Thursday, April 30, 2009

My god - this is really my life.

And sometimes there are no words.

If I could just work out the issues with my underwear, I'm pretty sure it would all be okay.

If you've been reading my blog for a while, you may remember an embarrassing incident with my undies during IVF.  Two babies and almost a year later, it seems I still haven't quite mastered the whole underpants thing.

Once we got the babies home from the hospital and life started to take on some sort of warped normalcy (because it can only be so normal when you're getting 30 minutes of sleep each night), I started thinking that somehow, someday, I might like to be sexy again.  I realize that saying "again" presupposes that I was sexy "before."  But there was a time.  

So day by day, I started making efforts.  I put my wedding band back on.  Not, in itself, specifically sexy.  But reminding my husband he married me and therefore is required to find me sexy couldn't hurt.  One day I put on some mascara.  I started wearing patchouli again, since everyone knows it's sexy to smell like the forest floor.  I bought some Bio-Oil for the canyons they call stretch marks on my tummy.  (And wow for Bio-Oil.  I give you 117 random points.  Because if I were the type of girl to post before and after pictures, wow.)

And then one day, I decided it was time to turn in the uber-comfy, up to my neck pregnancy undies.  And to break out the slinkier, pre-baby ones.

To celebrate this milestone, I committed myself to also take a shower that day.  Check.  I committed myself to throwing on some chapstick.  Check.  I committed to brushing my hair AND my teeth.  Check and check.

You can imagine the disarray in my house once I completed these tasks.  Two babies crying.  Both wet.  Both hungry.  I threw on some clothes, most of them semi-clean and mostly free of spit up.  Rushed as I was, I remembered to include the sexy undies.

Four hours later, spit up crusted in my  hair, mascara smudged all over my face, I was still feeling slightly sexy.  Because babies, you can vomit on my shirt, my neck, and even my face.  You can nurse until my boobs fall off.  You can pee on me every given chance.  You can put a dent in the sexy.  But you can't break the sexy.  Because the sexy undies are safe and protected under my sweatpants.  

Realizing my bladder was about to explode, I ran into the bathroom.  It was then that I noticed my underpants were on inside out.  And that my waist was through a leg hole.

I'm starting to wonder how many of the world's problems could be solved by simply going commando.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better

Or, "why I can't leave my babies for more than three hours."

When the babies were in the NICU, they were hooked up to monitors all day long. Blood oxygen levels, heart rate, pulse - everything was under constant monitoring. And if you're a doctor or a nurse, that's a good thing, because it allows the medical staff to keep a close eye on every baby at every moment, and to be there to help when something goes wrong.

If you're a new parent, it's not great. There are some things in life that are best left to faith and ignorance, like the idea that your newborn will continue to breath. And so while most every parent knows about SIDS and other such horrors, most never have the opportunity to sit in a hospital room with their newborn and watch the monitors and listen to the alarms that are a constant reminder of the danger that lurks around every corner.

Quin had some "stop breathing" events in the hospital. And as a non-medical professional, that sounds pretty damn scary to me. In reality, "stop breathing" events are common in preemies and possibly even in term newborns. Most resolve on their own. Most. When used in context with "stop breathing events" and "resolving," "most" is a really loaded word.

But we were lucky, and Quin's "events" all self-resolved except for one case where the nurses had to give him a gentle rub down to remind his tiny body to breath. After that he was put on a seven day count down. No events for seven days, and he could go home.

So I asked the doctor - "Why seven days? What is magic about that number? What proof do you have that within a week, his body will know to breath all of the time?" His answer surprised me. Seven days is just a hunch about what is reasonably safe. And the hunch is different at every hospital. And sometimes things go wrong, and a baby goes home and has an event that doesn't "self-resolve."

After waiting anxiously and impatiently for my babies to be discharged, I started having second thoughts. I could be a mother by day, sure. But at night, wouldn't they just be safer in the hospital with the reassuring hum of respirators and the constant chatter of alarms? How would I ever sleep? What if I woke up and found that Rhys or Quin had stopped breathing while I slept right next to them?

