Friday, January 31, 2014

Two and a half months in

Everyone is in bed except me. This solitude thing .... what is this?! I feel like I need to write something to memorialize this moment. (Also I sat down at the computer to shut it down and ended up on the internet ...)

Today the twins are 2.5 months old. Their personalities are truly blossoming. They coo (in very distinct ways), they smile, and I swear Dominic laughed in his sleep just this evening.

Things seem to have settled into a rhythm--a hit-or-miss rhythm, to be sure, but it's there. In the morning Keith gets up and gets Michael started on breakfast while I nurse however many babies are awake and change their diapers. Once everyone is fed and Keith leaves, the morning is often fairly calm. I read Michael books, usually with one baby or another on my lap. Or he plays with his markers and I respond to his demands of "Draw arrow!" with a baby on the other arm. I am at my best-rested to tackle and hairy moments that arise.

And then on the heels of the easiest time of day comes the hardest. Michael gets hungry. I get hungry. (Um, I get hungry a lot. Breastfeeding twins takes a lot of calories!) The babies get hungry and/or gassy. The timing of all this is impossible to manage. I get Michael set up with lunch and sit and eat with him, and/or nurse a baby.

If the fates are smiling then Michael is ready for his nap right after I've nursed both babies and they're dozy; if not, well, someone will be in tears at some point. (Lately Michael has been unhappy about taking a nap.) Once he's down, I might have a time where both babies are awake and interactive, and perhaps as long as half an hour when they're both asleep. In which case I can clean or *cough* watch Lark Rise to Candleford on Youtube. Or I may have to alternate holding babies all of naptime.

And then Michael wakes up and the countdown to Papa's return begins. ;)

I know it's just perspective that makes me think one baby is "easy," but I'm hoping I can carry some of that perspective into our next child's infancy, if God so blesses us! I don't mean that just in a stressed out way (although I often think it in times of stress!). For example, I can't tell you how often I've felt a pang of sadness because I have to put one baby down to tend to the other, even though they are staring up at me and smiling and ready to interact, or to cuddle up and sleep in my arms. I know with Michael I often found myself just wanting to put the baby down; and while now it can be frustrating that I almost always have to be holding a baby, it's also taught me that being able to hold your baby for an unbroken stretch of time is truly a gift. Time to yourself is important but at the same time I can get so caught up in the lack of it that it becomes a source of stress. I am learning (or trying to learn) how to lean into the day moment by moment rather than fighting against it.

Also? I've learned that I can do an awful lot while breastfeeding an infant. (Like drawing arrows with markers.) Praise God. :)

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Twins' Birth Story

I'll try my best, but it's going to be a long one. Just so you're warned. (Also, it's a birth story, and thus pretty frank about various bodily fluids at times ... so if you're squeamish, be aware!) No photos because we have a few but I look awful in them and I'd prefer to keep them to myself. ;)

For the last few weeks of my pregnancy I kept wishing that I would just go into labor already. Every woman who's been pregnant has been there, but with twins it starts much earlier and is MUCH worse, and the fact that twins have a tendency to arrive early intensifies it. As does having contractions every day without "being in labor." So one night on my second or third trip to the bathroom I found myself thinking, yet again, I just want to go into labor TONIGHT.

Immediately another thought entered my mind: would I be in such a hurry to go into labor if I knew I or one of the babies might die in childbirth? It actually stopped me dead in my tracks. It was cold and clear like someone outside of me had suggested it. (And maybe that's true.) I tried not to lend it much credence, but in my hormonal state it really disturbed me ... and then the next day was either Sunday or All Saints Day, and all the readings were about death and resurrection. Even as I struggled to dismiss this I kept wondering if God was trying to tell me something. It was bad enough that I confessed my fears to Keith in the car one day, almost in tears, and we prayed together about it.

Gradually that fear receded, and by the time I approached the date of my induction I was no longer anxious. I was blessed with a wonderful OB. He's very up-front, was supportive of my ability to birth the twins vaginally, and always, always treats his patients like people. That being said, he had a way of jinxing things for me. So when I was hooked up to Pitocin at 7am on November 15th (38 weeks to the day), I should've known labor was going to take all day just because he expected it to go by in a matter of hours.

