Twenty (one) Fingers and Twenty Toes

It sort of feels like we have been keeping a secret. I would say that I didn’t intend to but that wouldn’t be the complete truth. Granted, the time to blog or put any thoughts down is pretty rare with twins but this is something I’ve wanted to write for a while and have shied away from for longer than I’d like to admit.

Now that you’ve all read our harrowing (though hopefully not too graphic) birth story, I’ll pick up where they’ve just wheeled me into my room after the PACU and Chad and his mom are waiting. In a haze of pain and anesthesia, I found myself searching for two baby beds and looked longingly at Chad to explain where they were. My sweet husband, knowing me so well, pulled out his phone and showed me my first pictures of my babies. His first words were “they’re breathing on their own” and then their weights, probably the detail I had been most anxious about during my pregnancy. Little did I know that 8 pound babies can end up in a NICU just as easily as 5 pounders. He then smiled at me a slightly strained smile and announced “Luke has an extra thumb.” He knew that this detail would shake up his usually-fragile-but-currently-already-shattered wife. Excuse me, what? Beg pardon? My baby has 11 fingers? What is this, The Princess Bride? Jokes aside, I was rocked by this news. Instantly, I felt like I had done something wrong in my pregnancy and that Luke was suffering those consequences. Would this extra digit mean developmental issues to come later? It was one of many scenarios that I had never even thought to consider.

I feel that I need to pause here and do some explaining. Some of you might be reading this and thinking “chill out, woman, it’s a thumb, not an extra head.” Some of you might be totally freaking out. I want to give you the space to do either. I can only tell you my own process and how I have been changed by this precious boy that God has entrusted me to raise.

I’ve had a long, long battle with appearances. For most of my life, I have wanted to project that everything is fine, everything will be fine, and I’m good. Infertility had a lot to do with changing that. I now crave honesty and authenticity. I surround myself with people who desire the same and are active in that pursuit. Those willing to be vulnerable but also proactive in their own growth. When your husband tells you that your baby has 11 fingers, you kind of forget about that battle against appearances and just have a panicky thought of not only “what does this mean?” but also “what will people think?!?”

If not for Chad, I probably would have stayed in that panic. If not for Chad, I don’t know where I’d be. I am a woman truly blessed. Chad calmed me and wiped my tears as I allowed the anesthesia to wear off and this new realization to sink in. My baby was born with a genetic abnormality. He was not “perfect.” And he wasn’t in my arms.

I read an amazing article when the babies were about 3 months old that really resonated with me. It was one woman’s story about how she, and we as a culture, are trying to create what she called “superbabies”. She talked about how she ate only organic, exercised daily, attended all the birth classes, and did everything perfectly and her baby was born (in a water birth, no less) underweight, underdeveloped, and with a fairly severe chromosomal disorder. She is 5 and still in diapers and weighs only 22 pounds. This woman’s story is not my own. Shoot, my biggest pregnancy craving was a Southern greasy fast food joint called Cookout. Ketchup could have served as it’s own food group for most of my pregnancy. But I think there is a part of every woman who wants that “superbaby”. The oft quoted phrase of “we don’t care if it’s a boy or a girl, we just want a healthy baby” rang in my ears like a sad failure. Was my boy not healthy?

What about the babies who aren’t born healthy? Do their parents not rejoice when they first see them? What about the babies like mine, who are fortunate by many, many standards, to have had what’s considered a short NICU stay? What about my daughter who has a hemagione (cluster of blood vessels) in her hair? Or my son with his sweet little lobster claw hand? Or what about Jimmy Kimmel’s son born with a terrifying heart condition? Or the countless other babies in the NICU that surrounded my babies for 8 days and 20 days respectively. Are they any less wonderfully made or knit together by God?

I’m terribly ashamed to admit that I watched Luke insanely closely for the first 2 months of his life. My first glimpses of him and moments with him were spent in awe but also fear as I tried to see if there was anything else “wrong.” I would read into his grunts and his cries, looking for there to be something more. Was his colic different or worse than Leia’s? His hair is falling out, Oh Lord, is there something wrong? He’s really solid and dense, what does that mean? He sure does cry a lot! What’s up with that? None of it was helped by the fact that we couldn’t get him to finish a bottle for the longest time in the NICU. It wasn’t that he would get full or fall asleep, he would just stop sucking. He knew he would get the rest through his nose tube so why go to the effort? He’s Chad’s son, after all.

I hate that I spent the first two months+ of his life looking for what was wrong rather than seeing what was absolutely right about him.

Luke came home from the NICU on Wednesday, February 1st. The babies original due date was Wednesday, February 1st. These babies and their milestones and accomplishments will never be in my timing. This baby boy of mine will not be rushed. He will do things in his own time and we will celebrate with joy when he does. I will move heaven and earth to help him but I had to learn when he was 20 days old that it’s not going to go according to my plan.

