Friday, August 26, 2011

Moving Week, August 26, 2011

It’s 6:37 am. Friday, August 26, 2011.

Carrie’s in the bouncy seat, stirring every few minutes to signal that she’s fixing to wake and eat soon. Melina just ate and is working out an insidious case of hiccups by hanging onto me.

It’s been a hectic few days. Endless phone conversations with utilities companies, the title company, and gap health insurance (Need insurance? We can cover you! No, we can’t. Yes, we can! No, we can’t……). Running the dishwasher every time we dirty four plates and four bowls because all our other dishes are boxed. All while keeping Devon from unpacking the half-packed boxes on the floor, replacing pacifiers when they fall out, and producing enough milk to fill a Super Big Gulp. I’m a good mom, but I feel like putting everyone on notice: this moving thing is seriously interfering with my ability to Bring My A-Game.

I could try to sleep a few more minutes, but I can’t stop thinking.

Three more days.

Craig successfully defended his dissertation on Wednesday (just call us Dr. and Mrs.!). He’s upstairs printing his copies that the UK library will keep as documentation of his four years of research on tall fescue pastures and armyworms. He’ll turn those in today and be officially done. We’ll give our worldly goods to movers, load kids and cat into our cars, and hopefully avoid Hurricane Irene as we drive south to our new home.

I’ve never been to Florida. When Craig went for a visit, at 30 weeks I was great with child (children?) and advised not to accompany him. I’m relying completely on his positive impression and the fact that he got the USDA job he was shooting for after years of hard work. I’ve looked at our new backyard and driven to Sam’s Club from our house thanks to the Street View setting in Google Earth, but in a week I’ll be driving the turnpikes for the very first time.

It seems weird to say this about a place I’ve spent only 4 of my 32 years, but I feel like when we leave Lexington we’ll be saying goodbye to our home. We even listed Lexington as our hometown on the degree paperwork. It makes me sad to think that all of our kids were born here and none of them will remember living here. That’s probably why leaving Lexington is so much harder than leaving California was four years ago. Having children ties you to a place in ways that are hard to understand.

Every time I get a spare minute, I linger over a feeding and hold the twins. This is their one and only fourth week of life. I find a way to cherish them even in the midst of our upheaval. When our schedule settles down and we can finally take a break, they’ll still be ours, but bigger, stronger, and different already.

Then I chase Devon down the hall and tousle his hair. It grows longer in the back and sides, and if I don’t break down and cut it soon he’s going to have a Baby Mullet. He won’t remember this moment. Or the thousand times he crawled up the stairs to his room giggling with pregnant me plodding heavily behind. Or the first family walk around the neighborhood as a family of five in the lime green triple stroller that manages to fit all of our children at once. Their family memories will most likely begin with Florida, and surely we’ll have good ones. After all, we’re moving to the beach!

Now, if I could just fit into my bathing suit……

Friday, August 19, 2011

August 19, 2011, Carrie and Melina

So, is it “Carrie and Melina” or “Melina and Carrie”? We’re making an effort not to constantly refer to them as “the twins” like they’re a package deal, although sometimes I call them “the girls”. It seems like the older one should be first, so who would that be?

In the womb, Carrie was measured as five days older. Usually the split that makes a set of identical twins takes place three to eight days after conception, and so the extra baby that resulted was Melina. Carrie is, therefore, the older sister. In the operating room, Melina was born first, a whole minute before Carrie. Melina is, therefore, the older sister.


Now that Melina and Carrie have been with us for two whole weeks, it’s hard to believe that we ever struggled over naming them. It’s as if their names were already decided and we stumbled upon them in some random flash of insight. I was pretty opinionated even from the start, checking the twin website suggestions and rejecting every pair as too matchy-matchy (Madison and Madelyn) or too gimmicky (Heaven and Nevaeh—no twin wants to be their twin spelled backwards!!). We also rejected anything we liked that sounded too much like Devon. Megan was an early favorite, but we decided that calling one name or the other out the back door could get confusing. Craig also wouldn’t abide anything that would be abbreviated for daily use, so he rejected Annabelle (Annie for short).

We thought the name Carrie had an heirloom classiness. We went with the old-fashioned spelling, like the little girl on Little House on the Prairie. The double-r’s in the middle were an easy mnemonic; the twin on the right became Carrie. She looks most like pictures of Mommy when she was born. So far, she is the thinker, curling her hands around her face to contemplate life.