It probably should have gone quickly. I was already having contractions--as I had been for the past two weeks--and he assured me two hours later when he broke my bag of waters that things would progress quickly. I continued to dilate and efface at a steady rate, but that rate was not exactly "quick."

Still, I have to say that this labor was pretty great. I wanted as med-free a birth as possible, but I'd heard so many horror stories about induced contractions I figured it wasn't possible. But actually, this labor was much easier and less painful than my first! After my water was broken I snuck some food from DH when the nurses weren't looking, because I was starving and I really didn't feel that bad. The nurses kept asking me about my pain scale, whether things were getting more painful, but it just wasn't that bad. During the first half I spent quite a bit of time dozing.

In fact, the worst part of labor was when my OB examined me and realized that A's head had slid forward and blocked the tear in his amniotic sac, so he broke my water AGAIN, sticking his fingers inside and moving them around Dominic's head to make sure most of it got out this time. Oh. My. Gosh. It probably only took about a minute but it was horrible and it felt like forever. (And so, so much fluid. When I think about the sheer amount of STUFF that fit in my womb by the end of this pregnancy, it really boggles my mind.)

Everyone who took care of me commented on how well labor was going and how well I was dealing with the contractions, how the babies were behaving and easy to monitor, etc. (Although Gregory went through a phase where he kept slipping away from the EFM disk and they had to bring in an ultrasound machine to find him.) My OB stayed a few hours past the end of his shift hoping to deliver the babies, but in the end he left about an hour and a half before they were born.

By that time the contractions had gotten pretty intense. I could tell it would be time to push within the next hour, and was debating whether or not to get an epidural. (I already had the line in place.) Since it was a low dose, I caved and let them hook me up. There was a button I could push twice an hour to up the dose, and since the first dose barely did anything for the pain I soon found myself pushing it again. Even at the highest dose I could still feel my contractions and knew I'd be able to work with my body. SO much better than just getting a big dose all at once like I did with Michael!

Less than half an hour later I was ready to push. I pushed for 30-45 minutes in the L&D room. Then I had to stop pushing while they wheeled me into the OR to deliver. That was hard. But once they got set up, a few more pushes and Dominic was born.

Dominic--I saw him briefly as he emerged from my body, I heard him cry. I sent Keith from my side to go with him. He was strong and healthy. I kept trying to see him from across the room.

I shouldn't have. I should have focused on Gregory, and I knew I needed to focus on Gregory, but how can you not try to see your baby? I'm not sure if I would've known more about what was happening if I paid closer attention in those first few moments.

There was a second OB manning the ultrasound machine as they tried to make sure that Gregory was still head down. I became aware that he had gotten into a bad position, that his hand was in the way and the OB was trying to move it; then I heard that his shoulder was engaged (transverse oblique presentation), and at that point I was no longer dilated enough for her to continue to manipulate him into a better position.

The OB looked at me and said, "I’m sorry, but we’re going to have to deliver this baby by c-section. I know it’s not what you wanted, but we need to do it." I knew from her voice that something was up, but I was so disoriented and unfocused up til that point I didn’t know any more than the fact he was trying to come out shoulder first.

They sent Keith out of the room to prep me and told me they’d let him back in once I was ready. I am so, so grateful I already had a full dose of epidural, because they had some trouble getting things to where I was anesthetized enough for surgery, and it turned out that every minute counted. As I was given the line of pricks up my belly several times, the doctors grew more and more anxious, and when I was ready they put the sheet up and cut me open right away. No Keith. I remember one of the doctors answering her pager and telling the person on the line that she was in the middle of an emergency c-section and it would have to wait.

I had no idea what was wrong, only that my baby's life was in danger. The nurses and people around me kept reassuring me--I was doing great, I was going to be okay. And it made me so angry, because of course I was fine, but when I asked about my baby they wouldn't answer me. I asked several people to baptize him if he was going to die--granted, an awkward thing to ask a nurse or anesthesiologist. More than being on my own, it was the biggest reason I wished Keith was in the room at that moment. No one answered me or even acknowledged the fact that my baby might die.