The changing point for me happened when I saw him smile for the first time. Sappy as it sounds, the boy smiled (in response to a fart, of course) and something lifted and I felt a peace about Luke I had never felt before. This boy of mine, this big-feeling, loud, strong boy who kicked my bladder mercilessly for months, will always keep me on my toes. Just as I will form and shape him, he will do the same to me. Loving him will change me. I had to stop and let him be who God intended him to be, whether that meant he was “perfect” or not. I had to embrace the ways he was different and allow myself to begin to do the same in my own life. I am his model and will be a voice in his head and I so badly want to be one that assures him how awesome he is in every way. His smile was my rainbow from God, telling me that my son is in much greater Hands than my own. This left hand that scared me and worried me was uniquely designed by Him and all of Luke will hopefully be used for His glory.

In a little over a month, we will wake Luke up and take him down to Levine Children’s Hospital, as renowned and wonderful a hospital as I could ask for, and they will operate and remove Luke’s extra thumb. I can say with complete sincerity that I, for one, will be sad to see it go. He will be in a cast for 3 weeks but the surgeon expects there to be no complications and said that she wouldn’t worry about any other developmental disorders. She sees no cause for concern. His polydactyl is the most common type and the one they remove the most. Luke will go on for the rest of his days with just 10 fingers, barring any freak accidents or stupid hijinks. To the rest of the world, he will be perfectly “normal.” But I know, and now you know, that Lucas Richard Beach bears a unique thumbprint of the Almighty and he has since the day he was born.

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The Day The Twins Were Born (Ewww Gross, A Birth Story)

This is my solemn vow to you: I will not tell you anything remotely close to graphic! I had the honor being in the delivery room when my sister had her first son and while it was amazing and life-changing and all of the beautiful things, the aftermath looked a lot like the beaches of Normandy and also served as great birth control for about two years afterwards.

Chad and I had a laminated birth plan in our go bag, which was packed at 31 weeks. About the only function it served was as a great coaster for us as we waited in the hospital with me hooked up to all kinds of machines. On Friday, January 6th, I had an appointment at my OB. We were seeing them twice a week since the beginning of the third trimester. My OB is across the street from the hospital we toured and where we hoped to deliver. That Friday, I saw a doctor I had never seen before who also happened to have twins. Dr. Little looked at my blood pressure reading and the protein count in my urine and advised that we head across the street and “get monitored more closely”. She made it sound like it was going to be just that, monitoring. So, Chad and I go home and get our hospital bags and call my parents to see if they can get Oreo. Oh, did I mention that Friday, January 6, 2017 was supposed to be the night that Charlotte got hit with a snow/ice storm? And that Charlotte has no idea how to handle said snow or ice?

Chad and I go to the maternity floor and they put us in a room and I get hooked up to all the machines and we wait. Truly, at this point in my pregnancy, I was so swollen and huge that walking and getting up out of a bed or chair was both hysterical and super painful. The preeclampsia had added about 25 pounds of water weight from weeks 32-34 and my joints ached all the time. My parents stopped by the hospital to pray with us and my blood pressure spiked (apparently talking and excitement can really affect preeclampsia) and two readings were at dangerous levels so the nurse immediately made them leave and I got a rather forceful shot in my hip to bring down my blood pressure. I was pretty scared at that point.

My favorite OB, Dr. Hobbs, was on call at the hospital and she came in and said that with my blood pressure where it was, she was not comfortable with us going home. She wanted me to stay at least overnight in case we had to emergency deliver. However, the NICU at Novant Huntersville (where I wanted to deliver) was overfilled. It only was equipped to handle 2 babies (TWO???) and there were already 4 in there. So, we had a choice to make. If we chose to stay at that hospital and my blood pressure didn’t regulate, they would have to do an emergency c-section and because I was under 35 weeks, the babies would automatically be transferred about 25 minutes down the road to Novant Presbyterian (Main) hospital and I would recover at a different hospital. Or, I could be transferred via ambulance in a snow storm to the same hospital where they are able to handle over 60 babies in the NICU. Dr. Hobbs sweetly held my hand as I cried and said if it was her sister or herself, she would recommend that we go down south and be where I could see the babies after they delivered. So that was the choice we made.

Of course, that also meant that none of the doctors who had monitored my pregnancy would be involved in our delivery. I would be transferred to an entirely new staff that I didn’t know. I trusted her opinion but it was a big adjustment to make.

We waited 3 hours for the ambulance to come. I couldn’t eat or drink anything in case we had to do an emergency c-section so I was so thirsty and worried about my blood sugar due to my gestational diabetes. I got a (really painful) steroid shot in my thigh that was supposed to help the babies lungs develop more quickly and the goal was to hold out 48 hours so I could get the second one. Chad and I also had a rather emotional confrontation with the nurse who told me that “this was the first hard thing of many that I HAD to do for my babies” and the thing I HAD to do was bring down my blood pressure with preeclampsia.

The ambulance comes, we get to Presbyterian and I get hooked up to a machine that checks my blood pressure every 5 minutes for the next 4 hours and every half hour after that until 8 am. Not the best night. My blood pressure eventually goes back down and we are moved to a room on the special care ward. To make a long story shorter, the next 5 days had a kind of predictability to them. My blood pressure would be elevated but controlled most of the day and then at night, it would start to skyrocket. As would my anxiety. Tuesday and Wednesday night, the doctor was paged to see if we needed to deliver and both times they made the call to wait it out. I had seen the specialist on Monday morning and he said that I “wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon.” We scheduled a c-section for January 27th and we hunkered in and prepared to wait.

