Friday, July 29, 2011

Full Term, July 29, 2011

Devon scampered down the hall this morning, shrieking with delight and flapping a pair of my underwear in each hand. He’s a quick one to catch our open bedroom door, and so we leave it closed because he loves to raid the hamper. Now everyone in the house knows that although Grammy is here to play with Devon, she’s not the one wearing granny panties these days.

Maybe if the twins take after their brother, Stella really should be worried about them being born feral. Stella is our three-year-old niece, and my sister-in-law Laura was explaining to her the other day why they couldn’t keep the kittens born on their property. Since they were born outside and grew up without human contact, Laura told Stella they were “too wild” to be handled and wouldn’t make good pets.

“When Auntie Krista has her babies, could they be born wild?” she asked, concerned.

I’m sure with four adults and one small child around, these babies will have enough love and handling to keep them from turning feral, but the jury may still be out about Devon. He is celebrating birth week by cutting all four of his first molars. He runs around the coffee table with one of the New Baby dolls, flashing me an alarmingly toothy smile (“All the better to bite you with, my dears!”). Then, he kisses the New Baby, which for him means biting it on the head like it’s an especially tough apple skin.

It’s Friday night, which means I made it to 37 weeks, just like I was hoping to. Technically, not until Saturday, but even if I looked down at this moment to see water running down my leg I’d not have the babies until after midnight.

So, full term for normal birth, check.

The reason I didn’t follow that statement up with a few exclamation points or some sassy emoticons is that I’ve come up against the disadvantage of having an Iron Matron Cervix. It does its job so well that it doesn’t know when to quit. What it really needs is an emergency release cord like parachutes have. If it did, I’d definitely give it a yank, grab my suitcase, and go have some babies!

There are no clothes I can wear comfortably when I am nine months pregnant. To roll over in bed I have to hold the babies up with one arm curled around my stomach, do a dog-leg kick to give me enough momentum to rise to a sitting position, stand up, transfer the weight of the babies to my other arm, and then lower myself slowly down on the other side until they hit the mattress and I can curl my arm under my head. All this awkwardness and discomfort is accompanied by a burst of nostalgia on Craig’s part, so I never know what unflattering position I’ll be squirming in when I turn around to see a camera lens pointed menacingly at me. I let him take a few sanctioned shots in the backyard so I could at least control what he was shooting and make sure I was fully dressed.

Two days ago I used the last of my Burt’s Bees Belly Butter, not that it has helped me avoid stretch marks. Devon left me with a cute little smirk of freckle-sized marks under my belly button. They faded discreetly under some cheap vitamin E cream in a few months. Though I’d never again have a bikini-ready body it’s really hard to miss what you’ve never had to begin with. My twin stretch marks (aka “twin skin”) are epic, not to mention the red splotch in the shape of Indiana over my belly button that never stretched but sprouted a few days ago as a full-on scar. I’ve bought a forty-dollar tube of Mederma Stretch Mark Repair to start the day after the birth, and if it works I’m buying stock in the company. In the meantime, if you’re a teenager who’s contemplating going too far too fast in a romantic relationship, message me and I’ll send you a close-up shot of my stomach. That’ll give you the strength to choose celibacy for a few more years.

I hope my airing a few petty complaints doesn’t give anyone the impression that these babies are either unwanted or unloved. The main reason I want them out right now is so I can make sure they’re healthy and safe, and just to SEE them. All day I’ve zeroed in on every twinge of a backache or moment of abdominal tightness, willing it into a bona fide contraction. No such luck.

It gives me insight into the Romans 8 passage my Bible titles “Present Suffering and Future Glory," the one that talks about all creation waiting to be liberated:

22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

The mental image I’ve always conjured with the reference to all that “groaning inwardly” is pain, complete with sweating and panting and exaggerated Lamaze breathing (hee hee hoo hoo..). Maybe it’s because I choose to do my hard labor under epidural, but thinking about this passage now makes me think of creation (and Christians) living in a state of intense longing, the kind I'm experiencing right now.