And I remembered all my fears from several weeks before. I knew that a few friends were praying for me right then; the twins' godmother-to-be had two Masses offered for us that day; I prayed to St. Gregory, St. Therese, St. Gerard, our guardian angels. I was not panicked, probably more from the shock of it than anything, but I was so, so very helpless, laying there with my arms strapped out beside me. And I prayed, God, I give you this baby. Please, please let him live.

It was the longest 14 minutes of my life. Gregory didn’t cry when he was born. They let Keith in and he came and sat next to me, but we couldn't see either of our babies, and had no idea how Gregory was doing. In a bit they wheeled him up so we could see him before bringing him down to the NICU because of his oxygen levels, except I couldn't see him from where I lay on the gurney. Later on, we had both cord prolapse and a nuchal cord given to us as reasons for the emergency. After talking to the OB we’re pretty sure it was the latter. Either way, there was a short period of time when he wasn’t receiving oxygen, but he was able to breath on his own when he was born and only needed to spend about ten hours in the NICU.

At that point I was shaking uncontrollably. I always shake during transition when it's time to push, but this was extreme. My shoulders hurt from it for a long time afterwards. I also had a high fever that they never really found the cause for. (And then there were the night shift nurses who didn't believe me when I felt like my bladder was about to explode and pulled out more than THREE times the amount a normal person's bladder is supposed to be able to hold when they got around to catheterizing me an hour later. Worst pain of my life. But that was 24 hours after this. It also wasn't the most TMI part of my complicated recovery ... but I'll stop there.) Eventually I was given medication to stop the shaking, but it was a good two hours before I was even able to hold Dominic--two hours that I was just not with it--and at least two hours later that I got to meet Gregory.

When the OB stopped by my room she was very emotional. She told me she'd gone over the birth in her mind wondering if there was anything she could have done differently, and she didn’t think there was. I was so touched by her honesty and how much it mattered to her; all I said to her was “Thank you for saving our baby.”

Because I am so grateful. When I remember Michael's birth--how he came out crying and they put him on my chest, and when I spoke to him he stopped and just looked at me--even Dominic's birth makes me ache a bit. It's a loss I am still processing. But I have two beautiful, healthy boys ... and for them, it was all worth it.

Thursday, January 23, 2014


This is my first time participating! I am not a good photographer. I am never prepared to capture the moment and frankly, the pictures I take leave a lot to be desired! But the snow and sunshine were so lovely this morning, I looked out the window and thought, There's my "pretty." So, here I am. 

(And just so you know, this entire post was typed with one hand! Heh.)


Snow in our backyard.


After a bit of a rough spot this morning I decided we needed popovers. Michael was especially enthusiastic about the butter.


The twins are the perfect age to start appreciating this little gym--Dominic in particular enjoys it when he's in a placid mood.I'm pretty sure Michael doesn't remember playing in it as a baby, but that doesn't stop him from claiming it as his own!


Yes, our tree is still up, and hasn't been watered in about a month. Which means there will be needles everywhere when we get around to taking it out.

Linking up with Like Mother, Like Daughter.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Seven Quick Takes (16)--Babies and Blessings

1. I have a list written out of 100 things I would like to do in 2014. (So far you haven't been subjected to it. ;) ) Two of the things were to get our house blessed, and to invite a priest over for dinner. So when a priest we know offered to do an Epiphany blessing for us we excitedly said yes and settled on a time "after dinner." I intended to invite him over for dinner, but between life being crazy and me being procrastinatory (that is definitely a word) it didn't happen. I had a pot roast but didn't make it and figured that we'd dive into our freezer stash for a meal. 

And then ... Keith called me five times in a row and I finally called him back and we realized that Father was coming over for dinner. So I had an hour and a half, an uncooked, 3 lb pot roast, and ... nothing else in the house except eggs ... and cheese ... and milk ... which thankfully I realized could make a quiche. Phew! I'm really glad he ate with us, but I'm hoping we can invite him back again for a nicer meal. 

