The answer was a resounding “no.” Read that carefully: “was.”
My parents left the church when they were teenagers. I grew up in an agnostic household and we rarely discussed religion. My brother and I weren’t baptized. I had very little idea what people actually believed, why they went to church, or what the bible says. The extent of my exposure was weddings, funerals, and a strange week playing for a conservative Baptist orchestra camp in high school because they were short on bassists. Occasionally teens from the same local Baptist church followed me through the parking lot after school trying to give me pamphlets or their vacation bible school van would drive through our quiet neighborhood blaring something or other. I didn’t really listen. If that was religion, I wanted no part of it.
Years later in grad school I met Jeff. He grew up Presbyterian. He hadn’t attended church in decades besides as a professional organist. As such, he knew a bunch about the churches and their rituals. His late friend Michael was also a Catholic theologian and they spent countless hours discussing theology. I learned more about religion from Jeff in the last few years than I did in my entire childhood. Still, we didn’t consider religion or a church as important elements in our lives.
Again, “didn’t.” Let’s keep going.
Jeff’s older sons had bad experiences in public school. That will play into our educational choices, but I want to focus for now on the social environment. Son #1 wasn’t very social at school and tended to follow Jeff’s advice. Son #2 was much more social, so he had the added influence of peers. Since Jeff’s family was just him and his boys after his divorce (split custody with Jeff’s ex-wife) and they didn’t attend church or another group activity, school became one of son #2’s main communities. It was not a good one. Jeff’s assessment is that most of the pain and suffering related to son #2’s missteps could have been avoided with a solid community, like a church, with a solid moral foundation.
As for my part, IVF unintentionally gave us a large family. Large families are getting more rare in American society and especially in the college town where we lived. I felt isolated as a new parent among college students and even more isolated as I came to see all of the frozen embryos as my children. The cerebral view is that they’re clumps of cells. My heart says they are more than that. In our new hometown people are more welcoming to large families, but they’re still not the norm. I wanted to find people who understood the why and the how of having a bunch of kids and a community for my family. I grew up with a bunch of uncles, aunts, cousins, and grandparents. My kids won’t have that. They have four cousins, three uncles, three aunts, and two grandmas. No grandpas since both are deceased.
Jeff and I tried a variety of churches before we moved and never found a good fit. After we moved, we looked at the nearby churches. We saw Presbyterian, Episcopal, a bunch of Lutheran, Orthodox of various nationalities, and a smattering of other denominations. Most of them, though, are Catholic. The Catholic churches also have the best community outside of a single parish because of the hierarchy from Rome on down to the parish level. It looked like the best fit for our growing family.
Yet our kids resulted from IVF. The Catholic Church is officially against IVF because the children are viewed as made, not begotten, and often embryos are discarded in the process. To the first issue, the church officially takes issue with anything that divorces procreation from sex within marriage. To the second issue, discarded embryos are seen as aborted, i.e. murdered, since life begins at conception. (You can read Donum Vitae for a fuller account of the Church’s stance and Dignitas Personae for some updates) On the flip side, every child is a blessing. Whenever someone brings up Catholicism, especially if they themselves are Catholic, I wonder how they reconcile my many IVF children with the church’s statement against IVF. Do they disagree with the church or see our choices as wrong, or are they unfamiliar with the church’s stance?
I am much more open about how our children were conceived that Jeff tends to be, for better or for worse. So far no one has outright commented on it, but I have had some conversations stall when I say they’re all IVF babies. As I understand it in the Latin Catholic Church, our choices can only be sinful if we make them willingly, consciously, and with full knowledge that they are considered wrong in the eyes of the Church. I suppose we’d be cleared of official sin then since we did not know that the Church considered it a sin and we were not Catholic. Still, I can’t say that I wouldn’t make the same choice again knowing the official stance. This is a major hang up I’ve had with joining a church.
Now for the twist. We are in the process of joining a Byzantine/Eastern rite Catholic church. The service is much like an Eastern Orthodox Divine Liturgy. The congregation is pleasantly folksy. I grew up mostly with family and my parents didn’t really socialize outside of the family, so this is unfamiliar territory to possibly gain a non-biological family. We’ve been attending since last fall and I still feel lost much of the time. I also feel very welcome.
Now we’re “almost Catholic.”
I’m not sure what that means since I’m still learning a lot about Catholicism and the differences between western and eastern rites. I feel like my life may again be taking a sharp turn in an unexpected direction as Jeff and I implement some more Catholic habits at home and attend church weekly. I don’t understand a lot of what I’m doing as well as I’d like. I also know that there is a lot I don’t know, like how to run a Catholic home in the eastern rite (is that a thing?). Do we need an icon corner? What prayers should we say and when? What is prayer? The bible and church seem so unfamiliar and huge that I feel like it’s almost impossible to gain enough knowledge to feel like I’m not a newbie. I’d love to have some regular bible study time and someone to talk to about what it means in the context of eastern Catholicism. You know, in all of my free time after taking care of six kids under four.
What role has religion played in your life, if any? What’s your main social group?]]>
After going through the newborn stage with twins for the third time, I’ve found a few favorite items that help me take care of newborn twins without losing my mind completely. These apply to a stay-at-home or working mom. Some are specific to twins and some are also applicable to singletons.
This is the best rocker ever! The seat is machine washable, the whole thing folds down for travel, the back is stiff so there’s no slouchy newborn problem, and the weight limit is 40 pounds. In the wake of the rock and play recalls, I think this is a good alternative even though it doesn’t rock automatically because it is nearly impossible (in my estimate) for a baby to asphyxiate if s/he’s not sitting too upright for his/her age. I use them for sick babies overnight too so they don’t (figuratively) drown in snot. Pro tip: line the rocker with a large burp cloth or cloth diaper to lengthen the time between washing the rocker itself.
