30 weeks: Labor wha?

At 30 weeks, I had a startling realization. At some point in the near future, I am going to have to go into labor.

(Brilliant, I know.)

I haven’t taken any birthing classes this time around, which makes me nervous about not remembering what the process of labor was like. After scouring the web, I couldn’t come up with a single refresher birthing course that fit into my schedule. (But if I’m still pregnant on July 14, I’m definitely going back to Blooma. http://www.blooma.com/childbirth-education)

So clearly, the next logical step was to do what I do when I can’t figure out how to hang pictures straight, make meringue, or align myself in a new yoga pose. I looked up non-graphic live twin birth videos on YouTube.

For the record, this was a Bad idea.

There’s a reason that women get a rush of the happy hormone oxytocin directly after they give birth. It helps us erase the ridiculousness of what just happened and bonds us immediately with our offspring. But watching a video of a birth? Guess what – no oxytocin. No happy feelings. No babies. Just the reminder that in order to finish this process, some nebulous, unpredictable, and potentially dangerous activity is going to occur.

The good news is, when it’s all said and I done, I might be able to stand up and see my legs again. That’s something, right?

For those of you that are wondering about the logistics of birthing twins, here are some fun facts.

1.       Having twins does not mean having to have an automatic C-section.

2.       How a woman carrying twins will deliver depends on the position of the babies: the presenting baby must be heads down, and either larger or very close in weight to the other twin to ensure that he/she will handle the process of labor and delivery well.

3.       Doctors secretly laugh at people who have “birth plans”.

4.       A majority of women carry twins to 36-37 weeks. Making it to 38 weeks is like striking gold, and anything after that is all glitter and sparkle.

5.       Not being induced can be somewhat of a bargaining game, but it’s worth it to play if you’re scared of effects of Pitocin.

6.       Twin deliveries are usually faster than single deliveries. That being said, after baby #1 arrives, delivery of the second baby can take anywhere from two minutes to two hours after the delivery of the first, depending on the mood of the cervix. Yep. The mood.

7.       Delivering the placenta between Baby A and Baby B will result in an emergency C-section (uncommon, but not impossible).

8.       Labor can take place in the normal birthing center rooms, but delivery will be conducted in an operating room with an audience of no less than 9. (One doctor and one nurse per baby, a doctor and nurse for me, an on-call anesthesiologist and nurse anesthetist in case C-section becomes a reality, and any other supporting cast of characters who want to join the fun – AKA, Jason).

9.       Pain management options are the same for single births as they are for twin births.

10.   The bigger the babies are when they are born, the more likely they are to stay out of the NICU, eat better, and sleep better.

What does all this mean for me?

Baby A has been solidly heads down for months now, and since she and her sister are very similarly sized, my doctor has no qualms about a regular delivery. (Spoiler alert: at 32 weeks, the babies were 4.1 and 4.2 lbs and ounces – on target for being at least six lbs when born.) This makes me happy, given my ridiculous fear of needles and medical intervention.

In terms of going natural and non-medicated vs. having an epidural, that one’s up in the air. Ellis was born 10 days “late” via an all-natural labor, and it was great. Seriously. I’m not lying or sugar coating it. I labored for 12 hours total, pushed for 45 minutes, and welcomed my baby girl with grateful arms. If I had to rate the highest pain on the pain scale, I’d put it at an 8.

I also think it might be a little naive to think it will happen exactly that way again. Especially with twins. This is worrisome.

But so much of this seems to be about letting go. About not just talking about living mindful of my goals, or posting inspirational facebook messages about them, but choosing to make them a daily practice. About prayerful meditation through everyday action. About speaking truthfully. Honestly.

About remaining calm, even when every fiber wants to scream “How in the HECK am I going to do this?”

I have no idea what the process of meeting these girls will end up entailing. But I spend a lot of time lately flipping through pictures of my daughter’s birth, reminding myself how amazing she was. What a miracle the whole experience ended up being. How strong I felt when it was over.

Image

And how I’m never allowed to watch YouTube for anything other than home tutorials again.

28 weeks: the age of viability

too legitWhen I turned 30, my friend Brad welcomed me into the new birthday decade by proclaiming I had become a legitimate adult. And here at 28 weeks, I feel the same way about the babies. They are now legit. We’ve made it through the first and almost second trimester, and if something were to happen and they were born tomorrow, they have a very good chance of making it it through okay.

For some reason, this gives me a sense of accomplishment. Although, in reality, all I’ve really done is eat more.

I know I’ve said this before, but my job really has been that of a welcoming host for two tiny guests. And once I get over feeling all science-fiction about it, it truly is amazing. The human body can support and sustain not only one, not only two, but in my (and many other cases) three people at once. And for those that have carried triplets, quads, quints, etc., I am floored. Downright amazed.

My body, at times, seems like a machine I have little control over. Maybe a car is a good analogy, because even though every male member of my family can take apart an engine and diagnose it in a matter of minutes, I get befuddled on how to unhook the hood latch. Really, all I do is put gas in the car and drive it.