Chad’s mom got into town on Wednesday the 11th and my parents came to the hospital to see me and perhaps all the interaction or perhaps it was just the course of preeclampsia but Wednesday night, i started to get spots in my vision which was a sign that my blood pressure was way too high. Again, the nurse paged the doctor on call and we were told to wait. I slept a little and woke up panicked as would often happen those last few days. Worried that I couldn’t breathe and if I couldn’t breathe, they weren’t getting enough oxygen. I would turn on hymns and hold Chad’s hand and just pray for God to keep us all safe. I was really scared at this point.

The next morning at 7:45, Vicky, the nurse (not my favorite, by the way), came in and took my breakfast tray before I touched it and said that the specialist had made the decision that they were taking the babies that morning. I’ll never forget our conversation. Chad was downstairs getting his own breakfast so he wasn’t present. Vicky said that the doctors had said “something about a section this morning”. I looked at her and said “A C-SECTION??” I had never heard it called that before and I was more than a little exhausted and groggy. I texted Chad to come up and said “you want to become a daddy today??”

It was 8:10 am and the doctor came in and said that we were scheduled for 10:30. From two weeks to 2 hours notice. The time after that was frantic with activity and monitoring. the babies were hooked up to a machine to make sure their heartbeats stayed the same, people were doing stuff with cheap razors, I was getting shots and blood drawn and signing papers, and begging for a Xanax with everything in me.

Because we were having twins and because I had terrible preeclampsia, we were taken to a standard OR and not the one on the maternity floor. I was wheeled through what seemed like acres of the hospital and put into a room with a staff of nurses who didn’t usually work in the regular OR so they had no idea what they were doing. Neither did we. I was now scared out of my mind. The nurse said that she didn’t think Chad could be in there with me during the procedure and that was not happening so that was the only time I got snippy in the whole hospital stay. (That’s probably a lie.)

At 10:45 they wheel me into a freezing room, put a huge needle in my back for the epidural and then strap my arms down and put a blue sheet up so I mercifully can’t see what’s happening. With twins, each baby has a team that provides their care in the OR. Luke’s team was to my left and Leia’s team was by my feet. I could barely see Luke’s team and I couldn’t see Leia’s at all. I also had a team of 2 anesthesiologists, two doctors, a scrub tech, and probably 4 nurses myself. There were A LOT of people in that room. At one point, I looked at Chad who was by my head and very much not looking at what was going on beyond the screen, if I was completely naked and he answered, “yep!” I was a little too overwhelmed to be embarrassed.

I reacted strangely to all the anesthesia so I was shaking like crazy through all of it.The anesthesiologist asked if I was cold several times but I really couldn’t feel anything. Even my hands and arms were heavy. I watched as they pulled Luke out first, held him so we could see him, and the whole room yelled “Happy birthday!” He let out a tiny cry and I was so relieved. Of course, I was hoping they would bring him up to my chest so I could hold him and see him because that’s how it goes in the movies and that’s what I’ve seen in friends pictures. But Luke was quickly taken to his station on the left and I couldn’t see or hear anything.

Now it was time for baby girl. They are two minutes apart and it felt like we waited two hours for them to shout that second “Happy Birthday!” The doctor later told me that she was a bit nervous that she would have a hard time delivering Leia without complications because she was sitting so high in my ribs. When Luke was born and out, Leia remained wedged in my right rib cage. The next part happened really fast and I don’t quite remember all of it. Chad and I heard a big spray almost like a hose coming on and Chad saw blood splatter on the face of one of the doctors and some nurses. We both heard someone say “we have a rupture!!” and then the family doctor resident was literally on my chest and pushing Leia out of ribs, forcing contractions so she came out. He was later named the “human contractor” by our primary OB. They did not hold Leia up and we did not see her. Well, I saw her as they whisked her up to the NICU in her hospital bed from a distance. I didn’t hear her cry and I didn’t see her face.

The neonatologist on Luke’s team brought him over bundled and capped and “introduced” me to my son. All I remember is seeing his lips and how big they were and thinking, “yes, he’s mine!”. And then Luke was taken to the NICU as well. Chad had to leave and I was taken into post acute care to recover. I was in far too much of a fog to process the fact that I had just given birth to two babies that I hadn’t held or kissed yet.

I didn’t “meet” Luke and Leia until they were over 12 hours old. I saw them in pictures and videos that Chad and his mom would bring back to show me. The pictures above are what my babies looked like in the hours after their birth. No birth plan ever involves those kind of images. I cried a lot on January 12. I cried from fear and joy and pain and exhaustion but mostly tears of a mother who had waited a long time to meet these babies and couldn’t.

As with any c section, there were a lot of things that had to happen before I would be safe to move. The dangling carrot in front of me was if I could do all these things, then I could go down to the NICU and meet my babies. Every single nurse I had said that I should wait until the next morning but I surprised even myself and did whatever I had to in order to go see them. I’ll spare you all the details but apparently I looked at Chad’s mom at some point and said “I’ll never walk again”.

