BREAKING THROUGH

PhotobucketMy niece, Kayla, and I were chatting today about a whole bunch of stuff. I told her I could see limbs just pressing out from the inside of my belly, like the babies were trying to kick their way out. If I pushed back on a knee or elbow it would just move around to another spot. Kayla said it reminded her of how chicks use their beaks to peck through the shell of their eggs. Now that would be a miraculous birth!! Thank goodness there’s not going to be three of them, I think two is about all I can handle!!

12 more days! Love you sweetheart!!!!

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SO THAT’S WHAT IT WAS

PhotobucketI finally have a name for this strange pain I’ve experienced in my abdomen just a few times in the last couple of weeks… Braxton-Hicks contractions!

I first had one maybe a couple weeks ago, but thought it was just some really strong indigestion or acid build up in my stomach. It was sharp pain that radiated all over my abdomen. Sometimes I’d have to stop whatever I was doing just to brace myself until it went away. It only lasted several seconds, and if I changed positions, it would tend to dissipate.

Well, tonight, it was particularly strong, and lasted longer. It was the first time I put two and two together and ran to my pregnancy book to read more. That’s when I discovered I’ve likely been experiencing BH contractions. Again, they are infrequent, there is no telling when they’ll come, and I’ve only had maybe 3 in the last 3 weeks.

I wasn’t aware BH contractions could happen this early, but, according to the book, it can happen as early as 20 weeks. I think my first was probably around 23 weeks. (I’m 26 on Monday.)

I don’t know why I think this is so cool, but this is one of the coolest parts of the pregnancy (for me), so far! I think it’s because when I’ve always dreamed of being pregnant, I’ve never romanticized or really thought about the 9 months preceding the labor. (Except for getting a positive pregnancy test — I’ve always wanted that). But when I’ve always thought about pregnancy, my mind has always jumped right to the labor and delivery. THAT, to me, is the most exciting part. It’s the culmination of everything. It’s getting to see what has been inside you for so long. To me, labor and delivery is the crescendo of the miracle.

SO, the fact that my body is “practicing” for the finale is just beyond cool to me!

Thank you, Jesus, for this gift.

ONE DAY AT A TIME

PhotobucketWe started week 35 and had our weekly OB / ultrasound this morning. Everything continues to appear perfectly healthy with our babies… praise God. They weren’t measured this week, but should be close to 5.0 to 5.5 lbs each. The last several days I had sensed that they’re moving less, but didn’t freak out about it… I figured there’s getting to be less and less room to move around in there as we get closer to the their births. Sure enough, the ultrasound tech had to get the “buzzer”… that was a new one on Scott and me! She saw movements and the heartbeats were just fine, but she wanted to see each baby specifically move their diaphragms as if they were taking a breath… this is a test as a precursor to when they’re breathing air in a couple of weeks. Daddy and Mommy held our breath in anticipation, but are pleased to report that both girls passed quickly and with flying colors!!

This morning’s appointment was a nice touch to what has been an extraordinary week. Scott’s been in CA all week, he flew home again on the red eye last night to make it back in time for our appointment… he had about four minutes at the house before we had to head to the hospital… bless his heart. I know what it feels like to have to be away when all you want to do is be home with your loved ones. His father went into the hospital unexpectedly on Wednesday. I was able to spend quite a bit of time with him and Rosie that day, giving Scott a full update, but it’s never like being there yourself. More good news this morning though, Mike is back home and they believe his ailments are being caused by an intestinal infection that can be treated with a heavy dose of antibiotics rather than related to his cancer. Another praise God.

