Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Girls' Heartbeats

One of the great things about having four non-stress tests for the girls in the span on 26 hours in the hospital is that we got to hear their heartbeats a lot -- something that never gets old. This is true especially when the steady, just-the-right-tempo tells you that despite being in the hospital and worrying sick about them, they're doing just fine.

Paul even got to fall asleep to the sound of their heartbeats on Monday night, as he slept in the 2nd bed in our hospital room. I, however, couldn't move during the tests (the monitors are precariously positioned and would slip off the area of my tummy right above each girl's heart if I moved), so I just lay there enthralled at my girls' sounds.

Here is the recording I took on one of the Tuesday afternoon tests. The loud thumps are the girls (mainly Lillian) kicking the monitors. They're both pretty good kickers, but Lillian is definitely the more riley of the two so far.

Their hearts are pretty much in synch, except when they're not and it sounds like cacophony! But one suggestion of comparison is racing hoofbeats. I like that one. What do you think it sounds like?

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Changing Meaning of “High-Risk Pregnancy"

24w5d pregnant
Framingham Hospital, Post-Partum room 357
Belly circumference: 42”

Until yesterday, our high-risk pregnancy meant that we got another doctor, twice the amount of doctor visits, and ultrasounds out the wazoo (7w, 12w, 19w, 23w so far.) Now it means something completely different. It's seemed a bit strange being in post-partum with no babies to show for it. The all-to-real possibility of having babies born way too early (each girl stands about a 50% chance of survival at this rate, according to several sources) at not even 25 weeks hit yesterday like we drove our car into a brick wall.

I suppose I got up about noonish and Paul brought me cereal for breakfast. I hunkered down in my comfy chair on the 3rd floor to watch some TV... all a normal day for me. I was contemplating having Paul bring the laundry baskets down to the basement for me so that I could get something productive done during the day, maybe wrap some of those presents I didn't get to before Christmas for people who won't show up for a week or two anyway. I had plans, albeit calm ones. My typical day lately (except for the Christmas rush when I was going to stores to shop a bit until my back hurt).

About 3:00 p.m. I went to the bathroom and found that I was bleeding quite a lot. I know it looks like a lot more in the toilet, but it was real blood and definitely a flow and a few clots. All the info I have says call your doctor if you see anything bright red or clots at all, so first I texted Paul, who was on his afternoon walk with Jacoby. I asked him – do I contact the old OB I'm transferring from or the new OB, with whose midwife I have my first appointment this Thursday. He said call them both, see who picks up. He was afraid they wouldn't be working normal hours because it was, in effect, Christmas Monday. Turns out my new OB, Dr. Jacobsen, called me back in less than 3 minutes and said I need to be checked out, so go right away to the ER and they'll be expecting me and send me up to Labor & Delivery. He said he'll see me soon. I was ready to go by the time Paul got home from his walk, so he drove me over, and dropped me off at the ER door to then go park the car.

Of course, the ER is never an immediate gratification type of place. I was about 3rd in line. Paul parked quickly and probably almost ran into the waiting room with me. I was shaking at this point from panic about what could be wrong with the babies. I had left the house thinking I wouldn't be back for several days. I pleaded with him to help me (he was a bit calmer than I was at this point) and asked him to get me in right away. Then I saw that the woman checking people into the ER was Dianne, a woman from my movie meetup who is actually a lot of fun to be around. If I ever knew she worked in the hospital, I had forgotten (I ask almost everyone in the group when I meet them what they do for a living, to break the ice) and was so happy to see a familiar face in such a scary situation. I told Paul, “See if her name tag says Dianne. She's a member of my group.” I didn't know if the woman looked like her or was actually her. So he says yeah, that's her. And I go up to the doorway of the room and pop my head in and say, “Dianne, it's me, Dana. I need to get in right away to Labor & Delivery. They're expecting me.” She goes, “Oh, Dana! Come with me right away!” and whisks Paul and I in the back, down a short hallway and puts me on a gurney and gets us a nurse, who wheels me right up to L&D. The whole thing happened very quickly, but I kind of felt like Dianne working here, at this exact time, was one of those things you tell yourself is coincidence if there's not a higher being in charge of things.

I don't really believe that God is manipulating us like pieces on a gameboard. I don't think he arranges our day for better or for worse. But I certainly felt something yesterday when Dianne was the one help us out at the desk and get us back and quickly wheeled up. Call it coincidence if you want to. I choose not to.