I didn’t try any other frame stroller, but this one has worked well. I like that I can have both car seats face sideways towards the same side. I definitely like being able to transfer the babies from the car to the stroller without waking them up or taking them out of their warm seat in winter. Pro tip: face the babies towards the shelves in a store so people can’t poke and prod them as easily.
The Weego is so easy to use and lets me carry both babies through the entire hour and a half church service. It leaves my hands free to help other kids, whether holding their hands or carrying them to the basement for a break. I can even feed the babies in the carrier.
I didn’t have this for the first two sets of twins and that makes me sad. I supposed I didn’t have much need for it since I used the stroller when we lived in town and didn’t attend church. Our new church is not even remotely handicap accessible since it’s in an old building. That means no stroller.
If your baby is born during a cold season, these shower cap car seat covers are great! As I mentioned above, you can transfer the babies and the seats to the frame stroller without waking up anyone.
The best balance I found between price and quality is Huggies Snug and Dry, especially through Amazon Subscribe and Save. Up & Up diapers from Target gave my kids rashes and Parent’s Choice diapers leak and channel poo up the babies’ backs. If you use Parent’s Choice diapers, buy more clothes. (I’ve since switched to cloth, which saves us over $200 per month with five kids in diapers and is less prone to blow outs than any disposable diaper I’ve tried, and I’ve tried a lot of disposables.)
I use formula full time because I hated breastfeeding. If you choose or need to use formula the store brand stuff can save you a bundle. Sam’s Club has the best prices, followed closely by Walmart online. At Walmart there is a four-pack online that saves you around $5 compared to buying the individual tubs. Also, if your baby is prone to spit-up, the Parent’s Choice formula at Walmart has a version with rice starch to thicken it and help babies keep it in their bellies. I occasionally use Enfamil and Similac coupons to buy ready-to-use formula for travel.
There is no way to clean the bulb syringe that the hospital gives you and it doesn’t even get as much snot out as the Nose Frida. Once you get past the fact that you’re sucking out snot with your mouth (there’s a filter in between), it’s awesome for relieving baby congestion. Pro tip: squirt a drop or two of saline solution into each nostril a few seconds before you use the snot sucker to help loosen and thin out the snot so you can get more of it out.
Babies aren’t great at getting or keeping liquid in their mouths. Bibs don’t need to be fancy since they’re just catching drool and spit-up. I like the cheap terry cloth ones that come in a ten pack on Amazon or bandana bibs for the first few months. Pro tip: If you buy bibs that have velcro closure, close it with a safety pin in the washer so the bibs don’t stick to everything else.
Newborns can live in these. Sure, they’re jammies, but who cares when the babies spend most of their time sleeping anyhow? Don’t mess with socks and separate tops and bottoms. They’re more hassle than they’re worth.
This diaper bag carries everything. If you exceed its capacity, you’re probably packing too much for two babies. I fit enough for five kids in it. I considered a backpack diaper bag, but that wouldn’t work with the Twingo carrier later.
It’s worked okay for the last three sets. Not great, just okay. The bassinets sag towards the middle and it’s almost impossible to change a dirty sheet on the mattress when it’s shoved into the bassinet attachment. Since newborns leak, you want a mattress protector and a sheet. For the next set of twins I plan to try two separate bassinets.
Those babies are going to spit up half a bottle at some point. A cute little terry cloth burp rag is wholly insufficient. You’re better off with flour sack towels or cheap cloth diapers.
This is harder than just taking the baby in the shower. The baby can fall off the sides, any part that isn’t submerged gets cold really quickly, and you still have to reach into a bath tub to bathe the baby. Just use a sink, or take the baby in the shower with you.
Many people love these. They’re strong and versatile. They’re also a wee bit harder and slower to use than a soft structured carrier like the Weego twin (or later the Twingo). I don’t have time or energy to waste on wrapping and unwrapping as much as I’d need to when babies poo, get hungry, or get fussy (or when big kids need something and my arms can’t reach around two babies).
As I said above, they just leak everywhere. It’s worth paying more for Huggies to reduce the amount of laundry and the frustration of having pee and poo leak onto everything daily. I have to say, though, that the velcro stuff on the waist is the strongest I’ve found in a disposable diaper.
There you have it. After three sets of twins I think I’m as much of a professional twin mom as one can be. Your style may be different from mine. I hope this gives you a starting point for]]>
My latest weigh in put me at 150 pounds. Seven pounds to go! I think my body composition is changing for the better, too. I can see better muscle definition in my arms again and my abs are more or less flat under the loose skin on my stomach.
It’s hard to measure this one. I still feel some hinky movement patterns. Around my left sacroiliac (SI) joint has been particularly stubborn. It feels stiff and sore with certain movements, but I haven’t been able to identify the cause (or solution) yet.
I’m currently pulling 135 pounds for 6×10 (6 sets of 10 reps). My recent front squat is 75 pounds for 4×10. My bench row is at 30 pounds for 6×10. I’m doing push-ups right now instead of chest press to work on core alignment and stability.
Overall I’m making progress. I wish some of it were faster. So much depends on core stability and I feel like I’m still struggling a little to get my core to engage properly. I probably also expect too much of myself at 5 months postpartum. It’s hard not to compare myself to where I was before kids.
I’d like to say I have a solid exercise routine, but the most routine thing about it is that I do something three times a week as long as I and the kids are healthy enough. I don’t have exercises planned out like I used to and I skimp too much on warm up and repositioning exercises since I’m usually short on time.