Scott also had to suffer the 2,500 mile distance this week with me being in and out of doctors offices myself… thankfully not our OB though. For the last few weeks I have been having sporadic and seemingly unrelated symptoms. They were all head / sinus related and on the surface appeared to be signaling pre-eclampsia but my blood pressure hasn’t been anywhere near high. I’ve had significant fluid in my nasal passages since the beginning of pregnancy, but in the last few weeks it seems to have escalated deep in my head with more severe headaches and difficulty sleeping at night. We’ve discussed the symptoms with our nurse practitioner a few times, but again, in the absence of high blood pressure she didn’t think they were directly pregnancy related… it’s a known phenomenon that pregnancy can exacerbate any rhinitis issues and there are not many traditional medications that are considered safe for the baby/ies so mom just suffers through to delivery.

This had been my plan of action until last weekend, when I started getting an incredibly loud sound in my left ear… like a flock of Canadian Geese overhead! I called our NP on Monday morning and she advised a visit to my PCP, which I did Tuesday morning. As had been the case in the other three PCP visits during this pregnancy for sinus issues, there was no sign of infection but she did suggest a steroidal nasal spray this time to open everything up. She decided against a neurologist evaluation at this time because they’d want to start with a CT evaluation, and we wouldn’t want to do that until after the births. Given that we’re pretty far along in the pregnancy though, our OB approved the steroid nose spray (turns out our NP has been on one for her entire pregnancy, for allergies).

My PCP also suggested I wash my ear out with water using one of those blue suctioners typically used on babies’ noses because she saw a hair on my left eardrum… makes sense that could be causing vibrations and the strange constant sounds. And she suggested a physical therapist for my sore upper neck / headaches as she thought they were tension related.

Thank God I was afraid to irrigate my own ear and made an appointment with an ENT, because about five hours before that appointment for yesterday afternoon I realized I really did needed a specialist. I have to share all these details, because what all my seemingly unrelated symptoms were leading to was a pinched nerve that controls the muscles on each side of the face. In the shower yesterday morning, I realized that although it appeared to be closed (with no light penetrating) I couldn’t close my right eye completely to prevent water from coming in. Afterward, looking in the mirror, I could tell a difference in my smile on the right side. I did my research on the Internet and learned about this little nerve (the 7th cranial nerve) that has to fit through a tiny hole in the skull behind each ear to reach the facial muscles. This nerve can get tweaked, either through trauma, stress, a virus like Lyme Disease or… cranial pressure from prolonged congestion. Turns out, pregnant woman have a three-times higher prevalence than the average population… usually from pre-eclampsia, but even in the absence of high blood pressure there can be isolated chronic cranial swelling in pregnancy.

The ENT had a look of non-surprise on his face as he shook his head and said, “yep, I’ve seen this before”. He removed the hair but said the sound in my ear would continue until the cranial pressure was relieved. He prescribed an oral steroid (which my OB approved over the phone before I ever got to the ENT, because with the facial component, he had figured on the diagnosis)… but there is no prognosis, everyone response differently. The ENT said likely, even with steroids now that I had been having the headaches for a few weeks, nothing would resolve until at least after delivery… then it could be spontaneous or a matter of months. He asked me to call if I saw a marked decrease in function, which if it was going to happen should occur in the next week.

Last night when I finally settled down after dinner, I started thinking about what I heard during the day and what it could mean short and long term. My thoughts somehow miraculously turned to my sister, Julie… and instead of worrying or feeling sorry for myself, instead I giggled at the fact that this is yet another thing I get to experience with her… albeit 13 years apart. I am blessed to always have a sense that she is with me, even after her death, and that my life is a small part of an extension of hers given how she affected me so profoundly in her last couple years of life. At her diagnoses, she presented with 17 brain metastases. Eventually, one of them became so large and was pressing on vital nerves that it had to be removed. Back then I didn’t know the specifics, but it was located just above one of her ears and was altering her facial muscles on that side… I suddenly realized we both have had 7th cranial nerve issues!! And it was as if she was peaking to me, saying everything’s going to be ok. God has a wonderful way of bringing us back to what really matters. So far, my effects have been much less dramatic and will hopefully be resolved shortly after the birth… and gift… of two beautiful baby daughters. But I am left with the indelible memory of my beautiful sister, who faced every challenge… even her changed facial expression and baldness!! with the greatest grace and faith I have ever been blessed to witness… and I was with her often times 24×7… a person can’t fake it for that long!! She never withdrew, she never gave up, she never held her head down… she knew none of that mattered, only her salvation though Christ Jesus.