At 11:45 pm, Chad wheeled me down to the NICU. I stretched as far as I could over the sinks and washed my hands for an agonizing three minutes (NICU protocol) sure that I was going to pop open at any minute. They wheeled me to their beds and I sobbed with relief as I saw that neither was needing help breathing and both were in normal beds, doing great. They placed them both on my chest and though it had been maybe the strangest, hardest day of my life, I wept with joy.

Chad and I have a slideshow of baby pictures that runs on our TV when we aren’t watching something. Both babies love to watch “their picture show”. Every now and again, a photo of them from those first few hours will come up. I have thought several times about deleting them out of the rotation. Leia hooked up to a breathing unit to support her lungs in case she needed it is not how I thought their birthday would go. Luke flipped onto his stomach because he was pulling off the leads and with blood on his bed from his IV is not the picture I thought we would frame. Our story has probably always been one where nothing goes according to plan. It’s hard and often defeating for this planner when that happens. But just when I’m ready to hit delete and try to block out those hard memories, a picture will pop up of my babies at one month or four months, smiling and chubby and HAPPY. And I remember the look in my eyes in the pictures of the first time I held them both in my arms that night and it’s one of pain, to be sure, but also one of pure bliss at having the best gift you’ve ever been given literally laid on your chest. THAT is a picture that could never be deleted.IMG_9210IMG_9235

You Down With PPD?

For the last four and a half months, Chad and I have had two beautiful but noisy squatters living in our bedroom. These squatters that we prayed for and went through quite a bit of money and medical procedures to produce were evicted from our room last week and put into the lovely nursery that I joyfully designed for them while they kicked away in my belly. I need to say this as much for myself as for anyone else. I could NOT love them more. They (and Chad) are my whole world and every single day, I am grateful for them. But, the last two months have been rough. Way rough.

I want to be as candid about my postpartum depression as I was about my infertility. I am not on the other side. I feel the clouds lifting and I am beyond grateful. But I am aware that I am still very much in the midst of this current struggle. Praise be, my OB has a counselor literally embedded into their practice just for this very reason and she has been so helpful. This is a course I have not navigated before. I hesitated to admit that I had postpartum depression because I was worried that it confirmed my biggest fear; that I am a bad mom. That I am not cut out for this and that my weak mental state will ultimately lead to my destruction as well as that of my kids. And in part, I didn’t want to admit it because it gets such a bad wrap from so many people.  It isn’t always that you want to drown your baby in the bathtub or drive them into the lake. It isn’t even always that you feel like you can’t bond with them. Sometimes, it is the feeling of being completely overwhelmed and unable to see that life will ever be different. For me, it’s not feeling confident to make any decision or think clearly. It’s not wanting to be alone with the babies because I’m afraid they will cry and I won’t be able to meet their needs and soothe them. I’m not sure if the fatigue is from caring for two babies 24/7 or the PPD but it’s there.

The cumulative effect of infertility, insane amounts of hormones, IUI’s, a terrible pregnancy, emergency hospitalization for preeclampsia, NICU stays for both my babies, and colic just wore me down to the point that I was crying every time I was alone with them. Chad would leave for work and I would sit anxiously hoping that one of the babies wouldn’t wake up because I was doubtful of my ability to comfort or care for them. Colic seemed to be stealing all the joy of motherhood and there was nothing that was able to console my sweet children and often we would all dissolve into tears together.

I was basically a sitting duck where PPD is concerned so I wasn’t shocked to be diagnosed with it. But I was shocked to be so “new” to a diagnosis given my line of work.  I felt inferior and ungrateful for these wonderful babies. I judge(d) myself so harshly for feeling frustrated when one baby finally falls asleep only to have the other wake up crying. I look at people on social media doing amazing things with their babies and posting cute monthly photos and think “man, they are just so much better at this than I am!” I feel overwhelmed by almost every decision that needs to be made and I constantly feel like I might make the wrong choice. I am using present tense because I still feel all of these things but not as strongly as I did three weeks ago. Three weeks ago, I stood over Luke’s pack n play, crying (always crying) and hoping he wouldn’t wake up and wake up Leia who had finally just gotten to sleep after being rocked for 30 minutes and the only thought I had was, I want to get in the car and go. I want to drive somewhere, anywhere, and not come back for a week.

I realized that my heart as a mother hung in this sad limbo of wanting Luke and Leia to grow out of some of this stuff that was making life so hard and at the same time, seeing them grow and missing how little they used to be. The guilt over feeling like I’m missing i!  I’m missing my babies growing up and these precious moments because I’m so anxious. I was scared to admit that this is not the best time in my life, the time I have always waited for. This time was hard and unappreciated and, dare I say it, downright shitty sometimes. (Sorry!, no other word describes it as well).