This pregnancy has been similar. For all my fears on how to handle carrying twins, it really hasn’t been that difficult. My body knows how to do the work. I just eat and shuttle myself through my daily activities, albeit a bit slower each week. And when people ask me How different does it feel to carry twins vs. just one baby?, my answer is usually the same: honestly, not much.

Yes, they move more. Yes, I’m bigger. Yes, I can tell which baby is doing what. And yes, exercise is pretty difficult these days. But here are the surprising things. I’m not really that much hungrier. I can still pick up Ellis and carry her up the stairs, give her a bath, and pick up her toys at the end of the night. I am not making more than one nightly pilgrimage to the bathroom. I don’t have any weird cravings. And sometimes, I feel completely normal.

Normal is reassuring at 28 weeks. I’m now down with grad school for the semester, and I have one Board meeting left before the babies arrive. The to-do list is slowly starting to have more check marks. Ellis read books to herself for 32 unsupervised minutes last night, and didn’t manage to fall off, down, or over anything. And Jason? Allow me to brag on my buddy for just a moment, because this week Jason was named the principal of Taylors Falls Elementary School – something he’s wanted for a long time.

I know everyone talks about pregnant hormones, but this week I’m happy to say that sometimes, it’s possible to feel very even keel. And those moments need to be recorded, celebrated. Scott Russell Sanders, in his essay Writing from the Center, says something I’ve long been thinking about. “The truth about our existence is to be found not in some remote place or extreme condition but right-here and right-now; we already dwell in the place worth seeking.”

My truth, this week, is being thankful for right-here, right-now. There are so many difficult things about pregnancy, but there are also a lot of really great milestones. And I want to mark them all, good or bad, for what they can teach. This week, life has amazed me, and I’m fully acknowledging my gratitude for it.

After all, this week, we’re legit.

 

 

A farewell to carbs

Well folks, we’ve hit a potential snag. I’m calling it potential, because the confirmation test is this coming Friday. But, as of my 24 week appointment, I failed to pass my glucose test. This means I may have gestational diabetes.

Somewhere in the back of my mind, I knew this was a possibility. It’s more likely to occur with a twin pregnancy, and there was also the chocolate cake incident. The chocolate cake incident was one of the very few times this pregnancy where I’ve seriously thought, wow. Something is definitely wrong here.

Now I better explain that really, all the chocolate cake incident involved was a normal sized piece of cake, eaten at a co-worker mid-day celebration, which must have contained enough sugar to send me to the moon and back. Two minutes after I ate it, I got nauseated, dizzy, hot, and had to sit down. After which, I drank some water, waited a few minutes, and then resumed my normal activities. See? Not so scary, right?

I told my doctor at our next appointment, and she said we’d just wait to see what the glucose test results said. And bam. There it was. A failed test. Too much sugar, not enough insulin. Again, pretty common for a twin pregnancy – the placenta is working overtime for two babies, pumping out sugar and nutrients right and left. But my body isn’t able to keep up with enough insulin to deal with all that extra sugar.

So where does that leave me? This Friday I have a three hour glucose intensive. I will fast for 10-12 hours, go straight to the hospital, drink some nasty orange substance that reminds me of church day camp in the park, and then wait three hours for the result. After that, well, stay tuned. This carb and sugar loving girl might have a lot to learn in order to keep these babies healthy for the next three months.

 

 

 

Providence. Provision. Peace.

washing machineSometimes when I think about being given the gift/responsibility of having twins, I get nervous. The questions that forever loom in the back of my head go a little something like this:

Why me? Why us? Why here, now?

I don’t have an answer. I don’t have a divine sense of grace, a human sense of accomplishment, or even an animal’s sense of instinct. Case in point – I poured my daughter a glass of milk yesterday, and then casually glanced at the expiration date. It was March 6. Yesterday was March 16.

Most people would say they aren’t cut out for having twins. I might be one of them. It’s not easy to look into the future and see the clock blazing 3:42 a.m. while two little voices wail in tandem, or to figure out how to pack a diaper bag for three kids. When I spend the entire afternoon and evening picking up after my tornadic toddler, I can’t even fathom what it will be like to do this for two of them. I could spend the entire rest of my pregnancy forecasting the potential fright of my future.

But this morning, our pastor asked us to do something. He asked us to think about a circumstance of God’s providence in our lives. And you know what I thought of?

A washing machine.

When we moved into our little farmhouse this fall, the laundry room came equipped with two washing machines. Try as I may, I could not figure out why I would ever need two washers. Two dryers, well, that’s another story. But two washers? Not a clue. So while we had the extra manpower, I asked our friends to kindly take the older washing machine out of the house and put it in the garage.

A month passed, and then the phone rang. Our renters were on the other end, frantic. The washing machine at our house in Lindstrom was on the fritz. Jason stopped by, and confirmed the diagnosis. The machine was having some sort of seizure. It would need to be replaced.

Keep in mind, we had just moved, and spent every available extra penny on closing costs and settlement fees for purchasing our new property. We did not have an $500 for a new washing machine. But we did have something else.

A perfectly good, (if slightly broken in) washing machine, just sitting in our garage.

