Sunday, May 29, 2011

Third Trimester, May 29, 2011

Today I’m 28 weeks and finally in my third trimester. I say finally because the math has been a bit hard to pin down so far. On my first prenatal visit, the nurse calculated my LMP due date (look it up, kids) and gave me July 28. I arrived at my first ultrasound on March 10 thinking I was 20 weeks, and along with the news that I was cooking a two-pack came a smaller size estimate than expected. The twins measured about 15 and 16 weeks, so my due date was recalculated to August 20.

Somehow, this information didn’t really make it back to my OB’s office. Unfortunately, I get the feeling sometimes that they aren’t on top of things. Remember that since Craig is finishing up grad school we have Humana Student Health Insurance (Need health care? Roll the dice. Evens we’ll cover it; odds we won’t. Oh, and don’t use those dice. Use ours). The OB’s office we have to use caters to—um—mostly a demographic that I don’t really identify with. Let’s just say that when I first called the office and told them I was pregnant, their words to me were not “How exciting!” but “Do you need counseling?” (read=abortion). And the person waiting next to me in the OB waiting room could be wearing an orange jumpsuit and leg irons.

For whatever reason, my OB stuck with my LMP due date and sonography the measurement one, which is supposed to be much more accurate, and so I was always bouncing back and forth between estimates of how far along I am (22…25…24…27…25...). At my last visit I pointed out the error, the nurse practitioner measured the size of my uterus as a tiebreaker, and now I think that everybody’s on the same page. If my due date is, indeed, August 20, then I’m 28 weeks today.

If I’m not due for 12 more weeks, then why does my blog bio say we’re expecting in July? According to my doctor, everything with twins happens about four weeks faster. So milestones or symptoms I experience seem to arrive about four weeks earlier than I remember with Devon. That includes delivery, too. Twins are delivered at 36 weeks on average, and at 37 weeks ready or not. My third trimester isn’t really even three months, it’s nine more weeks if I’m lucky. So our arrival estimate, the one we’ve been giving out, is August 1st. It’s important to make it to August if I can because with a premature delivery comes a NICU stay and an insurance NIGHTMARE (see above). It would also be nice for sentimental reasons. My maternal grandmother, Irma Meth, was born in August. She is still alive but not doing very well. When I was helping my family downsize her possessions I kept her August Birthday Angel figurine, thinking that I, my brother, or one of my cousins could have a baby girl with an August birthday someday and I’d pass it along.

The new question I’m hearing fairly often is “So, have you adequately prepared Devon for becoming a big brother and the changes that go along?” Umm… he’s 14 months old. His full vocabulary is: Daddy, car, peg, go, ball. How does one use this linguistic platform to have the conversation, exactly? Don’t misunderstand me; I talk to my son a lot. So much that people in the grocery store steer away from us, me filling my cart and narrating like the star of my own documentary and Devon listening soberly. “Kidney beans! Your favorite! No, we don’t eat the bananas until we get home. Do you like the way the bag of chips feels?” Sometimes, while sitting up in the cart he pushes my belly like the button on one of his toys and then looks up to give me a big smile.

Devon is still on the small side for all of this. At Babies R'US I browsed through a rack of "I'm a big brother!" t-shirts looking for his size. The smallest they had was a 3T. I don’t think anything could prepare Devon for the changes we’ll experience this summer. Any of us, really. Not me, crossing activities off my list one by one because I’m just getting too big and awkward. Not Craig, who likes to watch the vague shapes of our daughters’ limbs move up one side of my stomach and down the other like bubbles in a lava lamp. We’re all in for an interesting time.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Much Ado About a Very Small Matter

I’ve just spent a disturbing few minutes catching up on news from my home state; more specifically San Francisco’s “Battle of the Bris”, the move to ban elective circumcision of boys under 18 that could show up on the city’s ballots as soon as November. In short, the city that banned the Happy Meal now takes up arms against what activists are calling “male genital mutilation.” I’ve breathed sighs of relief at having left California before, but none so deep and satisfying (despite the four little twin feet working away at my diaphragm) as the one I am enjoying right now. San Franciscans, what are you thinking?

If there was anything wrong or unhealthy with infant circumcision, the American Academy of Pediatrics would be leading the move to ban, and that is definitely not the case. Surgical removal of the foreskin, according to the AAP, reduces incidence of penile cancer, HIV and HPV, infection, and inflammation. In addition, many parents opt for the procedure for reasons of hygiene. Keeping the foreskin area healthy is difficult through the diaper years and late into childhood, requiring parent-supervised cleaning a few times a day. If activists now claim that the procedure has no health benefits and causes “severe physical, emotional, and sexual side effects”, they clearly must shoulder the burden of proof. If circumcised adult males are having physical or sexual problems, how can they conclusively pin them on a procedure they had at birth, giving them no point of comparison? And yes, some men apparently resent their parents for altering their physiology when they were too small to say “no”, but who’s to say their “mommy issues” wouldn’t have found another place to roost if they hadn’t been circumcised?