Recently, I realized that there is a part of me that has felt defeated since they were born at 35 weeks and 1 day. I fought everyday for weeks, for months really, to keep them safe and in my womb as long as I could. In the end, the inability to get my blood pressure to lower and the resulting anxiety that led to the decision to take them at 35 weeks felt like a failure. As they struggled in the NICU and then at home, I felt like my own frailty had permanently saddled them with bodies that were underdeveloped and riddled with problems that a fully cooked baby might not have. I am choosing to stop believing this lie because it’s not helpful and my babies are fearfully and wonderfully, powerfully made.

I called my counselor and asked for her soonest appointment. She kindly helped me see that I was nearing crisis levels of exhaustion and anxiety and that I needed a “corrective mothering experience”. Her recommendation was to go to the nearest hotel, check myself in, and not leave the bed for 2 days. My tendency is to not know how bad something is until someone else tells me how bad it is. So, while going to the Ritz was not exactly an option for me, I did tell Chad that we had to do something and make changes immediately because the way we were doing things and caring for the babies was not a sustainable plan for me.

He took two weeks off and we set about making changes for our family. I moved into the guest room to get better sleep and not wake up with every sound the babies made and speed read as many books on sleep training multiples as I could. We made a decision that scared both of us: to move the babies into their own room and begin the process of sleep training our 4.5 month olds. (A dear friend lost their granddaughter to SIDS three weeks after Luke and Leia were born and we were gun-shy.) I decided that the method for sleep training we would use was going to be the one that was the most recommended and that was Weissbluth’s “no-peek, extinction cry-it-out”. Wait, their crying stresses me out and you want me to increase it? How sadistic! But I didn’t want to put us all through various methods. I wanted to try the one that worked the fastest and was recommended by their pediatrician and other experts. And I also decided that I would take an Ambien and Chad would take the first night.

I kid you not, I fully believe that Chad and I were getting in the way of our babies sleep. By the 3rd night, we were able to lay them in their cribs, fully awake, and they put themselves to sleep with zero crying. The last 6 days have been nothing short of miraculous for this tired mama.

But, as with our infertility journey, I don’t want to talk about all of this in hindsight. As far as I am concerned, this battle with postpartum and feeling overwhelmed is still ongoing. Sleep has helped more than I thought possible. For me and the babies. I have been able to fall in love with them all over again every morning when I get them up. And they are happier and more animated than they have ever been.

My prayer for the last 6 months has been more one of “God, fix it”. Fix these terrible aches and pains from two big babies in my ribs and my pelvis. Fix my blood pressure and keep it under control. Fix this unbearable pain from a complicated c-section. Fix my babies feeding issues and bring them home. Fix the Godforsaken colic. Fix Chad’s job so he’s home at night when our babies are seeing who can burst mommy’s ear drum fastest. Fix it all. My prayer lately has been “God, use it.” Use all of the things that I have gone through, that Chad and I have gone through. I clearly don’t understand why they have all happened but use them for your glory. In counseling, one of the greatest things we can do is allow people the safe place to tell their story. Narrative therapy can be transformative. I’m feeling ready to tell my story. I’m feeling ready to be transformed. I’m feeling ready for God to use it.

Seasons

I went back and looked at our calendar from a year ago. I could feel myself slipping into quite a bit of a pity party as I rushed from one chore to another in the two hours I have while Chad watches the babies in between their feedings. Complaining about how tired I am, of how there is always something more to do and yet somehow it still never feels like enough.  Grumbling under my breath that the house isn’t clean and I haven’t had a shower and how life has this sense of moving at light speed and yet drag at the same time. So I needed a reminder. A year ago, I was taking Letrizole leading up to a week of shots and an eventual IUI that wasn’t successful and caused a lot of heartache. A year ago, I was more rested and we maybe had a bit more money and I didn’t constantly smell like formula but I was still in a difficult season. This year, we have somehow managed to keep two precious humans alive for 3 and a half months. And according to their pediatrician, they are even thriving. Sure, they have colic and they cry a lot. I might have on occasion (and in one very exhausted stretch) referred to them as tyrants but they are the absolute best things Chad and I have ever seen.

Becoming a mother has only reinforced my big belief in seasons of life.  Last April, it was a season of expectation and waiting. Of hoping, dreaming, weeping, and needles. This year is more characterized by busyness and rushing and colic but I never, ever want to stop the awareness that this is a season of longing fulfilled. Fulfilled in the form of a baby boy who is starting to smile and has learned how to suck his thumb.  Fulfilled in the form of a baby girl who’s favorite thing to do is look at lights and kicks her legs like a Rockette. It’s a hard phase of life in feeling like there is not enough of me to go around but I much prefer this one to where we were a year ago.  To all my friends in that season, I pray for you. I can’t promise that God will do for you what He has done for me but I pray that whatever your heart longs for, you will be fulfilled. In Jesus, if nothing else.

Luke and Leia were conceived in a doctor’s office in downtown Charlotte. Not exactly what we always dreamed of to grow our family but I was reminded of a pretty cool thing yesterday. I didn’t want such a holy moment to feel so sterile and impersonal so I asked if I could play some music on my phone during our procedure. I cannot hear those songs today without having tears pour down my face. And the song that was playing when they did the IUI that resulted in my precious twins? “Every Season” by Nichole Nordeman. It’s a song I have loved since college and how appropriate that it’s the song that will always remind me of getting my greatest desire of starting family with Chad fulfilled.