Her stock expression is a little Oh! of surprised pleasure. Oh! she says, pinwheeling her arms good naturedly. Milk? Daddy? Blanket? For me?

Melina is a slightly unusual name, and that was important to us. Only a teacher truly appreciates how hard it is to have eight Will’s and seven Hannah’s in one junior class. We wanted both the twins to have fairly rare names. I had only one Melina in nine years of teaching. We thought it went well with Carrie while still sounding distinct.

Melina is living up to her womb reputation as the more active twin, though she weighed just under five pounds at birth. In the hospital she was the first to stretch out her legs, and we’ll often find her sleeping straight as a board, looking a bit like she’s levitating.

She looks most like pictures of Devon when he was born.

Sometimes I even think she looks a bit like Ally kitty.

Her stock expression is a wide mouthed smile, like she’s laughing at a well-told joke. Hah!

So, Carrie and Melina stood out on our short list because they sounded good together. Then, we looked them up and discovered that they both mean “song”. Carrie is an English name, a form of Carol. Melina is a Hebrew name, a form of Melody. That decided it. Their names are related but not obnoxious in their sameness. Our girls are free to be individuals, not part of a matched set, and hopefully that will make them feel close to each other.

So far, we call them by their names and occasionally by one set of nicknames. A relative made beautiful embroidered blankets for the girls, one with a moon motif and one with a cloud. So, they are occasionally Carrie-Cloud and Melina-Moon. Yes, we still avoid most nicknames, but we're sure that they are unlikely to be called "Moon" and "Cloud" by their friends at school.

Devon is Celtic and means “Bard”, a kind of travelling singer/songwriter, so all three names go together well.

Since I don’t know whether they’ll be Carrie and Melina or Melina and Carrie for the long term, I try to mix it up. When I go in to get them, I sing them "The Carrie and Melina Song":

Carrie and Melina
Melina and Carrie
Now it is time to feed (change, dress, burp…)
Carrie and Meli-NAH!

One last shot-- Melina and Carrie know Kung Fu!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

August 13, 2011, Week of a Thousand Diapers

We thought Carrie and Melina are filling out pleasantly, and it was confirmed Wednesday at their well-baby checkup. At ten days of age, Carrie Annabelle is back to her birth weight at 6 lbs. 2 oz. Melina Mae almost broke the five pound barrier, but the night before she spit up an entire feeding in a spectacular foot-long arc of projectile prowess. She settled for 4 lbs. 15 oz., and we are so happy she continues to suffer no ill effects from low birth weight. Other than a few days of upset tummy they seem to be thriving despite their hurried entrance into the world. I’m recovering myself, and trying to engage in activities that will help me gain strength for the coming move.

It’s also a small personal milestone for me to be “off the hard stuff”. It’s a little disturbing to be sent home from the hospital with two babies to take care of and feeling loopy from the vial of white pills you're taking for the pain. Some things I said at the time don’t make sense in retrospect. I told my Mom it was perfectly all right for me to be vacuuming after surgery because our vacuum cleaner was easier to push than our Chevy Malibu. Then I had a waking dream that I was lying in bed with the laptop at my feet. I was cold, so I went to and asked Can I have a blanket? One promptly unfurled right out of the screen and covered me. These and other lapses while taking the medication worried me slightly. I soon decided that I could stop any time I wanted to. And so I did.

How many cards does Hallmark make to congratulate the parents of twins?

Just one, apparently, so we're not just seeing double when we look at the babies.

My parents' card was a normal single-baby card, but Mom wrote "Times Two" on it to make it more appropriate. It reminded me of my grandmother Irma Meth, the one whose August birthday angel figurine will be displayed in the girls' room now that they made their August due date. She is quite the grammarian. Her cards would arrive with birthday wishes from her and Grandpa and I's painstakingly changed to we's wherever necessary.

This evening I had to sneak away to Target to buy diapers because I didn't think I had enough to get through the night, joining hundreds of UK students buying textiles and body wash to stock their dorm rooms. Augusts in Lexington are always tough times to shop, the lines always long, the aisles always crowded with perky moms picking out deodorant and toilet paper with their sullen freshman sons trailing behind. Just how many diapers will our three children use this month? Who cares? We have more important things to occupy us:

A first family picture before Mom and Dad went home Thursday. That's me forcing my shoulders back and positioning Carrie strategically over my tummy bulge. I lost 20 lbs. last week. That's a lot, even if it was 11 lbs. of baby, 6 lbs. amniotic fluid, and one plus-sized placenta. It feels good to weigh less than my husband again, and I can zip up one pair of my jeans.

