilled to see my godmother, who is a badass queen of a lady who had not yet met the boys, so it was like a combination of all of my favorite things and people.  There were quite a crew of marchers for the walk downtown from the Courthouse to Market Square.  Lots of noise, speeches, cheering and booing to keep the fellas up when they might otherwise be napping.  That paired with being off our normal eating routine, I think built up a perfect storm of sleeplessness that they later rained down on all of us.

We saw them by chance crossing the street amongst hundreds of people, because the world is awesome sometimes.
It started with Baby B at 11pm, quickly followed by Baby A.  Normally when both boys are fed, we are able to slip them back into cribs for at least some chunk of the evening-not last night.  The guys were not having anything to do with sleeping by themselves, however, they were not pleased with their positioning in our bed and felt quite comfortable to vocalize their frustration through screams.

Had this been a Friday or Saturday night, I might have not been as brittle and frustrated as I was on a Sunday night going into a long stressful work week.  The PPD/PPA rears its ugly, scary-images head when I feel weak and tired and worn thin.  I made a hurtful comment to my wonderful husband that I deeply regret, causing him frustration and sadness which I never want, because he is in this 100%.  We are both slogging through the ups and downs of double-baby parenting together and he is there for me over and beyond anything I could have imagined.

I followed up my rough outlook on humanity at school having little to no patients with me kiddos.  Granted they bring their own baggage to the table that is exhausting emotionally and mentally, but if parenthood, especially the unglamorous, not-so fun side of parenting and working on the least amount of rest as possible branch of parenthood has taught me anything it is to take care of each other.  Be kind and gentle because we are each fragile and raw and working through this unpredictable stage working with the tools we have and are capable of summoning.  We don't always have the right words or the strength to make the best choices, but we can at least acknowledge that we are doing the best we can with what we are given to manage at any given moment.  So be gentle, show more grace and understanding and patience, and give hugs and listen because there are so many feelings in this business and Swiss cheese, non sleep brain just jumbles them up and makes everyone feel worse than they already do.  And when someone offers to watch one or both or all of your children for the evening or afternoon so you can catch some zzzz's, take it; you never know when you will get your next eight hours.  Happy resting.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Hello to a New Blog

Hello!  I am excited you stumbled onto this page.  This is the third blog I have kept in my lifetime, and like the previous two, I don't yet have a vision for where it will go or what it will be about.  That seems to be a resounding theme to my life at the moment, being the new mother to twin boys.  They are seven and a half months old, and from the moment they entered my life, they changed me and keep changing me everyday.  At first I found this jarring and a bit unnerving; mostly I enjoy stable, some might say boring, and predictable.  I had it-the job, the perfect marriage, the house by the river, the dog, the close friends and family, Friday night clam chowder at our restaurant.  So I traded the stability in for twins.  Now my life is messier, cuter, and much louder.  There is much less sleep, but so many more snuggles and giggles.  

I don't pretend to be an expert at motherhood or at teaching or at being adult, but I hope to use writing to reflect on the good that is happening and how thankful I am for the experiences, even the heart wrenching and challenging ones.  My blog goals are to write about what makes me happy and what helps me to learn more.  I want to reflect on what I am reading and in turn, read more as a way to generate more things to write about.  Currently, I am in search of something that I can read in my spare (read: none) time.  I have learned why people keep books in their bathrooms (is that too much! You chose to read this; you can always stumble your way to someone else's blog).  I'd like to get back to working my brain that I find personally rewarding and that will help me in my motherhood, teaching, or adulating endeavors.  

In addition to writing about life experiences and reflections, I want a place that isn't Facebook or Instagram to linger and share thoughts, frustrations, and musings on happenings.  I am weary of current events (please don't read that as I'm checking out-I just need a new space to occupy my thoughts) and how I feel trapped in a Facebook, social media bubble that echoes the same noise without moving the plot forward.  So I'm hoping this is a place to clear my head and refocus energies onto something I can do, progress that can be made, hope that can be magnified (whoa, that sounds like a lot to ask from a mum-blog 😂).  

So if you came here because you are family or a friend, thanks for your support.  I hope you don't find this too trivial or nonsensical, and that maybe you'll come back.  If you are a stranger, hopefully you found something interesting or fun and hopefully you have some hope for your own journey.