Day 20: when the reality of twins interrupts the best-laid plans

I am sorely aware that it is Saturday evening, October 31, the last day of the #write31days challenge, and I’m on day 20 of my “31 days of parenting twins” series. It’s easy for me to default into what’s familiar when I’ve not met one of my own expectations: shame of perceived failure, berating myself for not being able to write for 31 days about an experience I live out daily. 

And that’s the catch. In my writer’s mind, I could see the 31-days-of-parenting-twins journey mapped out perfectly ahead of me. The predictable twists-and-turns, like talking about the funny things people say about twins, and the ways my girls have had a “twin sense” about each other since they were born, even exploring together the topics of premature labor, bed rest, potty training twins, “the terrible twos TIMES TWO,” scattering helpful tips along the way. Most importantly, I was excited for the opportunity to write about an experience that is quite unique (while familiar to me), and has been characterized both by double joys and multiplied struggles.

pathway

image from poetsandquants.com


Instead, twins happened.
Over the past month, we had to scramble and cobble together childcare for two all-weekend events two weekends in a row. (Thankful for local grandparents who covered one of them!) We missed an entire week of preschool between the two of them having a bad cold accompanied by a croup-like cough and a fever. (Which means mama didn’t have her usual writing time.) And this week, L. came down with strep. We waited anxiously for signs that A. had it, and breathed a sigh of relief that we’re out of the woods. Or so we hope … just tonight before bed, A. seemed out of sorts and I imagined I heard the beginnings of congestion. Oh my. I feel like I’m in my “grin and bear it” mentality. What’s more likely is that her unexpected and long bedtime tantrum was the sugar low after eating way.too.much Halloween candy tonight during and after trick-or-treating.

With twins, I’m learning to expect the unexpected and unpredictable – both in terms of “way, way harder than I’d imagined” and “so much better than I could have pictured or orchestrated.” Like their spontaneous twin-fairy dancing show we were privy to this morning while sipping coffee after breakfast, or their graceful and radiant twin-princess-glory tonight while trick-or-treating through our neighborhood. The best of times and the worst of times is moments apart in parenting, and especially so if parenting twins. 

So, no, I did not complete the 31 days series in October. And truth be told, there are other topics I’m eager to share with you. Like what I learned in October, and reflections on Konmari organizing, and how excited I am that my book Unashamed: Healing our Brokenness and Finding Freedom from Shame is now available for pre-order (Crossway, to be released June 2016).

But this story of twins? It’s my life. I do want to share the rest of the story someday. I hope to finish it in November at various points.

For tonight, I’ll conclude by saying thank you for journeying with me thus far. I hope you’ll continue to follow along with my writing here on my blog. If you’re a fellow twin parent, I hope that something has resonated with you and given you even the smallest sense of being less alone as you’re outnumbered by twin babies/toddlers/preschoolers/etc.

If you want to continue to follow along, subscribe to my blog or like my Facebook page “Hidden Glory” to get updates. For the month of October, I’m participating in “Write31Days” and my series is “31 Days of Parenting Twins.” 

Day 7: bed rest at 25 weeks

Trigger warning: If you are currently pregnant with twins and you’re fearful about bed rest, be careful about reading this post. And exercise your freedom of choice to skip it if it begins to increase your fear factor. My story is just that – my story. It’s not every twin mom’s story. And I do hope to introduce you to a few more of my friends along the way who had different twin pregnancy stories which would reassure you. 

I think it would work best in timeline form:

  • June 29, 2010 – moving day! We had found our first home to buy once we knew we were expecting twins and would need to move out of our small 1.5 bedroom apartment in the city. After about a month of minor renovations and major repainting, our new home was ready for us. The movers came that bright, sunny Tuesday morning. I ran out to 7-Eleven to buy gatorade for them; dropped it off; and then left for my routine biweekly OB checkup at 25 weeks.
  • I was being closely monitored for the possibility of early preterm labor which meant that every appointment I had a routine ultrasound and saw my babies – such #relief! But not this appointment. As soon as the ultrasound tech saw what was happening: that the signs of preterm labor were there, a long anxiety-provoking medical pause occurred, followed by a grim pronouncement. The words sunk in like lead: “Your body looks like it’s trying to deliver these babies. You will be on strict bed rest for the rest of your pregnancy.” 
  • I began sobbing. My first question was, “Does this mean I can’t go to my brother’s wedding [in South Carolina 10 days afterward]?” The answer provoked more tears and panic rushed in like a dam breaking.
  • My husband turned over oversight of our move to the incredible deacons at our church and accompanied me as I was admitted to the maternal-fetal medicine ward of the hospital. The worst part was signing the consent to treat forms for my only 1.5 pound twin babies that I did not want to be born yet. They asked us if we had installed car seats yet, and our deer-in-the-headlights response conveyed the shock of two generally well-prepared people. We were thinking, Car seats? We don’t even have a change of clothes! Or a moved-in home to which to return!
  • The next 24-48 hours of hospitalization are largely a blur with moments of clarity: the reassuring manner of the MFM doctor who assured me that I was not in full-blown preterm labor but only early preterm labor which they’d been able to halt through medical interventions; the generous friends who brought over dinner to us that evening and other meals so that I did not have to eat hospital food; begging the nurses and medical residents/doctors to discharge me so that I could actually get some rest like they said I needed; the claustrophobia of the barren white hospital room; multiple ultrasounds reassuring me that both babies were fine and good despite their mama’s panic.
  • July 1, 2010: Discharged with strict instructions for bed rest and the hope that “if you make it to 28 weeks, we will all be amazed and your babies will have a much better chance of viability.” This terrified me. And drove me to desperate, bold prayers to the God who hears. We prayed and asked our family and friends to pray that our girls would make it to 34 weeks, a medical improbability according to my doctors.
bed rest

