The six week aftermath

August 31, 2013

August 31, 2013

My finger hovers over the button .

Cancel, or Delete?

I look at the picture again. Ellis is giggling. The gravel road is perfectly framed by late summer birch trees. There is movement, life. My hair is flying as I spin Ellis around. It is a good picture, except for one thing that really irks me.

My belly.

My belly in all of its post baby glory, hanging over the waist of my skirt, stretching out the pattern on my cotton tank top.

Cancel, or Delete?

***

The good part is that in the moment, I wasn’t thinking about my stomach at all. I was thankful for a walk that didn’t involve one or more kids screaming. There was sun, and there was warmth that spread out across my shoulders. I was happy to be playing with Ellis, cajoling her to walk a little further before nap time. I was even getting exercise that didn’t involve tromping up and down the stairs with two babies in my arms.

It’s easy to forget about your imperfections when you do simply that. Forget them.

But every time I walk past a mirror, I am reminded of my new contours. The extra weight I’m still carrying. And I’m also starting to notice something else creeping in around the edges.

It tastes of bitter.

***

The first time I looked at my post-pregnant-with-twins body in the mirror, I assessed the damage with a clinical eye. Stretch marks. Herniated belly button. Extra saggy baggy elephant skin under my navel. Pregnancy of any sort isn’t kind to the body during or after the fact. But pregnancy with twins is just downright mean.

And I’ve read the books. I’ve mentored young women, encouraging them to love themselves and the bodies they inhabit. I’ve written blog posts and essays and poetry about acceptance. About worth. About grace.

But it’s much easier to be the encourager than it is to be the one at the bottom of the pit with a rope I don’t want to climb.

I don’t particularly want to be nice to myself right now. I’m frustrated with how my clothes fit. I’m annoyed that my belly button protrudes out of anything I wear. I don’t feel like, well, me anymore. Which means something even worse.

I’m back to putting far too much stock in my physical appearance.

***

Last week, I scheduled my six week return visit to my doctor. After the nurse recorded all my vitals, the computer chimed a warning and a little black box appeared in the middle of the screen. She laughed, and turned the monitor towards me.

“Read this. You’ll like it.”

The monitor said something to the effect of “Warning. This patient has lost more than 10% body weight since the previous visit. Well check screening must be completed.”

Awesome.

My last clinic visit was six days before the girls were born. And my goal to gain fifty pounds? Accomplished. Thankfully it’s no small wonder that six weeks later, two thirds of it has disappeared. (I’m definitely a breastfeeding advocate for this (and many other) reasons.)

But now comes the hard part. The last fifteen pounds. Gaining back the muscle tone so that I’m not tired after a thirty minute walk pushing the stroller. And now, figuring out how to live with the reality of my stomach’s new topography.

If you’ve had twins, here’s the good news. The loose skin will tighten after a year or so. The herniated belly button is a bummer, but when you’re totally sure you’re done having kids, it’s a quick outpatient surgery to push it back in. The stretch marks will fade in six to twelve months, although their texture will always be there.

And the even better news? How you look does not have to change your ability to enjoy life.

Easy to say, less easy to practice.

But for what it’s worth, here’s what I’ve decided is a manageable set of rules  to deal with my new body.

  • Put away the clothes that don’t fit. It’s not enough to shove them to the back of the closet, unless you have a closet where you put them in a place you can’t see them.
  • Buy a few cute pieces you enjoy wearing. Don’t break the bank here, because you may not need them forever. But it’s easier to curb the “I don’t have anything to wear” frustration before it hits, not after.
  • Take the chaos out of meal planning. Focus on eating whole foods that require little prep and extra ingredients. No diet books. No powders. No pre-packaged mail ordered fifteen hundred dollar a month health food. I’m talking baked potatoes with broccoli, chives, and a little cheese. Oatmeal with berries. Apples with cinnamon and sugar. Chicken with veggies and rice. You’ve earned the right to go back to basic.
  • Ignore your mirror. Okay, brush your teeth and comb your hair. We’re all fine with that. But stop measuring yourself with your eyes. Put on your loose fitting clothes, make sure you don’t have baby spit up on them, and get on with your day. Clothes are just a necessary vehicle to accomplishing your goals. Once you put them on, you still have to do the rest. I can take care of my babies just as well in a size 10 as I can in a size 4.
  • Exercise when and however you can. Right now I’m taking a couple of walks a week, and am squeezing in couple of late evening pilates sessions. Never mind that my lower abs are shot and I can’t get through a regular routine. I’m still trying.
  • Stop talking about it. The more you give your imperfections attention, the bigger they seem. In short, take license to tell your inner critic to shut up.

And if all else fails, I’m buying myself a container of lowfat icecream and calling it good. Tomorrow is another day.