Let me share a bit about my workouts before kids so you can see how things have changed. Jeff noted that he was probably in the best shape of his life around the time of our wedding in March 2013. I was too. We were visiting IFAST in Indianapolis every month or two to see Bill Hartman for new exercise programs. I really miss visiting Bill, by the way. He’s an extremely talented and knowledgeable physical therapist and personal trainer for hobby or professional athletes and generally a really friendly guy.
This workout is one of two that Bill assigned me in September of 2012. (I can’t believe that was over six and a half years ago!) the structure of the sets and reps is [number of sets] x [number of reps].
Note: do not try this workout if you are not a highly trained athlete. Bill’s workouts were always on the sadistic side, although very effective. At this time I was considered an advanced athlete.
Massage: Foam roll spine and front of hips. Massage pecs, posterior shoulder, and lats with a lacrosse ball.
Mobility exercises (10x each): quadruped chin tuck; reach, roll, lift; standing hip, knee, dorsiflection, toe extension with band pull down; back scapular wall slides
Corrective exercises (for imbalances he saw): vertical hang (1×6, 5 deep breaths per rep); single leg glute bridge (1×12)
1. one-arm dumbbell snatch (2-3×6), 30 pounds
2. deadlift cluster (2-3(3×1)), 235 pounds
3a. half-off one dumbbell bench press (2-3×8-10), 25 pounds
3b. unsupported dumbbell row (2-3×8-10), 30 pounds
4a. unilateral supported prone Y (2×8), 2.5 pounds
4b. kettlebell half get-up (2×3), 20 pounds
4-8 sets: 30 seconds of two-dumbbell burpee, 30 seconds of alternating forward and backward rolls (jujutsu), 30 seconds of backward bear crawl, and 100 foot (each side) suitcase carry, 1-3 minute rest
Some of these may seem obscure if you’re used to the powerlifting trio (deadlift, bench press, and squat). Let me draw your attention to #2, the deadlift cluster. That 2-3(3×1) means I did rep one, rested for 15 seconds, rep two, rested for 15 seconds, rep three, and rested for 90 seconds before doing it again. I did that 2-3 times for a total of 6-9 deadlifts at my max load.
I noted the weight on the bar in the second week of this workout was 235 pounds, more than 1.6 times my body weight (249 pound 1RM). That put me solidly in the advanced athlete range, the last level below elite in the strength standards on ExRx.net. I remember I was also doing front squats with at least my body weight on the bar and back squats with close to 200 pounds for at least three reps.
Now? I might barely reach intermediate (180 pound 1RM). If I think about it too much it saddens me how much I’ve lost physically in the last few years, both in terms of general fitness and jujutsu skill. If anything besides our ability to handle more kids financially or practically would persuade me to stop having kids, this would be it. By the time I use all the embryos I’ll probably be close to 40 years old. Will I ever approach that advanced fitness level again? Will I ever be able to practice jujutsu the way I once did? Is it selfish to be tempted to leave embryos behind just for my personal physical goals?
Give me your stories and thoughts, fit moms and moms of many.]]>
“Well, I don’t really have a choice. I’m kind of committed at this point.”
I figure that’s not a helpful reply. I usually don’t say it… usually.
I don’t know what people expect me to say. I’m that mom walking backwards through Walmart pulling four kids in a cart and two infants in a stroller. Clearly I adapt.
I have no simple answer, but I do have some tips for overwhelmed and thinly stretched caregivers. Each of these could be a post on its own. They really are that valuable.
Lists, lists, lists! I love lists!
I make lists for everything. To do lists, packing lists, routine lists, and phone number lists, among others.
For example, I posted my morning, nap time, and bed time to do lists in the kitchen next to my monthly dry erase calendar. I printed the list with check boxes and put it in a plastic page protector. I can check off the tasks as I do them and add anything particular to that day. Before I go to bed, I wipe it clean for the next day.
I also have a list for packing the diaper bag and I store babysitters in my phone with the last name “Babysitter” so I can quickly search for all of them.
I routinize anything I can. The less I have to think about the details, the better, and kids like to know what to expect. If I was up half the night with a sick kid, I can still get through the day. If I’m sick, the kids know what we do everyday and in what order. I can make each of the elements easier if I need to, like serving cold, dry cereal with milk sippies for breakfast. No prep, little cleanup.
Then I document my routines. When I was in the hospital birthing my third set of twins, I had some assurance that my kids’ routine would not change since I’d written out all of it for the group of volunteer and paid caregivers. I even left notes about the colors of sippies and dishes the kids prefer and what they say at bedtime. The kids did great because they knew their caregivers and they knew their routines.
A large part of my routine is preparing for the next meal, next activity, or next day. For example, at night I fill sippies with milk, check my stock of diapers, and plan breakfast. I run a load of cloth diapers through the washer before I go to bed and then put them in the dryer when I get up (ideally) so I have plenty of diaper fluff for the day. I may be using them out of a laundry basket instead of neatly sorted piles, but at least they’re clean and dry.
This tip is still a work in progress for me. Who wants to lay out clothes before going to bed when their exhausted? The biggest preparation task I’d like to improve on is meal planning. My meals are usually planned a day ahead of time or less. At least weekly meal planning would be more ideal so I can shop to fulfill the meal plan instead of kind of haphazardly.
One of the hardest things new parents or caregivers of multiples have to face is having two or more babies crying at the same time. I have two arms. I need both arms to change a baby while the other one wails on the floor. I may need two hands to make a bottle while both babies cry their little hearts out.
When they’re a little older, all of them want me to help with *their* puzzle, but I can’t give everyone the attention they want when they want it because I am only one person with six small kids. That’s just part of having multiples without constant help–especially higher order multiples or multiple multiples. Once I accepted this, I was much less stress and much happier.