This season of colic and constipation and 7 feedings a day will end. I know that I will look back someday and miss it. Miss being able to hold them both in my arms and, to a large degree protect them. The next season will probably be equally as hard. The opportunity to complain will likely rise again and I hope that God gently pushes me to remember as He did today. That every season may tough but in every season, He is faithful.

Every Season by Nichole Nordeman 

Every evening sky, an invitation
To trace the patterned stars
And early in July, a celebration
For freedom that is ours
And I notice You
In children’s games
In those who watch them from the shade
Every drop of sun is full of fun and wonder
You are summer

And even when the trees have just surrendered
To the harvest time
Forfeiting their leaves in late September
And sending us inside
Still I notice You when change begins
And I am braced for colder winds
I will offer thanks for what has been and was to come
You are autumn

And everything in time and under heaven
Finally falls asleep
Wrapped in blankets white, all creation
Shivers underneath
And still I notice you
When branches crack
And in my breath on frosted glass
Even now in death, You open doors for life to enter
You are winter

And everything that’s new has bravely surfaced
Teaching us to breathe
What was frozen through is newly purposed
Turning all things green
So it is with You
And how You make me new
With every season’s change
And so it will be
As You are re-creating me
Summer, autumn, winter, spring

Yes, I am Naming My Baby….

I never intended to be someone who guarded their baby’s name to “release it” when the baby was born. We are not celebrities; our babies names do not need to be treated with the protection of national security (really, no names do). The reason we have not announced baby girl’s name on social media is much more simple. I didn’t want to deal with the backlash. Everyone, and I mean everyone, has had input into what we should name our little girl. Chad and I knew that if we ever had a son, we would name him after Chad and his late father.  Hence, Lucas “Luke” Richard Beach came really easily. Chad and I also have a hard time agreeing on names in general.  You might not know this, but we are pretty big opposites. Dating Chad became a (sub)cultural experience in “nerdom” the likes of which I never imagined.  I distinctly remember telling one of my best friends after our 2nd date that he painted something called “miniatures” which I thought were just really small canvases.  Apparently, as I now know very well, miniatures are little metal toy solider looking things that you paint under a microscope and people buy them for ridiculous prices. Never would have known that if not for Chad.

Not saying he didn’t have an education in dating me as well.  As much as I hate this expression, I am pretty much a basic white girl.  I like leggings, boots, PSL’s, romantic comedies, puppies, and all of that stuff. I had never watched anime, read a fantasy based book, or heard about RPG’s (role playing games). Chad has two sisters so he knew about most girly things but they weren’t really his thing. Add together these two people together and ask them to name anything, even a car, and we would have two very different knowledge pools from which to draw.

For years, Chad has said that every name I like sounds Elvin or like something from Lord of the Rings (I wouldn’t know, I fell asleep in all of them, those movies are LONG!). The names he liked sounded old and dated. He wanted Biblical names or family names but Chad’s family are excellent procreator’s so we would be hard pressed to find a name that hadn’t been used before. I wanted turn of the century names straight out of Downton Abbey or a Jane Austen novel. He HATED all of them. And then we would discuss it with family and invariably, everyone has some connection to a name from elementary school or this name belonged to that kid who used to launder money and was now in federal prison. Plus we had the added bonus of making it go with the last name Beach which is awesome but can also tend to make a child’s name sound like a destination.

So, without further ado, we are naming our babies Luke and Leia. From Star Wars. Movies that i had not seen in their entirety until last year. Chad had jokingly called baby girl Leia for a long time, supposedly as a joke, but now I think it was subtle subliminal conditioning! I had said when we found out it was twins that if it was boy/girl we could talk about naming them Luke and Leia but that seemed to be a long shot. I really wanted boy/girl twins but didn’t want my daughter to hate me for naming her Leia when she was 15.

As I began to feel them move and kick in my belly, I would try on different names for her for a day at a time. I really wanted Sadie or Emerson. My family loved Eleanor and Chad’s family wanted her to be Lucy. Chad was set on either Leia, Sarah, or some other 40 year old name. So, for a day, I would call her Lucy or Sadie and invariably, none of them seemed to fit. I would come back calling her Leia in my head and of course, Chad would coo Leia at her all the time.

I researched that Leia meant Child of Heaven in Hawaiian and that started to make it more appealing. Baby B was my child from heaven, she had come a long way and survived some odds we didn’t think that she would. It was also unique and not in the top 100 which was something I wanted and it went well with Luke.

I started to tell family and friends that I thought her name was Leia. It started to feel like a decision that was almost outside of me, as if this was simply her name and that was the fact. I felt her “move and live and have her being” inside my belly and she had this feisty personality and she was a fighter. She would kick her brother and raise her fist at him when he encroached on her territory. She was and is still our little spunky lady who kicks me forcefully when I push on my ribs to get some relief from her invading them 24/7. And she is Chad’s princess. She is Leia in every way.