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38 weeks and 6 days: The Waiting Games

IMG_0602It starts around three in the morning, this inability to sleep.

There’s nothing to do at this point but make another pilgrimage to the bathroom. On my way down, it occurs to me that I’ve never once paused to be thankful for not tumbling down the stairs during my uneven state of half-asleep hallway meanderings.

In fact, there are a great many things I should really take the time to be consciously be thankful for that have happened over the past few months.

(And in case you’re wondering, getting one more extension on inducing is one of them. We now have until next Tuesday, July 16.)

I can tell I haven’t done that recently – been consciously, list it out, write it down, thankful.

A few hours ago, my husband hugged me before bed. He told me to try to enjoy these last few days of pregnancy the best I could. I snorted like some sort of Spanish bull.

But it’s what I’ve thought about all night, in a roundabout sort of way. How to be thankful for things in your life you don’t feel thankful for.

Nightly bathroom walks. 14 pounds of baby tucked safely between my ribs and hips. This period of what feels like constant waiting, waiting, waiting.

To be honest, sometimes all I want to do is gripe to myself. Feel sorry for myself. Take shower after shower because it’s one of the only sensory things that takes all the discomfort away as I wait for these babies to arrive.

I believed the stories that everyone told me about twins coming early. 36 weeks, 37 weeks, 38 weeks. I ticked them off on my fingers and held my breath. Any day. Any day now.

And yet, this coming Monday marks 39 weeks. I never expected to carry this long. Quite the opposite, in fact. And now that it’s here, I’m having the audacity not to be thankful for it?

I climb back in bed, rearrange my pillows for the millionth time, and wait for the babies to settle in. This is always a reassuring part of my evenings, because I can feel both girls readjusting themselves from vertical to horizontal. I put a hand on my stomach and wait patiently for them to calm. One of them responds, a small movement tracing itself under my palm.

I smile.

For this, I can choose to be thankful. It really can be that simple. Gratitude can be a choice. David the psalmist made it in Psalm 130:

I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits,
    and in his word I put my hope.
I wait for the Lord
    more than watchmen wait for the morning,
    more than watchmen wait for the morning.

He continued to wait – enough so that he wrote down his metaphor twice to remind himself of his intent.

But notice his focus. He was waiting not on the thing that was coming, but on God himself. On God who never failed him, never left him, never gave him any cause to doubt His provision.

So. Here in our little corner of Taylors Falls, we continue to wait. And in my case, take plenty of naps.

38 weeks: Where are the babies?

waiting-room-signAt the beginning of this journey, my doctor gave me a list of all the appointments I needed to make. It was two pages long, and was full of notes for the types of ultrasounds I’d need, tests I would take, and office appointments I’d have to review each result.

The list stopped at 38 weeks. Under the instructions line, it simply read, “Where are the babies? :)”

I wish I had an answer.

(Okay, I wish I had an answer that didn’t involve two heads between my pelvic bones, but tonight, that’s where we’re sitting.)

Today, my dear friend Juliette and her son Jameson came over to hang out, exchange some last minute baby items, and celebrate my first day as a stay at home mama. Jules is expecting her baby girl on July 19, technically 3 days before my actual 40 week due date of July 22.

Since the morning was cool, we decided to take a short walk. On the way back, we talked about the difficulty of this period of waiting. It’s hard knowing that this major life event could happen spontaneously at any time. Midday. Midnight. Mixing eggs for morning breakfast or bending over to pick up a toddler’s pair of shoes.

I remember feeling this exact same uneasiness waiting for my daughter to arrive. And although my husband planned pregnancy distraction activities for every evening, I still went to bed feeling hollow. Aching to hold my baby. Nervous about how she’d arrive.

It wasn’t until the evening when I physically felt like saying “screw it” to the universe and spent the evening mowing down on pizza with Jason and watching re-runs of Kitchen Nightmares that somehow, magically, my water quietly decided to break.

***

If these babies don’t come by Thursday, I will need to make a decision about inducing. Again. Preferably on Friday, when all the staff are available for the 10 person show that will be my little girls’ birthday.

Doctors get nervous about twins that overstay their welcome. And I’ll be honest. The last two weeks have been physically exhausting. I am carrying at least thirteen pounds of baby at this point, not to mention everything else. I sleep in 2-3 hour snatches, can’t really get comfortable sitting any more, and have contractions every day.

Honestly, my best moments are now spent on my feet in the morning, or curled around no less than five pillows at night.

But what I want is what’s best for the babies. I want to trust that my body will naturally know that’s it’s time, that my all-knowing Creator has everything perfectly planned, and that the outcome will be two lovely little girls.

I don’t want to decide when they will come – somehow, that feels like overstepping my bounds in this situation. And yet, I might have to. In which case, I want to make the most informed and healthy decision possible for everyone involved.