Michael also decided that Father was such a good friend he would tell him every time his diaper was poopy. Which was at least twice. 

Definitely not identical!

2. Dominic and Gregory are two months old! They've officially outgrown their newborn clothes (it took Gregory a bit longer than Dominic) although we won't know how much they weigh until their appointment next week. As for personality, they couldn't be more different. I want to get around to typing up their birth story soon. The other day I was holding Dominic and getting teary-eyed thinking about his birth ... but I realized I want to type Michael's first. Not because I'm OCD about birth order or anything, but because I'm realizing that how I feel about the twins' birth and how I'm processing it relates strongly to my experience with Michael. (And indeed, writing the birth stories is another thing on my 2014 list.)

3. Yesterday I fed/nursed all the boys, got everyone dressed, put on a pair of earrings and french braided my hair, got everyone into the car and went shopping. We were back before noon, everyone all in one piece. The only hitch was that Dominic decided life was awful the minute we started driving, and was only soothed by me dancing around the aisles of Walmart while wearing him. (Gregory was in his carseat in the cart.) It was empowering but exhausting. I basically spent the rest of the day watching period dramas and nursing babies.

4. One thing that made yesterday possible was getting up a bit earlier than usual, which happened because Keith was up. Generally the babies dictate our schedule. But I know I need to be more disciplined. Eventually I want to have a morning routine where I get up at a certain time, hopefully have some of the morning to myself to shower etc, and make breakfast for Michael to eat while I nurse the babies. This may not happen until the twins have a more regular schedule, but hopefully that isn't too far in the future.

5. My friend Stephanie stopped by with her boys (ages 3.5, 2.5, and 4 months). The house was very full of boyhood--a sort of glimpse of my future in a year or two. There was screaming and running and laughter and tears and pizza and clementines. I have to laugh because who would have known four years ago that we'd soon have six boys between the two of us?? Life is so crazy. My babies are small and Stephanie's are huge; her not-yet-four-year-old can see and reach anything on my counters, whereas my almost-two-year-old is still wearing some 12 month size shirts!

6.  However. Stephanie has the easier babies. I'm not sure what it is about my closest friends (my cousin's babies are like this too), but they all seem to have babies that are content to lie or sit on the floor and watch what's going on and grin at you. Whereas my babies ... ha! You hold my babies for an hour and then when you try to put them down they start crying out of sheer indignance. (Well, Gregory is a bit easier than that. But not Dominic.)

7. It's snowing. That makes me happy. The weather out the window is no longer fooling me into feeling like it's spring, and the days are brighter with a little white on the ground. I wish I could take Michael out to play in it ... but right now Papa has to be the fun parent in that regard.

picture by Keith
Linking up with Jen at Conversion Diary!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Coaxing the daylight in

Currently reading Maddaddam from the library on my Kindle, and still working my way through These Beautiful Bones. The scarf is growing. I chose the photo that doesn't show the mistake I discovered when laying the length of it out on the couch. (Sigh.)

I am so grateful for the big windows in our house, even though they make the rooms a bit colder. I don't generally mind January because it gives me a chance to cozy up with tea, a good book, and a bit of knitting. But books and knitting don't have much room in my life right now. (I do drink more tea than usual, though!)

Right now the evening light is just beginning to fade into dusk. Yesterday was grey and damp, and then suddenly while a friend and I were sitting in the living room the sun broke free and everything was golden for a few brief minutes. During these housebound postpartum days I am grateful for every bit of sunshine I can coax into the house. I'm thinking I also want to buy some candles to keep lit on greyer days, and am contemplating alternate places we can hang the fairy lights once the tree is gone. (Yes, we still have our Christmas tree up.)

Joining up with Ginny for her yarn along.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Yarn Alonging

Keith's scarf is still creeping along. I'm almost through the first ball of yarn--three more to go!

I've started reading These Beautiful Bones by Emily Stimpson and I am really excited about it. It's a collection of reflections on how the Theology of the Body applies not to the bedroom, but to the "other rooms" of our lives--about "striving towards the redemption of the body in the midst of every day life." This is something I've been thinking about a lot lately--being a mother of young littles means you live in pretty constant contact with the embodiedness of yourself and others in all the most mundane aspects. (I mean, I have to deal with three other people's poop on an hourly basis, you know?) I've only gotten into chapter two but so far it is really good.