All day long I’ve been begging my body to hurry up and let me see my daughters. For nine months they've been snuggled up under my heart, rocked by my movements, soothed by my heartbeat, and protected from harm and high risk complications by the unseen hand of God.

Come quickly, babies.

Mommy says please.

Monday, July 25, 2011

36 Weeks, July 25, 2011

One week to go, and multiple sources say I want to last the whole week. Even though the babies are healthy, advantages of going another week include a better nursing reflex, a more complex immune system, and a few extra ounces of birth weight. Other moms with 36-week births have run into hospital rules that treat their babies as premature even though they are full term for twins. So, their babies spend needless and very expensive nights in the nursery or NICU just because it’s hospital policy. That gives me some incentive to last until my induction. On the other hand, it would be nice if I’m going to have three kids to know what normal labor feels like, and it’s reportedly easier on the babies than even-your-eyeballs-are-squeezing pitocin contractions. So, my plan for the week is pretty much this:

1. To stand on my head until Friday.
2. To right myself and jump up and down all weekend until gravity does the rest.
3. To go into labor on Sunday night, thus checking normally into the hospital a few hours before my induction is scheduled so I can have delivery at 37 ½ weeks.

Our bird family vacated the nest in our planter this week. We heard a flurry of activity on the doorstep and were in time to see the babies take off with much coaxing from the mama and daddy birds.

Baby #1 did a controlled fall to the windowsill, letting us snap a few telephoto pictures of his downy head, and then tried to hop back up to the nest via our screen.

Baby #2 peeked over the edge for fifteen minutes and managed to careen all the way to the spruce tree.

Then the whole family flew together around the corner of our house and was gone. This must be why they call it “empty nest syndrome,” not “empty den syndrome” or “empty stable syndrome." Once they’re gone, it’s final; they don’t even come back to do laundry.

I’m past the huge belly phase and into the ‘stuck a couple of babies under my shirt’ phase. It looks more like I have a rare and medically documented deformity. All day the twins bounce around inside like the numbered lotto balls in the dispenser, giving me the mental picture that they’ll suddenly plink into position and come popping out like they do on TV. Twin A (righty)’s heinie is up so high tonight it looks like I’ve developed a rogue third boob. She’s the one that the doctors say will be delivered first, but unless she’s planning to come out my ear I’m wondering if she’s changed her mind.

Something I did when I was just pregnant (and not so big that my bulk makes the tides shift, affecting worldwide weather patterns and causing the Eastern heat wave) was to take Devon to the mall. First, I got the same thing at Sonic: a Lime Real Fruit Slush. This beverage speaks to the twins in ways I am incapable of fully understanding. Then, after Devon played in the climbing gym, we'd get another lime slush and take it home to Craig. He’d drink that one while he worked on his dissertation upstairs.

Today I was able to repeat the ritual with the help of my parents. They fed Devon shaved ice and chased him around the mall, keeping up with him in ways I shouldn’t if I don’t want my water to break in a very public place. My Dad also initiated a loud conversation in the food court about what it means to be 3 cm dilated and 90% effaced.

“So, how do they find this out?” he wondered aloud.

“The doctor pats the babies on the head, and then he knows,” I said, which was, I thought, the most the topic needed to be addressed while people sat around us eating their Chinese stir fry and their Chick-fil-A.

On the way out, I ordered Craig his drink like always.

“So, I hear you’re having twins!” said the cashier.

“Yep,” I said, glancing back at my parents. The joy of grandparenthood is directly proportional to the number of people that know all the details.

“Well,” said the cashier, looking down at the second 44 oz slush, “that explains a lot!”

Thursday, July 21, 2011

July 21, 2011, Trying NOT to Think About It

“Look,” said Craig. “Devon and I are playing a new game. It’s called ‘delivery’.”

As I sat down to watch, Craig took the New Babies, the dolls that Grammy brought, and stuffed them under his shirt. Devon started laughing the deep “HAA, HAA” that means he’s more than just amused—he’s highly entertained. He reached up under Daddy’s shirt and out popped pink sleeper New Baby as Daddy lay back and made groaning noises in parody of labor. When Devon had “delivered” the one, he tossed her on her head on the floor and went back in for twin sister. Devon then did a second body slam and a victory lap around the coffee table, arms raised in touchdown posture. Meanwhile, the discarded New Babies lay on the floor, glassy blue eyes undisturbed, fish lips splayed in perfect calm. They don’t cry unless you “feed” them with their bottles and then take the bottles out.