But in the meantime, we wait. Pray the babies come on their own. The bags are packed, the van is loaded, the room is ready. And my husband, daughter, and I? We are as ready as we can be, given the unique circumstances that are about to overtake our lives.

Bring it girls, bring it.

love,

mama

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

37 weeks and holding out

imagesCA8JCZIYOminous ending to the last post, I know. Sorry.

Enter: Monday, July 1st. Jason and I decided that before we jumped in to inducing, we should have a confirmation growth scan. My medical team was kind enough to accommodate this, so that afternoon, I scheduled another marathon hospital visit. 1 biophysical profile, 1 Dr. consultation, 1 more growth scan.

The results were staggering:

Baby A- 6.7 lbs and ounces, 39th percentile

Baby B- 6.4 lbs and ounces, 34th percentile

This was a full POUND and handful of ounces different from Friday’s scan.

(And no, I did not spend all weekend eating Dairy Queen heath blizzards. 🙂

Best we can assume is that Friday’s ultrasound tech was simply off in her measurements. Both Jason and I had a feeling this was the case, and the more we talked about it, the more we wondered how it played into the results. During our appointment, she told us she had been called in to work the day shift instead of the night shift she was used to working. It had been busy all day, and she mentioned she hadn’t eaten, or had any coffee. We were her last appointment, and she was not expecting to do a growth scan, which left her very flustered. And as we pulled out of the parking lot, we saw her behind us sucking down a cigarette like it was last one on earth.

This meant that there wasn’t near the growth gap between the two babies, that no one was in immediate danger (below the 10th percentile), and that my placenta actually looked great.

Induction: officially cancelled. Instead of having babies today, I’m putting in my last day of work. And in reference to my previous post, the view above tree line is great. I feel ready. The babies are ready.

So now we just need to convince my body to be ready. Any and all methods of naturally bringing on labor are welcome at this point – any ideas? Comment away!

Fast forward – 36 weeks and difficult choices

It’s become apparent that I might have less time than I anticipated to catch up on the week by week business, so for now, I’m moving into the present (or almost-present in this case.) Happy reading!

imagesCAUI1QI2It’s easy to take for granted that our medical care is always done right. After all, we expect nothing less. If a bone is broken, we want it reset. If tonsils are in the way, we get them removed. If cancer shows up on the scan, we start aggressive treatment.

However, last Friday proved that all the expectations in the world don’t matter, unless everything is done right.

I’ve been looking forward to the 36 week appointment for a long time. For me, it felt like the point in a backpacking trek when you get above tree line – suddenly, the view becomes panoramic. Now you know what you’re working with- how far left you have to go. Oftentimes, you can see the boulder field, the final ascent, and suddenly, you’re invigorated. Ready.

Knowing how big the babies had gotten was a milestone, and 6 lbs was the goal. Anything over six was fantastic, anything under would be a little harder to swallow.

So when the news came back that Baby A was 5.6 and Baby B was 5.2 lbs and ounces, (15th and 9th percentile for growth), something inside me flagged. It felt like rounding the curve of a trail into what you thought was an opening, but instead, faced another set of dusty switchbacks. Dr. Becker carefully explained that because of the low percentiles, the babies had a couple of potential problems – either the placenta was crapping out and couldn’t accommodate both of them at this late stage of the game, or they had become growth restricted.

Either way, she recommended inducing, for the sake of Baby B, who was under the 10th percentile. In four days.

Jason and I looked long and hard at each other.

Let me be clear. 37 weeks is a perfectly fine time to have babies. Their lungs are developed, their bodies are ready, and there are very few risks for complication. For twins, it’s totally normal. It simply was not what I wanted.

She gave us the weekend to think about it, and asked that I come in again on Monday to do another biophysical profile on the girls to make sure they were still okay prior to delivering on Wednesday if that’s what we decided. We left the hospital in shock. Four days.

Selfishly, as I was folding laundry that night, I started envisioning not being pregnant any more. Just four more stretched out outfits to put together. The ability to rest on my stomach. Bend over. Pick things up without having an aneurism.

But the mother side of me felt uneasy. I fought induction with Ellis tooth and nail in order for her to have an intervention-free delivery. I knew that having twins was a whole different ballgame, but I was still maintaining the hope that I could at least go into labor naturally.

Besides that – we were basing all of these decisions on one ultrasound. What if it was wrong?

29 weeks: the devil of expectations

ImageIt starts almost a year in advance. The planning. The emails. As they get closer, the lists start circulating. A packing party is set. Canoes are picked up, and someone find a vehicle big enough to hold six. And suddenly, my husband and his friends are gone, claimed as property of the Boundary Water Canoe Area Wilderness in Ely, Minnesota.

It’s serious business for a vacation, and they love every minute of it.