I’m also blessed with a husband and three wonderful children by marriage, who have all said today in one-way shape or form, “it’s really not that noticeable”. I’m so thankful for them, for the example of my sister, Julie, and that this symptom has absolutely no impact on our babies… now, if I can only get these geese out of my head so I can get a decent night’s sleep!! Job 7:18

20 MINUTES AGO

Photobucket20 minutes ago, this was going to be a very different post. 20 minutes ago, I was going to write about what it’s like to be pregnant for the first time, with a second child. How, when you already have a child, and are experiencing pregnancy for the first time (minus our early term miscarriage), you are “robbed” of some of the pleasures of just sitting back and enjoying your pregnancy — whatever the experience may be. You see, with a 2-year-old boy, I don’t have time to sit on my couch, rub my belly, and dream about what life will be like for our little girl. I don’t have the luxury of coming home from work and, because I’m so fatigued, just going to bed. I don’t have the pleasure of staying in bed all day because of the nausea. No. I have a toddler to get up, get dressed, off to school, go to work, come home, get him fed, bathed, and in bed. (And yes, I am grateful for the help of my husband).

But that was 20 minutes ago. Now, I feel silly for even thinking this way. 20 minutes ago, I learned a precious girl whose infertility journey I have followed since before we got pregnant, lost her twins at 8 weeks. Yesterday, I learned a dear friend also lost her baby at 8 weeks.

God has catapulted me off my selfish duff and reminded me to be grateful. And I am. I am SO grateful. So thankful. Because I know that at any moment up until this time, and from any moment here on out, He could allow Sienna to be taken from us. He could allow Brae to be taken from us. He could allow my husband to be taken from me. My mom, my sister, my entire family. In a moment, I could be Job(ette).

And yet, God will still be the same. He’ll still be faithful, loving, kind, good, amazing. And I will still be His cherished daughter whom He loves so much, and whose life He cradles in the palm of His hands. He will still be FOR ME. He will still know what is best. He will still take care of me.

Yes, infertility has robbed me of a lot. But, in spite of it, God has given me so much more. He’s given me a perspective that, above all else, He is all I need. He alone will sustain me.

A PICTURE PAINTS A THOUSAND WORDS

PhotobucketA couple of weeks ago I mentioned that Scott and I had invited a photographer, Jason Davis, into our home for the first of two photo shoots… this one to capture the ‘anticipation’ (and my belly!) before the babies arrive, the second one will capture the ‘innocence delivered’ and amazement of our family just after their births. The inspiration came from a comment Scott had made recently of wanting a professional photo or two of the babies just after their births along with seeing beautiful photos Jason had taken for friends of ours who recently had their first child. I consider it just another example of how God is weaving our story together so perfectly, like the many other circumstances He has laid before us that we can trace since our first consideration of embryo adoption.

Scott and I received the link to our anticipation proofs about a week ago and began deciding which ones we wanted to have as portraits within the house, so the twins will always have a visualization of where they came from… I am so thrilled that this phase of our pregnancy didn’t escape us before God gave us the epiphany to capture it. In sending the proofs to family and friends, we received so many comments back on how beautiful they were… not only because Jason does an excellent job with lighting and composition, but also because it’s impossible not to see our joy for bringing these two precious lives fully into this world.

I think my Aunt Eileen summed it up best when she described the ‘peacefulness’ she saw in Scott and me. Scott and I feel blessed for having learned early in our marriage that true peace could only come from seeking then finding God and following His will for our shared lives. We can say with certainty that our peace is authentic and a true gift from above… something we look forward to passing on to all of our children.