Strange, somehow, that I only have to have the babies once and Craig has to “have” them twenty or thirty times so Devon can watch and play obstetrician. It’s an interesting way to prepare Devon for the next week.

Personally, I think the best way to handle impending labor is to not think about it. I didn’t even pack my suitcase until the night before Devon’s induction. At the time I was hoping I’d go into labor naturally and be in enough pain to actually WANT to go to the hospital and have people help me. It was sort of hard to wake up at 5 on a perfectly normal morning, take a shower, check myself in feeling fine, and then set down to the task of having a baby for the next fifteen hours. Thankfully, my sense of unreality took over big time and even without narcotics it seemed like the whole experience couldn’t really be happening.

The worst part was I had spent time planning things to do for the boring hours of the induction when you’re hooked up to machines and waiting for the medication to ever-so-slowly ratchet up your contractions. I sat back and set my ipod to play the new Orson Scott Card audiobook I’d downloaded from Audible. The plot went like this:

Boy and companions catch new virus while trapping monkeys in Africa and start coughing and bleeding out of their eyes. They go to the hospital, where they get subpar Third World medical care and everybody but boy dies. Boy goes back to village, where everybody is bleeding out of their eyes and dying. Virus spreads to surrounding areas and boy watches while everybody starts…

No hard feelings to the creator of the Ender saga, but he probably shouldn’t market the Empire series to people in the hospital. I lasted for about a half hour before switching over to the book I brought. Forty pages into The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett, the wife of the main character dies in—you guessed it—childbirth. Sigh.

I’m packing my hospital suitcase today, which is probably wise because I have two amniotic sacs instead of one. Each breaks separately, and if they both do at the same time it could be Victoria Falls. I also did a going-to-the-hospital pedicure, since hundreds of people are going to breeze in and out of the operating room while my feet stick up in the air.

Yes, they each have a different color polish; it wasn’t an oversight because I’m not seeing much of my feet these days. It’s our plan for telling our identical girls apart. When they lose their hospital bracelets, we plan on putting a drop of polish on each baby’s big toe, and I’m memorizing lefty’s color and righty’s color by trying them out on my feet. It’s a tamer version of what we’ve been telling people we’d do all along.

Friend: So, are you worried about telling them apart when they’re born?
Me: No, we’ll take a permanent marker and draw a mustache on one and a beard on the other.

I couldn’t paint my nails myself; I can touch my toes but only with my feet brought up sideways. Craig did it; a job he compared to putting glue on a model airplane. This he did with the same calmness and attention to detail that he devotes to any task.

Speaking of barefoot and pregnant, Craig sneaked a few pictures of me with Devon in the kiddie pool.

Let me tell you, it’s a real thrill to debut on the Internet three or four shy of two hundred pounds.

Devon needed some encouragement to play in the pool, and Craig was there to help me up.

I was slightly worried that we’d look down and notice there was way more water in the pool than we remembered and know what happened.

We’ve watched two movies this week, Secretariat and Three Idiots. One was set in India, one in Kentucky. Both were superb. They also each had a childbirth scene. I HATE childbirth scenes in movies, even if one of the movies just featured a horse giving birth. All that sweating and panting and grunting and mooing seriously disturbs me.

In the other movie, this poor girl started labor in the middle of a record flood that shut down city infrastructure and stranded her in a classroom. Forty Indian male engineering students, also stranded, improvised a suction positioner out of a shop vac and car batteries and delivered the baby all by their nerdy selves.

Not the mental image I wanted. Sigh.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

35 Weeks, July 16, 2011

Good news for UK Healthcare: their stock is going up in my estimation. No surprises here, but our Humana Student Health Insurance (Need Health Care? Naw. Think home birth.) barely approved the upcoming delivery, and only after much persuasion on the part of the nurses. My favorite little snippet of conversation related to me at Wednesday’s appointment was:

Nurse: Yes, the patient will be delivering twins around August 1.