image from en.wikipedia.com

Spoiler alert: They were born 2 days after I reached the 35-week mark! (I am breezing over the 10 weeks of strict bed rest – one trip up and down the stairs/day, no getting out of the recliner or bed except for bathroom visits and a brief shower, the only outing being my weekly doctor’s visits. For more read here where I blogged
through the experience and received so much support from so many.)

If you want to continue to follow along, subscribe to my blog or like my Facebook page “Hidden Glory” to get updates. For the month of October, I’m participating in “Write31Days” and my series is “31 Days of Parenting Twins.” 

Day 3: exuberant joy becomes overwhelming shock

I can remember the day and the moment like it was yesterday. I also journal my way through life, so I have a convenient entry to remind me precisely when this moment occurred. It was a shift from “wow – I can’t believe the double miracle growing with me” and the fears of miscarriage (since I continued to have regular and unexplained bleeding throughout the first trimester) to one of overwhelming shock. Like shock that fills in every inch of every free mental space you have in the executive function area of your brain. I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to manage twins day to day:

3/2/10 (8 weeks)

How will I possibly manage twins? The thought terrifies me, and the fear can creep in triggered by the simple fact of seeing another mom with her baby in the grocery store and then realizing I won’t even be able to do that by myself. They don’t make grocery carts for twin babies!

I think I’m being confronted with a season of dependence like I’ve never experienced in my adult life. I will need help. Seth and I will need help. We won’t be able to do this in our usual M.O. – self-sufficiency and independence. We will truly be dependent on our family and community of friends….

photo credit: twinversity.com

photo credit: twinversity.com

I now affectionately refer to this as “the grocery store moment.” If you’re a parent of twins, did you have a similar revelation of how different and uniquely demanding it would be to parent twins? What was it like for you? And what did you do in response? 

Today will be a double edition since I missed yesterday due to a much-needed deep purge and clean of five years’ worth of twin gear from our basement. And, yes, it has been as overwhelming as I thought and more so in many ways. But spoiler alert: we’ve made it so far, and so will you if you’re an expectant parent-of-twins or in the foggy zone of newborn-age 2 of twins. It gets better – let that be your beacon of hope as it was for me as you navigate this unique journey of parenting twins.

Tonight I’ll write about what I did in response to my overwhelming fear/shock of anticipating the reality of twins.

If you want to continue to follow along, subscribe to my blog or like my Facebook page “Hidden Glory” to get updates. For the month of October, I’m participating in “Write31Days” and my series is “31 Days of Parenting Twins.” 

Day 2: twin pregnancy, first trimester: nausea, exhaustion, and PB&J

If you were to ask my friends and family how they remember my twin pregnancy, you would likely get one of three answers:

  1. “Heather was always tired!” I vaguely remember the fog of deep exhaustion and the sleepless nights. It was such a bad combination – I would be exhausted all day, then could barely sleep at night. One Saturday early into pregnancy we walked around a museum with good friends who were visiting from Philly, and all I remember about that day is looking for the next bench on which to rest.  I was thankful that I didn’t have many counseling clients during those weeks because it was difficult to stay awake throughout the afternoon (much less make it past 8 or 9pm).
  2. “Heather ate ALL the time.”

“I remember she brought a cooler full of healthy snacks to our overnight women’s retreat. And she ate everything she brought.” -Maria

“We were signing closing papers, and Heather was eating a granola bar.” – our realtor, Jenn

“Every night, I had to make a PB&J sandwich and put it by her bedside table because she would wake up in the middle of the night hungry and nauseous.” – Seth, my husband

And it’s true. I ate at least hourly, and I would still be starving. It was incredible to try to keep up my caloric intake for two babies. My healthcare providers had conflicting opinions, which was confusing: my OB said to watch my weight; my midwife said to eat as much as I could, and then some more. I chose to follow my midwife’s advice. And I definitely put on the pounds. dr barbara luke twinsBut there were TWO babies, and I had read in my favorite twin-pregnancy-preparation book that the more calories you eat early on into your pregnancy, the better chance your twins had of fully developing before delivery.