(Speaking of embodiedness, if you all would say a prayer for me. I've been really sick since this weekend. Layers of sickness. Cold-turned-sinus infection, which led to a sore throat and painfully clogged ears and then an eye infection. No fun. I am starting to feel a bit better today, I think, and maybe it's weird to ask for prayers for plain-old-it'll-get-better illness, but it's really an energy-suck that I can't afford right now.) 

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Reading in the New Year

I just read this post from The Catholic World Report, and ... dang. My "to-read" list for 2014 was already too long. Now I've added ten more books. (Only one nonfiction, and that memoir. At this point in my life I'm not excited about or interested in reading books like "What is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense," even though it comes recommended so highly. I am a stay-at-home mom with quite young children; the people I see on a regular basis are fairly likeminded, and I feel that I have a basic ability to articulate why I believe what I do in such things. For now, that is enough.)

I sometimes think the most sobering realization of mortality, for me, is the fact that it's impossible to read ALL the books I want to--that I will likely die with a list as tall as I am (at least!) of books unread. I figure I won't care in the afterlife, but that makes it worse not better! Phooey. (I think any writer or artist can relate to this as well in terms of work left unfinished. It is why I love Tolkien's "Leaf by Niggle" so very much.)

Anyway, I've lately taken to using Goodreads quite a bit to keep track of such things. Before I used my Amazon wishlist, but it's not designed for that sort of thing in the same way. My "want to read" category on there is pretty long, and it isn't exhaustive by any means ... but here are the books that are most important to me to read in 2014.

Kristin Lavransdatter. This book has been "following" me for the past year or so. I'd never heard of it two years ago, and can't remember where it first came up. Probably on a blog. But since then it seems everyone has been reading it and recommending it. I intend to buy it because I've a feeling it's a book I'll want a real copy of ... plus the cover is really pretty.

The Power and the Glory. Keith loves Graham Greene. I often buy his books for Christmas and birthdays ... but I've yet to read any of them.

Our Graham Greene collection.

The Inn at the Edge of the World .... and everything else by Alice Thomas Ellis. Also it is my personal mission this year to make her more widely read, if only just in my own little circle. Call it a New Year's Resolution.

A Prayer Journal by Flannery O'Connor. Yes yes yes. As soon as possible please. (While I'm at it I should reread her stories.)

I want to read Maria Montessori--probably The Absorbent Mind? If you have any recommendations for books by or about her please share!

After reading My Sisters the Saints I also want to read something by Edith Stein. And I want to add something else of a little more spiritual weight to the list. Any suggestions? I find myself in need of ... peace. Prayer. Order. Gentleness. So, if you've any suggestions along those lines I will gladly hear them.

Last but not least I am excited to read the many books being published by Catholic small presses this year, starting with Sand, Smoke, Current from Wiseblood Books, released just yesterday. It promises to be good!

And oh yes--Maddaddam, because I've read the first two books and it isn't a series you don't finish!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014


That picture up there is of Christmas knitting. It's about twice as long as it was when it was first unwrapped. So ... progress? Hopefully Keith will get to wear it once or twice before winter is over. :-P I am not used to knitting this slowly! I don't think I knit very much after Michael was born.

Anyway, the pattern is Pavement. Jared Flood writes a good pattern, and makes wonderful yarn. For some reason I always get quite a bit of satisfaction in knitting a pattern with the yarn it was designed for. It just feels right.

I am reading Lark Rise to Candleford and Evangelii Gaudium, both on my Kindle. I'm hoping to get back to "real" books soon, but I don't think that's going to happen until the babies have a more regular schedule. In the meantime my Kindle is loaded ... in fact, I think my e-book buying habits are becoming a problem, ha! In the past week I've bought this, this, this, this, and this, and I have my eyes on this thanks to Elizabeth.

Happy New Year, and a blessed Solemnity of Mary Mother of God to you all. :)

Linking up with Ginny.