Another element to the perfect peace we’ve been blessed with is the continued reassurance on how the twins are thriving. We just started our 34th week and had a check-up today where we received more exciting news… the girls continue to grow bigger and stronger. By estimation, one is 4 ½ lbs and the other is just one ounce shy of 5 lbs!! That’s 30 and 56 percentile respectively… and compared to singletons!! Their heartbeats both remain strong and one of the babies even completely flipped its position in the last three weeks.

I am in awe as to how my body… and theirs… have maintained such a pregnancy so far. The feelings are still so vivid, at how in the early weeks I just prayed they’d get to a point where they could be born, even if they had to be sustained with an extended stay in the NICU. Now, this morning, with our nurse practitioner we scheduled an OR for delivery three weeks from today!! We’ll have their lung development tested the day before, and if it follows suit with their growth so far, they’ll be in our arms the next day!! Isaiah 26:3-4

(PHOTOS: The portrait of happy Mommy and Daddy that will adorn the twins’ nursery; Scott selected for his office the portrait of me sitting peacefully in a chair by a window loving our daughters already.)

24 WEEKS

PhotobucketWe had our 24 week appointment today. I’ve gained a total of 8 lbs. A little on the low side, but the dr. didn’t seem too concerned. However, even if I gain a pound a week from here on out, I still won’t reach that “magic” 25 lb mark.

I just don’t have a big appetite. And my stomach is still pretty uneasy, especially in the morning and at night. This morning, I even threw up for the first time since 19 weeks (minus the stomach flu episode). It caught me off guard. I thought I’d gotten past that.

I’m measuring right around 23-24 weeks. My uterus is now well above my belly button mark.
Sienna was kicking away, and beating around 150 bpm.

I have a new symptom: heartburn. I’ve never had heartburn before. I didn’t even recognize it at first. I thought I’d swallowed something that was stuck in my throat. After a few days (yes, it took me that long), I thought, hmm, maybe this is what heartburn feels like? The burning in the chest, throat, etc. Yup, I think so.

I made my appointments for the rest of the term — about 12 of them! We also start “birthing” class in April.

Tygh and I went out for Valentine’s dinner last night and had a blessedly honest conversation. He said he just cannot be in the room with me when I start delivery. He’ll be there up until I start pushing, and then he’ll excuse himself until Sienna comes out and is “cleaned up.” My husband has a very queasy stomach when it comes to this kind of stuff. When Brae was born, he was hovering in the corner most of the time, in a chair, head down. I was the one who cut the cord.

Sure, it’s not how I pictured delivery — I wanted my husband there, cheering me on, cutting the cord, etc. But, that is just not going to happen. And it’s okay. Really. I’m honoring his wishes. So, instead, my mom and my sister will be there, each holding a hand, and urging Sienna into this world.

I praise and thank God for this amazing gift of pregnancy and getting a chance to just experience it. I finally feel at a place of peace and rest and settlement. I feel content. I’m looking forward to her being here, and enjoying something new — a lack of wanting. A lack of wanting to be pregnant. A lack of yearning to move beyond infertility. I haven’t experienced that since January 2007. I want that “me” back. I will take with me the post-January 2007 me, especially the closeness and intimacy I have with Christ that I didn’t have before. I will take with me new gifts of empathy. A testimony. A surrender. But, I want (and my husband wants) to return to a more carefree lifestyle. One where growing our family does not consume our lives. I’m excited to move to the next season of life.

Brae update: Our son is a phenom. I kid you not. That boy has some SKILLS when it comes to basketball. We had a friend over the other night and he was in shock at how a 2-year-old can jump and shoot a basket (a high one) with one hand. He said we need to get a video and put it on YouTube.

Potty training is another story. The boy is just.not.interested. He doesn’t care if he craps his pants or has a wet diaper. I know boys take longer, so I’m not stressing. Maybe when he sees his “baby Sienna” (as he calls her) get her diaper changed, he’ll realize diapers are for babies.