Turns out that coming home and shutting my eyes at night was like pulling off a band-aid. I asked about apnea monitors and learned that they really like to avoid using them unless absolutely necessary. And I can see how those monitors can be a hard habit to break. So we came home with no fancy monitors - just two healthy babies and two terrified parents newly educated in infant CPR.

The babies turn twelve weeks tomorrow. I still worry about "events." I worry about SIDS. I wake up at night and check to make sure both babies are still alive. I'm our human monitor - but as with all things human, I'm flawed. Unlike the constant and reassuring whir of the electric monitors, I take a break to sleep.

But I am their mother. And I suspect that even as I sleep, I know things. Or so I hope.

It has amazed me that I love these babies more every day. Because every day, I'm certain that it would be humanly impossible to love any more, that my heart would simply explode. And every day, I wake up and am amazed to find that the impossible has happened.

I bask in this amazing, growing love. All the while, I am painfully aware that somebody has taken my living, beating heart, and set it ever so carefully in the middle of a very busy freeway.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

What I Eat

I have this organic cotton tank top that’s screen printed with lovely purple vegetables and the words, “what I eat.” I wear it to channel that sexy-hippy-chic vibe.

Lately I’ve been considering creating an updated version of the shirt, or at least taking out a Sharpie and sketching in a few additional food items to more accurately reflect my breastfeeding diet. Because I’m really just a liar if I omit the fact that half-cooked brownies have become the staple of a food group I like to call “calories: get ‘em fast.”

Although I did not enjoy pregnancy, I am adoring my newly acquired role as a mother. Throughout my pregnancy, there were two aspects of motherhood that I particularly looked forward to: cloth diapers and breastfeeding. More about diapers later. When I was pregnant and would explain to people that I planned to breastfeed not one, but two babies, I got a lot of mixed reactions. Especially when I’d add in that I hoped to nurse the twins for about two years. Oh lord. One of THOSE.

I have to admit that I’m quite proud to be successfully breastfeeding twins. It was a rocky start trying to learn to breastfeed in the NICU. The doctors told me that I couldn’t make milk rich enough in calories to get the twins to grow. They tried to convince me to mix Enfamil formula with my breast milk and feed it to the babies from bottles once they were discharged from the hospital. I took a tip from the DARE program and ‘just said “no.” So it’s pretty amazing to consider that at ten weeks old, my little preemies are almost triple their birth weights.

Needless to say, I am a fan of boob-feeding. I won’t review all the benefits babies get from breastfeeding; but the benefits are wonderful and the main reason I was adamant about nursing. But I think that the benefits moms get from breastfeeding sometimes get left out. For instance, boobs are a nice little bonus. Large boobs have replaced my medium-sized pregnancy boobs, which replaced my small-sized regular boobs. I may become a wet nurse after the babies wean just to keep these puppies around.

So boobs are good. But they’re not nearly as great as food.

I can eat anything.

I’ve read that you need an extra 500 calories per day to nurse a baby. So I’m guessing that I need an extra 1000 to nurse two. But the reality is, no matter what I eat, I can’t seem to eat enough.

Here’s an example. A few nights ago I was cooking a healthy meal salad with chicken on top. After cooking the chicken, I removed the skin and set it aside to throw away. Mere seconds after doing so, I found myself innocently cutting carrots while absolutely devouring crispy, dripping, chicken skin. And not just a little taste. Every. Last. Piece. Ouch. And for those of you with relatively normal appetites who aren’t nursing two insatiable little babies, I totally groove with the fact that this is DISGUSTING. In fact, many items in the “calories: get ‘em fast” food group are fairly disgusting to the non-calorie deprived person.

Perhaps less disgusting but similarly disturbing is the maniacal way in which I consume sugar, which packs a nice calorie punch. I’ve taken to making batches of brownies from the box, and sprucing them up by dumping loads of caramel sundae sauce, chocolate sauce, and coconut on top before cooking. And I use the term “cooking” rather lightly. Because these days, I only allow my brownies to cook until the edges are firm, at which point I remove them from the oven to let the goopy middle “set.” Once set, I dive in. I can put away a batch of those bad boys in about a day.