We are set to meet these babies in less than 3 weeks (heavens, I hope sooner). And time will tell if they like their names as much as we have come to. We put a lot of thought and prayer into the naming of each baby and despite naming them after pop culture, we did take it seriously. And though it has been hard for this people-pleasing mama, I am naming my babies after Star Wars and I am actually really, really ok with it. If you are one of the many who think we are crazy, all I can say is, May the Force Be With You.

The Little Baby That Could…

Currently, there are 3 people in the world who know the genders of our babies and Chad and I are not among them! Today we had our 19 week ultrasound with Maternal Fetal Medicine and got to see our babies after a long 6 weeks. We were completely spoiled by our experience at Reach in which we got to see them every two weeks. Guys, they are the most beautiful things I have ever seen. Yes, they bear a strong resemblance to ET and Voldemort but they are mine and I cannot see them on a screen without just weeping.  I see them and the nausea fades a bit and the pain gets a little less intense and I do glimpse that it is all so very worth it.  So there’s that! Our families and closest friends will gather via FaceTime and in person to find out the genders of these long-anticipated and much wanted babes.  We will of course post the results!!

Because I have more hormones than anyone ever in existence, I am reflecting back on what our journey has been to get here.  To finally know what these beautiful babes are and give them names of significance and identity.  So many people have asked me what it was like to hear that we were having twins and I’m afraid my answer has been pretty lame.  The only word that has ever come to mind was SHOCK.  I had written at length about how we were warned that multiples were a strong possibility but I still don’t think anything prepares you for that.  Honestly, I was just relieved to have the pregnancy 100% confirmed by a doctor after so many negatives so I couldn’t even emotionally prepare for a second baby.  Our nurse told us that the doctor would take a minute to study the ultrasound screen first and then let us look.  I promise you, for this anxious woman, the pregnant pause of her looking at the screen with a great poker face was without a doubt, the longest 90 seconds of my life.  The Sound of Music was shorter! Eventually, Dr. Johnson turns the screen around and I see this microscopic 6 week old baby sitting in my belly.  Cue the gulping sobs.  All she says is here is your baby.  And then she moves the wand a bit and says “and over here is Baby B”. If I was sobbing before, I think I began to blubber in a completely incoherent language that could only be understood by dogs.  And wouldn’t it have been great had the story just faded to black there? But that’s not how it goes and that wasn’t how it went for the Beach babies.

Any woman or family trying to conceive knows the agony of the two week wait.  There have been many, many two week waits in my life.  My graduate school had a comprehensive test at the end of the program that you had to pass in order to graduate and the results took two weeks to get.  That was a long two weeks.  Working the two weeks notice at a job where I was completely burned out seemed to last two months.  And then infertility introduced months and months of waiting the dreaded two week wait to take a pregnancy test.  However, I can confidently say that the longest two weeks of my life, two of the hardest weeks of my life was after our 6 week ultrasound.  Baby A was on full display, heart beating away and sitting front and center.  Baby B was our little Waldo.  He was hard for the doctor to get with the ultrasound wand and when she looked in depth, his (Reach always calls babies a boy until we know differently) heartbeat seemed to be much slower and much less pronounced.  He looked to be measuring the same as Baby A but with his hard position in my uterus, Dr. Johnson felt that this was a pregnancy we were going to have to “monitor closely”.  I had heard from several people about the concept of a “vanishing twin” and I found myself so elated and so terrified at the same time.  Once I saw that tiny little “grain of rice” as Reach called him, I wanted him with everything in me.  I didn’t want this life to vanish.  I would absolutely feel his absence in my life even though I had just found out about his existence.  Our doctors final diagnosis was that Baby A was great, she felt excellent about him but she was “cautiously optimistic” about Baby B and he had a decidedly lower heart rate.

So often in life, we get wonderful, joyous news and then hardship in the same breath.  I find and marry the man I have prayed for my whole life and his father’s cancer finally takes him home to the Lord.  We close on our  first house and I receive news that affects my career in some of the most painful ways.  And I find out that God has doubly blessed us with two babies and I am launched into a spiral of fear for my sweet little “BOGO” baby.  I have never prayed so hard.  For one of the first times in my life, I forced myself to fight my natural pessimism and just cling to that cautious optimism and trust that God was in control and my baby would be fine.  Both my babies were fine and growing in my womb.  God was still knitting them together and I had to rest in trust. Can all my anxious girls raise their hands if they’ve felt this and it sounds like climbing Everest with no training or oxygen.

Chad bought us chalkboard letters in the shape of A and B and I would write my prayers on their letters.  “Beat strong” and “Grow” and “I love you” were written and re-written.  I looked at them everyday.  I encouraged A to help their sibling and teach their heart how to beat stronger.  And at our 8 week ultrasound, with very little pomp and circumstance, Dr. Johnson turned the screen around and both my babies were growing and strong.  God had done it again! My little baby B became my little baby that could.  Despite not great odds, his/her little heart was racing and mine was soaring.  Like true twins, both A and B had the exact same heart rate of 167.66 at that ultrasound.  Today, at our 19 week ultrasound, Baby B was actually measuring bigger than A.  It might not be a sea parting or water turning to wine but for me, this is a miracle.