It’d be really easy to chalk this story up to great luck. Good fortune. Happenstance. But from what I have seen in my short life, that’s not really the way it works. Providence is the fulfillment of a promise from God. It is the visible hand of a sometimes invisible Presence. It is the incarnation of “I will never leave you; I will never forsake you” -Hebrews 13:4-6.

Sometimes, it’s a house with two washing machines.

I choose to believe that whatever I am given, I am given it for good reason. I might not find clarity for my why questions today, and that’s fine. I might tomorrow. Or a year from now. (Or maybe 18?) But in the meantime, that promise of never being left or forsaken fulfills itself every day.

Providence. Provision. Promise. And for those that love a little alliteration, all those things add up to one thing in my book. Peace.

 

Week 14: Pulling up my big girl pants

Repeat after me. I will not measure my worth by the size of my pregnancy pants.cargo-pants

My favorite pair of maternity pants are a green wad of faded canvas cargo from H&M. (Yes, H&M sells maternity clothes. They are lovely. And usually on sale. If you are in the market, I highly suggest them.) Anyway, I wore the heck out of my favorite green cargo pants with Ellis, and I have recently discovered that I fit into them again. But here’s one thing I did not remember about my favorite green pants. They are 3 sizes larger than my normal pant size.

Guess what. I don’t care. I didn’t care when I bought them, and I don’t care this time around either. They are cute, comfortable, and if H&M wants to think I’m three sizes bigger than what I normally wear, well fine.

Perception about size during pregnancy is a constant battle. But here’s the deal. In order to healthfully carry and sustain another human being inside one’s own body, it is necessary to gain weight. In normal circumstances, I would cringe to see the numbers that pop up on the doctor’s office scale. But in pregnancy, those numbers mean the babies are growing. They mean my body is being a gracious host. They mean tiny fingers soft as silk, dark eyes, skin that dimples at the knees.

For the record, I am being conscious of what I eat. But I’m also fully expecting to gain more weight, and I’m doing my best not to freak out about it. According to the Mayo Clinic, here are the guidelines for tipping the healthy scales during pregnancy.

  • Underweight (BMI less than 18.5): 28 to 40 pounds (about 13 to 18 kilograms)
  • Normal weight (BMI 18.5 to 24.9): 25 to 35 pounds (about 11 to 16 kilograms)
  • Overweight (BMI 25 to 29.9): 15 to 25 pounds (about 7 to 11 kilograms)

Now, here are the parameters for carrying twins.

More weight gain. Gaining the right amount of weight can support your babies’ health. It also makes it easier to shed the extra pounds after delivery. For twins, the recommendation is often 37 to 54 pounds (about 17 to 25 kilograms) for women who have a healthy weight before pregnancy — which might require about 600 extra calories a day, depending on your activity level. (FYI: 600 calories is roughly the equivalent of 3 Cadbury Creme Eggs. Just in case you’re wondering, or happen to have a penchant for them like I do.)

Weight gain during pregnancy is one of the most difficult things to come to terms with. In real life, there’s far too much focus on numbers, BMI, miles logged, workouts done. We measure our worth by the size of our pants.

It’s time to stop all that. Whether you are pre, mid, post a pregnant experience in your life please hear me out. Weight is one of the most inconsequential, yet easy things to stress about. So do me a favor. Give yourself a break. Take a deep breath, and think about the baby(ies). Be amazed at what God the creator is doing.

And for heaven’s sake, get yourself  a bowl of ice cream. Not a big bowl, but a nice, happy, average sized bowl. Lick every last bit of sweet from the spoon. Take the time to enjoy it.

And once and for all, quit worrying about the big girl pants.

Therefore, be it resolved

11 weeks – January 2, 2013resolution_032511_p1

I am making a resolution.

It has nothing to do with losing weight (this year I am totally exempt from that category.) As of today, I am no longer allowing myself to read pregnancy blogs about other sets of twins. Or their birth stories. Or their early deliveries, stroller blowouts, or screaming fits in the car. Yesterday evening’s online reading left me snot-nosed and crying for at least an hour. Afterward, all I could do was plot how to keep these babies inside of me until the last possible second (or until my skin exploded.)

Now, I’m deciding to make this formal, so for those of you that aren’t familiar with what I do at work, well, you’re about to see how exciting the life of a Board Liaison can be.

RACHEL RIEBE

PREGNANCY RESOLUTION

#1-2013

Refusal of Twin Pregnancy Supplemental Reading Material

WHEREAS, Ms. Rachel Riebe is pregnant with multiple gestations, as and such, often finds herself in a heightened emotional and hormonal state of being; and

WHEREAS, upon reading publicly posted internet blogs on the topic of carrying and birthing multiple gestations, Ms. Riebe has been known to break down in a slimy fit of tears and excess mucus and generally exhibits traits of fearfulness, worry, and occasionally, hunger;

BE IT THEREFORE RESOLVED, Ms. Riebe is hereby banned from internet blogosphere of twin pregnancy and resolves to care solely for the best interests of her multiple gestations as directed by her obstetrician and cohort of related health care professionals.

Signed,

Rachel Riebe

Winter 2013 328

This is somewhere between 10-11 weeks. Don’t worry. It gets more exciting. I just actually happened to label this picture in my files, so I thought I’d throw it on here.