At any rate, when we got up to L&D and they found a room for me, Paul in tow carrying my winter coat, scarf, sweatshirt, purse and just as scared as I was, the resident OB, a very kind and gentle woman named Dr. Hernandez, and a very wonderful and calm nurse whose name I got in the beginning but was too panicked to remember, began right away to hook me up to some baby monitors so that they could run a non-stress test on me (ironic naming, considering I couldn't have been more stressed!) and the 2 baby girls. After some maneuvering of the sensors, normally meant for bigger babies, and some repositioning because both babies were kicking and moving around, they got both girls on and both seemed just fine. Heartbeats generally in the 140-155 region and as steady as you can expect with wonky monitors on them.

The atmosphere in the room was very calm, which helped Paul and me settle down a bit. I met Dr. Jacobsen shortly thereafter, or so it seemed, and it turns out he's super nice, funny, and easy-going. You can tell the man smiles a lot in his life. I had a speculum internal exam by Dr. Hernandez with Dr. Jacobsen peering in (all looked fine, I had stopped bleeding probably a few minutes after I got to the hospital), and then Dr. J did an internal manual exam that didn't hurt nearly as bad as he warned it could if I tensed up (I was sure not to!). He found my cervix to be tight, long and closed. All signs that are wonderful news. If pre-term labor had started, it would be thinning, shorter and starting to open. Just in case, though, he ordered a 2-shot, 24-hour-apart regimen on steroids to mature the babies' lungs so that if they were delivered in the next day or two, they'd have a fighting chance. I asked what would happen with the drug if the babies stayed put? Nothing bad. The drug would still take effect, but they'd just have a jump start on their lungs.

He also said that he'd want to keep me in the hospital overnight, until the next shot on Tuesday (today) at 5:00 p.m. The nurse later said that in the morning they may decide to send me home and then come back again for the shot.

Dr. J said I'm on “modified bed rest” for at least a few weeks, which means I can get up to go to the bathroom, but nothing else. I wasn't allowed to shower yesterday (too bad I didn't sneak one in before all this started yesterday afternoon, as one of the lovely side effects of this pregnancy for me is that the lush hair the other women claim during gestation just has manifested itself as oily hair after about 12 hours for me. Lots of ponytails lately!). I had to stay in bed. I'll ask about showering today when Dr. J stops by this morning at some point.

Paul asked about his trip to Florida next week, which is a belated trip for Alice's high school graduation. He's planning on leaving on Saturday the 1st, at which time my parents are coming up to help me, feed me, walk Jacoby, do whatever I need to get ready for the baby shower weekend, which is the next weekend. Paul was planning on returning from Florida on Thursday, but that may be bumped up a bit now. Then my mom's coming in Friday afternoon (the 7th) and will be staying for a few days into the next week to help me organize things like wash baby clothes, etc. We were going to shop for baby stuff, but that's out now. Thank goodness for online shopping, which may be my option now. At any rate, the doc kind of said, “Let's see how things pan out tomorrow.” That is, if the bleeding returns, maybe not such a great idea. He offered to write letters to get out of reservations, etc.

Paul and I talked today a bit about it and realized that as long as he gets Alice and her friend down there and checked in, he could come back like the next day or in two days and just tell them to ride the Disney buses to where they wanted to go. He would have served as chauffeur, but there are other options for their transport. I'd rather have him home than not now that something's happened, but we'll see what the doctor advises. At least I'll have all the help I'll need with Dad and Jannine coming up in Paul's stead.

The doc said that if I “behave” (I said it's the babies who have to behave!), this bed rest could get more lenient in the next few weeks, but he'd keep an eye on things and let me know. I think I'll probably have more appointments with him and his midwife than maybe normally, but that's not a bad thing.

I asked him, naturally, about the baby shower. I said it could just be a matter of me driving to the restaurant and sitting there for a while. He said that should be okay.

The nurse, in a calm moment, told me that they wouldn't necessarily be able to explain why this happened. They'd look, but sometimes there's no structural reason it happens. It appears that this unexplained bleeding is what I had.

She took blood, gave me the steroid shot in the arm (intramuscular – yay), and took a urine sample. All routine tests. So far, everything's come back okay, including the tests the docs performed. It's good to know they have a system in place for this scenario, that they know the routine even if I don't, that no one's panicking about anything. That's reassuring.

A bit into the evening, I got moved to a post-partum room, when it was apparent I wasn't going to be delivering these babies in the very near future. It's a double room with no roommate, so Paul slept on the other bed last night. He keeps running home (2 blocks away from the hospital) to walk the dog, get food for us, bring me more things. I just left with my purse yesterday, which I had packed with phone and charger and iPod and charger, but that's it. He's been trying to make me more comfortable (and less bored, as it's totally boring here without anything to do). He brought a few movies, one of which we watched last night (Flash of Genius with Greg Kinnear), my laptop (hospital WiFi!), stuff for a shower, should I be allowed to do that today.