If I stop moving, I get tired. If I get tired, I get crabby and nothing gets done. Then I get more crabby because I got nothing done. It’s just no good for anyone.
That being said, I try not to run at breakneck pace all day. I have approximately a 12- to 13-hour day from wake up through bedtime. The other half of the 24 hours in a day has to accommodate sleep, clean up, prep for the next day, time with Jeff, and quite often dinner at the very least. I cannot afford to exhaust myself by the time lunch rolls around.
Hot liquid is relaxing and I need all the calming influences I can get when the midget army is in full force. And caffeine. I am a much more patient and cheerful person when I get a little caffeine.
I’ve been the mom who makes a hot drink in the morning and forgets it while feeding the kids breakfast. Then I microwave it and can’t find it until 30 minutes later. Microwave it again. I take a few sips and forget it on the counter since I need to keep it out of reach of the 12 tiny hands in my house. By lunch time I might have drank half of a mug. Oh well, add water and microwave it again. Maybe I’ll get to drink the rest during lunch. Nope. I finally dump it and make a fresh mug once the kids are down for their afternoon nap. Its fate is very similar to my morning cup.
Pro tip: I love my Contigo travel mug. It keeps my tea warm until nap time if I keep it closed when I’m not drinking. It also doesn’t leak like most travel mugs do as long as I open the top, screw it on, and then close the top. That is huge since I can keep it with me instead of putting it somewhere out of reach.
I left the professional world early in my career to stay home and take care of my kids (definitely not my plan after 10 years of college). Even if you work outside the home, you’ll spend a lot of time thinking about and working with your kids. Treat it as you would any profession.
Read about tips and tricks to make things go more smoothly (like this article–good job!). Take what you find useful for you and your family and leave the rest. I ignore a lot of modern parenting advice because it doesn’t fit my situation.
Tweak your routines to see if you can make them work better. Are the kids crabby at lunch? Move it 30 minutes earlier.
Schedule meetings. These will look more like play dates and outings to the grocery store, but put it on your calendar.
The book “Professionalizing Motherhood” is great if you are struggling with your mindset. It is full of great tips on how to look at motherhood as a vocation and find the value in what can seem like a monotonous struggle to keep your head above water. I highly recommend picking up a copy.
Even though I don’t earn money right now, we have regular childcare in our budget. When Jeff is out of town or working late, we often have a mother’s helper or a babysitter in the evening. We also have an off-duty preschool teacher take care of the bigs and middles Friday morning until nap time so they all do a bit of preschool.
In addition to paid help, my mom comes over to play with the kids every week or so. Jeff takes all six kids to the YMCA when he works out three mornings per week. I try to schedule something Monday morning like grocery shopping or a play date to get everyone out of the house.
Help could also mean having someone else clean or mow your yard–any task that takes something off of your to-do list or frees up your time. If you don’t have money for childcare, see if you can trade services or other goods.
I highly recommend checking out a gym that has childcare like a YMCA. Often the childcare is relatively inexpensive. If you use it regularly it is the cheapest break you can get even accounting for the membership fee. You could work out or just sit at a table somewhere. I did a lot of the latter during this last pregnancy and the childcare people were happy to help.
Especially for new parents, fed is best, clean enough is good enough, and your babies need a healthy, happy parent as much as they need everything else.
I wanted to be the exclusively breastfeeding, cloth diapering, baby food making stay-at-home mom because that’s what all the websites say is best for mom, baby, and the environment. I chucked all of that out the window in the first few months with my first set of twins.
By two months old, my babies wore Huggies to daycare and drank store brand formula from Avent naturals bottles that I had bought with the idea that they were more breast like. I went back to work so I could feel even remotely like myself again. At the time I felt like I had somehow failed. I didn’t. I succeeded in finding something that worked for my family.
Three years later I’m much more comfortable finding my own way. Last weekend I fed the kids donuts for breakfast to soften the news that we couldn’t go to church because dad and a baby were sick. Donuts are not exactly nutritious and I care about my kids health more than anyone else, but sometimes I just have to compromise. I may have been solo parenting the entire day on top of having a sick baby and sick husband if Jeff didn’t recover. No reason to make that harder with crabby kids who wanted to go to church.
Donuts can be a valid coping skill. So can Jack Hartmann on YouTube.
I still struggle with this. We have a big house, lots of outdoor space, six small kids, two big dogs who like to dig up the landscaping, and four shedding cats. On top of that we run a side business and Jeff works full time. Time for myself isn’t exactly easy to get.
In my experience, kids highlight your worst moments and will reflect them back to you. If mom (or whatever caregiver) is not happy, the kids will act out. It behooves me to shove in self care where I can.
Self care for me is not all manicures and massages while sipping lattes. In fact, I’ve never had a manicure. Maybe that does it for you. My most important self care is exercise, food, and sleep with a side of something comforting like hot tea to drink. Showers are not optional, in my opinion, to feel human.
I’d like to exercise more often, have quiet time to read, cook, and do a bunch of other things I enjoy, but I’m in the wrong season of life to have that much freedom on a regular basis. I still fit them in occasionally and I cherish those bits of luxury.
What do you need most to feel like yourself?
You have an entire lifetime. Choose what is most important right now and do it to the best of your ability.
I left the professional world only five years after graduating with a doctorate and earning two master’s degrees along the way in very different fields. Maybe I could try to maintain a career while raising children if I hired out household chores, hired more childcare, or had kids spaced further apart. I still thought I might do that after the first set of twins arrived and for a few months after the second set of twins arrived.
Nah, it’s not worth it to me. My most valuable contribution to the world is making sure my kids are raised right. An entire career in my field does not measure up to that. Maybe if I were a medical doctor who helped people stay healthy on a daily basis the balance would be different.