And sometimes I just go straight to the source. I wish I was lying when I tell you that in the last two weeks, I’ve eaten three jars of caramel sauce straight from the jar with a spoon. I try to tell myself it’s like pudding, but I hardly even care because it’s just so damn good. I’ve been brushing my teeth a lot, lest they should realize what I am doing and just go ahead and rot and fall out as a good preventive measure.

Here's where it’s really amazing. Cellulite that I used to pretend didn’t exist seems to have taken a hint and hit the road. I once again fit into my skinny underwear - you know you have some - the ones that suddenly cut the circulation off at the thighs a little bit. Circulation is cut no more - not for this caramel swigging babe. I’m eating and eating, and I’m the amazing shrinking woman. With large-ish breasts, mind you.

I’m not sure I’d ever realized life could be this great. I eat naughty, naughty foods. I’m the skinniest I’ve been in years, with the biggest boobs of my life. I think they should make a breastfeeding commercial out of me. Because hey Enfamil. Does your formula do all that?

Friday, April 10, 2009

Welcome to the world

Rhys and Quin were born at 8:54pm and 8:55pm on January 29th, at 33 and a half weeks gestation. In retrospect, I suppose they had no choice but to arrive early. Ten days earlier, at my baby shower, I was threatening to run a marathon come 35 weeks if they were still "in there." I just wanted them so badly. After waiting through three years of infertility, nine months felt like a cruel joke to me. I couldn't admit that while pregnant.

I also couldn't admit that I didn't particularly enjoy pregnancy. I don't hide my feelings well, so most people who know me kind of got that anyway. Now that it's over, I can finally say it. I didn't enjoy being pregnant. And I don't want to do it again.

But I'm in LOVE with my babies. So much so that I want to nibble their rosy little cheeks right off. I am amazed by their sweet perfection.

I can't decide what to write about their birth, or how. Which is sort of amazing, considering my penchant for drama. It doesn't get much more dramatic than that night. And when I'm in person, and somebody so much as alludes to the circumstances of their birth, I follow the obnoxiously predictable path of so many women - it's cringe-worthy - I share my war story. I'm processing.

The reality may be that I'm not sure when I'll feel up to the task of writing about everything that was encompassed with their birth. Leading up to my due date, I looked forward to a battle during labor. I wanted, maybe even needed, to fight through labor to give infertility one last big old FUCK YOU. And like so many things in my life, in all of our lives, I got what I wanted. But the package looked nothing like I'd imagined.

My last hurrah over infertility didn't take the form of a sweaty yet fulfilling labor. It took the form of a serious and immediate placental abruption, massive blood loss, and the near loss of life for myself and both babies. And it didn't end there. My last hurrah over infertility took the form of me becoming a mother who left the hospital with her husband but had to leave her babies behind while they grew strong enough to come home from the NICU.

Throughout my pregnancy, I couldn't figure out where infertility fell for me. On some level I suppose I realized that my work in becoming a mother wasn't over yet. For whatever reason, my path to motherhood remained a challenge even after my babies were born. My first weeks as a mother didn't involve waking up at night to screaming babies, but instead to a screaming alarm clock reminding me it was time to pump again. The first time I changed my babies' diapers was through the port-holes of their heated isolettes. I don't know when my babies' cord stumps fell off. One day I arrived at the NICU, changed their diapers, and their little stumps were just gone. My babies lost their last physical ties to me while I was at home sleeping.

Becoming a mother was the most rewarding, challenging, and heartbreaking journey I've ever been so lucky to take. Everything that broke my heart along the way gave me the strength to push past the next obstacle. Scar tissue worked in my favor.

And now my babies are home. They are healthy, happy, and starting to smile. I've done my best to make up for those first few weeks in the NICU. I watched their eyebrows grow in, their little eyelashes take shape to frame their perfect blueberry eyes.

I have become a mother.

Thursday, April 9, 2009