I've been keeping all my parents up to date on what's going on. Jannine apparently flew down the stairs to Dad, who was in the basement working on the 1st crib, in a panic last night when I had time to call them. She goes, “Dana's in the hospital!” and they both sounded pretty freaked out. I had to tell them everything seemed okay so far and they seemed to calm down a bit for the story.

Mom listened calmly after I told her it all seemed to be okay so far. We all wish there was an explanation, but maybe no explanation means no real problem, too, so even that's not bad news.

I'm so glad I got to get through Christmas on my own two feet. I got to buy Paul's gift, we got to go to church on Christmas Eve, we got to celebrate Christmas Day like we normally do – a nice breakfast, present-opening, then a low-key day with a great dinner. True, I had a migraine most of the day, but that mostly meant that I lay on the couch (with Jacoby – that was cool!) by the Christmas tree and napped on and off while Paul did some house work that needs to be done. He feels crunch time now with only a week (as of Christmas) to get the projects done for the shower weekend. My dad will help with anything he can't get done.

I'm amazed every day how much Paul has gotten accomplished the last few months. It seems like his baby-planning isn't taking the form of buying things for the babies, and planning what we need, strategies for twin baby care, etc., like mine is, but rather he's nesting in a way that I can't – home improvement. I wish I could help with painting, and holding doors for him as he installs them and fixing up the 2nd floor bathroom (which has been transformed from something barely useable to something I'm actually proud of, baring the new floors we'll get done in late January). He's been completely busy from morning to night each weekend since early October fixing up the house. For our baby shower weekend (less than 2 weeks away!), when 3 of the rooms on the 2nd floor will be occupied by Jannine and Dad, Mom, and Sara (my sister-in-law) and little Reed. For our babies, who won't tolerate too well Daddy drilling the holes for the closet door in their room or down the hall or paint fumes.

Oh, some good news: My back won't hurt at all if I'm not allowed to walk anywhere! Looking for silver linings here.

Something nice about being in Post-Partum: It's comforting and wonderful to hear a baby cry down the hall. These rooms are surprisingly sound-proof. Or maybe it's just that there's no one next door to us. But Paul left the door open when he left to walk the dog and to shower this morning and I can finally hear a baby down the hall doing what babies do.

All the pain and discomfort of being pregnant with twins is made up each time I feel one of them kick. But I know that that joy is about 1% of what I'll feel when I finally get to hold Lillian and Blair and see Paul hold them, too. I think that's when the magic will hit. For all the trauma of delivery, the possible months of bed rest, the scary situation yesterday, the three and a half years of trying to make our babies, if we finally get to hold two healthy daughters, then it'll all be worth it.


Dr. J just came in to talk to me. He had looked at my non-stress tests and said everything looks great, that he was really happy the bleeding stopped on its own yesterday, that it tends to happen again if it happens once (but not always). He said I should be on bed rest (with bathroom and shower breaks) until 32 weeks (7 weeks from now), then as the babies get more viable, I can do more things. He said at 36 or 38 weeks I can go play basketball if I wanted to. :-) At that point they try to make labor start on its own, so anything “risky” now would be welcome then. He also said I should keep all my doctors' appointments, including Garian, our chiropractor.

He was in no rush with me. He commented that he liked Paul, that he seems like a fun guy. I had to agree, of course! Paul is a fun guy! I told him how much he's been helping me out. About showers/bathing, the doc said they're good for me, that standing for 20 minutes wouldn't hurt, but I may be more comfortable with a shower chair (which, incidentally, we have because it came with the house and our steam shower) or having Paul help me in the bath. Both are good ideas. :-)

He vetoed sex, because it seems that any messing with my cervix makes it angry, even though nothing really bothered it yesterday. We kinda figured on that veto. He said it's time to get creative. I'm all for that! :-)

Dr. J is obviously a very personable guy! He commented on what a nice room I had, what a great view over the lake, which is beautiful with newly fallen snow.

He also said I should stay here until my shot at 5:00 this evening. Which I prefer, actually, because going home and coming back seems not exactly like bed rest to me.

So here I am, with Paul, in this nice room for the day. With nurses to come give us whatever we want. They really are wonderful here.

Monday, December 6, 2010

It's 2 girls!