Humana: And that will be outpatient?

Why do they want to code this as outpatient? Our insurance has a ridiculously low threshold of outpatient coverage, so they’d like to stick us with the entire delivery bill after kicking in a few hundred dollars. Nice!

Or, like Craig said, “So, is the potato field they expect you to squat in a covered expense, or do they expect us to pay rent for that, too?”

The good news, however, comes from my appointment today. We’ve set August 1st as an eviction date, if the twins don’t come before then. I’m very pro-induction, after a perfectly smooth one with Devon when he was two days overdue. It was a rough decision at the time, and seemed to garner me a lot of disfavor from the home birth/natural labor crowd who think that pitocin is poison, hospitals are hell, and going into labor a month late is safer. I actually had a stranger shake her head and tell me “Babies know when they want to be born,” and I’m not sure why my delivery choices were any of her business.

For the record, I don’t think that babies know when they want to be born. Babies don’t know when they want ANYTHING. Devon wanted to eat while sleeping and pooping, and ALL of these 24 hours a day. We had to convince him that there were hours in a day where Mommy got to eat something and take a shower and wear a shirt. Now that he’s bigger, he also knows when he wants to do things that aren’t good for him, like playing with steak knives. So I think it’s fine to chemically nudge the girls in the right direction if they’re overdue, which at 37 ½ weeks for multiples they will be. Or as I say:

“Okay, babies, if you don’t come out in two weeks we’re coming in to get you!”

In the meantime, I can imagine them in there discussing their options, perhaps scratching out a calendar on the walls of my uterus and debating the pros and cons of another two weeks inside. I’m in favor of at least another week, because their immune systems and organs are still fine tuning, and a few extra ounces of body weight wouldn’t hurt them either. In the meantime, their combined weight and movement is truly incredible. Sometimes they seem determined to dig their way out through my bellybutton like the Allied POW’s in The Great Escape. Sometimes righty hooks her heels under my rib cage and starts swimming up while lefty bumps her head rhythmically against my pelvis.

Devon seems to be getting excited about the New Babies.

Grammy arrived, and brought two newborn dolls for Devon to carry around. They have bottles so Devon can practice feeding the New Babies. He does this with great delight. Then, he chews on their feet.

I dare you to look at the next picture and not say, “Awwwwwww.”

It’s an involuntary response, like now when I grunt while getting up out of a chair. I was originally adamantly against brand new matchy-matchy car seats. Then I hit my third trimester and went completely insane. I had bad dreams about taking the babies to the grocery store and people thinking they were boy-girl because only one car seat was frilly. Graco, of course, discontinued Devon’s Winnie the Pooh car seat a month after we bought it, so there was no question of matching that one. So, one of our family presents is new matching car seats. Those who know me well are surprised, because I never buy anything new when I have something adequate already. I’m surprised, too, but right now still fitting into the jeans I wore yesterday surprises me.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

34 Weeks, July 10, 2011

I’ve been watching them all day.

Two small brown songbirds decided that our house looked fertility friendly and decided to build their nest in the basket of begonias hanging near our front door. I ignored their popping in with leaves and twigs at odd hours of the morning, thinking they would change their minds in the parade of realtors and home inspections. They didn’t. Craig swooped in with the watering can a week ago, and Mama bird flew out of the basket straight at his head as if to say “Get your own young!” A chorus of chee chee chee chee chee chee chee kept up until she returned 20 minutes later.

So now I can sit in the leather chair by the front window and watch two little brown birds provisioning their babies. They approach from below, tantalizing Ally kitty by hopping sweetly across the windowsill. When they reach the doorstep, they turn, fly straight up to the edge of the basket, and pop the yummy grub they’ve been holding over the edge. We respect their privacy and don’t want to disturb the nest, but Craig is a whiz at the telephoto and so managed to get a shot of one of the babies…

…and even a good one of Mama bird with the avian equivalent of Enfamil tucked in her beak.