Our babies have continued to grow and show us awesome glimpses of their God-given personalities.  A has always been a rascal to get a good photo of, he/she bounces in the womb, does somersaults, waves at us, and spent most of the ultrasound today on his head.  The tech called him a shrimp! B is always laying on their back, calm and resting.  We get the best profile shots of baby B and at 10 weeks, he/she shook their booty at us and we fell further in love.  Even at 19 weeks, and despite still being in the midst of a hard pregnancy, I am enamored and completely smitten with both my babies.  Equally.  And yet I feel certain that there will be many days in my life when I will look at Baby B and think of how far we have come and how much God wanted him/her to be in our family.  I know that just as they do now, my eyes will fill with tears and I will thank God for that little baby with a decidedly slower heart rate who changed my life forever.

Equal Opportunity Whiner

Tonight I broke down and googled “twin pregnancy: is it supposed to be this hard?” I’ve been debating posting this blog for over two weeks because I really am so thankful to be pregnant after our journey but I am struggling, guys.  I feel like pregnant women get this oxytocin-induced amnesia after delivery and they have a hard time remembering the pains (literal and otherwise) of pregnancy.  Everyone has said that once you hold your babies, you forget about all the stuff that led up to you having them.  At 16 weeks and experiencing worse nausea and all-day sickness than in the first trimester, I pray that is true.  I feel certain that it will be.  Someone I love dearly, who may or may not share some of my DNA, also told me recently to stop complaining about it because all I talked about for a year was how much I wanted to be pregnant (It wasn’t Chad, he’s been amazing!!) I took this to heart and realized that it’s absolutely true and whileI don’t want to whine but I also want to be as authentic in my pregnancy as I was in our infertility.  As a first time pregnant woman, I have read it all and signed up for every email. What to Expect comes to me on the reg, as does the Bump, Barycenter, Pregnant Chicken and a specific one for mothers of multiples since we are having twins.  And all of them have this magical glow to them that mention the symptoms but characterize them in fairly harmless or innocuous ways such as “you might be feeling a bit sick to your stomach lately but that just means your baby is growing”. I was surprised to have the feeling I had experienced in our infertility journey of “am I the biggest whiner? Is no other pregnant woman this miserable??” No one tells you that everything inside your stomach has the uncanny desire to be on the outside of your body, most of the day.  And if you smell onions or deli meat, you could and might cause actual bodily harm to your husband in an effort to make it to the toilet in time.

If I am very honest, pregnancy has brought me to my knees. Literally. Often in front of the porcelain stallion.  I have been sick almost every day and around 11 weeks it sort of changed from just a sudden urge to vomit to an all-day feeling of being ready to vomit and often actually vomiting.  I have been absolutely exhausted most of the day, every day.  There has been acne. In various places. I am amazed at how much snot the human body can hold on a daily basis from this congestion. There has been changes to anatomy parts.  There is a constant and persistent feeling that someone is kneeing me in the crotch (it’s called pubic symphysis pain and it’s usually worse with twins). At 14 weeks, I began sleeping with 3 pillows around me and between my legs.  Recently, the lower back pain has kicked in.  And there has been things that even I, the over-sharer, would be too embarrassed to tell you.

All of this to say, pregnancy has been hard for me.  My hopes clung to a reprieve at our second trimester but that hasn’t happened yet.  And in my anxious mind and heart, it begins to feel like I will never feel good again and that the next 5 months will be more than I can take.  I do take comfort in the fact that billions of women have done this and survived, even if I swear sometimes I will be the one who doesn’t make it. The google search produced a much-needed laugh and feeling of camaraderie with other pregnant woman who read Scary Mommy.  Apparently, it’s perfectly normal to feel as if you are hiking Everest when doing just about everything! Getting down on the floor to play cars with your nephew presents pains that last for the next two days.  And getting up not only makes you hate all your life choices but also takes about 5 minutes.  The good news is that while I am still very much over-anxious most of the time, I have complained enough to my doctors and I have finally been getting some good meds! Sleeping and allergy pills, for the win!

Sometimes I think about when I’m finally not sick everyday. About how I will have two newborns who need all of me, all the time.  It’s just a bit overwhelming sometimes.  So, what is wrong with admitting that something that might not be hard for millions of other women, has been much harder than I expected it would be? Can I share that and not be judged? I’m not asking for all your sympathy or for you to do anything about it;  Chad has learned the hard way that there is not much he can do when I’m sick or in pain, though he tries valiantly! All I’m encouraging us to do is understand that things that are easier for some are harder for others and vice versa.

Motherhood might be second nature to you. It’s not for some. You might have taken to marriage like a fish (or duck?) to water, but that isn’t how most people adjust to it.  Please allow things to be hard for other people even if they weren’t for you.  And maybe don’t offer platitudes or words you think will help them.  Often, we offer those things to make ourselves feel useful but they don’t help the person we are trying to comfort.  But you can be honest with them about something that makes you feel weak.  You can hold their hand, rub their back, or send them a meal.  It’s ok for things to be hard.  We aren’t bad Christians or weak women or failures if we admit that.  Go for it, I promise I’ll listen!