We found out 2 1/2 weeks ago, at our 19-week ultrasound, that we're having 2 girls! We couldn't be more excited, and I'm already picturing at least a decade of pinks and purples. Here is a picture a piece of our little angels:

Baby Girl A

Baby Girl B

Friday, December 3, 2010

Another Week in Paradise

We're back in the Dominican Republic at the stunning Paradisus Palma Real. Like every other Sol Melia Vacation Club resort we've stayed at, this place is pretty close to paradise. Every detail of landscaping and decor has been carefully tended, and the all-inclusive plan is a great convenience. The food is unspectacular, but very well presented, and there certainly is plenty of it. I'm loving the bottomless Chivas Regal and Absolut Peppar vodka :-).

As great as the Palma Real is, we still give the edge to the Paradisus Punta Cana, where we stayed last year. We loved the beach service there, and the people we met were fantastic. We still talk about Miker, our beach waiter, who took care of our every need and entertained us with jokes and song. If we had it to do over again, we'd go back to the Punta Cana, but this ain't bad for now! See the slides below.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

We're expecting twins!!

We are thrilled to announce that we're expecting twins! The whole process of being pregnant so far (19 weeks today) has been an adventure, to say the least. Twins are an entirely different story from singletons, says everyone who's ever been pregnant with twins. I can safely say, though, I haven't gotten actual "morning" sickness, which I'll be forever grateful for!

I'm mainly constantly and completely exhausted, which makes even walking Jacoby (our greyhound, whom joined our family/zoo December 2 of last year) difficult with any regularity. I long for the days (and he does, too!) when I can walk with him again for 4 miles, but this time with 2 babies in tow! I miss those long, relaxed walks. We've been mainly walking just around the few blocks near our house lately. Paul walks him when he's home, and I tend to walk him when he's away, but I've been struggling to do so. I finally hired a sophomore student from the high school across the street this week to be his dog walker, and she just loves him. Today was his second day with Jennifer, and he already got the idea that she will happily walk him around and bring him home. Yesterday, he didn't know if she was going to dognap him or what, and made his walks very short because of his uncertainty. Today he got it and she commented about how happy he was on his walks. Which makes me happy, too, and grateful that I found Jennifer, who is a sweet, sweet girl who loves animals.

Anyway, as far as "symptoms" of pregnancy go, I've gone through several-week bouts with nausea, heartburn, incredibly itchy skin, headaches, and a few other "symptoms" (as if pregnancy was a disease!) that I fortunately forget. Backaches and pelvic floor aches and exhaustion have stuck around more than a few weeks, but I keep reminding myself that I'm a lucky, lucky girl not to have cuddled with the toilet for 3 or 4 months straight like I know a lot of women do. Paul's MUCH nicer to cuddle with, and I've been doing that whenever I can.

It's amazing how Nature preserves the species -- that you forget so soon (and are so willing to forget) the negatives of a process like creating and delivering a baby (or two!). Or else why would anyone get pregnant a 2nd time?! Selective memory is already proving to be a wonderful thing!

As for seeing the little nuggets, here are a few ultrasound pictures you may like:

Both little babies just starting out at 7 weeks; we saw their hearts beating like crazy!

Baby A at 12 weeks; amazing how much they grew and changed in 5 weeks!

Baby B at 12 weeks; they look like actual babies now!

Every twin pregnancy in our OB's practice is considered high-risk, which is actually great for us, because we get more monitoring and more ultrasounds and more doctors making sure everything is going well. The perinatologist (high-risk OB) complements our own OB and we have appointments with both. This afternoon, we're getting the all-important 2nd trimester/halfway there ultrasound, where they check that the babies are both growing all their little baby parts appropriately. We also get to find out the genders, which we're both really excited for!

After the gender discovery, we get to do things I've been waiting to do, like register (at Babies R Us and Amazon) and pick out things like curtains and rug for the nursery. The walls are a beautiful light mint green. If both babies are boys (a 25% chance), we'll decorate some accessories in pastel blue. If both are girls (a 25% chance), we'll decorate in pastels pink or purple. If one is a girl and one a boy (you guessed it, a 50% chance), we'll go with yellow and more green with splashes for each baby of pink/purple and blue.

So here's where I'm humbled by the hard work that people around me have put in or are going to put in to celebrate and welcome our babies to the world. Paul is working every weekend to paint the rooms on the 2nd floor of our house (and the hallway down to the 1st floor, which is no small feat), including the nursery (light mint green), the massage room (a cool light/medium blue; the room will become the play room when the babies require such an animal) and the 2nd floor hallway (all hallways are a very warm neutral brown to balance out the colorful rooms). He's also going to tackle the 2nd floor bathroom (light aqua with dark brown rugs) and do some much-needed work to make that not only usable, but also inviting and attractive. So Paul hasn't had a day off since about August. He literally works from morning until late at night every day on either work (PGC's 5th anniversary is today!!!) or the house. Since we're playing hotel to some family (parents, Mom, and one/two others) during the baby shower weekend, Paul's gotta basically get the house done and ready for entertaining by New Year's.