I hope these help new and struggling parents and caregivers. Do these ring true for you? Do you have tips to add? Leave your comments and questions below.]]>
The delivering doctor called it the best twin delivery he’d seen. The nurse assigned to me all day said I was one of her favorite patients ever. She kept telling me “You’re a rockstar.” Around centimeters 7-10 I whined to her “I don’t want to be a rockstar anymore.” The nurse offered to have anesthesiology come by, but I figured that was the one thing I could do that was dumber than what I was already doing.
The morning had started early when Jeff and I stumbled to our Suburban before dawn. We arrived 35 minutes later at the hospital for my scheduled induction around 38 weeks, 5 days gestation. I waddled the endless nearly empty corridors to L&D while he walked. The environment would have been creepy out of context.
Once at L&D, it was the usual hospital admission stuff–go to room, answer questions, get stuck with an IV needle repeatedly until someone gets it properly in a blood vessel, and watch the clock. I was impatient to get started since I knew what was coming. I intended to deliver these babies vaginally with no epidural, just as I had done with my first set of twins. I knew labor was going to hurt worse than anything else I’ve experienced.
The nurse–my very own dedicated nurse since I was considered high risk doing a twin VBAC at 33 years old–started pitocin and IV fluids. In contrast to the hospital where I delivered my first two sets of twins, this hospital allowed a clear liquid diet during labor. Jello and water made me so happy! The last hospital only allowed a tiny green sponge on a stick that was completely ineffective in keeping my mouth from sticking together, just in case I needed surgery. Contractions on a low level of pitocin are more annoying than painful.
Sometime mid-morning, they broke baby A’s amniotic sac. This also happened sooner than during my first labor. It’s the point of no return and the point at which my body grudgingly agrees that the babies should be evicted. The contractions started to come more regularly and got progressively more uncomfortable throughout the afternoon. Still entirely manageable.
Sometime around 5 pm, give or take a bit, things changed. I started to feel really stupid and wondered if the manufacturers of the bed had laboring women in mind when they tested the integrity of all possible handholds. (I forgot to ask the nurse.) I considered that the bed was probably lucky that I hadn’t gotten a good weightlifting workout for nine months. Labor hurts, in case no one mentioned that before. I have nothing to compare it to because nothing in my life even comes close. I can’t say it’s the best management tactic, but my MO seemed to be take out my pain on whatever part of the bed I can grab. I’m open to better ideas next time.
The delivery team wheeled me to the OR around 6:45 pm. All twin deliveries are required to happen in an operating room at hospitals just in case a c-section is required for one or both twins. Just like the first time, the delivery team was surprised when I wiggled my way over to the OR bed. They’re accustomed to team lifting women with epidurals from one bed to the other.
The OR bed had black knee stirrup things that they wanted me to put my legs in. Okay, I’ll try it, I thought. As a contraction started I felt pain radiate through my left hip. Nope, nope, no good, gotta move.
Wait, they’re strapping my legs to the black things? I don’t remember this happening before. “Why are you strapping my legs down?!?” I was the closest I had been to panicking during labor ever. I think that was also the longest sentence ever spoke during labor. I guess fear is inspirational. I do *not* like being confined and I couldn’t move to alleviate the pain in my hip
“So you don’t kick anyone, ma’am.”
“I’m not going to kick you.” I desperately hoped they’d believe me. Back in the labor room when the nurse was going to do something annoying in the middle of a contraction I gently pushed her aside with a knee and let her do it after the contraction had passed. I’d even let the doctor do a cervical check in the middle of a contraction! Cervical checks and contractions suck on their own and the pain of both together is at least additive. If I didn’t kick anyone then, I’m not going to start during delivery. Well, unless they do something *really* dumb to earn it, but Jeff would probably get to them first in that case.
Maybe Jeff or my nurse stepped in, maybe they believed me, or maybe they had a backup plan in case I was bluffing so it wasn’t essential to strap my legs down because they let me go.
I imagine that a singleton vaginal birth is more comfortable simply because the bed is bigger. Those OR beds are hard and barely wide enough to lie on. There is no option but to lie down. No hands and knees, no squatting. Maybe I could turn on my side, but even that would be hard. Jeff was the only thing that kept me from rolling off the bed if I rolled onto my side.
The OR was not welcoming or comforting at all. It was stark white and gray with bright lights everywhere and lots of intimidating equipment and people covered head to toe in surgical garb. I think I remember at least 8-10 medical staff plus Jeff. By that time, though, my surroundings were irrelevant. All focus was on getting through contractions and getting babies out. After labor, delivery is a relief. I find it less painful, maybe because I have some control, I have a goal, and I know that the entire ordeal is nearing its end.
I can’t tell you how many contractions or how many times I pushed to get these babies out. All I know is I pulled on my knees and tried to poop like my life depended on it.
The “ring of fire” thing that people talk about during delivery? Who cares as long as it makes labor contractions stop. Straining every muscle in my body pushing out a couple of small bowling balls? Who cares as long as it makes labor contractions stop.Mischa arrived at 7:19 pm, screaming his fuzzy little head off. Like the first delivery, contractions slowed. The resident attending the birth checked Gabe’s position to make sure he was head down and I swear the guy stuck half his arm in to check. I much prefer that women do all internal checks, by the way. Not because they are women, but because their arms and hands tend to be smaller.
A mask lowered over my face. I assumed there was a good reason for it, like they wanted to give me oxygen or something. Jeff later told me there was a miscommunication and I was moments from being put under. Eeek! That would have ended all hope of delivering Gabe vaginally. I am very thankful that Jeff recognized what was happening and clarified to the anesthesiologist that Gabe *was* head down. Inexplicably, at least to me, the mask lifted.