Other parents choose circumcision for reasons of normalcy, since it is performed on roughly 60% of American boys and is very common in regions such as the Midwest. You’d think that San Franciscans would appreciate the freedom to alter one’s appearance more than any other group. A walk around Pier 39 never fails to showcase the many bizarre things that people do to themselves for the sake of looks. There’s clearly no objection in The City to bars and studs through various facial features, huge tattoos, and ear piercings that have been stretched so grotesquely that I could throw a ping pong ball through the metal hoops. If it’s legal in San Francisco to have elective surgery to split the tip of the tongue, giving an individual a snakelike appearance and the ability to retrain the muscles of each side to move independently of the other, doesn’t the presence or absence of a tiny flap of skin that stays covered when you’re out in public seem a little insignificant? If the problem is not with the surgery itself but rather that it is performed on individuals too tiny to give consent, then why isn't anybody going after infant ear piercing as well?

After all, the main reason that parents usually make the decision to perform a minor operation on—uh—the most sensitive part of a man’s body is that it ISN’T a very sensitive part of a baby’s body. A little local anesthetic and a Tylenol chaser and baby’s none the worse for the experience, especially since being squeezed out a birth canal into a bright, cold world was also on the To Do list for the week. Delaying even a few weeks complicates the matter, as undecided friends of mine found out after they brought their son home unsnipped. When they later discussed the procedure with their son’s pediatrician, they were advised that he would need a general anesthetic, an overnight hospital stay, and weeks of recovery time. Undergoing the procedure as an adult is reportedly exponentially worse, with all of the above and painful side effects that, according to an anonymous friend, “leave you walking funny for a month.” Pragmatism, not patriarchy, is what usually puts the burden of choice on parents.

Activists may believe that the majority of American circumcisions are performed for religious reasons, but Jews and Muslims make up such a small fraction of circumcisions that this cannot be the case. Those who believe that circumcision is mandatory for Christians are mistaken. Yes, there are those Old Testament passages like 1 Samuel 18, in which David kills 200 Philistines, bringing back their foreskins to King Saul and earning his daughter Michal’s hand in marriage. I think, however, if I read the New Testament to my son he will not grow up thinking that we impress girls nowadays by killing people and cutting off their foreskins. My husband had a childhood friend who was told (probably by an embarrassed parent) that circumcision meant “to cut you up.” When in an exuberant mood, the little guy would run around striking his best karate pose and growling “I’m going to circumcise you!” When a kind adult took him aside and enlightened him on the real meaning, he immediately removed the word from his lexicon.

Whether to mandate circumcision as a nod to Jewish tradition was a question the early church had to settle. Their decision is recorded in Galatians 6:15, “Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation.” This means that an individual’s relationship with God is a personal choice. It doesn’t matter if a parent cuts off a tiny part of you or sprinkles a little water on your infant head; only you decide where God fits into your life.

I don’t want my son to think that something I chose to do to him at birth made him right with God. I want him to pursue his own relationship with God as he becomes old enough to understand. Yes, I chose to have my son circumcised, but I don’t believe the procedure carries any spiritual meaning. I honestly couldn’t tell any other parent what to do in the same situation, but I definitely don’t support a ban that would take choice away from parents, who are, after all, chiefly responsible for the well-being of their children.

In closure, San Franciscans, though I feel that you are misguided on this issue, it’s nice to see you taking up the rights of the newborn for a change. Could I just take a moment to remind you that abortion destroys a tiny foreskin along with the rest of the baby, and it’s also performed when children are too tiny to give consent. It seems that your anti-circumcision activists aren’t really bothered by this. Why is that?

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Ultrasound, May 11, 2011

My first glimpse of the girls in four weeks was a very welcome sight. The tech put the scanner low on my stomach, pretty close to the south pole if you know what I mean, and I saw this:

Yesss!!! My babies are both head down and side-by-side. Since I’m about 26 weeks now, they could flip again, but I hope they get pinned down there by their rapidly expanding bodies. Now begins the race to the finish line, so to speak, and here’s where it gets confusing.

Twins are designated A and B, A being the closest to the mother’s cervix, B being furthest away. Since ours were head to butt at the first appointment, it was hard for the tech to decide. How do you tell who’s closer to my cervix when one twin is head-butting it and the other twin is tap-dancing on it? She eventually made lefty A because her little feet were snaking around her sister’s head just a bit. Today she changed the designations because righty’s head is a few inches lower than lefty’s, and when they’re head down that means that if I deliver normally she will be born first.

We got a sweet shot of A (righty's) face, too. It's the most babylike image I've ever seen on a sonogram. Twin A is growing amazingly well. Her weight estimate for 26 weeks was 2 lbs, 5 oz., which is in the 74th percentile.

"For multiples?" I asked.

"No, for babies!" replied the tech. Amazing!

B was hiding her face on her sister's shoulder, and the tech was unable to get her to move and smile for the camera. She's identical to A, though, so how much different could she look? She's 15% smaller than A, at 1 lb. 15 oz., but that's still the 57th percentile.