His Spanish is really picking up. The “experts” say that if a child learns two languages before age 2.5, their primary language lags behind a little bit at first, and then they catch up. Then, if you try to introduce a second language after the child starts reading, all hope is lost that they will ever truly be bilingual as second nature.

It’s hard to say whether Brae’s English is lagging behind. I know most boys are slower to speak and form sentences than girls. But, according to where the books say Brae is supposed to be at right now, he’s surpassing it. He can recognize just about every letter in the alphabet by name (in English). He speaks (short) sentences. And he understands if you give him direction in English or Spanish.

I love that boy.

MORE GOOD NEWS

PhotobucketScott and I just returned home from our 32nd week check-up. Praise God, everything is still good, but we’re getting to the end… we were told we’ve “graduated” to once weekly check-ups and some early signs that my body and the babies are getting ready for their big day.

I had a sense throughout this past week that my blood pressure was going up a bit again. Sure enough, it’s up 15 points, but the doctors aren’t too worried because I’m usually blessed with low blood pressure… at about 115/70. As long as I stay below 140/90 I’m considered “normal”. We’ve ordered an in-home monitor to make sure it doesn’t take a sudden turn north before next Friday’s appointment.

They also thought I looked a bit “puffy”, even though Scott said he didn’t see it… it could be my lips, I asked Scott and the kids last night at dinner if they looked a little Botox-y!! I hadn’t gained any weight since my last appointment two weeks ago… actually, I lost about a ½ pound plus the girls have likely gained ½ to 1 pound each, so there’s no signs of retaining fluids yet but that’s also something to watch. If I suddenly start gaining weight and experiencing escalating blood pressure, that would signal preeclampsia, which would trigger steroid shots for a couple of days to rapidly develop the babies’ lungs and then a scheduled c-section. None of this would be unexpected for twins or a 40+ pregnancy, but we’ve been praying to fend that off for about 3 – 4 more weeks.

Gauging where we’re at with pre-partum signals is important, you see, because I have the exact date picked out for when I would like the babies to be born… four weeks from today. It’s not for numerology sake (like how weddings skyrocketed on 09/09/09) but rather so the babies would be born the first weekend of the kids’ Spring Break… which would be about a week pre-term, but likely still allow them to come home when I would that Monday morning and then we’d all have that week together as a family to bond.

Scott giggles a bit at my planning, but secretly I know he’s come to appreciate… and even respect it… I’m known for coming pretty close to my mark. When that does happen it’s usually because I’ve added in the necessary prayers as well, which we’ve definitely been doing throughout this pregnancy, as have family and friends on our behalf. We haven’t been praying for a specific date per se but rather for healthy babies and a happy family.

This started me thinking this week about how these days are the easy part of parenting… having three other children ages 8, 11 and 13 has only put into perspective for Scott and me what the full application of parenting really is. Right now, if I sleep and eat well (which Scott monitors both beautifully!) and stay in-tune with the signals my body is sending, we will have done everything we can to bring these babies into the world with the best chances of success. But once they’re here, there are thousands of things that influence them… and that’s when the power of a praying parent really begins. We have to plant the right seeds early, before the shaping of their character is ever tested… we have to be in-tune with the signals in their lives and start course-correcting before they’re making their own decisions… we have to prepare their hearts to know and love Jesus.

A couple of years ago, when our hearts concluded that we were to adopt and bring suspended life into this world, Scott and I prayed for the strength and wisdom to rear that child or children to glorify God. We knew that was our purpose… that their lives would be a manifestation of God’s will to fulfill His rendition of what a perfect world should be. At a prayer service last year at our church we walked forward in acknowledgement that our children are really God’s children and we are simply His stewards, ultimately God could use them in any way for His purpose and when He reveals that to us we would do our part to direct and support our children. I’ve even begun praying for their future spouses and marriages. We may not know yet the men they will marry, but God does… just as we didn’t have even a remote idea of these babies twenty years ago, but God knew they would be ours and the exact date of their births. Proverbs 22:6