For the first time ever, I felt like the babies I’d just delivered were *my* babies.Gabe arrived at 7:39 pm. Mischa measured 6 lbs 8 oz and Gabe was 6 lbs 14 oz. The medical staff later guessed that Gabe was closer to 6 lbs 8 oz. His second weighing indicated an impossible amount of weight loss three hours after delivery and it was similar to Mischa’s weight, so we’re assuming they were about the same size and someone forgot to calibrate one of the scales in the OR.
I was exhausted and relieved (see photo above). I had accomplished what I wanted: an unmedicated VBAC of twins. Everyone was healthy. For the first time ever, I felt like the babies I’d just delivered were *my* babies. It wasn’t the overwhelming sense of love some people describe, but it was a far cry from the disconnect I felt for at least a couple of months after Rory and Ginny were born.
A successful delivery set me up to have the best postpartum thus far, too. It started with a chicken quesadilla and endless yogurt parfaits.
Again, special thanks to Jeff. This delivery was not the first time he straightened things out with the medical staff for me. One of my top pieces of advice for childbirth: make sure you have an advocate with you.]]>
In my pre-kids life I guess I was almost a gym rat. Jeff and I would work out for a couple of hours 5-6 days per week in addition to three two-hour jujutsu practices per week. Our main gym was the university campus gym. Since we both worked on campus, it was relatively convenient and we could go straight from a workout to jujutsu.
Needless to say that changed after the first set of twins. Campus gyms don’t have childcare, for instance. I can’t tote two babies (or more) around the gym as I work out.
It took us almost nine months after Rory and Ginny were born to join the YMCA, which has childcare *and* a gym. Jeff apparently knew that from taking his older kids there, but somehow it took us nine months to justify another gym membership on top of the overpriced campus memberships that we needed for jujutsu.
Guess what? At the Y, I can drop the kids off and go work out! Otherwise I’d have to squeeze in my workout during daycare hours. We’ve been members since then and I’ve used the childcare a lot during pregnancy just to get a break for my tired, achy body. It’s the first thing I recommend to moms who need a break or are having trouble finding time to work out. If you’re concerned about your kids getting sick in child watch, yes that happens. But is it better for them to have a stressed out, less healthy mom or to get an occasional virus that probably builds their immune system anyhow? (Barring immune compromised children, of course.)
At our new house we also assembled a gym in the basement, complete with kettle bells, squat rack, wrestling mat, and adjustable dumbbells. We’re kind of serious about this working out thing, though you may not know it by looking at us right now. The last several years have been rough. I had three closely spaced twin pregnancies. Jeff had a rotater cuff (shoulder) reconstructed, a knee replaced, and the other knee scoped.
We both feel the lack of activity and we’ve become less active since moving out of town. We used to walk or bike to work, daycare, restaurants, and parks. Now we live on a chunk of land in the country on a state highway. No more walking off of our property. I thought rural living would make us more active since we have more outdoor space and a bunch of land to take care of. I guess it’s easy to let things like that go when they’re no longer compulsory even if we have plenty of opportunity. It’s one of the few things that makes me sad about moving to the country, although I hope we can figure out a way to walk to the nearby Ice Age Trail when the weather warms up. It’d be nice to be able to take a walk with the kids (or even without them) without having to load up the van.
Sometimes I’m sad that I know I won’t get back to my pre-kid fitness level until I’m done having kids, especially since that is likely more than five years away. I really like being strong. It’s not about aesthetics or pounds on the bar. Those are side effects of the capabilities functional strength gives me. At my fittest I was a fair match for college guys in jujutsu who weighed close to 200 pounds and/or were lifelong athletes. It’s going to be a while until my core is back to that level, if it ever is.
I also worry that by the time I’m done having kids I’ll be too old to even approach my pre-kid level of fitness. Hmmm, 40 years old versus 29 years old. I suppose I should grant myself some grace after 11 years of aging and birthing up to 14 children.
Getting older and changing my lifestyle to accommodate family is hard. Sometimes I feel like I barely recognize myself compared to five years ago. Parenthood is truly a sacrifice. But from the ruins left of my old life I think can build something new and better. Imagine the barn wood that is in vogue now. Take those weathered planks, sand them down a bit, and turn them into a beautiful wood floor with clear polyurethane. All the scars are still there, but it is strong and beautiful. Just like a mother to her children, the foundation makes everything else possible.
I may feel tired and run down sometimes, but I almost always feel better and more myself if I get in some gym time. (The notable exception is first and late third trimesters of pregnancy.) As the mom and half of the foundation for our family (Jeff being the other half), I also feel like I am responsible for maintaining the foundation, i.e. myself. If I am strong and healthy mentally and physically, my family can be too.
Just after the one-year mark we’ve finally gotten back into a routine that involves both of us getting gym time. What are we doing? Jeff takes all six kids to the YMCA Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday mornings so he can work out and swim while I stay home to do some chores kid free and get a work out in the basement. Then he works into the evening Tuesday and Thursday while I usually have some hired help with the kids since I’m recovering from my own workout. I think this may be a sustainable schedule. Sick kids would complicate it, of course, but sick kids throw off any schedule.
At about 3 months postpartum from a VBAC, my workout looks like this:
Warm up: 10 minutes on a spin bike, foam rolling, warm up basic movements
Day 1: Romanian deadlifts, dumbbell chest press, split squats, standing single-dumbbell row
Day 2: Front squats, bench row, single leg Romanian deadlift, single dumbbell chest press
Circuit: usually a swing tabata (tabata is 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off, repeat 8 times)
Some days I’ll do it as a beginning strength training workout–3-4 sets of 10 reps. Other days, like yesterday, I get annoyed at my general inactivity and only three workouts per week. Then I up it to 8 sets of 10 reps without dropping the poundage. If I’m short on time, I’ll turn it into a circuit. It’s not really the best goal-oriented way to do things, but it I have to be flexible to fit a workout into my day at all.