I said I zipped them up.

I didn't say I could breathe.

My talented friend and neighbor made these headbands for the girls. Great for a special occasion. The royal wedding, perhaps. She sells these and other baby stuff at

I did not stage this picture, but I don't blame you if you don't believe me. I imagine them doing this in the womb. Important to note that a week and a half later, Melina is still leading by a nose.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Birthday, August 1, 2011

Carrie: So, that didn’t go like we thought it would, did it?

Melina: Sorry.

We were pleasantly surprised on Monday morning after check-in to find that I was already having what the nurse referred to as Monster Contractions and would barely need any pitocin. They were also progressing quickly, leading the doctors to predict that we would have twins by two in the afternoon. Twin A was in perfect position and the doctor again said he was looking forward to a “very graceful birthday.” Labor did really go exactly like everyone thought it would, and Craig and I amused ourselves by watching the two heartbeats on the fetal monitor and wondering when we would see our daughters.

At 1:40, the sleepy tempo of the early afternoon exploded into activity as Twin B’s water broke, I was pronounced ready to deliver, and the fetal monitor registered a sudden drop in both heartbeats. I was quickly unhooked and rushed down the hall to the OR with Craig running behind me. As he got into his scrubs and I was prepped for delivery, things relaxed again as the heart monitors showed normal heartbeats and the doctors were again confident that a normal birth could be attempted.

At this point, Twin B, ever the unpredictable one, decided to attempt a move favored by NASCAR drivers and chariot racers in Ben Hur: to edge out the competition from behind and finish first. Unfortunately, when you decide you’re ready to be born you can’t just shove your twin sister aside and pull ahead by a length like you’re Seabiscuit. Two things happened: Twin A’s progress stalled because of B’s pressure on her, and B’s heartbeat again dropped because she was no longer protected from the full force of the delivery by her own amniotic fluid. So ten minutes after we arrived in the OR the decision was made to deliver the twins by emergency C-Section.

I pity Caesar, who gave his name to the procedure by apocryphally being delivered that way. I don’t know why there is such a thing as an elective C-Section for reasons other than the health of mother or baby. I do know, however, that the doctors and nurses saved my babies by getting them out quickly. Melina Mae was born first at 2:11 pm., weighing 4 lbs. 14 oz. and responding quickly to nursery care despite a sleepy start. Carrie Annabelle was born a minute later, weighing 6 lbs, 2 oz. and crying her outrage at her sister’s ruining her shot at being born first.

As we reflect over the pregnancies and separate out the sonogram pics for their baby books, it is interesting to note that since Melina won the race to be born, she is now Twin A instead of Twin B, as well as her heavier twin’s big sister. I saw Melina’s right ear as the anesthesiologist held her up for me to see, and then Craig held a swaddled Carrie, and then they were off to the nursery to get checked and I was off to recovery. I’m not sure why they call it ‘recovery’ if it’s the place you go and feel steadily worse for an hour.

Four hours later, the twins joined me in the mother-baby wing and we were able to room together for all of my three-day hospital stay. I’m not sure what the odds are on this, but we thought this was pretty amazing given the twin pregnancy and Melina’s birth weight. The hospital photographer startled me by saying that she doesn’t think she has ever photographed a baby as small as she is except for in the NICU. Everyone from the pediatricians to the lactation consultants marveled at how healthy they are for being born at 37 weeks. Melina spent the first evening tucked into my hospital gown to help regulate her body temperature, but was holding her own temperature by the next morning.

I thought I’d have to be older and wiser to get to the point where I felt like quoting myself, but my birth plan all along was:

1. Nobody dies.
2. Nobody goes to the NICU.
3. I don’t have to have a C-Section, unless it conflicts with rules 1 or 2.

I’m blessed that I was granted this. If I had dug in my heels and been adamant against a C-Section, I may have needed a grief counselor. I don’t think you can order a delivery like you order a hamburger. And now more than ever I think that anyone who plans a home birth is crazy. People should have babies in hospitals where it is safe. We were even lucky to have planned to be in the hospital for the induction, as my labor progressed so fast that the babies could have been in distress before I ever thought I should leave for the hospital.

Instead, we have two impossibly sweet, tiny, and healthy babies sleeping next to our bed in the pack and play. For that, we are grateful.