Whatever I'm feeding these babies appears to be working. The doctors are okay with a weight discrepancy as long as one isn't measuring small or getting smaller, so I was cleared for another four weeks. If my expanding size is another indication too, they appear to be growing just fine. Here is me in February 2010, 35 weeks pregnant with Devon.

I have what most women want to have when they're pregnant. The tight-little-belly look. I was too embarassed to take a rear view, but I wasn't wide or waddling, just thrusting forward like the prow of a sailing ship. Compare that to 26 weeks with twins.

If I didn't have different hair and different weather, they could almost be taken on the same day. A few have said I look small for twins, but that is slightly worrying as well. Just how big am I going to get? With only four pounds of baby in me, I'm almost as big as I was right before I had Devon, and I'm shooting for about 12 pounds of baby at the end. Forget the aquatic vessel analogies, unless you say I look more like a cruise ship. Appropriate, I suppose, since I'm providing a pleasant underwater experience for multiple passengers.

So, sometimes my expanding size is comforting, and sometimes not. Since I'm a firm believer in averages, I think that total weight divided by three is the most accurate description of my weight right now. I'm pleased to report that I weigh 60 pounds, which I haven't managed to pull of since I was, like, 8. It's scary to think that the fact that we've gained 30 pounds already and it isn't a problem with my doctor, and he'll put me on supplement drinks if I don't gain 20 more in the next 2 months.

It's hard to be big headed into summer, and the stores seem to have stopped selling maternity shorts for the sake of human decency. Don't worry, I'd never wear them in public, I just want a pair to wear at home or in the back yard with Devon.

As far as people making references to my size, I prefer the phrase "Whole Lotta Women." I coined it for myself, and I think it's most accurate.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Easter, March 23, 2010

Devon celebrated his second Easter on Sunday, the only major holiday that we will celebrate twice with only one child. Last Thanksgiving Devon was crawling and I was a few weeks pregnant with the twins. At Devon's first Christmas we were still in shock from the pregnancy test I had taken three days earlier, thinking in awe that we will have two consecutive first Christmases. We were joking with family that we could keep up the rhythm, get pregnant again when #2 is eight months old, and have #3 as a Christmas 2012 baby for a third consecutive first Christmas. Of course, now that we know that we're getting #2 and #3 as a package deal, it's even funnier in retrospect. We’ve been advised that we have a 40% chance of another multiple pregnancy, so now the number of children we could manage to produce in three years increases to 6.

Devon was six days old on his first Easter, lying on the blanket and looking tiny. That didn’t stop Grammy from giving him an Easter basket, vintage from my childhood and filled with toys old and new. Since the basket went into the closet intact, this year’s Easter basket was a snap. I found last year’s in the attic, transferred the toys to a new basket, and this time Devon enjoyed rooting around in the basket.

Sunday Devon also debuted his Big Boy Shoes. He’s worn Robeez, the wonderful pre-walker soft leather slippers, until now. Friday I decided that the unusually dapper vest-and-golf-short combo passed to him from a friend’s son needed real shoes. On the changing table, he tried to bite the new sandals off, which is probably what Ally kitty would do if we tried to get her to wear shoes. On the ground, he lifted a foot WAY up in the air, eyed the shoe distastefully, and then smacked it down as if trying to shake it off. For you Nick Park fans, it was a motion that can only be compared to Wallace in The Wrong Trousers. Thankfully, Daddy was able to convince Devon that Big Boy shoes weren’t that much harder to wear and made a pleasing clomp every time he took a step, so the transition was over in ten minutes. When he woke up from his nap, he found his Big Boy Shoes and brought them to me to put on again. Here’s a better side view of Devon and the B.B.S., as he plays with his Little People Circus, a birthday gift from Grammy and Grandpa.

We took about twenty pictures of Devon in his outfit and with his basket, but only a few turned out. Sadly, the best one of him also features me in the back goggling like a startled deer.

Craig is a great photographer and always gets his camera out to capture a cute shot of Devon. Sadly, even the most careful parent must do battle with what I call The Immutable Laws of Juvenile Photography:

1. No matter how many snaps you take, only three will turn out. Usually the first three.
2. In those three, parents have a weird facial expression, a body part accidentally exposed, or an awkward posture that reveals post-baby lack of physical conditioning.
3. The child will be so cute that the shot will still go in the baby book, the mailing, or the slideshow. Parents will either be totally oblivious to looking bad, or call attention to it in a "tee-hee" sort of way.

Take one of our first Devon-and-Mommy pics, for example.

I thought this was an adorable shot of both of us. I included it in Devon's email birth announcement and copied it for the baby book. Then, when I returned to teaching on finals week, one of my students pointed out that the dopey smile on my face was not new motherhood. I was well and truly stoned, complete with pupils dilated to cover my entire iris. Whether it was the previous days epidural (I'm a big girl, so my dose of anesthetic could fell a stampeding bull elephant) or the Percoset I had taken at five that morning, I was definitely feeling no pain. Yet, I'm still showing off this photo. Tee-hee.