I'm humbled by his hard work day in and day out. Especially since when he's working on the house on the weekend, I'm mainly laying around and resting, as I don't have energy for much more. He works hard to keep the paint fumes away from me, which I appreciate because I've heard horror stories about how women have painted their nursery and the next day (I kid you not) have miscarried. No thanks to all that. Paul doesn't want me anywhere near fumes of any kind -- cleaning agents, paint, exhaust, whatever. Also, he lifts EVERYTHING for me. He's been carting the laundry baskets up and down 3 flights of stairs since July. He's been my short-order cook; whatever I want, I just text him and within 30 minutes, it's brought upstairs to me. He goes grocery shopping and gets me whatever I want. He's my angel and my hero and he treats me like a queen. And I have to say, I didn't think it was even possible, but I love him more now than I ever have before. He's stepping up in ways I couldn't have even imagined a year ago.

As for other people who are working for our babies, Carol Ann (mom), Jannine (stepmom) and Maggie (best friend) are busy organizing the party for the babies known as the baby shower. I can't wait to see what they come up with! We're having the shower at my favorite restaurant, Bullfinchs in Sudbury, which is where we had the rehearsal dinner for the wedding. There is simply no better restaurant in Metrowest. Family-owned, the place has never failed to completely impress me whenever I've gone there. And in the 10 years I've been living in the Framingham/Marlborough/Framingham area, I've been probably 20 times.

Last but absolutely not least, Foster (dad) is making us two cribs in his woodworking shop in his basement out of maple, walnut and cherry woods. He's researched safety measures galore, patterns, even which finishes are safe for cribs (kids tend to chew on the railings when they get to a certain age), and he's started cutting the slats this week. He'll bring one crib up and assemble it here when he comes on New Year's Day with Jannine. They're going to stay here for a week to help me out, which I'm really looking forward to!

The next week, my mom is going to stay with me for a few days to set up the nursery and get things clean and ready. I don't want to be caught with my proverbial pants down and not have the nursery ready by the time the babies come. If they come in the second half of February, they will probably have to spend at least a few days/weeks in the special care nursery (our hospital's low-level NICU), but at that point, I'll want to be with them as much as I can, so nursery prep will really screw up my available time. If they come in March, they may come right home. I'm not one to wait until the last minute for, well, anything, though, so I'll feel much more comfortable getting the nursery done and settled by early January. That timetable will also give me time to buy the things that the babies don't receive for the shower that they'll need. And I can only do a few hours' worth of any activity during a day (including sitting at a computer or at my table in my lair/craft room), so that stretches out the time I'll need for doing basic shopping.

Besides, the last trimester (for me, any time after Christmas, basically) with twins is a time of extreme discomfort. Many doctors want mothers of twins moving as little as possible and resting with their feet up as much as possible. Call it "limited bed rest" or whatever, but the more a mom moves around in the 3rd trimester in a high-risk pregnancy, the better chances for pre-term labor. We want to avoid that as much as possible.

I've already started getting a few things, care of my WONDERFUL local Mothers of Twins organization. When moms are done with certain things (gear, clothes, whatever), they give them or sell them to other members of the group. Well, I've gotten HUGE deals on changing table pads (the dresser/changing table I got in great shape from Craigslist), Boppies, a Fisher-Price swing and matching bouncey seat, a Peter Rabbit blanket, breathable crib bumpers. I'm hoping to grab whatever bargains I can from the group. Everything I've gotten is in nearly perfect condition. And most things are half to a quarter of the price of what you'd spend to buy them new. The women I've met through the group have been just amazing. Wonderfully nice and welcoming, genuinely excited to have more twins arrive and join the fold. I've been to one meeting so far (I'll go to tomorrow's meeting, too, to tie fleece blankets for an area NICU, if Paul is too tired to do anything after his red-eye and long trip to CA), and everyone is so nice. Genuine friendships are formed through the utterly unique experience of twin pregnancy and rearing and these women really rely on each other for advice and support when no one else in their lives truly understands what they're going through.

So it's late now and my back is hurting from sitting in my formerly comfy chair, so I'll sign off and try to get some sleep for my big day tomorrow. Not only the ultrasound appointment, but also our floor guy is coming in the morning to talk about finishing the part of the 2nd floor that Paul's been painting and we're getting a new fridge because ours has kicked the bucket. All before noon. :-) I'll try to update later today (I'm making an effort to get this blog going again, after more than a year without any posts!) to share the gender news, but I may let that wait until Friday.