It’s stinkin’ cute to watch, but it makes me glad I’m a mammal. Seems easier to eat food and make it into milk instead of nourishing my newborns with a 24-hour supply of foraged and regurgitated stuff. I think it would be really cool, however, if humans were marsupial. Those mammas got it made. The koala has her baby when it’s the size of a Brazil nut, and it nurses and sleeps in a special tummy pouch made to hold its weight and not develop stretch marks. Then, when the babies are bigger, cuter, and more aware, they pop their heads out of the pouch and look around like they’re in a 100% natural Baby Bjorn.

By far the greatest attraction of the marsupial lifestyle is that they never have to be THIS pregnant. Last night I spent five minutes flopping around in the recliner like a beached trout. Craig finally asked me what the problem was.

I couldn’t get up.

So, of course, he put his foot on the footrest, gave a hard push, and out I popped. I still wonder what I would have done if I was home alone.

A few weeks before I had Devon, my then-10-year-old nephew asked if I was afraid of having “my first painful birth experience.” His exact words, I swear. I told him I was more afraid that the baby wouldn’t come out and I would be nine months pregnant

People tell me to think of three weeks from now when I can hold my cute little girls and see their sweet faces, and then maybe hand them off to Grammy so I can shave my legs without navigating around the bowling ball in my lap. This is true, but it doesn’t make me feel better, and I’d rather not build an association between the twins and these last few weeks of discomfort punctuated by moments of pain. Today is Sunday, and I’m up at 5 because for the past month Twin B’s way of observing the Sabbath involves resting on my sciatic nerve. It’s a fun new way for me to experience the curse of Eve, but the Bible also says I’m going to forget my travail in the golden sweetness of motherhood, and I’m sure I will.

At some point.

What really makes me feel better is to think of intensely uncomfortable things I’ve done for short periods of time.

1.Taught for one year in the Lexington Public Schools.
2.Refinished my kitchen cabinets in 110 degree Ripon weather as viscuous black stain dripped and dried all down my lower extremities.
3.Broke my foot in June of 2007. Moved 2500 miles in a black boot brace.
4.Worked for two weeks in the Stanislaus County Welfare Office, signing the perfectly capable but clueless up for portions of my tax dollars and offering free and off the books abortions to local fifteen-year-olds (yeah, it was that last one that made me quit when I finally realized what all those fresh-faced middle class darlings were getting when they showed up in line asking for “Confidential Services”).

While it may depress some to hear about the low moments of my life, they perk me right up, convincing me that the human spirit is resilient and capable of handling a lot for a short period of time. It is an important milestone to reach 34 weeks, the marker after which over 99% of babies born survive. From here to 36 weeks, some estimate that every day I can carry the twins saves two that they could have to spend in the NICU. I’m not above trying to score some sympathy (in the form of an extra back rub), but I’m not asking for an earlier delivery date.

Devon is still checking my stomach, and checking other people’s. He’ll circle the living room lifting shirts, wondering why Daddy’s tummy is so much flatter and hairier than Mommy’s. He’s even taken to contemplating his own navel several times a day.

On Friday night Devon spied Ben, his next-door-neighbor friend, playing outside. Since it was bedtime, I brought him away from the window and he collapsed in a paroxysm of weltschmerz , wailing so hard that his tears dripped down his face and into a puddle on the kitchen floor. He wasn’t just mad for not being allowed to play outside. He was tapping into some well of deep human sorrow, mourning the loss of Eden where there were no early bedtimes. Not one to reward tears with pleasure, I put him to bed and let him exhaust his grief and fall asleep.

But as a parent I do love giving good gifts to my children, so Ben came over for a playdate Saturday afternoon. For two hours they hid from each other down the hall, bounced the ball, and shimmied under the coffee table to Devon’s great delight.

Six-year-old Ben also composed an original song for Devon that he sang so many times that it’s still running through my memory:

Life with a baby
Just wouldn’t be the same,
If there was an apple

Friday, July 1, 2011

Ultrasound, July 1, 2011

Today is July 1, 2011, and I’ve been assured that the babies will be out (one way or another) in one month or less. Their lungs are fully developed, and the only thing they have left to accomplish is a little porking up. Yesterday the sonogram measured them at 4 ½ pounds each. It’s great for 33 weeks, but a pound of pudge apiece shy of the 5 ½ pounds I’m shooting for. It's hopefully doable since they each gained a pound in the last three weeks. My doctor says that 5 lbs. is a pretty important threshold; the extra mass helps the babies regulate their own temperatures without an incubator. Since we’d really rather go with the rooming-in option instead of the NICU stay, I’m trying to think of things I can eat that will help the babies keep gaining weight.