My goals for the next six months are:
1. to get back to pre-pregnancy weight, which was about 143 pounds (I’m 5’5″). I started at 156 on February 1 and weighed in at 154 on February 10.
2. to get my body moving the way it should. Pregnancy screws up biomechanics pretty badly between moving muscles around and sticking a giant weight on the front.
3. to get back to what I deem a reasonable level of strength as measured by the pounds on a bar for each lift, assuming 3-5 reps for 3 sets. That looks something like 195 lbs deadlift, 115 lbs front squat, 45 lbs bench row, 40 lbs chest press (per hand).
I had my last OB appointment yesterday and I continue to be a boring patient. Babies are healthy and kicking the crap out of me. The next time I see my OB will be in labor and delivery.
While I’m not exactly excited for the labor and delivery part of things, I’ll be so glad to have it done and not be pregnant. I’m tired of not being able to reach the dining table. I want to recover and be able to pick up my other kids again. I want to be able to pull my weight around the house a bit more again–simple things like doing dishes. It makes my back ache to rinse dishes and load the dishwasher, so that’s largely fallen to Jeff as so many other tasks have.
I’d also like to be able to catch Liam without making myself hurt. A freakin’ one year old can almost outrun me! I kind of feel pathetic sometimes and have to remind myself that I am still making two new people. That counts for something.
I’ve never been one of those people who enjoys pregnancy. Some parts are neat, but it’s mostly a means to a goal for me, the struggle I face to bring our children into the world. Based on belly photos, these may be the biggest ones yet! To be fair, the twinset 2 belly photo (black shirt) is from 1 week, 3 days earlier than the twinset 3 photo (green shirt).
I have almost everything ready and clean for the new babies. What does a mom of two sets of twins shop for when expecting a third set of twins? Surely I must have everything.
Yes, almost. Some stuff disappeared at daycare and our setup will have to be a little different here than at our old house. My big purchases were two simple pack n plays so I can lay down the babies in the play area without the big munchkins having direct access to them. That was always a hazard when Liam and Maggie were smaller.
I replaced a few swaddle blankets and added pack n play sheets for the new pack n plays. I buy jersey sheets because they feel so much softer than regular cotton sheets. I already have waterproof mattress covers because babies leak from everywhere and I can never have too many waterproof covers for things. I replaced our aging changing pad with one designed for a daycare because I’ve basically created a daycare. It only cost $10 more than the one I already had and it matches our bathroom decor!
I bought a grey cozy cover to use instead of the pink one. I do not want to have people assume that I have a boy and girl or two girls all the time. It’s okay every once in a while, but gets annoying with repetition.
The Fisher Price Newborn to Toddler Rainforest Rocker is by far my favorite baby item ever! I didn’t buy any this time since I already have two, but I recommend it to everyone every chance I get. If you’re expecting a baby or shopping for a baby shower, this could be a great gift! It rocks, it rumbles, it folds, it holds up to 40 pounds, and it has a stiff back so baby’s chin doesn’t get squished into his chest. I use it to feed babies, help babies sleep when they’re congested, hold babies so I can sit on the toilet, and rock babies to sleep. The cover is even machine washable!
No, I haven’t been paid to advertise this rocker. I just really love mine.
Completely random: last night I dreamed of baking banana bread. I’d be happy with that as a premonition of things to come shortly postpartum. We’re out of homemade banana bread and it’s been awful.
Anyhow. Back to the fact that I’m increasing my number of children by 50% in a week or less. I’m as ready as I’ll ever be, so my mind is wandering to postpartum planning like the logistics of getting out of the house with six kids, getting back to weightlifting and (Japanese) jujutsu, and scoping out freelance opportunities. It’s never too early to dream of gym goals, right?
I think the last two times my goal was to front squat my body weight (around 145-150 pounds), deadlift 185 pounds, and bench/row 40 pounds per hand (or the equivalent one-rep max) before starting another pregnancy. I’m assuming at this point that my strength goals helped me weather three twin pregnancies without complications or injuries. In any case, I’m not going to test the alternative because I feel better and move better when I’m stronger.
My starting point won’t resemble any of that, though. It’ll be things like chin tucks, bird dogs, push ups against a wall, hanging rows, split squats, and unilateral/Romanian deadlifts, possibly with a hand on something to help me stay upright. No weights, just trying to get my body to move the way it is supposed to because it certainly can’t do that right now. Much more to come on the fitness front.]]>
As I mentioned in the last post, all our kids are from IVF. The timing is closely choreographed by us and a group of medical professionals. I call the doctor’s office and they set up labs and a medication schedule leading up to the embryo transfer. Then I return to the doctor office a few times after the transfer for pregnancy tests and finally an ultrasound around 6.5 weeks to check for number of babies and heartbeats. (I can talk about that experience in a separate post if anyone is interested.)
It’s kind of nice to be able to plan, but it kills some of the excitement of a surprise positive pregnancy test. Each chance at pregnancy costs over $4000. It’s high stakes. So far we’ve been ridiculously fortunate. I think I’d be really upset if we did a transfer and I did not end up pregnant. The next chance at pregnancy would not just be the next month, but whenever we could pull together another $4000 or more and put me through all the medication and office visits to prepare to receive embryos.
Since we do have to plan, we’ve decided to make the most of it and try to optimize timing based on medical advice and practical considerations.