I understand why. My first trip to the Boundary Waters was at age six. Since then, I’ve returned with church, with family, with friends. It is where I first fell in love with the act of paddling, which feels meditation and worship all rolled into one beautiful, burning sensation.

When the water is smooth and evening falls, the lakes become the end of the world in the best sense. Nothing else matters – just the color of the sun sinking into the water, the cool touches of wind. The earthy, almost primordial smells of rock and pine, lake and dirt.

In the Boundary Waters, there are no expectations. Once the canoe hits the water, anything goes. You are at the whims of nature – wind, rain, fishing, fires, camp spots all become variable. Sure, you can expect to do the regular things like eat, sleep, breathe. But what you eat depends on what you catch. Where you sleep depends on what’s available. And how you breathe depends on how long it takes you to let go everything else and relax into the rhythm of being in the wild.

Wilderness has an inexplicable draw to me. I love the days, hours, minutes when I am surrounded by everything created and nothing man-made. It puts me in my place, reminding me of my role in this life as one who enjoys, stewards, worships. It’s the sense of awe I find at being outside of civilization, away from minivans and McDonalds. I become a person in a whole new context.

And when I arrive in a new context, I willingly lay aside my expectations. What is there to expect when everything is new? When you first set eyes on a lake you’ve never seen? When the fish on the end of your line comes from a world you can’t even imagine?

Expectation kills the wonder in our perspective.

It drags us down to the level of what we know: what we can do, who we can be, how we can live. Expectation makes me do things I wouldn’t otherwise do – stay up late folding the last load of laundry, manically sweep the kitchen floor, feel let down if someone doesn’t act or do what I think they should.

It takes away my freedom to enjoy what is. It replaces it with discontentment for what is missing.

After Jason left, I made it a point to put down all my expectations in the spirit of him being on his trip. I rested. I relaxed. I played when Ellis wanted to play, and cleaned when I felt like it. I cherished the time I spent with friends as equally as the time I spent alone on the couch with a book.

It was a lovely five days. Difficult, but lovely. (Hats off to single parents, or anyone who finds themselves in a solo parenting situation for a moment in time.) It was not easy.

But when my expectations were adjusted, it was doable. (Especially in the context of providing the ways and means for my husband to do something so important to him.)

And then I realized something. Why don’t I adjust my expectations more often? Why do I give myself license on “vacation”, but not in the everyday?

Pregnancy does a lot of strange things to a person. But in the late stages of the game, it makes me relax. The babies will come as they come. My body will labor as it will, and nothing needs to be controlled. It’s like riding a roller coaster with my hands clenched tight on the bar in front of me, until I finally realize that nothing bad is going to happen and it’s actually better to just let go and feel the ride. Expect nothing. Appreciate everything.

29 weeks and counting….

27 weeks: The Pregnant Monster

monster_roundI am starting to feel like a children’s book character of some sort of round, loveable, and slightly slobbish monster.

I snore. I waddle. I wake up in the middle of the night to eat. An odd series of marks have bloomed across my stomach, and every outfit goes in the laundry at the end of the day because I can’t sit up straight enough to eat without spilling. Normalcy seems a thousand miles and two mountains away.

It’s hard, in moments like this, to remember that pregnancy (as any difficult thing in life) does not last forever.

Night comes, and sleep runs off with the cows that jumped over all the moons in Ellie’s bedtime stories. The babies wake up and my stomach becomes host to all manner of roiling appendages. Rest becomes elusive. And in the thickest, darkest parts of the night, I start to worry. Life as it was will never return. Life as I know it is really hard. And life in the future – well, that change is anyone’s guess.

What I’m trying to remember in my cognizant, waking hours is that we wanted this change. Not because life was bad before, but because the happiness and enjoyment we found in our daughter was so unexpectedly great that we wanted our family to keep on growing. (And just because we didn’t necessarily plan for the exponential growth part of the equation doesn’t mean we were any less thrilled about it.)

But this business of change is tricky. It’s like a construction project – no one likes the tear-down, mess in the halls, plastic drop cloth phase. Or in our case, like the nursery, which remains empty and unpainted because I lack the energy, time, and creativity to do anything but stand in the middle of the room and try to imagine what it’s going to be like to have two tiny infants wailing away at one time.

I know the finished product is worth the discomfort of having life taken apart for a while. The empty gray room will grow into a place of color and laughter. My stomach will return to normal proportions and I will be able to bend over without grunting like a stuck pig. Our daughters will quickly change from infants to babies to toddlers, and two years from now I’ll be blogging about how silly it was that I made such a fuss over being a pregnant monster.

Be that as it may, 27 weeks feels like no man’s land, and waiting for change is almost worse than adjusting to it once it finally happens. So in the meantime, I’m going to eat another tub of yogurt. Take the sleep as it comes. Throw a towel over the full length mirror and put on my favorite green pants.

This too shall pass.