2 – “Although Heather had it pretty good in terms of no throwing up; she hated the nausea the worst.” The constant eating was the only way to stave off the nausea and try to keep it at bay. It was counterintuitive to eat when I felt like anything but – yet eating effectively pushed down the nausea, at least until those calories wore off. Mornings were my best; afternoons and evenings the worst. I distinctly remember the evening that pregnancy nausea hit me head on: I found myself feeling increasingly queasy while watching Julie and Juliaa movie about Julia Childs. To the point that I couldn’t even think about that movie for months without my stomach turning. In fact, I don’t think I’ve watched it since – the power of negative associations. It started around week 8 and lasted until week 16. Which is *nothing* compared to many pregnancies, like my friends who were nauseous and vomiting the entire three trimesters. I felt like a wimp but I really hate the feeling of nausea, so this part of pregnancy was almost the worst for me. What helped me:

  • Jolly Ranchers for the first few weeks, recommended by a friend. The sour-sweet would immediately arrest my nausea and help me make it through important tasks, like grocery shopping. jolly ranchers
  • Eating only white foods for the next few weeks. Seriously I only wanted potatoes, bread, and bananas. It was weird! And Chick-Fil-A waffle fries. I could always eat those.
  • When all else failed, I called in for Zophran at week 15.5 because I simply couldn’t stand it anymore. And it was so helpful, so that before I knew it, I was out of the woods of the first trimester and into the second one.

That wraps up today’s post. I would love to hear your own stories as you’re reading.

If you want to continue to follow along, subscribe to my blog or like my Facebook page “Hidden Glory” to get updates. For the month of October, I’m participating in “Write31Days” and my series is “31 Days of Parenting Twins.” 

Day 1: how I found out I was having twins

February 3, 2010 / 4 weeks pregnant

I could barely sleep for excitement – knowing I would be taking a pregnancy test in the morning. And I found out that I am pregnant. I am with child. There’s a little BABY growing inside me. I’m in shock I think … disbelief … overjoyed. And yet not really entirely surprised. No, I take that back. I AM entirely surprised. Entirely. Absolutely.

But the excitement was soon replaced by fear when I started spotting unexpectedly. My mind immediately went to the saddest place: miscarriage. At age 30, I’d walked alongside many friends on this journey of heartbreaking loss. I knew it was a very real possibility. So when my OB-GYN asked me to come in sooner than the scheduled appointment to see what was going on, I assumed the worst. My husband, Seth, accompanied me.

February 17, 2010 / 6 weeks

my first glimpse of twins during my first ultrasound at 6 weeks

my first glimpse of twins during my first ultrasound at 6 weeks

We are expecting TWINS – oh.my.goodness. What joy! What a surprise ~ what a miracle to hear two heartbeats yesterday! Psalm 37:4 “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” I can’t help but connect this to my secret hope and desire that I’d have twins. I’ve always wanted to have twins, and it really does feel like a dream come true! (I’m sure I’ll need to be reminded of that when I’m in such intense discomfort and we’re getting no sleep …!)

Now that was an understatement. But I’m getting way, way ahead of myself. I’ll introduce this series by going ahead and answering one of the pressing questions you have if you don’t have twins, and the questions you’ve heard ad nauseam if you do:

So were they natural? (usually followed up with) Do twins run in your family

My favorite answer is from another twin mama who likes to say, “Yes. They’re natural. We had sex.” I chuckled and cheered inside when she told me, but I never quite had the guts to be so bold. In our case though, YES, they were “natural,” as in we were completely, utterly surprised to be expecting twins and had not been through any fertility treatments nor had we been trying for very long to have kids. But did you really want to know all that when you accosted me in the grocery store as I was trying to marathon it through without one or both babies waking? In my more gracious moments, I know you’re simply curious and intrigued. But it’s hard to be gracious when you know at.any.moment you could have a twin tantrum on your hands. (That will be a post later in this series.)

On to your next question – YES, twins run in my family. Both sides. My grandfather was a twin, and Seth’s great-grandmother was a twin. But what I learned through having twins is that twinning is only genetic if the twins are fraternal. Identical “just happens.” And twinning is only genetic through the maternal side of the family. So if I feel like being super-chatty with you in the checkout line, I might explain all that to you. And I may even tell you that my grandfather was an identical twin; and my husband’s twin history doesn’t count; so the *real* answer to your question is “no – twins don’t run in my family.” No other extended family member on either side has had twins in recent history.

I am quite thankful that (a) we found out so early into pregnancy because it takes me forever to process big news and this was the biggest news of my life and (b) Seth was with me at the appointment and that he was sitting down. It was only one of a handful of moments I’ve seen him being entirely surprised. (The first was when I told him that I was in fact interested in dating him. This was a month after I’d instructed him not to ask me out on a third date because I wasn’t interested nor were we emotionally connected. But that will be for another series.)

If you want to continue to follow along, subscribe to my blog or like my Facebook page “Hidden Glory” to get updates. For the month of October, I’m participating in “Write31Days” and my series is “31 Days of Parenting Twins.”