I have some trepidation about this time line. I want to enjoy my marriage with Jeff, not just have our whole lives focus on having and raising kids. And potentially seven twin pregnancies is a lot. So is fourteen kids–financially, practically, emotionally, everything. All of this assumes that all of the embryos survive and none split. There is about a 1%-2% chance of more than two babies in a pregnancy per the doctor, but it was also supposed to be only a 25% chance of twins and I’ve done that three times in a row.
I think both Jeff and I are more likely to regret not having our kids than having too many. We live in an area with a lot of large families. Our neighbors have 10 kids so far and the people who used to own our house had 13. We haven’t run into much criticism of our family size and I think we’re likely to find a supportive social group eventually. We’ve lived here for less than a year and all our kids are young. It’s a slow process. I’m sure we’ll return to this topic a lot going forward as we find our way.
I have yet to find someone who has done what we plan to do. I’m not sure if large family moms with babies close together or moms of higher order multiples are a better approximation. Does anyone have insight on that?]]>
Twins sort of run in my family, as in there are several sets I’ve heard about. My dad’s mom miscarried a set of twins, some cousin supposedly had two sets of twins and a set of triplets among a family of 12 or so children, and my mom’s dad reportedly was a twin but the twin died either in utero or shortly after birth.
None of that matters though. My twins are from IVF. We’ve transferred two embryos four times and both took the last three times. The only failed transfer was the first, fresh transfer. After the egg retrieval my hormone levels were very hard to control and probably made my body inhospitable for implantation. That may have been a blessing in disguise for my health since I also had mild Ovarian HyperStimulation Syndrome (OHSS).
My reproductive endocrinologist (RE) said that for each two-embryo transfer, I’d have approximately a 25% chance of twins, 50% chance of a singleton, and 25% chance of no pregnancy. Somewhere in there was also a 1%-2% chance of triplets or more (one or more embryos divides). If those number are correct, three sets of twins in a row carries a 1.6% chance.
Also, almost 60% of twins are born preterm (before 37 weeks), according to the American Pregnancy Association. (This includes fraternal and identical and identical are often higher risk and are evicted earlier.) Both of my sets so far were evicted as late as the doctor would allow, about 38.5 weeks, and this third set is on track to do the same. They’ve all weighed between 5 pounds 15 ounces and 6 pounds 6 ounces, so no low birth weight babies either.
This is a perfect case study of how statistics apply to a large population, not to an individual. Neither I nor any of my kids have faced complications related to multiple births. You could say I’m lucky. I think I am. My body happens to handle twin pregnancies well and it seems to respond very well to the IVF protocol we use.
We have 8 frozen embryos left out of 16 embryos from a single egg retrieval procedure. The doctor retrieved 42 eggs, I think, which is an unusually high number. According to my RE’s website, the average number of eggs retrieved in my demographic is 10.3. Of those, 2.6 become day-5 blastocysts–the earliest stage at which they can be frozen. The survival rate to that point is about 27%. Our survival rate was 38% (16/42). As I said, IVF worked particularly well for me/us.
The RE apologized for such high numbers. That’s remarkable because he usually comes across as very self assured and he is certainly very good at what he does. In his apology, his tone was almost one of failure. He failed to control the process as well as he wanted and as well as he usually does. He aims for far fewer eggs since more eggs means higher risk for the woman and more embryos can result in some difficult decisions for the parents.
Jeff and I have talked about what to do with all the embryos and have our plan in place. I’ll talk about that in a separate post. For now, I’ll say that having the first set of twins completely changed my perspective.]]>
No signs of premature labor, no complications–just like my other two twin pregnancies. That’s how I like it. How’s my belly? Larger in the mirror than I think it is. I can’t turn any direction to squeeze through spaces and it’s rather annoying. Let’s compare to the last two pregnancies:
I don’t think it’s much different than the second pregnancy. Kind of strange, since babies were head down the first time, sideways the second time, and head down the third time.
Pregnancy side effects: I have the usual heartburn that I manage with ranitidine. This time I had headaches early on, so I’m also taking extra magnesium and B vitamins, specifically riboflavin, to prevent those. As long as I take them all right at bedtime I’m doing well on the headache front. I’ve started feeling some burning along the midline of my belly and pressure in my hips when the babies move. Any movement requires that I brace my belly to make sure it comes along in a timely fashion. My favorite belly belt helps immensely when I am upright, but it squishes babies into lungs and stomach making it hard to breathe and eat after a bit. The kids are disappointed that I can’t pick them up and carry them like I usually do, but it’s only for two or three months. In general, I’m slowing down.
At the growth scan yesterday, the babies measured 3 lb 8 oz and 3 lb 9 oz. My other babies measured larger at this gestational age, but that was also at a different clinic and the estimates of birth weight were always much higher than the actual birth weight. It’ll be interesting to see if the ultrasound measurements are more accurate here.
Both babies are head down. That makes this mama ecstatic! I want to do a VBAC because I hated my very routine and uncomplicated c-section last time. I only had that because little Miss M (bottom baby) had to be sideways. She still has strong opinions at a year and a half old.
The ultrasound images of the babies’ faces are getting less skeletal as they put on more fat. All my babies have been born skinny, so I don’t expect pudgy little cheeks for at least a few weeks after they’re born.
I’m getting excited to meet my newest boys. I don’t remember if I was excited the last two times. We had so many other problems we were dealing with both times that I was distracted from the fact that we had new babies on the way. (Someday I’ll talk about those here.) I’m anxious about going from four to six kids because the four I have can be a handful sometimes, but like everything else Jeff and I do we just carry on and have faith that things will work out somehow. It may be different than we expect and often I have no idea how it will work out, but I have faith that we can manage it.]]>