Yesterday was probably my last sonogram. Funny, because we thought the first one we had way back in March was first-and-last. The discovery of twins led to many more, and it seems a little weird that I don’t have another scheduled appointment. I’ve seen the sonogram techs and doctors so many times that in my daydreams about delivery I automatically imagine them there: the tech checking the heartbeats, the doctor measuring my contractions. The sonography office has been the one place at UK Medical where everyone seems to have it all together, and they’ve been a big help in dealing with our Humana Student Health Insurance (Need prenatal care? Why? Your grandfather was born in a barn!)

We were very excited to get a rare glimpse of both babies at once! In the bottom of the picture, you can see an over-the-shoulder profile of A: a sloping forehead and a chubby cheek. Twin B is facing her, and if you look for the tech’s arrow you can see her nose and lips pushed up against the membrane between them like it’s a window she’s looking through. We had to stare at it for a while, but see it once and it’s unmistakeable.

Twin B is the camera shy one in general, always pressing her face to A’s shoulder or turning away from the camera, but we got a glimpse of her profile this time…

… as well as her sister’s. We were never bothered because they are identical, but it’s still nice to see B for the first time since week 16.

Twin B’s face shot turned out a little squashed. Poor thing, she has no idea how bad it’s going to get in there soon, with both of them growing and running out of room. Even if this face was a little mask-of-Darth-Vader I still love it because just before the tech snapped the still picture I saw her blink.

I've been trying not to notice how my housekeeping and my parenting have been slipping in the past month. For example, Devon's newest form of self-amusement is to improvise a basketball hoop out of anything round and throw things through it. So far this morning he's thrown Daddy's shoes, all of his Little People, and his Tigger Ball through the seat of the exersaucer and run to pick them up on the bottom. It's fun for me to watch from my beached position on the couch, but the game has it's weird moments. Namely, when I'm sitting on the toilet and he's throwing red car and yellow car through the hoop that my shorts make stretched across my knees. Do I stop him, though? Nope. I'm just glad I can pee before he finds the plunger and decides to stick it to his head.

So we're counting down to delivery, but more importantly we're counting down 12 more days before Grammy comes to stay for a while. Not only is she fresh from a 3-month deprivation and ready to see her grandson, but she's been shopping! Last week she sent me this picture:

I had mentioned that I didn't have enough clothes for two babies that would probably actually wear the newborn sizes for a while. Now I do. She has a favorite children's consignment store, and it just so happens they were having a sale.

She recently posted on facebook that she bought a 20 lb. jug of cat litter to carry around as practice for picking up Devon. It's a good idea. However, Devon does not have a handle, and he doesn't stay still. I suggested that she practice carrying around a 20 lb. bag of cats.

Now that I've had a few more days to think about it, I've devised a list of exercises that anyone anticipating a visit with a 15-month-old can do to physically and mentally prepare. If you'd like to truly empathize with me, you can attempt this list with two 5 lb. sacks of sugar duct taped to your bellybutton.

In the Kitchen: Open a can of kidney beans. Smear 2 T. on high chair tray, 3 T. on cloth seat of high chair. Stick 5 beans to wall. Dump remainder on floor. Let dry 30 minutes. Clean up the mess.

In the Bathroom: Run warm water in tub and add bubble bath. Bathe, lotion, diaper, and dress reluctant raccoon while singing "Take Me out to the Ball Game" and balancing a rubber duck on your head.

In the Living Room: Spread 100 ping pong balls on carpet. Tune 2 different radios to different stations at medium volume. Crawl around coffee table on your knees, pausing to lift jug of cat litter down from the couch, coffee table, or stairs. Continue this action for 30 minutes. Pick up ping pong balls.